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Good morning,

I am writing to you with a sincere feeling of gratitude as you make the vast knowledge of the Dominican order available to everyone. My question concerns a passage of the Bible I listened to at today’s liturgy. In the second part of Samuel’s speech we read:

“Yes, the sin of divination is rebellion,
and guilt and teraphim the obstinacy.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.” (1 Samuel 15:23)

Is it correct to define teraphim as idols of obstinacy? Therefore, Teraphim should not be considered as entities, but as speciesism, that is, seeing in teraphim the sumptuousness of the sin of obstinacy (acquired by the father).

Can we say that due to obstinacy, we have lost our royal privileges?
Is obstinacy an even worse sin than any sin that could be “overcome”?
What good can we derive from it, in order to return to our homeland, which is Heaven?

Answer from the priest

Dear reader,

The former translation (1974) was not very faithful to the Hebrew text, said: “Because the sin of divination is rebellion, and iniquity and idolatry is insubordination”.
In the current translation (2008), the term idolatry has been replaced with the term teraphim, with the result that no one knows what teraphim are.

A note from the Jerusalem Bible says that teraphim refers to household idols, or family gods, in charge of the protection of homes and property is attributed (Jerusalem Bible, note to 1 Sam 15:23).
The Vulgate (the Latin translation of the Bible) uses the term idolatry instead of teraphim.
Therefore, we should interpret teraphim as “idolatrous practices”.

Regarding the spiritual meaning of the word teraphim, it seems to me that your conclusion is correct: obstinacy is to make an idol out of one’s personal point of view.
He who does not allow himself to be corrected is obstinate, therefore does not allow himself to be enlightened.
When we let ourselves be enlightened by the word of God it is the same as becoming king and lords of our own life.
And we become so powerful lords as to keep away all the snares of our adversary, who sees a hedge placed by God around us, to protects us (cf. Job 1,10).

Departing from God’s law, and committing sin, is the same as placing ourselves in the hands of our adversary who “comes to steal, to destroy, and to kill” (Jn 10:10).
In other words, to strip us of our goods and our royal dignity.

Your final observation is correct: obstinacy is worse than sin itself, because sin passes, and is remitted with penance and with the sacrament of reconciliation; but obstinacy remains, and is more difficult to extirpate. In some cases, obstinacy can be identified with that obstinacy in sin that is enclosed among the most difficult sins to forgive due to the closure of the person to the action of God.

I am delighted to see your deep understanding of the scriptures. 

I remind you to the Lord and bless you.

Father Angelo

Translated by Germana