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Abarim Publications' Biblical Dictionary: The Hebrew word: צלם
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Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary

צלם

The root צלם (slm) isn't used as verb in the Bible, but it exists in Arabic and Aramaic with the meaning of to cut off.

Both the Hebrew and Aramaic derived nouns mean image or statue, and both are used in the Bible; the Aramaic noun צלם (selem) occurs eight times in the Book of Daniel. In Daniel 2:31-35 it describes the statue in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. And in Daniel 3:1-18 it describes the gold statue that Nebuchadnezzar had erected for everybody to bow down to. In Daniel 3:19 this noun occurs in a construct with the word for face; literally: the image of his face, meaning his facial expression.

The Hebrew noun צלם (selem) is used sixteen times, most famously in Genesis 1:26-27 where Elohim makes man according to His own image (cited Genesis 9:6). Likewise, Adam's son Seth was according to his image (Genesis 5:3).

In the wilderness, the Israelites carried images of Kiyyun and Sikkuth and perhaps Molech along with them (Amos 5:26), but among the instructions concerning the invasion of Canaan was the command to destroy the images of the natives (Numbers 33:52).

The Philistines added the gold images of mice and tumors to the Ark and sent it back to Israel (1 Samuel 6:5). Via the prophet Ezekiel, YHWH observed that the Israelites made images of their abominations (Ezekiel 7:20, 16:17, 23:14) but during the revolt of Jehoiada, the people of Israel destroyed the images of Baal (2 Kings 11:18 = 2 Chronicles 23:17).

Twice the Hebrew noun takes on something of the nuance of its Aramaic counterpart when it describes Nebuchadnezzar's facial expression. In Psalm 39:6 the Psalmist reflects that man walks about as a mere image or phantom, and in Psalm 73:20 he contemplates how in certain circumstances the Lord despises the image of men.


Associated Biblical names

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