The Hebrew term so translated basically refers to something set up or stationed. It was evidently a phallic symbol of Baal or, at times, of other false gods. (Ex 23:24; 2Ki 3:2; 10:27) At various sites in the Middle East, upright stone pillars with no apparent structural function have been found. Their being discovered along with artifacts of a religious nature suggests that they were sacred pillars. Some of these are unhewn and measure 1.8 m (6 ft) or more in height.
Before entering the Promised Land, the Israelites were commanded not to erect any sacred pillars and were instructed to break down or shatter the already existing sacred pillars of the Canaanites. (Ex 34:13; Le 26:1; De 12:3; 16:22) The manner in which these were to be destroyed indicates that they were probably made of stone. At 2 Kings 10:26, however, mention is made of burning sacred pillars, suggesting that some were made of wood. In this case, though, the reference may be to the sacred pole, or Asherah.—See SACRED POLE.
Israel disregarded God’s clear warnings given through Moses. The territory of the kingdom of Judah and that of the ten-tribe kingdom became filled with sacred pillars. (1Ki 14:22, 23; 2Ki 17:10) However, faithful Judean kings, like Asa, Hezekiah, and Josiah, broke the sacred pillars (2Ki 18:4; 23:14; 2Ch 14:3), and when Jehu eradicated Baal worship from the ten-tribe kingdom, the sacred pillar of Baal was pulled down.—2Ki 10:27, 28.