Jehovah had a wife the ancient Israelites also worshiped Asherah

by Finkelstein 16 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Finkelstein
    Recent archeological discoveries have found that the ancient Israelites were not exactly monotheistic to Yahweh, apparently the Israelites also worshiped a god which was seen as Yahweh's wife Asherah. Small carved sculptures have been found in places of worship and homesteads to support these findings.

    Asherah's connection to Yahweh, according to Francesca Stavrakopoulou, is spelled out in the Bible and an 8th-century B.C. inscription on pottery found in the Sinai desert at a site called Kuntillet Ajrud.

    God had a wife, Asherah, whom the Book of Kings suggests was worshipped alongside Yahweh in his temple in Israel, according to an Oxford scholar.

    In 1967, Raphael Patai was the first historian to mention that the ancient Israelites worshipped both Yahweh and Asherah. The theory has gained new prominence because of the research of Francesca Stavrakopoulou, who began her work at Oxford and is now a senior lecturer in the department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter.

    Information presented in Stavrakopoulou's books, lectures and journal papers has become the basis of a three-part documentary series, now airing in Europe, where she discusses the Yahweh-Asherah connection.

    "You might know him as Yahweh, Allah or God. But on this fact, Jews, Muslims and Christians, the people of the great Abrahamic religions, are agreed: There is only one of Him," writes Stavrakopoulou in a statement released to the British media. "He is a solitary figure, a single, universal creator, not one God among many ... or so we like to believe.

    "After years of research specializing in the history and religion of Israel, however, I have come to a colorful and what could seem, to some, uncomfortable conclusion that God had a wife."

    Stavrakopoulou bases her theory on ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed primarily in the ancient Canaanite coastal city called Ugarit, now modern-day Syria. All of these artifacts reveal that Asherah was a powerful fertility goddess.

    Asherah's connection to Yahweh, according to Stavrakopoulou, is spelled out in both the Bible and an 8th-century B.C. inscription on pottery found in the Sinai desert at a site called Kuntillet Ajrud.

    "The inscription is a petition for a blessing," she shares. "Crucially, the inscription asks for a blessing from 'Yahweh and his Asherah.' Here was evidence that presented Yahweh and Asherah as a divine pair. And now a handful of similar inscriptions have since been found, all of which help to strengthen the case that the God of the Bible once had a wife."

    Also significant, Stavrakopoulou believes, "is the Bible's admission that the goddess Asherah was worshiped in Yahweh's Temple in Jerusalem. In the Book of Kings, we're told that a statue of Asherah was housed in the temple and that female temple personnel wove ritual textiles for her."

    J. Edward Wright, president of both The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies and The Albright Institute for Archaeological Research, told Discovery News that he agrees several Hebrew inscriptions mention "Yahweh and his Asherah."

    "Asherah was not entirely edited out of the Bible by its male editors," he added. "Traces of her remain, and based on those traces, archaeological evidence and references to her in texts from nations bordering Israel and Judah, we can reconstruct her role in the religions of the Southern Levant."

    Asherah — known across the ancient Near East by various other names, such as Astarte and Istar — was "an important deity, one who was both mighty and nurturing," Wright continued.

      1. ."Many English translations prefer to translate 'Asherah' as 'Sacred Tree,'" Wright said. "This seems to be in part driven by a modern desire, clearly inspired by the biblical narratives, to hide

    "Mentions of the goddess Asherah in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) are rare and have been heavily edited by the ancient authors who gathered the texts together," Aaron Brody, director of the Bade Museum and an associate professor of Bible and archaeology at the Pacific School of Religion, said.

    Asherah as a tree symbol was even said to have been "chopped down and burned outside the Temple in acts of certain rulers who were trying to 'purify' the cult, and focus on the worship of a single male god, Yahweh," he added.

    The ancient Israelites were polytheists, Brody told Discovery News, "with only a small minority worshiping Yahweh alone before the historic events of 586 B.C." In that year, an elite community within Judea was exiled to Babylon and the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. This, Brody said, led to "a more universal vision of strict monotheism: one god not only for Judah, but for all of the nations."

  • Finkelstein

    It would appear though this practice was eventually taken out of the worship rituals by the ancient Israelites to maintain the power and sanctity of their main god Yahweh.

    In Israel and Judah

    Image on pithos sherd found at Kuntillet Ajrud below the inscription "Yahweh and his Asherah"

    Between the 10th century BC and the beginning of their exile in 586 BC, polytheism was normal throughout Israel;[11] it was only after the exile that worship of Yahweh alone became established, and possibly only as late as the time of the Maccabees (2nd century BC) that monotheism became universal among the Jews.[12][13] Some biblical scholars believe that Asherah at one time was worshipped as the consort of Yahweh, the national God of Israel.[12][14][15] There are references to the worship of numerous gods throughout Kings: Solomon builds temples to many gods and Josiah is reported as cutting down the statues of Asherah in the temple Solomon built for Yahweh (2 Kings 23:14). Josiah's grandfather Manasseh had erected one such statue (2 Kings 21:7[16]).

    Further evidence includes, for example, an 8th-century combination of iconography and inscriptions discovered at Kuntillet Ajrud in the northern Sinai desert[17] where a storage jar shows three anthropomorphic figures and several inscriptions.[18][19] The inscriptions found refer not only to Yahweh but to El and Baal, and two include the phrases "Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah" and "Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah."[20] The references to Samaria (capital of the kingdom of Israel) and Teman (in Edom) suggest that Yahweh had a temple in Samaria, while raising questions about the relationship between Yahweh and Kaus, the national god of Edom.[21] The "Asherah" is most likely a cultic object, although the relationship of this object (a stylised tree perhaps) to Yahweh and to the goddess Asherah, consort of El, is unclear.[22] It has been suggested that the Israelites might have considered Asherah as a consort of Baal due to the anti-Asherah ideology which was influenced by the Deuteronomistic History at the later period of Monarchy.[23] In another inscription called "Yahweh and his Asherah", there appears a cow feeding its calf.[24] If Asherah is to be associated with Hathor/Qudshu, it can then be assumed that it is the cow that is being referred to as Asherah.

    William Dever's book Did God Have a Wife? adduces further archaeological evidence—for instance, the many female figurines unearthed in ancient Israel, (known as Pillar-Base Figurines)—as supporting the view that in Israelite folk religion of the monarchal period, Asherah functioned as a goddess and consort of Yahweh and was worshiped as the Queen of Heaven, for whose festival the Hebrews baked small cakes.

    The word Asherah is translated in Greek as alsos, grove, or alse, groves, or occasionally by dendra, trees; Vulgate in Latin provided lucus or nemus, a grove or a wood (thus KJV Bible uses grove or groves with the consequent loss of Asherah's name and knowledge of her existence to English language readers of the Bible over some 400 years).[25] The association of Asherah with trees in the Hebrew Bible is very strong. For example, she is found under trees (1K 14:23; 2K 17:10) and is made of wood by human beings (1K 14:15, 2K 16:3-4). Trees described as being an asherah or part of an asherah include grapevines, pomegranates, walnuts, myrtles, and willows (Danby:1933:90,176).

    Some scholars have found an early link between Asherah and Eve, based upon the coincidence of their common title as "the mother of all living" in Genesis 3:20[26] through the identification with the Hurrian mother goddess Hebat.[27][28] Asherah was also given the title Chawat from which the name Hawwah in Aramaic and the biblical name Eve are derived.[29][page needed]

    Asherah poles, which were sacred trees or poles, are mentioned many times in the Hebrew Bible. The Asherah pole was prohibited by the Deuteronomic Code which commanded "You shall not plant any tree as an Asherah beside the altar of the Lord your God".[30]

  • Phizzy

    It would seem that Monotheism came very late in Israel's history, and was promulgated by the Priestly Class, but not accepted by the Am Haarets, the ordinary agricultural folk, for a long long time.

    The view we were given as JW's is totally wrong of course, but the JW's have been misled by the O.T which is written by the Priests, whose agenda was Monotheism.

    Archaeology tells a very different story, of a gradual evolution from Pan Theism, through Heno-theism to eventually Monotheism for the Ruling religious classes, and much later the ordinary folk.

    It is difficult to establish an exact timescale for this.

    Thanks for the Thread.

  • truth_b_known

    Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou is a favorite of mine. Thank you so much for this exciting post.

  • Ireneus

    Thank for posting such an informative and interesting piece, Finkelstein.

    This is no surprise to those who know the mythologies of other nations where God is depicted as having wife and sitting on top of mountain etc. For example, in Hinduism God’s wife is named Parvati, and the word for mountain is Parvat from which the words such as power originate.

    The symbolism behind such depiction is simple: God being seated on the top of the mountain is that His standards are elevated and controls all manifestation of energy. His relationship with the nature (which is materialization of energy) is like that of husband with his wife. Myth, mystery, mysticism …all have the root meaning of ‘measuring out’ from the vast reservoir of knowledge known and unknown, ‘listening and seeing with ears and eyes shut down’ which means listening what is unsaid and seeing what is unseen.

    In other words Myths are suggestive of the hidden. It is like saying ‘every action has equal and opposite reaction’ which we all know literally because we experience it in our life. Yet it has a suggestive meaning too. When we see good action producing good results and bad action bad results, many would choose to do good repeatedly and discontinue performing bad action; thus they evolve upwardly. Thus cause and effect mechanism is all about upward evolution. But in practice, many evolve downward repeating the same mistakes over and over again. This is because people go by their taste rather than proof. Those who want to know the truth would understand it even without external help, and even when it is in coded language or presented in mysticism. Those who do not want to know the truth would not understand it even with external help, and even when it is presented it in too simple language. Hence the seers/sages used mythologies.

  • Diogenesister

    Asherah has been reduced from the Queen of a stick.

    Love ms.Stavrakopolou's tv programmes/ documentary

    Great post Finky

  • Dunedain

    See, it all makes sense now. Good ole Jah had a wife too. No wonder he needed to rest on that seventh day, Asherah had him doing chores NON STOP for 6 days straight.

    "Build me a bigger universe, this one isnt big enough". "We need more light in here Jehovah, MAKE ME A BIGGER SUN". "Baals wife has her own serving Seraph nanny to take care of the Cherubs, why cant i have that"!!!

    Poor guy just wanted to chill, and have a few beers on the seventh day. No wonder he was pissed off all the time, causing great floods, and making Fathers almost sacrifice their sons. He had a nagging wife at home!!!!

    You dont make a bunch of humans sacrifice thousands of heads of sheep and cattle, cause you are living a nice chill bachelor life. Nope, he was fighting with the old lady Asherah that day.

    It ALL makes sense now.

  • Finkelstein

    Mythological expression is composed in relation to mankind's ignorance of the world in which we live and of are selves. The ancients had to endure through their own ignorance hence the reason why so many conceptual gods were imagined and accepted to worship by various select civilizations.

    Gods were the answer to who, how and why of what they saw and experienced.

    The ancient Hebrews probably had their own compelling reason and intent to proclaim there was only one god worthy to worship and that they alone were his chosen people. Perhaps an endeavor to incite security toward themselves from other surrounding civilizations. ?

    The Hebrews/Israelites were an offshoot becoming sect from the Canaanite civilization which was established previously in close proximity to Israel and Judea.

    As history has shown the ancients were in competition to who was connected to the most almighty and powerful of god(s), as such wars occurred out of the intent to lay proof of that.

  • Abaddon

    My simplified imagining is that the returnees from Babylon basically redefined their ancestral faith to provide a focal point for building a national identity, and helped this along by discovering ‘ancient texts’ which allowed them to claim they were advocating a return to orthodoxy.

  • smiddy3

    Thank you Finkelstein for posting this enlightening thread.

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