I had long held the piece of the jigsaw puzzle which starts at Genesis 2:4b – the Yahwist’s Creation story. I knew that its authors had never heard of Lamarck’s theory of evolution, nor had they read Darwin’s “Origin of Species”. The authors were addressing their own immediate culture, so I had to transport my mind to their times
Until now I had not appreciated how the adjoining pieces of the puzzle would enable me to lock it in place and make sense of it in its initial context and meaning. Although the picture is much clearer, other pieces are still not in full focus.
These authors of that Creation story were of the minority, a small number of the literate elite class, members of the “Yahweh-alone” party.
The vast bulk of the nation were polytheists, worshiping gods and goddesses. They had given their god Yahweh a wife and they worshiped both. Her name was Asherah and her images were everywhere. One feature of her iconography was to symbolise her with tree. So pieces of the puzzle include a key goddess (Asherah) and a tree (asherah). Further, some Jewish sources say that Eve is Asherah.
While the religion of the minority was controlled by men, the religion of the majority, being family-based, was largely managed by the women. (They baked cakes to the “Queen of Heaven”. One could be forgiven for seeing Roman Catholicism’s mass as well as its adoration of Mary reflecting these.)
Another piece of the jigsaw was the snake. At that time, the snake could have a positive karma or a negative one. Moses showed that his snakes were wiser and more powerful than Pharaoh’s. The elevation of a snake by Moses was employed as a positive portent of Jesus. The medical profession’s symbol is of a snake: the Caduceus. Significantly, icons show Asherah with a snake. Although apparently phallic, the snake could be regarded as feminine.
So it appears that the narrative of Genesis 2 is a polemic against the polytheists who have misled men (or maybe Yahweh?) by providing them with fruit from the tree (Asherah) which promises Life but the Yahwists said it only provided women with pain as they give birth
Further, rather than the woman having the right to manage and dominate in religious affairs, as was taking place throughout the nation, she was inferior to man because she had been brought forth from him. She was thus designed to help man, to stand by his side and to support him.
The following is from “History’s Vanquished Goddess ASHERAH” by Darlene Kosnik (page 247, paperback; page 168, Kindle):
Goddess worship conflicted with the rise of monotheism and the formation of the Old Testament. Posing a threat to the monotheistic definition of god, the feminine component of religion had to be eradicated.
By the end of the 7th and 6th centuries BCE, the only major goddess surviving in Palestine was Asherah, but Asherah’s days were numbered also and she was soon eliminated. Commenting upon Asherah’s vanquishment, The Forbidden Goddess asks: “How could a goddess so loved by the people be so hated by the Old Testament writers?” (Rhys-Davies 1993).
The answer lies with the Old Testament authors who “represented the orthodox right-wing, nationalist parties who edited the Bible,” explains archaeologist and biblical scholar Professor Dever. “They were all male. They represented the establishment. They didn’t like the idea of a consort – a female consort of Yahweh’s
Asherah was at the very least a nuisance, at the very worst, she was a real threat to their idea of what god was like and therefore she had to disappear”