The Creation of Genesis Chapter 2ff
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”
Gee Doug, I think you're opening a can of worms, (sorry, I meant snakes) with that post. Your concept could be correct, and I think you're quite correct in attempting to locate your mind in the culture of the authors of the Genesis 2 document. But that's where a big problem jumps up and bites us on the bum. What was the culture of the authors of Genesis 2.
Was the document written prior to 1000 BCE (just to attempt to see what cultural influences may have been at work)? Was Egypt the key cultural influence?
If the document was written before the Babylonian captivity, then Babylon was likely the main cultural influence. But Greek culture was also a likely cultural influence.
Or, because Palestine was on a key north-south trade route, and not far from a western terminus of a east to west trade route, were the inhabitants aware of many other cultures?
If you can get access to Stephen Harris' and Gloria Platzner's, Classical Mythology: Images and Insights, you may find many interesting thoughts on the subject of female divinities.
Quoting from the 5th edition, (p.29) an opinion is given that the Minoan and other Aegean Island cultures worshipped the "Divine Woman.' and their Ch. 5 goes on to examine the Divine woman in Greek Mythology. In the earliest information we have for that culture, the primordial goddess is Gaea. In Egypt its Isis. Serpents also have an almost universal role in folk religion, sometimes associated with a female divinity, like this snake goddess from Knossos:
And on p. 152, there's this reproduction of an image on 5th.C. BCE Athenian vase, imagining Heracles in the Garden of the Hesperides.
Heracles is resting after his journey to the land of the setting sun, where the Greek version of Gaea's 'Tree of Life' grows (and, you note, that tree has a serpent guardian). Heracles charmed the Hesperides - the nymphs who also guard the golden apples that grow on the tree, into giving him one of the golden apples (that gave immortality)..
I'd like to write more - but I'm snowed under at the moment. So thanks for posting your thoughts.
Yes, the more you think about it, it's a pile of writhing snakes.
Firstly, I time the earliest writing of Genesis 2 to the 8th century BCE which would have given it its shape. Probably the form that we have would be when J and E were combined with P, likely in the Persian Era (Ezra??). I perceive the Deuteronomists being involved in there also.
The Yahwists who wrote that Creation story also wrote their version of the Ten Commandments (literally titled as such in the Bible) at Exodus 34;14-28, where we can read between the lines and see what they were objecting to in their own period. ("Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles." Exodus 34:13, NIV)
It is so fascinating to see the proliferation of goddesses, including with the family-religion practiced by the vast majority of Israelites/Judahites.
The indications are that Genesis 2:4b ff contains several references to Asherah, whether it be Eve (Lilith), the tree (asherah) or the snake.
We need to be cautious that we do not impose medieval European depictions and concepts of Satan/Devil onto 8th century BCE concepts.
It needs to be kept in mind that the "Yahweh-only" party and the Deuteronomists were the minority and only came into prominence at the time of and due to the Jews' neo-Babylonian experience.
They were the only literate group so all we read is their propaganda, including the removal and denigration of Asherah.
The misogyny of that literate minority has affected all future Judaeo/Christian attitudes, including in our own time.
I’m under the idea that the Old Testament was heavily influenced by the Greeks maybe even writen by them. I read somewhere that even though the Greeks had their female god and in some cases the female was looked at as an equal in other parts the female was not so respected. Despite the lack of a female adoration in the Bible theres still proverbs chapter 4 which likens wisdom as female. One of the attributes of Ashurah was wisdom.
Also some of the character in the Bible people have thought were in fact a tale about a god. Could it be that some of the female characters in the Bible were a story about Ashurah?
It is understood by many that the "Wisdom" you speak of -- and which is feminine -- could be referencing Asherah. Any thought that this personified "Wisdom" is a pre-existing Jesus is farcical nonsense.
The religion of the Israelites was not created in a vacuum. They were influenced by their neighbors and much of it was directly inherited from the wider Canaanite society. They were (hill-dwelling, poorer, agrarian) Canaanites. They created myths to give themselves pride and a sense of identity. They did not write history in the fashion that we understand the meaning of the word "history".
To think that wt doctrine is but a spinoff of these nebulous attempts to explain existence.
One thing I found interesting is the Ashurah cult may have gone away a bit before the 1 century but the Greeks had their version and Isis was the same deity in Egypt. The interesting part is when you read about this female deity and then about Jesus , the writers have him taking on some of the same attributes as her.
They also did some of the same things. Ashurah rides a donkey in a much earlier tale. Ashurah is stripped naked , her crown taken , she’s put on trial in a kangaroo court killed hung on a hook then resurrected by her friends three days later, assends back up to heaven because she’s the queen of heaven and of course he does the same and becomes king of heaven. There are I think more similarities between him and her then any other deity he was modeled after.
If anyone buys "History's Vanquished Goddess ASHERAH" by Darlene Kosnik to see the wide range of applications and imagery throughout the regions (Crete, Egypt, Babylon, etc.) note that the (2017) ebook is a condensation of the (2014) paperback and the page numbers do not correspond.
Great post, saved into my computer.
In this forum was a member named Leolaia. She was a researcher and posted interesting topics. One of them is related with the topic you posted, about Asherah and snakes.
Hope you enjoy the information!!!