Monday, November 26, 2007

All About Asherah
Although the word "Asherah" does not appear in many Bible translations, including the King James Version or the New Revised Standard Version, it does appear 39 times in the New International Version and also 39 times in the New Living Translation. The Hebrew word for Asherah is translated as "groves" in the King James Version and "poles" in the New Revised Standard Version. There are actually a total of forty references to Asherah in the Hebrew Bible. Most of them are found in the book of Deuteronomy, always with a negative connotation. Here are a few prime examples:

You must break down their pagan altars and shatter their sacred pillars. Cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols (Deuteronomy 7:5,
NLT).

Break down their altars and smash their sacred pillars. Burn their Asherah poles and cut down their carved idols. Erase the names of their gods from those places! (Deuteronomy 12:3, NLT)

You must never set up an Asherah pole beside the altar of the LORD your God! (Deuteronomy 16:21, NLT).

The native religion of the Canaanites centered on El, the male creator god, and his wife Asherah. Baal was the son of their union. Baal later replaced El and became the chief male diety of Canaan. Later, in an act of incest, Baal married his own mother (i.e.Asherah), who was worshipped as a mother goddess and the chief female diety of Canaan.As Mother Goddess, Asherah was widely worshiped throughout Palestine and Syria. Inscriptions from two locations in southern Palestine suggest that she was also worshiped as the wife of the Hebrew God Yahweh. Exactly how Asherah became associated with the Hebrew God Yahweh is unclear. Certainly, the Bible has nothing positive to say about Asherah. Yahweh commanded the destruction of all idols representing Asherah. Nevertheless, the fact that Asherah was worshipped simultaneously as both the wife of Yahweh by the Israelites and the wife of Yahweh's number one rival, Baal, by the Canaanites should make one pause to ponder.

Baal was primarily a fertility god. He appeared mainly as a man with the horns of a bull, carrying thunderbolts in his hand(s), just like his father 'El. He also appeared in the form of a serpent. Both the bull and the serpent were worshiped as gods of fertility. Baal was worshipped by the Canaanites as a fertilizing, life-giving, and life-renewing diety who fulfilled his function through his mother turned wife/mistress: Asherah, "The Mother Goddess," a.k.a. "The Mother of All Living."

The word "asherah" was used not only to refer to the goddess herself, but also to a wooden cult object associated with her worship. In the Bible, Asherah is linked to Baal typically by reference to an “Asherah pole.” Wooden figures were involved in her worship, but it is not clear how. Some sources suggest a wooden pole was set into a stone base as a phallic symbol (Cavendish, p. 133). Others suggest a sacred tree or even a sacred grove of trees (Richards 60).

All sources concur that cult prostitution, both male and female, was a major element of the worship of Asherah and Baal. The cultic practices of the Canaanites included sacred groves, trees, and carved wooden images of Asherah. Also included were animal sacrifices at high places, divination, and snake worship. Sexual rites were supposed to ensure fertility of people, animals, and lands.Asherah was sometimes identified with Ashtoreth or Astarte. Not only was she worshiped as the Mother Goddess by the ancient Canaanites, she was also worshipped by the Phoenicians. Her symbol was the stem of a tree deprived of its boughs, shaped into an image, and planted in the ground. These religious symbols ("groves") are mentioned frequently in Scripture (Exodus 34:13; Judges 6:25; 2 Kings 23:6; 1 Kings 16:33, etc.). The Bible establishes that Baal worship and Asherah worship went hand in hand. According to Judges 3:7, the Israelites did evil because they abandoned the Lord and served the Asherahs and the Baals.

11 comments:

Jean said...

My KJV of the Bible certainly contains the Asherah Pole. That is why I came to the internet to find out more about it. I totally disagree with most of the rest of your "blog". You have a right to write it but.......

Tom Gruber said...

I welcome the comments of those who disagree. However, it would be helpful to know what you disagree with and why.

Anonymous said...

There is a very good reason that Asherah has 'negative connotations', it is just that most people are ignorant of the facts. Ashera was originally the wife of the Hebrew (later to beome christian)god, until she was removed from the scene by the founding fathers, who decided there was no room for female power in the patriarchal religion/society that they were going for. Like all of the early Goddesses that were included in the new belief system of judiasm (forerunner of christianity), they were banished, and demonized. Another good example of this is Lilith.
Disagree with this if you will, but you cannot change what is factual history.

Tom Gruber said...

Thank you for your remarks. I appreciate comments from people like you who may disagree with some of my positions.

I agree with you that Asherah was considered by many ancient Jews to be - in some sense that is not quite clear but intriguing - the consort of Yaweh, a.k.a. the God of the Hebrews.

The New Testament equivalent of Asherah could be any one of a number of goddesses. Prime candidates include: Aphrodite, Venus, and Diana. Some suggest that these are simply different names for the same goddess.

It is also true that some ancient Jews and early Christians tried to harmonize the worship of the God of the Bible with the worship of the gods and goddesses of the societies around them. No argument there.

So far, we seem to agree. However, it seems that our differences lie not in whether believers in the Old Testament and the New Testament worshiped Asherah or Aphrodite or whomever. Some did all of these things. That, however, does NOT mean God approved. Both professing Christians and Jews did plenty of things that God did not approve of.

So the pertinent question is: Does God approve of goddess worship? The Bible makes it perfectly clear that He definitely does not.

God commanded the Israelites to destroy the Asherah poles. Why? Because only the one true triune God of Scripture is to be worshiped - if we believe in the God of the Bible, that is.

The biblical prohibition against any form of idolatry, including the worship of Asherah, is repeatedly and unequivacally denounced in Scripture. It is to be avoided like the plague by all genuine believers.

This site is targeted to Christians who believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of that one true God, though non-Christians are certainly welcome to visit my site and post comments.

Whether Asherah was an actual person or just a figment of a fertile imagination, I do not know. That is an interesting question and I can only speculate, as I have done in other writings.

What is not debatable is that the God of the Bible, whether we believe in Him or not, will not share His glory with anyone else, male or female. All of the people in the world, all of the angels in the universe, and all of the Asherahs and Liliths and Baals - real or imagined - all of these put together do not begin to compare with the great God of the Bible who created all things.

Have women been unfairly oppressed and discriminated against throughout history, even by perhaps well-meaning Christians and Jews in a patriarchal religion/society? Absolutely! Is that wrong? Definitely. Jesus showed love and compassion to women who were shunned in His day.

That said, none of this justifies the worship of Asherah, Lilith, Baal, or anyone else. Only God is to be worshiped.

Just because something is, as you stated, "factual history," that does not necessarily mean it has God's stamp of approval.

Although the God of the Bible is often referred to in masculine terms, there are also places in the Bible that refer to God in feminine terms.

God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are, in one sense, neither male nor female. But in another sense, they are both male and female. Jesus, however, is and has been fully man and fully God ever since His Incarnation. Both men and women were created in God's image. Men were not created "more in God's image" than women.

But keep in mind, although Jesus is and has been fully human (and fully Divine) since his birth to Mary and Joseph, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are not human beings like you and I.

I hope this clarifies matters. Feel free to agree or disagree. Thank you. Keep those comments coming.

Tom Gruber said...

Thank you for your remarks. I appreciate comments from people like you who may disagree with some of my positions.

I agree with you that Asherah was considered by many ancient Jews to be - in some sense that is not quite clear but intriguing - the consort of Yaweh, a.k.a. the God of the Hebrews.

The New Testament equivalent of Asherah could be any one of a number of goddesses. Prime candidates include: Aphrodite, Venus, and Diana. Some suggest that these are simply different names for the same goddess.

It is also true that some ancient Jews and early Christians tried to harmonize the worship of the God of the Bible with the worship of the gods and goddesses of the societies around them. No argument there.

So far, we seem to agree. However, it seems that our differences lie not in whether believers in the Old Testament and the New Testament worshiped Asherah or Aphrodite or whomever. Some did all of these things. That, however, does NOT mean God approved. Both professing Christians and Jews did plenty of things that God did not approve of.

So the pertinent question is: Does God approve of goddess worship? The Bible makes it perfectly clear that He definitely does not.

God commanded the Israelites to destroy the Asherah poles. Why? Because only the one true triune God of Scripture is to be worshiped - if we believe in the God of the Bible, that is.

The biblical prohibition against any form of idolatry, including the worship of Asherah, is repeatedly and unequivacally denounced in Scripture. It is to be avoided like the plague by all genuine believers.

This site is targeted to Christians who believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of that one true God, though non-Christians are certainly welcome to visit my site and post comments.

Whether Asherah was an actual person or just a figment of a fertile imagination, I do not know. That is an interesting question and I can only speculate, as I have done in other writings.

What is not debatable is that the God of the Bible, whether we believe in Him or not, will not share His glory with anyone else, male or female. All of the people in the world, all of the angels in the universe, and all of the Asherahs and Liliths and Baals - real or imagined - all of these put together do not begin to compare with the great God of the Bible who created all things.

Have women been unfairly oppressed and discriminated against throughout history, even by perhaps well-meaning Christians and Jews in a patriarchal religion/society? Absolutely! Is that wrong? Definitely. Jesus showed love and compassion to women who were shunned in His day.

That said, none of this justifies the worship of Asherah, Lilith, Baal, or anyone else. Only God is to be worshiped.

Just because something is, as you stated, "factual history," that does not necessarily mean it has God's stamp of approval.

Although the God of the Bible is often referred to in masculine terms, there are also places in the Bible that refer to God in feminine terms.

God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are, in one sense, neither male nor female. But in another sense, they are both male and female. Jesus, however, is and has been fully man and fully God ever since His Incarnation. Both men and women were created in God's image. Men were not created "more in God's image" than women.

But keep in mind, although Jesus is and has been fully human (and fully Divine) since his birth to Mary and Joseph, God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are not human beings like you and I.

I hope this clarifies matters. Feel free to agree or disagree. Thank you. Keep those comments coming.

Amanda said...

I am a bible believing Christian and just starting to dig into history and want to know more. What are good biblical coordinating resources that will tell more about the times from the garden through the death of Jesus including stories of who Lilith, ashram and other religion idols. I just finished the books of lineage of grace and the history within in gave me a lot of insight to why things happened the way they did in the old testament.

Nate Phelps said...

It puzzles me how you can acknowledge that there have been variations of the word of god throughout early history but somehow you don't apply the same notion of vagueness of origin or "truth" about Yahweh. It is as if you remain flexible up to a point and then pick a random place to become rigid in your acceptance of a particular, final truth about god.

I look at all this nebulous history of the variations of gods and goddesses and conclude that it's all contrived by men to suit men in various ways, places and times. It has nothing to do with reality.

Anonymous said...

Nate,

The thing is that the Bible is consistent in forbidding worship of other dieties, specifically including Asherah. I'm sure that the news "God had a Wife" is sensational, but anyone who's read the Bible knew this before the "highly esteemed" atheist Biblical scholar made her "discovery". Anyone who's been to Sunday school knows that the Jews occassionally worshipped other Gods, and were punished for it, eventually being led away into captivity on multiple occassions.

There's really nothing sensational here. It's interesting to note that the articles typically fail to mention the commandments to destroy Asherah altars already found in the much older books of the Old Testament.

Tom Gruber said...

Nate,
How in the world anyone reading my blogs could conclude that I, in any way, approve of Asherah worship is beyond me. The last sentence of my blog post says, "According to Judges 3:7, the Israelites did evil because they abandoned the Lord and served the Asherahs and the Baals."
Tom

Anonymous said...

Recently, on my job as an investigator I attended an adult strip joint. They have a brass pole that women dance around. While it is not clear that the Asherah poles served this purpose, if we consider pagan worship it included sexual rites that might be voluntary or not. Some pagan rites (esp. Satanic ones) include human sacrifice of innocent children. Remember Molech worship? which included casting of children into the fire.

Sadly, when we depart from the truth of scripture we turn aside into darkness and are hearts are darkened. I pray that the Lord will keep and deliver us from bondage to these things.

Our truest humanity and our nobleness can only be attained at the cross of Jesus Christ, ie. I cannot be all that I was created to be apart from the redemptive work of Jesus and the present work of the Holy Spirit in my life.

We are exhorted to have our minds renewed in the Gospel:

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:23-25

God help you today as you seek the truth and to be renewed. Love and Prayers, DAVID
I can pray with you as one who shares your need.
TEL: 731-514-1171

Anonymous said...

I think you're right on the money. Mankind has CHOSEN to do many things & have tried to justify it in any way they can. God has not changed his stance;NO god but Him. People who try to say that Christianity is hypocritical based on the behavior of Biblical characters miss the point completely. Mankind are the hypocrites; God is ever the same & faithful. We CHOOSE to go against His ways & are punished accordingly. Choice is what God has given us, but He doesn't always condone or agree with those choices. He tells us the path to take for our "rewards". We choose to follow that path or disregard it. Whether or not you agree with God doesn't change his existance, his omnipotence or his ultimate revealing of his truth in the end. I for one don't want to make the wrong choice & find out it was all true & I blew it. Better to follow his path (despite my many mistakes in choices) & be "wrong" then not to & end up separated from him for eternity. I have NOTHING to lose by following him. All to lose in not doing so.