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Asherah: the Goddess of Israel

Uploaded by tlrodriguez on Jul 21, 2004


Asherah was a West Semitic goddess first attested to in the cuneiform Ebla texts uncovered in northern Syria (modern day Tell Mardikh) dated to around 2350 BCE, where she appears as only a minor goddess in the pantheon (Smith 385). Her status was much higher in later times however, for she was a goddess well-known at Ugarit, the ancient Canaanite city-state now modern Ras Shamra in Syria, in the 14th century BCE, The Asherah that appears in the material unearthed there is the main consort of the chief god El, divine wet nurse, the ‘progenitress of the gods’, and mother of 70 children (Patai 37). Several recently discovered material remains in Palestine combined with new biblical scholarship testify that she was a goddess worshiped in ancient Israel as well. Though her name appears 40 times in 9 different books of the Hebrew Bible there has been much controversy surrounding her status within the Israelite religion as the verbs associated with the word ‘asherah’ imply some sort of humanly made, carved wooden object which appears to have functioned as an emblem for the god Yahweh. Though most references in the Bible seem to refer to this cultic symbol, some do mention the goddess herself (Hadley 54). Due to newly unearthed material finds dating mostly from the 7th-3rd centuries BCE, it has become undeniable that the goddess Asherah was widely known and venerated in and around Judah and Israel, and that the goddess and/or her cultic object called the ‘asherah’ (or ‘asherim’, plural) was closely associated with the cult of Yahweh. However, later religious reforms drove the cult of the goddess to the periphery of the home and local sanctuary and from the official state religion into folk religion. Although her symbol appears to have outlived her cult, the presence of the Hebrew goddess does still remain in other extra-biblical Jewish traditions.

The belief in the sacred nature of trees and wooden pillars is very old indeed, and the connection between the name ‘Asherah’ and these beliefs may go back to prehistoric times. The first asherims were likely living trees that were objects of worship and ancient writers originally translated the word ‘asherah’ as ‘wood’ or ‘grove’ (Day 13). The oldest Greek epics are believed to have been transcribed around 700-750 BCE, but their origin goes back untold years before that date in an oral tradition, so when we see a ...

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Uploaded by:   tlrodriguez

Date:   07/21/2004

Category:   History

Length:   28 pages (6,366 words)

Views:   2342

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