Yahweh (normally portrayed either as a storm god or desert god) is often mentioned in other archeaological finds in association with Asherah. Her name even appears 40 times in the Hebrew bible. Perhaps you remember passages from the bible that appeared not to make perfect sense [ironic smile] but some of them might be clearer if you know that Asherah is generally translated into English (King James Bible) as the 'grove' or 'pole' - both of which probably represented her ritually. In fact Asherah was usually represented in a distinctive way using a tree or branch motif. She was thought of as the 'tree of life' and in Ugarit she acted as an intermediary between mortal men and her husband the Most High god El.
Deuteronomy 16:21 "Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the LORD thy God" is one example where she seems to be described as a cult object. The meaning seems clear (even if slightly strange) until you find that the 'grove of trees' might represent a goddess if translated differently.
2 Kings 23:4 it is clear that the King is attempting to purge all the trappings of polytheism,". .. to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Ba'al, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven . . ."
Deuteronomy 33:3 says in some translations "At his right, his own Asherah"
A similar figure to Asherah appears in other cultures under different names, including Athirat, Ashertu and Astarte and but with a similar tree of life theme. The Wikipedia article about Asherah says that in the Ugaritic texts Athirat is distinct from Asherah but then goes on to say "although in non-Ugaritic sources from later periods the distinction between the two goddesses can be blurred; either as a result of scribal error or through possible syncretism".
This all points towards the Old Testament being a huge mixed bag of myth and legend and some biblical scholars, including Francesca Stravrakopoulou would go so far as to claim that God's wife might have been edited out of the bible.
I suspect that speculation like this is not what one might term 'strong evidence', and certainly the 'lovely Francesca' has her critics. Somehow though I find her arguments more compelling. At the very least she is not afraid of point out inconsistencies in the Jewish and Christian interpretations of the Old Testament stories.
The next post is the final one in this mini series. It aims to summarise the mixed bag of anecdotes presented over this weekend.
- A family of Old Testament gods
- Yahweh and El
- Yahweh and Baal
- The Ugaritic Texts
- Asherah - the wife of Yahweh - this post