Monday, 4 July 2011

Asherah - the wife of Yahweh

In the 1975 excavation of Kuntillet Ajrud, a site dated to the 8th century BCE, pottery was found covered with amazing and revealing scripts.  Asherah's name was associated with Yahweh as if as his wife.  "I have blessed you by Yahweh ... and his Asherah".



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.



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2 comments:

Mitt Romney said...

Asherah -- that's just one of god's wives...

Anonymous said...

The name of the Almighty Creator is Yahvah. It has been found in the ancient Vedas 41 times and 33 times in the Hymns.
He is called Father because he loves and guides us, only when we ask.
He has and will always have only ONE wife.
Peace not Pieces!