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Asherah



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"After years of research specializing in the history and religion of Israel, however, I have come to a colorful and what could seem, to some, uncomfortable conclusion that God had a wife," she added. Stavrakopoulou bases her theory on ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed primarily in the ancient Canaanite coastal city called Ugarit, now modern-day Syria. All of these artifacts reveal that Asherah was a powerful fertility goddess.

Asherah's connection to Yahweh, according to Stavrakopoulou, is spelled out in both the Bible and an 8th century B.C. inscription on pottery found in the Sinai desert at a site called Kuntillet Ajrud.

"The inscription is a petition for a blessing," she shares. "Crucially, the inscription asks for a blessing from 'Yahweh and his Asherah.' Here was evidence that presented Yahweh and Asherah as a divine pair. And now a handful of similar inscriptions have since been found, all of which help to strengthen the case that the God of the Bible once had a wife."
Also significant, Stavrakopoulou believes, "is the Bible's admission that the goddess Asherah was worshiped in Yahweh's Temple in Jerusalem. In the Book of Kings, we're told that a statue of Asherah was housed in the temple and that female temple personnel wove ritual textiles for her."

"Many English translations prefer to translate 'Asherah' as 'Sacred Tree,'" Wright said. "This seems to be in part driven by a modern desire, clearly inspired by the Biblical narratives, to hide Asherah behind a veil once again."


The Hebrew Bible refers to Asherah directly or indirectly some 40 times, always in negative terms (so she must have been a challenge). Most references are indirect, to the asherah poles that symbolized her, but a number of them clearly enough refer directly to the goddess Asherah (e.g., Judges 3:7; 1 Kings 15:13; 1 Kings 18:19; 2 Kings 21:7; 2 Kings 23:4-7; 2 Chron. 15:16). Evidently she was part of traditional official Israelite religion, for an asherah pole even stood in front of Solomon’s Temple for most of its existence, as well as in Yahweh’s sanctuary in Samaria. There is also much extra-biblical evidence of Asherah in Israel from the time of the judges right through monarchical times, including in paintings/drawings, pendants, plaques, pottery, (possibly) clay “pillar” figurines, cult stands, and in inscriptions. Several inscriptions specifically refer to “Yahweh and his Asherah [or asherah].” (It is not entirely certain whether the goddess herself or the asherah pole symbolizing her is being referenced here, but either way ultimately the goddess is meant, and she is being linked with Yahweh.)




Sacred trees were thought to connect with the divine realms of both the netherworld and the heavens, and therefore were considered conduits for communicating with and experiencing the divine and themselves are charged with the divine force (thought of as “serpent power”; see below). In harmony with the seasons, trees embody the life energy and symbolize the generation, regeneration and renewal of life. Therefore, they are associated with the source of life, the Earth/Mother Goddess. Accordingly, sacred trees were venerated in Palestine in sacred sanctuaries known as “high places,” as means of accessing and experiencing divinity, principally the goddess Asherah. (Similarly, the divinity of the male deity was accessed through vertical stone pillars, e.g., the one set up by Jacob at Bethel.) In the Eden story, the two sacred trees of knowledge of good and evil and of life allude to this traditional role of sacred trees, but the meaning is turned upside down. In the story, Yahweh even creates the trees. In ordering Adam not to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, by implication Yahweh was telling the audience not to venerate sacred trees in the traditional fashion. And in any event, the theretofore divine knowledge of good and evil that was acquired through eating the fruit is linked with Yahweh, not any goddess. And at the end of the story the tree of life is clearly designated as Yahweh’s, being guarded by his trademark symbols, the paired cherubim.

Serpents. In the ancient Near East, serpents had both positive and negative connotations, and in the Eden story the Yahwist played on each. In its positive aspect, the serpent represented the divine force itself, responsible for creation, life, and rebirth, as symbolized by its constant shedding of its skin. This and the fact that it lives within the earth (the netherworld) made for a natural association with the Mother Earth Goddess. As a result, the serpent was venerated as having divine powers and was used in rituals, including in marriage (to secure conception of children) and to maintain health. Serpents were also considered wise and sources of knowledge, and thus were used in divination. (The Hebrew noun for serpent (nāḥāš) connotes divination; the verb nāḥaš means to practice divination, and observe omens/signs.) Hence the serpent’s connection with transmission of the knowledge of good and evil in the Eden story. This “good” serpent was typically depicted in an upright or erect form, as in the case of the Egyptian erect cobra (in the illustration above), Moses’ bronze serpent on a pole, and the serpent on Asclepius’ staff (now the symbol of our medical profession). But the serpent also was represented negatively as unrestrained divine power, which produces chaos, which is evil. Therefore, in creation myths the serpent/dragon represents the primordial chaos that must be overcome in order to establish the created cosmos (known as the “dragon fight” motif). This primordial chaos serpent is most often a serpent/dragon goddess (e.g., Tiamat in the Babylonian Enuma Elish) or her proxy (Typhon was the creation of Gaia). The serpent in this “evil” aspect is most often depicted horizontally. In the Eden story our author used this negative aspect, while parodying the traditional positive associations, which Yahweh appropriated. Thus, in the story, the serpent connoted chaos and symbolized the chaos in Eve’s heart as she deliberated. At the end of the story, Yahweh cursed the serpent and flattened its posture (compared with the upright/erect posture it had when talking with Eve). As a result, Yahweh was victorious over the serpent and chaos and, by implication the Goddess, in a mini version of the above-mentioned dragon fight motif.


Lost And Forgotten Goddess Asherah – Queen Consort Of The Sumerian God Anu And Ugaritic God El

AncientPages.com | April 12, 2017 | Biblical Mysteries, Featured Stories, Myths & Legends, News Share this:

Ellen Lloyd - MessageToEagle.com - Known as Lady of the Sea and mother goddess, Asherah is one of the oldest deities in the Sumerian and Ugaritic pantheon.

Goddess Asherah was worshipped by many ancient civilizations in the Near East.

Was goddess Asherah also the lost bride of Yahweh? Some biblical scholars believe that Asherah was at one time worshipped as the consort of Yahweh. Who was the lost goddess of the Hebrews?

Asherah – Chief Goddess Of The Canaanite Pantheon

In Ugaritic mythology, this lost and forgotten deity is referred to as The Lady Asherah of The Sea. Several unearthed ancient clay tablets and writings from Ugarit, which was once an ancient port city in what is today called Ras Shamra, in northern Syria describe goddess Asherah as the wife of chief god El, the West Semitic counterpart of god Anu. God El was the ruler of heaven and goddess Asherah had the sea as her domain. It is said that she had as many as 70 children and among them were important gods such as Baal, Anath and Mot. There are also ancient references to one of her servants who was a fisherman named Qadesh was-Amrur. He used to bring her fish and help her saddle her donkey.

Clay statues of goddess Asherah. Image credit Queen of Heaven - Goddess Asherah
Although goddess Asherah was worshipped in many ancient cities, there is little information about her before the period of Ugaritic myths. Her history is complex and shrouded in mystery. To the Hittites this goddess appears as Asherdu(s) or Asertu(s), the consort of Elkunirsa ("El the Creator of Earth") and mother of either 77 or 88 sons.


Grove
In Hebrew, called Asherah (of which the plural is Asherim or Asheroth), either a living tree or a tree-like pole, set up as an object of worship, being symbolic of the female or productive principle in nature. Every Phoenician altar had an asherah near it. The word is often translated “green trees” or “grove.” This “nature worship” became associated with gross immorality, and so the practice of setting up such “groves” or idols was forbidden by Hebrew prophets (Deut. 16:21; Isa. 17:8; see also Num. 25:3; Judg. 2:11–13; 1 Sam. 7:3–4; 1 Kgs. 11:5; Micah 5:13–14).

Ahab
(1) Son of Omri, and the most wicked and most powerful of the kings of northern Israel; he married Jezebel, a Sidonian princess, through whose influence the worship of Baal and Asherah was established in Israel (1 Kgs. 16:32–33; 2 Kgs. 3:2); and an attempt was made to exterminate the prophets and the worship of Jehovah (1 Kgs. 18:13). We have another instance of Jezebel’s evil influence over Ahab in the story of Naboth (1 Kgs. 21). During Ahab’s reign the kingdom of Israel was politically strong. After a struggle with Benhadad, king of Syria, in which Ahab was successful (1 Kgs. 20), Israel and Syria made an alliance for the purpose of opposing Assyria. We learn from Assyrian inscriptions that the united forces were defeated by Shalmaneser Ⅲ, and Ahab then made an alliance with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, against Syria and was killed while attempting to capture Ramoth-gilead (1 Kgs. 22; 2 Chr. 18).

Jeroboam
(1) Son of Nebat (1 Kgs. 11:26–14:20); the first king of divided kingdom of Israel; a member of the tribe of Ephraim, which led the revolt against the house of Judah and family of David. This revolt seems to have had the approval of the prophet Ahijah (11:29–40), but one of Jeroboam’s first steps after the separation was to set up image worship in Dan and Bethel, the two calves being supposed to be images of Jehovah. This sin made his name proverbial (15:34) and called down on him the rebuke of the prophet Ahijah (14:6–16). He also made priests of men who were not of the family of Aaron (1 Kgs. 12:31; 2 Chr. 13:9); he instituted a new feast of his own, and also began the worship of wooden images or Asherah (1 Kgs. 14:15).