Asherah pole

An Asherah pole is a sacred tree or pole that stood near Canaanite religious locations to honor the Ugaritic mother-goddess Asherah. ["Nelson's Compact Illustrated Bible Dictionary", pp. 25-26, Thomas Nelson Publishers (1964), ISBN 0-8407-5636-5 ]

It was also a symbol of worship of the Hebrew Goddess Asherah, the consort of Yahweh, during the time when the Hebrews followed the typical pattern of Levantine worship, focused on an Earth Mother and her snake consort. [Joseph Campbell, "Occidental Mythology" (1964), ch. 1 "The Serpent's Bride". Further references are at Asherah.] The role of the Asherah reflected in the texts was likely rewritten and reinterpreted by the followers of Ezra, upon the return of the Jews from captivity and the writing of the Priestly text. [R.E. Clements, "Deuteronomy" (1989); E.W. Nicholson, "Deuteronomy and Tradition" (1967).] Though there was certainly a movement against goddess-worship at the Jerusalem Temple in the time of king Josiah, it did not long survive his reign, as the following four kings "did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord" (2 Kings 23:32, 37; 24:9, 19). Further exhortations came from Jeremiah.

References from the Hebrew Bible

Asherah poles are mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in the books of Exodus, Deuteronomy, Judges, the Books of Kings, the second Book of Chronicles, and the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah. The term often appears as merely אשרה, ("Asherah") referred to as "groves" in the King James Version and "poles" in the New Revised Standard Version; no word that may be translated as "poles" appears in the text. Scholars have indicated, however, that the plural use of the term ("Asherahs", also "Asherim" or "Asherot") provides ample evidence that reference is being made to objects of worship rather than a transcendent figure. [van der Toorn, Becking, van der Horst (1999), "Dictionary of Deities and Demons in The Bible", Second Extensively Revised Edition, pp. 99-105, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, ISBN 0-8028-2491-9]

The Hebrew Bible suggests that the poles were made of wood. In the sixth chapter of the Book of Judges, God is recorded as instructing the Israelite judge Gideon to cut down an Asherah pole that was next to an altar to Baal. The wood was to be used for a burnt offering.

The Hebrew Bible states that their God hated Asherah poles; Deuteronomy 16:21, (NIV) reads: "Do not set up any ["wooden"] Asherah ["pole"] ["Wooden" and "pole" are translators' interpolations in the text, which makes no such characterisation of "Asherah".] beside the altar you build to the LORD your God." The record indicates, however, that the Jewish people often departed from this ideal. King Manasseh for example is said to have placed an Asherah pole in the Holy Temple. (2 Kings 21:7) King Josiah's reforms in the late 7th century BC included the destruction of many Asherah poles. (2 Kings 23)

Asherah poles in Biblical archaeology

Some Biblical archaeologists have suggested that until the 6th century BC the Jewish people had household shrines, or at least figurines, of Asherah, which are strikingly common in the archaeological remains. [Finkelstein, Israel, and Silberman, Neil Asher, "The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts", ISBN 0-684-86912-8]

See also

* Asherah
* Baal
* The Hebrew Goddess

Notes

External links

* [http://instruct1.cit.cornell.edu/courses/nes275/studentproj/fall05/kmr38/index.html Asherah: Goddess of the Bible?] (Cornell University course project)


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