delanceyplace.com 7/22/10 - yahweh and asherah

In today's encore excerpt - controversial hints that the Old Testament god Yahweh (Jehovah) had a female companion named Asherah, the Canaanite goddess, famed for her wisdom, who was also known as Athirat. In the Canaanite religion or Levantine religion as a whole, El (the name just means 'god') was the supreme god, the father of humankind and all creatures, and Asherah's husband. Archeologists have established that there were numerous female idols among the carved idols in households of the region and some theorize that Asherah was worshipped in ancient Israel as the consort of El, and in Judah as the Queen of Heaven and consort of Yahweh. The Hebrews baked small cakes for her festival. Some scholars further theorize that El, the preeminent god in northern Canaan, was eventually merged with Yahweh, the preeminent god of southern Canaan in a manner very characteristic of the combinations and exchanges of gods that occurred regularly in ancient religious history:

"One oft-claimed difference, [by biblical scholars] between the Abrahamic god and other gods in the vicinity is that whereas the pagan gods had sex lives, Yahweh didn't. 'Israel's God' as [biblical scholar Yehezkel] Kaufmann put it, 'has no sexual qualities or desires.' It's true that there's no biblical ode to Yahweh that compares with the Ugaritic boast that Baal copulated with a heifer '77 times,' even '88 times,' or that El's penis 'extends like the sea.' And it seems puzzling: If Yahweh eventually merged with El, and El had a sex life, why didn't the postmerger Yahweh have one? Why, more specifically, didn't Yahweh inherit El's consort, the goddess Athirat?

"Maybe he did. There are references in the Bible to a goddess named Asherah, and scholars have long believed that Asherah is just the Hebrew version of Athirat. Of course, the biblical writers didn't depict Asherah as God's wife—this isn't the sort of theological theme they generally championed—but rather heap disdain on her, and on the Israelites who worshipped her. However in the late twentieth century, archaeologists discovered intriguing inscriptions, dating to around 800 BCE, at two different Middle Eastern sites. The inscriptions were blessings in the name not just of Yahweh but of 'his Asherah.' The word 'his' puts an intriguing spin on a passage in 2 Kings reporting that, near the end of the seventh century Asherah was spending time in Yahweh's temple. A priest who didn't favor polytheism 'brought out the image of Asherah from the house of the Lord, outside Jerusalem, to the Wadi Kidron burned it at the Wadi Kidron, beat it to dust and threw the dust of it upon the graves of the common people.' (2 Kings 21: 7 23: 4-6)"


author:

Robert Wright

title:

The Evolution of God

publisher:

Little Brown and Company

date:

Copyright 2009 by Robert Wright

pages:

118-119
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