Asherah of the Hebrew Bible:
Story of a Divine Pair Revoked

Christians do not often seriously discuss Asherah. Therefore, a more extensive introduction precedes the dialogue here. Insight into the phenomenon of a deity pair within the Israelite heritage enriches efforts to name and understand the One God. Jews, Muslims, and Christians strongly endorse monotheism, each with distinct emphases and results. Hindus also believe in one God, though they are more imaginative through varied forms and names, about the Final One. Diana Eck, Harvard University professor who studied Hindu thought and expression for several years in India, recognizes how adept Hindus are with plurality. They value the Many-ness of God’s One-ness. Perhaps Jews and Christians might consider the ‘plurality of a pair’ with Asherah in their heritage.

Interreligious exchange gives major attention to God-concept. While Hindus call on God by many names, Buddhists may pass off God-talk. Yet, people loyal to those traditions experience God’s love and grace, as surely as do Christians and Muslims. David Krieger draws from the notable Indian practitioner Raimundo Panikkar to discuss method and cross-cultural encounter in doing theology. He explains how interreligious understanding corresponds with a “founding event” in which something taken-for-granted gains a “new horizon.” Such an event occurred for me during my study of Asherah. Only after perceiving the importance of “Yahweh and his Asherah” for many ancient Israelites, did I address what I had taken for granted about the biblical Yahweh.

Earlier, my concept of Yahweh concluded that Yahweh was in fact the One God, a concept central to my view of monotheism. Believing in a single God led me to name that God YHWH/Yahweh. I identified with the biblical I AM, the One who Causes all to Be. At one level of understanding, I already affirmed that belief in monotheism meant that all people in essence believe in the same One. For, there can be but one of One, though different names or forms will express the One. Not until I accepted the fact of the “Yahweh and his Asherah” pair was I freed to see that my concept of Yahweh was in fact a name, among options, for the Actual concept or Being. As with the name Allah, Yahweh identifies that Other Being behind or surrounding or penetrating all that is—the ultimately Un-namable. That insight offered a “new horizon” to shape my multi-faith openness.

Mental musing became statements on paper: 1) In order to better understand the One God, religious people refer to or call on the Divine by name—names such as Yahweh, El Shaddai, Allah, or Rama. 2) Both biblical texts and archaeological findings verify the fact that the Christian heritage includes “Yahweh and his Asherah.” Old or First Testament leaders eventually curtailed support for a consort. 3) Each attempt to understand the Divine through human experience (as through paired love or God as Friend) enhances perception but remains partial. 4) Convincing, sexual justice in social experience has not followed from naming and knowing the One God in metaphors of primarily one sex or a combination of both. 5) Conflict about God-concept existed in Israel and persists in Christian circles. 6) Effective interreligious exchange depends in part on openness to options regarding matters of faith like God-concept.

What then is the biblical evidence of “Yahweh and his Asherah”? Most of the near-forty textual references to Asherah or her symbol occur in Kings and Chronicles; others appear in Exodus, Deuteronomy, Judges, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah. These may be grouped according to word endings: asherim, asherah, and asheroth. Asherah is singular while the other two forms are plural. While Asherim and Asherah each occur eighteen times, Asheroth appears three times. References to Asherim appear in I or II Kings four times and in II Chronicles seven times whereas Asherah appears in I or II Kings twelve times and once in II Chronicles. Whether consulting a 1912 entry on “Astarte and Asherah” in A Concise Cyclopedia of Religious Knowledge1 or Claudia V. Camp’s 1992 discussion of “Worship of the goddess” in The Women’s Bible Commentary insight into her part within the Yahweh cult grows.

Details of translation follow for two examples. Time periods may affect word choice. The King James Version first printed in 1611 includes reprints in 1881, 1901, and 1946 while the Revised Standard Version first appeared in 1952, the New International Version in 1973, and the New Revised Standard Version in 1991.

The text from Deuteronomy 16:21 states:
NRSV – You shall not plant any tree as a sacred pole (Asherah).
NIV – Do not set up any wooden Asherah pole (“tree dedicated to Asherah” in the note).
RSV – You shall not plant any tree as an Asherah.
KJV – Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near the altar.

Variables for I Kings 15:13 state:
NRSV – she had made an abominable image for Asherah
NIV – she had made a repulsive Asherah pole
RSV – she had an abominable image made for Asherah
KJV – she had made an idol in a grove

That the NRSV capitalizes Asherah in parenthetical notes for pole suggests a direct correspondence of the cult object with the goddess. Ancient and contemporary people realize that “what has no name has no existence.” Did KJV writers perceive in the early 1600s that to name Asherah would allow her to compete with the LORD God for identity? (And did their use of LORD credit it as the Jewish alternate designation for the sacred name YHWH/Yahweh?) Does a translation that uses “groves” or “poles” presume that the goddess is literally thereby diminished? Or, does that shift reveal how Israelite worship of Asherah evolved over several centuries into a cultic pole, as editors tried to get rid of evidence of her former worship? In turn, what attitudes evolve today toward living faiths with diverse options for God-concept?

As Mark S. Smith suggests, readers can learn about Yahwism in ancient Israel from inscriptions discovered through archaeological digging. He writes about a spectrum of views:

All Yahwists were presumably committed to the centrality of Yahweh. Beyond this essential feature, there was a diversity of views. Some Israelites believed that Yahwism was compatible with devotion to Baal. Other Yahwists held a more restricted view that Yahweh was the only god and Asherah was his consort. Finally, the Deuteronomistic Historian’s view of matters was even more restricted, not allowing even for devotion to Asherah or to her symbol, the asherah. Yahwism existed in a complexity of forms, which is one way of remembering that God is God the mystery. Whether in the form of asherah or Wisdom or the Jewish Shekinah-Matronit, femaleness has been fundamental to Yahwism.2

Four discoveries will be mentioned: those at Kuntillet Ajrud and Khirbet el-Qom, the Lachish Ewer, and Ta’anach cult stand. Ruth Hestrin writes about the Lachish Ewer, an ewer being a pitcher or large vase. The drawing on this particular one carries the inscription “An offering to my Lady ’Elat.” ’Elat or Athirat-’Elat refers to the goddess or consort of El in Ugarit, and to Asherah in biblical Hebrew. Hestrin also identifies the following biblical depictions of Asherah: image (statue or figurine), a green tree, and a tree trunk (Asherim, eighteen times).3

A tenth century BCE representation of Yahweh and Asherah appears on the Ta’anach cult stand. From nearly thirty centuries ago, this is the earliest known depiction of Yahweh. Found in 1968 by Paul Lapp, the hollow piece measures about twenty-one inches tall. It was perhaps used for incense, offerings, or libations. In an article titled “Was Yahweh Worshiped as the Sun?” J. Glen Taylor describes cultic scenes in each of the four tiers, two each for Asherah and Yahweh, the one “in person” and the other symbolized. While a nude female figure represents the mother goddess on the bottom (tier 4), tier 2 depicts Asherah as the sacred tree.

Similar to the ‘Ajrud jar side A (to be discussed shortly), the tree on this piece is also flanked by ibex. But this stand is 150 years older. Tiers 1 and 3 portray Yahweh in abstract ways. Tier 3 depicts the invisible deity through empty space between two cherubim. Represented in Tier 1 by symbols of sundisk and horse, freestanding pillars flank either side. To make clear that Baal is not being signified, a horse rather than bull is shown. Also known as “Yahweh of hosts,” here is the most important star—the sun. This stand recalls II Kings 23:11: “He [Josiah] removed the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun.”

A poorly formed text carved on a pillar, between tombs in a burial cave, appears near Khirbet el-Qom (identified with the biblical place Makkedah, eight miles east of Hebron). Originating between 750-700 BCE, the inscription contains four main lines and two fragmentary lines. The latter may have been, according to Judith M. Hadley, an afterthought of the writer or chiseled later by another person. Hadley translates the lines: Uriyahu the rich wrote it.

Blessed be Uriyahu by Yahweh
For from his enemies by his (YHWH’s) asherah he (YHWH) has saved him.*
by Oniyahu
and by his Asherah
his a[she]rah.
*Alternatively, . . this line reads “(and) by his asherah, for from his enemies he has saved him.”4

Seemingly at the end of his life, Uriyahu thanks Yahweh and his asherah for protection, blessing, and salvation from enemies. Perhaps the writer prayed to Yahweh before the asherah in a shrine. Psalm-like material closely scrutinized by Hadley, this statement credits God for life and offspring and requests deliverance.5 A fairly large hand, incised below the four lines, may suggest supplication to a deity. Scholars decide whether script and drawings found near each other in fact relate to each other.

Differences between translations of Ancient Near East inscriptions recur, raising questions for disciplined students. While one may see syncretism in the Khirbet el-Qom piece, others (J. Naveh, W. Dever, Mittmann, and Tilde Binger) translate its blessing as:
“ . . . May Uriyahu be blessed by Yahweh my guardian and by his Asherah. Save him (save) Uriyahu”;
“Blessed be Uriyahu by Yahweh. And cursed shall be the hand of whoever (defaces it).”
“Blessed is Uriahu by Yahweh, and from distress he praised the El of his cultus who saves him.”
“Blessed be Uryahu by Yahweh his light by Ashera, she who holds her hand over him . . .”

Untrained in archaeology, others of us ‘hear’ interpreters. We depend on them in order to be open to discover or ready to reshape previous understandings in light of new finds. Or, we need to discern who might be threatened by discovery but unwilling to admit steps taken to deny the same. Such diverse responses describe people involved in or hesitant toward interreligious dialogue too.

The significant jars found at Kuntillet ’Ajrud become part of an imagined dialogue. At a Kolkata university, two graduate students meet regularly. The Indian Hindu fellow and the American Christian woman, a yearlong Fulbright scholar, are researching aspects of their religions. Loyal to particular religions, each trusts the other’s insight and rituals to enlarge personal views of the Divine. The Hindu had already explained goddess Kali’s inherent power, within Hindu thought. He then asked the woman about the Christian heritage of a God-consort pair. Picking up the exchange . . .

Utpal: The ancient parallel of our two religions fascinates me. Consider our important cities.
Marie: You refer to Varanasi and Jerusalem? I’ve never even been to Jerusalem.
Utpal: Since you don’t live where your religious ancestors started, your religious being isn’t rooted in your homeland.
Marie: But my concept of God is not tied to a place. God is universal, the God of all nations.
Utpal: Okay. But are you therefore less linked to centuries of ritual?
Marie: Likely so. My worship rituals are quite different from Old Testament occasions of sacrifice. Even Jerusalem is not ancient in the sense that Varanasi, formerly called Banaras, is.
Utpal: Hindus also call our holy city, which borders the sacred Ganga River for three miles, Kashi, the Luminous, or the City of Light.
Marie: How ancient is it?
Utpal: Thought to be eternal, it has been inhabited for three thousand years.
Marie: It was contemporary with Babylon and Nineveh.
Utpal: Right. But distinct from them, it has continued to thrive.
Marie: That’s amazing!
Utpal: Fifteen hundred temples, some very old, fill the spaces between intent worshipers.
Marie: So, when inscriptions about Yahweh and his Asherah were scratched into stone or marked on sacred jars, Hindus already converged on Varanasi’s riverbank with its ghats, or landing places.
Utpal: That juncture is useful. I presume that archaeologists dig for remnants of that era.
Marie: The ‘finds’ are quite revealing—especially related to Yahweh God’s having a consort.
Utpal: Western Christians who come to India often belittle Hindu respect for the goddess.
Marie: Many would resist knowing about Asherah.
Utpal: I don’t wish to be gleeful—“See there, your heritage honored a consort too.” But I do wonder, could universal Truth be involved here? Could we all, with more humility, grant to earnest believers of any faith the desire to know the One God, whatever the diverse forms that each finds meaningful?
Marie: I hear you. Today’s western Christians need to weigh our options, in light of increased, direct exposure to religious plurality. Further, archeological results augment the ‘weighing’
Utpal: Give an example.
Marie: Two large pithoi, or storage jars, from a ninth or eighth century BCE site at Kuntillet ’Ajrud, contain etched inscriptions and items. Hebrew blessing formulas and cultic scenes appear on the jars.
Utpal: Where’s Kuntillet ’Ajrud?
Marie: Southwest of the Dead Sea. At the inner courtyard entrance to what was likely a place for loading caravans, travelers read this, “. . . I bless you by Yahweh, Shomeron (of Samaria) his Asherah.”
Utpal: So, in Samaria, the official cult of Yahweh included the worship of his consort Asherah?
Marie: That’s what David Noel Freedman concludes from that side of jar A.6
Utpal: Have diggers found a shrine there?
Marie: Scholars wonder if it was a sanctuary, or perhaps just a school or an inn. A crew with Ze’ev Meshel excavated there in 1975-76. He translates the Pithos A inscription as: “X says: Say to Y and Yauasah and [to Z]: I bless you by Yahweh, our guardian, and by his Asherah.”
Utpal: You mentioned cultic scenes or symbols, as well as text.
Marie: Near the front left are two characters, one slightly behind the other. And at a little distance to the right appears a lyre player seated on a throne-like chair.
Utpal: How is that explained?
Marie: For a scholar by the name of Dever, the ’Ajrud motifs primarily suggest syncretism. He thinks the lyre player is the goddess Asherah and the standing figure Yahweh. He argues that their being worshipped together was fully suppressed by the eighth to sixth centuries. Worship of the fertility goddess of Canaan was such a threat.
Utpal: Any different views?
Marie: Yes. Judith Hadley thinks the male lyre player, perhaps a young prince, may have no link to the standing figures. She contends that a major goddess like Asherah would never be portrayed smaller than an Egyptian dwarf god (a Bes figure known as patron of music and dancing).7 Instead, she locates Asherah’s image on the reverse side, in the form of the tree of life.
Utpal: That idea makes sense. I think of the sacred tulsi, mango, and peepal trees, often found near temples. Or, the goddess, shown as the trunk of a tree, feeds others.
Marie: Flanked by two ibexes, the tree of life image would have prompted the traveling herdsmen to see other fertility motifs, like a cow licking a suckling calf, or gazelles.
Utpal: How about the second jar?
Marie: On one side of Pithos B appears: “Amaryau says: Say to my Lord [X]: I bless you by Yahweh [our guardian] and by his Asherah.”
Utpal: The recurring blessing formula.
Marie: This reverse side is of more interest. Five worshipers appear in procession, their hands raised. The inscription alongside suggests: “I bless you by Yahweh of Teman (a region) and by his asherah. May he bless you and keep you and be with (you) my lord.”
Utpal: That’s a profound blessing, from both agents.
Marie: Yes. What’s more, it states the blessing form that Christians now call the “Doxology.” We often conclude worship services with it!
Utpal: I bet you hadn’t heard that the same blessing sent your religious ancestors on their way, grateful for Yahweh and his Asherah!
Marie: Precisely. To learn that a remnant of loyalty to Asherah persists in my heritage prods me to pause, when encountering the Hindu goddess form today.
Utpal: We can all recall visual and tangible symbols that connect people of faith with the One God. Most people who revere an object before them know that it’s not actually divine. It reminds them that the Ultimate constantly enters human experience.
Marie: Christians include paintings of Jesus in homes and churches—perhaps a head of Jesus painted by Salmon or Rembrandt, or a scene of Jesus as the shepherd or overlooking Jerusalem. We don’t worship those paintings. The art reminds us of Jesus’ life; it arouses faith.
Utpal: Symbols in a Hindu temple mysteriously concur with the reality to which they point, however.
Marie: Maybe the small, clay figurines, later found over what was ancient Palestine did too. They ‘spoke’ assurance for women who held them in faith. Whether shown as a pillar (tree trunk) with heavy breasts or a head, the nude form symbolized a member of the cult—a mother or goddess figure in whom women could trust. Held in a hand while giving birth or when desperate to survive harmful natural events, the symbol expressed the holy, beyond words. In a posture of sacred surrender, the supplicant held on to hope—to Yahweh and Asherah.
Utpal: Hindus thrive on symbols. Don’t all people of faith use symbols, names, rituals, and forms to bring Ultimate Reality closer, or to express gratitude?
Marie: I’ll give more background, part of which I recently learned. For perhaps six centuries, many Israelites worshiped Asherah and associated a consort with their God Yahweh. El, the chief god of the region of Canaan that surrounded Israel, had a consort named Asherah. She was also known as the Great Mother Goddess. Known for fertility, she was thought to be mother of seventy gods. For a period of time, both the names El (or Elohim in the plural) and Asherah were accepted as names within Israel’s God-talk.
Utpal: Anything evolve from that?
Marie: A story familiar to Jews and Christians is the Mount Carmel contest (I Kings 18). The intent of the contest was to determine whether Baal or Yahweh was the “real god.”
Utpal: Sounds like a strong over-against posture.
Marie: Biblical hostility toward Baal always surfaced. The ever-popular, storm-god Hadad was seen as Yahweh’s main competitor. The stage was set by King Ahab (married to a Canaanite named Jezebel) to discover which god was responsible for rains, fertility, and agricultural productivity.
In Canaanite myth, Asherah, as consort of the chief god El, had four hundred prophets and Baal had four hundred fifty. When the rain fell, the people were convinced that “Yahweh is God!” Spurred by Elijah, they ruthlessly slaughtered Baal’s prophets. And, thanks to the army general Jehu’s trickery, worshippers of Baal also gathered and were slaughtered. (II Kings 10:18-28) The prophets of Asherah, the queen of the gods, however, were allowed to continue. She and Yahweh replaced El among the Israelites.
Utpal: They had decided which God to worship in Israel.
Marie: Interpreters prolong another confusion from early biblical writers when they link Baal with Asherah. In fact, Baal’s consort/wife/sister was Anat, not Asherah. Asherah’s bond, begun with El, continued with Yahweh, the Israelite replacement for El.
Utpal: But, ancient inscriptions verify the biblical evidence of the supernal pair, Yahweh and his Asherah.
Marie: Since neither prophet Amos nor Hosea denounced the asherah object, some scholars presume that asherim were accepted as part of the cult of Yahweh, at Bethel. Others ‘fault’ Hosea for replacing yhwh w’srth with a new theology for Israel. He established Israel, the people, as Yahweh’s ‘wife.’ That action, along with having a male priesthood, skewed later knowledge. And a patriarchal emphasis on Jesus’ maleness (rather than humanity) still later ‘blessed’ the Christian view of God as male. That Asherah was in the end censored indicates that she and her wooden symbol had in fact been established and popular. She had been sensually valued with Yahweh.
Utpal: All most fascinating. Does honor toward them as a pair augment your understanding of Divine love? Certainly, Radha and Krishna’s love inspired the great medieval Sanskrit poet Jayadeva to write Gitagovinda.
Marie: Stories surrounding the two pairs differ, of course, but the principle of attributing deity to male-female lovers adds depth to God-talk.
Utpal: Radha and Krishna’s celestial love guides love between women and men on the personal level. Moods expressed in songs convey desire and craving, restless tenderness, and dread of being separated. We know about the pair through yearly enactment of their story.
Marie: Perhaps Hindus are more alert to the sensuality of the tribal world as it existed for ancient Israel. Through time, and with a traditional, male concept of God, Christians diminished the divine expression of passion between lovers.
Utpal: Passion is valid, but not in the eros sense of love?
Marie: While Christians might validate the com-passion of God or of Jesus’ suffering love, we skirt around sexual passion as good. We tend to separate sexuality from spirituality. But a present-day feminist theologian like Sallie McFague has re-awakened a sense of God as Lover, or God as Friend.
Utpal: You’re re-claiming how passion expresses deep feeling for reunion. Isn’t that inherent with salvation?
Marie: McFague, who perceives the world as God’s body, suggests that, “the model of God as Lover implies that God needs us to help save the world.” We could talk at length about how the Christian view of sin engages this theme, but I’d prefer now to focus on Yahweh and Asherah.
Utpal: Do you have any concept of fertility with deity?
Marie: I think of an allusion rarely explained. The phrase “sons of God” corresponds with “the host of heaven.” That host would have been known as Asherah’s offspring. (2 Kings 17:16, 21:3, 23:4) Remember, however, that the historians eventually curtailed loyalty to “Yahweh and his Asherah.”
Utpal: Texts report the strife among Israelites to keep her form and tie to Yahweh God alive, right?
Marie: Opponents sought to keep her memory alive or to destroy it. Do Hindus not battle among each other to get rid of gods or goddesses, or to emphasize some more than others?
Utpal: Our approach is less conflicted. Different households will be more loyal to one expression of the Ultimate, like Vishnu or Shiva, or to one of the avataras (which means to descend) of a god, like Krishna.
Marie: But you have little history of one God or group trying to supplant another?
Utpal: As people are diverse, so interest in the divine will vary, but not compete. We will choose one divine form or one way to worship God or one religious path, whether through knowledge, devotion, or action. An important Rig Veda text guides us: “The Real is one; the wise speak of it by many names.”
Marie: That reminds me of tribal Israel’s different names for God—Elohim, El Shaddai, or Jehovah. Later, the tribe of Judah likely persuaded the others to join it in claiming the name Yahweh, perhaps as if that were better or supreme.
Utpal: Why or when?
Marie: Exodus 3:14 reports that Moses ended a significant encounter with God by asking what name he should use, to identify God for the children of Israel. God told him: “Y-H-W-H” which means “I AM or I Cause to Be.”
Utpal: And yet, I don’t often hear that name today from Christians. Back to your mention of a prophet named Hosea. Did thinking of the whole people as God’s wife diminish value for women?
Marie: I might first respond: Are Hindu women valued more on the social level because of your worship of Kali or a mother goddess alongside forms with male names? Clearly some resisted the Old Testament shift—for centuries. For women, valued in part because linked to Yahweh as consort, to be replaced by the collective people distorts a sense of balance. To think of God in male but not female terms deprives women of worth. And it tends to credit men with being more god-like, a doubly false result.
Utpal: Anything else about the male Jesus, even though that’s not directly about Asherah?
Marie: Only that Jesus the Christ also came to have a “bride”—the church, another collective.
Utpal: Interesting. People were again to submit to a male figure. I think of Manu, the lawmaker who lived seven centuries before Jesus. His law, and therefore Hindu law, expects a woman to always be dependent on man. It defines an ‘ideal’ wife as one who perceives of her husband as lord.
Marie: That reminds me of a striking parallel in a well-known hymn: “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord”!
Utpal: Remarkable. But, returning to Asherah, in the couple minutes before I must leave. We always live and express the sacred within a cultural context. You spoke of charge and counter-charge within one faith, among the ancient Israelites.
Marie: So today, along with intra-Christian conflict, Christians often charge, or negate, the faith of other cultures. In part to validate our own religion, I fear.
Utpal: Your comment prompts a couple questions. Might Christians discredit Hindu experience of multi-god forms because Christians wish to celebrate God only through Jesus and his cross? Might the Israelites have accepted Yahweh and his Asherah as one expression, among others? Could diverse names and forms not witness more fully to the One God who creates, sustains and tenderly loves all of life?
Marie: Sounds like our next exchange has just begun. For now, I’ll add a couple general conclusions: the True God behind all names and forms is beyond sexual identity. Yahweh is one name for the Ultimate, rather than the only or the ‘best’ one. And those of us who call God Yahweh need to welcome names like Allah or Shiva, from sincere people like you.
Utpal: And so, we learn—from Krishna and Radha, from “Yahweh and his Asherah.”
Marie: As ancient Yahwism existed in complex forms, Mystery surrounds our ever Present and Passionate One.
Utpal: May the hand or vibration of God fill the sacred space of our experience. Go well.

Before leaving, Marie created the following Reflection:
— Yahweh God,
who with Asherah
knew those who knew her through clasped figurines,
hold those who cry out.
— Yahweh God,
who with Asherah
appeared at Taanach in ancient stone tiers,
stand next to those who waver.
— Yahweh God,
who with Asherah
came to be known through sacred tree, sundisk, and horse,
be symbol for those with imagination keen.
— Yahweh God,
who with Asherah
fill space between the cherubim,
assure those faithful to real kith and kin.
— Yahweh God,
who with Asherah
received incense and offerings,
let oil spill to sooth those trampled underfoot.
— Yahweh God,
who with Asherah
brought forth the “host of heaven,”
conceive in mind for those who wish they could.
— Yahweh God,
who with Asherah
link the human with Divine,
bond those left isolated by default or disdain.
— Yahweh God,
who with Asherah
caused enmity within the remnant,
struggle with those who displace or feel displaced.
— Yahweh God,
who with Asherah
empowered the Sea or Sky through cloud,
endow all those who fear the “foreign” elements.
— Yahweh God,
who with Asherah
stirred prophets, kings, and priests,
prompt those who think the sacred does not matter.
— Yahweh God,
who with Asherah
found centers in Bethel, Dan, and Samaria,
create sacred places for those excluded by the “righteous.”
— Yahweh God
who with Asherah
stood present in Solomon’s Temple for 236 years,
instill the sacredness of time for those who wait.
— Yahweh God
who with Asherah
birthed imagery of Wisdom, Spirit—Sophia too,
emerge in those who seek the One Divine anew.
So be it, Evermore and Evermore!

Note to Reader:
This dialogue lifts ideas from a larger study. The listing that follows samples the fifty articles or books (plus portions of eight scripture commentaries) that I read.
Judith Hadley’s fine, more recent book, adds depth to the discussion; it includes content from the two articles noted. She traces the goddess Asherah from Syria (as Asratum) to Ugarit where she was the head goddess. Prior to its years of monarchy, Israel encountered Asherah’s cult. An ewer at Lachish from the thirteenth century BCE illustrates this fact. By the tenth century, Israelite worship included goddess worship—“Yahweh and his Asherah.” By the eighth (and perhaps into the seventh) century BCE, her cultic tree or wooden pole had replaced her name. Yahweh would have needed to take on aspects of fertility earlier credited to her; the pole or asherah came to symbolize that attribute. Biblical editors (known as Deuteronomic historians) likely wished to destroy evidence that the Israelites had worshipped her. Will Christians choose to destroy evidence of a male God-concept—that damages both God and humanity?


Camp, Claudia V. “1 and 2 Kings,” in The Women’s Bible Commentary, Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe, eds. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Pr., 1992.

Day, John. “Asherah in the Hebrew Bible and Northwest Semitic Literature,” Journal of Biblical Literature, 105/3, 1986, 385-408.

Dever, William G. “Asherah, Consort of Yahweh? New Evidence from Kuntillet Ajrud,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research # 255, Sum 1984, 21-38.

Eck, Diana. “The Religions of India: Points of View,” Video, Lesson 1 (of 10), Great World Religions Part V, The Teaching Company Limited Partnership, 1994.

Freedman, David Noel. “Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah,” Biblical Archaeologist, 50/4, Dec. 1987, 241-49.

Hackett, Jo Ann. “Can a Sexist Model Liberate Us? Ancient Near Eastern ‘Fertility’ Goddesses,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, 5/1, Spring 1989, 65-76.

Hadley, Judith M. The Cult of Asherah in Ancient Israel and Judah, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Pr., 2000.

______. “The Khirbet El-Qom Inscription,” Vetus Testamentum xxxvii/1, 1987, 50-62.

______. “Some Drawings and Inscriptions on Two Pithoi from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud,” Vetus Testamentum xxxvii/2, 1987, 180-213.

Hestrin, Ruth. “Understanding Asherah, Exploring Semitic Iconography,” Biblical Archaeology Review, xvii/5, Sept./Oct. 1991, 50-59.

McFague, Sallie. Models of God Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age. Philadelphia: Fortress Pr., 1987

Nyce, Dorothy Yoder. “The Biblical Asherah and the Hindu Goddess: A Brief Encounter,” Interreligious Biblical Content, Learning Unit # 3, DMin Program, Western Theological Seminary, Spring 1996.

Patai, Raphael. “The Goddess Asherah,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 24, 1965, 37-52.

_____. The Hebrew Goddess. New York: Avon Bks, 1967.

Sanford, Elias Benjamin, ed. A Concise Cyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Hartford, CN: S. S. Scranton Co., 1912.

Smith, Mark S. “God Male and Female in the Old Testament: Yahweh and His ‘Asherah,’” Theological Studies, 48, 1987, 333-40.

Taylor, J. Glen. “Was Yahweh Worshiped as the Sun?” Biblical Archaeology Review, 20/3, May-June 1994, 52-61, 90-91.

Taylor, Joan E. “The Asherah, The Menorah and the Sacred Tree,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 66, 1995, 29-54.