Did God have a wife? Asherah Worship in Israel
by Rich Deem

Introduction

Queen of Heaven?

Did the Israelites worship the "Queen of Heaven"? The answer is "yes," since the Bible clearly states that it was so. Does this make the "Queen of Heaven" God's wife?

Rich Deem

The recent claim that God had a wife was made by a Francesca Stavrakopoulou, admitted atheist at the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter.1 The claim is not new, but was revived in time to promote the upcoming BBC series, "Bible's Buried Secrets."2 Although the claim seems ridiculous on the surface, there is actually a fair amount of evidence that groups of ancient peoples of the Middle East worshipped different gods and goddesses, one of whom was named "Asherah." However, contrary to the claims of many scholars, the Bible does not try to cover up these facts, but brings them to light as the idol worship they were. This page examines this evidence and the ways it has been interpreted.

Asherah in archeology

Fueling the claim that God had a wife was an inscription found at Kuntillet Ajrud, an 8th centuries B.C. site in the northeast Sinai peninsula, that said, "Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah" and "Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah." Yahweh is the Hebrew word for God. A similar inscription has been found at a tomb from the same time period at Khirbat El-Qôm. Other religious artifacts, such as horned altars, small altars, ashes, animal bones, scepter heads and terra cotta female figurines, have been found scattered about the Middle East, primarily in isolated homes of individuals rather than sites of official worship (e.g., Jerusalem). William G. Dever, who did much of the research on these artifacts, believed they represented a cult of Asherah,3 as he had suggested over 20 years ago. During the 8th and 9th centuries, these female figurines were common throughout the Middle East, suggesting their widespread use.

Asherah in the Bible

Contrary to the claims of scholars, the Bible does not attempt to cover up the existence of Asherah or that she/it was worshipped in Israel. In fact, Asherah is mentioned in the Bible books of Exodus,4 Deuteronomy,5 Judges,6 1 Kings,7 2 Kings,8 2 Chronicles,9 Isaiah,10 Jeremiah,11 and Micah.12 Most of the descriptions suggest the Asherah was a carved tree or pole, probably representative of the goddess known as Asherah, Ashira or Athirat. Most often in the Bible, Asherah was associated with the god Baal.6-9 The Bible also describes a "queen of heaven,"13-14 which would presumably be God's "wife." However, in one of Jeremiah's accounts, it is God Himself who told Jeremiah that He was grieved by the idol worship of the "queen of heaven."13 The women who were making offerings to the "queen of heaven" admitted doing so out of their own superstitions.14 God was not keeping them safe enough, so they were covering their bases by making offerings to other gods and goddesses of the surrounding peoples.

According to biblical history, about half of the kings of Israel worshipped other gods and built altars and Asherah to them. The Bible even indicates that some of the Asherah were made in Samaria,8 which is where archeologists have found them. So, the fact that archeologists have found Asherah in Samaria is not surprising. It would be more surprising if they didn't find them! Was the Bible trying to keep this worship of other gods and goddesses secret? No!

God has a wife!

The Bible actually says outright that God has a wife. Yes, I admit it! However, that "wife" is not Asherah or any other cultic goddess. The wife is none other than God's people:

The New Testament extends this concept, saying that followers of Jesus will be "married" to Him in heaven, and He will be our spiritual "husband."15 In the book of Revelation, a marriage is described in heaven, where the "bride" is composed of all believers in Jesus Christ.15

Conclusion Top of page

Yes, the atheists are at it again, just in time to promote their upcoming Bible bashing series, "Bible's Buried Secrets," on the BBC. It is the same tired allegations - the Israelites were really polytheists and Yahweh, the God of the Bible was just one of many players. Accordingly, the Bible tried to cover up the fact that all the Israelites were polytheists. The problem with the claim is that the Bible readily admits that the kings would go astray and worship other gods. The fact that archeology confirms such examples of idol worship in Israel is no surprise. It would be surprising if such evidence were not found. And just to set the record straight, the Bible does say that God has a wife - consisting of none other than His people.



References Top of page

  1. Jennifer Viegas. Did God have a wife? Scholar says that he did, MSNBC, March 18, 2011.
  2. Did God Have a Wife, BBC, March 22, 2011.
  3. William G. Dever. Did God Have A Wife? Archaeology And Folk Religion In Ancient Israel. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005.
  4. "But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim (Exodus 34:13)
  5. "But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire. (Deuteronomy 7:5)
    "You shall tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and burn their Asherim with fire, and you shall cut down the engraved images of their gods and obliterate their name from that place. (Deuteronomy 12:3)
    "You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the LORD your God, which you shall make for yourself. (Deuteronomy 16:21)
  6. The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. (Judges 3:7)
    Now on the same night the LORD said to him, "Take your father's bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it; (Judges 6:25)
    and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of this stronghold in an orderly manner, and take a second bull and offer a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you shall cut down." (Judges 6:26)
    When the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was torn down, and the Asherah which was beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar which had been built. (Judges 6:28)
    Then the men of the city said to Joash, "Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has torn down the altar of Baal, and indeed, he has cut down the Asherah which was beside it." (Judges 6:30)
  7. "For the LORD will strike Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water; and He will uproot Israel from this good land which He gave to their fathers, and will scatter them beyond the Euphrates River, because they have made their Asherim, provoking the LORD to anger. (1 Kings 14:15)
    For they also built for themselves high places and sacred pillars and Asherim on every high hill and beneath every luxuriant tree. (1 Kings 14:23)
    He also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother, because she had made a horrid image as an Asherah; and Asa cut down her horrid image and burned it at the brook Kidron. (1 Kings 15:13)
    Ahab also made the Asherah. Thus Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him. (1 Kings 16:33)
    "Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table." (1 Kings 18:19)
  8. Nevertheless they did not turn away from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, with which he made Israel sin, but walked in them; and the Asherah also remained standing in Samaria. (2 Kings 13:6)
    They set for themselves sacred pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, (2 Kings 17:10)
    They forsook all the commandments of the LORD their God and made for themselves molten images, even two calves, and made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal. (2 Kings 17:16)
    He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. (2 Kings 18:4)
    For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. (2 Kings 21:3)
    Then he set the carved image of Asherah that he had made, in the house of which the LORD said to David and to his son Solomon, "In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever. (2 Kings 21:7)
    Then the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the doorkeepers, to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; and he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. (2 Kings 23:4)
    He brought out the Asherah from the house of the LORD outside Jerusalem to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and ground it to dust, and threw its dust on the graves of the common people. (2 Kings 23:6)
    He also broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes which were in the house of the LORD, where the women were weaving hangings for the Asherah. (2 Kings 23:7)
    He broke in pieces the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherim and filled their places with human bones. (2 Kings 23:14)
    Furthermore, the altar that was at Bethel and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, had made, even that altar and the high place he broke down. Then he demolished its stones, ground them to dust, and burned the Asherah. (2 Kings 23:15)
  9. for he removed the foreign altars and high places, tore down the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherim, (2 Chronicles 14:3)
    He also removed Maacah, the mother of King Asa, from the position of queen mother, because she had made a horrid image as an Asherah, and Asa cut down her horrid image, crushed it and burned it at the brook Kidron. (2 Chronicles 15:16)
    He took great pride in the ways of the LORD and again removed the high places and the Asherim from Judah. (2 Chronicles 17:6)
    "But there is some good in you, for you have removed the Asheroth from the land and you have set your heart to seek God." (2 Chronicles 19:3)
    They abandoned the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols; so wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their guilt. (2 Chronicles 24:18)
    Now when all this was finished, all Israel who were present went out to the cities of Judah, broke the pillars in pieces, cut down the Asherim and pulled down the high places and the altars throughout all Judah and Benjamin, as well as in Ephraim and Manasseh, until they had destroyed them all. Then all the sons of Israel returned to their cities, each to his possession. (2 Chronicles 31:1)
    For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down; he also erected altars for the Baals and made Asherim, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. (2 Chronicles 33:3)
    His prayer also and how God was entreated by him, and all his sin, his unfaithfulness, and the sites on which he built high places and erected the Asherim and the carved images, before he humbled himself, behold, they are written in the records of the Hozai. (2 Chronicles 33:19)
    For in the eighth year of his reign while he was still a youth, he began to seek the God of his father David; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, the carved images and the molten images. (2 Chronicles 34:3)
    They tore down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and the incense altars that were high above them he chopped down; also the Asherim, the carved images and the molten images he broke in pieces and ground to powder and scattered it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. (2 Chronicles 34:4)
    he also tore down the altars and beat the Asherim and the carved images into powder, and chopped down all the incense altars throughout the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 34:7)
  10. He will not have regard for the altars, the work of his hands, Nor will he look to that which his fingers have made, Even the Asherim and incense stands. (Isaiah 17:8)
    Therefore through this Jacob's iniquity will be forgiven; And this will be the full price of the pardoning of his sin: When he makes all the altar stones like pulverized chalk stones; When Asherim and incense altars will not stand. (Isaiah 27:9)
  11. As they remember their children, So they remember their altars and their Asherim By green trees on the high hills. (Jeremiah 17:2)
  12. "I will root out your Asherim from among you And destroy your cities. (Micah 5:14)
  13. "The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods in order to spite Me. (Jeremiah 7:18)
  14. "But rather we will certainly carry out every word that has proceeded from our mouths, by burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, just as we ourselves, our forefathers, our kings and our princes did in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then we had plenty of food and were well off and saw no misfortune. "But since we stopped burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have met our end by the sword and by famine." "And," said the women, "when we were burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven and were pouring out drink offerings to her, was it without our husbands that we made for her sacrificial cakes in her image and poured out drink offerings to her?" Then Jeremiah said to all the people, to the men and women--even to all the people who were giving him such an answer--saying... "Because you have burned sacrifices and have sinned against the LORD and not obeyed the voice of the LORD or walked in His law, His statutes or His testimonies, therefore this calamity has befallen you, as it has this day... 'This will be the sign to you,' declares the LORD, 'that I am going to punish you in this place, so that you may know that My words will surely stand against you for harm.' (Jeremiah 44:17-29)
  15. for the Lamb [Jesus Christ] in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes." (Revelation 7:17)
    "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." (Revelation 19:7)
    "Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready." It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Revelation 19:8)
    And he said to me, "Write, 'Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'" And he said to me, "These are true words of God." (Revelation 19:9)
    And one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I shall show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." (Revelation 21:9)
    FOR THIS CAUSE A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND SHALL CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE; AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32)

http://godandscience.org/apologetics/god_have_a_wife.html
Last updated March 20, 2011

 

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