Asherah

Asherah (אֲשֵׁרָה, Assherah'; Auth.Vers. "grove,' after the Sept. ἄλσος; Vulg. lucus), a Canaanitish (Phoenician) divinity, whose worship, in connection with that of Baal. spread among the Israelites already in the age of the judges (Jg 3:7; Jg 6:25), was more permanently established later by the Queen Jezuebel in the land of Ephraim (1Ki 16:33; 1Ki 18:19), but at times prevailed in the kingdom of Judah also (2Ki 18:4; 2Ki 21:3; 2Ki 23:4; 2Ch 31:1 sq.). SEE GROVE. She had prophets, like Baal (1Ki 18:19), and her rites were characterized by licentiousness (2Ki 23:7; Eze 23:42) Her images, אֲשֵׁרִים, or אֲשֵׁרוֹת, were of wood (Jg 6:26), (as appears ever from the words used to ex press their annihilation, Gesen. Thes. p. 162; Movers Phoniz. p. 567), which were erected sometimes together with those of Baal, as θεοὶ σύμβωμοι, over the altar of the latter (Jg 6:25) ; at one time even in, the Temple of Jehovah at Jerusalem (2Ki 21:7; 2Ki 23:6); besides, there is mention of בָּתִּים (houses) tents or canopies, woven by the women for the idol (2Ki 23:7), which circumstance in itself would be indicative of a connection with the worship of Baa' (Jg 3:7; Jg 6:25; 1Ki 16:32 sq.; 18:19) That Asherah is an identical divinity with Astoretl or Astarte is evident from the translation of the Sept at 2Ch 15:16; 2Ch 24:18, from that of Symmachui or Aquila at Judges iii, 7; 2Ki 17:10 (as also from the Syriac at Jg 3:7; Jg 6:25; see Gesen Thes. p. 163); and this was the prevailing opinion of the Biblical antiquarians up to Movers, who (Phsnizn p. 560) thinks that Asherah should be distinguished from Astoreth, and declares Asherah to be a sort of Phallus erected to the telluric goddess Baaltis (Dea Syra, whence the goddess herself was then called Asherah, i.e. ὀρθία), while Astarte should be considered a sidereal divinity. SEE ASTARTE. It may appear strange that the same divinity is mentioned under two names in the historical books of the O.T., and it remains doubtful in what sense Astarte might have been called Asherah; the identity of the two idols however, is evident from Jg 2:13 (see 3:7); and this invalidates also the objection that there is no mention of obscene rites in the worship of Astarte (2Ki 23:7). It does not appear from 2 Kings 23, that Asherah and Astoreth were two distinct divinities, for the only distinction made here is between the different places of worship; ver. 6 mentions an Asherah erected in the Temple in Jerusalem (see 2Ki 21:7), and ver. 13 speaks of the idols which were on the high-places before Jerusalem (since the times of Solomon? see 1Ki 11:7); ver. 14 is connected with ver. 13, and treats of the same idols, while ver. 15 refers to another locality (see 2Ki 23:10). Finally, though Asherah is never expressly called a Sidonian divinity like Astarte, yet she is mentioned (1Ki 16:33; 1Ki 18:19) with the idols introduced by Jezebel (see De Wette, Archol. p. 323 sq.). Hence Bertheau (Richt. p. 66 sq.) declares himself also in favor of the identity of Astoreth with Asherah, supposing, however, that the former might have been the name of the goddess, and the latter that of her idol (see Movers, p. 565), and agrees with Movers in thinking that אֲשֵׁרָה signifies erect (pillar), and is indicative of the Phallus worship. But though Asherim and Asheroth are so often mentioned separately from statues that we could hardly think these terms to have been used likewise to signify carved idols, but are rather inclined to suppose they must have been something more rough and simple (though, perhaps, not a mere tree, as in De 16:21; see Da 11:45); yet from this it does not follow that the word should originally have signified the (wooden) fetish; and against the translation with recta we might adduce, that to be erect is more properly expressed in the Hebrew by the verb יָשִׁר than by אָשִׁר; and if we would grant the above distinction in such passages as 1Ki 18:19; 2Ki 23:4, undoubtedly עִשׁתּרֶת should have been written. Consequently we must let the Phallus character of Asherah also rest as it is; and until more correct explanations can be given, we must be content with the result that Asherah is essentially identical with Astarte; and both these are not differing from the Syrian goddess, whose rites were of obscene character, who is certainly reflected in the Cyprian Aphrodite, and is furthermore blended with the Western mythological representations. (See J. van Yperen, Obs. crit. de sacris quibusd. fluvalibus et Ashera dea, in the Bibl. Hagan. 4:81-122; Gesenius, Comment. z. Jesa. ii, 338; Stuhr, Relig. d. Orients, p. 439; Vatke, Relig. d. 1 lt. Test. p. 372; Dupuis, Orig`ne d. cultes, i, 181; iii, 471; Schwenk, Mythol. d. Senmiten, p. 207 comp. Augustine, De civ. Dei, 4:10; ii, 3.) SEE ASHTORETH

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