the representative in the A.V. in certain passages of two Heb. words.
1. אֲשֵׁרָה (or אֲשֵׁירָח), asherah"'(from, אָשִׁר to be upright). Selden was the first who endeavored to show that this word which in the Sept. and Vulg. is generally rendered groce, in which our authorized version has followed them must in some places, for the sake of the sense, be taken to mean a wooden image of Ashtoreth (De Diis Syris, ii. 2). Not long after, Spencer made the same assertion scholars assume that Asherah is a name for Ashtoreth, and that it denotes more especially the relation of that goddess to the planet Venus, as the lesser star of good fortune. It appears, namely, to be an indisputable fact that both Baal and Ashtoreth, although their primary relation was to the sun and moon, came in process of time to be connected, in the religious conceptions of the Syro-Arabians, with the planets Jupiter and Venus, as the two stars of good fortune. SEE MENI. We may instance the connection between Artemis and Selene; that between Juno and the planet Venus, mentioned in Creuzer, ii, 566; the fact that astro is also the name of the same planet in the religious books of the Tsalians (Norberg's Onomast. Cod. Nasarai, p. 20). It is in reference to this connection, too, that a star is so often found among the emblems with which Ashtoreth is represented on ancient coins. Lastly, while the word Asherah cannot, in the sense of grove, be legitimately deduced from the primitive or secondary signification of any Syro-Arabian root, as a name of the goddess of good fortune it admits of a derivation as natural in a philological point of view as it is appropriate in signification. The verb אָשִׁר means to prosper; and Asherah is the feminine of an adjective signifing fortunate, happy. SEE ASHERAH
We must not omit to notice a probable connection between this symbol or image — whatever it was and the sacred symbolic tree, the representation of which occurs so frequently on Assyrian sculptures, and is shown in the subjoined woodcut. The connection is ingeniously maintained by Mr. Fergusson in his Nineveh and Persepolis restored (p. 299-304), to which the reader is referred. (De Leg. Hebraeor. ii, 16). Vitringa then followed out the same argument in his note on Isa 17:8. Gesenius, at length, has treated the whole question so elaborately in his Thesaurus (p. 162) as to leave little to be desired, and has evinced that Asherah is a name, and also denotes an image of this goddess. Some of the arguments which support this partial, or, in Gesenius's case, total rejection of the signification grove for asherah are briefly as follows: It is argued that it almost always occurs with words which denote idols and statues of idols; that the verbs which are employed to express the making an Asherah are incompatible with the idea of a grove, as they are such as to build, to shape, to erect (except in one passage, where, however, Gesenius still maintains that the verb there used means to erect); that the words used to denote the destruction of an Asherah are those of breaking to pieces, subverting; that the image of Asherah is placed in the Temple (2Ki 21:7); and that Asherah is coupled with Baal in precisely the same way as Ashtoreth is (comp. Jg 2:13; Jg 10:6; 1Ki 18:19; 2Ki 23:4; and particularly Jg 3:7; Jg 2:13, where the plural form of both words is explained as of itself denoting images of this goddess; see also 2Ch 33:19; 2Ch 34:3-4). Besides, Selden objects that the signification grove is even incongruous in 2Ki 17:10, where we read of "setting up groves under evergreen tree." Moreover, the Sept. has rendered Asherah by Astarte in 2Ch 15:16 (and the Vulg, has done the same in Jg 3:7), and, conversely, has rendered Ashtaroth by groves in 1Sa 7:3. SEE ASHTORETH; SEE HIGH-PLACE, On the strength of these arguments most modern
2. אֵשֶׁל, e'shel (Sept. αρονρα, Vulg. nemus). The first notice of this tree is in Ge 21:33, "And Abraham planted a grove (eshel) in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the Lord." The second passage where it occurs is 1Sa 22:6: "Now Saul abode in Gib-eah under a tree (eshel) in Ramah, having his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing about him." Under such a tree also he and his sons were buried, for in the only other notice of this word it is said (1Sa 31:13), "And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree (eshel) at Jabesh, and fasted seven days. In the parallel passage 2Ch 10:12, the word alah is employed, which perhaps signi ties a terebinth tree, but is translated "oak" in the A.V.
Celsius (Hierobot. i, 535) maintains that eshel has always a general, and not a specific signification, and that it is properly translated tree. This, as stated by Rosenmuller, has been satisfactorily refuted by Michaelis in his Supplem. p. 134. In Royle's Illustrated Himal. Bot. p. 214, it is stated, "The Arabic name asul or atul is applied to furas (an arboreous species of tamarisk) in India, as to Horientalis in Arabia and Egypt." So in the Ulfaz Uduieh, translated by Mr. Gladwin, we have at No. 36. ussel, the tamarisk bush, with ljhaou as the Hindee, and guz as the Persian synonym. The tamarisk and its products were highly valued by the Arabs for their medicinal properties, and are described in several places under different names in Avicenna. If we refer to travellers in Eastern countries, we shall find that most of them mention the athul. Thus Prosper Alpinus (De Plantis AEgypti, c. 9:De Tamarisco atle vocals) gives a figure which sufficiently shows that it must grow to the size of a large tree, and says that he had heard of its attaining, in another place, to the size of a large oak; that its wood was employed for making a variety of vessels, and its charcoal used throughout Egypt and Arabia; and that different parts of it were employed in medicines. So Forskal, who calls the species Tamariscus orientalis, gives atl as its Arabic name, and identifies it with eshel. So Belon (Observ. ii, 28). In Arabia Burckhardt found the tree called asul in the neighborhood of Medina, and observes that the Arabs cultivated it on account of the hardness of its wood. If we endeavor to trace a species of tamarisk in Syria, we shall find some difficulty from the want of precision in the information supplied by travellers on subjects of Natural History. But a French naturalist, M. Bove, who travelled from Cairo to Mount Sinai, and from thence into Syria, has given ample proofs of the existence of species of tamarisk in these regions. A minute description of the tree under its Arabic name is given by I. E. Faber, in Fab. and Reishii Opusc. wed. ex mon. Ar. p. 137. It is very remarkable that the only tree which is found growing among the ruins of Babylon is a tamarisk. "The one in question is in appearance like the weeping-willow, but the trunk is hollow through age, and partly shattered. The Arabs venerate it as sacred, in consequence of the calf Ali having reposed under its shade after the battle of Hillah" (Rosenmuller, Bibl. Geog. ii, p. 26, from Ker Porter; comp. Ainsworth's Researches, p. 125). From the characteristics of the tamarisk-tree of the East, it certainly appears as likely as any to have been planted in Beersheba by Abraham, because it is one of the few trees which will flourish and grow to a great size even in the arid desert. Besides the advantage of affording shade in a hot country, it is also esteemed on account of the excellence of its wood, which is converted into charcoal. It is no less valuable on account of the galls with which its branches are often loaded. and which are nearly as astringent as oak-galls. SEE TAMARISK.
3. It is now generally recognised (see Gesen. Thes. 50 b; Stanley, S. and P. § 76, 3; p. 142 note, 220 note) that the word Elon, אֵלוֹן, which is uniformly rendered by the A.V. "plain," signifies a grove or plantation. such were the Elon of Mamre (Ge 13:18; Ge 14:13; Ge 8:1); of Moreh (Ge 12:6; De 11:30; of Zaa-aim (Joshua'xix, 33); of the pillar (Jg 9:6); of Meonenim (Jg 9:37); and of Tabor (1Sa 10:3). in all these cases the Sept. has δρῦς or βάλανος" the Vulgate — which the A. V. probably followed — Vallis or ConvalIis; in the last three, however, Quercus. See Elon, In the religions of the ancient heathen world groves play a prominent part. In old times altars only were erected to the gods. It was thought wrong to shut p the gods within walls, and hence, as Pliny expressly tells us (H. N. 12:2), trees were the first temples Tacit. Germ. 9; Lucian, de Sacrific. 10; see Carpzov, App. Crit. p. 332), and from the earliest times groves re mentioned in connection with religious worship Ge 12:6-7; Ge 13:18; De 11:30; A. V. "plain ;" see above). Their high antiquity, refreshing shade, solemn silence, and awe-inspiring solitude, as well as he striking illustration they afford of natural life, marked them out as the fit localities, or even the actual objects of worship ("Lucos et in iis silentia ipsa adoramus," Pliny, 12:1; "Secretum luci... et ad-miratio umbrae fidem tibi numinis facit," Senec. Ep. xli; "Quo posses viso dicere Numen habet," Ovid, Fast. iii, 295; "Sacra; nemus accubct umbra," Virgil, Georg. iii, 334; comp. Ovid, Met. 8:743; see Eze 6:3; Isa 57:5; Ho 4:13). This last passage hints at another and darker reason why groves were opportune for the degraded services of idolatry; their shadow hid he atrocities and obscenities of heathen worship. The ;roves were generally found connected with temples, and often had the right of affording an asylum (Tacit. Germ. 9, 40; Herod. ii, 138; Virgil, AEn. i, 441; ii, 512; Sil. Ital. i, 81). Some have supposed that even the Jewish Temple had a τέμενος planted with palm, and cedar (Ps 92:12-13), and olive (Ps 52:8), as the mosque which stands on its site now has. This is more than doubtful; but we know that a celebrated oak stood by the sanctuary at Shechem (Jos 24:26; Jg 9:6; Stanley, Sinai and Pal. p. 142). We find repeated mention of groves consecrated with deep superstition to particular gods (Livy, 7:25; 24:37 35:51; Tacit. Ann. ii, 12, 51, etc.; 4:73, etc.). For this reason they were stringently forbidden to the Jews (Ex 34:13; Jer 17:2; Eze 20:28), and Maimonides even says that it is forbidden to sit under the shade of any green tree where an idol-statue was (Fabric. Bibl. Antiq. p. 290). Yet we find abundant indications that the Hebrews felt the influence of groves on the mind ("the spirit in the woods," Wordsworth), and therefore selected them for solemn purposes, such as great national meetings (Jg 9:6,37) and the burial of the dead (Ge 35:8; 1Sa 31:13). Those connected with patriarchal history were peculiarly liable to superstitious reverence (Am 5:27; Am 8:13); and we find that the groves of Mature were long a place of worship (Sozomen, H. E. ii, 4; Euseb. Vit. Const. p. 81; Reland, Palaest. p. 714). There are in Scripture many memorable trees; e.g. Allon-bachuth (Ge 35:8), the tamarisk (see above)in Gibeah (1Sa 22:6), the terebinth in Shechem (Jos 24:26, under which the law was set up), the palm-tree of Deborah (Jg 4:5), the terebinth of enchantments (Jg 9:37), the terebinth of wanderers (Jg 4:11), and others (1Sa 14:2; 1Sa 10:3; sometimes "plain" in A. V., Vulg. "convallis").
This observation of particular trees was among the heathen extended to a regular worship of them. "Tree-worship may be traced from the interior of Africa not only into Egypt and Arabia, but also onward uninterruptedly into Palestine and Syria, Assyria, Persia, India, Thibet, Siam, the Philippine Islands, China, Japan, and Siberia; also westward into Asia Minor, Greece, Italy, and other countries; and in most of the countries here named it obtains in the present day, combined as it has been in other parts with various forms of idolatry" (Poole, Genesis of Earth and Man, p. 139). "The worship of trees even goes back among the Iranians to the rules of Horn, called in the Zend-Avesta the promulgator of the old law. We know from Herodotus the delight which Xerxes took in the great plane-tree in Lydia, in which he bestowed golden ornaments, and appointed for it a sentinel in the person of one of the 'immortal Ten Thousand.' The early veneration of trees was associated, by the moist and refreshing canopy of foliage, with that of sacred fountains. In similar connection with the early worship of nature were among the Hellenic nations the fame of the great palm-tree of Delos, and of an aged platanus in Arcadia. The Buddhists of Ceylon venerate the colossal Indian fig-tree of Anurah-depura A single trees thus became objects of veneration from the beauty of their form, so did also groups of trees, under the name of groves of gods.' Pausanias (i, 21,§ 9) is full of the praise of a grove belonging to the temple of Apollo at Grynion in AEolis; and the grove of Co-lone is celebrated in the renowned chorus of Sophocles" (Humboldt, Cosmos, ii, 96, Eng. ed.). The custom of adorning trees "with jewels and mantles" was very ancient and universal (Herod. 7:31; AElian, V. H. ii, 14; Theocr. id. xviii; Ovid, Met. 8:723, 745; Arnob. adv. Gentes, i, 39), and even still exists in the East.
The oracular trees of antiquity are well known (Homer, Il. 16:233; Od. v, 237; Soph. Trach. 754; Virgil; Georg. ii, 167 Sil. Ital. iii, 11). Each god had some sacred tree (Virgil, Ecl. 7:61 sq.). The Etrurians are said to have worshipped a palm, and the Celts an oak (Max. Tyr. Dissert. 38, in Godwyn's Mos. and Aar. ii, 4). On the Druidic veneration of oak-groves, see Pliny, H. N. 16:44; Tacit. Ann. 14:30. In the same way, according to the missionary Oldendorp, the negroes "have sacred groves, the abodes of a deity, which no negro ventures to enter except the priests" (Prichard, Nat. Hist. of Man, p. 525-539, 3d ed.; Park's Travels, p. 65). So, too, the ancient Egyptians (Raw-Hinson's Herod, ii, 298). Long after the introduction of Christianity it was found necessary to forbid all abuse of trees and groves to the purposes of superstition (Harduin, Act. Concil. i, 988; see Orelli, ad Tac. Germ. 9). See Pehnen, De arbore non plantanda ad altare Dei (Lips. 1725); Dresler, De lucis religioni gotil. destinatis (Lips. 1740); Lakemacher, Antiq. Grace. sacrae, p. 138 sq. SEE TREK.