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It is written:
Exodus 18:11-Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them.”
During the time when the people of Israel were ruled by various kings, there is evidence from Scripture that many of the Jewish people incorporated pagan worship and combined this with the worship of Jehovah. One “goddess”in particular that was often worshiped was Asherah.
1 Kings 15:13-Also he removed Maachah his grandmother from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah. And Asa cut down her obscene image and burned it by the Brook Kidron.
1 Kings 18:19-Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
2 Kings 21:7-He even set a carved image of Asherah that he had made, in the house of which the LORD had said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever;
2 Kings 23:4-And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, the priests of the second order, and the doorkeepers, to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the articles that were made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; and he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel.
2 Chronicles 15:16-Also he removed Maachah, the mother of Asa the king, from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah; and Asa cut down her obscene image, then crushed and burned it by the Brook Kidron.
Who exactly is this being known as Asherah?
“Ashtaroth, plural: ASTHAROTH Variations: Amenodiel, ANAEL, ANARAZEL, ANIZEL, Arniniel, Aseroth, ‘Ashtart, Ashtoreth, ASTAROT, ASTAROTH, ASTARTE, Asteroth, Astharthe, Astoreth, Atargatis, Ataroth, Azael (“ whom God strengthens”), AZAZEL (“ God strengthens” or “arrogant to God”), CORSON, DEMORIEL, Diabolus (“ Flowing downwards”), Ishtar, MALGARAS. Originally a Palestinian god, Ashtaroth (“ Statues of Ashtoreth”) was reimagined by Christian demonologists, first being named as a demonic goddess, then as a male demon of the First Hierarchy of Hell. As a demon he has been given a wide array of ranks and titles including Governor of Hell, Grand Duke of Western Hell (see DUKES OF HELL), Head of the Eighth Order of Hell, Lord Treasurer of Hell, Prince of Accusers and Inquisitors, and Prince of Thrones (see PRINCES OF HELL). He is also named as one of the seventy-two SPIRITS OF SOLOMON and a FALLEN ANGEL, formerly of the Order of Thrones, thereby making him a seraph. A demon of lust, seduction, sloth, and vanity, Ashtaroth commands forty legions of demonic spirits and four servitors: AAMON, BARBATOS, PRUSLAS, and RASHAVERAK (see SERVITORS OF ASHTAROTH). Ashtaroth has been depicted as a naked man with dragon hands, feet, and wings riding upon a wolf. He has a second set of wings set behind the first, assumedly his angelic wings, as they are feathered. Upon his head he wears a crown and in one hand he holds a serpent. Sources that utilize this image of him also add that he has very bad breath. When summoned, Ashtaroth is said to, on occasion, appear as a human dressed only in black and white or, less frequently, as an ass. Back when Ashtaroth was a Phoenician moon goddess, she had two horns protruding from her head forming a crescent moon. If one is to summon Ashtaroth, he is most powerful on Wednesdays in the month of August between the tenth and eleventh hours of the night. Once he appears, in whichever form he may take, he will answer any question asked of him honestly, as he knows all events of the past and the future. He wields great power and has the ability to give his summoner power over snakes, lead him to hidden treasures, and obtain for him and help him maintain the friendships of great lords. Ashtaroth is a patron of the liberal arts and most sciences; he will teach his summoner handicrafts, mathematics and science, and how to become invisible. Ashtaroth seduces mankind by appealing to their laziness and vanity. He is fond of lecturing on the Creation and on the Fall of the angels, emphatically declaring himself to being punished unjustly and saying that one day he will retake his rightful place in heaven. The personal adversary of Ashtaroth is St. Bartholomew. Numerous sources warn summoners that Ashtaroth smells so horrible that only holding a magical ring under your nose will allow you to breathe near him. The plural form of the name Ashtaroth was taken from the King James Bible. Many scholars believe that Ashtaroth is a thinly veiled version of the goddess Ishtar. Medieval Christian sources say he lives in the Occident (America). Sources: Gettings, Dictionary of Demons, 38; Jahn, Jahn’s Biblical Archaeology, 524–5, 530; Prophet, Fallen Angels and the Origins of Evil, 174; Smith, Comprehensive Dictionary of the Bible, 73.” (Theresa Bane, Encyclopedia of Demons in World Religions and Cultures, 53 (Kindle Edition); Jefferson,NC; McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers)
As Asherah is a fertility goddess, the “poles” and “obscene images” attributed to her in the Old Testament were phallic symbols (i.e., images of the male sexual organ).
Now, some in our world today claim that because these Hebrews who succumbed to pagan influence worshiped Asherah, that Asherah therefore must have been the wife of Jehovah!
What shall we say to this?
First, we need to realize that the term “monotheism” (belief in one God) did not mean that there are no other gods. As such, Asherah is given a very real identity in Scritpure. Numerous Scriptures indicate that there is only one “true” God, but that there are beings which claim to be “gods” as well!
Exodus 12:12- For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.
Exodus 15:11-Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders?
Exodus 18:11-Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them.”
Several other Old Testament passages make it clear that there are “gods.”
Yet other passages seem to teach that there is only ONE God.
Deuteronomy 4:35-To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD Himself is God; there is none other besides Him.
Deuteronomy 4:39-Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the LORD Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.
Deuteronomy 32:39-Now see that I, even I, am He, And there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.
Isaiah 44:6-6 “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.
Isaiah 44:8-Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.‘ “
Do passages such as this contradict the passages which state there are many gods?
Not at all. Indeed, these statements merely represent the fact that while there are many “gods” in the world (i.e, beings which CLAIM to be Divine), there is only one TRUE God (i..e, one eternal Being).
“Another misguided strategy is to argue that statements in the Old Testament that have God saying “there is none besides me” mean that no other elohim exist. This isn’t the case. These phrases do not contradict Psalm 82 or others that, for example, say Yahweh is above all elohim or is the “God of gods [ elohim ].” I’ve written a lot on this subject—it was a focus of my doctoral dissertation. 12 These “denial statements,” as they are called by scholars, do not assert that there are no other elohim . In fact, some of them are found in chapters where the reality of other elohim is affirmed. We’ve already seen that Deuteronomy 32:17 refers to elohim that Paul believed existed. Deuteronomy 32:8–9 also refers to the sons of God. Deuteronomy 4:19–20 is a parallel to that passage, and yet Deuteronomy 4:35 says there is no god besides Yahweh. Is Scripture filled with contradictions? No. These “denial statements” do not deny that other elohim exist. Rather, they deny that any elohim compares to Yahweh. They are statements of incomparability. This point is easily illustrated by noticing where else the same denial language shows up in the Bible. Isaiah 47:8 and Zephaniah 2:15 have, respectively, Babylon and Nineveh saying “there is none besides me.” Are we to believe that the point of the phrase is to declare that no other cities exist except Babylon or Nineveh? That would be absurd. The point of the statement is that Babylon and Nineveh considered themselves incomparable , as though no other city could measure up to them. This is precisely the point when these same phrases are used of other gods—they cannot measure up to Yahweh. The Bible does not contradict itself on this point. Those who want to argue that the other elohim do not exist are at odds with the supernatural worldview of the biblical writers.” (Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, 579-596 (Kindle Edition); Bellingham, WA; Lexham Press)
Second, before the influence of paganism recorded in the passages above, the evidence from archaeology supports the teaching that Yahweh (the God of the Bible) was viewed as the greatest God Who had no equal and no wife.
“These inscriptions describe an awareness of and worship of several deities, including Asheratah, Baal, El, and perhaps the Shaddayin in Israel and Judah. However, the dominant deity in all these inscriptions was Yahweh. Occasionally, he was also the only deity. He is mentioned exclusively in the ninth-century Mesha stele as the one deity associated with Israelite communities who had cultic objects. He appears alone in the Miqneyahu seal as well as at Ein Gedi and in the inscriptions at Khirbet Beit Lei. Thus Yahweh functions either as dominant or as sole deity. Israelites are involved in his cult. He alone is identified as “my lord.” He alone is appealed to for blessing, for absolution, and for his reign over Jerusalem and his people. Onomastics: The Personal Names67 Names can reveal something of the popular faith of the people. Seals and impressions (bullae) from the Iron Age give evidence of some 1,200 personal names, and the number is increasing with new evidence coming to light. What is unusual for Judah and Israel is the near absence of personal names compounded with divine names of deities other than Yahweh or the generic term for “god” (‘ el ). Over 46 percent of all names are Yahwistic names, about 6 percent are ‘el names, and about 1 percent comprise personal names compounded with all other divine names that are clearly not epithets. 68 Before the Monarchy there is no clear extrabiblical evidence for names compounded with “Yahweh” or its abbreviated form. 69 Van der Toorn hypothesizes that at the earlier time the worship of Yahweh was restricted to a minority population (and later grew to a national religion). 70 Others note an “onomastic lag” between the introduction of deity and the use of that deity in personal names. 71 However, no explanation is certain. In terms of the public use of personal names in society, Israel and Judah were Yahwistic worshipping communities. The one exception is the north kingdom at the capital of Samaria in the early eighth century, where a number of personal names in the ostraca found there use Baal. Even here, however, it is not the majority, and the bʿl element may simply refer to the common noun, “lord,” an epithet of any deity, including Yahweh. To Yahweh were ascribed the many characteristics of other deities as found in personal names. For examples, Sheharya (” Yahweh is dawn”) 72 ascribes an image to the God of Israel that at Ugarit is given status as a separate deity (Shahar—” Dawn”). However, there were also distinctives among the Yahwistic theophoric names, when compared with theophoric names of surrounding nations. 73 The distinctive nature of Yahwistic names has been studied by Fowler. Unlike neighboring onomastica, Yahweh is never described as producing offspring or involved in fertility. Yahweh is never associated with a divine consort and rarely is he depicted in the form of an animal. 74 He is not identified with architecture, cities, or astral phenomena. Unlike Mesopotamian names, no Israelite personal name suggests that the deity may harm an individual, act vengefully, or need to be appeased. The qualities of compassion, mercy, love, joy, transcendence, and perhaps salvation seem to occur to a unique degree in Israelite names in a manner that is not present in Ugaritic, Phoenician, Palmyrene, and Aramean names. 75 Also in terms of the mention of other deities, the situation is different outside Israel, both in Canaan before the arrival of the Israelites and in the Phoenician and Aramaic names contemporary with Israel. In all cases, other divine names occur in the personal names. 76 In fourteenth-century Canaan, Baal and Asherah occur in names: Baal by itself (Baalumme) or with a predicate nominative (Balumehr, “Baal is a warrior”) and Asherah in the form of “servant of Asherah” (Abdi-Ashirti). 77 In Phoenician and Punic names, Anat, Baal, Eshmun, and Melqart occur as deities, by themselves, and compounded in personal names. 78 However, these collections are not directly comparable with the Israelite evidence because they derive from multiple urban centers across widely dispersed geographic regions.” (Richard Ness, “Did Yahweh Have A Wife? Iron Age Religion In Israel And Its Neighbors,’ in William Lane Craig & Paul Copan, Come Let Us Reason: Essays In Christian Apologetics, (4152-4192 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group)
Third, when these pagan groups began to incorporate their teachings into Israel, the Prophets of God rebuked and condemned them. Indeed, some of the Prophets were punished severely when they stood against these wicked ideas!
When I think about how many today are claiming that the Old Testament teaches Jehovah had a wife based on this scenario, I am reminded of a similar situation with a novel that came out a few years back about Abraham Lincoln. The novel was entitled, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” As the title suggests, it is a fictitious account of Abraham Lincoln being a killer of vampires. One of the “plots”of the story is that Abraham Lincoln brought about the Civil War as part of his crusade against vampires.
Now, we all know how foolish such a theme is. We know this (partly) because of the historical accounts of the Civil War. The man who wrote the novel about Lincoln being a vampire hunter lived centuries after Lincoln. In contrast, the contemporaries of Lincoln who have been verified historically show that vampire killing had nothing to do with the Civil War. Anyone who would suggest that the fictions vampire killing Abraham Lincoln had anything to do with the motivation for the Civil War would be (rightly) laughed to scorn.
In the same way, the people today who are claiming that the Bible teaches Yahweh has a wife are out of step with reality. The religion of Israel did not teach this; this teaching did not begin until centuries after God declared the Law through Moses; it was only as a result of paganism being introduced into Israel that this notion even began; and it was refuted by God’s Prophets.
Do not put stock in these modern day conspiracy theories friends.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.