‘ And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness’. (Genesis 1:26)
Okay God, Gotcha.
But who is the ‘us’ and the ‘our’ if there is only supposed to be you up there?
“The men who wrote the Bible created God in their own image”, says Dr. William Dever, an archaeologist who specializes in Biblical studies.
My first few days in Jerusalem felt like I faceplanted in a frothing pile of dust and, like in a nightmare, could not feel my limbs so could not use them to hoist myself up off of the arid floor that was filling my eyes and mouth.
My body erupted in illness. I had a variety of issues, one of them being that my eardrum had popped on the flight into Tel Aviv. And strange hives or bites were rising up on my skin. There were other issues, like the clamp squeezing my heart in a vice grip, taking the breath from my body. I couldn’t shake it.
The discomfort mingled with my usual compulsion to wander, seek, observe, peer, question, absorb, and investigate.
I’m not joking. It was unreal. All this when my life’s dream of journeying to the sacred land of Israel was finally happening.
In a gust of knowingness, it had arrived the moment I got to Jerusalem. It didn’t make sense to me then and it doesn’t make sense to me now. But a crying out from the land itself ricocheted through my body. Where is she?
I didn’t even know who she was until I came home and hit up some books about ancient Hebrew cultures and religious customs. And then I began to dig into the very dust that still choked my mouth for answers.
The men who wrote the Bible wrote Her right out of it.
But … archaeology is resurrecting her.
Over the last few decades a growing number of discoveries made in the Middle East are feeding new information into old discoveries and proving that the Hebrew God of the Christian Old Testament had, at one point, a wife.
Her name was Asherah.
The information is simple, but it repeats.
There are prayers inscribed in stone tables saying: May the blessings of Yahweh and his Asherah be upon me. Or, may I be blessed by Yahweh and saved from my enemies by Asherah.
She is represented by the tree (sacred in arid climates), and surrounded by lions. She is bare breasted, and depicted as a breastfeeding mother.
If you know Astarte or Inanna, she is the same deity by a different name.
And she was wiped out, intentionally, to suit the needs of those few men whose writings and compilation of the Old Testament continues to shape our world.
God became the One God, a vengeful and murderous God who smote those who did not do his bidding. All other gods, and the worship of them, became synonymous with sin.
Asherah is actually mentioned in those ancient texts around 40 times. Most of the time she is mentioned as a type of tree totem, which was used by her worshippers in their sacred rites, and was reviled by the prophets. The Asherah tree is usually described with a decree to chop it up or burn it down, that sinful idolatrous symbol of sin. If you are familiar with the story of Jezebel, you will find a reference to Asherah in that tale, because Jezebel was a worshipper of her.
(Makes me wonder about the characterization of Jezebel, too. There’s a trend around strong-minded women in the Bible, after all).
Scholars believe that the existence of the artifacts they are finding prove that the monotheistic claims of the Old Testament just weren't as widespread as it would have us believe.
In many ways, the story of Asherah is similar to that of Eve. Don’t you think?
The destruction of Asherah came many, many years before the maligning of Eve. In fact, it is interesting to wonder if the Biblical scholars who crafted the Eve mythology were even aware of the removal of Asherah from the historical storyline.
What do you feel after reading all of this? Had you heard of Asherah before? Where in your body does this story sit?