[b-hebrew] Asher again

jimstinehart at aol.com jimstinehart at aol.com
Tue Jul 13 23:15:42 EDT 2010

The idea that the Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives would portray Leah as secretly naming a son after a pagan goddess, Asherah, does not make sense.  Compare the 17 personal names and kingly titles at Genesis 14: 1-2.  How many honor a pagan god?  0 out of 17.  This, despite the fact that the vast majority of rulers’ names in the ancient world honored pagan gods (as can be confirmed by a glance at the names of princelings and kings in the Amarna Letters).
There’s no secret honoring of the pagan goddess Asherah in the Patriarchal narratives.  The princeling ruler of Jerusalem in the Amarna Letters is IR-Heba, a name that honors the pagan Hurrian goddess Heba (alternatively spelled Khipa, etc.).  Though names like that are ubiquitous in the ancient world, one finds no names in the Patriarchal narratives that expressly honor a pagan god.  The name Ab-i-Melek could honor a pagan god, but it could just as easily mean “(the divine) Father (is) king”, without there being any express reference to a pagan deity.  Consider also that virtually every Egyptian king’s many names honor pagan gods.  So what does the Hebrew author call each of two kings of Egypt?  “Pharaoh”, a name that references “house” or “Egyptian palace”, but which has no reference to a pagan deity.
Indeed, one reason why the ultra-suspicious reference to “land of Ramses” at Genesis 47: 11 should be viewed as being a very late addition to the text by a much later editor is (in addition to the fact that Goshen is  n-o-t  in the land of Ramses, or anywhere close to the eastern Delta) precisely because the phrase “land of Ramses” is so out of character in expressly referencing a pagan deity.  (In Egyptian, “Ramses” means “born of the sun god Ra”.)
Biblical analysts erroneously think that the Patriarchal narratives are a non-historical myth because of the frequent use of nicknames in the text, instead of formal historical names of rulers than could be easily verified in a basic textbook about the ancient world.  People fail to realize that absent the use of nicknames, the Patriarchal narratives would be filled with rulers’ names that honor pagan gods.  That was not acceptable to the early Hebrew author of the Patriarchal narratives.
There’s no way that Leah is portrayed as secretly naming a son after the pagan goddess Asher.  Not in the Patriarchal narratives.  No.
The Patriarchs liked trees, that’s for sure.  That’s showing that the Patriarchal narratives are  o-l-d.  They didn’t know Deuteronomy 16: 21.  For that matter, they didn’t know Moses’ laws of incest, as Jacob openly marries two sisters.  That’s another sign of a very old text.
But as to a name that honors a pagan goddess?  No way, not in the Patriarchal narratives.  When 0 out of 17 names of fighting rulers at Genesis 14: 1-2 honor pagan deities, that’s telling us something.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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