[b-hebrew] asherah (purim???)

Nir cohen - Prof. Mat. nir at ccet.ufrn.br
Mon Mar 19 21:44:17 EDT 2012


there seems to be some contradicting evidence between the use of the word
ASHERAH as a goddess (ASHERAH, not ASHTORET; see below!), tree/grove or as a
worship place. maybe these three etymologies were simultaneously used at one
time or another.

as to the etymology "worship place", it may be related to the word "ATAR"
(place) which, in the akkadian version, i believe was AShAR. it has been
suggested before that the BH word ASHER ("which"). is also related to ATAR.

the following is taken from the jewish encyclopedia.

nir cohen


    Asherah the Name of a Syrian Goddess.

A Hebrew word occurring frequently in the Bible (R. V.) and signifying, except
in a few late passages noted below, a wooden post or pole planted near the
altars of various gods. In the Authorized Version the word is rendered "grove."

It has often been inferred from Deut. xvi. 21 that the Asherah was originally
a tree, but the passage should be translated "an asherah of any kind of wood"
(compare Moore, "Ency. Bibl." and Budde, "New World," viii. 734), since the
sacred tree had a name of its own, el, elah, elon, and the Asherah was
sometimes set up under the living tree (II Kings xvii. 10). This pole was
often of considerable size (Judges vi. 25), since it could furnish fuel for
the sacrifice of a bullock. It was found near the altars of Baal, and, down to
the days of Josiah, near those of Yhwh also, not only at Samaria (II Kings
xiii. 6) and Beth-el (II Kings xxiii. 15), but even at Jerusalem (II Kings
xxiii. 6). Sometimes it was carved in revolting shapes (I Kings xv. 13), and
at times, perhaps, draped (II Kings xxiii. 7). It is most often associated in
the Bible with the pillars ("maẓẓebot") that in primitive days served at once
as a representation of the god and as an altar (W. R. Smith, "Religion of the
Semites," 2d ed., p. 204). It was proscribed in the Deuteronomic law and
abolished in Josiah's reform (II Kings xxii. 23).

In a few passages (Judges iii. 7; I Kings xviii. 19; II Kings xxiii. 4)
Asherah appears to be the name of a goddess, but the text has in every case
been corrupted or glossed (compare Moore and Budde, as cited above). In the
first of the three passages the name Ashtaroth should stand, as it does
elsewhere, in the case of similar charges of defection from Yhwh (compare
Judges ii. 13, x. 6; I Sam. vii. 4, xii. 10). In the other two passages, the
term Asherah is superfluous. These passages may indicate, as Moore suggests,
that the Asherah became in some localities a fetish or cultus god.
Asherah the Name of a Syrian Goddess.

Asherah was also the name of a Syrian goddess. In the El-Amarna tablets of the
fifteenth century B.C. her name appears with the determinative for deity as a
part of the name Arad-Ashirta (or 'Ebed-Asherah). It also appears in a
Sumerian hymn published by Reisner ("Sumerisch-Babylonische Hymnen," p. 92),
on a hematite cylinder ("Zeit. f. Assyr." vi. 161), and in an astronomical
text of the Arsacide period (ib. vi. 241). She appears to have been the
consort of the god Amurru, a Baal of the Lebanon region (compare Jensen,
"Zeit. f. Assyr." xi. 302-305). Arad-Ashirta in the El-Amarna tablets
represents not only a sheik, but a clan, and is possibly the one which
afterward became the tribe of Asher. Possibly a trace of this goddess is to be
found in an inscription from Citium in Cyprus, which dedicates an object to
"My lady mother Ashera" (compare Schröder, "Z. D. M. G." xxxv. 424). Many
scholars, however, interpret the passage otherwise (compare Moore, l.c.).
Hommel has recently announced ("Expository Times," xi. 190) that he has
discovered in a Minæan inscription a goddess Athirat. phonetically equivalent
to Asherah. This would indicate that Asherah was a name for an old Semitic
goddess long before the fifteenth century B.C.; but for the present this must
be regarded merely in the light of a possibility. The relation of this goddess
to the pole called Asherah in the Bible is a difficult problem. The name in
the Bible is masculine; the plural "Asherim" occurring sixteen times, and the
plural "Asherot" but three times. The latter is clearly an error. Asherah must
be a nomen unitatis. G. Hoffmann has shown ("Ueber Einige Phönizische
Inschriften," pp. 26 et seq.) that these posts originally marked the limits of
the sacred precincts, and that in the Ma'sub inscription it is the equivalent
of "sacred enclosure." Moore finds in this fact the explanation of the use of
the word in Assyrian (ashirtu, ashrâti; eshirtu, eshrâti), in the sense of
sanctuary. Hommel fancies that he sees in the original form of the ideogram
for Ishtar (compare Thureau-Dangin, "L'Ecriture Cunéforme," No. 294), a post
on which hangs the skin of an animal.

Quite apart, however, from Hommel's somewhat imaginary conjecture, the
Assyrian and Phenician use of the word in the sense of "sanctuary," taken in
connection with the Arabian and Syrian use of it as the name of a goddess,
indicates that the posts were used at the sanctuaries of the primitive Semitic
mother-goddess, and that in course of time their name attached itself in
certain quarters to the goddess herself, and has survived in South Arabia and
Syria. When, therefore, the late editors of the Old Testament books made of
the Asherah a fetish or cultus god, history was but repeating itself (see
Ashtoreth; Worship, Idol; Maẓẓebah; Phenicia).

    Movers, Die Phönizier, i. 560 et seq.;
    Wellhausen, Composition des Hexateuchs, 1889, 2d ed., pp. 281 et seq.;
    Stade, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, pp. 458 et seq.;
    idem, Zeitschrift, i. 345, iv. 295 et seq., vi. 318 et seq.;
    G. Hoffmann, Ueber Einige Phönizische Inschriften, pp. 26 et seq.:
    W. R. Smith, Religion of the Semites, 2d ed., pp. 187 et seq.;
    Schrader, Zeit. für Assyriologie und Verwandte Gebiete, iii. 364;
    Collins, in Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archeology, xi. 291 et
    Barton, in Journal of Biblical Literature, x. 82 et seq.;
    idem, in Hebraica, x. 40 et seq.;
    idem, Semitic Origins, 1902, 246 et seq.;
    Nowack, Lehrbuch der Hebräischen Archäologie, 1894, ii. 19 et seq.;
    I. Benzinger, Hebräische Archäologie, 1894, pp. 380 et seq.;
    Driver, Commentary on Deuteronomy, in the International Critical
Commentary, 1895, p. 201;
    Moore, Commentary on Judges, pp. 86 et seq., 191 et seq.;
    P. Torge, Aschera und Astarte, Leipsic, 1902.

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