ASHERAH: GODDESS OF ISRAEL? (ATIRAT, CANAANITE, SYNCRETISM)
Recent archaeological discoveries have suggested that there was a Canaanite goddess who was not only worshiped by the people of ancient Israel during the time of the monarchy, but might even have been so associated with Yahweh as to be construed as Yahweh's consort.
This study of Asherah follows the use of an inductive approach. There is much information available in the various sources: the Hebrew Bible, other ancient texts, artifacts, and inscriptions. It is the purpose of this study to collect that information, examine it, and present the conclusions that can be drawn from it.
Part I investigates the Canaanite and ancient near eastern backgrounds of Asherah, defining the goddess and her characteristics as closely as possible. Part II, the central element of this study, considers the biblical texts in which Asherah is found. Part III assembles the archaeological evidence for the existence of an Asherah cult, including the inscriptions mentioned above. Part IV summarizes the study and answers the question, "Was Asherah the goddess of Israel?" with a "Yes" and a "No." No, her worship was never approved by the deuteronomistic community. Yes, worship of Asherah was frequent, widespread, and irrepressible among the people of Israel and Judah during the time of the monarchy. It is probable that they considered Asherah the divine consort of Yahweh and worshiped her, without apology, as their goddess.