Question:

Look at this article, "Did God have a wife? Scholar says that he did," I discovered and can you refute it?


Answer:

I saw this article when it was first published. It is a prime example that people will just about believe anything they are told. The article is really a promotion of Francesca Stavrakopoulou and some books she recently published.

The claim is that Asherah was in the original Bible text, but she was later edited out: "Asherah was not entirely edited out of the Bible by its male editors." Isn't that interesting, mysterious editors removed references to Asherah so thoroughly that we no longer have any trace of her role, but did a bad job of editing it at the same time. And somehow we've kept the edited books but all traces of the unedited ones are lost. You know, I have a hard time with the concept of bumbling perfectionists.

The game being played is one of selective picking of history. We know about Asherah (or Asheroth) both from the Bible and from archealogy. Asherah was the female fertility goddess in Cannanite religons. In those religions, she was seen as the wife of Baal, the male fertility god. It was this idolatrous religion that lead to the fall of Canaan to the Israelites and God warned the Israelites not to pick up the beliefs -- but they did any. "So the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God, and served the Baals and Asherahs" (Judges 3:7). Notice the plurality on Baals and Asherahs. There were many variations of this idolatrous religion.

By the time Elijah was a prophet, Baal and Asherah worship became popular because of the promotion of it by Jezebeel, King Ahab's wife. "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" (I Kings 18:19). Though Elijah thorough proved that Baal and Asherah were nothing and that God was real, still it was hard to turn public opinion. In the northern kingdom of Israel there were only 7,000 true followers of God. "Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him" (I Kings 19:18). The sad thing is that people tried to have it both ways. They claimed to worship God while at the same time worshiping their idols.

"So they feared the LORD, and from every class they appointed for themselves priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods - according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away. To this day they continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the LORD, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances, or the law and commandment which the LORD had commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel, with whom the LORD had made a covenant and charged them, saying: "You shall not fear other gods, nor bow down to them nor serve them nor sacrifice to them; but the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, Him you shall worship, and to Him you shall offer sacrifice" (II Kings 17:32-36).

Unsurprisingly, this popular false religion worked its way down to the southern kingdom of Judah. One of the kings own grandmother started worshiping Asherah. "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" (I Kings 15:13).

Not all of Judah's kings were good. One wicked king Manassah, went so far as to put an image of Asherah in the temple. "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"" (II Kings 21:7). Given the people's attempt at worshipping God and the idols, I am not at all surprised that some would replace Baal with God in their blended religion.

One of the greatest kings of Judah, Josiah, tried to reverse this trend into idolatry.

"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.

Then he removed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense on the high places in the cities of Judah and in the places all around Jerusalem, and those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun, to the moon, to the constellations, and to all the host of heaven. And he brought out the wooden image from the house of the LORD, to the Brook Kidron outside Jerusalem, burned it at the Brook Kidron and ground it to ashes, and threw its ashes on the graves of the common people.

Then he tore down the ritual booths of the perverted persons that were in the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the wooden image. And he brought all the priests from the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba; also he broke down the high places at the gates which were at the entrance of the Gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were to the left of the city gate. Nevertheless the priests of the high places did not come up to the altar of the LORD in Jerusalem, but they ate unleavened bread among their brethren.

And he defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter pass through the fire to Molech.

Then he removed the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, at the entrance to the house of the LORD, by the chamber of Nathan-Melech, the officer who was in the court; and he burned the chariots of the sun with fire. The altars that were on the roof, the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the LORD, the king broke down and pulverized there, and threw their dust into the Brook Kidron.

Then the king defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, which were on the south of the Mount of Corruption, which Solomon king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the people of Ammon. And he broke in pieces the sacred pillars and cut down the wooden images, and filled their places with the bones of men.

Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he broke down; and he burned the high place and crushed it to powder, and burned the wooden image.

As Josiah turned, he saw the tombs that were there on the mountain. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar, and defiled it according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words.

Then he said, "What gravestone is this that I see?" So the men of the city told him, "It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed these things which you have done against the altar of Bethel." And he said, "Let him alone; let no one move his bones." So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria.

Now Josiah also took away all the shrines of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the LORD to anger; and he did to them according to all the deeds he had done in Bethel. He executed all the priests of the high places who were there, on the altars, and burned men's bones on them; and he returned to Jerusalem" (II Kings 23:4-20).

Sadly, he only managed a pause in the rapid decay of Judah's headlong plunge into idolatry. But notice from the description of all that he destroy how widespread idolatry had become.

What you have in the article is very poorly done research. This "scholar" and the title can only be used loosely, doubts the accuracy of the biblical accounts, though written in the time periods described. Thus she ignores the social trend of leaving the worship of God for idolatry and actually tries to claim it to have happened in reverse. But she has no evidence. She is only able to prove that there was a period of time when Israelites did indeed worship Asherah -- just as the Bible said it happened. But she wants to ignore the Bible when it comes to its records regarding how this came about.

The real foolishness is a complete ignorance regarding the nature of God. When people make up gods, they imitate the world around them. "Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man -- and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things" (Romans 1:22-23). Why do people claim their gods have wives? Because people have wives. But the whole concept of male and female comes from the physical world. "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). Procreation, male, and female are a part of the physical world where there are limited lifespans. Those concepts are not a part of the spiritual realm where all live eternally. "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven" (Matthew 22:30).

It isn't a matter of whether I can refute this article. The real question is did the article prove that it was the truth. It didn't.