the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(אֲשֵׁרָה, Assherah'; Auth.Vers. "grove,' after the Sept. ἄλσος; Vulg. lucus), a Canaanitish (Phoenician) divinity, whose worship, in connection with that of Baal. spread among the Israelites already in the age of the judges (Judges 3:7; Judges 6:25), was more permanently established later by the Queen Jezuebel in the land of Ephraim (1 Kings 16:33; 1 Kings 18:19), but at times prevailed in the kingdom of Judah also (2 Kings 18:4; 2 Kings 21:3; 2 Kings 23:4; 2 Chronicles 31:1 sq.). (See GROVE). She had prophets, like Baal (1 Kings 18:19), and her rites were characterized by licentiousness (2 Kings 23:7; Ezekiel 23:42) Her images, אֲשֵׁרִים, or אֲשֵׁרוֹת, were of wood (Judges 6:26), (as appears ever from the words used to ex press their annihilation, Gesen. Thes. p. 162; Movers Phoniz. p. 567), which were erected sometimes together with those of Baal, as θεοὶ σύμβωμοι, over the altar of the latter (Judges 6:25); at one time even in, the Temple of Jehovah at Jerusalem (2 Kings 21:7; 2 Kings 23:6); besides, there is mention of בָּתִּים (houses) tents or canopies, woven by the women for the idol (2 Kings 23:7), which circumstance in itself would be indicative of a connection with the worship of Baa' (Judges 3:7; Judges 6:25; 1 Kings 16:32 sq.; 1 Kings 18:19) That Asherah is an identical divinity with Astoretl or Astarte is evident from the translation of the Sept at 2 Chronicles 15:16; 2 Chronicles 24:18, from that of Symmachui or Aquila at Judges iii, 7; 2 Kings 17:10 (as also from the Syriac at Judges 3:7; Judges 6:25; see Gesen Thes. p. 163); and this was the prevailing opinion of the Biblical antiquarians up to Movers, who (Phsnizn p. 560) thinks that Asherah should be distinguished from Astoreth, and declares Asherah to be a sort of Phallus erected to the telluric goddess Baaltis (Dea Syra, whence the goddess herself was then called Asherah, i.e. ὀρθία ), while Astarte should be considered a sidereal divinity. (See ASTARTE).
It may appear strange that the same divinity is mentioned under two names in the historical books of the O.T., and it remains doubtful in what sense Astarte might have been called Asherah; the identity of the two idols however, is evident from Judges 2:13 (see Judges 3:7); and this invalidates also the objection that there is no mention of obscene rites in the worship of Astarte (2 Kings 23:7). It does not appear from 2 Kings 23, that Asherah and Astoreth were two distinct divinities, for the only distinction made here is between the different places of worship; 2 Kings 23:6 mentions an Asherah erected in the Temple in Jerusalem (see 2 Kings 21:7), and 2 Kings 21:13 speaks of the idols which were on the high-places before Jerusalem (since the times of Solomon? see 1 Kings 11:7); 1 Kings 11:14 is connected with 1 Kings 11:13, and treats of the same idols, while 1 Kings 11:15 refers to another locality (see 2 Kings 23:10). Finally, though Asherah is never expressly called a Sidonian divinity like Astarte, yet she is mentioned (1 Kings 16:33; 1 Kings 18:19) with the idols introduced by Jezebel (see De Wette, Archol. p. 323 sq.). Hence Bertheau (Richt. p. 66 sq.) declares himself also in favor of the identity of Astoreth with Asherah, supposing, however, that the former might have been the name of the goddess, and the latter that of her idol (see Movers, p. 565), and agrees with Movers in thinking that אֲשֵׁרָה signifies erect (pillar), and is indicative of the Phallus worship. But though Asherim and Asheroth are so often mentioned separately from statues that we could hardly think these terms to have been used likewise to signify carved idols, but are rather inclined to suppose they must have been something more rough and simple (though, perhaps, not a mere tree, as in Deuteronomy 16:21; see Daniel 11:45); yet from this it does not follow that the word should originally have signified the (wooden) fetish; and against the translation with recta we might adduce, that to be erect is more properly expressed in the Hebrew by the verb יָשִׁר than by אָשִׁר; and if we would grant the above distinction in such passages as 1 Kings 18:19; 2 Kings 23:4, undoubtedly עִשְׁתּרֶת should have been written. Consequently we must let the Phallus character of Asherah also rest as it is; and until more correct explanations can be given, we must be content with the result that Asherah is essentially identical with Astarte; and both these are not differing from the Syrian goddess, whose rites were of obscene character, who is certainly reflected in the Cyprian Aphrodite, and is furthermore blended with the Western mythological representations. (See J. van Yperen, Obs. crit. de sacris quibusd. fluvalibus et Ashera dea, in the Bibl. Hagan. 4:81-122; Gesenius, Comment. z. Jesa. ii, 338; Stuhr, Relig. d. Orients, p. 439; Vatke, Relig. d. 1 lt. Test. p. 372; Dupuis, Orig`ne d. cultes, i, 181; iii, 471; Schwenk, Mythol. d. Senmiten, p. 207 comp. Augustine, De civ. Dei, 4:10; ii, 3.) (See ASHTORETH)
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Asherah'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​a/asherah.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.