Asherah, Queen of Heaven

I don’t mean to be a downer about an exciting “find” like God’s wife, but didn’t we know this? I thought it was pretty widely and commonly understood that a lot of what’s going on in the Old Testament is the definition of a group of people by establishing rules, customs, and beliefs that would differentiate them from their neighbors. And, am I wrong, or do they not spend some substantial time in the Old Testament telling the folks in this community to stop worshiping other gods and burning down and destroying the Queen of Heaven’s holy things?

I mean, this isn’t even an interpretation or speculation, like the scholars who posit that the creation story of Eve and the fruit and the tree and the snake is all symbolic of moving away from polytheism and the eminence of Asherah into monotheism and the eminence of God. This is literally “they went to that temple and burned the sacred trees of the Queen of Heaven.” Not “of the neighboring tribe’s Queen of Heaven.” People within their own group were worshiping her and the worship had to be stamped out.

Well, if she was the Queen of Heaven and God is the King… I mean, I don’t mean to make a case for willful blindness here, but this really can’t be a surprise.

On the other hand, it makes the Bible a lot more soap-opera-like if we imagine the Old Testament is the story of a very messy divorce in which God got custody of the Jewish people (we’ll gloss over how that makes the New Testament the story of God’s rebound affair with a teenage girl and what came of it).

But let’s have our minds blown a little just for fun. Over on Wikipedia, they say that Asherah was not just known as the Queen of Heaven, but in the Ugaritic texts was described as “She who treads on the sea.” Makes you wonder just who was moving upon the face of the water in Genesis 1:2, doesn’t it?


7 thoughts on “Asherah, Queen of Heaven

  1. Sigh.

    I don’t know where to begin. Firstly, I suppose with the original article calling this bit of millenia-old news a “news flash”.

    Secondly, the fact that this is the usual pre-Passover/Easter dig at the JudeoChristian faithful. Seriously, it happens every year, beginning with Vernal Equinox and running up to Pesach. Between Pesach and Easter they’ll usually turn away from the “old testament” and start picking on “Did you know Jesus might have been married/ was really a goat-boy from Somalia/ Is totally teh madez-upz?” It gets tiring to see faith and religious history oversimplified for the sake of grabbing eyeballs.

    Thirdly, Asherah/Astarte/etc (the goddesses from whom actually evolved the word Easter and whose season it is presently) wasn’t censored out of Judaica and Christianity because she was “God’s wife” She was censored out because she was originally mistranslated by the Canaanites as being the Creator of the Gods.

    Many of the original Judaic texts which were later subsumbed in one form or another into Christianity have numerous references to the feminine divine. In the now-considered-orthodox references that Feminine divine is considered to be an Aspect of the I Am. The Canaanite heresies were to a)humanise God by making God into various people-like beings and to b) elevate Asherah from the female part of a genderless God to the Over Goddess who gave birth to the other Gods.

    All the books and articles that have come out in recent years asking “did God have a wife?” misunderstand that Asherah was, well, God’s mother.

    She’s still worshipped by the majority of the world’s Christians. They call her Mary.

    I’ve always understood that one of the reasons the Jews of Yshua’s time were so hostile to the idea of a human messiah was that it repeats that Canaanite heresy of God being made human. That’s also why the early Christian apologists were so adamant that Christ was “fully man and fully God”. It explains, too, why Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews makes it a point to say that Jesus was “made lower than the angels”–to emphasise that in Human form Jesus was fully human. Paul was nothing if not a very rigid rabbinical scholar.

    For point of reference I am very firmly in the camp of those who believe that there always has been a feminine divine, but that Feminine Divine is NOT a separate entity from that we Christians know as God. It is why I do not refer to God as a He unless I am talking specifically about Jesus. In a less orthodox point of view I am one who holds to translation that believes that just as Jesus was the male aspect of the divine sent to earth, so is the Holy Spirit the female aspect of the divine. Jesus came to till the soil and plant the seed. The Holy Spirit stays to nurture and comfort.

  2. Well, B, what moved upon the face of the waters was the divine רוח (spirit or breath), which is grammatically feminine. It isn’t hiding.

  3. Oh my god, nm, now you’re saying that people should learn the language the texts they’re talking about were written in before shooting off their mouths about what’s hidden in it?!

    Why do you have to be so unreasonable?

  4. Since I finally landed at the foot of the cross via the Episcopal Church and have been encouraged to actually use the mind God gave me, these discussions resonate. Of course there’s a feminine divine. When I think on this and read scripture I think, how could it be otherwise?

    Per Katherine Coble who refers to the “genderless God,” who combines the masculine and feminine, well, of course! I’ve often wondered what God would do with a penis if He (and I use the male pronoun because “It” still sounds weird to me, no matter how hard I try) had one. Or any other genitalia for that matter.

  5. David, “it” sounds weird to me too. I pretty much just avoid pronouns anymore when discussing God. Of course it looks terribly awkward to say things like “God so loved the world that God gave God’s only begotten son” but for women who worship, I find that it loses its awkwardness quickly and is supplanted with a more vibrant sense of connection with God.

  6. Katherine, that’s basically the same line of thinking I’ve come to. I grew up Roman Catholic so I’m comfortable with the Trinity, and I’ve long believed that the Holy Spirit, especially as venerated in the Nicene Creed, is the feminine aspect of the divine. It just makes so much sense, you know? God the Father, and the Holy Spirit that speaks through the prophets, lead to Jesus the son, offspring, and human. All of the liturgical year seems to fall into place once you conceive (punny!) of the Holy Spirit as female.

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