Archaeological Discoveries Reveal an Ancient Israelite Belief in God’s Wife and a Pantheon?

A recent article in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz (online), presents some recent (and not so recent) findings by archaeologists and other scholars regarding the worship of the divine feminine in ancient Israel. Although interpreting the real-life use and theology behind ancient artifacts is always an imprecise science, the amount of material that has been collected and analyzed does favor a certain range of conclusions. I wanted to post this article on The Millennial Star in light of the upcoming conference at USU on the Divine Feminine (Oct. 23, 2013), which I recently posted about.  William Dever, the famous biblical archaeologist who literally wrote the book on God’s Wife, will be speaking at this conference.

The following is from Julia Fridman’s article on haaretz.com:

Archaeologists discover: God’s wife?

Israel is touted as the birthplace of monotheism, but mounting evidence suggests that the Israelites, and later the Judahites – like their neighbors – worshiped a pantheon.

 By Julia Fridman | Sep. 15, 2013 | 7:25 PM | (see original article for images)

“You shall not plant any tree as an Asherah beside the altar of the Lord your God that you shall make.” Deuteronomy 16:21.

The Old Testament is rife with the admonishment of errant kings and queens worshiping ‘false gods’, with the much of the blame falling on the Kingdom of Israel and that of Ahab and his infamous queen Jezebel. In recent years there have been a significant number of discoveries of cult stands and shrine caches throughout Israel. They were found either buried in favissae (underground cellars) or buried in caches, such as at Hazevah and Yavneh, or found in various other settings, like at Tel Rehov’s honey production site and at Tel Halif’s industrial textile area. The most recent findings were at Motza, just north of Jerusalem, where a cache of apparently cultic items were found in an ancient temple.

Israel is often touted as the birthplace of monotheism. But the Motza artifacts, so similar to those of distant Hazeva and Qitmit, taken in conjunction with the previously discovered stands, shrines and altars from Megiddo, Taanach and Beit Sh’ean, paint a significantly richer picture of the religious life of this ancient land. Add the various figurines found strewn about the land of Israel of females in various poses and states of dress and undress as well as dogs, horses, and bulls: The iconography points to a pantheon of deities, as some scholars believe, or to two main deities, something of a duality.

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A Jewish Rabbi Defines Monotheism

Another reprint from Mormon Matters.

Only months into my mission we stopped to meet a man that had grown up Mormon but had left the Church and was now attending a Method Church with his wife and family. He was very interested in his forgotten Mormon heritage and enjoyed having us stop by to talk religion.

On one of our visits he showed us a book called Who Needs God by Harold Kushner, a Jewish Rabbi. He lent me the book to peruse. Mission life does not leave a lot of time for reading books, but for the sake of having discussions with him I read through parts of the book, picking out topics that sounded interesting. To this day I still haven’t read the whole book, but enjoyed the parts I did read very much. Kushner is a very insightful man.

One passage that I read blew me away because it gave such a comprehensive definition of monotheism:

The affirmation of monotheism – that there is only one God – is a moral statement, not a mathematical deduction. If there is only one God and He demands moral behavior, then there can be such a thing as good and evil. (Technically speaking, right and wrong are matters of fact: Who stole the money? Good and bad are matters of morality: Should I take the money?) When there are many gods, as in pagan legends, the issue is not: What is good? The issue is: Which God shall I serve? Which one has the power to protect and reward me? Think, for example, of the conflicts of Homer’s Illiad, where the gods take sides. What pleases one displease another. A person offends one of the gods but is under the protection of another, stronger one. The issue is not what is right but who has the might.

The assertion that there is only one God is the assertion that issues of moral behavior are not matters of personal taste. We cannot decide by majority vote that it is all right to steal and lie, any more than we can decide that winters should be mild or cookies more nourishing than vegetables.

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