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ASHERAH (a-shē'ra)

A goddess of the Phoenicians and Syrians, taken over by the Israelites when they fell into idolatry.Images representing this goddess whose worship was lewd and associated with Baal (Exod.34.13; 1Kgs.16.29-1Kgs.16.33). They are called “Asherah poles” in the NIV.

ASHERAH ə shĭr’ ə (אֲשֵׁרָה, H895). The KJV usually trs. this word by “grove(s)”; the ASV often treats it as a proper noun in order to avoid the problems raised by KJV “grove” in some contexts; the RSV makes no attempt to distinguish the name of the goddess from the name of the cult object, using “Asherah” for both.

The deity Asherah is now known from several extra-Biblical sources. In Ugaritic she is the goddess of the sea and the consort of El. She is there described as the progenitress of several gods, including Baal, who was also associated with her (Judg 3:7; 6:26-30). The Tell el-Amarna tablets preserve the personal name Abdi-Ashirti (Servant of Asherah) and other Akkad. texts from Mesopotamia mention the deity Ashratu. In old S Arabia the deity Athirat is mentioned.

Asherah is coupled with Baal in OT usage (Judg 3:7; 1 Kings 18:19; 2 Kings 23:4) in the same way that Ashtoreth is coupled with Baal (Judg 2:13). Both passages in the Book of Judges (2:13; 3:7) apparently refer to images.


W. H. Ward, “The Asherah” AJSL, 19 (1902), 33-44; W. F. Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel (1946), 73-78; W. L. Reed, The Asherah in the Old Testament (1949), 1-116.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

a-she’-ra, ash’-er-im (’asherah; alsos, mistranslated "grove" in the King James Version, after the Septuagint and Vulgate):

1. References to the Goddess

2. Assyrian Origin of the Goddess

3. Her Symbol

4. The Attributes of the Goddess

Was the name of a goddess whose worship was widely spread throughout Syria and Canaan; plural Asherim.

1. References to the Goddess:

Her "image" is mentioned in the Old Testament (1Ki 15:13; 2Ki 21:7; 2Ch 15:16), as well as her "prophets" (1Ki 18:19) and the vessels used in her service (2Ki 23:4). In Assyria the name appears under the two forms of Asratu and Asirtu; it was to Asratu that a monument found near Diarbekir was dedicated on behalf of Khammu-rabi (Amraphel) "king of the Amorites," and the Amorite king of whom we hear so much in Tell el-Amarna Letters bears the name indifferently of EbedAsrati and Ebed-Asirti.

2. Assyrian Origin of the Goddess:

Like so much else in Canaanite religion, the name and worship of Asherah were borrowed from Assyria. She was the wife of the war- god Asir whose name was identified with that of the city of. Assur with the result that he became the national god of Assyria. Since Asirtu was merely the feminine form of Asir, "the superintendent" or "leader," it is probable that it was originally an epithet of Ishtar (Ashtoreth) of Nineveh. In the West, however, Asherah and Ashtoreth came to be distinguished from one another, Asherah being exclusively the goddess of fertility, whereas Ashtoreth passed into a moon-goddess.

3. Her Symbol:

4. The Attributes of the Goddess:

Asherah was the goddess of fertility, and thus represented the Babylonian Ishtar in her character as goddess of love and not of war. In one of the cuneiform tablets found at Taanach by Dr. Sellin, and written by one Canaanite sheikh to another shortly before the Israelite invasion of Palestine, reference is made to "the finger of Asherah" from which oracles were derived. The "finger" seems to signify the symbol of the goddess; at any rate it revealed the future by means of a "sign and oracle." The practice is probably alluded to in Ho 4:12. The existence of numerous symbols in each of which the goddess was believed to be immanent led to the creation of numerous forms of the goddess herself, which, after the analogy of the Ashtaroth, were described collectively as the Asherim.

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