Ashtaroth

ASHTAROTH, ASTAROTH (ăsh'ta-rŏth). An ancient city in Bashan, where king Og lived. Probably so named because it had a temple to the goddess Ashtoreth. It is generally mentioned with Edrei, and the two were given to Machir of the tribe of Manasseh when Moses divided the territory east of the Jordan before his death (Deut.1.4; Josh.9.10; Josh.13.31). It was given in Joshua’s time to the children of Gershon of the tribe of Levi (Josh.21.27—here called “Be Eshterah”). Its site is now known as Tell-Ashtarah, in the fertile plain of Hauran south of Damascus and east of the Sea of Galilee. Uzzia (1Chr.11.44), one of David’s mighty men, came from this town.


ASHTAROTH ăsh’ tə rŏth (Heb. עַשְׁתָּרֹֽות, Josh 9:10; variant, עַשְׁתָּרֹ֖ת, Deut 1:4; variant [gentilic] עֲשְׁתְּרָתִ֑י, 1 Chron 11:44; Canaanite divine name, cognate root, עשׁתרת, appears in an inscr. from Rhodes [text is badly defaced] and a tablet from N Africa [H. Donner and W. Röllig, Kanaanäische und Aramäische Inschriften, Bd. I (1962), No. 44, 93.] It was transliterated into Gr. as ̓Αστρόνοη, and a possible pl. of the term appears in Ugaritic. All these terms are used for the fertility goddesses. All are pl. forms of the term Ištar, Biblical Ashtoreth, q.v.).

It is a title and, strictly speaking, not a name, usually found in the sense of “my lady,” “my goddess.” Her cultic worship was widely distributed through the Near E, and the name appears in the Heb. Bible and its various VSS in three senses.

(1) The local manifestation of the mother-goddess celebrated throughout the ancient Sem. world. This deity was the female consort of the male deity Ba’al, and pairs of them were found in the villages of the Canaanites; thus the OT prohibition against the worship and rites of either Baalim (pl.) or Ashtaroth (Judg 2:13; 10:6). Some scholars have attempted to use these pl. forms as criteria for documentary and fragmentary analyses of the MT. Such attempts, however, are specious and based on subjective assumptions. During the period of the Judges, the influence of Baalim and Ashtaroth was of such seriousness that repeated warnings were raised by the Judges against this worship (1 Sam 7:4; 12:10). Apostatizing after the Canaanite cult of Ashtaroth was one of the reasons given for Israel’s defeat at the hand of the Philistines (12:10). The occurrence of the term in 1 Samuel 31:10 has been criticized as being pl. when the sing. seems more appropriate, but there is no convincing evidence that the MT is in error at this point. In Akkad. inscrs. as late as the Neo-Assyrian period, several Ištars are mentioned together, differentiated only by their cult cities. Since this was a local deity of fertility, human, animal, and harvest, it is common that the seasons, rituals, and offerings would differ from location to location. Just as Ba’al was the innovator or causative agent of all phenomena, so the Astarte was the female recipient of the impetus of generation and growth. There is little question but that some of the rites and rituals involved were obscene and perverse in the context of the law given by God to Israel. It was this fact which brought about the imprecations of the Judges and Prophets.

(2) The pl. Ashtaroth is a component of a number of OT place names. The town called Ashtaroth was located in northern Trans-Jordan near ancient Edrei and N of the village of Jair. This was the home of Og, king of Bashan (Deut 1:4, 3:10; Josh 12:4), and the site of the theft of horses mentioned in Amarna Letter 197, where the town is transcribed in cuneiform as: aš-tar-te. It is also mentioned in the Moabite Stone inscr. of King Mesha (2 Kings 3:4). It was later allotted to the half-tribe of Manasseh and settled by the house of Machir. The district was known as Karnaiym after the Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom and was so named in Genesis 14:5. It subsequently became the capital of the Pers. fifth satrapy. Attempts have been made to etymologize this place name, but no one suggestion seems decisive. The town continued to be a pagan cultic center, and it was overthrown by the Maccabees under Judas in 165 b.c. (1 Macc 5:44).

(3) Ashtaroth is also used in connection with productivity of sheep (ewes; Gen 31:38; 32:14; Ps 78:71). It has been conjectured that possibly Ashtaroth was envisioned as an ewe, but no evidence exists to support such a proposal. What is more likely is that the term Ashtaroth was used for sheep in the same way that Ba’al was applied to men, as in the case of a woman’s husband (Hos 2:16, et al.). In Ugaritic mythology, El the high god is pictured as a rutting bull among a herd of cows. Such animal epithets were common among other cultures of antiquity, such as the Greeks, Phoenicians, et al. It is not semantically supported that the term in such cases means merely “young,” since the notion of fertility and reproductive capacity seems involved. In all cases the term is used as a collective, as though the generating powers were met with anew in each particular case of human or animal generation. The cultic worship centered about this concept, and so the pl. form of the title was dominant.

Bibliography

Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible (1962), 50, 51, 159ff.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

Plural of Ashtoreth. See Ashtoreth.


ash’-ta-roth, as’-ta-roth (`ashtaroth; the King James Version Astaroth; Astaroth, the city of Og, king of Bashan (De 14, etc.); `ashteroth qarnayim, the scene of the defeat of the Rephaim by Chedorlaomer (Ge 14:5): (be`eshterah) a Levitical city in Manasseh East of the Jordan (Jos 21:27)): The name probably means "house" or "temple of Ashtoreth." It is identical with Ashtaroth of 1Ch 6:71. Ashtaroth is the plural of ASHTORETH (which see). The name denotes a place associated with the worship of this goddess. Ashteroth-karnaim is mentioned only once in canonical Scripture unless we accept Gratz’s restoration, when Karnaim appears as a city taken by Israel: "Have we not taken to us horns (qarnayim) by our own strength?" (Am 6:13). It is identical with Carnion or Carnaim of 1 and 2 Macc, a city of Gilead with a temple of Atar-gatis. The name Ashtaroth has been identified with Astertu in the lists of Tahutmes III of the XVIIIth Egyptian Dynasty; and with Ashtarti of the Tell el-Amarna Letters. Its claim to antiquity is therefore well established.

As far as the Biblical record is concerned, the names at the head of this article might stand for one and the same city, Ashtaroth being a contraction from Ashteroth-karnaim. But in the days of Eusebius and Jerome, we learn from the Onomasticon, there were two forts of this name 9 miles apart, lying between Adara (Der`ah) and Abila (Abil), while Ashtaroth, the ancient city of Og, king of Bashan, lay 6 miles from Adara. Carnaim Ashtaroth, which is evidently identical with Ashteroth-karnaim, they describe as a large village in the angle of Bashan where tradition places the home of Job. This seems to point to Tell `Ashtara, a hill which rises about 80 ft. above the plain, 2 miles South of el-Merkez, the seat of the governor of the Chauran. Three-quarters of a mile North of el-Merkez, at the south end of a ridge on which the village of Sheikh Ca’ad is built, stands the weley of the stone of Job, Weley Sakhret ’Ayyub. By the large stone under the dome Job was said to have sat to receive his friends during his affliction.

An Egyptian inscription, found by Schumacher, proves the stone to be a monument of the time of Rameses II. At the foot of the hill is pointed out the bath of Job. In el-Merkez the building known as Deir ’Ayyub, "Monastery of Job," is now part of the barracks. There is also shown the tomb of Job. The stream which flows southward past Tell `Ashtara, is called Moyet en-Neby ’Ayyub, "stream of the prophet Job," and is said to have risen where the patriarch stamped his foot on his recovery. It is to be noted also that the district lying in the angle formed by Nahr er-Raqqad and the Yarmuk River is called to this day ez-Zawiyet esh-sharqiyeh, "the eastern angle" (i.e. of the Jaulan). The term may in Jerome’s time have covered the land east of the `Allan, although this is now part of the Chauran. At Tell `Ashtara there are remains pointing to a high antiquity. The site was also occupied during the Middle Ages. Perhaps here we should locate Carnaim Ashtaroth of the Onomasticon. It does not, however, agree with the description of Carnaim in 1 and 2 Macc. The Ashtaroth of the Onomasticon may have been at el-Muzerib, on the great pilgrimage road, about 6 Roman miles from Der’ah--the distance indicated by Eusebius. The old fortress here was situated on an island in the middle of the lake, Baheiret el-Bajjeh. A full description of the place is given in Schumacher’s Across the Jordan, 137 ff. It must have been a position of great strength in antiquity; but the ancient name has not been recovered.

Some would place Ashteroth-karnaim, the Carnaim of the Maccabees, at Tell ’Ash`ari, a site 10 Roman miles North of Der`ah, and 4 1/2 Roman miles S 2 of Tell `Ashtara. This clearly was "a place hard to besiege, and difficult of access by reason of the narrowness of the approaches on all sides" (2 Macc 12:21). It crowns a promontory which stands out between the deep gorge of the Yarmuk River and a great chasm, at the head of which is a waterfall. It could be approached only by the neck connecting it with the mainland; and here it was guarded by a triple wall, the ruins of which are seen today. The remains of a temple close by the bridge over the Yarmuk may mark the scene of the slaughter by Judas.

The whole question however is obscure. Eusebius is clearly guilty of confusion, with his two Ashtaroth-karnaims and his Carnaim Ashtaroth. All the places we have named lie considerably North of a line drawn from Tell Abel to Der`ah. For light upon the problem of identification we must wait the results of excavation.