When did God pick up His Wife?

Deutsche Version


The famous archeologist William Dever caused a bit of a controversy after having published his book “Did God Have a Wife” where he argues (among many other things) that archeology clearly shows that at the beginning of the Israelite history Yahweh was not worshiped alone but besides other deities, the most prominent of these being the Goddess Asherah he is very often represented with.

There are basically three possibilities:

1)    The Israelites began to worship Yahweh alone, the worship of Ashera as his wife was a Pagan corruption (Evangelical view)

2)    The Israelites began to worship Yahweh and Ashera together along other deities, Monotheism is a later invention (Mainstream view).

3)    At the beginning, the large majority of Israelites began to worship Yahweh and Ashera together along other deities, but some of them believed that Yahweh was a much greater god

While there are cases where archeological results have clearly contradicted the Bible, I am not sure this will happen here.
Archeological findings are by their very nature only a small fraction of the past. If Israelites only (or mainly) worshiping Yahweh were a small minority (who perhaps already believed that representing their tribal god was not a good thing) we would not have high expectations to find archeological traces of this.
And the widespread existence of syncretism would be compatible with the Biblical statements about the constant apostasy of the ancient Hebrews.
So I believe that, in that specific case, the archeological results do not undermine forms of 3) or even 1).

To my mind the best evidence of a strong Pagan influence on the theology of early Biblical writers can be found in the divine genocides described in the books of Samuel and Joshua (provided they were not first intended as mythological tales).
We have strong grounds for believing that the Herem extermination warfare demanded by Yahweh was a form of massive human sacrifice very similar to those ordered by Pagan deities of neighboring countries.



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