Jay Michaelson has written a review of two books that deal with a very controversial subject: the Jewish Goddess. His review of Did God Have a Wife? Archeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel by William G. Dever (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005) and The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature by Rami Shapiro (Skylight Paths Publishing, 2005) presents a perspective of Israelite religion that may be unknown to many readers.
Archaeologists have uncovered household shrines, figurines of females with exposed breasts, and an inscription that mentions “Yahweh and his Asherah.” These and other discoveries may indicate that in pre-exilic Israel there was a type of worship that included the veneration of the goddess.
Michaelson provides additional evidence he says was omitted by Dever. According to Michaelson, the “Zohar's use of ‘Asherah’ as a name for the Shechinah, the feminine aspect of God,” may indicate the presence of the divine feminine in Israel.
Michaelson also wrote in his review that “In the Jewish tradition, the most obvious symbol of the Divine Feminine may be none other than the Torah itself.” He said: “Called the ‘Tree of Life’ (yet another euphemism for Asherah), the Torah's symbolism enacts the revelation of the Goddess. ‘The ark, the Holy of Holies, is separated by a curtain, like in the Temple, and behind it is the Torah, wearing a silver crown and velvet dress, always referred to in the feminine. Then we bring her out with great decorum, kiss her, undress her, open her up and commence the ritual of knowledge in the biblical sense.’”
Michaelson’s review of these two books may be controversial, but it is worth reading. Although I not agree with many of his conclusions, the fact remains that Asherah played an important role in the religious life of many people in Israel.
To read Michaelson’s review of these two books, click here.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary