Yahweh’s Divorce from the Goddess Asherah in the Garden of Eden

Hebrew Bible scholars have long recognized that the writer who penned the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and much other narrative in the first 5 books of the Hebrew Bible (called the Pentateuch, or Torah) had a distinctly anti-Canaanite agenda, and that his anti-Canaanite polemic started in his Eden story. Focusing on this helps us to decipher the meaning of that story, as I have stressed in my new book, The Mythology of Eden, and in talks that I’ve given on the subject at scholarly conferences.

This author, known as the Yahwist (because he was the first author of the Hebrew Bible to use the name Yahweh for God), most clearly set out his anti-Canaanite views at the beginning of his version of the Ten Commandments, in Exodus 34:12-15, where Yahweh warns the Hebrews against associating with the Canaanites, intermarrying with them, and worshipping their deities; Yahweh also orders the Hebrews to tear down Canaanite altars, pillars, and asherahs (wooden poles (stylized trees) in sanctuaries that were the cult object of their goddess Asherah (in Hebrew pronounced ah-shei-RAH) and symbolized her). Against this background, the anti-Canaanite polemic in the Eden story becomes apparent, especially that against the goddess Asherah, who at the time was widely viewed by Israelites as Yahweh’s wife or consort. As official Israelite religion trended toward monotheism, the other local deities had to be eliminated (Asherah in particular), and Yahweh appropriated their powers and functions. Insofar as this process affected Asherah, I call this “Yahweh’s Divorce,” and the proceedings began in the Yahwist’s Eden story.

Before the rise of Israel, Asherah was the wife of El, the head god of the Canaanite pantheon. According to the archeological evidence, the people who became Israelites were mostly native Canaanites who settled in the hills of what is now the West Bank, while it seems that small but influential groups also migrated there from the south in the Midian (in and around the Araba Valley in Sinai). As the Bible itself testifies, that is where Yahweh veneration appears to have originated, and, in a process that in this respect resonates with the Moses story, the migrants introduced Yahweh to the native Canaanites who were becoming Israelites. Over time, El declined and merged into Yahweh. As part of that process, Yahweh inherited Asherah from El as his wife.

The Hebrew Bible refers to Asherah directly or indirectly some 40 times, always in negative terms (so she must have been a challenge). Most references are indirect, to the asherah poles that symbolized her, but a number of them clearly enough refer directly to the goddess Asherah (e.g., Judges 3:7; 1 Kings 15:13; 1 Kings 18:19; 2 Kings 21:7; 2 Kings 23:4-7; 2 Chron. 15:16). Evidently she was part of traditional official Israelite religion, for an asherah pole even stood in front of Solomon’s Temple for most of its existence, as well as in Yahweh’s sanctuary in Samaria. There is also much extra-biblical evidence of Asherah in Israel from the time of the judges right through monarchical times, including in paintings/drawings, pendants, plaques, pottery, (possibly) clay “pillar” figurines, cult stands, and in inscriptions. Several inscriptions specifically refer to “Yahweh and his Asherah [or asherah].” (It is not entirely certain whether the goddess herself or the asherah pole symbolizing her is being referenced here, but either way ultimately the goddess is meant, and she is being linked with Yahweh.)

The Yahwist and the other biblical writers could not accept the presence of this goddess as a deity in Israel, much less as the wife of Yahweh, who they specifically depicted in non-sexual terms. So they declared war on her, in part by mentioning her existence sparingly in the Bible, by referring to her and asherahs negatively when they did mention her, and by waging a polemic against her by allusions that would have been clear to the Yahwist’s audience. These tactics are apparent in the Eden story, from the kinds of symbols used and the trajectory of the narrative. These symbols include the garden sanctuary itself, the sacred trees, the serpent, and Eve, herself a goddess figure. In ancient Near Eastern myth and iconography, sacred trees, goddesses, and serpents often form a kind of “trinity,” because they have substantially overlapping and interchangeable symbolism and are often depicted together. Let’s examine each of these symbols briefly.

Fig. 6.7 Egyptian tree goddess

An Egyptian example of the common “trinity” of sacred tree-goddess-serpent also appearing in the Eden story. Here Nut as tree goddess nourishes the deceased and the deceased’s ba. The serpent is in its common guardian role, in an erect posture. From Nils Billing, Nut: The Goddess of Life in Text and Iconography, fig. F.3.

The Garden. Originally in the ancient Near East, the Goddess was associated with and had jurisdiction over vegetation and life, which she generated herself. People partook of the first crops (including fruit) as her bounty – indeed her body and her divinity – and set up her sanctuary with garden of crops for this purpose. Such a sacred garden sanctuary was “estate” over which she exercised jurisdiction. Examples include Siduri’s vineyard with a sacred tree in the Gilgamesh epic, Inanna’s garden precinct with sacred tree in Sumer, Calypso’s vineyard sanctuary in Homer’s Odyssey, and Hera’s Garden of the Hesperides. Garden sanctuaries of gods and kings evolved later, when religion became more patriarchal, sky gods came to dominate, and goddesses were substantially devalued. In the Eden story, Yahweh’s both creating the garden (i.e., life) and being in charge of it can be viewed as part of this process: There the Goddess (here Asherah) was eliminated from the garden sanctuary and from her functions there.

Sacred trees were thought to connect with the divine realms of both the netherworld and the heavens, and therefore were considered conduits for communicating with and experiencing the divine and themselves are charged with the divine force (thought of as “serpent power”; see below). In harmony with the seasons, trees embody the life energy and symbolize the generation, regeneration and renewal of life. Therefore, they are associated with the source of life, the Earth/Mother Goddess. Accordingly, sacred trees were venerated in Palestine in sacred sanctuaries known as “high places,” as means of accessing and experiencing divinity, principally the goddess Asherah. (Similarly, the divinity of the male deity was accessed through vertical stone pillars, e.g., the one set up by Jacob at Bethel.) In the Eden story, the two sacred trees of knowledge of good and evil and of life allude to this traditional role of sacred trees, but the meaning is turned upside down. In the story, Yahweh even creates the trees. In ordering Adam not to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, by implication Yahweh was telling the audience not to venerate sacred trees in the traditional fashion. And in any event, the theretofore divine knowledge of good and evil that was acquired through eating the fruit is linked with Yahweh, not any goddess. And at the end of the story the tree of life is clearly designated as Yahweh’s, being guarded by his trademark symbols, the paired cherubim.

Serpents. In the ancient Near East, serpents had both positive and negative connotations, and in the Eden story the Yahwist played on each. In its positive aspect, the serpent represented the divine force itself, responsible for creation, life, and rebirth, as symbolized by its constant shedding of its skin. This and the fact that it lives within the earth (the netherworld) made for a natural association with the Mother Earth Goddess. As a result, the serpent was venerated as having divine powers and was used in rituals, including in marriage (to secure conception of children) and to maintain health. Serpents were also considered wise and sources of knowledge, and thus were used in divination. (The Hebrew noun for serpent (nāḥāš) connotes divination; the verb nāḥaš means to practice divination, and observe omens/signs.) Hence the serpent’s connection with transmission of the knowledge of good and evil in the Eden story. This “good” serpent was typically depicted in an upright or erect form, as in the case of the Egyptian erect cobra (in the illustration above), Moses’ bronze serpent on a pole, and the serpent on Asclepius’ staff (now the symbol of our medical profession).

But the serpent also was represented negatively as unrestrained divine power, which produces chaos, which is evil. Therefore, in creation myths the serpent/dragon represents the primordial chaos that must be overcome in order to establish the created cosmos (known as the “dragon fight” motif). This primordial chaos serpent is most often a serpent/dragon goddess (e.g., Tiamat in the Babylonian Enuma Elish) or her proxy (Typhon was the creation of Gaia). The serpent in this “evil” aspect is most often depicted horizontally. In the Eden story our author used this negative aspect, while parodying the traditional positive associations, which Yahweh appropriated. Thus, in the story, the serpent connoted chaos and symbolized the chaos in Eve’s heart as she deliberated. At the end of the story, Yahweh cursed the serpent and flattened its posture (compared with the upright/erect posture it had when talking with Eve). As a result, Yahweh was victorious over the serpent and chaos and, by implication the Goddess, in a mini version of the above-mentioned dragon fight motif.

The Goddess. As noted by numerous biblical scholars, the Goddess is also seen in the figure of Eve herself, the last figure in our trinity of tree-serpent-Goddess. In the Eden story she is given the epithet “the mother of all living,” an epithet like those given to various ancient near Eastern goddesses including Siduri, Ninti, and Mami in Mesopotamia and Asherah in Syria-Palestine. Eve’s actual name in Hebrew (ḥawwâ), besides meaning life (for which goddesses were traditionally responsible), is also likely wordplay on an old Canaanite word for serpent (ḥeva). The name of the goddess Tannit (the Phoenician version of Asherah) means “serpent lady,” and she had the epithet “Lady Ḥawat” (meaning “Lady of Life”), which is derived from the same Canaanite word as Eve’s name (ḥawwâ). At the end of the story, Eve is punished by having to give birth in pain, whereas goddesses in the ancient Near East gave birth painlessly. Further, in Genesis 4:1, Eve needs Yahweh’s help in order to become fertile and conceive, a reversal of the Goddess’ power and function. (Indeed, Eve is even created from Adam!) Adam’s only fault was “listening” to Eve in order to attain divine qualities. Here the Yahwist may be alluding to Goddess veneration, saying not to worship her. This seems to be one reason for the punishment of woman’s subjugation to man in Genesis 3:16.

As a result of these events, by the end of the story Yahweh is supreme and in control of all divine powers and functions formerly in the hands of the Goddess, and Canaanite religion in general has been discredited. Yahweh is in charge of the garden (formerly the Goddess’ province), from which chaos has been removed. Sacred tree veneration has been prohibited and discredited, while Yahweh appropriates and identifies himself with the Tree of Life (see also Hosea 14:8, where Yahweh claims, “I am like an evergreen cypress, from me comes your fruit.”). The serpent has been vanquished, flattened, and deprived of divine qualities, and thus is not worthy of veneration, and enmity has been established between snakes and humans. The Goddess has been discredited, rendered powerless, and is eliminated from the picture and sent into oblivion. Yahweh’s divorce from her has been made final, at least in the author’s mind. But in fact she persisted, and her equivalents in the psyche inevitably have persisted to this day, as they must.

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Sources and Bibliography

Becking, Bob, Dijkstra, Meindert, et al. Only One God? Monotheism in Ancient Israel and the Veneration of the Goddess Asherah. London: Sheffield Academic Press (2001).

Billing, Nils. Nut: The Goddess of Life in Text and Iconography. Uppsala: Akademitryck (2002).

Dever, William. Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans (2005).

George, Arthur, and Elena George. The Mythology of Eden. Lanham, Maryland: Hamilton Books (2014).

Hadley, Judith. The Cult of Asherah in Ancient Israel and Judah: Evidence for a Hebrew Goddess. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Keel, Othmar, and Christoph Uehlinger. God, Goddesses, and Images of God in Ancient Israel. Minneapolis: Fortress Press (1998).

Kikawada, Isacc. “Two Notes on Eve,” Journal of Biblical Literature, 91:33-37 (1972).

Olyan, Saul. Asherah and the Cult of Yahweh in Israel. Atlanta: Scholars Press (1988).

Patai, Raphael. The Hebrew Goddess. 3rd ed. Detroit: Wayne State University Press (1990).

Wallace, Howard. The Eden Narrative. Atlanta: Scholars Press (1985).

© Arthur George 2014

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113 Responses to Yahweh’s Divorce from the Goddess Asherah in the Garden of Eden

  1. joshbertetta says:

    Reblogged this on The Story of the Four.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ponti says:

      There is exegesis and eisegesis. This is eisegesis – it is reading the Neo-Platonist Hermeticist male-female origin int the Bible. It is preaching Jungian mythology and does not have much to do with the Genesis text.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for your comment. Since your comment is short and conclusory rather than addressing specific points it is hard for me to respond, so will simply make a few points. First, I was surprised to hear that you think my post has “Neo-Platonist Hermeticist” approach. I had nothing of the sort in mind when writing it, so in order to comment here I would need to understand how you are using this term and in what respects my post reflects it. Second, my post actually contains nothing about Jungian or other modern psychological thinking, so I don’t understand on what basis you could make such a comment. (I do include a psychological aspect to other parts of the Eden story discussed elsewhere in my book, but not here.) Third, I understand very well the difference between exegesis and eisegesis. My analysis and conclusions are all derived from the scholarly works of Hebrew Bible scholars (i.e., qualified, professional exegetes) who have reached the same conclusions, and represents what is now mainstream scholarship in the biblical studies academy. (In my book I cite heavily to these scholarly sources so you can see them there, but it is not feasible to do so in just a blog post.) Further, I have presented scholarly papers on this very topic of “Yahweh’s Divorce” at scholarly conferences of the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion, and it was well received and none of the exegetes in the audiences ever had any exegetical problems with it. If you can identify what you consider to be a particular exegetical problem with my analysis, I will be happy to address it. Finally, I suspect that part of your problem with my post is that it relies not merely on the Genesis text but also extra-biblical evidence, using for example archaeological findings, the ancient Near Eastern cultural context, scholarship in the field of mythological studies, and a comparative approach. When addressing issues such as these, my approach is in fact the kind of holistic approach that biblical scholars have been using for decades. Hence, e.g., the publication by William Hallo et al of “The Context of Scripture” containing ancient Near Eastern texts relevant to the study of the Bible, and before that James Pritchard’s “Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament” for the same purpose. I use many of these texts, archaeological findings, etc., in my own analysis, to supplement and as a cross-check to exegesis of the biblical text.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. joshbertetta says:

    Great piece Arthur. I have one question: you mention the J author in regards to the Ten Commandments; my understanding (though I recognize the theory has been challenged in various ways) is that the Elohist author was responsible for such and was likely writing at later date. Though I don’t think this effects in any large way what you have written, just wanted to know if your research indicates that the J author wrote such? Do you have some resources in regards to such you could clue me in on? I would be interested to read…


    • K Allanson says:

      Yes. I was surprised as well by that. I also disagree that the Yahwist tried to eliminate goddess worship. Why then would J give six times more press to the matriarchs than the patriarchs?


      • It’s hard to respond to your comment. Is the only reason you disagree is that you think the Yahwist gave “6 times more press” to matriarchs than patriarchs? What do you mean by “6 times” and by “press”? Six times more people? Six times more words? Which matriarchs in which biblical passages are you talking about? Which patriarchs who are one-sixth? Why does the amount of coverage imply favoring that subject? Why do you think these matriarchs necessarily = the goddess (Asherah?)? I’m happy to discuss but there’s really nothing to go on here.


  3. Thanks, Josh, for your kind comment, question, and the reblog. In my post I said that the Ten Commandments as set forth in Exodus 34:11-15 were “his version,” meaning the Yahwist’s (J’s) version, since that version is commonly (and I think correctly) attributed to him, and it is that version that provides a key into his thinking as discussed in my post. The Hebrew Bible contains 2 other versions of the Ten Commandments. The second is at Exodus 20:1-17, which some commentators have attributed to the Elohist (E) author as you mention(so maybe this is what you had heard of), while others think it belongs to the Redactor (R). See R. Friedman, The Bible with Sources Revealed, p. 153. The third version is at Deuteronomy 5:6-21 and is attributed (without dispute) to the Deuteronomist (D) author. These two other versions are nearly identical to each other, except for giving different reasons for honoring the Sabbath. With respect to the first version in Exodus 34, note also that fairly recent research has shown that verses 18-26 (coming after the verses that I rely upon) are probably a later addition by priestly types concerned with keeping later festivals/rituals which probably did not exist in J’s time, so that the commandments set out by J add up to fewer than 10. See Shimon Bar-On, “The Festival Calendars in Exodus XXIII 14-14 and XXXIV 18-16,” Vetus Testamentum 48:161-95 (1998). J’s shorter version is generally recognized as the oldest of all these materials, which is important. This is explained in more detail in my book.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Phil Whitley says:

    Good article! I can easily substitute the Anunnaki gods’ names and have it read like a Zecharia Sitchin translation. All the characters are there.


    • Thanks, Phil, for your kind comment. I had an extraordinary amount of activity on that old post on April 8-9, as if some large group of people was using it for some project. Do you have any idea (since you might be part of it)? Anyway, I’m familiar with the various Sumerian myths and also have read Sitchin, so I would be interested in hearing from you exactly which Sumerian myth you have in mind and how exactly you think the characters in that myth and the Eden story match. Best, Art


      • Jory Brown says:

        Appreciated your article, and looking forward to reading your book as well. I have recently been reading a recently released book, “The Archangel Gabriel Conspiracy” by David Canga Corozo. It is a somewhat difficult read. It has apparently been translated from Spanish, and the translation wasn’t terrific. However, he does conclude by his own research that Yahweh, El, and Enlil are one and the same entity. I would be interested to hear if you have come to a similar conclusion.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Josephine McCarthy and commented:
    Interesting look at Asherah, the tree and the snake….

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on The Sound of Her Voice and commented:
    The Goddess. As noted by numerous biblical scholars, the Goddess is also seen in the figure of Eve herself, the last figure in our trinity of tree-serpent-Goddess. In the Eden story she is given the epithet “the mother of all living,” an epithet like those given to various ancient near Eastern goddesses including Siduri, Ninti, and Mami in Mesopotamia and Asherah in Syria-Palestine. Eve’s actual name in Hebrew (ḥawwâ), besides meaning life (for which goddesses were traditionally responsible), is also likely wordplay on an old Canaanite word for serpent (ḥeva). The name of the goddess Tannit (the Phoenician version of Asherah) means “serpent lady,” and she had the epithet “Lady Ḥawat” (meaning “Lady of Life”), which is derived from the same Canaanite word as Eve’s name (ḥawwâ). At the end of the story, Eve is punished by having to give birth in pain, whereas goddesses in the ancient Near East gave birth painlessly. Further, in Genesis 4:1, Eve needs Yahweh’s help in order to become fertile and conceive, a reversal of the Goddess’ power and function. (Indeed, Eve is even created from Adam!) Adam’s only fault was “listening” to Eve in order to attain divine qualities. Here the Yahwist may be alluding to Goddess veneration, saying not to worship her. This seems to be one reason for the punishment of woman’s subjugation to man in Genesis 3:16.

    Liked by 3 people

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  9. Kalan Sorion says:

    Very interesting material. It makes me wonder- could there be a connection with the themes propagated by the various gnostic sects who existed alongside Christianity as it was gaining popularity? Many of these groups commonly denounced Yahweh as a false god (i.e. the Demiurge) and celebrated Sophia, the goddess of wisdom, and they put a lot of focus on the Garden of Eden scenario. I’m not sure if the time periods are the same, but I wonder if perhaps some of the gnostic beliefs were a blowback in response to the changes in the narrative mentioned in this article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kalan, for your interesting observation. Personally I don’t recall any of the Gnostic groups invoking the Garden of Eden story in connection with a goddess, but I’d be interested in anything that you could point me to in that regard. I also don’t recall the Sophia in Gnosticism (specifically Christian Gnosticism) being closely related to the Sophia in the Hebrew Bible. In my understanding, Christian Gnostics focused on Christ as the teacher and bringer of knowledge (gnosis) of who we really are and how to escape the material human condition. The Eden story as I interpret it is partly about rejecting the Goddess (there Asherah), and it embraced Yahweh (who was the creator of this world) rather than rejecting the creator (demiurge) as the Gnostics did.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Yahweh’s Divorce from the Goddess Asherah in the Garden of Eden — Mythology Matters | Knot Magick

  11. Olivia says:

    Fantastic read!
    May I ask, do you have a copy of Nils Billing, Nut: The Goddess of Life in Text and Iconography? I’d love to read this!




    • Thanks, Olivia, for your kind comment. The Billing book on Nut is rather hard to get and is not even on Amazon, and costs a bundle. So in my research I obtained it through interlibrary loan, which I would recommend in your case too. It is very worthwhile to get. The text is excellent though I should warn you that it is scholarly and dense, but the illustrations are priceless. Best, Art

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Karyl Cross says:

    Great article… different view of the garden which I’ve always bad a problem with. Very well balanced too. Thanks

    Liked by 2 people

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  14. Kaylon Gates says:

    Your article came to my attention on Facebook, and I was intrigued by your thorough research and the gathering-up of so many threads from so many cultures and peoples into a narrative that helps explain what’s going on in the Bible. Arthur, my response will not be a scholarly one, though I am educated. I am not a student of ancient cultures. I am a Christian, and by that I mean that I am a follower of God, the God of the Bible, by grace through faith in Jesus the Christ, God’s Son, my High Priest, The Way. I would have to write an article twice the length of yours to fully clarify my beliefs apart from the way the word “Christian” is used today by almost anyone who doesn’t have a pentagram tattooed on his forehead. Electricians and physical therapists put little fish symbols on their business cards because, well, who WOULDN’T trust a Christian. The nice guys. We can’t lie or steal. We can’t judge. I am not a “Sunday Morning Christian.”

    I do know the Bible. I’ve read and studied it my whole life. I love the Bible, as the Word of God that He has protected from corruption so that, with understandable human errors though the years, we are able to know what we need to know to love Him, serve Him, and please Him. Who did Cain marry? I don’t know. I think he married a sister of his who was free of genetic anomalies and far-enough removed in age that perhaps he never met her until they married (Eve had hundreds of years to bear children). Why did Jesus feed a crowd of 5,000 in one telling, and 3,000 in another? Was there a miscount? Only men were counted? Two different picnics? I don’t know.

    As to your piece about goddesses and trees and serpents, I have an explanation that I think is worth considering. The presence of recurring and themes and motifs and archetypes suggests to me one, original, true, valid event(s) and the telling thereof. I think that the reason we have goddesses, snakes, trees, floods, creations, and all manner of created beings giving birth from various orifices to other created beings, in every culture on earth, is because there is an original Truth. Over time, with the influence of human nature and our tendency to embellish, that “truth” has evolved to the extent of being almost unrecognizable. However, it IS still related to the reality of an historic event enough that much of the vocabulary or players remain, but they’re mixed up and out of order.

    When the presence of similar worldwide “myths” is studied, it only confirms a unified source for me. The artifacts and stories that seem to contradict or pre-date the biblical account, bolster the conviction that an actual event(s) occurred and were witnessed, then reported, before being bastardized.

    Why do I believe? See the Book of Acts. A crowd of multiple nationalities and languages was able to hear the message of Jesus, the Gospel, EACH IN HIS OWN TONGUE on the Day of Pentecost. A man who ran away from a serving girl in the darkness rather than be associated with his dearest friend, who was on trial, suddenly became willing to face repeated floggings and imprisonment as punishment for refusing to stop preaching about The Lord. People believed, were saved, and changed by the message of God With Us.

    I don’t see God as anti-Canaanite at all, or as one trying to usurp the place of an imaginary goddess. I don’t see God as an evil, misogynistic, genocidal maniac. I see Him as God. Rightfully desiring His place as One. The Canaanites weren’t set for destruction until they had utterly fallen into unredeemable corruption. God had given them “rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying [their] hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). I’m not jaded. I’m not a modern feminist, in the sense of a 2016 mindset. I’m not demanding or angry or entitled or disenfranchised. I could be called naïve. I am aware of suffering that occurs globally. I’m called to love my neighbor, so I contribute what I have to help relieve what suffering I can that is within my power to help. My brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are responsible to do the same for their neighbors, those near them. The world is a very different place when seen through the lens of a belief in God. I literally wouldn’t even swing my feet over the side of the bed in the morning without Him.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts and beliefs. I certainly welcome responses!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks, Kaylon, for your interest and taking the time to set down your ideas after having read this post of mine. (BTW I’m not sure whether you also read my separate posts about the serpent, sacred trees, but if you haven’t I think checking them would be useful in order to fill in the picture.) So I’ll likewise take the time to reply in some detail, taking your points in the order in which you have set them forth.

      Your first point about there being a single original story containing the Truth which then got corrupted is something I hear from time to time, both within and outside of a Christian context, but I’m not aware of a single mythologist, biblical scholar, or scholar of religion in general who holds this view, nor have I really heard anyone set down in detail their basis for such a view (and the burden of proof is on them), which makes it difficult for me to comment on it here. Among modern scholars, the majority view (to which I subscribe) is that the reason for the similar motifs among myths both geographically and over time is that they emerge from common patterns in our subconscious (e.g., Carl Jung, Marie Louise von Franz, Erich Neumann, Joseph Campbell). (Psychologists see these mythical patterns pop up, for example, when treating patients.) There is a great deal of evidence for this, but no evidence for an original myth or other story containing all of the motifs in question or the Truth.

      When considering this idea in relation to the Bible, I’m having difficulty understanding exactly why you think it would fit our Eden story in question. Perhaps I just fail to understand you. But it seems to me we would then have 1 of 2 possible situations. If the Truth is embodied in the Eden story and elsewhere in Genesis (after all, in the Old Testament God gives the truth to his chosen people ,the Hebrews, not to others before them), then no prior stage of myths (where all the myths are different so far as we know) could hold the original Truth, and all of the earlier myths are false, even though they contain so many of the same motifs/symbols as the Eden story, so the question would still remain where did these common motifs come from and why. On the other hand, if it was some such ancient original story that contained the Truth but then that story got corrupted like you say, then it seems that the biblical Eden story is also a corrupted version of this original and does not contain the Truth, unless both the Eden story and the earlier original both contain the same Truth (including the same motifs and other significant details), but that’s not what I understand you to be saying.

      In light of your comments and in particular your reference to Acts, it looks like you are approaching these Eden story questions through the lens of New Testament authors. But that is not what bible scholars do. That is because the writings of these NT authors tell us more about the early development of Christianity and early Christian thinking than they do about the original (real) meaning of Hebrew Bible (= “Old Testament”) material; Hebrew Bible material needs to be studied and understood on its own terms. Thus, the field of biblical studies is neatly divided into Hebrew Bible studies and New Testament studies. Accordingly, for example, when at the scholarly conferences of the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Academy of Religion I’ve been presenting scholarly papers about various aspects of the Eden story, it has always been in sessions on the Hebrew Bible side of things. The New Testament people, even good scholars, would have little to say or contribute on the subject.

      This becomes important when considering questions such as those you raise regarding whether “God” (and here you seem to be talking about God as his nature is understood in Acts and elsewhere in the New Testament) in the Bible, in my or anyone’s view, is evil, mysoginistic, anti-Canaanite, etc. While your view appears consistent with the view of God in the New Testament (though I have not considered this in detail), it is definitely inconsistent with the way the god of the Hebrew Bible, there called Yahweh, is portrayed. The anti-Canaanite polemic starts in the episode of Noah’s drunkenness (written by the same author of the Eden story) in which Yahweh curses Canaan (Gen 9:25). Hebrew Bible scholars generally recognize that this passage as expressing Yahweh’s curse on the (future) Canaanites (that they will be slaves), and therefore is anti-Canaanite rhetoric (although it also serves as an etiology explaining the Hebrew Bible notion of how sons should bear responsibility for the sins of their fathers). Notably, this happens when Noah and his family are the only humans on earth. At this point there is no Canaanite nation and no Canaanite deities, so your comment that “the Canaanites weren’t set for destruction until they had utterly fallen into unredeemable corruption” is not consistent with the biblical text. My main point, however, is not about the timing but concerns the simple fact that this biblical writer (and the others) was anti-Canaanite mainly because they objected to their religious practices and various (in the writer’s eyes) sins, which in turn helps us to interpret his Eden story. The anti-Canaanite polemic of this same writer continues when, at the beginning of the first version of the Ten Commandments, Yahweh warns the Hebrews about the Canaanites (and some others) and their religion (including their deities and asherah poles, thus including the goddess Asherah by implication) before they enter that land (Exod 34:11-16).

      Regarding Acts 14:17, I don’t see how this is relevant to the matter at hand. It has nothing to do with Canaanites, or whether they were depraved, or Yahweh’s attitude toward them, or whether they should be punished or destroyed, but is about and directed at Hellenized inhabitants of Lystra, explaining that the New Testament God rather than the Greek deities is responsible for their rain, food, etc., and thus deserving of their veneration.

      I hope this helps. And again, thanks for your thoughtful comments. For more background, you might want to see my book, The Mythology of Eden, or view one of my lectures on the subject on YouTube.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Evan says:

      When the presence of similar worldwide “myths” is studied, it only confirms a unified source for me…..
      This is literally the definition of confirmation bias. We’ll search out or even make up facts that corroborate our previously held beliefs.


  15. Pingback: Yahweh’s Divorce from the Goddess Asherah in the Garden of Eden | Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles

  16. Bill says:

    bookmarked!!, I really like your web site!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Jason says:

    There is certainly a great deal to learn about
    this topic. I really like all the points you made.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Bill says:

    This is a topic that is close to my heart… Cheers!
    Exactly where are your contact details though?

    Liked by 1 person

  19. It had never even occurred to me to look at Genesis as propaganda targeted at taking over and destroying another religion. When it comes to creation myths, I had always assumed they were the collective understanding of particular, isolated cultures. The idea of creation myth as politics floored me. Suddenly the systematic subjugation and enslavement of women makes sense, when seen under the lens of the rise of patriarchy.

    It seems that no matter how far we’ve come, there are still things about humans that never change. Thank you for this most eye-opening lesson.

    Liked by 4 people

  20. It had never even occurred to me to look at Genesis as propaganda targeted at taking over and destroying another religion. Suddenly the systematic subjugation and enslavement of women makes sense, when seen under the lens of the rise of patriarchy.

    It seems that no matter how far we’ve come, there are still things about humans that never change. Thank you for this most eye-opening lesson.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Ceilidh says:

    Just stumbled upon this on facebook, and you’ve inspired me to do some more research into this. Very interesting. You’re definitly gettig a re post 😉

    Cheers mate

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! It is gratifying when I see that my writings inspire people. Best of luck in your research. A good place to start would be my book on this very subject, entitled The Mythology of Eden.


  22. Bill says:

    I could not refrain from commenting. Well written!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Anonymous says:

    I don’t understand what you’re saying but makes sense

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Is there any possibility that there is some symbolic reference to the usurpation of matriarchal religion (what Graves described as iconotrophy, [apologies]) by a monotheistic-patriarchal religion, (monotheistic, as Yawheh comes after El(ohim, which is plural, I believe) in the Biible, I think, if my memory is on my side,) ,meaning the shifts in the story point to not only usurpation of a matriarchal religion, but further the usurpation of Polytheistic Babylonian & Sumerian religion in one tidy swoop? I hope you can decipher my atrocious attempt at asking a question, which relies on facts I fished from memory, because I read these texts a while ago & don’t have them to hand. I shall spend many a scholarly hour at this blog, really thankful to have found it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, it is important to understand that the writers of the Hebrew Bible were striving toward monotheism, which by definition entailed eliminating ALL other deities, not simply the main goddess Asherah. Baal was another big target in this regard. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that, since Asherah traditionally was Yahweh’s wife/consort who had a following particularly among women, she was the other big target. No scholars that I know are claiming that the Israelites had a “matriarchal religion” that was being eliminated. Since the Israelites emerged from the Canaanites, the Israelite traditional religion (which emerged when the “Israelites” were emerging into a cognizable group) came from Canaanite religion, which featured both gods (including Baal) and goddesses (including Asherah) but atop their pantheon was El, a male creator god (whose wife was Asherah). Yahweh was a foreign god from the south who made inroads into the traditional native religion and eventually absorbed El and his functions, hence inheriting Asherah too as his wife. That’s why the biblical writers had to divorce them.

      Liked by 2 people

  25. raysondetre says:

    I did hyperlink you in a comment. you may or mightn’t like it. https://www.facebook.com/TheRaydiantLabyrinth/posts/839408009523889 -I haven’t read the Bible since eighteen, but I was being taught theology in terms of terms like ‘pre and post traducianism’ at 11. Suffice to say, I remember Asherah from reading it, but not a single word on the matter. I did have a big question mark over my head when I did. Suffice to say, I appreciated this very much.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. raysondetre says:

    a Q: an asherah was a stylized tree? does that mean it was living? because that’s a combination between a totem pole and a bonsai that’s alive, and that, as a (living!) symbol, is quite brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your question. The answer appears to be “both.” We are confident that live sacred trees were associated with Asherah (and other goddesses in other places), so when Canaanites/Israelites venerated sacred trees they were thinking of her in particular. We have no record of such live trees being called “asherahs,” but this distinction (if it existed) is not important. We know that Israelites (and probably Canaanites before them) also fashioned asherah poles, which may have been carved to depict images, presumably of Asherah but perhaps also including other things. These would have been made of logs or smaller poles, or perhaps even of the standing trunks of dead sacred trees. Such asherahs would have symbolized the actual living sacred trees, but since they were not actually living and probably had at least some carvings on them, they can be regarded as “stylized” trees. The stylization becomes even more pronounced when the asherahs (and even live trees) are depicted in the iconography, where more artistic license can be seen, as in the Ptihos A drawing from Kuntillet Ajrud. The intent would not have been to create a “combination” of the dead and living, but to be symbolizing Asherah’s connection with life, even if the material is a log. You can depict the same on any other non-living medium too, e.g., in sculpture, on a wall (mosaic, fresco, tapestry), in a painting, Pithos A, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Allan F. Wier II says:

    Thank you for your well written, scholarly article.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Jay Lindsey says:

    What all that boils down too: God is a woman and the Devil is a man and they fight about sex money and kids! It even says in Numbers 23:19 “God is NOT A MAN that has to lie or a son of man that has to repent!”

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Anonymous says:

    I enjoyed your information. Thank you. I have a couple of questions, did Moses worship a female headed serpent before god spoke to him? And was Lilith Adams first wife? And if so, what happened with that story? These are things I have heard and always wondered about. Thank you

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for your comment and questions. I’m glad you liked it.

      Other than the mere fact that he was a Hebrew and presumably practiced the Hebrew religion, there’s no record of Moses’ worship practices (whether female serpent or anything else) before the burning bush incident, so we don’t know and probably never will.

      Regarding Lilith, the answer is no. The reason for the notion of Adam having an earlier wife than Eve comes from Genesis 1:27 where God creates male(s) and female(s), so in medieval times the idea arose among some that this female was Adam’s first wife. The problem is that no individual in Genesis 1 is named Adam, whereas the first man carries this name in the Eden story. More importantly, Genesis 2-3 (the Eden story) was written long before Genesis 1, and in it the first man and woman were created. So Genesis 1 cannot be used as a basis for interpreting Genesis 2-3 in this respect. So there is no room within the framework of the Eden story (and for its author) for Adam to have a prior wife. Such a notion would have destroyed the mythology and polemical purpose of the Eden story.


  30. Reblogged this on Into The Mist / No Nevoeiro and commented:
    Did you know?

    Liked by 1 person

  31. click here says:

    Neat Web-site, Continue the good work. Thank you so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. All praise to Yahweh the victorious!


  33. Hello! Someone in my Myspace group shared this site with us so I came to take a look. I’m definitely loving the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Outstanding blog and wonderful style and design.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Sam says:

    Wow what an insightful article. I am definitely sharing this. I had a question and I hope you can answer it. The way Genesis reads it’s as if it’s “ok” for Eve to eat the fruit, but that punishment isn’t handed down until she convinces Adam to also… I think that alludes to your article’s insight of the Goddess, tree, serpent trinity. Do you have any light to shed on this?

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Shannon says:

    Interesting article. I would love to hear the authors thoughts on the serpent being a metaphor for the kundalini.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Shannon, for your comment and question. I had earlier checked for evidence from the ancient Near East of knowledge of what we term kundalini. So far as I have been able to determine, there was no knowledge of or yogic spiritual practice connected with kundalini (in the sense of chakras and the spinal column). However, as I explained in my post and in much more detail in my book, people did venerate serpents as carriers of divine energy, which was a creative force, and which people endeavored to tap into. There is some ancient iconography to back this up.

      Liked by 1 person

  36. In Kabbalistic tradition, YHVH’s wife is Shekhinah. The actual sin of the Garden of Eden episode was that it separated YHVH from Shekhinah. Many synagogues today practice a ritual, that i believe was authored by the Kabbalist Rabbi Mamoniades that is know as “Welcoming the Shekhinah Bride”, where the entire congregation stands up and faces the outer doors of the Temple, while the Rabbi repeats the ritual’s wording. Afterwards, tbe turn back around and sit back down. Even sysnagogues that decry Kabbalism do this. I was suprised to find my grandmother’s Temple doing this as the Rabbi was very anti-kabbalistic.

    Liked by 2 people

  37. Interestingly similar to the story of Tiamat and her revolt against Marduk and gang. Is there any possibility to the notion that Ezra fabricated the whole thing by redaction and transliteration of that account while the Israelites were held in captivity? In the story of Baal’s battle with Yam his name is changed to Yah by Anu. That Anu and El were one and the same is fairly obvious in much of the literature. He was the one who gave permission to the daughters of Baal to worship their father as the “Most High God.” This story of Ashera being the bride and/or consort of El is also syncratic with that of Anu and his grand-daughter Ishtar. It would seems a lot of politics was taking place at the behest of local deities?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment. Space does not permit me to address all your points so I’ll simply answer your initial question. Hebrew Bible scholars have not been able to trace the narrative line of the Eden story to any Mesopotamian or northwest Semitic stories or myths, although particular elements within the Eden story (e.g., sacred trees, rib, forbidden food, snake denying a human eternal life) do appear within a variety of separate Mesopotamian myths (and, for that matter, myths from all over the world). Most Hebrew Bible scholars consider the original author of the story as it has come down to us to be not Ezra but a pre-Exilic author that we call the Yahwist (or J for short), but they also recognize that the story as first written down was edited over the centuries, possibly by Ezra among others.

      Liked by 2 people

  38. L J says:

    Perhaps the bird figure in the picture represents the “Blue Avians” whose existences are said to have been here before the Earth was created and oversaw the creation of Earth.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. fitzpadryk says:

    Truly an amazing and adroit article, thank you so much for sharing this thorough information. As a practicing Pagan minister, I have studied and heard about “God’s wife” in Judaism many times from various credible authors and sources. Also, it will be my (slightly guilty) pleasure to share this article with the open minded as well as the mass, monotheistic misogynists suffering from cognitive dissonance.
    I digress, keep up the stellar work, you are obviously a scholar worth keeping up with!

    Liked by 2 people

  40. Barbara Warrum says:

    I enjoyed reading your article. Here is a thought.

    Dr. E. C. Krupp, Director of Griffith Observatory, and expert in ancient astronomy, says that Nut, the Egyptian goddess was a version of the Milky Way. The Milky Way was, in myth, called a river of milk jetting from Hera’s or Gaia’s breast, or a ladder leading up into the sky, or a giant tree growing upward into the sky. Macrobius, the 5th century Roman astronomer known for his poetry, called the Milky Way the ‘Tree of Life’.

    Look at that picture overhead, of the goddess Nut standing in and being a tree. She was the Tree of Life, the Milky Way stretching across the sky.

    The Greeks spoke about the function of the Milky Way. It was the place were souls came from at birth, and where they returned after death. Souls drifted downwards from the Tree of Life like leaves in the wind, falling down through the seven spheres of heaven, picking up ‘color’ at each sphere before landing in the bodies of babies as they were born. Thus, that goddess, that Tree of Life was the origin of all souls, of all babies, of all life. I suspect the two figures on the right are drinking the milk from the Milky Way. It was a Tree, and also a river of Milk at the same time, these weren’t mutually exclusive.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Barbara, for your comment. Yes, Nut indeed was identified both with the sky and sacred trees. Since Nut was the vault of the whole sky, by definition she certainly includes inside her the structure that we call the Milky Way, but I haven’t seen any Egyptian texts or other evidence that she was thought of simply as this structure or a “Milky Way” (i.e., it being associated with milk) as such. We must realize that the Egyptians did not use the term “Milky Way” for this structure in the sky and do not seem to have associated it with milk. Rather, the Egyptian word for it was msq.t sqd.w, which means something like “Place of the Beaten Path of the Stars” (from the verb sqi meaning to strike/beat and the prefix m designating place). Nut and other goddesses (who are not associated with the sky) are depicted as tree goddesses suckling or dispensing liquid to the deceased, but in those cases their aspect of tree goddesses being emphasized (sacred trees being connected with life), not sky. More generally and outside Egypt, the idea of the Milky Way as representing (or being the ultimate) a sacred tree was argued in a provocative book by Gregory Haynes, Tree of Life, Mythical Archetype: Revelations from the Symbols of Ancient Troy” (2009). It was interesting, if not (to me) entirely persuasive. I would be interested in whatever evidence that Krupp thinks exists, however, as I don’t have his works available.

      Liked by 1 person

  41. Pingback: Asherah the Divine Feminine – twiggietruth

  42. Pingback: Asherah The Goddess – Fact or Fiction

  43. Aurielle Nazro says:

    As my spirituality has evolved, I find myself becoming more focused on The Tree of Life. Yet I wish to harken back into the first stirrings of Judaism where El / Yah did have the consort of Asherah.

    Thus any scholarly references to this particular topic is incredibly interesting to me. From what I understand, isn’t Innana / Ishtar forerunners of Asherah???
    If so then I would focus upon Innanah moreso than Ashersh…
    Any advice, references etc will be very appreciated

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for your comment and question.

      Scholars have traced Asherah back to Mesopotamia, but no one has traced her directly to Innana. The farthest back we can trace her is to the Amorite goddess Ashratu, consort of Amurru, ca. 2000 BCE. Asherah does share some functions with Innana, but then many goddesses have functions in common. Innana appears in many more myths than Asherah, so from that perspective she is more interesting to study. The only myths we have concerning Asherah date from 13th century Canaan (Ugarit); nothing from biblical Israel.

      As for further reading, you could start with Chapter 3 of my book The Mythology of Eden, which goes through the evidence for Asherah and cites the relevant scholarly literature. If you want to dig into that more, I suggest Saul Olyan’s short but scholarly summary called Asherah and the Cult of Yahweh in Israel, Judith Hadley’s book The Cult of Asherah in Ancient Israel and Judah, and William Dever’s book Did God Have a Wife? Those books are more about the goddess herself rather than the myths in which she appears. If you want to read the myths, just do searches for the Baal Cycle (or Baal Myth), also the Keret (or Kirta) Epic (or Legend), and the Tale (or Legend) of Aqhat (or Aqhatu).

      Happy reading!


  44. Reblogged as a post to the Facebook Religious Tolerance group, with the following introduction:

    “The Divine Feminine aka the Goddess is and was a hot topic in the Hebrew scriptures, which came into being in a time when patriarchy was on the rise and matriarchy was, consequently, being subdued. This blog post from several years ago digs into the details and the biblical references, and I share it in the interest of exploration and understanding.

    “The comments that follow the article are of interest, as well, and allow the author to expand upon the nuances and the basis for his writing. This provides an excellent example of civil discourse on a sensitive topic.”

    Liked by 1 person

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