What we are about to deal with is the key to understanding what was happening in the 8th century in not only Micah, but many prophetical books carrying over into the 7th century. Some of the material we will discuss will be sexual in nature and associated with the paganism at the time. It is not our intention to be “over the top” on some of this, and if you are easily offended you can always skip over what is presented. These things are easily verifiable, confirmed by history and archeology and the key to understanding the prophets.
In Micah 1.13 we read about a city called Lachish. It was a Canaanite city that infected the people. It is first mentioned in Joshua 10.32 and it was the center of Israel’s defense in the Shephelah Valley. Micah 1.13 says that it was “the beginning of sin” in Israel. Her paganism was at the center of life there and a “cancer” to the rest of Israel. Just paganism today, it slowly crept in and the people wouldn’t even know it. In this study we will not be able to show the images we have and will be working with, but an internet search of what we will be discussing will give you an idea of what we are talking about if want to look these up for yourselves.
At Lachish they found a temple with a moat, called the Fosse Temple. A moat was built over an old moat and this temple was to the goddess Asherah, so we know there was a strong fertility cult there. So, are going to define what it is. All of this will have eschatological importance as well. The word Asherah is used in paganism when just the goddess is represented by a tree or an image. It is feminine singular and is used 40 times in the Bible. The word Ashteroth is used when more than one statue or tree is used. It is feminine plural and used several times in the Bible. The word Asherim is also found in the Bible 16 times and it is masculine plural, which is impossible in Hebrew but the Lord uses it. It is used when the goddess and a tree are represented as having “intercourse.” Asherah was the goddess of erotic sex and can be represented as a living tree or a trimmed or decorated tree. Green tree’s were used in this called “a sacred tree” and the “tree of life” and all of this relates to fertility.
A cultic jar and other artifacts were discovered at Lachish that will unlock the “iconography” of this pagan worship. On this vase you will see a tree (Asherah) flanked by two ibex’s eating the “hair” of the triangular tree. This shows how fertility was a central theme of this goddess. In Egypt, this goddess was called Hathor, which is also the Canaanite Astarte and Ishtar in Babylon. Asherah is just a different spelling than Astarte. Athtar is seen by the Arabians as a god, not a goddess, and has a “birthday” of December 24, with Ba’al being December 25th.
Also at Lachish they found Asherim pendants that were shaped like a woman’s uterus. It had an image, then a tree penetrating a triangular “tree” at the bottom. This represented the pubic triangle of fertility and erotic sex. Now, going back to the ibex’s eating the tree, you will see that it also represents the pubic triangle of a woman. The Jewish Encyclopedia has an article called “Ashteroth” and it will discuss how this cultic worship spread to other nations and corrupted family life. Some of the pendants at Lachish had Phoenician and Egyptian representations of the goddess over the tree. There are hundreds of other examples from Egypt, Canaan and Mesopotamia concerning this type of worship. The only way to understand the Abomination of Desolation in the future is to understand the “Asherah” of the past.
Canaanite worship centered on agricultural fertility first, and this led to power, which increased human fertility. Ba’al was known as the “storm god” and this is why Elijah had the confrontation with his prophets on Mount Carmel. It was a drought and the prophets of Ba’al and Asherah called for rain, but nothing happened. No rain meant no crops, which meant no power and increased human fertility. The Lord showed them that he had control over the rain and storms, not Ba’al. God instructed Joshua (Yehoshua) to wipe out the Canaanites and their worship. If he didn’t, it would spread throughout Israel, but he never did accomplish it. When others read these verses about wiping out the Canaanites, they have a hard time believing that this is the same God as in the New Testament, but this type of pagan worship had to be “amputated” and nobody likes to see that, but it was needed.
What happened at Lachish and the worship of the Asherim spread and the Lord had to eventually judge Israel. But, it not only spread in Israel, but it went all over the world in places like Phoenicia, Malta, Sicily, Corinth, Greece, Rome, Europe and eventually America. What we have just discussed is just the tip of the iceberg and it leaves no doubt that this was pagan. However, it changed and it was mixed in with the true worship of God. In 1 Kings 18 we have the story of Elijah and the prophets of Ba’al and Asherah (18.19). Elijah comes near to all the people and says in 1 Kings 18.21, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Ba’al, follow him.” The word “hesitate” in Hebrew is “pawsach” and it means to “fly back and forth” and it has the same root as “pesach” or Passover, meaning to “leap over.” They went back and forth between the Lord, Ba’al and Asherah. King Hezekiah dealt with the Assyrian army coming against him. He had more trouble in his reign than any other king of Judah. An Assyrian representative said in Isa 36.7 “But if you say to me ‘We trust in the Lord our God,’ is it not he whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and has said to Judah and Jerusalem, “You shall worship before this altar?” This shows that there was a mixture of pagan worship and true worship in Judah, and Hezekiah destroyed these altars, and the Assyrian was saying why would God help you when you have torn down his high places (because true worship was mixed with paganism). As we move out of paganism, we might still have major battles and problems, like Hezekiah, to deal with.
King Manasseh followed Hezekiah and was the most evil of the kings. He put an Asherah in the Temple, which is a picture of the Abomination of Desolation (2 Kings 21.1-9). Jer 10.1-5 deals with making an Asherah out of a tree and decorating it like they did to all idols. Some believe this is talking about a “Christmas tree” but it isn’t, it is talking about cutting a tree down, carving it and making an idol out of it. The biggest problem in the faith today is that we have learned the ways of the nations and have merged the worship of the Ba’alim and the Asherim, gave it new names and called it Christianity. The Lord would rather have us totally with him or against him, than to mix pagan worship with the true worship of God (Rev 3.16; Zeph 1,12; 1 Kings 18.21). Yeshua said in Matt 6.24 that we cannot serve two masters.
Judean kings had erotic figures with Hathor wigs in their tombs. Why? To ensure rebirth through potency in the next life, or to enable the deceased to lead and enjoyable existence. The Egyptian version of Asherah is Qudshu, meaning “holy.” There are pictures of her standing naked on a lion flanked by Min, the Egyptian god of fertility, and the Canaanite god Reshef. Other names for Qudshu were Artemis, Diana, Aphrodite, Venus, Asherah, Ishtar, Astarte, Europa, Semiramis and “Mary” in Catholicism. Artemis, or Diana, is seen with many breasts and male genitalia. We have mentioned Hathor wigs previously, so let’s give some information on that. Hathor is an Egyptian goddess who personified joy, feminine and erotic love and motherhood. She was the most important deity in the history of Egypt. Her beautiful hair is symbolized by a wig in pictures. These “wigs” have been found carved into the stone slab where a head would rest in a tomb in Jerusalem. The deceased would have their head placed in this Hathor “wig” to symbolize fertility, power and life after death.
The “bull” was related to Hathor and her “wig” looked like horns “coming down”, and remember she is equal to Asherah. In Israel, cows and bulls were worshipped and this started in Exo 32 with the golden calf and it was carried over to the northern tribes by Jeroboam in 1 Kings 12.25-33, where he built a cult center in Dan and Bethel involving these symbols. He also changed the festivals, the place to worship and the priesthood and was one of the first examples of replacement theology in the Scriptures. No matter what form you find the “Asherah” (a tree, bull, cow, wigs, etc) it always related to potency, fertility, eroticism and life after death. This is what is meant in Micah 1.13 and the “beginning of sin” in Israel. It was never destroyed by Joshua and idolatry spread from there, leading to the destruction of both Israel and Judah.
In Part 7 we will pick up here and begin to apply these concepts to what we see today. Rev 17.5 says that Babylon is the mother of harlots and we will pick up there and discuss how this harlotry is seen today.