See Ruth Hestrin, “Understanding Asherah,” BAR 17:05.


Amihai Mazar and John Camp recently identified an Israelite bamah (traditionally, high place) with masseboth (possibly a pair) at Tel Rehov in the Jordan Valley. See Amihai Mazar and John Camp, “Will Tel Rehov Save the United Monarchy?” BAR 26:02.


Elah, variously translated as terebinth, oak, pistachia; I prefer pistachia. But elah can also denote a goddess!



For the early history and archaeology of the Southern Negev see Uzi Avner, Israel Carmi and Dror Segal, “Neolithic to Bronze Age Settlement of the Negev and Sinai in Light of Radiocarbon Dating: A View from the Southern Region,” in Renee Kra and Ofer Bar-Yosef, eds., Late Quaternary Chronology and Paleoclimates of the Eastern Mediterranean (Tucson, AZ: Radiocarbon, 1994), pp. 256–300. For the early agriculture in the Southern Negev see Avner, “Settlement, Agriculture, and Paleoclimate in Uvda Valley, Southern Negev Desert, 6th to 3rd Millennia B.C.” in Arieh Issar and Neville Brown, eds., Water, Environment and Society in Times of Climate Change (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1998), pp. 147–202. For other cult sites in the desert see Avner, “Ancient Cult Sites in the Negev and Sinai Deserts,” Tel Aviv (1984).


For some of the later masseboth see Avner, forthcoming, “Nabatean Standing Stones in the Negev, Their Interpretation and Cultural Context,” Aram 11.


Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Aramaic Inscription of Sefire (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1967) and James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Bible (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1974), pp. 659–661. See also P. Kyle McCarter, Jr. Ancient Inscriptions (Washington, D.C.: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1996), pp. 94–95.


Wolfgang Schramm, “Die Annalen des Assyrischen Konigs Tukulti-Ninurta II,” Bibliotheca Orientalis 27 (1970), pp. 147–160.


For the symbolic thinking of traditional societies see Victor Turner The Forest of Symbols (Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press, 1967), and The Ritual Process (Chicago: Aldine, 1969).


See detailed discussion in Avner, “Masseboth Sites in the Negev and Sinai and Their Significance,” in Joseph Aviram, ed., Second International Congress on Biblical Archaeology in Jerusalem (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1990), pp. 166–181.


For the Asherah in the ancient Near East and in Israel see Raphael Patai, The Hebrew Goddess (Detroit, MI: Wayne State Univ. Press, 1990); Walter A. Maier, Aserah, Extrabiblical Evidence (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1986); Saul M. Olyan, Asherah and the Cult of Yahweh in Israel (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1988); R. J. Pettey, Asherah, Goddess of Israel (New York: Peter Lang, 1990); Steve A. Wiggins, A Reassessment of ‘Asherah’ (Kevelaer: Verlag Butzon & Bercker, 1993). For the representation of the goddess as a triangle see Ruth Hestrin, “The Lachish Ewer and the Asherah,” Israel Exploration Journal 37 (1987), pp. 212–223.


For the interpretation of the tree see Hestrin in note 7 and William G. Dever, “Asherah, Consort of Yahweh? New Evidence from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 255 (1984), pp. 21–27. For different conclusions see also Othmar Keel and Carl Uehlinger, Gods, Goddesses, and the Images of God in Ancient Israel (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1998), pp. 210–248.


See Judith M. Hadley, “Some Drawings and Inscriptions on Two Pithoi from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud,” Vetus Testamentum (VT) 3 (1987), pp. 189–196.


Mordechai Gilula, “To Yahve[h] Shomron and His Ashera” Shnaton 3, pp. 129–137 (Hebrew); Baruch Margalit, “Some Observations on the Inscription and Drawing from Khirbet El-Qom,” VT 39 (1989), pp. 371–378.


See John Emerton, “Yahweh and his Ashera,” VT 49 (1999), pp. 315–337.


See Gilula, and Margalit in note 10, and Dever, “Asherah, Consort of Yahweh?” in note 8. On the questions briefly mentioned here see further discussions and scholarly opinions in Walter Dietrich and Martin A. Klopfenstein, Ein Gott allein? (Freiburg: Universitatsverlag, 1994). See also references in Emerton’s article cited in note 11.


There has been scholarly discussion as to whether the inscription relates to the drawing. Once the figures have been properly identified, the better view seems to be that they do relate to one another; and this is true even if the inscription was later added above the drawing, as suggested by Pirhiya Beck in “The Drawings from Hornat Teiman (Kuntillet ‘Ajrud),” Tel Aviv 9 (1982), pp. 3–68, esp. p. 46.


Yohanan Aharoni, “Arad, Its Inscriptions and Temple,” Biblical Archaeologist 31 (1968), pp. 2–32.


The distinction between official and popular cult is common in discussions on Israelite religion. However, in the May 2000 Centennial Symposium of the Albright Institute and ASOR in Jerusalem, Ziony Zevit lectured on this subject and convincingly denied this dichotomy.


Roland DeVaux, The Early History of Israel (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1978); Yehezkel Kaufmann, The Religion of Israel from its Beginning to the Babylonian Exile, transl. and abridged by Moshe Greenberg (New York: Schocken, 1960).


Raphael Giveon, “Toponymes Ouest-Asiatiques a Soleb,” VT 14 (1964), pp. 239–255; Moshe Weinfeld, “The Tribal League at Sinai,” in Patrick D. Miller, Jr., Paul D. Hanson and S. D. McBride, eds., Ancient Israelite Religion (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1987), pp. 303–314.


Tryggve Mettinger, No Graven Image? (Stockholm: Almquist & Wiksell International, 1995). In a later article he suggests that “programmatic aniconism” developed only in the Exilic or post-Exilic period. Mettinger, “Israelite Aniconism: Developments and Origins,” in Karel Van der Toorn, ed., The Image and the Book (Leuven: Peeters, 1997), pp. 174–204.


See Joseph Patrich, The Formation of Nabatean Art (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1990) and Avner, cited in note 2.


I am grateful to Hanan Eshel, Kenneth Atkinson, Tryggve Mettinger and Ziony Zevit for reading this manuscript and making important comments and corrections. I also thank Rina Feldman-Avner for her help in all stages of preparation of this article.