The Bible makes it clear that the official state religion of Israel was the sole worship of the God Yahweh, centered at the Jerusalem Temple. Archaeological remains, however, demonstrate that popular Israelite religion was in fact quite diverse. In these articles, hand-selected by the Biblical Archaeology Society editors especially for members of the BAS Library, you’ll learn that some Israelites believed Yahweh had a wife, Asherah, while many sought the aid of Yahweh through idolatrous figurines, cult stands and standing stones.


A Temple Built for Two
Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2008 By William G. Dever

First Publication: A Newly Discovered House Shrine Should We Ignore Unprovenanced Artifacts? A long, sometimes bitter debate has been going on in BAR as to whether Yahweh, the God of ancient Israel, had a consort. One of America’s most prominent Biblical archaeologists, William G. Dever, says that in popular religion he sometimes did. Others […]

Pagan Yahwism: The Folk Religion of Ancient Israel
Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2001 By Ephraim Stern

The Bible imagines the religion of ancient Israel as purely monotheistic. And doubtless there were Israelites, particularly those associated with the Jerusalem Temple, who were strict monotheists. But the archaeological evidence (and the Bible, too, if you read it closely enough) suggests that the monotheism of many Israelites was far from pure. For them, […]

Sacred Stones in the Desert
Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2001 By Uzi Avner

Take even a one- or two-day trip through the Sinai or Negev deserts and you’ll come across scores of them—standing stones erected in a variety of combinations. These stone installations may help us understand the very origins of Israelite religion. They dot the landscape of the Bible’s desert lands. The Hebrew Bible calls them […]

Was Yahweh Worshiped as the Sun?
Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1994 By J. Glen Taylor

Did Yahweh,a the Israelite God, have a consort? Like many other scholars, I believe that a substantial number of Israelites thought so. Unlike most others scholars, however, I believe that many of these same Israelites considered the sun a symbol or icon of Israel’s God, Yahweh. Yet early Israel was far more developed than […]

Did Yahweh Have a Consort?
Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 1979 By Zeʼev Meshel

The book of Kings describes a time during the 9th–7th centuries B.C. when the land was divided into two kingdoms—Judah in the south and Israel in the north. Phoenicia and Israel were linked by commerce and royal marriages and Hebrew monotheism struggled to resist the attraction of pagan gods. The prophets Elijah, Elisha, Amos […]

Did God Have a Wife?
Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 2006 By Shmuel Ahituv

Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel

Understanding Asherah—Exploring Semitic Iconography
Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 1991 By Ruth Hestrin

I would like to focus on a single well-known archaeological artifact as an entry into ancient Semitic iconography. More specifically, I would like to examine the Lachish ewer—and related artifacts—in order better to understand the ancient Canaanite goddess Asherah,1 who is mentioned at least 40 times in the Hebrew Bible. From the Biblical references, […]

Who or What Was Yahweh’s Asherah?
Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 1984 By André Lemaire

New inscriptions from two different sites have reopened the debate about the meaning of asherah, a term often used in the Bible. Is it—or she—a goddess? Is it a holy place? Or perhaps a sacred tree? Or a pole? Or possibly a grove of trees? All these suggestions have been proposed at one time […]

Part II: The Development of Israelite Religion
Bible Review, October 1992

In the August 1992 BR we published the first part of a three-part interview with the world-renowned scholar Frank Moore Cross (see Frank Moore Cross—An Interview, BR 08:04). The interview, conducted in Cross’s home in Lexington, Massachusetts, occurred on the occasion of his retirement as Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages at […]