Zev Radovan

Revealing figurines. The quartet shown here is just a sample of more than 3,000 statuettes recovered from ancient Israel. Somewhat more chaste than their Canaanite predecessors—they emphasize the breasts only, not the lower body—these figurines are associated with the goddess Asherah. While in the Canaanite cult Asherah may have been the consort of the male god Baal, in Israelite folk religion she likely served as the patron of women who wished to conceive and of new mothers.

Oddly, we cannot link these thousands of figurines with specific terms in the Bible, William Dever points out. The Biblical authors may have been embarrassed by the widespread popularity of the statuettes, he suggests. Dever believes that in their frequent condemnations of the cult of Asherah, the Bible’s authors may have revealed more than they wished: Asherah was an important facet of Israelite life, as the numerous figurines suggest.