EA 191/British Museum

The sexy goddess Qudshu, believed to be the Egyptian equivalent of the Canaanite fertility goddess Asherah, stands atop a lion on this memorial stela of Qeh, a 13th-century foreman of workers who lived at Deir el-Medina, Egypt, and worked across the Nile in the royal grave complex at Thebes. The curvaceous Qudshu passes a lotus blossom to the Egyptian deity Min, with his erect phallus, and snakes to the Canaanite war-god Resheph, with his spear. In the lower relief, Qeh and his family worship the Canaanite war goddess Anat (seated at right), sometimes identified as Resheph’s consort. As Egypt expanded east, several Syro-Palestinian gods were incorporated in the Egyptian pantheon.

Although Psalm 45’s use of scented flowers, spears and battles as sexual metaphors may be lost on modern readers, this language of love and conquest would have been familiar to ancient readers from Egypt to the East.