Over the last two decades scholars have argued about the meaning of three roughly drawn figures and an inscription (“I bless you by Yahweh of Samaria and by his Asherah”) reconstructed from the fragments of a storage jar excavated at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud, in the Sinai desert. Might the inscription imply that some ancient worshipers believed the God of the Israelites had a female consort? If Yahweh is the large figure on the left, which of the other two figures represents his Asherah? Or perhaps the Asherah is shown elsewhere on the jar and not in this drawing at all (see the stylized tree over the lion’s back, reconstructed from other fragments of the same jar). Or could “Asherah” in this context mean Yahweh’s holy place and not even pertain to a consort?

Now Uzi Avner, the author of this article, raises yet another point of contention, this time questioning the accuracy of the reconstruction itself. He argues that the middle figure in the drawing has been erroneously portrayed as male, especially in view of her obviously feminine breasts, and proposes a revised reconstruction of the drawing that would allow the middle figure to be understood as female. That middle figure is the goddess Asherah, he says, wearing a cow mask that resembles the bull mask on the Yahweh figure. Avner further suggests that the position of the male to the left of the female corresponds to the usual positioning of a taller massebah to the left of a shorter and wider massebah in pairs of masseboth found in the desert.