Did God Have a Wife?

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Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel, (Eerdmans, ISBN 0-8028-2852-3, 2005),[1] is a book by Syro-Palestinian archaeologist William G. Dever, Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Archeology and Anthropology at the University of Arizona. Did God Have a Wife? was intended as a popular work making available to the general public the evidence long known to archaeologists regarding ancient Israelite religion: namely that the Israelite god of antiquity (before 600 BCE), Yahweh, had a consort, that her name was Asherah, and that she was part of the Canaanite pantheon.

The book has nine chapters, plus afterword and a list of sources. Chapters 1 to 3 define the topic and describe the different scholarly approaches to Israelite religion, biblical and non-biblical sources and texts, and the role of Biblical archaeology. Chapter 4, "The Hebrew Bible: Religious Reality or Theological Ideal?" examines cultic terminology and activities in the Hebrew Bible. The core of the book lies in chapters 5, "Archaeological Evidence for Folk Religions in Ancient Israel", 6 "The Goddess Asherah and Her Cult", and 7 "Asherah, Women's Cults, and 'Official Yahwism'". These chapters describe polytheistic religion in ancient Israel, which, Dever points out, was the reality in the religious lives of most people. The last two chapters (chapter 8: "From Polytheism to Monotheism" and chapter 9: "What Does the Goddess Do to Help") sum up the book, concluding that biblical monotheism is an artificial phenomenon, the product of the elite, nationalist parties who wrote and edited the Hebrew Bible during the Babylonian exile as a response to the trauma of the conquest, and subsequently enforced it in their homeland during the early Persian period. Dever also notes that folk religion and the role of the goddess did not disappear under official monotheistic Yahwism, but instead went underground, to find a home in the magic and mysticism of later Judaism.[2]

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