222. Baalim Asheroth

Judges 3:7; Deuteronomy 33:24; Deuteronomy 33:25; Judges 2:11; Judges 6:25-30; Judges 8:33; Judges 10:10; 1 Samuel 7:4; 1 Samuel 12:10; 1 Kings 16:33; 2 Kings 17:10; 2 Kings 17:16; 2 Kings 21:3; 2 Kings 21:7; 2 Kings 23:6; 2 Kings 23:7; 2 Chronicles 24:7; 2 Chronicles 24:18; 2 Chronicles 33:3; 2 Chronicles 33:19; Jeremiah 2:23; Jeremiah 9:14; Hosea 2:7  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Judges 3:77And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves. (Judges 3:7). The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves.
Baalim is the plural of Baal. Gesenius defines it “images of Baal.” Against this, however, it has been said that the verbs which are associated in the Bible with the word Baalim are not verbs which are used in connection with images, such as “set up,” “cast down,” “adorn,” or “break in pieces”; but rather verbs which are used in connection with heathen deities, for example, “to serve,” “worship,” “seek to,” “go after,” “put away.” See Fairbairn’s Imp. Bib. Dict., vol.1, pp. 137,167. Some of these latter terms, however, can be used as properly in reference to images as to deities.
Some writers explain the word as indicating or including the various modifications of Baal, such as Baal-Peor, Baal-Berith, Baal-Zebub. This might find illustration in Hosea 2:1717For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name. (Hosea 2:17): “For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name.”
Others suppose Baalim to be what the old grammarians called the pluralis excellentioe; a form of speech designed to describe the god in the wide extent of his influence and the various modes of his manifestation. The word is of frequent occurrence in the Old Testament. See Judges 2:11; 8:33; 10:1011And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: (Judges 2:11)
33And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baal-berith their god. (Judges 8:33)
10And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, saying, We have sinned against thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim. (Judges 10:10)
; 1 Samuel 7:4; 12:104Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the Lord only. (1 Samuel 7:4)
10And they cried unto the Lord, and said, We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord, and have served Baalim and Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve thee. (1 Samuel 12:10)
; 2 Chronicles 24:77For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken up the house of God; and also all the dedicated things of the house of the Lord did they bestow upon Baalim. (2 Chronicles 24:7); Jeremiah 2:23; 9:1423How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim? see thy way in the valley, know what thou hast done: thou art a swift dromedary traversing her ways; (Jeremiah 2:23)
14But have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them: (Jeremiah 9:14)
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2. The word asheroth, here rendered “groves,” is often found either in singular or plural form. In most places where it is used, the word “groves” is evidently inappropriate, though in this our English translation is like the Septuagint and the Vulgate. Belden, the eminent lawyer and antiquarian, in his work De Diis Syris Syntagmata Duo, published in 1617, was the first to suggest that the word must be understood to mean, at least in some places, not groves, but images of Ashtoreth, the companion deity to Baal. This is the view now entertained by some of the best critics. It is certainly more correct to speak of making images than to say that groves were made. If the words “image of Ashtoreth” or “images of Ashtoreth” are substituted for the word “grove” or “groves” in the following passages the sense will be much clearer: 1 Kings 16:3333And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him. (1 Kings 16:33); 2 Kings 17:16; 21:316And they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. (2 Kings 17:16)
3For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. (2 Kings 21:3)
; 2 Chronicles 33:33For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. (2 Chronicles 33:3). So in 2 Kings 17:1010And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree: (2 Kings 17:10) and in 2 Chronicles 33:1919His prayer also, and how God was entreated of him, and all his sin, and his trespass, and the places wherein he built high places, and set up groves and graven images, before he was humbled: behold, they are written among the sayings of the seers. (2 Chronicles 33:19) it is said that asheroth wore set up; that is, these wooden figures of Ashtoreth, in addition to the graven images also mentioned. In the days of Josiah there was an asherah in God’s house. We are told in 2 Kings 23:66And he brought out the grove from the house of the Lord, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people. (2 Kings 23:6), what the good king did with it; “And he brought out the grove from the house of the Lord, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people.” All this Is much more appropriately said of an image than of a grove. This asherah likewise had over it a canopy or tent, woven by the women (2 Kings 23:77And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the grove. (2 Kings 23:7)). It was doubtless the same image which Manasseh had put into the house of the Lord (2 Kings 21:77And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the Lord said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever: (2 Kings 21:7)). From Judges 6:25-3025And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto him, Take thy father's young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it: 26And build an altar unto the Lord thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down. 27Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the Lord had said unto him: and so it was, because he feared his father's household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night. 28And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built. 29And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing? And when they inquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing. 30Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it. (Judges 6:25‑30), and from other passages which speak of the asheroth as cut or burnt, it appears that they were made of wood. Some suppose that the expression “stamped it small to powder,” in the text above quoted, indicates that the asherah in that instance was made of metal, since otherwise there would have been no need or stamping it after burning; but the king may have pulverized the burnt wood in order more deeply to express his detestation of the idolatry which had occasioned its erection.
The asherah of the Phoenicians is thought by some writers to be connected with the “sacred tree” of the Assyrians, an object which appears very frequently on the Assyrian monuments. If this conjecture be based on fact we may find in the representations of the sacred tree which have come down to us a picture of the asherah which the idolatrous Jews worshiped.
Another opinion, which has found favor in some quarters, is, that Asherah was the name of a goddess worshiped by the Canaanites, either Ashtoreth or some other. The word “served” in the text, and in 2 Chronicles 24:1818And they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass. (2 Chronicles 24:18), seems at first to sanction this view; but as the passages previously quoted evidently speak of wooden images, it is probable that in these two texts the symbol is put, by metonymy, for the divinity.
A learned English writer, some years ago, advanced a very singular idea in reference to the asherah. He suggested that it was “an armillary and astronomical machine or instrument, erected long, very long ago—quite in the primitive ages”; that it was used for purposes of divination in connection with idolatrous worship; that it was probably about the height of a man, and had small balls branching off curvedly from the sustaining rod or axis; and that this axis was made of iron and brass, the bottom being set in a socket of stone, in which it turned as a pivot, requiring oil for lubrication. In proof of this last assertion he refers to the blessing which Moses pronounced on Asher (Deut. 33:24-2524And of Asher he said, Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil. 25Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be. (Deuteronomy 33:24‑25)). He assumes that the word Asher in that text has reference to the asherah; that the shoes of iron and brass refer to the axis of the armillary machine, the foot of which is dipped in oil, that it may revolve more easily! The reasoning of his lengthy dissertation is more curious than conclusive. See Sabaean Researches, by John Landseer, Essay VIII.