Alice C. Linsley
The term "Asherah" appears forty times in the Hebrew Bible and yet the exact nature of this term is unclear. Sometimes the Asherah is a pole, a carved post, a pillar, a sacred grove, a goddess, or a cult object. Some biblical rulers tolerated and even encouraged the Asherah cult. Others opposed it. But what exactly were they opposing?
Perhaps the ambiguity is purposeful and intended. The Asherah cult was not contained in Jerusalem and was not easily controlled by the Jerusalem elite who discouraged local and regional shrines. They sought to boost the prestige of the Jerusalem Temple as a symbol of Jewish identity, especially after the Babylonian captivity.However, earlier in Israel's history, an Asherah statue stood in Solomon's temple. When Rehoboam came to the throne, Maacah, his wife and the queen mother, became the royal patron of the cult. Asherah's statue stood within the Jerusalem Temple throughout Rehoboam's reign and throughout the short reign of his son, Abijah.
In ancient Egypt, some royal daughters were appointed to the positions of the God’s Wife (Hemet Netjer) and the Divine Adoratrice (Duat Netjer). These offices were held by women of high social rank, like the queen’s mother, or the wife of the high priest of the most favored royal temple.
Ahmose I (r. 1550-1525 BC) appointed his principal wife to the office of the God’s Wife of Amun, and he endowed the office with financial resources, servants, real estate, and provided a royal retinue fitting the wife of Amun.
Some women attained high rank as royal officials (sometimes termed "priestesses") in charge of Hathor shrines. The shrines were located at sources of water such as rivers, oases, or wells in sacred groves. This suggests that the term Asherah is related to the Egyptian deity Ash, the protector of those who traveled the trade routes between the Nile and Mesopotamia. He was the guardian of oases.