Friday, June 4, 2021

The Cult of Asherah

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. 

There is a long-standing custom of royal women holding office as the protectors of sacred shrines. Sargon (reigned c. 2334–2284 BC) appointed his daughter Heduanna as the "En" of the shrine at Ur. The Akkadian term En means lord, master, royal official, priest or priestess. En-Heduanna served the Creator God Anu, at the house/shrine (pr) of Anu. As with Roman Catholic nuns, she would have been considered “married” to the deity she served. En-Heduanna is credited with a large body of cuneiform poetry.

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.

The powerful influence of the royal mother is evident in the story of Bathsheba appearing before her son, King Solomon. When Bathsheba went to speak to Solomon on behalf of Adonijah, the king stood to greet her, bowed down to her and sat down on his throne. He had a throne brought for the king's mother, and she sat down at Solomon's right hand. (1 Kings 2:19)

Different titles appear in ancient texts for women of such high status. Gebirah is a title ascribed to several queen mothers of Israel and Judah. Maacha is called gebirah (“great lady”) and she is associated with the goddess Asherah. Asherah is likely a reference to Hathor who was venerated by the Horite and Sethite Hebrew, but this practice was problematic for Jews who rejected the belief in God Son.

Ash holding the royal scepter with the Horus totem.

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. 

The archetypal queen mother is Hathor, called Ashratu in Mesopotmia. Ashratu and Asherah are related to Ash, the Sethite Hebrew deity of water shrines.

Another title for royal ladies who served at water shrines is rabitu. Ra-bitu is from the Akkadian words for water (raatu) and house/shrine (biitu). The emblem of the rabitu was the spindle. In the Ugaritic mythology of Elimelek the queen mother holds the title "ra-bitu" and her emblem is the spindle.

According to Tradition, the Annunciaton took place when Mary went to the Temple well. Mary is shown in some icons holding a spindle. The King's Mother is a type of the Virgin Mary, who is crowned by the Sun (Revelation 12:1-5), as a symbol of her being divinely overshadowed (Luke 1:35).

She fulfills the Horite Hebrew expectation that a woman of their ruler-priest caste would conceive the son of God by divine overshadowing as shown in ancient images of Hathor.

I propose that the Asherah cult was associated with water shrines where women sought divine help to conceive. The solar symbolism and the cow-calf imagery suggest a connection to Hathor and the religion of the Horite Hebrew. (See Hathor Veneration at Timna.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

What Fugitives Faced in the Cities of Refuge


Alice C. Linsley

The six cities of refuge were under the authority of ruler-priests who were trained in the law. These were priests of the Horite Hebrew caste and their descendants were called "Levites." (See The Six Cities of Refuge.) The book of Leviticus provides a look at some of their ritual and moral laws.

The priest-judges took testimony and deliberated until they determined the guilt or innocence of the party seeking refuge. These were serious cases since the shedding of human blood polluted the land and the person responsible for the killing.

The cities of refuge were safe havens for one who accidentally killed, but people who killed intentionally went there also. When a person arrived at a city of refuge, court messengers protected the person and escorted him to the court.

Parties found guilty of murder by the priests faced execution. Innocent parties were to remain in the city until the death of the High Priest, at which time the party could return to his people and he was not to be harmed by any act of retribution.

If a fugitive died before the high priest, he was buried in the city of refuge. His body could be moved for reburial after the high priest died.

Moses fled to the priest of Midian after he killed an Egyptian, and he remained there until the Pharaoh died. The Pharaoh had the same spiritual and legal authority in his Kingdom as the High Priest had in Israel. Moses returned to Egypt after the Pharaoh died. God told Moses, "Go back to Egypt, for all those who were seeking your life are dead” (Exodus 4:19). This suggests that the legal precedent for treatment of fugitives in the cities of refuge predates Moses.

Among the Kings of Egypt, the more serious the offense, the more terrible the punishment. The Hayes Papyrus of the Late Middle Kingdom (3100-2250 BC) refers to five laws dealing with fugitives. Some fugitives were branded (D. Lorton, p. 18), and banished (like Cain). 

The most serious crimes were those against the throne: robbing royal graves, insurrection, and hiding political enemies. The punishment for robbing grave goods and selling them was impalement, followed by dismemberment. Insurrection was sometimes met by being fed to the crocodiles, which would result in the second death since the body and the soul could not be reunited in the afterlife.

King Nubkheperra Intef (1571-1565 BC) had a Hyskos rival who apparently sought refuge in the Temple of Min. That temple was under the authority of the priest Teti, son of Minhetep. Intef responded by ordering an audit of the temple to uncover irregularities. Whether Teti was guilt of harboring a fugitive is not certain, but Teti was removed from office, lost all royal benefits to himself and his family, and his sons were no longer able to fill the hereditary office. Similar penalties were applied to an Egyptian ship captain who harbored a political fugitive about 240 years earlier (D. Lorton, p. 22).

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Six Cities of Refuge


Alice C. Linsley

The Bible speaks of cities of refuge. They are Bezer, Golan, Hebron, Kedesh, Ramoth, and Shechem. Of the 48 settlements assigned to the Levites, only these 6 were to provide refuge for the person who was found innocent of killing another human. 

The cities of refuge were home to priestly clans, which suggests that the person seeking refuge was examined by men trained in the law who also could offer sacrifice and ritual cleansing of blood guilt. The blood that fell to the ground polluted the place. It cries out to God (Gen. 4:10). The one who murders deserves death, but God alone knows to work perfect justice. Cain’s killing of his brother brought him banishment. Perhaps the idea of a city of refuge begins with the city Cain established (Gen. 4:17).

Killing another human imposed blood guilt on the killer, even if the killing were accidental or unintentional. Blood was viewed has having power. Warriors became polluted after combat and sought ritual cleansing to relieve them of blood guilt. This is what Melchizedek did for Abraham after the battle of the kings. Melchizedek, the Jebusite ruler-priest of Jerusalem, also ministered to his Horite kinsman Abraham by providing bread and wine (Gen. 14:18).

People who accidentally kill another human need the ministry of a priest because priests are trained to hear confessions, pronounce absolution, and can offer the Eucharist with special intention for the deceased and the living victim. In our time, no such provision is made for the innocent who kill or for returning warriors.

Precedent for Refuge Cities

It is likely that the custom of sanctuary cities predates the time of Moses. Abel Beth Maacah appears to have been a city of refuge and its areas  F, O and B date to the Middle Bronze Age (2200-1570 BC). Sheba fled there to escape capture by David’s men (2 Sam. 20:14-22). It was a city of great antiquity, and before the time of Moses it was known as a place where serious disputes were resolved (2 Samuel 2:18). About the city, “They used to say in the old days, ‘Let them inquire at Abel’; and so they would settle a matter.” (New Revised Standard Version)

Abel Beth Maacah appears to have been influenced by the Phoenicians and the Arameans. In 2017, a small faience head of a bearded man was found there that is Phoenician in style. Also Tel Abel Beth Maacah is in close proximity to the Phoenician coast. The city’s location allows passage north to Ijon (Tell ed-Dibbin) in Lebanon’s Marj Ayyun Valley, and west to Tyre and Sidon. It was also the gateway to the Arameans

It is known that the Phoenicians provided shrines and sacred precints as refuges for fugitives. The Horite Hebrew among the Arameans also probably provided refuge sites, especially since all 6 refuge cities of Israel can be traced back to the Horite Hebrew ruler-priest caste which was dispersed from the Nile to Mesopotamia.

Bezer was of the Horite Hebrew clan of Merari, son of Levi, son of Jacob, son of Isaac,son of Abraham, son of Terah, son of the Aramean ruler-priest Nahor the Elder (Gen 11:22-32). Na-Hor means "One devoted to Horus." Early Bronze Age (3100-1200 BC) finds have been uncovered here, including a wall in Field W2 and a 4-room house in Field C.

Bezer later cameunder the control of the Moabite King Mesha who rebuilt the city as stated on the Mesha Inscription (Line 27). The Moabites descended from Nahor and Terah also. In the eighth century, Bezer came under control of the Ammonites. The Moabites and Ammonites were kin. Both peoples trace ancestry to Nahor the Elder. Moab and Ammon were the sons of Lot, the son of Haran, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor.

Golan was a city of Bashan under Og (Deut. 4:43; Num. 21:33; Josh 20:8), whose clan belonged to the three-clan confederation of Horites: Og, Gog and Magog

Hebron was at the northern boundary of Abraham's territory and Abraham was Horite Hebrew. Hebron was called Kiriath-Arba. Arba was the father of Anak, one of the "mighty men of old" (Gen. 6). Arba or Arbu may have been a fugitive, like Cain. The term arbu in ancient Akkadian means fugitive or runaway. 

Kadesh was under the Gershon branch of Levites (Josh 21:32). Gershon was a son of Levi, son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham, son of Terah, son of Nahor. 

Ramoth (Deut.4:43; Josh 20:8, Josh 21:38) belonged to Gad, Jacob's seventh son (1 Kings 4:13). There appears to have been close relations with Bashan and with Jair, son of Manasseh, son of Jospeh, son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham, son of Terah, son of Nahor. The king's official in Ramoth had authority over the land of Argob in Bashan and the towns of Jair (Yair) in Gilead. Jair judged Israel for 22 years. His inheritance was in Gilead through the line of Machir, the son of Manasseh.

Jair is a Horite Hebrew name associated with the Horite Hebrew settlement of Bethlehem (1 Chron. 4:4; 1 Chron. 2:51). After David became king, he brought the ark "from the house of Abinadab, that was in Gibeah” to Jerusalem (II Sam. 6:1-12). However, for three months the ark rested in David’s hometown of Bethlehem on the property of Obed-Edom and it was guarded by Jair of Bethlehem.

Shechem was a place of worship for Abraham and Jacob, both of whom built altars there. Genesis 34:2 specifies Shechem as a Hivite or Horite settlement. E.A. Speiser called attention to Hurrian/Horite personal names associated with Shechem and with other areas whose inhabitants the Bible calls Hivites. He noted the juxtaposition of the Hurrian Jebusites and the Hivites in various biblical references and he concluded that “Hivite” was a biblical term for Horite/Hurrian. Speiser supported his identification of the biblical Hivites with the Horite/Hurrians by reference to Genesis 36:2 and 36:20, where the terms Hivite and Horite are used interchangeably. In Genesis 36:2, Zibeon is called a Hivite, and in Genesis 36:20 Zibeon is identified as a Horite descendent of Seir. 

Other examples of the interchange of the terms Hivite and Horite may be found by comparing the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint. The Septuagint reads "Horites" for the "Hivite" of the Masoretic Text in Genesis 34:2 and Joshua 9:7.


A detailed look at the history of the 6 cities of refuge suggests that they were under the authority of the Horite Hebrew ruler-priests and the establishment of refuge at shrine cities should to credited to this very ancient caste of priests.

Related reading: Who Were The Horite Hebrew?The Faith of the Early Hebrew Delivered to Us; Hebrew Priests in Aram, Edom, Moab and Judah; What Fugitives Faced in the Cities of Refuge

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Where Judaism and Christianity Part Ways


Is Christianity an extension of Judaism? Historically, Christians and Jews share many values, read the Old Testament texts, and have similar liturgical practices such as Scripture readings, recitation of the Psalms, creeds, sermons, feasts and fasts, etc. However, Christians and Jews do not agree on the substance of Abraham's faith whereby he was justified (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6, and James 2:23).

Judaism emerged long after the time of Abraham. We trace its development through post-exilic texts and through history, especially the Persian Period. The biblical narrative begins with Cyrus II of Persia who reigned from 559-530 BC.

The Book of Ezra continues where 2 Chronicles ends with Cyrus's proclamation permitting residents of his empire who were deported from Judah to return their ancestral home. The proclamation was not limited to people of Judah. Cyrus encouraged many peoples to establish their own temples in their indigenous lands. Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in 458 BC, so he was among the earlier immigrants. At that time Judah (Yehud) was a province of the Persian Empire and the appointed governor was Sheshbazzar.

Cyrus assumed control of Syria-Palestine when Babylon fell. He replaced some key officials with his own men, and Sheshbazzar was one of his appointees who enforced the policies of Cyrus. That meant aiding in the rebuilding of the Temple. During the reign of Cambyses (530-522 BC) Zerubbabel was appointed governor of Judah and the rebuilding of the Temple continued until it was finally completed during the reign of Darius I (522-486 BC). The Second Temple was dedicated in 516 BC.

During the reign of Xerxes I (486-465 BC) there was a concentrated effort to finish rebuilding the wall and Nehemiah was sent to assist with this project in 445 BC. Nehemiah became the governor of Judah and served under both Artaxerxes I and Darius II (423-405).

The Persian political influence on the returnees (who we can now refer to as “Jews”) was strong. However, they worked to establish an identity that rested on the authority of Moses as the Lawgiver. Ezra and Nehemiah insist that their innovations are applications of Mosaic Torah. They helped the Second Temple community develop as sense of being the fulfillment of the Land promised to Abraham and his descendants. This is the foundation of the religion of Judaism.

Judaism is the elaboration of rabbinic thought over 2500 years, and though it claims Abraham as its founder, Abraham was not a Jew. He was Horite Hebrew and the Horite Hebrew believed in God Father and God Son. Clearly, Judaism is not the religion of Abraham.

Prominent Jews readily admit that Abraham's Hebrew faith and Judaism are not the same. Rabbi Stephen F. Wise, former Chief Rabbi of the United States, wrote: "The return from Babylon and the introduction of the Babylonian Talmud mark the end of Hebrewism and the beginning of Judaism. This break came around 500 BC, at least 1500 years after Abraham.

For Jews, the greatest authority is the Talmud, as SUNY professor, Robert Goldberg explains: “The traditional Jew studies Talmud because it communicates ultimate truth—truth about God, truth about the world, and most important, truth about how God wants the holy community of Israel to live.”

The Rabbis are trained in argumentation and the Talmud is a record of their disputations. One drawback is the tendency of the rabbis to debate minutiae and esoteric matters. Over time the Talmud came to be of greater authority than the Hebrew Scriptures. The Talmud encourages this. Consider this exhortation: “My son, be more careful in the observance of the words of the Scribes than in the words of the Torah." (Talmud Erubin 21b), and this: "My son, give heed to the words of the scribes rather than to the words of the law." This also, "He who transgresses the words of the Scribes sins more gravely than the transgressors of the words of the Law." (Sanhedrin X, 3 f.88b)

Related readings: The Substance of Abraham's Faith; Abraham's Faith Lives in Christianity; Trinitarian Correspondences Between the Nile and Mesopotamia; Christianity is the One True Messianic Faith

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Something to Consider


Wall painting at Thebes

Many of the topics explored at this blog are also discussed in the international Facebook forum The Bible and Anthropology. Those discussions are lively and informative. 

That forum is not for theological conversation. Rather, we identify and discuss anthropologically significant data in the canonical texts. The purpose of the group is to advance the science of Biblical Anthropology.

These are a few of the topics we consider at that forum:

  • The social structure of the biblical Hebrew
  • Kinship analysis
  • Ancient biblical populations
  • Burial practices and grave goods of biblical populations
  • Artifacts and dating
  • Solar symbolism
  • Origins of the Messianic Faith (before Judaism)
  • The dispersion of the Horite Hebrew ruler-priest caste
  • Linguistic connections between Sumerian, Akkadian, and other Semitic languages
  • DNA studies that pertain to biblical populations

If you enjoy reading the posts at Biblical Anthropology, you will enjoy the discussions at The Bible and Anthropology. The members come from around the globe and represent different religions, including Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. We even have a few agnostics. Consider joining the forum. You would be welcome!

Alice C. Linsley

Friday, March 19, 2021

Two-Headed Statues


One of three 8000-year two-headed figures found at 'Ain Ghazal.

Two-headed busts have been found in Africa, Anatolia, Cyprus, Jericho, 'Ain Ghazal, Tell Brak (Syria), and Çatal Hüyük (Turkey). These may represent deities, honored ancestors, or deified rulers or chiefs. The oldest are classified as Pre-Pottery Neolithic statuary.

Among the Yoruba, the head is regarded as the seat of an individual’s essential energy and being.

Two-headed Nkisi from the Democratic Republic of Congo (19th century).

The two-headed busts have parallels in the iconography of twin gods or goddesses from Neolithic times. Small statues and large reliefs showing two heads are found at Neolithic Çatal Hüyük and Tell Brak, and in Anatolia and Cyprus.

This practice of doubling is to images what reduplication is in language: it makes the message emphatic. It grabs the attention, and implies that the subject has extraordinary powers of seeing and hearing, suggesting omniscience.
Deities with two, three, and four faces are common in the iconography of many ancient populations. The Assyrian goddess Ishtar sometimes appears with two heads: “Istar of Nineveh is Tiamat … she has [4 eyes] and 4 ears...”

There are textual references in Enuma Elish concerning the two heads of the Babylonian hero Marduk. The following verses emphasize the divine nature of the subject.

Anu his father’s begetter beheld him,
And rejoiced, beamed; his heart was filled with joy.
He made him so perfect that his godhead was doubled.
… Four were his eyes, four were his ears…

In another translation:

“When Ea who begot him saw him, he exulted ... for he saw that he was perfect, and he multiplied his godhead … with four eyes for limitless sight and four ears hearing all ….”

The following verses of Enuma Elish convey the idea of the deity's omniscience, emphasized
by four eyes and four ears:

They (his features) were impossible to understand (and) difficult to behold.
Four were his eyes, four were his ears.
When he moved his lips, fire blazed forth.
Each of his four ears grew large
And (his) eyes likewise, to see everything.

Bicephalic anthropomorphic statuary is found in many parts of the world. This limestone sculpture from Papua New Guinea represents an ancestor.

This 3000-year two-headed figurine was found in Tlatilco.

This two-headed Buddha dates to c.1227.

This two-headed grave marker is in the Caldragh Cemetary on Boa Island in Ireland. It is estimated to be at least 2000 years old.

The biblical version of this concept is found in the multiocular celestial being of Ezekiel's vision (Ezekiel 1:18; 10:12). In certain manuscripts in the Old Church Slavonic this phrase is found with an rare glyph "серафими многоꙮчитїи" (serafimi mnogoočitii - "many-eyed seraphim"). Many-eyed creatures are also part of John's vision in Revelation 4:2-8.

The universality of the custom of two-headed figures attests to its great antiquity. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

Promoting YEC by Undermining the Truth


Alice C. Linsley

I am writing as a pioneer in the emerging science of Biblical Anthropology, an empirical approach to the canonical Scriptures that avoids denominational interpretations. A Biblical Anthropologist studies the Scriptures to identify anthropologically significant data that clarifies the cultural contexts of ancient biblical populations, and especially the social structure of the biblical Hebrew. This interdisciplinary approach considers kinship patterns, morphological study of human fossils, DNA studies, data about the migration of ancient populations, burial practices, and sacred symbols.

Biblical Anthropology is rigorous in that no assertion can be made without data and no assumption can stand untested. Anthropological data in the Scriptures can lead to a better understanding of the origin of the Messianic Faith among Abraham’s ancestors, shine light on contextual incongruities, and uncover antecedents of beliefs and practices. Where did the idea originate that humans were created from the soil? What is the origin of Messianic expectation? Where is the oldest known site of Hebrew worship? What is the significance of the ubiquitous solar symbolism among biblical populations?

Biblical Archaeology and Biblical Anthropology are complementary disciplines. The archaeologist digs artifacts to gain a better understanding of the material culture of populations associated with the Holy Land. The Biblical Anthropologist digs data out of the Bible to better understand the cultures and social patterns of biblical populations from Africa to Europe. The skill sets of the two disciplines are different, but they share a common objective to gain greater clarity.

I see a great deal of pseudo-science and half-truths among anthropologists who disdain religion in general and Christianity in particular. Their scholarship is like a map out of which numerous holes have been cut. Is it any wonder that so few anthropologists are people of faith? In the universities they are never shown the whole map. They miss the paths that lead to verification of the core Christian beliefs and the veracity of Scripture.

Yet anthropology has much to offer to the Church and to those to read the Bible. A principle in anthropological investigation states that the older culture traits, symbols, and beliefs are those found most widely dispersed globally. Expectation of a righteous ruler who would die and rise from the grave and lead his people to immortality was held by the Hebrew (Akkadian: Abrutu) ruler-priests 6000 years ago. They spread this belief wherever they dispersed in the service of kingdom builders like Nimrod. This means that their belief in bodily resurrection is central to the oldest known religion.

Young Earth Creationists consistently ignore anthropological data because it shows that humans have been around for millions of years. By insisting that the Earth is only 6000-8000 years, Young Earth Creationists deny the weighty evidence that God was laying the ground among archaic human populations for the Messianic Faith that would eventually be fulfilled in Jesus.

The hope for immortal life is evident in the widespread, archaic practice of burial in red ocher, a symbolic blood covering. Red ocher burials dating to 300,000 years ago have been found at site GnJh-03 in the Kapthurin Formation of East Africa, and at Twin Rivers in Zambia. 

Red ocher burials dating to 100,000 year ago have been found at the Qafzeh Cave in Lower Galilee.

A man buried at La Chapelle-aux-Saints in southern France was buried in red ocher 45,000 years ago.

A man was buried in red ocher in Paviland Cave, Wales 35,000 years ago.

Four bodies were buried in red ocher at Sungir in Russia 32,000 years ago.

A man was buried in red ocher in Goat's Hole Cave in Wales 27,000 years ago.

The "Fox Lady" of Doini Vestonice, Czechoslovakia, was buried in red ocher 26,000-23,000 years ago. Around the same time, Lake Mungo Woman (LM1) was cremated and her remains were sprinkled with red ocher in Australia.

A woman buried in Santa Maria di Agnano cave in Italy was buried 24,000 years ago with hundreds perforated shells and her head was covered with red ocher paste.

A man buried in Bavaria was buried with mammoth tusks and submerged in red ocher 20,000 years ago. Around the same time, a lady was buried in Paviland, Wales in red ocher. 

A woman was buried in red ocher in El Mirón Cave in Northern Spain 19,000 years ago.

A young child was buried in red ocher 11,000 years ago in Alaska.

The global nature of the practice of red ocher burial tells us that it is extremely old. It suggests that God has been pointing humanity to the Christ event for many thousands of years.

The Bible asserts that life is in the blood. That is true in terms of human biology and it is true in a metaphysical sense. The Blood covering that brings immortality has been revealed. Christians are to make this evident to the world. We cannot do that if we deny the facts or obfuscate the truth.

Related reading: Artifacts of Great Antiquity; On Blood and the Impulse to Immortality, The Age of the Earth and the Evidence of Human Occupation; Genesis and Inerrancy; Righteous Rulers and the Resurrection; Oldowan Culture of Archaic Humans 2.6 Million Years Ago