Miles to go...

I have miles to go... please pray each day for the next leg of my Biblical journey!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Days 31 & 32: Gods & Godesses

2 Chronicles 17:3-6

New Living Translation (NLT)
By Hanay (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ]
The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the example of his father’s early years[a] and did not worship the images of Baal. He sought his father’s God and obeyed his commands instead of following the evil practices of the kingdom of Israel. So the Lord established Jehoshaphat’s control over the kingdom of Judah. All the people of Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so he became very wealthy and highly esteemed. He was deeply committed to[b] the ways of the Lord. He removed the pagan shrines and Asherah poles from Judah.


We read a lot in the Bible about various gods and goddesses. Two of the most common ones we see in scripture are Baal and Asherah. Well, not Asherah herself, so much as Asherah poles and groves (sites of numerous poles). Who exactly are Asherah and Baal, anyway?

I guess I should start with a bit of a disclaimer. I believe in only one God, the living God, our heavenly father. I don't believer any of the other gods and goddesses worshiped throughout history, including biblical times, were real. They were real to the people who served them, of course, and they certainly were real in the sense that Israelites were known to "play the harlot" and worship them instead of God... And we know that God expressed His jealous anger over other gods and goddesses. But that doesn't mean they really existed, other than in the hearts and minds of humans. That is the biggest threat to our relationship with God, isn't it? The fickle nature of our hearts and minds, to go chasing off after anything that we give priority over our Father?

Anyway, back to who these two idols were. Before the Israelites were brought into the Promised Land, which was the land of Canaan, the native people there worshiped the male "creator" god, named El. This wasn't creator in the same sense as our God, this was creator in the sense of fertility. As is the case with any mythological gods, El had wives, the first of whom was Asherah.  She was a fertility goddess, the mother of life, and gave birth to El's son, Baal, and 69 others. El also had another wife, Anath, but it was Asherah alone who was believed to be the mother of all gods.

The day came when Baal grew up and got too big for his britches, and decided to overthrow his daddy. According to the myths, he launched a surprise attack on El's palace and took not only the throne, but his father's wives, as well. Yes, you read that right... his mother was now one of his own wives. 

Incest was not Baal's only sexual deviation, though. Before going down to meet with Mot, the god of death, Baal, the god of fertility, mated with a cow, and the cow bore him a son. Remember here, I'm just relaying the mythology behind he gods who were worshiped by other people in the Bible. Who knows the outcome of that battle when Baal met with Mot, but his mother/wife started looking for a replacement for him, at the request of her former husband El, and the other wife, Anath, went off in search of Baal's corpse. Apparently she found him, and because of her, both Mot and Baal reappeared in mythology, and Mot finally surrendered to Baal as the supreme deity.

So the gods and goddesses of fertility were pretty nasty, engaging in everything from incest to bestiality, and if one believes that Baal was actually dead for 7 years, necrophilia. Can you say "ewwwwww!". Yeah, gross.

Let's get past who they were now and look at how people worshiped them. Asherah was known not only as the goddess of fertility, but the mother of all gods, and the mother of life. Near to the altar where sacrifices were made to Baal were what are known as Asherah poles, or Ashera groves (numerous poles.) It's interesting that these poles were actually made from trees that had been stripped bare of branches and then carved to resemble either the image of the goddess herself, or the image of a phallus. I'm not making that up, you can actually find photographs of poles still in existence that are carved in both symbols. There seems to be some link between the modern day "tree of life" symbol that is so popular in jewelry and wire sculptures that represent "Mother Earth", and Asherah, the mother of life. I guess it's pretty easy to draw the comparison, especially since Asherah poles were made of trees. Still, I have decided I'll never make jewelry with the popular tree of life symbol.  It doesn't seem so innocent in light of all this information.

The celebrations of worship centering on the god and goddess included shrine prostitutes, both male and female who had no particular preference as to which gender they cavorted with, and all sorts of ritualistic sex. No wonder God abhorred Baal and Asherah so much. Sex was designed to be this beautiful gift that God gave to married couples, and this religion twisted it into a celebration of every kind of perversion and deviance possible! It's a celebration that seems to have never dissipated, either. Even in today's culture, sexual perversion is celebrated. And just like in those days of old, we who worship God and view sex as a sacred gift between a husband and wife are viewed with contempt by the secular world.

I think that's why I selected this topic. People always think that they're coming up with something new. But really, each generation has its own 'sexual revolution', which is really not a revolution at all. Instead, it is a revulsion of every good thing from God. As a society, we wonder why God doesn't hear our prayers. Maybe we should look back at history for the answer, and remember that God turned His back on His children when they abandoned God in favor of their Baal's and Asherahs. 

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