"Thus saith the LORD the
King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am
the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no
God.Fear ye not, neither be afraid; have not I told thee
from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my
witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no
God; I know not any." Isaiah 44:6-8
I (Dr Michael Heiser, Author of "The
Unseen Realm") received an email today asking this
“Mike – is this a good rendition? I read where an
early rendition of Deuteronomy 33.2-3, when Asherah’s
influence had not yet been fully subordinated reads:
‘YHWH came from Sinai and shone forth…. at his right
hand his own Asherah’.”
Short answer: No — this is a hack job. But I thought
this one deserved some paleobabble love.
The source for the question was this piece of click-bait
by Anya Leonard: “Asherah: God’s Forgotten Wife.”
The link takes you the Ancient Origins website, a site
that tries to appear academic, but is nothing more than
a non sequitur candy store for ancient alien theory and
alternative history (using that last term as loosely as
Back in 2011 I blogged “Yahweh and Asherah: More
Archaeo-Porn for the Masses.” That post is relevant
for this latest sleight-of-hand nonsense. Consider this
an archeoporn Asherah update.
Briefly, there are several inscriptions known from
Israel and its near-environs that contain the phrase
“Yahweh and his Asherah” (at least that’s a possible
translation). We had to translate these in grad school
and read some studies of them. It’s good stuff. It
validates the biblical record that there was heterodox
worship of Yahweh in Israel. No kidding. Shocker. Some
Israelites (who had never seen a Bible and practiced
idolary) thought that Yahweh had a wife/consort. Like I
said, that’s sort of expected from the free-for-all
description the Bible provides about the spiritual
condition of Israel.
Nevertheless, writers like Anya Leonard (who is
uncredentialed in the fields of Semitic languages and
biblical studies) want to insert the idea of Yahweh at
Sinai with his wife. Well that’s nice. Let’s just stick
an idea we like into the text and call it “secret Bible
teaching.” That’s the sort of nonsense Ancient Origins
is known for.
I can show you how Leonard made up her idea (not sure if
it’s clever or clumsy — probably both, and the result is
certainly misleading). Look at this image:
This is the Hebrew text of Deut 33:2
according to the Masoretic Text (the one that’s been in
the Jewish community since the first century AD — and
centuries before as the Dead Sea Scrolls showed us).
This particular digital edition is the Lexham Hebrew
Bible, which lists textual variants / options. In this
case, you can see in the green box (top) what the Hebrew
text is. The two options below show how the four
consonants of MT can be divided or kept together —
manuscript traditions reflect both, which accounts for
the difference in English translations and an ancient
translation like the Septuagint (see below).
What Ms. Leonard has done is
indicated in the red. She’s altered the last two
consonants (read right-to-left). Her two consonants look
very much like what is in the Masoretic Text. If you go
with her spelling, the text reads “Asherah.” Too bad
there are no ancient manuscripts of Deut 33:2 that
support such a thing.
But, hey, it’s the Ancient Origins
staff; this is what they do. Just say that the biblical
text once read XYZ but it was changed — but don’t bother
to provide data for such an assertion. (And in this case
that’s impossible, so this time the issue isn’t merely
neglect, it’s an intention to mislead). I wonder how Ms.
Leonard would feel if I asserted that her post “once
read” something I made up and it got her click-bait
Think this is just me? Nope. Here are two text-critical
discussions from major commentaries on Deuteronomy. The
first writer is Jewish (Jeffrey H. Tigay, Deuteronomy.
The JPS Torah Commentary. Philadelphia: Jewish
Publication Society, 1996, 319). The second is Christ.
Notice how both these authorities
“missed” Ms. Leonard’s Asherah? Yeah, me too. Funny.
Those who have read my book The Unseen Realm have seen
Deut 33:2 before. On pp. 165-166 I show the MT and LXX
versions of the passage to discuss the matter of angels
dispensing the law, mentioned several times in the New
Testament. I also posted R. Hess’s lengthy description
of the “Yahweh and his Asherah” texts at the companion
website to The Unseen Realm. If you’re interested in
real scholarship, check that stuff out — and ignore
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