What was an Asherah pole?
An Asherah pole was a sacred pole (or sometimes a tree) that was used in the worship of the pagan goddess Asherah. The Asherah pole was often mentioned in the Old Testament as one of the ways the Israelites sinned against the Lord and worshiped other gods.
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The first mention of the Asherah pole is in Exodus 34:13 (NIV): "Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles." The Israelites were commanded to destroy any Asherah pole they found among the other people in the land.
In Deuteronomy 16:21, the Lord commanded the people of Israel to not make Asherah poles of their own. However, it did not take long for the Israelites to disobey this command. In Judges 3:7, we read, "And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth." Instead of obeying God's commands, they worshiped the gods of the people God sent them to drive out.
God later used Gideon as one of the judges who would stand against this practice of the Asherah pole. He cut down his father's Asherah pole as part of God's call for reform (Judges 6:25-27). Many of the revivals in the books of Kings and Chronicles involved destroying and removing Asherah poles from among the people of God. In one case, King Josiah of Judah had an Asherah pole ground to powder and its dust spread over the graves of the dead (2 Kings 23:6).
But who was Asherah? She was considered a goddess of fertility. Some believe that the worship of the Queen of Heaven condemned by the prophet Jeremiah was also a reference to the goddess Asherah, though this is uncertain. Certainly, as a fertility goddess, those who worshiped Asherah were also often involved in sexual practices prohibited by the God of Israel.
Asherah poles were also known in Scripture as the "high places." This is likely due to the connection of worship upon hilltops and mountains. Especially after the construction of the Jewish temple under King Solomon, those who would instead worship Asherah on a high place were considered blasphemous to the Lord, worshiping a different God in different ways and in different places than how He prescribed.
Asherah poles and Asherah worship were against the law God gave to Moses. Israel's use of these objects was sinful and in contradiction with His teachings to worship only the Lord (Exodus 20) and that He alone was God (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
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