Wednesday, April 04, 2018

YHWH and Asherah at Kuntillet Ajrud

EPIGRAPHY AND MONOTHEISM A Strange Drawing Found in Sinai Could Undermine Our Entire Idea of Judaism. Is that a 3,000-year-old picture of god, his penis and his wife depicted by early Jews at Kuntillet Ajrud? (Nir Hasson, Haaretz).
More than four decades after its excavation wound down, a small hill in the Sinai Desert continues to bedevil archaeologists. The extraordinary discoveries made at Kuntillet Ajrud, an otherwise nondescript slope in the northern Sinai, seem to undermine one of the foundations of Judaism as we know it.

Then, it seems, "the Lord our God” wasn't “one God.” He may have even had a wife, going by the completely unique "portrait" of the Jewish deity that archaeologists found at the site, which may well be the only existing depiction of YHWH.

First, I don't think these discoveries undermine anything in Judaism, even if the more creative interpretations of the evidence prove to be correct. The Bible makes it quite clear that in the Iron Age II (the monarchical period) the idea of monotheism hadn't entirely caught on in ancient Israel and it would not succeed definitively until after the Babylonian exile.

The remarkable discoveries at Kuntillet Ajrud are not recent news. I remember discussing them with interest in postgraduate seminars in the early 1980s. But the material has since been published and the discussion continues to move forward. This long article gives a summary of the current state of play.

Some past PaleoJudaica posts on Asherah at Kuntillet Ajrud and related matters are here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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