🔼The name Asherah: Summary
- Progression, Happiness, Fortuna
- From the verb אשר ('asher), to go straight on.
🔼The name Asherah in the Bible
Asherah is the name of a primary Canaanite mother goddess. This name occurs in feminine plural, namely אשרות or Asheroth (Judges 3:7, 2 Chronicles 19:3 and 33:3 only) as well as what seems to be the masculine plural, namely אשרים or Asherim (1 Kings 14:23, 2 Chronicles 14:3, Isaiah 17:8), although this masculine plural may also be the plural of a male deity named Asher. In Exodus 34:13, Deuteronomy 12:3, 1 Kings 14:15 and Jeremiah 17:2 occurs the construct state: אשרי, meaning 'Asherim of' or 'Ashers of'.
According to the Oxford Companion to the Bible, Asherah was associated with lions, serpents and sacred trees. In the Bible Asherah is mostly associated with sacred trees or poles (Exodus 34:13, Judges 6:25).
In recent years archeology has revealed that the worship of Asherah was more rampant in Israel than the Bible shows. Initially Asherah was linked to the primary Canaanite male god, Baal (her son) and the evenly prominent Canaanite god El (her mate), but as the cult of Yahweh progressed, Asherah became increasingly associated to Yahweh. Several times the Bible makes mention of an image of Asherah having stood in the temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem (2 Kings 21:7, 23:6).
And not only statues of Asherah made it into the temple of Yahweh, also vessels dedicated to Asherah (2 Kings 23:4) and even facilities for women to weave hangings for her statue (2 Kings 23:7). Statues of Asherah were also erected in Bethel by Jeroboam (2 Kings 23:15) and in Samaria by Ahab (1 Kings 16:33).
Be all that as it may, even though the name Asherah originally denoted a pagan goddess, it's pretty enough and surely well worth being a popular girl's name (like, say, the name Diane, which was a Roman goddess).
Our name is spelled with a י (yod) at its core, אשירה, in 2 Kings 17:16 only.
🔼Etymology of the name Asherah
The name Asherah comes from the common Hebrew verb אשר ('asher), meaning to go straight:
Verb ישר (yashar) means to be straight or level. Adjective ישר (yashar) means right or upright. Nouns ישר (yosher), ישרה (yeshara) and מישר (meshar) mean uprightness or straightness. Noun מישור (mishor) describes a level place or plain.
Verb אשר ('ashar) covers a decisive progression or a setting right, and is often applied to describe happiness and prosperity (right on!). This is not due to a curious coincidence but to the obvious correlation of righteousness and efficiency. Righteousness in the Biblical sense describes a solid grasp of natural law, which leads to high levels of technology, social liquidity and thus peace and prosperity.
Nouns אשר ('esher), אשר ('ashar) and אשר ('osher) mean happiness or blessedness. Nouns אשור (ashur) and אשר (ashur) mean a step, a walk or a going. The noun תאשור (te'ashur) refers to a kind of tree (a happy tree? a progressing tree?).
The relative particle אשר (asher) means who or which, and may or may not be related to the previous (but probably does).
HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament explains that the original name for Asherah had to do with a Ugaritic verb 'tr, which meant the same thing as the Hebrew version Asherah, namely Progression. It's also safe to assume that the original name of this goddess sounded differently (something with a tr-sound no doubt). And that strongly suggest that the original translators of this name wanted to make sure that the meaning of it was conveyed into Hebrew. To any Hebrew audience, therefore, the name Asherah would also have meant Bliss or Happiness; the Semitic equivalent of the Latin deity Fortuna and the Greek Tyche.