Ashtoreth, Ashtaroth, Ashtart, or Astarte

The Bible makes it quite clear that from the time of the judges (Late Bronze Age ca. 1550BC) through the kings till the Babylonian exile (586BC) the children of Israel were a polytheistic people. It is not till after the exile that they became a monotheistic nation.

Image on pithos sherd found at Kuntillet Ajrud below the inscription, Utterance of Ashyaw the king: Say to Yehallel and to Yaw’asah
and to… I bless you by Yahweh of Samaria and his asherah.

Astarte/Ashtart is Canaanite/Phoenician name for the universal mother goddess, and also where we get our word Easter. There is some disagreement among scholars as to whether she was predominantly a warrior goddess or a fertility/sexual goddess. However s, he is often represented in the nude, or nursing children, which makes one think more of fertility/sexual than warrior. The warrior idea seems based on a quote from the Keret Epic where she is summoned to smash an enemies skull. 

The Romans and Greeks matched her with Juno, Demeter, Venus or Aphrodite,  the Egyptians with Hathor, and in India she is Kali. The Bible represents her as the consort of Baal, there is however a Hebrew carving showing her as the consort of Yahweh.

Ashtoreth, Ashtaroth

In Hebrew, she is called Ashtoreth/Ashtaroth. There is a difference in these spellings. Ashtoreth is how the Hebrew pronounced her name. Ashtaroth is an example of Paronomasia, as the Hebrew word for “shame “i.e. boshet has been incorporated into Astarte. This very similar to the say we have changed alcoholic to any kind of addiction such as chocoholic.

In 1Kings 11 we see that Solomon due to his taking of foreign women allowed the worship of Astarte among others, into Jerusalem. Because of this, after his reign, the kingdom was divided. These cult places seem to have lasted till the reign of Josiah, when the high priest Hilkiah led a revival and removed all these high places. [1King 22-23]

The Queen of Heaven

The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. Jer. 7:18

There is some question as to whether or not Astarte is the Queen of Heaven. This could also refer to Asherah. [cf. Jer. 44:17-25] However there is little difference between the two. They are both the mother goddess. Where Astarte is Canaanite and Asherah is Akkadian. So right up till they were exile to Babylon the Jews continued in their syncretism. These sweet cake are still with us, as we now call them hot crossed buns, and are served on the same day as they were in ancient times, Easter


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