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


Substitutes for God’s name in the New Testament

When reading an English Bible there is a little bit of Jewish history that is needed to understand a few things and this is one of them. When Messiah walked the earth, it had become the habit of the Jewish people to avoid God’s name. This is because they feared the pagans they had lived among  since the deportation to Babylon might start saying God’s name and therefore violate in the commandment.

“You shall not take the name of the LORD/YHWH your God in vain; for the LORD/YHWH will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. Ex. 20:7 

The Jews had become very creative in their work arounds for this problem. Most English readers of the Bible have no idea what is going on. The average Christian doesn’t even know that God has a personal name. (His name is YHWH.) This habit of not using substitutes for God’s name was so universal that His personal name is never used is in the New Testament.

The Lord or Master

This one is so prevalent that it is on almost every page of every English Bible. The English Bibles uses this very same Jewish tradition of not speaking the name of the Lord “YHWH” but substitutes Adoni which means lord or master. The English has left a clue that they have done this by capitalizing all the letters in the LORD when the original Hebrew is YHWH. (See Also: God? What’s in a name?)

The Name

Ha Shem is Hebrew for “the Name” and is occasionally substituted for YHWH.

And those who went before and those who followed cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Mark 11:9

And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. John 17:11


And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, Mark 4:26 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?”  Luke 20:4

The question was not whether John was some kind of angelic being but whether he was sent by God. This is why sometimes it is the kingdom of God and others it is the kingdom of heaven.

Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; Matt. 13:24 

In this parable the son admits that he has sinned against God.

I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; Luke 15:18 

This use of Heaven as a substitute for God or YHWH has lead many to misunderstand “heaven.” Heaven strictly speaking is not the place where God lives. God is Omnipresent, and as such is everywhere throughout time and space at all times. Calling Him “Heaven” is to say that He is above and beyond what we can perceive. (See Also: What Happens When We Die? and God is Omnipresent)

The Power

And Jesus said, “I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Mark 14:62 

This is a quote from the Psalms, where we can see the right hand belongs to the LORD or in Hebrew YHWH.

The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.” Psa. 110:1 

FYI: They also called the temple in Jerusalem, “The Place” or “The Holy Place.”
For a tent was prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence; it is called the Holy Place. Heb. 9:2

Good Eye, Bad Eye

22   “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light;  23 but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! Matt. 6:22-23

34 Your eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is sound, your whole body is full of light; but when it is not sound, your body is full of darkness. Luke 11:34

When translators do not know what a passage means they tend to woodenly translate word for word. In doing this, idioms or Hebraisms get lost in translation, and this is certainly one of those.

Quite simply in Hebrew thought, to have a good or sound eye is to be generous, and to have a bad eye is to be stingy.

Satyrs in the Bible

DionysusSatyr2Unlike the bad translation that gave us Unicorns in the Bible, the satyrs are actually there in the Hebrew. The Hebrew word sa’ir can mean goat or in these passages it means those mythological half man half goat creatures from the ancient religions that surrounded Israel.

So it is understandable that they like the rest of pagan mythology are condemned by the Bible.

So they shall no more slay their sacrifices for satyrs, after whom they play the harlot. This shall be a statute for ever to them throughout their generations. Lev. 17:7

. . . and he appointed his own priests for the high places, and for the satyrs, and for the calves which he had made. 2Chr. 11:15

Then we come upon what at first glance seems a very strange Isaiah passages. In an oracle concerning Babylon’s demise. Isaiah seems to be treating these mythological creatures as if they were real. This is a cultural misunderstanding.

But wild beasts will lie down there, and its houses will be full of howling creatures; there ostriches will dwell, and there satyrs will dance. Is. 13:21

The satyrs that dance is a reference to the constellation we call the little dipper. The ancients called this constellation the goats and goat-herder or Pan and the satyrs, because to them these stars danced around the Northstar every night. Isaiah is chiding Babylon’s pride by saying in a very poetic manner is that when great Babylon is gone the stars will still turn in their place.


Cherethites/Kerethites seems to not be an actual tribal name, for it is a paronomasia, the Hebrew karat means to cut off.  Ezekiel puts them in the same group as the Philistines that stand against God’s people and will be destroyed. So I will cut off the cut off ones.

. . . therefore thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I will stretch out my hand against the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethites, and destroy the rest of the seacoast. Ezek. 25:16

Woe to you inhabitants of the seacoast, you nation of the Cherethites! The word of the LORD is against you, O Canaan, land of the Philistines; and I will destroy you till no inhabitant is left. Zeph. 2:5 

What We Know

The Kerethites are not mentioned very often. When the Bible first introduces them they are in the Negev, which is a dessert in eastern Egypt  that borders Modern Israel.

We had made a raid upon the Negeb of the Cherethites and upon that which belongs to Judah and upon the Negeb of Caleb; and we burned Ziklag with fire.” 1Sam. 30:14

They become a conquered people serving David.

. . . and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were priests. 2Sam. 8:18

. . . and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and David’s sons were the chief officials in the service of the king. 1Chr. 18:17

And all his servants passed by him; and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the six hundred Gittites who had followed him from Gath, passed on before the king. 2Sam. 15:18


These Kerethites make up part of David and Solomon’s MightyMen.

And there went out after Abishai, Joab and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and all the mighty men; they went out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba the son of Bichri. 2Sam. 20:7

Now Joab was in command of all the army of Israel; and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was in command of the Cherethites and the Pelethites; 2Sam. 20:23 

So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, went down and caused Solomon to ride on King David’s mule, and brought him to Gihon. 1Kings 1:38 

. . . and the king has sent with him Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and they have caused him to ride on the king’s mule; 1Kings 1:44

FYI: There is possibility that the Carians were identical to the Cherethites. If this is the case, then it appears that these mercenaries were loyal to the house of David and supported Joash over  Athaliah

But in the seventh year Jehoiada sent and brought the captains of the Carites and of the guards, and had them come to him in the house of the LORD; and he made a covenant with them and put them under oath in the house of the LORD, and he showed them the king’s son. 2Kings 11:4 

And he took the captains, the Carites, the guards, and all the people of the land; and they brought the king down from the house of the LORD, marching through the gate of the guards to the king’s house. And he took his seat on the throne of the kings. 2Kings 11:19 

So the question is, if they were loyal to the house of David why does Ezekiel’s prophecy but them in the same group as the Philistines? Especially since both groups had disappeared from the historic record. No one knows.


More word play in the Hebrew or things lost in translation

There are several names that have the ending boshet at the end their name. The most famous of which is Maphibosheth/

David and Maphibosheth

David and Maphibosheth

Mefivshet Johnathan’s son. [2Sam. 4; 2Sam. 9; 2Sam. 16; 2Sam. 19;  2Sam. 21] Boshet is Hebrew for shame. So Maphibosheth means from the mouth of shame. Seems a strange thing to name a child even for Hebrew speakers.

The other famous one is Maphibosheth’s uncle Ish-bosheth’s (man of shame) whose name was changed from Ashba’al or Eshba’al (man of Ba’al ).

These names where altered presumably by a later scribe or scribes who were tired of all the pagan references to the pagan gods and altered the names substituting boshet for the pagan god’s name, so Maphibosheth was actually named Merib-baal meaning from the mouth of Ba’al. We know this because they missed two references each in the geneologies.

. . . and the son of Jonathan was Merib-baal; and Merib-baal was the father of Micah. 1Chr. 8:34

 . . . and the son of Jonathan was Merib-baal; and Merib-baal was the father of Micah. 1Chr. 9:40

Ner was the father of Kish, Kish of Saul, Saul of Jonathan, Malchishua, Abinadab, and Esh-baal; 1Chr. 8:33

Ner was the father of Kish, Kish of Saul, Saul of Jonathan, Malchishua, Abinadab, and Eshbaal; 1Chr. 9:39

It all makes one wonder about the house of Saul. What was a son and grandson named for the pagan god Ba’al?

Jeremiah uses the words as synonyms in Hebrew parallelism poetry.

For your gods have become as many as your cities, O Judah; and as many as the streets of Jerusalem are the altars you have set up to shame, altars to burn incense to Baal. Jer. 11:13

molech kingThe other famous name is Molech. Now Hebrew has no vowels, however in the middle ages people were forgetting how words were pronounced so the Rabbis came up with a method of making little marks (nicadote) around the letters to indicate the vowel sounds. The words for king, messenger/angel, and the pagan god Molech are all spelled the same, the only difference are these vowel pointings. The vowel pointings for Molech may not be the way it was pronounced because they use the vowels from boshet, the scribe/scribes have hidden their cryptogram by making Melech into Molech, the king of shame.



See Also: Paronomasia/Word Play in the Bible

Of Kings, Cloaks and Sex

Euphemisms for Sexual Relations in the Bible

or Wink Wink Nod Nod (an English euphemism for secret information everybody already knows)

allan-ramsay-king-george-iii-in-coronation-robes-1761-62The Hebrew Bible is full of wordplay i.e. Paronomasia. There are lots of parallelisms, similes, puns, idioms, and euphemisms, etc. many of which are impossible to translate.

When the paronomasia is a euphemisms, some translators will choose to woodenly translate it word for word, others substitute an English euphemism, and some of the more modern translations opt for stating directly what was meant. All three of these solutions leave the English reader missing some of what is being communicated, and often cloud the issues rather than bring clarity. Finding the right word can be quite difficult, what one culture’s euphemism might be, may use that same words for something completely different, e.g. Where in Hebrew uncovered or nakedness can mean a sexual encounter, to the ancient Greeks it meant drunkenness. When in English we speak of someone’s nose being red, we mean drunkenness, however ancient Hebrew it means angry. In English the heart is the seat of emotions, where in ancient Hebrew it was the bowels. So translators must decide how best to express these ideas. It all come down to, is the idea or the word more important? Continue reading