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Did God Have A Wife? Archaeology And Folk Religion In Ancient Israel [Hardcover]

By William G. Dever (Author)
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Item description for Did God Have A Wife? Archaeology And Folk Religion In Ancient Israel by William G. Dever...

The first book by an archaeologist on ancient Israelite religion, this fascinating study critically reviews virtually all of the archaeological literature of the past generation, while also bringing fresh evidence to the table.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Pages   344
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.1" Width: 6.2" Height: 1.3"
Weight:   1.45 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Apr 30, 2005
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN  0802828523  
ISBN13  9780802828521  

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More About William G. Dever

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! William G. Dever is professor emeritus of Near Eastern archaeology and anthropology at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He has served as director of the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology in Jerusalem, as director of the W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, and as a visiting professor at universities around the world. He has spent thirty years conducting archaeological excavations in the Near East, resulting in a large body of award-winning fieldwork.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Ancient > General
2Books > Subjects > History > Ancient
3Books > Subjects > History > Middle East > Israel
4Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > Mythology > General
5Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > Mythology
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History

Christian Product Categories
Books > Bible Study > General Studies > Biblical Archeology

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Reviews - What do customers think about Did God Have A Wife? Archaeology And Folk Religion In Ancient Israel?

A Strident Scholar   Jul 25, 2007
Dever cannot be confused with a humble scholar/archaeologist. A large chunk of this book is devoted to cutting and slashing the work of other scholars of Biblical history and archeology, citing his actual influence on the good ideas of others when they fail to attribute them to him. That said, this book is an impression piece of scholarship, with a mighty marshalling of sources, both archeological and Biblical, to assert his case for a robust folk religion in ancient Israel. His work mirrors that of many scholars who study the history of Judaism and Christianity. Rather than see these religions as unitary, they are viewed as a plurality of movements. Dever gets to use fun terms like Yahwehisms to explain the multiplicity of beliefs in ancient Israelite society, from the stern monotheism of the writer of Deuteronomy, to the home based cult of Asherah, largely followed by Israelite woman, and every shade in between. High places, sacred groves, pillars devoted the Asherah, and child sacrifice. It is all here, and Dever comes out fighting in this work and never lets up, and the case he makes is both convincing and bold.
Buried treasure, worth the digging  Feb 21, 2007
The author is too much the professional archeologist to be blunt about it, but the answer to his title question is "Yes, and her name was Asherah" - the Goddess of fertility worshipped by the Caananites. References to her in the Hebrew Bible have been mostly expunged, except for the repeated efforts to stamp out her worship among the Israelites by an elite group of temple scribes who wanted the monopoly on God. (Not only do the winners writer the history books, in this case, the one's who write the history books are the winners). Author Dever challenges the idea that the scribes who wrote the Hebrew Bible were giving us an accurate picture of life in early Israel. Ninety-nine percent of the population was rural, and the practice of their folk religion had many more points in common with their goddess-worshipping Caananite cousins than with the cult of Jehovah as practiced in Jerusalem. It's a fascinating story, and will change the way any reader thinks about the foundations of Western religion. One warning: Dever says he's writing for the lay-reader, but his style remains academic at time, including laying our several chapters worth of groundwork before getting to the good stuff. Be prepared to either for a tough slog at first, or dive in at chapter 5. (Review by the author of Savage Breast: One Man's Search for the Goddess. [...])
Did God have a Wife  Nov 10, 2006
Excellent content but somewhat boring style. Maps inadequate: author should have had clear maps drawn specific to this book. Diagrams not always clear to a lay reader
Theological Infidelity  Aug 25, 2006
One of the themes of the Deuteronomistic History is that Israel was occasionally guilty of theological infidelity; Yahweh was always the God of Israel and occasionally Israel would chase after "foreign" gods.

This time around Dever writes about what he calls the folk religion of the people and other scholars call popular religion. Folk religion is not the religion of the priests and the prophets who left us their deliberate ideology (Dever's terms) in the Hebrew Scriptures. I hope readers will wade through the first two chapters of the book in which Dever surveys definitions and surveys schools of approach to the Bible. Quite often Dever's critique of his fellow scholars is that "the vast archaeological data and literature are largely invisible." It is in these sources that one finds folk religion.

Dever is a scholar who does find historical value in biblical texts. He is not a revisionist who believes that the Bible was authored in the Persian or Hellenistic Periods. But the biblical texts have limits. One is that the biblical texts, in their present form, were written no earlier than the 8th century and so are distanced by centuries from the events which they portend to portray. Who knows what sources the writers had? The Bible mentions the Book of Jasher and there could have been oral traditions that had been carried down for centuries. A second limitation of the biblical texts is that its writers had to be selective. In a society where literacy was far less common than in our own, writers wrote for the elite. A third limitation of the biblical writers is that they did not maintain any sort of objectivity not did they make any pretense at doing so. Dever calls this "propaganda." I agree with the term, but it is one that is loaded. Fourth, the portrayal of Israel is an idealistic one. Fifth, the matter of whether the narratives of the bible are history is subjugated to the need of the writers to how they function. This point of Dever's is much like his fourth; fact and fiction are blended for their effect on their audience. The crucial point in this matter is that Dever thinks the archaeological data are more encompassing than the data from the biblical texts; archaeology deals with a "tangible, real world."

This real world is the world of folk religion which is the religion of the hearth/home/women. Interestingly, though Dever appeals to feminine studies, he does so by asserting that "those men were in power." Men typically think in terms of political power whereas women typically think in terms of what is best for the family. At the beginning of chapter 4, Dever describes folk religion as difficult to systematize but having its locus in "any place deemed holy" such as shrines, high places, or local temples. For Dever the archaeological data of these show a basis for folk religion.

Since the 1920s excavations in Palestine have unearthed a number of images of Asherah. The biblical writers find ways to ignore or belittle them. Dever sees this as a deliberate suppression of any reference to Asherah. However Dever still finds some clues. In 2 Kings 18, King Hezekiah attempts a reform that removes the high places, cuts down the Asherah, etc. Yet Hezekiah's son, Manasseh sets up a graven image of Asherah in the Temple. (page 212) Now we are in a better position to understand Yahweh's admonition in Deut 16,21.22 not to set up an Asherah besides the altar of Yahweh.

Dever is highly persuasive in his portrayal of the pervasiveness of Asherah in ancient Israel's folks religion. The idea is not a new one. Dever gives praise to Raphael Patai's _The Hebrew Goddess_ published in 1967. At that time Patai's book was considered somewhat heretical. But I have to agree with Dever that with the archaeological data we now have, it makes a world of difference. It's hard to dispute such facts.
The feminine side of ancient Israelite religion revealed  Apr 10, 2006
This is a thoughtful, convincing, well-written and well-documented book .I recommend it highly.

The answer to Dever's excellent question is a resounding Yes! While the "Book religion" of the ancient Israelites was, and is, extremely masculine, what the great majority of the people actually believed and practiced was more balanced.

With only the written word to go by, it is easy to forget that Asherah, the consort of the supreme God El, eventually known as Yahweh, even existed. That she and other female deities were honored in the countryside and in the homes of ordinary people is now clearly evidenced by archaeological finds.

Modern Judaism did not spring solely from the minds of the small elite that wrote the early Biblical texts. Folk beliefs and practices continued, prompting the Prophets' constant condemnation.

Dever makes the excellent point that Israelite religion evolved naturally out of the Canaanite religion. It was the experience of the Babylonian captivity, wrenching it away from its folk roots, that transformed it. All the high places and sacred trees were left behind. With only the texts they were able to bring with them, the educated elite tried to hold on to their history and beliefs. When they were allowed to return to their homeland they produced the Bible. The foundation of three major modern religions, it is a remarkable accomplishment. Unfortunately, without the softening effect of the feminine, it has led to the widespread institutionalization of an unbalanced view.


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