21st Feb 2012

E100 Q&A The Judges & Ruth

By Andy Jarvis

Q&A The Judges

What is an Asherah Pole? (Judges 6:25)

     The word "Asherah" appears 39 times in the New International Version. The Hebrew word for Asherah is translated as "groves" in the King James Version and "poles" in the New Revised Standard Version. The native religion of the Canaanites centered on El, the male creator god, and his wife Asherah. Baal was the son of their union. Baal later replaced El and became the chief male diety of Canaan. Later, in an act of incest, Baal married his own mother (Asherah), who was worshipped as a mother goddess and the chief female deity of Canaan. As Mother Goddess, Asherah was widely worshiped throughout Palestine and Syria. Yahweh commanded the destruction of all idols representing Asherah.
Baal was worshipped by the Canaanites as a fertilizing, life-giving, and life-renewing diety who fulfilled his function through his mother turned wife/mistress: Asherah, "The Mother Goddess," or "The Mother of All Living."
     The word "asherah" was used not only to refer to the goddess herself, but also to a wooden cult object associated with her worship. In the Bible, Asherah is linked to Baal typically by reference to an “Asherah pole.” Some sources suggest a wooden pole was set into a stone base as a phallic symbol. Others suggest a sacred tree or even a sacred grove of trees. Cult prostitution, both male and female, was a major element of the worship of Asherah and Baal. The cultic practices of the Canaanites included sacred groves, trees, and carved wooden images of Asherah. Also included were animal sacrifices at high places, divination, and snake worship. Sexual rites were supposed to ensure fertility of people, animals, and lands. The Israelites did evil because they abandoned the Lord and served the Asherahs and the Baals.


Why was Samson’s Mother not to eat grapes and raisins? Judges 13

The answer was that Samson was to be a Nazirite, a person consecrated or set apart especially for God. The vow of the Nazirite was to express one’s special desire to draw close to God and to separate one’s self from the comforts and pleasures of this world. The origin of this is found in Numbers 6; 

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When either a man or woman consecrates an offering to take the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the Lord,'"

The English word Nazirite transliterates Hebrew nazir, meaning “set apart.”

Requirements for fulfilling the vow of a Nazirite:

He shall separate himself from wine and similar drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from similar drink; neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins. All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin. All the days of the vow of his separation no razor shall come upon his head; until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. Then he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. All the days that he separates himself to the Lord he shall not go near a dead body. He shall not make himself unclean even for his father or his mother, for his brother or his sister, when they die, because his separation to God is on his head. All the days of his separation he shall be holy to the Lord.


Samson doesn’t appear to keep his vows, not only allowing his hair to be cut, causing the loss of his strength, but also in regard to going near a dead body. His riddle followed the discovery of the carcass of a lion, in which bees were making honey, and his enjoying of the honey.


Did God ever speak to Ruth? Did Ruth talk to God or did she just follow Naomi’s wisdom?

It is evident from the story of Ruth, that she willingly became one of Naomi’s people and willingly took God to be her God. I imagine that she would have followed the religious practices of the time. God spoke to people through priests and prophets or through Angels, but not directly by His Spirit as He does today. I expect she prayed to God as was customary for the Jews. However, it is clear that she relied on Naomi’s wisdom and experience when she was learning how to behave in a different culture. Remember, she was a Moabite, not a Jew. H  


Andy was a schoolteacher for eleven years before training for ministry, while based on a large council estate just outside Portsmouth. Originally from Brighton, Andy has been the Minister at South Molton Baptist Church since 2001. He is married to Helen and has three children and a granddaughter.