AdvisorWright, J. Edward
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractHigh infant mortality and short female life span threatened Israelite women, who were respected as household administrators and educators. The concept of a personal god first observed in second millennium BCE Mesopotamian texts and house shrines involved apotropaic measures against a malevolent goddess who sickened and stole newborn children. Protective blessing inscriptions and deemphasis on the sexual aspect of Israelite figurines indicate that the personal goddess Asherah's function in Israelite religion was connected with protection more than with fertility. Offering benches and incense burners that define semi-public cult rooms in Syria-Palestine accompany female figurines in Israelite houses at Tell Masos, Tell el-Far'ah, Beer-sheba, and Tell Halif. Eye amulets such as those from the eighth century Lachish houses as well as the large-breasted pillar-figurines reflect a long-standing Near Eastern tradition of using eye and breast motifs to protect against the evil eye and child-stealing demons. The figurines' occurrence with women's textile and food preparation implements in female domains indicates that women set up a household shrine with an Asherah figurine near an entrance. The figurines interpreted as votives that mean "this is me" or "this is you" represent a covenant relationship between the breast-feeding mother of a newborn infant and a nurturing and protecting female deity. Israelite women dedicated votive gifts to Asherah and burned incense or oil with prayers and incantations on a regular basis during the vulnerable neonatal stage of a child's life, or at signs of illness. Ancient and modern Near Eastern parallels attest that women burn incense and oil to invoke the presence of a deity they contract with for protection. Pronouncing the deity's name is essential, and in iconic cultures, visual images empowered by prayers form important parts of these rituals.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Near Eastern Studies