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Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel
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Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  153 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
Following up on his two recent, widely acclaimed studies of ancient Israelite history and society, William Dever here reconstructs the practice of religion in ancient Israel from the bottom up. Archaeological excavations reveal numerous local and family shrines, where sacrifices and other rituals were carried out. Intrigued by this folk religion in all its variety and vita ...more
Hardcover, 344 pages
Published June 24th 2005 by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (first published May 31st 2005)
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What a terrible title for such a great book.

Dever gives the non-specialist a thorough review of the archaeology of Israel. He lines up the bible story and knocks it around with extrinsic evidence. He contrasts the "book" religion of the priests with the "folk" religion practiced on the ground. Not everything is enthralling: Chapter 2 is a review of academic literature on Israel folk religion. He wants you to know he figured this stuff out first and where everybody else lines up. The balance of
Laura Talley
May 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
First, this is not quite as good as Dever's book on daily life in ancient Israel, but it is still very interesting. Much debate surrounds this topic, and Dever acknowledges the contributions and criticisms of the various sides. Because of this, however, the book is a little more confusing and contradictory than the other I read, partially due to the way he does not always make certain things clear, at least at first. For example, in one place he mentions a biblical passage in which Asherah is pa ...more
May 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Dever forcefully argues that the key to reconstructing Israelite folk religion lies with archaeology. Through archaeology he reconstructs a case about how the Israelites came to know Asherah via a compilation of other goddesses, and how they worshiped her. Asherah as the consort to El, Anat to Baal, and even influence from Astarte influenced Asherah as Yahweh's consort. He mentions as some of his main evidences the proliferation of high places (bamot), standing stones (missebot), clay figurines, ...more
May 11, 2010 rated it liked it
I picked up this book originally because I am very interested in the contrasts between doctrine and folk religion (i.e. what people actually practice). As with Dever's other book I read (What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?), I could have skipped the first 90 pages, as they were filled with his usual rant against revisionists, which I found true, yet ridiculously repetitive and not necessarily contributing to the main thesis of the book.
Anyway, the meat of the book, was
Dec 27, 2010 rated it liked it
The authors of the Bible were dead white upper-class males; the prophet Amos, who was a cowboy, is an exception. They wanted Israelites to worship one God, Jehovah, through a cult centered on the Temple in Jerusalem. However, the actual Israelite religion was as far from this ideal as the actual Soviet economy from the ideal set by the Soviet Union's state religion of Marxism. Excavations show that the Israelites worshipped at local shrines (bamot), near pillars (maÅÅebot), and not just Jehovah ...more
Dever has a decidedly more conservative flair, but trumps other more conservative scholars by being an archaeologist, and--for the most part--giving the archaeology priority.
Alan Swartz
Apr 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is the first book by Dever that I have read. It was a fascinating and easy read. There are no footnotes to plod through, but there is a helpful bibliography at the end.[return][return]The basic premise of the book is that pre-exilic Israel needs to be understood in light of archaeological evidence which uncovers the realities of "folk-religion" as practice by the common Israelites as opposed to the literati who fashioning and fighting for monotheism through the "book-religion" that we have ...more
Ben Zajdel
Dec 17, 2011 rated it liked it
William Dever tackle the provocative subject of populist religion in Biblical Israel. His thesis is that the religion portrayed in the Bible was an elitist religion practiced by only a small minority of priests and wealthy merchants, while the majority of the Hebrew nation worshipped a plurality of gods, chiefly Yahweh and his consort Asherah.

A large portion of this book is spent with Dever prattling on and on about how great his method of writing is, and why everyone else's is flawed. But in b
Apr 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: just-for-fun
An interesting but repetitive read.

Dever seems to make the same point over and over, in almost every chapter. I mean that as more than just tying supporting evidence back to his main point; I mean that it feels like he wrote the chapters in isolation and stuck them together.

I'm going to reveal my ignorance here when I say that he alternates between being too pedantic and failing to explain the technical terms he uses. He supports his case, though, and it's interesting to consider the day-to-day
Jan 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
This paints a fascinating picture of early Israelite religious practice that will come as a surprise to many non-scholars like me. There are also some interesting tidbits for Mormon readers in the historical record: that Asherah (God's titular wife) was widely worshiped until after the Babylonian capture in 600 AD, and that the early Israelites believed in a council of gods but eventually chose Yahweh as the one they would worship (despite believing there were others).

I also found it illuminatin
Ondra Panděro
Sep 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Probably spent too much time reading through laments about white-male-elitists-protestant-text-focused-whatever scholars who ignore archeology and about I'm-the-feminist-don't-get-it-wrong stuff. At 5th page of the above I wanted to say "I got it, dude, let's move on". And what followed is brilliant indeed.
As a practitioner of a non-protestant denomination, I dig the folk-book religious dualism, sometimes folk religion takes quite bizarre forms (from my white-male-elitist point of view, of cours
Dec 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
Couldn't actually finish, written TOO much for the lay person and might be very good for someone with no knowledge of archaeology and ancient Israel, unfortunately, I've had the opportunity to study it and this didn't add anything to my knowledge and there was too much I had to skip to make reading even worth it. Unfortunate, Dever is an expert in the field and would have really liked a better written book on the subject from him.
Bianca Bradley
Jul 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It took me three months to get through this. It wasn't because of the length, it was from the dearth of information. My brain needed time to let it sink in.

He is retired now, but he was the head of Archaeology of one of the Universities. You also find out about some of the political infighting in Archaeology in the prologue that is useful.

Just wow, read it.
Olya Ianovskaia
Jun 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
A horrible title for a great book. The extensive review of literature on the subject of folk religions in ancient Israel and biblical archaeology was useful. Discussion of evidence that supports existence and significance of Asherah worship was great. Open bashing of dozens of archaeologists and scholars was the best.
John Caris
Aug 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Archaeologist William Dever has written an excellent, cogent presentation of religion in ancient Canaan and Israel. The answer to the title’s question is yes and she is Asherah, Mother Goddess and Queen of Heaven.
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating and readable description of the religion of early Israel as revealed by archeology. So did God have a wife? The early (pre-exile) Israelites apparently thought so -- and were very fond of her.
Nov 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
Interesting information but didn't much of an answer to the title question.
Randy Rose
Dec 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
For those interested in religious and ideological history, this is a fascinatingly informative read.
Apr 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Any who want to understand how Judaism evolved from popular polytheism
The first 3 chapters read like the tirade of an expert who has spent decades arguing against other experts whom he considers narrow-minded and uninformed. I hope it picks up soon.
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