Faces of the gods : Baal, Asherah and Molek and studies of the Hebrew Scriptures
The religion of ancient cultures has been captured in stone, clay, ink, gold and ivory. Huge wall reliefs down to tiny golden earrings or amulets have presented us with the faces of the gods. And which god is which, and what god did what, and who worshipped whom are questions that have fuelled the fires of many a scholar's imagination. As scholars have attempted the task of describing their chosen area, they have painted pictures for us. Unfortunately, in doing this they have often created portraits that are no more than pastiches. "The baal" of the Hebrew scriptures is described with the characteristics of Baal of Ugarit. "The molek" of II Kings and Jeremiah is accused of being a chthonic deity by virtue of association with gods of the underworld in Babylon, Mari and Ugarit. "Lady Asherah of the Sea" is cut down by the pens of those who equate her with the wooden thing burnt upon the altar by Gideon. This thesis presents isolated portraits of three deities, baal, asherah, and molek, from three different venues. The first chapter discusses "baal"; Baal at Ugarit, Baal from the iconographic/epigraphic material and thirdly, "the baal" from the Jeremiah- deuteronomistic texts. The second chapter presents "asherah" in similar fashion. The third chapter addresses the question "who is molek? " in three sections; firstly, MLK from the iconographic/epigraphic material, secondly, "molek" from the Hebrew scriptures and thirdly, a discussion of how the scholars engage with the evidence. The final chapter of this thesis compares and contrasts the different pictures that are presented by the different venues of each of these deities, drawing attention to the perils of mixing these venues in order to produce composite pictures. This thesis argues that methodologically it is sounder to be left with minimal portraits of the faces of these gods from the venues studied intra-textually, than to make vast assumptions about cultural diffusion and uniformity for which there is no evidence.