Ashterot Karnayim

עשתרת חכרנים

Ashterot is a dialect variation of Astarte, whose original form was the Babylonian Ishtar, and who appears in various forms in the Bible, including Ester (Esther) in the Purim story, though Ester has been carefully given an aleph (א) instead of an ayin (ע) to enable the link to be denied. As Astarte, the Phoenicians worshiped her (cf 2 Kings 23:13) before she was taken to Greece. The Hebrews also worshiped her - indeed, Shlomo (Solomon) built a shrine for her at Yerushalayim which Yoshi-Yahu (Josiah) later destroyed (1 Kings 11:5/33, 1 Samuel 7:3 and 2 Kings 23:13). The Plishtim (Philistines) also worshiped her (1 Samuel 31:10); in their case her worship was as consort to Ba’al (Judges 2:13, 10:6, 1 Samuel 7:4 and 12:10). It is not uninteresting in the light of the Moshe story, that the Phoenicians called themselves, not Beney Ashterot (בני עשתרת), but Abd-Astartus, which in Hebrew is rendered as Eved Ashterot (עבד עשתרת) = "slaves" or in this case "worshipers" of Astarte.

Statues of Astarte for worship are noted frequently in the Bible. See for example Judges 2:13, 10:6; 1 Samuel 7:3, 12:10 and 31:10.

Note that Ashterot is spelt with an ayin (ע) where Asherah (
עשרה) is spelt with an aleph (א); as with Ester, the alteration is deliberate and most scholars agree that this is because the two, though they clearly amalgamated as one in some parts of the ancient world, were originally distinct and separate deities.

To the Babylonians Ishtar was primarily the planet Venus; like her Greek and Roman equivalent she was the goddess of love and fortune. It was from this epithet that the Aramaeans and others gave her the name Asherah.

In Deuteronomy 7:13 "the offspring of your herds" is rendered as Ashtoret Tsoncha (עשתרת צאנך), suggesting fertility connections. This recurs in Deuteronomy 28:4.

Thus Ashterot-Karnayim means literally "the Horns of Astarte"; Biblical references seem to indicate a town, though a twin-peaked mountain makes more aetiological sense (see BEIT HORON and BERI-YAH). If we read it as "The Horned Astarte", which is plausible, a temple or shrine would be indicated. Karnayim are twin horns and suggest statues or temples in her honour like the famous Leonardo Moses with twin horns. The Egyptian goddess Hat-Hor and the Greek Io (Hittite Yah) were likewise depicted with two horns, and both also served as love and fertility goddesses.

Genesis 14:5 names Ashterot-Karnayim as the place where Chedar-La-Omer (Kedarlaomer) defeated the Rephayim at the start of the War of the Kings.

Deuteronomy 1:4 notes that Edrey of Og, king of Bashan, was defeated by Moshe at Ashterot-Karnayim in the tenth month of the fortieth year of the journey through the wilderness; on the first day of the next month the repetition of the Law (Deuteronomy) began. Deuteronomy 1:5 sites it in Mo-Av, which is to say in Transjordan.

Joshua 13:7/14 makes Bashan the land and Ashterot-Karnayim a city within it; Yehoshu'a gave it to nine tribes and half-Menasheh to share.

1 Chronicles 11:44 names Uzzi-Yah of Ashterot-Karnayim as one of David's thirty "gibborim" ("heroes" or probably "bodyguard").


Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
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