One of the things He commanded them to do in the new land where they were eventually going was to cut down the Asherah poles.
Welcome to our ongoing, chronological, every Thursday on-line bible study called COME AS A CHILD.
Today we are still busy with studying a passage found in Exodus, Chapter 34.
Previous discussions have included the details of how God was making a covenant with Moses after rewriting the Ten Commandments that were broken and shattered at the site of the golden calf. In this new installment of the commandments of God, the subject of idols keeps coming up in a million different ways. One of the ways God commanded the people to destroy idol worship is found in Exodus 34:13 where God tells Moses to destroy the pagan altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles.
God CLEARLY does not want his people worshiping idols.
We have already discussed destroying the pagan altars and smashing the sacred stones. If you missed either of those lessons; you may find them here: https://theinseasonlifestyle.com/smash-sacred-stones/ and here: https://theinseasonlifestyle.com/breaking-down-altars/
Today we will talk more about why God said for them to cut down the old pagan Asherah poles.
UNDERSTANDING THIS PARTICULAR TYPE OF PAGAN WORSHIP
Asherah was a false goddess of fertility who was worshiped by the pagan cultures of the land.
The abominable things that the pagans did in their worship of Asherah have been recorded extensively through historic records. If you want to take the time to read them just be prepared to have your stomach turned. It is not a very pretty or moral picture.
The worship of Asherah consisted mostly of perverted sexual practices in religious rituals. That alone should help you to understand why God was so extremely opposed to this type of idolatry. It is mentioned as an abomination to God more than any other cult worship mentioned in the scriptures. I think that is so because it was a type of idol worship that promoted extreme immorality and many, many godly men fell prey to its trap.
IDOLATRY MIXED WITH SEXUAL IMMORALITY
Consider the facts in another way; not only was this a form of idol worship using perverted sex as a vehicle to the false goddess; it was more than the worship of the false goddess; it was also the worship of perverted sexual practices. That little twist should help you put the practice into modern terms and see where it would apply to our cultures of today. Asherah worship turned good people into sex addicts.
When you look at these cultish religious rites of the Asherah religion; you can also consider adultery, pornography, prostitution, incest, homosexuality, bestiality, etc. All in the name of their false god. Add in the sacrifices of innocent little children. I think that Asherah worship probably managed to break every single commandment of God with each religious service they held.
It is bad enough to think of the facts of this religion being the practice of yet another false pagan deity being worshiped in outdoor temples and high places but also it was perfectly fine for them to have sex with temple prostitutes and commit incest and homosexuality in their worship services. It is even worse when you consider that this was believed by those participating to be a pious religious act and that made it become acceptable in the eyes of many in the culture. There was certainly a whole new type of slavery going on here. A whole new type of deliverance was also in order.
EVERYTHING POSSIBLE THAT OPPOSED GOD’S WAY OF LIFE
Can you blame God for being so very disgusted?
This is the culture that Moses and the people following God had to deal with in the land of Canaan and the neighboring lands. It is very understandable that God wanted them to come completely away and out of this culture and to live as separate people. They needed to be separated from any form or fashion of Asherah worship whatsoever.
Asherah was Baal’s lover and (ahem…) his mother. Baal was known as the main male deity and Asherah was known as the leading female deity. Everywhere that there was an altar erected for Baal; there would usually be idols close by made of wood from the trees of the forest with some type of images carved in them representing Asherah. They were often decorated with metals such as silver and gold nailed into the carved wood.
Not only were trees cut and carved for images of Asherah; they were also planted in groves that had certain patterns and designs. The perverted sexual acts of worship were often performed under these groves of trees planted specifically for the purpose of Asherah worship.
Everything about the worship of Asherah had to do with some type of perversion. Any time you read about the pagan activities involved with Baal and Asherah worship; you will most likely encounter perverted sexual activity.
It is the same today when you look at the facts that surround occult practices in the modern culture. Many satanic religious practices involve the same religious perversions as the ancient forms of Asherah worship.
We all have also heard horrid stories about the underground sex slave trade that goes on almost everywhere in the world now. This is the same spirit of Asherah worship. The demons of satan have used the sins of the ancients to make their own horrid altars at the expense of the totally innocent and helpless of society.
God abhors this and if these people go unpunished on earth; there will be a worse punishment for them in eternity.
God detests perversions.
This has gone on since Adam and Eve throughout every generation at some time and place. There are the “tantric” practices in Hindu and Buddhist religions. In Europe (even today) you commonly hear of pagan sex rituals taking place. In the Holy Land’s history there are millions of references made to temple prostitutes. We also hear about these same sins being committed by the Babylonians, the Romans and the Greeks. With every single culture it seems that their forms of pagan idolatry usually always involved some type of perverted sex.
In ancient times and even times beyond those times; many cultures would severely punish a man or a woman who was untrue to their mate by indulging in sexual activities outside of the marriage. However; in the religion of Asherah; it was perfectly acceptable for people to go to the high places of worship that were often in groves of specially planted trees and participate in sexual orgies of all sorts; just as long as it involved a temple prostitute or a ritual of Ashurah; you were fine in the eyes of their religion’s morals.
Go figure that one out.
I have to wonder what practice God hated the most here; the immorality or the hypocrisy that evolved around it. Can you imagine the heartbreak and the hurt; not to mention the health problems that would have come from this type of worship? Yet they called it religion.
God detested it. He called it an abomination.
Are you getting the picture? I’m trying not to be too graphic.
I also want to make the point here that is was the WRONG worship and the WRONG intentions of the heart that God hated.
God desired a strong, healthy, moral nation of pure, righteous and good people.
Almost all of the wrong practices of the surrounding cultures seemed to start out with some form of idol worship. An ancient worshiper would first put up a carving of Asherah, and sooner or later their adoration for her would be leading them to do very stupid things, things they would have never done otherwise; not to mention things that totally offended the God who created them and loved them enough to bring them out of the environment where such abominations got their start.
Ancient worshipers of God would get to know their neighbors; fall in love with their neighbor’s daughter and take her to be their wife. Then they would find out she was pagan through and through and soon their home would be filled with wooden idols. One thing leads to another; to another. God did NOT want his people going down this trail of heart-breaking problems.
The worship of Asherah was strictly forbidden by God.
ASHERAH POLES ARE NOT CHRISTMAS TREES
A lot of people try to put the Christmas tree and Asherah poles into the same classification. This is a very weak argument at best.
These Asherah poles used in the worship of rituals of Asherah were not the same thing as our modern-day Christmas trees. These were carved wooden blocks taken from the trees of the forest and carved with pagan symbols by a skilled craftsman. They were decorated with many different types of metals. These trees and these rituals were ancient practices. The Christmas tree did not become fashionable in the modern generations until the 1800’s. It had nothing to do with the worship of Asherah. We are not comparing apples to apples with these analyses.
Yet many take the scripture in Jeremiah 10:1-4 as their reference. This passage reads: “Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”
It DOES sound like this passage is referencing trees; but not Christmas trees.
The reference is for a tree in the forest, so it could be many different kinds of trees. The tree is cut and the wood is formed into a block that is carved out by a skilled craftsman and then sold as an idol. This is that reference to the workman with the ax. This sounds like someone who could use an ax to creatively carve wooden idols. It sounds like a wood carver’s work. It speaks of how these carved wooden trees are decked with silver and gold; again sounding like a carved idol that is decorated with metals, then fastened with nails and hammers so that they do not move. In other words; they are secured in place after they have been cut down so that they do not topple over. They are carved idols that stand up on their own. Sounds exactly like a carved image of Asherah to me; not a Christmas tree at all. These were placed near all the altars of Baal and inside the planted tree groves where the worshipers went to perform their pagan rituals.
Of course, the major difference here would be that the referenced tree which is cut and carved and decorated would be to worship Asherah; and the Christmas tree would simply be for decorating a home in a festive manner (not for Asherah worship!)
JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING SOUNDS SIMILAR DOESN’T MAKE IT THE SAME THING
It bothers a lot of people that the two acts sound so similar in nature. They are total opposites however; the worship of God is completely opposite of worship of Asheroth.
People in general, whether godly or pagan, will naturally by default, do some of the same things in their daily lives. They may be completely different people; but they will all do some of the same things. Pagans eat meals and godly people eat meals; because they are both eating doesn’t make their eating the same. One is thanking their false god and one is thanking The One True God for their blessings of the food. All people sing; both pagans and Christians. Some are singing to pagan gods and some are singing to The One True God of The Universe. Pagans and worshipers of The One True God pray. One group prays to a false god who does not hear a word they say; and one group prays to a REAL God who hears every heartbeat of each heart that prays.
Each group of people are doing the same things; but the intentions of their hearts are totally opposite. One worships false gods; one worships The True God.
Again, it all goes back to the intent of the heart.
If you are celebrating Christmas to honor the CONCEPTION of Christ and you put up a Christmas tree to be festive in your home on this occasion; or even use it to honor Christ; you are NOT worshiping Asherah in any shape, form or fashion. You are celebrating something completely opposite of her.
There is NO comparison.
I go into more detail on this particular subject of the use of Christmas trees here; https://theinseasonlifestyle.com/truth-about-christmas-trees/ .
Enough said about the trees; but what do you think bothered God even more than the fact that now we all have to be confused about whether or not to put up a Christmas tree?
WHAT DO YOU THINK GOD CONSIDERED MOST?
I think God KNEW how hard it was going to be for some of his mightiest leaders to resist pagan worship that involved perverted sexual activities.
Just look back at how they all ended their lives. So many that did mighty, wonderful, unbelievable things for God left His ways and were perverted by wives who had religious practices that did not follow the ways of God; but dealt heavily in idolatry. Many of the idolatrous religious practices that led God’s mighty men of valor into sin were a type of Asherah worship.
Are you surprised to hear this?
It isn’t too emphasized when they tell you the stories. We usually only bring up the good things. The things that came later often get pushed aside and ignored. Think about Sampson who was devoted to God from birth. How did he go astray? He married a pagan wife.
I was heart-broken the first time I read the end of the story of Gideon’s life. He was used by God in a mighty way to destroy the Baal and Asherah worship in the land where he lived. He destroyed the altars of Baal and cut down the Asherah poles just as God commanded in the scriptures we have studied here.
If the story had only ended there!
Everything was going just great for Gideon; then before he died he turned to the worship of his own best interests, which led him to the worship of gold, which led him back to the worship of Baal, such as his father had done before him. Gideon married a pagan woman; who gave him a son who caused great problems for Israel. Gideon actually had 70 wives; I suspect mostly pagans. He could have left quite a legacy in the history of the people of God; instead he fathered more idol worshipers and died not keeping God’s will. The main culprit again; Asherah worship.
Then we hear of David’s son Solomon. He was an awesome king and he worshiped God; until he married foreign pagan wives and turned to idolatry. Then Solomon brought God’s anger against Israel and let Israel become a divided kingdom. All because Solomon had turned from God and worshiped the gods of his pagan wives.
We hear of King Ahab setting up Asherah poles. Everyone knows what a terrible and sad story this man left behind.
So many of the greatest men of Israel died in the sin of paganism; many of them pagan because of the worship of a certain false goddess called Asherah. A little compromise here, and a little compromise there; and before they realized what had happened they were no longer walking in the ways of God. Today’s mighty men are still brought down by Ashurah’s pagan, sexual perversions.
You can’t worship Asherah and worship God. Oh maybe that image you like to look at isn’t specifically NAMED Asherah; but it is that same intent of the heart. Or maybe that affair you are having at the office isn’t actually called a pagan practice; but how WOULD you define that intention of the heart? The wrong intentions of the heart (the things that turn one away from God’s ways) usually lead people right into the old trap that Asherah set for the ancients. Same destination; same crime.
If your heart is into paganism; everything you do will eventually become pagan. It seeps in on you and eventually surrounds you like quicksand.
If your heart is into worship of the One God of Heaven and Earth; everything you do will be godly. Oh, I’m definitely not saying you won’t ever be tempted – just ask King David about that one. What I am saying is that if you listen to and follow The One True God; He will walk you right out of every bad situation and turn your feet toward the path that they need to be walking on. God stands with the men that He leads. Sometimes it doesn’t look that way to those looking on; but later looking back everyone can see the whole story.
Do you want to be sure to avoid the sins of idol worship in your own life? Then, get out your compass and make sure you are going in the right direction. Make sure the needle of your moral compass is pointing to the ways of God.
Pagan religious practices are an abomination unto God. Do not erect idols inside your home, or inside your heart.