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In this intriguing lecture, noted Biblical scholar and archaeologist Michael D. Coogan tackles the complex issue of Yahweh’s wives. According to Coogan, the issue of Yahweh’s wives, particularly the goddess Asherah, is a most interesting topic from the perspective of the history of religions, illuminated by both canonical and non-canonical sources, as well as archaeology. Coogan shares a number of fascinating images to support his notion that the “notoriously inconsistent” ancient Biblical texts need to be studied carefully, especially since so many today appeal to the Bible in support of their values.
Ancient Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, rather than being a single, momentous event that can be confirmed through archaeology, should be viewed as a deep-seated cultural memory that allowed disparate groups of highland villagers and escaped Canaanite slaves to coalesce into a single people. How this story arose and why the early Israelites adopted this memory are key questions, which find coherent answers in the relationship between Canaan and the Egyptian empire of the Late Bronze Age. By fusing historical and fictional memories, the story created the necessary social context for the birth of Israel as a people.