From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]

Ashtoreth . This deity, especially known as the Sidonian goddess for whom Solomon erected a shrine, later destroyed by Josiah ( 1Ki 11:5;   1 Kings 11:33 ,   2 Kings 23:13 ), was worshipped by all Semitic nations. In her temple at Ashkelon, the Philistines hung the armour of Saul (  1 Samuel 31:10 ). In Bashan, the cities Ashtaroth or Be-eshterah and Ashteroth-karnaim presumably derived their names from the fact that various Ashtoreth-cults were located there. At Ashteroth-karnaim (‘horned Ashtaroth’) one might even be justified in supposing from the name that ‘Ashtoreth was represented with the horns of a cow or a ram. Mesha, king of Moab, dedicated his prisoners to a composite goddess ‘Ashtar-Chemosh. Indeed, her existence in S. Arabia is evidenced by the probably equivalent male god ‘Athtar. In Abyssinia, she was called Astar; in Assyria and Babylonia, Ishtar (used also in the pl. ishtarâti to denote ‘goddesses,’ cf. ‘Ashtaroth ,   Judges 2:13; Jdg 10:6 ,   1 Samuel 7:13;   1 Samuel 12:10 ); in Syria, ‘Atbar, and in PhÅ“nicia, ‘Astart, whence the Hebrew ‘Ashtoreth, with the vowels of bôsheth (‘shameful thing’) substituted for the original. See Molech, Baal.

The character of this goddess, concerning which the OT makes no direct statement, is most clearly depicted in the Assyro-Babylonian literature. Here she appears as the goddess of fertility, productiveness, and love on the one hand, and of war, death, and decay on the other, a personification of the earth as it passes through the summer and winter seasons. To her the sixth month, Elul, the height of the summer, is sacred. In this month, through her powers, the ripening of vegetable life takes place, represented by Tammuz, whose coming is heralded by Ishtar’s festival in Ab, the fifth month. From this period of the year, the crops and verdure gradually decay, and finally disappear in the winter. Thus, since Ishtar has failed to sustain the life which her powers had created, popular belief made her the cause of death and decay. She therefore became a destructive goddess, who visited with disease those who disobeyed her commands, and even a goddess of war (cf.  1 Samuel 31:10 ). However, filled with remorse, because she had destroyed the vegetable life (= Tammuz, the consort of her youth), she sets out to the lower world in search of healing waters to revive Tammuz. During this quest (winter) the propagation of all life ceases. Successful in her search, she brings forth the new verdure, and once more assumes the role of a merciful goddess, to whom all life is due.

At a later period, when all gods had obtained a fixed position to each other and the necessity of assigning an abode to them was felt, the gods were identified with the heavenly bodies. Thus Ishtar was given the planet Venus, whose appearance at certain seasons as morning-star and at other times as evening-star paralleled the growth and decay of nature. Hence, in accordance with one theological school of the Babylonians, which considered Sin (moon) the ruler of the luminaries of the night, Ishtar was also known as the ‘daughter of Sin.’ By others she was designated as ‘daughter of Anu (lord of heaven),’ and even as the ‘sister of Shamash (sun),’ since, as the evening-star Venus disappears in the west, and reappears in the east to be called the morning-star.

The cults of this goddess were extant at various localities of Babylonia and Assyria. At some of these, both phases of her character were worshipped, side by side, with equality; at others, more importance was attached to one of her aspects. Thus at Uruk (Erech) in her temple E-Anna (‘house of heaven’) she was both a goddess of fertility and a martial deity in whose service were Kizretl, Ukhati, and Kharimati, the priestesses of Ishtar. At Agade, Calah, and Babylon greater stress seems to have been laid upon the milder aspect, and it is doubtless with the worship of this side of Ishtar’s nature that the religious prostitution mentioned by Greek writers was connected (Hdt. i. 199; Strab. xvi. i. 20; Ep.  Jeremiah 42:1-22 f.; Luc. de Dea Syr . 6 f.). Among the Assyrians, three Ishtars, viz., Ishtar of Nineveh, Ishtar of Kidmuru (temple at Nineveh), and Ishtar of Arbela, were especially worshipped. This warrior-nation naturally dwelt upon the martial aspect of the deity almost to the exclusion of her milder side as a mother-goddess, and accorded to her a position next to Ashur, their national god. Indeed, Ishtar was even designated as his wife, and since he ruled over the Igigi (spirits of heaven), so she was said to be ‘mighty over the Anunnaki ’ (spirits of the earth).

Thus Ishtar is the goddess whom Ashur-nazir-pal (b.c. 1800) aptly calls ‘queen of the gods, into whose hands are delivered the commands of the great gods, lady of Nineveh, daughter of Sin, sister of Shamash, who rules all kingdoms, who determines decrees, the goddess of the universe, lady of heaven and earth, who hears petitions, heeds sighs; the merciful goddess who loves justice.’ Equally does Esarhaddon’s claim, that it was ‘Ishtar, the lady of onslaught and battle,’ who stood at his side and broke his enemies’ bows, apply to this deity a goddess, to whom the penitent in the anguish of his soul prays

‘Besides thee there is no guiding deity.

I implore thee to look upon me and hear my sighs.

Proclaim peace, and may thy soul he appeased.

How long, O my Lady, till thy countenance be turned towards me.

Like doves, I lament, I satiate myself with sighs.’

N. Koenig.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

The chief goddess of the Phoenicians, as Baal was the male. By the plural (ASHTAROTH, Baalim:  Judges 10:6;  1 Samuel 7:4) different phases of the same deity, according to the different places of worship, are indicated. Always plural until under Solomon Ashtoreth or Astarte of Zidon was introduced ( 1 Kings 11:5;  1 Kings 11:3). She appears among the Philistines as the idol in whose temple they hung up Saul's armor ( 1 Samuel 31:10). She is identified as Ishtar or Nana, the planetary Venus among the Assyrian gods in inscriptions. Her name appears also in Cyprian and Carthaginian monuments; and on the sarcophagus of a king Esmunazar, who restored her temple at Zidon, along with his mother her priestess, Am-ashtoreth. She partly represents the planet Venus, partly the moon, "the queen of heaven" ( Jeremiah 7:18;  Jeremiah 44:17-18). (See Ashteroth-Karnaim

Our "star," Greek " Aster ," Latin Stella , is akin. Her worship was most licentious and abominable; closely connected with that of (See Asherah , "The Grove" Ashtoreh is the goddess, asherah "the grove," the image or the symbol of the goddess, of wood; Asher , Yashar , "to be straight," a straight stem of a tree living, or fixed upright ( 1 Kings 18:19;  2 Kings 21:7;  2 Kings 23:6;  2 Kings 23:13-14;  2 Kings 23:15;  Judges 6:25;  Judges 6:30). The "bringing out the asherah from the house of the Lord," and the "cutting down," suit such a symbol, not a grace in our sense. The active and passive powers of nature, generative and receptive, suggested the male and female deities, Baal and Ashtoreh. The ewes of a flock were called Ashteroth on this principle, propagating the flock ( Deuteronomy 7:13).

The earliest worship of apostasy was that of the sun, moon, etc. This naturally was grafted on idol worship, Baal sometimes being the sun god, sometimes distinct ( 2 Kings 23:5). So Ashtoreh and the moon. The stone pillar was the symbol of Baal, as the sacred tree was the symbol of Ashtoreh; stone marking his strength as the male, the tree her fruitfulness ( Deuteronomy 16:21). The sacred tree constantly accompanies the gods in the Assyrian monuments. In the Moabite Dibon stone the male form Astar is prefixed to Chamos or Chemosh, answering to the female Astarte. Identical with Athtar or Athtor of the Himyeritic inscriptions, and Estar of the Ninevite inscriptions; the Canaanite form of the male Aphroditos answering to the female Aphrodite.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [3]

Ash'toreth. (A Star). The principal female divinity of the Phoenicians, called Ishtar by the Assyrians and Astarte by the Greeks and Romans. She was, by some ancient writers, identified with the moon. But, on the other hand, the Assyrian Ishtar was not the moon-goddess, but the planet Venus; and Astarte was by many identified with the goddess Venus (or Aphrodite), as well as with the plant of that name. It is certain that the worship of Astarte became identified with that of Venus, and that this worship was connected with the most impure rites is apparent from the close connection of this goddess with Asherah .  1 Kings 11:5;  1 Kings 11:33;  2 Kings 23:13.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [4]

 Judges 10:6 1 Samuel 7:4 12:10 Jeremiah 44:17 1 Kings 11:5,33 2 Kings 23:13 1 Samuel 31:10 1 Kings 11:33 1 Kings 18:19 Jeremiah 44:25

Holman Bible Dictionary [5]

 1 Kings 11:33 2 Kings 23:13

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [6]

See Pagan Gods And Goddesses

Webster's Dictionary [7]

(n.) The principal female divinity of the Phoenicians, as Baal was the principal male divinity.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [8]


Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [9]

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [10]

Ash´toreth ( 1 Kings 11:5) is the name of a goddess of the Sidonians ( 1 Kings 11:5;  1 Kings 11:33), but also of the Philistines ( 1 Samuel 31:10), whose worship was introduced among the Israelites during the period of the judges ( Judges 2:13;  1 Samuel 7:4), was celebrated by Solomon himself ( 1 Kings 11:5), and was finally put down by Josiah ( 2 Kings 23:13). She is frequently mentioned in connection with Baal, as the corresponding female divinity ( Judges 2:13); and, from the addition of the words, 'and all the host of heaven,' in  2 Kings 23:4, it is probable that she represented one of the celestial bodies. There is also reason to believe that she is meant by the 'queen of heaven,' in  Jeremiah 7:18;  Jeremiah 44:17; whose worship is there said to have been solemnized by burning incense, pouring libations, and offering cakes.

According to the testimonies of profane writers, the worship of this goddess, under different names, existed in all countries and colonies of the Syro-Arabian nations. She was especially the chief female divinity of the Phoenicians and Syrians, and there can be no doubt was worshipped also at ancient Carthage. The classical writers, who usually endeavored to identify the gods of other nations with their own, rather than to discriminate between them, have recognized several of their own divinities in Ashtoreth. Thus she was considered to be Juno or Venus, especially Venus Urania.

As for the power of nature, which was worshipped under the name of Ashtoreth, Creuzer and Münter assert that it was the principle of conception and parturition—that subordinate power which is fecundated by a superior influence, but which is the agent of all births throughout the universe. As such, Münter maintains that the original form under which Ashtoreth was worshipped was the moon; and that the transition from that to the planet Venus was unquestionably an innovation of a later date. It is evident that the moon alone can be properly called the queen of heaven; as also that the dependent relation of the moon to the sun makes it a more appropriate symbol of that sex, whose functions as female and mother, throughout the whole extent of animated nature, were embodied in Ashtoreth [BAAL].

The rites of her worship, if we may assume their resembling those which profane authors describe as paid to the cognate goddesses, in part agree with the few indications in the Old Testament, in part complete the brief notices there into an accordant picture. The cakes mentioned in  Jeremiah 7:18, were also known to the Greeks, and were by them made in the shape of a sickle, in reference to the new moon. Among animals, the dove, the crab, and, in later times, the lion, were sacred to her; and among fruits, the pomegranate. No blood was shed on her altar; but male animals, and chiefly kids, were sacrificed to her. The most prominent part of her worship, however, consisted of those libidinous orgies, which Augustine, who was an eye-witness of their horrors in Carthage, describes with such indignation. Her priests were eunuchs in women's attire ( 1 Kings 14:24), and women ( Hosea 4:14), who, like the Bayaderes of India, prostituted themselves to enrich the temple of this goddess. The prohibition in  Deuteronomy 23:18 appears to allude to the dedication of such funds to such a purpose. As for the places consecrated to her worship, although the numerous passages in which the Authorized Version erroneously speaks of groves, are to be deducted (as is explained below), there are yet several occasions on which gardens and shady trees are mentioned as peculiar seats of (probably, her)lascivious rites ( Isaiah 1:29;  Isaiah 65:3;  1 Kings 14:23;  Hosea 4:13;  Jeremiah 2:20;  Jeremiah 3:13). She also had celebrated temples ( 1 Samuel 31:10).

As to the form and attributes with which Ashtoreth was represented, the oldest known image, that in Paphos, was a white conical stone. In Canaan she was probably represented as a cow. In Phoenicia, she had the head of a cow or bull, as she is seen on coins. Sanchoniathon states that 'Astarte adopted the head of a bull as a symbol of her sovereignty;' he also accounts for the star which is her most usual emblem, by saying that 'when she passed through the earth, she found a fallen star, which she consecrated in Tyre. At length, she was figured with the human form, as Lucian expressly testifies of the Syrian goddess—which is substantially the same as Ashtoreth; and she is so found on coins of Severus, with her head surrounded with rays, sitting on a lion, and holding a thunderbolt and a sceptre in either hand.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [11]

ash´to - reth , ash - tō reth ( עשׁתּרת , ‛ashtōreth  ; plural עשׁתּרות , ‛ashtārōth  ; Ἀσταρτῆ , Astartḗ ):

1. Name and Origin

2. Attributes of the Goddess

3. Ashtoreth as a Moon-Goddess

4. The Local Ashtaroth

1. Name and Origin

The name of the supreme goddess of Canaan and the female counterpart of Baal.

The name and cult of the goddess were derived from Babylonia, where Ishtar represented the evening and morning stars and was accordingly androgynous in origin. Under Semitic influence, however, she became solely female, but retained a memory of her primitive character by standing, alone among the Assyro-Bab goddesses, on a footing of equality with the male divinities. From Babylonia the worship of the goddess was carried to the Semites of the West, and in most instances the feminine suffix was attached to her name; where this was not the case the deity was regarded as a male. On the Moabite Stone, for example, 'Ashtar is identified with Chemosh, and in the inscriptions of southern Arabia 'Athtar is a god. On the other hand, in Atar-gatis or Derketo (2 Macc 12:26), Atar, without the feminine suffix, is identified with the goddess 'Athah or 'Athi (Greek Gatis ). The cult of the Greek Aphrodı́tē in Cyprus was borrowed from that of Ashtoreth; whether the Greek name also is a modification of Ashtoreth, as has often been maintained, is doubtful.

2. Attributes of the Goddess

In Babylonia and Assyria Ishtar was the goddess of love and war. An old Babylonian legend related how the descent of Ishtar into Hades in search of her dead husband, Tammuz, was followed by the cessation of marriage and birth in both earth and heaven, while the temples of the goddess at Nineveh and Arbela, around which the two cities afterward grew up, were dedicated to her as the goddess of war. As such she appeared to one of Assur-bani-pal's seers and encouraged the Assyrian king to march against Elam. The other goddesses of Babylonia, who were little more than reflections of the god, tended to merge into Ishtar who thus became a type of the female divinity, a personification of the productive principle in nature, and more especially the mother and creatress of mankind.

The chief seat of the worship of Ishtar in Babylonia was Erech, where prostitution was practiced in her name, and she was served with immoral rites by bands of men and women. In Assyria, where the warlike side of the goddess was predominant, no such rites seem to have been practiced, and, instead, prophetesses were attached to her temples to whom she delivered oracles.

3. Ashtoreth as a Moon-Goddess

In Canaan, Ashtoreth, as distinguished from the male 'Ashtar, dropped her warlike attributes, but in contradistinction to Ashērāh , whose name and cult had also been imported from Assyria, became, on the one hand, the colorless consort of Baal, and on the other hand, a moon-goddess. In Babylonia the moon was a god, but after the rise of the solar theology, when the larger number of the Babylonian gods were resolved into forms of the sun-god, their wives also became solar, Ishtar, "the daughter of Sin" the moon-god, remaining identified with the evening-star. In Canaan, however, when the solar theology had absorbed the older beliefs, Baal, passing into a sun-god and the goddess who stood at his side becoming a representative of the moon - the pale reflection, as it were, of the sun - A shtoreth came to be regarded as the consort of Baal and took the place of the solar goddesses of Babylonia.

4. The Local Ashtaroth

Hence there were as "many Ashtoreths" or Ashtaroth as Baals. They represented the various forms under which the goddess was worshipped in different localities ( Judges 10:6;  1 Samuel 7:4;  1 Samuel 12:10 , etc.). Sometimes she was addressed as Naamah, "the delightful one," Greek Astro - noē , the mother of Eshmun and the Cabeiri. The Philistines seem to have adopted her under her warlike form ( 1 Samuel 31:10 the King James Version reading "Ashtoreth," as Septuagint), but she was more usually the moon-goddess (Lucian, De Dea Syriac ., 4; Herodian, v.6, 10), and was accordingly symbolized by the horns of a cow. See Ashtaroth-Karnaim . At Ashkelon, where Herodotus (i.105) places her most ancient temple, she was worshipped under the name of Atar - gatis , as a woman with the tail of a fish, and fish were accordingly sacred to her. Elsewhere the dove was her sacred symbol. The immoral rites with which the worship of Ishtar in Babylonia was accompanied were transferred to Canaan ( Deuteronomy 23:18 ) and formed part of the idolatrous practices which the Israelites were called upon to extirpate.