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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

(See Ashtoreth .) Translated rather "Asherah," the image of the goddess. So  2 Kings 23:6, where it is nonsense "Josiah brought out the grove (Asherah) from the house of the Lord"; Manasseh had "set this graven image of Asherah in the house" ( 2 Kings 21:7;  2 Kings 22:7; compare  Judges 3:7). Also a "grove" could not be "set up under every green tree" ( 2 Kings 17:10;  1 Kings 14:23;  1 Kings 18:19;  Exodus 34:13). In  Genesis 21:33 it is a different word, "Abraham planted a "grove" ( Eshowl ) in Beersheba," rather "a tamarisk tree," a hardy evergreen fitted to be a memorial to his posterity that the well was theirs.

The Asherah was upright, fixed or planted in the ground; of wood, so that it was capable of being "cut down and burned" ( Judges 6:25-26; see  1 Kings 15:13). "Maacbah had made an idol Asherah" (not" IN grove".) The worship of Asherah like that of Astarte or Ashtoreth, was associated with Baal worship. Astarte is the personal goddess, Ashcrah her conventional symbol in some one of her attributes. The sacred tree in Assyrian sculptures is similar, a symbol of the goddess of nature. The stone "pillar" (as the Hebrew for "image" ought to be translated,  Exodus 34:13) was Baal's symbol; as the wooden pillar or tree was Astarte's ( 2 Kings 18:4).

The attempt to combine this with Jehovah worship is the subject of the prohibition ( Exodus 34:13). The Hebrew word translated "plain" ( Elon ) signifies a grove or plantation; that of Mamre ( Genesis 13:18), of Moreh ( Genesis 12:6), of Zaanaim ( Judges 4:11), of the pillar in Shechem ( Judges 9:6), of Meonenim ( Judges 9:37), of Tabor ( 1 Samuel 10:3). Groves were associated with worship from ancient times, as the passages just quoted show. Pliny states that trees were the first temples. Their shade, solitude, and solemn stillness suggested this use. The superstitious abuse of them to idolatry and licentious rites caused the Divine prohibition of them for religious purposes; which prohibition Israel disregarded ( Jeremiah 17:2;  Ezekiel 20:28).

Trees were also used for national assemblies ( Judges 9:6;  Judges 9:37), for burying the dead ( Genesis 35:8;  1 Samuel 31:14). Some trees are specially-noted: the tamarisk ( Eeshel ) under which Saul abode in Gibeah ( 1 Samuel 22:6); the terebinth in Shechem under which Joshua, after writing the law of God, set up ( Joshua 24:26) a great stone as a witness; the palm tree of Deborah ( Judges 4:5); the terebinth of enchantments ( Judges 9:37 margin, (See Meonenim ); of wanderers ( Judges 6:11, (See Zaanaim ));  1 Samuel 14:2, "a pomegranate tree in Migron" ( 1 Samuel 10:3).

Tree worship, perhaps a distortion of the tradition of the tree of life and the tree of knowledge (Genesis 3), may be traced in Egypt, Arabia, Syria, Assyria, Persia, India, Thibet, Siam, China, Japan, Ceylon, the Philippine isles. The Druids venerated oak groves (Pliny, H. N., xvi. 44; Tacitus, Annals xiv. 30). The black priests in Africa alone may enter the sacred groves. The Etrurians worshipped a palm-tree.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [2]

It is proper to observe, that in order the more effectually to guard the Israelites from idolatry, the blessed God, in instituting the rites of his own worship, went directly counter to the practice of the idolatrous nations. Thus, because they worshipped in groves, he expressly forbade "the planting a grove of trees near his altar,"  Deuteronomy 16:21 . Nor would he suffer his people to offer their sacrifices on the tops of hills and mountains, as the Heathens did, but ordered that they should be brought to one altar in the place which he appointed,  Deuteronomy 12:13-14 . And as for the groves, which the Canaanites had planted, and the idols and altars which they had erected on the tops of high mountains and hills for the worship of their gods, the Israelites are commanded utterly to destroy them,  Deuteronomy 12:2-3 . The groves and high places do not seem to have been different, but the same places, or groves planted on the tops of hills, probably round an open area, in which the idolatrous worship was performed, as may be inferred from the following words of the Prophet Hosea: "They sacrifice upon the tops of mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks, and poplars, and elms,"  Hosea 4:13 . The use of groves for religious worship is generally supposed to have been as ancient as the patriarchal ages; for we are informed, that "Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the Lord,"  Genesis 21:33 . However, it is not expressly said, nor can it by this passage be proved, that he planted the grove for any religious purpose; it might only be designed to shade his tent. And this circumstance perhaps is recorded to intimate his rural way of living, as well as his religious character; that he dwelt in a tent, under the shade of a grove, or tree, as the word אשל , eshel, may more properly be translated; and in this humble habitation led a very pious and devout life. The reason and origin of planting sacred groves is variously conjectured; some imagining it was only hereby intended to render the service more agreeable to the worshippers, by the pleasantness of the shade; whereas others suppose it was to invite the presence of the gods. The one or the other of these reasons seems to be intimated in the fore-cited passage of Hosea: "They burn incense under oaks, and poplars, and elms, because the shade thereof is good,"   Hosea 4:13 . Others conceive their worship was performed in the midst of groves, because the gloom of such a place is apt to strike a religious awe upon the mind; or else, because such dark concealments suited the lewd mysteries of their idolatrous worship. Another conjecture, which seems as probable as any, is, that this practice began with the worship of demons, or departed souls. It was an ancient custom to bury the dead under trees, or in woods. "Deborah was buried under an oak, near Bethel,"  Genesis 35:8; and the bones of Saul and Jonathan under a tree at Jabesh,  1 Samuel 31:13 . Now an imagination prevailing among the Heathen, that the souls of the deceased hover about their graves, or at least delight to visit their dead bodies, the idolaters, who paid divine honours to the souls of their departed heroes, erected images and altars for their worship in the same groves where they were buried; and from thence it grew into a custom afterward to plant groves, and build temples, near the tombs of departed heroes,  2 Kings 23:15-16 , and to surround their temples and altars with groves and trees; and these sacred groves being constantly furnished with the images of the heroes or gods that were worshipped in them, a grove and an idol came to be used as convertible terms,  2 Kings 23:6 .

Morrish Bible Dictionary [3]

1. eshel , a tamarisk, or perhaps any large tree. Abraham planted a memorial tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of Jehovah.  Genesis 21:33 . The same word is translated 'tree' in the A.V. in  1 Samuel 22:6 ('grove' in margin ) and  1 Samuel 31:13 .

2. asherah, asherath. The word 'grove' naturally suggests a row of trees, but that this cannot be the meaning is evident from groves being set up 'under every green tree.'  1 Kings 14:23;  2 Kings 17:10 . Manasseh set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the temple, which Josiah removed, burnt, and ground to powder.  2 Kings 21:7;  2 Kings 23:6 . This was doubtless made of metal, but the groves were of wood, as we learn from their being cut down, and burnt.  Judges 6:25,26;  2 Kings 23:14,15 . One passage speaks of groves being planted,  Deuteronomy 16:21; another, of their being made, and another, of their being built.  1 Kings 14 : 15,23. They are constantly associated with idols and images, and  Judges 3:7 speaks of their being served along with Baalim.

On the whole it seems most probable that they were wooden symbols of a goddess, in the form of images or pillars, or mere stems of trees inserted in the earth. In  2 Kings 23:7 we read that women wove 'hangings' for the groves, but these were literally 'houses' or 'tents,' which implies that they enclosed the groves, probably for impure purposes, for immorality was almost constantly associated with idolatry. Kalisch and others suppose that the name Asherah has reference to the Syrian goddess Astarte, and it is so translated by the LXX in  2 Chronicles 15:16 . Fürst refers it to the Phoenician nature-god. The many references to the idols, images, and groves show how far Israel had departed from the living God and fallen into idolatry.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [4]

  • The Heb. word 'elon, uniformly rendered in the Authorized Version by "plain," properly signifies a grove or plantation. In the Revised Version it is rendered, pl., "oaks" (  Genesis 13:18;  14:13;  18:1;  12:6;  Deuteronomy 11:30;  Joshua 19:33 ). In the earliest times groves are mentioned in connection with religious worship. The heathen consecrated groves to particular gods, and for this reason they were forbidden to the Jews ( Jeremiah 17:3;  Ezekiel 20:28 ).

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Grove'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. 1897.

  • Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [5]

    Grove . Apart from   Genesis 21:33 , to be presently mentioned, ‘grove’ is everywhere in AV [Note: Authorized Version.] a mistaken tr. [Note: translate or translation.] , which goes back through the Vulgate to the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] , of the name of the Canaanite goddess Asherah . The ‘groves,’ so often said to have been, or to be deserving to be, ‘cut down,’ were the wooden poles set up as symbols of Asherah. See further the art. Asherah.

    In  Genesis 21:33 the grove which AV [Note: Authorized Version.] makes Abraham plant in Beer-sheba was really ‘a tamarisk tree’ (so RV [Note: Revised Version.] ), a tree which also figures in the story of Saul, 1Sa 22:6;   1 Samuel 31:13 (both RV [Note: Revised Version.] ).

    A. R. S. Kennedy.

    King James Dictionary [6]

    GROVE, n.

    1. In gardening, a small wood or cluster of trees with a shaded avenue, or a wood impervious to the rays of the sun. A grove is either open or close open, when consisting of large trees whose branches shade the ground below close, when consisting of trees and underwood, which defend the avenues from the rays of the sun and from violent winds. 2. A wood of small extent. In America, the word is applied to a wood of natural growth in the field,as well as to planted trees in a garden,but only to a wood of small extent and not to a forest. 3. Something resembling a wood or trees in a wood.

    Tall groves of masts arose in beauteous pride.

    People's Dictionary of the Bible [7]

    Grove. The translation, except in  Genesis 21:33 A. V. (the R. V. reads "tamarisk tree)," of the Hebrew word Asherah ; but since Asherah is an idol or an idolatrous pillar—an image of Astarte, and not a "grove," the A. V. is misleading, as in  1 Kings 18:19;  2 Kings 13:6, and other places, where the R. V. transfers the Hebrew word and reads "Asherah."

    Holman Bible Dictionary [8]

     Genesis 21:33Asherah

    International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [9]

    grōv  :

    (1) אשׁרה , 'ăshērāh ̌ . See Asherah .

    (2) אשל , 'ēshel (  Genesis 21:33 the King James Version, the Revised Version (British and American) "a tamarisk tree"). See Tamarisk .

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [10]

    Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Grove'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.