Much ado has been made within the last decade or so about YHWH being mentioned in ancient pagan writings from Israel as having the goddess Asherah as a wife. Scholars, mythologists, atheists, and pagans have mentioned it in various ways to attack the Bible’s accuracy. They use writings on a large 8th century BC storage container found in the Sinai Desert (Kuntillet ‘Ajrud) and writings on the walls of ancient structures in the West Bank (Khirbet el-Qom) to back up their conclusions. Some of them claim the writers of the Bible intentionally omitted or erased mentioning the YHWH-Asherah union to dupe people into monotheism. Others have claimed that this proves Christianity is no different than any other religion, that the God we worship isn’t superior or distinct from any other pagan god.
Pagan history has also shown that Baal and Asherah (Astaroth, Ashtoreth, etc.) were a god/goddess couple worshiped alongside each other. So the Bible skeptics I referred to above have assumed YHWH and Baal referred to the same god. The interpretations of such ancient finds actually depends on one’s worldview. If the critics were inclined to look past their biases that seek to ridicule or diminish the Bible, they would see the ancient writings in reality confirm what was said in several places in the Bible.
Ancient Israelites who rebelled against our God Jehovah always turned to Baal worship dating back to the 13th century BC, earlier than the 8th century BC writings mentioned above. They started their pagan Baal practices during the period of the judges. We are told in Judges 2: 11-13:
And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD [YHWH], and served Baalim: And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.
Later on in Judges, we discover the first implication that they were equating YHWH and Baal as the same, something that understandably infuriated Jehovah. In Judges 17:3-5 we find these words:
So when he had returned the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, his mother said, “I had wholly dedicated the silver from my hand to the LORD [YHWH] for my son, to make a carved image and a molded image; now therefore, I will return it to you.” Thus he returned the silver to his mother. Then his mother took two hundred shekels of silver and gave them to the silversmith, and he made it into a carved image and a molded image; and they were in the house of Micah. The man Micah had a shrine, and made an ephod and household idols; and he consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest.
Micah and his mother, while using the name of Jehovah, equated their idols to the worship of Jehovah. Israel went back and forth between obeying and worshiping Jehovah or worshiping Baal. Centuries after Micah when Israel and Judah split, Josiah king of Judah in the 6th century BC once again had to distinguish between Jehovah and Baal after his father and grandfather equated YHWH with Baal in the temple. Here’s what righteous Josiah did in 2 Kings 23:
And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD [YHWH] all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove [Asherah], and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.
Finally, we have the words that YHWH himself told the prophet Hosea in the 7th century BC about the people of Judah using his name interchangeably with Baal. The Lord had Hosea prophesy about a future time when Judah would cease to equate him with Baal when they would turn from their idolatry to exclusively worship him alone:
And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD [YHWH], that thou shalt call me Ishi [husband]; and shalt call me no more Baali. For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name. Hosea 2:16-17
There are a number of false religions today that continue ancient Israel’s tradition of equating the Godhead with Baal. Some of them are dressed up to look like Christianity and use the name of Christ but deny he is the way, the truth, and the life who alone grants us access to the Father by grace through faith. These Baal worshipers say Jesus’s name while they demand salvation by works in various forms. Other Baal-based false religions don’t try to look like Christianity, but they also claim Jesus isn’t the only way to God and consider him just an ascended human master. Either way, God in the future will rid the world of all forms of Baal worship, and I’m looking forward to that day.