"Grove" or "an Asherah" or "a wooden image"?
KJB - Deuteronomy 16:21 "Thou shalt not plant thee a GROVE OF ANY TREES near unto the altar of the LORD thy God, which thou shalt make unto thee."
NKJV - Deuteronomy 16:21 "You shall not plant for yourself any tree, as A WOODEN IMAGE, near the altar which you build for yourself to the LORD your God."
ESV Deuteronomy 16:21 "You shall not plant any tree as AN ASHERAH beside the altar of the LORD your God that you shall make."
1 Kings 16:33 KJB - "And Ahab made a GROVE; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him."
NKJV 1 Kings 16:33 - "And Ahab made A WOODEN IMAGE. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him."
ESV 1 Kings 16:33 - "And Ahab made AN ASHERAH. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him."
Answering the Bible agnostics who criticize the King James Bible -
Bible corrector and NIV Vatican Version user Al Maxey posts on his site: “These (King James Bible) translators also did not know that the "Asherah" was a wooden idol representing a Canaanite goddess, so they translated the word repeatedly as meaning a "grove" of trees. In I Kings 16:33 they state, "And Ahab made A GROVE” which provoked the Lord God to anger.
In point of fact, Ahab made an IDOL here (the Asherah); his sin was idolatry, not planting a grove of trees!! God was not condemning "a grove," but rather an idol. I actually heard someone refer to this passage as "proof" that planting a "grove" will cause one to be eternally lost!!! How sad!” [End of Al Maxey's comments]
Keep in mind that this criticism of the King James Bible is raised by men who themselves do NOT believe that ANY Bible in any language is or ever was the perfect and infallible words of God. Not one of them will ever show you a copy of what they honestly believe is the complete and inerrant words of God in ANY language. And the simple reason why they won't is because they do not believe that such a thing exists or ever existed.
In any event, let’s go ahead and look at his objection. In the King James Bible, and many others too as we shall soon see, there are two different Hebrew words translated as " A GROVE". One is # 842 ashen-rah and is found some 39 times and is always translated as "grove" in the KJB and several others. The other one is # 815 eh-shel and is only found 3 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. Once it is translated as "a grove" and 2 times as "a tree" It is used in Genesis 21:33 where we read:
Genesis 21:33 where we are told - “And Abraham planted a GROVE in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.” is found only three times in the Hebrew texts and the other two times it is translated as a “tree” in the King James Bible.
The King James Bible is not the only one to translate this word as a "GROVE" in Genesis 21:33. Wycliffe 1395, Tyndale 1534, the Great Bible 1540, Matthew's Bible 1549 and the Bishops' Bible say he planted "a wood" and Coverdale 1535 says he planted "trees" while the Geneva Bible 1587, the Douay-Rheims of 1610, The Revised English Bible 1877, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1904, The Improved Bible 1913, Lamsa's 1936 translation of the Syriac Peshitta, The Word of Yah Bible 1993, the KJV 21st Century 1994, The Revised Webster Bible 1995, the Third Millennium Bible 1998 - "planted A GROVE", The Revised Geneva Bible 2005, Bond Slave Version 2009, English Jubilee Bible 2010 - "A GROVE", Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, Biblos Interlinear Bible 2011, The Work of God's Children Illustrated Bible 2011.
The Lesser Bible of 1853 says he planted "an orchard"
John Gill comments on Genesis 21:33 - "And Abraham planted A GROVE in Beersheba…The Jewish writers are divided about the use of this grove, as Jarchi relates; one says it was for a paradise or orchard, to produce fruits out of it for travellers and for entertainment; another says it was for an inn to entertain strangers in; it rather was for a shade, to shelter from the sun in those sultry and hot countries; and perhaps for a religious use, and to be an oratory, as the following words seem to suggest: in the midst of it very likely Abraham built an altar, and sacrificed to the Lord; hence might come the superstitious use of GROVES among the Heathens; and, when they came to be abused to idolatrous purposes, they were forbidden by the law of Moses, which before were lawful."
Matthew Henry comments - "There he planted A GROVE for a shade to his tent, or perhaps an orchard of fruit-trees; and there, though we cannot say he settled, for God would have him, while he lived, to be a stranger and a pilgrim, yet he sojourned many days...There he called on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God, probably in the grove he planted, which was his oratory or house of prayer."
The same Hebrew word translated as "grove" in Genesis 21:33 in the KJB and others is also translated as "a tree" and is used in 1 Samuel 22:6 “now Saul abode in Gibeah under a TREE in Ramah” and in 1 Samuel 31:13 “And they took their bones, and buried them under a TREE at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.”
However versions like the NKJV, NIV, RSV, ESV, NASB and Holman Standard all tell us in Genesis 21:33 that Abraham planted "A TAMARISK TREE" instead of a grove.
Even if we take the view, as I most certainly do, that both words are talking about TREES, there is still no contradiction. Deuteronomy 16:21 forbids the planting A GROVE OF TREES near the altar of God and was part of the law of Moses and this law was given long after the time of Abraham. Abraham was not under the law of Moses and there is not the slightest indication that this grove of trees Abraham planted was in any way connected to idolatry. In fact, it was after Abraham planted this grove in Bersheba that he there called upon the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.
Even Dan Wallace notes that "The planting of the tree is a sign of Abraham’s intent to stay there for a long time, not a religious act. A growing tree in the Negev would be a lasting witness to God’s provision of water."
It seems the main objection of this particular Bible critic is the use of the word “grove” that is used some 38 times from the book of Exodus 34:13 "But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their GROVES." to Micah 5:14 - "And I will pluck up thy GROVES out of the midst of thee; so will I destroy thy cities."
Deuteronomy 16:21 "Thou shalt not plant thee a GROVE OF ANY TREES near unto the altar of the LORD thy God, which thou shalt make unto thee."
1 Kings 16:33 KJB - "And Ahab made a GROVE; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him."The only blunder here is the ignorance of men like Al Maxey, a man with no infallible Bible to either believe in himself or to give to anyone else.
Let’s see how the word “groves” is used so we can see what the word refers to.
In Deuteronomy 7:5 God gives instructions to His people whom He had redeemed out of Egypt. They are about to go into the promised land where they will have to fight to drive out the seven pagan nations that inhabit the land. God tells them that they are to destroy them and not make marriages with them.
Then He says: “But thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, AND CUT DOWN THEIR GROVES, and burn their graven images with fire.”
The "groves" that these heathen nations made WERE used in connection with idolatrous practices. This should be obvious to anyone who follows a word study in the King James Bible.
For example, in 2 Chronicles 15:16 we read: "And also concerning Maachah the mother of Asa the king, he removed her from being queen, because SHE HAD MADE AN IDOL IN A GROVE: and Asa CUT DOWN HER IDOL, and stamped it, and burnt it at the brook Kidron."
Please notice that this was "an idol IN a grove" and he "cut down her idol" and burnt it. The grove itself was not the idol, as our Bible critics affirms, but the idol that was IN the grove.
John Calvin comments about the "groves" in Jeremiah 17:1-2 "The sin of Judah is written with a pen or iron...Whilst their children remember their altars and their GROVES by the green trees upon the high hills."
Calvin comments: "I then have no doubt but that the Prophet here amplifies their wickedness, when he says, that it was graven on the horns of the altars; for their posterity remembered the superstitions, which they had received from their fathers. He mentions also THEIR GROVES; for on or near every shady tree they built altars; and also on all high hills."
Again Calvin comments on Micah 5:14 "And I will pluck up THY GROVES out of the midst of thee", saying: "I will take away thy groves. The GROVES, we know, formed a part of their idolatry: they are therefore mentioned here as an addition by the Prophet. For he speaks not simply of trees, but refers to the wicked practices of the people: for wherever there were high and lofty trees, they thought that something divine was hid under their shade; hence their superstition. When therefore the Prophet mentions GROVES, it must be understood of vicious and false modes of worship; for they thought that those places acquired a sort of sanctity from the trees; as they also thought that they were nearer to God when they were on a hill."
John Gill comments on Exodus 34:13 "But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and CUT DOWN THEIR GROVES." - "and cut down their groves; which were clusters of trees, where they had their temples and their idols, and did service to them, and where, besides idolatry, many impurities were committed. Such places were originally used by good men for devotion, being shady and solitary, but when abused to superstitious and idolatrous uses, were forbidden. It is said the word for "grove" is general, and includes every tree they serve, or plant, for an idol."
The Geneva Bible notes - "and cut down their (d) groves: (d) Which pleasant places they chose for their idols."
GROVES vs Asherah
Deuteronomy 16:21 KJB - "Thou shalt not plant thee a GROVE of any trees near unto the altar of the LORD thy God, which thou shalt make thee."
NKJV - "You shall not plant for yourself any tree, as A WOODEN IMAGE, near the alter which you build for yourself to the LORD your God."
Those versions that have translated this word here as "ASHERAH POLE" (or something similar) are the RSV, ESV, Holman, NASB, International Standard Version, Common English Version - "A SACRED POLE"; NIV " A WOODEN ASHERAH POLE"
Young’s has - “Thou dost not plant for thee A SHRINE OF ANY TREES near the altar “.
The Knox Bible of 2012 reads: “There must be NO SACRED WOOD around the Lord’s altar, no tree of any kind.”
The Ancient Roots bible 2008 has "Never plant A TOTEM-POLE from any tree that you made for yourselves by the altar of Yahweh your God."
Not only does the King James Bible translate this word as GROVE in Deuteronomy 16:21 and the other passages, but so also do Wycliffe's bible of 1395 - "ye shall not plant a wood.”, Tyndale 1534 (he translated part of the O.T. before his death), Miles Coverdale 1535 - "Thou shalt plante no GROUE (of what so euer trees it be) nye vnto the altare of the LORDE thy God", the Great Bible 1540 (Cranmer), Matthew's Bible 1549 (John Rogers), the Bishop's Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599 - “Thou shalt plant thee no GROUE of any trees neere vnto the altar of the Lorde thy God”, the Douay-Rheims of 1610, Webster’s translation 1833, Brentons Translation 1851, the Lesser Bible 1853, The Jewish Family Bible 1864, The Smith Bible 1876, the Jewish translation of 1936 by the Hebrew Pub. Co. of New York, the Douay Version 1950, Lamsa's 1936 translation of the Syriac, - “You shall not plant for yourselves A GROVE of any trees near the altar of the LORD”, The Word of Yah Bible 1993, the KJV 21st Century Version 1994, The Revised Webster Bible 1995, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, God's First Truth 1999, The Apostolic Polyglot Bible 2003 - "sacred GROVE", The Revised Geneva Bible 2005, the Complete Apostle's Bible 2005 - "you shall not plant for yourself A GROVE", Bond Slave Version 2009, the 2009 Catholic Public Domain Version,the English Jubilee Bible of 2010, Holy Scriptures VW Edition 2010, the Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010 - “Thou shalt not plant thee asherah (GROVE) of any trees near unto the altar of YEHOVAH", the Biblos Interlinear Bible 2011 -"A GROVE of trees", Conservative Bible 2011, The Work of God's Children Illustrated Bible 2011.
Among foreign language Bible that also have GROVE, referring to a group of trees, are Jerome’s Latin Vulgate of 405 A.D. - “Non plantabis lucum, et omnem ARBORE juxta altare Domini Dei tui” and the Nova Vulgata of 1979 - “arborem”, the Spanish Sagradas Escrituras 1569, Cipriano do Valera 1602, Cipriano Revisada 1865 - "No te plantarás BOSQUE DE NINGUN ARBOL cerca del altar del SEÑOR tu Dios, que tú te habrás hecho.”, and the Reina Valera 1909 - "No te plantarás BOSQUE DE NINGUN ARBOL cerca del altar de Jehová tu Dios, que tú te habrás hecho.", the Italian Diodati 1649- "Non piantarti alcun BOSCO DI VERUNO ALBERO presso all’Altar del Signore Iddio tuo", the French Martin 1744 - “Tu ne planteras point de BOCAGE, DE QUELQUE ARBRE que ce soit”, the Portuguese A Biblia Sagrada em Portugués and the Almeida Corrigida E Fiel 1681 - "Não plantarás NENHUM BOSQUE DE ARVORES unto ao altar do SENHOR" and Martin Luther’s German Bible 1545 - “Du sollst keinen Hain von Bäumen pflanzen bei dem Altar des HERRN”.
Other foreign language Bible that also translate this word as "A GROVE OF TREES" are the Dutch Staten Vertaling Bible - “Gij zult u geen bos planten van enig geboomte, bij het altaar des HEEREN” = “Thou shalt not plant thee A GROVE OF TREES near unto the altar of the LORD”, the Russian Synodal Bible - “Не сади себе рощи из каких-либо дерев при жертвеннике Господа” = “Not plant thee A GROVE OF ANY TREES near unto the altar of the Lord”, and the 2014 Romanian Fidela Bible - “Să nu îţi sădeşti vreun crâng de pomi lângă altarul DOMNULUI Dumnezeul tău” = “Thou shalt not sow any GROVE OF TREES near the altar of the LORD thy God”.
Even the so called Greek Septuagint reads as does the King James Bible - Deuteronomy 16:21 - "ου φυτευσεις σεαυτω αλσος παν ξυλον παρα το θυσιαστηριον κυριου του θεου σου ο ποιησεις σεαυτω" - "Thou shalt not plant for thyself A GROVE; thou shalt not plant for thyself any tree near the altar of thy God."
and the Modern Greek Bible also reads this way - "Δεν θελεις φυτευσει εις σεαυτον αλσος οποιωνδηποτε δενδρων πλησιον του θυσιαστηριου Κυριου του Θεου σου" (αλσος οποιωνδηποτε δενδρων) = grove whichever of trees.
The Catholic Connection
Among the Catholic versions we see the usual confusion. The older Douay-Rheims of 1610 and the 1950 Douay both said "grove of trees". But the more modern Catholic versions like the St. Joseph NAB 1970 and the New Jerusalem of 1985 both say "You must not plant A SACRED POLE OF WOOD whatsoever beside the altar". But now the latest 2009 Catholic Public Domain Version has gone back to reading: "You shall not plant a sacred GROVE, nor shall you plant any tree near the altar of the Lord your God."
Even The Oxford English Dictionary tells us groves were commonly planted by heathen peoples in honor of deities to serve as places of worship or for the reception of images.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown - "Thou shalt not plant thee A GROVE - A GROVE has in Scripture a variety of significations - a group of overshadowing trees, or a grove adorned with altars dedicated to a particular deity, or a wooden image in a grove (Judges 6:25, 2 Kings 23:4-6) They might be placed near the earthen and temporary altars erected in the wilderness, but they could not exist either at the tabernacle or temples. They were places, which, with their usual accompaniments, presented strong allurements to idolatry; and therefore the Israelites were prohibited from planting them."
Matthew Henry - "They must not only not join with the idolaters in their worships, not visit their GROVES, nor bow before the images which they had set up, but, 1. They MUST NOT PLANT A GROVE, nor so much as a tree, near God’s altar lest they should make it look like the altars of the false gods. They made GROVES the places of their worship."
John Gill - "Thou shall not plant thee a GROVE of any trees,.... Of any sort of trees, as oaks or any other; not but that it was lawful to plant trees and GROVES of them, but not for a religious or idolatrous use: particularly near unto the altar of the Lord thy God, which thou shalt make thee; as the Heathens did near their altars, lest it should be thought to be done for a like superstitious and idolatrous use; which evil the Jews sometimes fell into in the times of wicked reigns, and which their good and pious kings removed and destroyed; and Hecataeus , an Heathen historian, relates of the city of Jerusalem, that there were there no image, nor plantation, nor grove, nor any such thing."
The NKJV translates "not plant thee a grove of any trees" as "not plant for yourself any tree, as a wooden image, near the altar". The NKJV is confusing. A wooden image is not a tree that can be planted.
The NASB has "You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree." The Holman Standard is very similar with: “Do not set up an Asherah of any kind of wood next to the altar you will build for the Lord your God,” and the ESV says: “You shall not plant any tree as an Asherah beside the altar of the Lord your God that you shall make." This is more likely than the NKJV in that at least it is a tree which represents an idol.
The NIV says: "Do not set up any wooden Asherah pole beside the altar." This reading changes "plant" to "set up", omits the word and the concept of trees and leaves us, in effect, with a non living stick.
THE VERB IS TO PLANT # 5193, AS IN TO PLANT A TREE OR TO PLANT A VINE, NOT "TO SET UP". YOU DO NOT "PLANT" AN IDOL. Groves of trees became dedicated places to honor pagan gods. Sometimes the images of these gods were carved into the base of the living tree itself, as can be seen on many of the New Age Goddess sites. 1 Kings 15:13 tells us king Asa removed his mother from being queen because she made an idol in a grove. This carved image in the living tree could also have been cut out of the tree and placed in a persons home.
A further step was then taken in carving a graven image like that found in the grove and placing it in the house of the LORD. See 2 Kings 21:7 where we read that wicked king Manasseh "set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house". Later on this "grove" was removed from the house of the Lord by the young reformer Josiah. See 2 Kings 23:4,6.
New Age Theology
This information comes from a New Age site called Blessed Bee. These are direct quotes from the New Agers themselves. These are NOT Christian sites, but New Age sites, and this is what they say they believe.
This site tells us of the so called ancient goddesses. (The capital letters are mine for emphasis.) Regarding Asherah: "In the Middle East the Goddess of the GROVE was Asherah, whose GROVES were found "on every high hill and under every green tree" 1 Kings 14:23. Asherah was known as the Mother or Creator of all the gods. Sacrificial feasts were held in the sacred GROVES of Asherah in Jerusalem according to Apion."
And New Age site is called MotherGoddess.Com where we get this information concerning Asherah. (Capital letters are mine for emphasis) "Asherah - Semitic name of the Great Goddess. SACRED GROVE, Divine Harlot, Lady of Heaven, Queen of the Gods, Symbol - stylized MULTI-BRANCHED TREE. She Who gives birth to the gods, Goddess of the TREE of Life, Goddess of the GROVE. She Who gives birth, Wet-nurse of the gods. Ugaritic Mother Goddess. She was the Force of Life, experienced as benevolent and enduring, found in flocks of cattle and GROVES OF TREES, evoked in childbirth and planting time."
Karl Lohman of Antioch Baptist Church, has written an article about the groves in the King James Bible. Here is part of that article.
"Like the harlot of Proverbs 7, the promoters of the new bibles prey on “the simple ones” who yield their sword, the old King James Bible, after a “fair speech” has persuaded them. One such “fair speech” is that the King James Bible is not written in modern English. The rallying cry is: “We need a modern version for modern times!” Have you ever heard that one? Although this argument has been proven to be a lie on many occasions, I was reminded recently of how up-to-date my old King James Bible really is."
"While researching, I was struck by how often the word “grove” was used on occult and New Age web sites. One site used the word “grove” or “groves” 18 times on its home page. Apparently the pagan creator of this site did not realize how “archaic” these words are."
"Interestingly, the new versions eliminate the word “grove” and its plural form from their bibles when the passages deal with idolatry. They replace this easily understood word with “Asherah pole” (NIV), “sacred pole” (NRSV), and “wooden image” (NKJV). Why? The New Age “spiral goddess” worshippers talk about their “Grove of Rememberance ,” “Rainbow Heart Grove,” and “Green Man Grove” not their “Asherah poles.” The followers of Wicca don’t use terminology like “sacred pole.” They use “The Gods’ Grove,” “The Mystickal Grove,” and “The Grove of the Green Cobra.” The Druids don’t call their places of worship or their idols “wooden images”; they give them titles like “Hearthfire Grove,” “Peachtree Grove,” and “Virtual Grove.”
"The omission of “grove” and “groves” is only one of many shocking things that the new versions do that convince me that one of the fruits (Matt.7:16) of all of these new versions is an increase in New Age and occult practices here in America and around the world. After all, who would know about how God felt about the “groves” that are being pushed today if they could not find any in their bibles?
Apparently the publishers of the NEW versions don’t care if the scripture “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2Tim.3:16) as long as it is profitable financially (1Tim.6:10)!"
"Let me ask you a few questions. If you were a pagan who worshipped your gods at one or more of these groves, would you appreciate someone reading a King James Bible or would you rather they read a new version? Which one sheds more light on your pagan practices? Are the pagan practices of the people in the Old Testament and the people in the 21st century being exposed in the King James Bible or in the new versions? If you are an honest person, you know what the answers are."
"The “rulers of the darkness of this world” don’t appreciate a Bible that connects their “spiritual wickedness in high places” to the groves. The next time some charlatan tries to persuade you with his “fair speech” to trade your sword in for one of these new versions, tell him that the creators, designers, and promoters of the New Age religious web sites know that the terminology in the King James Bible is right and all of the new versions are not. Why is that? The answer is simple. Someone does not want you to know that the idolatrous practices of the pagan people as revealed in the Old Testament match the New Age occult practices in the 21st century. Stated simply, someone does not want you to know the truth and Jesus Christ said, “…thy word is truth” John 17:17!" (End of comments by Karl Lohman of Antioch Baptist Church)
The King James Bible is right, as always.
All of grace, believing the Book you can actually hold in your hands, read and believe is the infallible words of the living God - the King James Holy Bible.
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