At the beginning of April, my family and I visited the California Science Center to see the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibition. In addition to the Scrolls, the Exhibition featured many ancient artifacts from the land of Israel, all of which were on display in a series of galleries located on the second floor of the Center.
We gave our tickets to the docent and waited to enter the Exhibition. Once inside, we joined a long line of visitors who were filing slowly and quietly past the artifacts. Anyone who spoke did so in a hushed voice.
In the first three galleries, the items on display included coins, a glass flask, a single pearl earring, and large earthenware jars. At least one of the jars bore the impression of a seal, which read something to the effect of: “property of His Royal Highness King Hezekiah.”
Both the third and fourth galleries had screens on the wall, onto which photographs of the artifacts were being projected, as a narrator explained their historical significance.
When we entered the fourth gallery, I saw something which left such an impression on me that after I saw it, I barely took in anything else.
There, projected onto the screen before us, was a photograph of a tiny stone head. The narrator explained that this was a piece of an “Asherah,” which the archaeologists believe to be idols.
Apparently, when archaeologists dig underneath the modern city of Jerusalem, they are able to identify the layer of rubble, which marks the conquest of the city by the Babylonians. The narrator said that directly below this layer — the one which represents the Babylonian
conquest — archaeologists find hundreds of these “Asherah.”
It was a sunny day in Los Angeles, and a happy day with my family, but that moment for me was full of solemnity. Immediately, my mind went back to the book of Jeremiah, to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and to the moral destruction which preceded it.*
I remembered the time after the conquest when Jeremiah spoke God’s Word to the people of the Judean remnant, who fled to Egypt, and the people defiantly stated their intention to continue worshipping the “queen of heaven.”
The Bible describes it like this:
“all the men who were aware that their wives were burning sacrifices to other gods, along with all the women who were standing by, as a large assembly, including all the people who were living in Pathros in the land of Egypt, responded to Jeremiah, saying,
‘As for the message that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we are not going to listen to you! But rather we will certainly carry out every word that has proceeded from our mouths, by burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, just as we ourselves, our forefathers, our kings and our princes did in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then we had plenty of food and were well off and saw no misfortune’” (Jeremiah 44:15-17).
In Proverbs 14:1 we read: “The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.” By forsaking the One True Good God and His Good Word, and worshipping and serving demons in the guise of idols, the women (to whom Jeremiah spoke) tore down their homes. In their foolishness, they contributed to the evil, which brought the Lord’s judgment upon them, their children, their families, their city, and their nation.
Standing in the Science Center, with the head of Asherah projected on the screen before me, gave me such pause. Remembering it still does.
That day God left a deep impression on my heart about how very important it is to listen to His Word and to obey Him.
Our God and His Word are Good and True. We must not be deceived:
“God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (Galatians 6:7-9).
*For those unfamiliar with the book of Jeremiah, the following is a summary of the events of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem to which I referred in this post. God describes these events, through Jeremiah, in the book of Jeremiah.
“Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, camped against it and built a siege wall all around it”
(Jeremiah 52:4 b). The city remained under siege for one and a half years. By this time “the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land” (Jeremiah 52:6).
Then the wall of Jerusalem was breached. King Zedekiah tried to flee the city by night, but the Babylonian army captured him. Nebuchadnezzer slaughtered Zedekiah’s sons before his eyes and then blinded him and led him away prisoner to Babylon. After this, Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, “burned the house of the LORD, the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 52:13).
The Babylonian army broke down all the walls of Jerusalem, and Nebuzaradan “carried away into exile some of the poorest of the people, the rest of the people who were left in the city, the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon and the rest of the artisans”
Some of the poorest people were left behind in the land. The Jews, who had previously fled to neighboring lands, returned and joined this remnant in the land of Judah. There was a mutiny of sorts among them, and those who survived disobeyed God by fleeing to Egypt, where they made the terrible declaration to Jeremiah, which I quoted above.