Yes, There are Goddesses in the Bible by Janet Maika’i Rudolph


“Freud once asserted that mortals are not made to keep secrets;
what they would like to conceal oozes from all their pores.”
Psychoanalyst Theodore Reik[1]

It’s remarkable how much female imagery there is in the Bible hidden within its wording. The more I delve into its passages, the more that I have found these hidden/not so hidden sacred feminine images, even deities. I have begun a project of digging in and rooting out these little gems. When people think about the sacred feminine or female deities in the Bible the most well known is the Shekinah. The Shekinah is a lovely presence. The word means “dwelling” and usually represents “god’s divine presence” or a place where the divine resides.

The problem is that the Shekinah as a feminine essence of the divine is never stated explicitly, it is an interpretation of how the word is used.  I love the concept of the Shekinah but as an essence that upholds the entire weight of the feminine divine in the bible, I find it unsatisfying by itself. Luckily for me, Goddess Shekinah has lots of company. Sometimes they are indeed hiding in plain sight. Sometimes they hide in the translations. The passage I am presenting today has some of both going on. The following is the King James Version of Genesis 49:25. Jacob has been giving blessings to each of his sons and this is part of the blessing he gives to Joseph:

Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee;
and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of the deep that lieth under,
blessings of the breasts, and of the womb

I can’t get enough of this blessing. Just think about its importance. One patriarch of Judaism (Jacob), gives a blessing to his son (Joseph), another patriarch, that is based on female body parts; specifically breasts and womb. In other words, this is a Goddess blessing. But that’s not all just in this 4-line passage.

“Almighty” in Genesis 49:25 is the Hebrew word Shaddai. El Shaddai or Shaddai as a term for god appears 48 times in the Bible. It first appears in Genesis 17:1 when the LORD (YHVH) speaks to Abraham.

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine,
the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him,
I am the Almighty God;
walk before me, and be thou perfect.

El Shaddai is usually translated as “God Almighty” or “Almighty God,” sometimes as “God, the One of the Mountain.”[2] The phrase is always paired with the pronoun “he.”

This is curious since Shaddai come from the root shad which means breasts or teats; certainly, a very different kind of mountain! Look how remarkable Genesis 17:1 is: A new and powerful deity arises named YHVH (which I have previously blogged about[3]) whose name can be broken into the component parts of mother/father or male/female. YHVH then introduces themselves to Abram as “I am ‘the breasts.’”

Many original Goddess blessings were in the form of breasts, those lovely aspects of nourishment that come from above. The baby suckles looking up at the mother’s face. The heavens drip their goddessly nourishment from the starry skies above us.  

The term Shadd-ai with the “ai” ending can be translated more precisely as “my breasts.” So who is the “my” in the “my breasts” which are providing such sustenance? In Genesis 17:1 that would be YHVH. We need to dig a bit deeper to find out whose breasts are being referenced in Genesis 49:25. So far in this passage we have two breasts and a womb. But even with all that, there is still more. And that “more” could perhaps answer the question of whose breasts.

The blessing that Joseph gives to Jacob includes the phrase “the deep,” which is the English translation of the Hebrew word tehom. Tehom is related to and is a form of the name of the Sumerian great Goddess, Tiamat. [4] Sumeria was one of Israel’s closest neighbors. In their creation story, known as the Enuma Elish, Tiamat was the goddess of the primeval saltwater ocean, or to quote the bible “the deep.”

The use of the word tehom in Genesis is a remnant of the Great Sumerian Goddess of creation, reduced to a vocabulary word and then translated out of easy reach of the modern-day reader. 

To review all the elements of the blessing that the patriarch Jacob bestows; Joseph is given the “blessings of tehom,” or in Sumerian parlance, “the blessings of the Great Goddess, Tiamat” along with blessings of breasts and womb.

Here is the blessing with some of the original Hebrew reinserted (and ancestors substituted for father):

Even by the Powers of thy ancestors, who shall help thee;
and my breasts, which shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above,
blessings of Tehom that lieth under,
 blessings of the breasts, and of the womb

Biblical editors may have tried to scrub feminine/goddess influences from the bible, but Her presence still oozes out of the pores of the writing just as Theodore Reik promised us they would. 


[1] Reik, Theodor, Mystery on the Mountain, Harper Brothers, 1959; 117.
[2] The Jewish Study Bible; 37.
[3] https://feminismandreligion.com/2019/03/05/eve-by-any-other-name-by-janet-rudolph/ 
[4] According to Jastrow; 28 and Spence; 72, The Sumerian Goddess Tiamat, Tehom from the Bible and the Assyrian

 

Janet Maika’i Rudolph. “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE QUEST.” I have walked the spirit path for over 25 years traveling to sacred sites around the world including Israel to do an Ulpan (Hebrew language studies while working on a Kibbutz), Eleusis and Delphi in Greece, Avebury and Glastonbury in England, Brodgar in Scotland, Machu Picchu in Peru, Teotihuacan in Mexico, and Giza in Egypt. Within these travels, I have participated in numerous shamanic rites and rituals, attended a mystery school based on the ancient Greek model, and studied with shamans around the world. I am twice initiated. The first as a shaman practitioner of a pathway known as Divine Humanity. The second ordination in 2016 was as an Alaka’i (a Hawaiian spiritual guide with Aloha International). I have written three books: When Moses Was a ShamanWhen Eve Was a Goddess, and One GodsIn Ardor and Adventure, Janet.



Categories: Divine Feminine, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Feminist Theology, General, Goddess, Goddess feminism, Goddess Spirituality, Goddess Spirituality, Goddess Spirituality, Women's Spirituality

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28 replies

  1. I personally have a problem with anyone who refers to a woman’s body parts as the woman/goddess herself…

    Whenever I think of the King Jame’s version of the Bible I recall that the word “witch” had its genesis in this translation.

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    • Hmmmm Sara, Lots to think about in your comment. I haven’t looked into the term witch so I don’t know too much about that. As to the body parts issue, I get that and it certainly can provide a lot of groundwork for discussions as to cultural and gender issues.

      As to its use in this passage: Ancient Hebrew was a very concrete language. For example in Psalm 103:8, the English translation says “the LORD is slow to anger.” The Hebrew in a more direct translation says “the LORD is slow to aph” Aph according to Strongs # 639 means “nose.” So a more literal translation would be “the LORD is slow to nose.” Why nose? It is concrete and specific. When someone gets angry their nose flares.

      What this means is that the descriptions used often refer to the specific of their reality and especially a visual reality. We don’t do that in English so much so it does seem especially foreign and maybe uncomfortable. Still for me, the fact that it is there gives us a marvelous clue and window into how the Patriarchs saw divinity – and that was with goddess attributes.

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  2. I love this analysis of Goddess hidden in plain sight. Thank you.

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  3. “Elohim” is a combination of the term for goddess with a masculine suffix attached to it.

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  4. Interesting take thesseli. Where do you come up with Elohim as a term for goddess?

    Here is my analysis: Elohim is aleph-lam. The semitic-ancient form of these two letters is as follows: aleph = an ox or cow’s head with horns. The lam is generally considered to be a shepherd’s staff which raises the energy up in a heavenly manner (“as a shepherd leads their flock”). I see Elohim (much as I see YHVH) as an interweaving of male and female energies. The ox god, along with the cow goddess (aleph) raised (lam) up in their divinity. There are a lot of images in Egypt especially of goddesses with cow heads.

    Interesting about your note of the masculine suffix. I wonder how that came about? (Although a likely guess comes immediately to mind.)

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  5. My Hebrew is minimal, but isn’t “elohim” the plural form? I love the image of ox god and cow goddess.

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    • Yes, judithmaeryam, there are two ways to make nouns plural in Hebrew. “Em” is the masculine form. “Ot” is the feminine form.”

      Hebrew does have a very interesting aspect that does not exist in English. In English we say for example “one tree, two trees.” It is quantitative. In Hebrew you can say “one tree, one trees.” It can be quantitative but it can also be qualitative. And so that means that “one trees” refers to a tree that is the quintessential tree – the biggest, most tree-ist tree you can find.

      It does beg the question, does Elohim refer to more than one or does it refer to an aspect that is highest form of “el?” Or it can be both?

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  6. Back in the 1980s, I studied the Aramaic Bible (translated in the 1930s from the ancient Aramaic manuscripts by George Lamsa) with Rocco Errico. It was when he started lecturing about the OT prophets that I left. Yes, those nasty old men did mention goddesses from time to time. Always negatively, hatefully, scornfully. Always threatening “good Hebrews” with eternal damnation if they didn’t totally abandon any goddess. The Mythology of Eden, a very interesting book, has a lot to say about how hints of goddesses remained in the OT. Let’s remember that King James’ translator were also a bunch of mean old men.

    Thanks for your post and for trying to restore the hidden goddesses, especially Shekinah. Bright blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Barbara, I may need to read that Mythology of Eden book. Yes, a bunch of mean old men there as King James translators. And extra reason (as if we needed more) not to let them define the paradigms of our world.

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      • The book is The Mythology of Eden by Arthur George and Elena George (2014). I think I first heard about it here on FAR a few years ago. The prose is pretty dense. Read slowly. I turn the corners down on pages with stuff that strikes me or that I want to remember. I’m looking at my copy: at least a dozen dog-eared pages.

        Well, you probably know what was going on in England between Henry VIII’s divorce and the rise of the Puritans and Parliament that led to the English Civil War (1642-49 or thereabouts), when Oliver Cromwell and his mean old Puritans decapitated Charles I. James’ translators were working on translations of translations of translations, but their book became the Authorized Edition. Maybe because the writing is so “Shakespearean.” Well, not really. Jacobean. But the AV written by all the mean old men caught on, and……..well, we all know, don’t we.

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        • Yes, Barbara while I am familiar with the broad outlines of the KJV I don’t know the finer details. I do know that they translated off the Greek version so it was already rather skewed. You say it best “translations of translations of translations.”

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    • mean old men that coined us as witches!

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  7. Even by the Powers of thy ancestors, who shall help thee;
    and my breasts, which shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above,
    blessings of Tehom that lieth under,
    blessings of the breasts, and of the womb

    What a beautiful blessing. I am taking it into my heart. Thanks for this post, Janet!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thank you for this wonderful. insightful, and poetic post! So many layers to peel back to find what lies underneath – I really appreciate having this new perspective.

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  9. It seems to me that a male God is appropriating female characteristics as part of the process of excluding the Goddess…

    El is masc singular Elah is feminine singular

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes Carol, exactly, I agree. That describes the process in a nutshell. Hummmm about Elah as the feminine singular. I didn’t know that. So what we have is that the breath syllable “ah” added to El makes it feminine. That is actually pretty cool.

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  10. I love this post so much. I’ve read about much of this before, and your exploration of it all is beautiful and super fun. I adore the blessing, I always have, and I adore your translation of it even more. I think I will print that out and hang it up. Motherhood changed me so much, and the symbols of breasts and womb are very powerful for me. All of divinity is symbolized in so many diverse ways throughout the diverse books of scripture, and the sacred female symbolism has been a source of joy for me my whole life. I hope you keep writing about this topic, I look forward to reading your work.
    I think sometimes people lose track of the idea that the divine is so much more than any of the symbols humans come up with to access different aspects of ultimate truth. Humans come up with some great ideas and some terrible ideas, and sometimes a symbol that works really well to help a certain community understand a certain truth, doesn’t work well at all to promote flourishing in other ways or other times or places. Have you ever read the book Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading Of The Bible, by Ellen Davis? I think the movement of the communities from agrarian to agricultural and patriarchal societies had a huge impact on the way the divine became symbolized. Also Tikya Frymer-Kensy’s book In the Wake of the Goddesses argues that as the Hebrew community became monotheistic, Hebrew gender roles became more distinct and rigid, and the identity of the supposedly genderless YHWH became increasingly male.
    Anyway, thanks for this lovely and uplifting essay, it really was enjoyable to read. <3

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    • Thank you Trelawney, Yes, I have several more posts I am preparing on this topic. I have also written a lot about these topics in my books.

      It is so sad to me that this change from agrarian to agricultural happened thousands of years ago and we are seeing the culmination of its dysfunction now. Not that agriculture is bad but the symbols and reversals of divinity have created paradigms that just aren’t working.

      Thanks for the book suggestions. I have read some wonderful books that I learned about from this site. I will add these. I am especially interested in the Ellen Davis one.

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  11. I thought, it was clear from Genesis 1:27, that God is male and female .
    “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”(King James Version)

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    • Oh yes Kov Acs, One would think it was clear but alas . . . .

      This is my own translation of Genesis 1:27 based on the meanings of the Hebrew words

      And elevated, unfathomable Powers
      Reflected Powers’ own essence
      And in doing so seeded potentiality [the deep.sea]
      Roaring with air male and female, Vibrating with air HUmanity

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  12. Thank you for this wonderful essay!

    This essay pairs very well with a law article I just read that argues that feminism should be considered a religion and treated as such in U.S. law. (Lalita Moskowitz, “God is a Woman,” https://digitalcommons.wcl.american.edu/jgspl/vol27/iss3/4/)

    While the exploration of spiritual and sacred texts with the intent of recuperating the Goddess is very multifaceted and those who seek and follow the Goddess come from diverse perspectives, nonetheless the time seems right for a Global Goddess religion to be officially recognized.

    With a unified Global Goddess religion the diverse community of feminists pursuing the sacred can find community and mutual protection of our rights. Statutory and even constitutional law too frequently harbors misogyny that finds expression and re-enforcement in the diverse patriarchal religions with their codes of laws. Many governments around the world establish one official religion, which is invariably patriarchal. Even states that allow religious liberty still have laws rooted in patriarchal religion. In the USA recent legal developments have given greater and greater authority to professed religious beliefs that curtail women’s rights (for example: right to access reproductive health care).

    I wonder, Janet, if you lead services or work with an established worship group? What is the prospect for a unified feminist religion?

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  13. So interesting Alice. I couldn’t access the article you mentioned right now but I book marked it so I can read it later. Yes much about the law encodes misogyny but also racism and money rights over the environment and on and on.

    A Global Feminist Religion or Global Goddess Religion. It does sound interesting. As for my own path, I have found my spiritual home in the Hawaiian tradition. I am an alaka’i (spiritual guide) from Aloha International (hence the Maika’i in my name). It is called Huna for short. I do run Huna groups called Kokua groups which are Hawaiian service groups. I also teach sometimes – both Huna and Bible study groups. I am just learning now to put my own voice out into the world.

    When I set out to do my research I just knew there was hidden knowledge in the bible. I had no idea at the beginning it was so connected to Goddesses. My one concern is that a Global Goddess religion might eventually skew too far towards feminism. We so need feminism to balance the world as it exists now but I am more in favor of a paradigm of humanity in all its variations. I first wrote my book When Eve Was a Goddess and I found that men weren’t all that interested and they needed this knowledge so deeply as well. So I wrote When Moses Was a Shaman. The general tenor of what I write about is not all that different but it does seem to reach different audiences.

    You have definitely given me a lot to think about. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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