Verse 26. "The garden of Uzza" - The family sepulcher or burying-place.
It is said ver. 3, 7, that "Manasseh made a grove; and he set a graven image of the grove," &c. hŤ[ rŤa hrŤah lsp ta µŤyw vaiyasem eth pesel haasherah, asher asah: "And he put the graven image of Asherah, which he had made," into the house.
Asherah, which we translate grove, is undoubtedly the name of an idol; and probably of one which was carved out of wood.
R. S. Jarchi, on Gen. xii. 3, says, "that hrŤa asherah means a tree which was worshipped by the Gentiles;" like as the oak was worshipped by the ancient Druids in Britain.
Castel, in Lex. Hept. sub voce rŤa , defines hrŤa asherah thus, Simulacrum ligneum Astartae dicatum; "A wooden image dedicated to Astrate or Venus." The Septuagint render the words by alsov; and Flamminius Nobilis, on chap. xxiii. 4, says Rursus notat Theodouretus to alsov esse Astartem et Venerem, et ab aliis interpretibus dictum Ashatroth; i.e. "Again Theodouret observes, alsov is Astarte and Venus; and by other interpreters called Ashtaroth." The Targum of Ben Uzziel, on Deut. vii. 5, w[dgt µhryŤaw vaasheyrehem tegaddeun; i.e., "Their groves shall ye cut down" -translates the place thus, wxxqt whydgys ynlyaw veilaney sigedeyhon tekatsetsun; "And the oaks of their adoration shall ye cut down." From the above it is pretty evident that idols, not groves, are generally intended where hrŤa asherah and its derivatives are used.
Here follow proofs:-
In chap. xxiii. 6, it is said that "Josiah brought out the grove from the house of the Lord." This translation seems very absurd; for what grove could there be in the temple? There was none planted there, nor was there room for any. The plain meaning of ta axyw hwhy tybm hrŤh vaiyotse eth haasherah mibbeyth Jehovah, is, "And he brought out the (goddess) Asherah from the house of the Lord, and burnt it," &c.
That this is the true meaning of the place appears farther from 2 Kings xxiii. 7, where it is said, "He broke down the houses of the sodomites," ( µyŤdqh hakkedeshim, of the whoremongers,) "where the women wove hangings for the grove" ( hrŤal µytb bottim laasherah, "houses or shrines for Asherah.") Similar perhaps to those which the silversmiths made for Diana, Acts xix. 24. It is rather absurd to suppose that the women were employed in making curtains to encompass a grove.
The Syriac and Arabic versions countenance the interpretation I have given above. In chap. xxiii. 6, the former says, "He cast out the idol, dechlotho, from the house of the Lord;" and in 2 Kings xxiii. 7: "He threw down the houses, dazoine, of the prostitutes; and the women who wove garments, ledechlotho, for the idols which were there." The Arabic is exactly the same.
From the whole it is evident that Asherah was no other than Venus; the nature of whose worship is plain enough from the mention of whoremongers and prostitutes.
I deny not that there were groves consecrated to idolatrous worship among the Gentiles, but I am sure that such are not intended in the above-cited passages; and the text, in most places, reads better when understood in this way.