The ‘Queen of Heaven’
God pronounced severe judgment on the people of Judah and Jerusalem because they worshiped “the queen of heaven” (Jer. 7:17–20; 44:15–19). Who or what was the queen of heaven, and how did the people of Israel get involved in worship of her?
As early as the twenty-fifth century B.C., people of Ur of the Chaldees in Sumeria worshiped a mother-goddess named Ishtar.1 Around the same time the Minoans of Crete had a mother-goddess portrayed with “her divine child Velchanos” in her arms.2 Later, the people of Cyprus revered a goddess who appears to have been patterned after the Sumerian Ishtar and later adopted by the Greeks as Aphrodite,3 or Astarte.4
The Babylonians, who conquered Sumeria around the twenty-second century B.C.,5 related their religious beliefs to the heavenly bodies. They regarded the planets as gods and goddesses and equated the planet Venus with the Sumerian mother-goddess Ishtar.6
The Babylonians worshiped Ishtar as “The Virgin,” “The Holy Virgin,” “The Virgin Mother,” “Goddess of Goddesses,”7 and “Queen of Heaven and Earth.”8 They exclaimed, “Ishtar is great! Ishtar is Queen! My Lady is exalted, my Lady is Queen. . . . There is none like unto her.”9
They called her “Shining light of heaven, light of the world, enlightener of all the places where men dwell, who gatherest together the hosts of the nations”; and they claimed, “Where thou glancest, the dead come to life, and the sick rise and walk; the mind of the diseased is healed when it looks upon thy face.”10
In Babylonian mythology Ishtar wore a crown and was related to Tammuz, who sometimes was portrayed as her son and other times as her lover.11
It appears that the Sumerian-Babylonian Ishtar was the counterpart of the Egyptian Isis and the model for the Grecian Aphrodite, Roman Venus, Assyrian Nina, Phrygian and Roman Cybele, Phoenician Astarte,12 and Astarte of Syria.13 In essence they were the same mother-goddess.14
The Egyptians called Isis “the Great Mother” and “the Mother of God.”15 Isis worship spread to Italy by the second century and then throughout the entire Roman Empire. There the goddess was portrayed with her “divine child Horus” in her arms and widely acclaimed as “Queen of Heaven” and “Mother of God.”16
The people of Phoenicia worshiped Baal. Baalism included the worship of Molech with fiery sacrifices of children and the worship of Astarte, the Phoenician Ishtar Queen of Heaven.17
When the Phoenician princess Jezebel became the wife of King Ahab of the northern Kingdom of Israel, she influenced him to fully establish Baal worship in his realm (1 Ki. 16:29–33; 21:25–26). This move entangled the people of Israel in Queen-of-Heaven worship. As a result, God judged them with the Assyrian Captivity (2 Ki. 17:5–7, 16–18).
Athaliah, daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, became the wife of King Jehoram of the Kingdom of Judah. She influenced him to do what her father had done—fully establish Baal worship in his kingdom (2 Ki. 8:16–18). Her son, Ahaziah, the next king of Judah, did the same (2 Ki. 8:25–27), as did King Manasseh (2 Ki. 21:1–6). These actions would have entangled the people of Judah in Queen-of-Heaven worship. Thus God judged them with the Babylonian Captivity (2 Ki. 21:12–14).
- Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1954), 123–24, 1045.
- Will Durant, The Life of Greece (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1939), 13.
- Ibid., 33–34.
- Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, 235.
- Ibid., 219.
- Ibid., 256.
- Ibid., 235.
- Ibid., 236.
- Ibid., 238–39.
- Ibid., 235, 266, 288, 294–95.
- Durant, The Life of Greece, 178.
- Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, 200.
- Will Durant, Caesar and Christ (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1944), 523.
- Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, 294–95, and Caesar and Christ, 41.