WHAT ARE “GROVES?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
Friend, there seems to be much confusion as to what “groves” are in Scripture. Hopefully, we can make sense of this topic for you.
THE KING JAMES BIBLE SPEAKS
The word “grove” appears 41 times in the Authorized Version. Before we look at these verses, we must note one exception. Genesis 21:33 contains the first occurrence: “And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.” This “grove” is in a positive light, as Abraham is a Bible believer. The Hebrew word is “’eshel” (Strong’s #H815), a tamarisk or myrica tree [Tamarix orientalis]. It was rendered “tree” in 1 Samuel 22:6 and 1 Samuel 31:13. This fact will prove useful to us later.
As for the remaining “grove” verses (40 in all), they are negative. We present them now, reminding you the reader to sense the associated evils:
- Exodus 34:13: “But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves:….”
- Deuteronomy 7:5: “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.”
- Deuteronomy 12:3: “And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.”
- 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 thee.”
- Judges 3:7: “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves.”
- Judges 6:25: “And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it:….”
- Judges 6:26: “And build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down.”
- Judges 6:28: “And when the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built.”
- Judges 6:30: “Then the men of the city said unto Joash, Bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it.”
- 1 Kings 14:15: “For the LORD shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river, because they have made their groves, provoking the LORD to anger.”
- 1 Kings 14:23: “For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree.”
- 1 Kings 15:13: “And also Maachah his mother, even her he removed from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove; and Asa destroyed her idol, and burnt it by the brook Kidron.”
- 1 Kings 16:33: “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.”
- 1 Kings 18:19: “Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table.”
- 2 Kings 13:6: “Nevertheless they departed not from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, who made Israel sin, but walked therein: and there remained the grove also in Samaria.)”
- 2 Kings 17:10: “And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree:….”
- 2 Kings 17:16: “And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.”
- 2 Kings 18:4: “He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.”
- 2 Kings 21:3: “For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.”
- 2 Kings 21:7: “And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the LORD said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever:….”
- 2 Kings 23:4: “And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.”
- 2 Kings 23:6: “And he brought out the grove from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people.”
- 2 Kings 23:7: “And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove.”
- 2 Kings 23:14: “And he brake in pieces the images, and cut down the groves, and filled their places with the bones of men.”
- 2 Kings 23:15: “Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove.”
- 2 Chronicles 14:3: “For he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves:….”
- 2 Chronicles 15:16: “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.”
- 2 Chronicles 17:6: “And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the LORD: moreover he took away the high places and groves out of Judah.”
- 2 Chronicles 19:3: “Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God.”
- 2 Chronicles 24:18: “And they left the house of the LORD God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass.”
- 2 Chronicles 31:1: “Now when all this was finished, all Israel that were present went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all. Then all the children of Israel returned, every man to his possession, into their own cities.”
- 2 Chronicles 33:3: “For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.”
- 2 Chronicles 33:19: “His prayer also, and how God was intreated of him, and all his sins, and his trespass, and the places wherein he built high places, and set up groves and graven images, before he was humbled: behold, they are written among the sayings of the seers.”
- 2 Chronicles 34:3: “For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images.”
- 2 Chronicles 34:4: “And they brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence; and the images, that were on high above them, he cut down; and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images, he brake in pieces, and made dust of them, and strowed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them.”
- 2 Chronicles 34:7: “And when he had broken down the altars and the groves, and had beaten the graven images into powder, and cut down all the idols throughout all the land of Israel, he returned to Jerusalem.”
- Isaiah 17:8: “And he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands, neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either the groves, or the images.”
- Isaiah 27:9: “By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this is all the fruit to take away his sin; when he maketh all the stones of the altar as chalkstones that are beaten in sunder, the groves and images shall not stand up.”
- Jeremiah 17:2: “Whilst their children remember their altars and their groves by the green trees upon the high hills.”
- Micah 5:14: “And I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee: so will I destroy thy cities.”
THE BIBLE DICTIONARIES SPEAK
As we just saw, the term “grove” appears 41 times in the King James Bible’s Old Testament. The first one was the Hebrew “’eshel,” also rendered “tree.” Regarding the last 40 instances, it was the Hebrew word “Asherah” (Strong’s #H842). The term is defined as: “from H833 [happy]; happy; Asherah (or Astarte) a Phoenician goddess; also an image of the same:—grove. Compare H6253 [Ashtoreth, the Phoenician goddess of love (and increase)].”
Smith’s Bible Dictionary has the following entry for “grove:”
“1. A word used in the Authorized Version, with two exceptions, to translate the mysterious Hebrew term Asherah, which is not a grove, but probably an idol or image of some kind. [ASHERAH.] It is also probable that there was a connection between this symbol or image, whatever it was, and the sacred symbolic tree, the representation of which occurs so frequently on Assyrian sculptures.
2. The two exceptions noticed above are Gen. 21:33 and 1 Sam. 22:6 (margin). In the religions of the ancient heathen world groves play a prominent part. In the old times altars only were erected to the gods. It was thought wrong to shut up the gods within walls, and hence trees were the first temples; and from the earliest times groves are mentioned in connection with religious worship. Genesis 12:6, 7; Deuteronomy 11:30; Authorized Version “plain.” The groves were generally found connected with temples, and often had the right of affording an asylum.”
You will notice the critical (anti-King-James) position the “scholar” usually takes. The 1611 translators are once again deemed unskilled, allegedly “mistranslating” the Hebrew “Asherah.” What they considered “groves” the Bible dictionary editor believes something else. Dear friends, what is the authority? The Bible, or the Bible dictionary? Is not the Bible dictionary a derivative of the Bible? Why is more emphasis placed on the offshoot than the original? People are so quick to believe books about the Bible than they are to believe the Bible. This, dear friends, is the nonsense often found in Bible scholarship. There are competing authorities. Educated people do not want to submit to God’s Word; they want God’s Word to submit to them. This is unbelief, not faith, and yet that attitude is found in nearly all places of leadership within Christendom (seminaries, Bible colleges, churches, authors, commentators, and so on).
Pay very close attention as to how the King James Bible disproves the Bible dictionary. “Grove” is most definitely a correct translation of “Asherah,” even if doubters and unbelievers choose to remain in spiritual darkness! The Oxford English Dictionary says of “grove:” “a small wood or other group of trees.” The last 40 instances of “grove” in the Authorized Version are simply a garden of trees encircling an idol, and the LORD God spoke of destroying these! Such a practice underlies a common architectural practice of erecting a statue and then planting bushes or shrubbery around it, forming a “courtyard” within the confines of floral walls. We can find shrines and religious grottos (small caves) as centerpieces of various so-called “gardens of contemplation” even today—at hospitals, church buildings, cemeteries, et cetera. Of course, modern English versions obscure this reference to trees and wood because they often leave the word untranslated (reading “Asherah poles,” “Asherahs,” “Asherim”) and thus reducing it to nonsense for English readers. “Groves” is a perfectly acceptable translation of the Hebrew!
SUPPLEMENTAL: ANOTHER TREE ROOTED IN PAGANISM
Although highly offensive, while we are on the subject of trees and pagan idolatry (idolatree!), we might as well remind ourselves of the ancient “Christmas tree” rooted in Jeremiah chapter 10, some 600 years before Christ!
“ Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:  Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.  For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.  They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.  They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.  Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might.
“ Who would not fear thee, O King of nations? for to thee doth it appertain: forasmuch as among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their kingdoms, there is none like unto thee.  But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities.  Silver spread into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue and purple is their clothing: they are all the work of cunning men.
“ But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.  Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.  He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.”