In this post, I want to summarise the three useful categories that Patrick D. Miller posits for ancient Israelite religion in his book The Religion of Ancient Israel.
- Worship was given exclusively to Yahweh, even if the existence of other deities was not necessarily denied.
- No visual representations of Yahweh were permitted.
- Oracles and prophets were legitimate, but divination and necromancy were not.
- Various sanctuaries were maintained, but the cult of Yahweh ultimately became restricted to the temple in Jerusalem (as least as regards the southern kingdom of Judah).
- Certain cult objects were prohibited, including pillars (massebot) and sacred poles or trees (asherim).
- Festivals were held, celebrating (for example) the exodus from Egypt.
- Sacred persons included priests, prophets and the king.
This differed from orthodox Yahwism in several ways:
- The use of certain cult objects, notably the asherim, and iconography.
- The use of "high places" (bamot) as cult sites.
- The use of certain divination techniques and of necromancy.
This was characterised by the worship of other deities alongside Yahweh, including:
- Ba'al (Hadad)
- Heavenly bodies (the sun, moon and stars)
- The deity known as the "Queen of Heaven" (Astarte or Ishtar?)