A goddess of the Canaanites, considered to be the wife of Baal. Ashtoreth is often represented as a nude female with rudely exaggerated sex organs. The worship of this goddess was widespread among various peoples of antiquity, and the name Ashtoreth was common in one form or another. The Greek name is Astarte. Among the Philistines, Ashtoreth was evidently viewed as a goddess of war, as is indicated by the fact that the armor of defeated King Saul was placed in the temple of the Ashtoreth images. (1Sa 31:10) Chiefly, however, Ashtoreth was apparently a fertility goddess. The most prominent part of her worship consisted of sex orgies in the temples or high places devoted to Baal worship, where male and female prostitutes served.—See CANAAN, CANAANITE No. 2 (Conquest of Canaan by Israel).
The worship of Ashtoreth possibly existed in Canaan as early as Abraham’s time, for one of the cities there was called “Ashteroth-karnaim.” (Ge 14:5) Also mentioned in Scripture is the city of Ashtaroth, the dwelling place of the giant King Og of Bashan. Its name would indicate that this city may have been a center of Ashtoreth worship.—De 1:4; Jos 9:10; 12:4.
The singular form ʽash·toʹreth (Ashtoreth) first appears in the Bible with reference to King Solomon’s apostatizing toward the latter part of his reign. At that time Israelites began worshiping the Ashtoreth of the Sidonians. (1Ki 11:5, 33) The only other occurrence of the singular form is in connection with King Josiah’s tearing down the high places that Solomon had built to Ashtoreth and other deities. (2Ki 23:13) The plural ʽash·ta·rohthʹ (“Ashtoreth images,” NW; “Ashtarts,” AT) probably refers to the images or manifestations of this pagan goddess.—Jg 2:13; 10:6; 1Sa 7:3, 4.