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In Exodus 34:13, Deuteronomy 7:5, Deuteronomy 12:3, God states laws against idolatry, and God says to cut down or burn groves:

Exodus 34:13 KJV
But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves:

Deuteronomy 7:5 KJV
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 KJV
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.

Some kings, fighting against idolatry, accomplished that commandment, like Hezekiah :

2 Kings 18:4 KJV
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.

In my native language (portuguese), "grove" is translated as a "forest". So I thought: What's the problem with some trees? What's related to idolatry on groves?

Using strong, the "grove" word is H842 (happy; asherah (or Astarte) a Phoenician goddess; also an image of the same). God was fighting the idolatry about that goddess?

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Per my answer below, I think it absolutely /does/ mean a grove of trees. Not any old grove, of course.... Presumably modern translations avoid the word because they don't expect their audience to be familiar with classical drama. Earlier translations may have assumed this familiarity among the literate. –  Ben Dunlap Dec 26 '11 at 15:48
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Read also: Ben Hur at the Grove of Daphne –  Peter Turner Dec 29 '11 at 15:08

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Sacred groves are a common feature of ancient pagan religion.

A particularly accessible Western example might be Oedipus at Colonus, which is the middle play in the Theban cycle of Sophocles (following Oedipus Rex and preceding Antigone).

A great deal of the action in Oedipus at Colonus takes place in a grove outside Colonus that is consecrated to the "Erinyes" (goddesses of vengeance).

It's also not uncommon in the legends of early-medieval Western saints for the saint to cut down a sacred tree in the presence of pagan clerics and dignitaries, in a sort of recapitulation of 1 Kings 18 -- e.g., Boniface and the Donar Oak.

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Yes. The original word Asherah referred to shrines to a fertility goddess, not to forests, groves, or trees in general. There's nothing wrong with having trees around, of course; this is just another example of God's repeated warnings against idolatry. Asherah was the consort of Baal, whose worshipers were always a thorn in the side of Israel, and the two were often worshiped together as male and female aspects of fertility worship. See Judges 6 for one example. And as the verses you cite show, cutting down asherah is always found in the context of doing away with idols and idol-worship.

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