The term grove is used in the Bible as a translation of the Hebrew word Asherah, or a wooden idol. In almost all cases, the use of “grove” in the Bible refers to idol worship.
The word grove is found in the Old Testament of the King James Bible 40 times, usually used to translate one of these three Hebrew words:
- ‘asherah: the word for a carved idol representing Ashtoreth, a Canaanite goddess resembling a mermaid
- ‘eshel: the word used for a tamarisk tree, a fairly common tree found in the Palestine region
- ‘elon: a grove of trees or perhaps a plantation
Mentions of Groves in the Bible
Here are some of the mentions of the term grove in the King James Version’s Old Testament:
- 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.”
- 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 6:26: “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.”
- 1 Kings 14:23: “For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree.”
- 2 Chronicles 14:3: “For he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and break down the images, and cut down the groves….”
- 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.”
What Does Grove Refer To?
It’s pretty clear based on the context here that the Bible’s use of grove refers to idol worship. We know that idols were often set up in shrine-type gardens within a circle of trees, or a “grove” – just like many secular shrines and memorials are today situated within gardens.
There’s a lot of debate over whether or not the word grove is the best translation of the three Hebrew words above (Asherah, Eshel, and Elon), but nonetheless, we can be sure it references idol worship – whether or not there are a group of trees surrounding the idol isn’t primary in these passages.