One of the most important deities that many, if not most, ancient Israelites worshiped was YHWH’s heavenly spouse or consort, the goddess Asherah (the Hebrew linguistic equivalent of Ugaritic Athirat, the wife of El). The Hebrew Bible makes frequent mention of her, or more commonly, her cult symbol, the asherah (probably a stylized tree).
As YHWH came to assume the titles, imagery, and functions of El, he also appropriated El’s consort Athirat, and this fact seems to be further underscored by the close relationship that existed between the Asherah cult object and YHWH from early on. The most commonly cited biblical passages that mention Asherah herself include Judges 3:7; 1 Kings 14:13; 18:19; and 2 Kings 21:7; 23:4. For instance, Asherah is mentioned between the divinities Baal and “all the host of heaven” (לְכֹל צְבָא הַשָּׁמָיִם) in 2 Kings 23:4 as worshiped in the Jerusalem temple during Josiah’s reforms. Additionally, 2 Kings 21:7 condemns king Manasseh for putting “the molded image of Asherah” (אֶת־פֶּסֶל הָאֲשֵׁרָה) in YHWH’s temple. This attestation most likely refers to Asherah herself and not her cult object, since it would seem quite strange to have an image made for what was already a symbol. Furthermore, 1 Kings. 18:19, although probably a later addition to the text, indicates by paralleling the names Asherah and Baal (probably an attempt by the biblical authors to discredit Asherah by association with Baal, since there is no significant evidence from antiquity outside of the Hebrew Bible that portrays Baal and Asherah as consorts), that a knowledge of Asherah existed in Israel down to the exile c. 586 B.C.E. Additionally, archaeological, iconographic, and inscriptional evidence indicates that ancient Israelite worship of Asherah alongside YHWH was very common, and that her cult object stood in a special relationship to YHWH. Although there is not space here to discuss in depth many of the issues surrounding each relevant discovery, one point that must be mentioned are the many hundreds, if not thousands, of terracotta female figurines that have been unearthed throughout Israel, and especially in domestic contexts, all the way down until the exile. As archeologist William Dever has cogently argued along with many other prominent biblical scholars, these figurines (often will “pillar bases,” perhaps representing trees in accordance with the fact that Asherah was represented by stylized trees) are most likely Asherah, and were probably used by Israelite women as talismans, or perhaps as votive offerings, to assist in the processes of safely conceiving, bearing, and raising children. Since Asherah could be seen as a fertility goddess, this does indeed make good sense.
I agree, therefore, along with most modern biblical scholars, that Asherah was worshiped in ancient Israel and typically was perceived as the consort of YHWH. This conclusion makes the most sense of the biblical, archaeological, iconographic, and epigraphical evidences, which strongly suggest that Asherah and her symbol were considered an important part of the cult of YHWH, including the royal, so-called “official,” cult in the Jerusalem temple, except perhaps during the reigns of Hezekiah (whose reforms ultimately failed, probably in part because he was seen as overturning centuries of deeply held religious tradition) and Josiah.
 Day, Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan, 52-57.
 See Saul Olyan, Asherah and the Cult of Yahweh in Israel (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988), 14; and Day, Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan, 48, 60-61.
 As noted by Day, Yahweh and the Gods and Godesses of Canaan, 44-45.
 For a terrific volume on iconographic evidences pertaining to deities in ancient Israel, see Othmar Keel and Christoph Uehlinger, Gods, Goddesses, and Images of God in Ancient Israel (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998).
 Note must be made, however, of the important inscriptions found at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud and Khirbet el-Qom which refer to “YHWH and his A/asherah.” For the issues surrounding these heavily debated inscriptions, see Day, Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan, 49-52; and Smith, The Early History of God, 118-125.
 For the discussion which follows concerning the figurines, see William G. Dever, Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 176-196; and Raz Kletter, The Judean Pillar Figurines and the Archaeology of Asherah (Oxford: BAR International Series, 1996); “Between Archaeology and Theology: The Pillar Figurines fro Judah and the Asherah,” in Studies in the Archaeology of the Iron Age in Israel and Jordan, (ed. A. Mazar; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001).
 Dever, Did God Have a Wife?, 187-189, 194.
 Dever, Did God Have a Wife?, 192-195.
 Dever, Did God Have a Wife?, 212.