Mothers in the Bible
Copyright ©2007-2009 by Beverly Whitaker, MA
Website Author: Beverly Whitaker
Beverly is a professional genealogist and author with a background in both public education and religious education. She combines these qualifications to prepare devotional and historical material, sharing these first as presentations to groups in her area and secondly to a wider audience over the Internet.
What led to this particular topic?
This essay in its original state was prepared as a devotional for a group of young mothers, of which at the time, I was one. Asked to provide the devotional for the group in the month of May, I decided to search out the Scriptures to see what was said about mothers in Bible days. I picked out some of my favorites, but the list could certainly be extended.
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A general bibliography of references is included at the end of this commentary. The books listed are those in my personal library, but others will be available from your library or religious book store. And of course your greatest source is the Bible itself.
Mothers in the Bible, a devotional
A mother is the Bible's most honored woman, and great stress is laid upon the influence of mothers. The word "mother" or "mothers" appears in the Bible almost 300 times, and the word "mother-in-law" appears 11 times and always in reference to Naomi, mother-in-law of Ruth. The phrase "And his mother was . . ." appears 20 times in II Kings and II Chronicles, a fact that appeals to me as a genealogist. The phrase underlines the importance attached to the mothers of kings. Often the queen-mother is more honored than the queen-wife.
A mother's influence is also stressed in Ezekiel 16:44 where we read the phrase, "As is the mother, so is her daughter." The love of children was deep in the hearts of the Hebrew women, and the mother was regarded with the deepest reverence.
Mary and Elisabeth
I suppose the world's most revered mother is Mary, mother of Jesus. Her cousin Elisabeth was also a godly person, who in her old age gave birth to John the Baptist. Mary visited Elizabeth for about three months while both were approaching motherhood. With this common experience their age difference became insignificant as they joyfully planned for the birth of their sons, who were to be so near the same age. They found much joy in each other because they loved and understood each other and had the same strong belief in God.
Another New Testament mother was Salome, mother of the disciples James and John. A few scholars suggest that she was a sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Certainly, she and her sons were very close to Jesus. We think of her as an ambitious person. She was so desirous for her sons to enjoy extra prestige during Jesus' ministry that she made a special public request to him. (Matthew 20:21 "Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.") Jesus rebuked her gently, (Matthew 20:23 "To sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.") We should not be too severe on her, for she remained one of the most faithful followers of Jesus to the end. And evidently she handed down a rich spiritual legacy to her sons. It was to her son John that Jesus entrusted His own mother at the end. And it is commonly agreed that James was the first apostle to be martyred.
Eunice and Lois
The Apostle Paul loved Timothy as if he were his own son. He writes to him, (II Timothy 1:5 "I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.") Eunice and Lois seem to step right from the pages of the Bible to tell us that nothing is more important in a mother's life than the early training of her children. We can be sure such children knew well the stories of the Old Testament, and recalled the Books of the Law and the Prophets. Undoubtedly, Lois and her mother had steeped Timothy in a knowledge of all the great judges and the most loved prophets as well as the wisdom in the Psalms and Proverbs. You can almost hear them repeating some of those verses to each other, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Or, "She that bare thee shall rejoice." (Proverbs 22:6.) Another might have been, "I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths." (Proverbs 4:11.) Timothy was only about fifteen when he left them to go with Paul and Silas to preach the gospel. We can only imagine the pride coupled with sadness they experienced as they told him goodby.
Eunice and Lois must have shared feelings similar to those of Hannah of the Old Testament when she left her young Samuel in the House of the Lord at Shiloh, "I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord." (I Samuel 1:28.) Hannah had named her son Samuel, meaning "asked of the Lord." She had prayed for his birth and made a promise that if she was rewarded with a son, she would consecrate her child to God. Then when he was about three years old, she took him to Eli the priest for training. Once a year the family went to Shiloh for the yearly sacrifices and each time Hannah took with her a robe made of blue fabric for Samuel to wear. We can be sure Hannah put love into every stitch.
Rachel and an Un-named Mother
Rachel, mother of Joseph and Benjamin, was the first woman on record to lose her life in childbirth. Rachel died when Benjamin was born. Benjamin must have heard a great deal about his mother because Jacob loved her dearly. The second on record to lose her life in childbirth is an un-named mother, mentioned briefly in I Samuel 4:19-22. She symbolizes the woman who gives birth to a child after she has received word of her husband's death in battle. She also symbolizes the mother who succumbs to dark, despairing hopelessness. She named her child, Ichabod, saying "The glory has departed from Israel."
David's favorite wife Bathsheba was a remarkably powerful woman. She intervened to have her son Solomon succeed his father as king.
Rebekah's life ended with her becoming a frustrated heartbroken mother. She brought about hostility between her twin sons Jacob and Esau.
The first mother, Eve, experienced all the anxieties, heartaches and torments suffered by other mothers of wicked sons down through the centuries of time. Her first and most beloved son Cain killed his brother Abel. Much later a son was born named Seth as well probably as other sons and daughters whose names are not listed. She lived on in Seth, the strongest of her children. The ancestry of Jesus Christ was traced back to the line of Seth.
Jochebed was the mother of Aaron, Moses, and Miriam. Her name lives on, not by how many big things she accomplished, but by how wisely and well she served as a mother. She was able to save Moses from the Pharaoh's edict of death for Hebrew male children. For the first three months of his life, she kept him hidden. Then she wove an ark of bulrushes and put Moses in it to await the coming of Pharaoh's daughter who took pity on the child. When she sought a nurse for the child, it was Jochabed who was given the task of caring for him until he was seven. Perhaps we can trace in the peculiarly gentle character of Moses the influence of this devout mother.
In conclusion, we should look at the beloved wife of Abraham, Sarah, who was to be the Mother of Nations. Her son Isaac, was born in her old age, the Bible's first story of a miracle conception. Sarah's life was one of continuous trial, but through it she emerged as a woman of power, one who was a dutiful and beloved wife and who finally became a favored and venerated mother.
These then are a few of the Mothers in the Bible.
May we be inspired by their lives and the lives of their children.
A PRAYER for YOUNG MOTHERS
Our heavenly Father, we thank thee for the gift of motherhood.
Help us as young mothers to seek thy guidance for our children.
Grant us wisdom, strength, patience, faith and love.
Create in us the willingness to dedicate ourselves and our children to Thee.
In the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ,
Brillhart, Florence -- Worshiping with Women of the Bible
Davis, J. D. -- Dictionary of the Bible
Deen, Edith -- All of the Women of the Bible
Drimmer, Frederick -- Daughters of Eve, Women in the Bible
Ieron, Julie-Allyson -- Names of Women of the Bible
Smith, William -- Smith's Bible Dictionary
Squires, Beulah -- Women of Jesus Time
A related web site:
Short, first-person-style sketches of 16 women of the Bible, both Old and New Testament.
These are suitable for oral presentations; written permission is required.
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