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Queen Mother

Queen Mother

So Bathsheba went to King Solomon, to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her and bowed down to her, and sat down on his throne and had a throne set for the king’s mother; so she sat at his right hand — 1 Kings 1:19.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia’s definition for “Queen Mother”:

Queen Mother: Gebhirah, literally, “mistress,” then a female ruler, and sometimes simply the wife of a king (“queen,” 1 Kings 11:19); in Daniel 5:10 the Aramic term malketha is perhaps translated too simply as “queen,” when it indicates the mother of King Belshazzar urges the king to call for the prophet Daniel. It stands to reason that among a people whose rulers are polygamists the mother of the new king or chief at once becomes a person of great consequence. The records of the Books of Kings prove it. The gebhirah, or queen mother, occupied a position of high social and political importance; she took rank alongside the king.

Simply put: The wives of a king were not queens; his mother was the queen.

When Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, desired “to speak unto him for Adonijah,” her son “rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a throne to be set for the king’s mother; and she sat on his right hand” (1 Ki 2:19). And again, in 2 Ki 24:15, it is expressly stated that Nebuchadnezzar carried away the king’s mother into captivity; Jeremiah calls her gebhirah (29:2). The king was Jehoiachin (Jeconiah, Jer 29:2), and his mother’s name was Nehushta (2 Ki 24:8). This was the royal pair whose impending doom the prophet was told to forecast (Jer 13:18). Here again the queen mother is mentioned with the king, thus emphasizing her exalted position.

Now we understand why Asa removed Maacah his (grand?)mother from being queen mother, as we are told in 1 Ki 15:13 (compare 2 Ch 15:16). She had used her powerful influence to further the cause of idolatry. In this connection Athaliah’s coup d’état may be briefly mentioned. After the violent death of her son Ahaziah (2 Ki 9:27), she reigned for some time in her own name (2 Ki 11:3; compare 2 Ch 22:12).

And finally, the political importance of the gebhirah is illustrated by the fact that in the Books of Kings, with two exceptions, the names of the Jewish kings are recorded together with those of their respective mothers:

  • Naamah, the Ammonitess, the mother of Rehoboam (1 Ki 14:21; compare 14:31, and 2 Ch 12:13)
  • Maacah, the daughter of Abishalom (1 Ki 15:2) or Absalom (2 Ch 11:20) the mother of Abijah;
  • Maacah, the daughter of Abishalom, the mother (grandmother?) of Asa (1 Ki 15:10; compare 2 Ch 15:16);
  • Azubah, the daughter of Shilhi, the mother of Jehoshaphat (1 Ki 22:42; compare 2 Ch 20:31);
  • Athaliah, the grand-daughter of Omri, the mother of Ahaziah (2 Ki 8:26; compare 2 Ch 22:2);
  • Zibiah of Beersheba, the mother of Jehoash (2 Ki 12:1; compare 2 Ch 24:1);
  • Jehoaddin (Jehoaddan, 2 Ch 25:1) of Jerusalem, the mother of Amaziah (2 Ki 14:2);
  • Jecoliah (Jechiliah, 2 Ch 26:3) of Jerusalem, the mother of Azariah (2 Ki 15:2) or Uzziah (2 Ki 15:13,30, etc.; compare 2 Ch 26:3);
  • Jerusha (Jerushah, 2 Ch 27:1), the daughter of Zadok, the mother of Jotham (2 Ki 15:33);
  • Abi (Abijah, 2 Ch 29:1), the daughter of Zechariah, the mother of Hezekiah (2 Ki 18:2);
  • Hephzibah, the mother of Manasseh (2 Ki 21:1);
  • Meshullemeth, the daughter of Haruz of Jotbah, the mother of Amon (2 Ki 21:19);
  • Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath, the mother of Josiah (2 Ki 22:1);
  • Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah, the mother of Jehoahaz (2 Ki 23:31);
  • Zebidah, the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah, the mother of Jehoiakim (2 Ki 23:36);
  • Nehushta, the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem, the mother of Jehoiachin (2 Ki 24:8);
  • Hamutal (Hamital), the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah, the mother Of Zedekiah (2 Ki 24:18).

The two exceptions are Jehoram and Ahaz.

The above is adapted from the 1915 International Standard Bible Encyclopedia entry for “Queen Mother” by James Orr, M.A., D.D., in the public domain.

Some Biblical passages that refer to the role of the queen mother:

  • 1 Kings 11:19: “[The Edomite king] Hadad found great favor in the sight of Pharaoh, so that he gave him as wife the sister of his own wife, that is, the sister of Queen [Gebhirah] Tahpenes.” [Note: Tahpenes is not a proper name but is an Egyptian title meaning “kings wife.”]
  • 1 Kings 15:13, 2 Chronicles 15:16: “Also he removed Maachah his grandmother from being queen mother [gebhirah] because she had made an obscene image of Asherah.”
  • 2 Kings 10:13: “Jehu met with the brothers of Ahaziah king of Judah, and said, ‘Who are you?’ So they answered, ‘We are the brothers of Ahaziah; we have come down to greet the sons of the king and the sons of the queen mother [gebhirah].’”
  • Jeremiah 13:18: “Say to the king and to the queen mother [gebhirah], ‘Humble yourselves; sit down, for your rule shall collapse, the crown of your glory.’”
  • Jeremiah 29:2: “This happened after Jeconiah the king, the queen mother [gebhirah], the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem.”

Mary the Queen Mother of the Kingdom of God

“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you! …Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:28, 43)

No wife of the kings of Israel and of the House of David had the influence that his mother enjoyed as her son’s chief advisor. Scholars believe that the queen mothers of the ruling House of David were crowned; we know that at times they were seated on a throne next to their son, and that both state and religious functions were occasions for the queen mother to act and speak alongside the king. There is evidence from both the ancient Egyptian and the Hittite kingdoms that the queen mother at times rose to be the highest authority in the kingdom after the king. We know from scripture that these women exercised their influence from the time their sons ascended the throne, and sometimes even into the reign of their grandsons (as in the case of Maacah in 1 Kings 15 during the reign of her grandson Asa.) It is significant that nearly every mother of a Davidic king is listed together with her son in sacred scripture. The name of each Davidic queen mother is given in the introduction to each reign of the Davidic kings of Judah.

Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of David, fulfilling the covenant promises made to King David in 2 Samuel 7:16; 23:5 and repeated to Mary in Luke 1:26-36. It is fitting that the mother of the King should enjoy the same role that other Davidic queen mothers enjoyed: the royal office of the heavenly Gebhirah. It is in this sense that Christians call her queen, lady and mistress (It is worth noting that when Jeremiah condemns the pagan worship of “the queen of heaven” he uses a different word: in Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17-25 he writes meleketh for “queen” in distinction to gebhirah which he uses repeatedly for the reigning queen mother in Judah.)

Mary at CanaIn John’s gospel, the mother of Christ first appears at the wedding at Cana (ch. 2), where her first recorded action is to intercede with her Son for a miracle. Despite His initial refusal, she shows a mother’s boldness and persists, and her Son chooses to do as she asks.

She appears in her role as enthroned queen mother in Revelation 12:1 where she is “clothed with the sun and standing on the moon.” As Christ’s mother she reflects His light just as the moon reflects the light of the sun and she calls all her children in the family of the Church to follow her Son and to do, as she advised the servants at the wedding at Cana, whatever He tells you (John 2:5.)

Christ crowning Mary
“Christ crowning Virgin Mary,” by the Master of Lluca, 13th century altar from Monastery of Santa Maria of Lluca,