Queen Mother

To understand the veneration of Mary, we should first look at Bathsheba, one of the scandalous women who appear in Saint Matthew’s genealogy of Christ: “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife” (Mt 1:6).

King David’s sins of adultery and murder are recounted in 2 Samuel 11-12, and David’s song of repentance is recorded as Psalm 51. Our first meeting with Bathsheba in Scripture is scandalous; but by the time her son King Solomon is grown, she is enthroned as Queen Mother of Israel.

“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 Ki 2:19).

Among a people whose rulers are polygamists, naturally the mother of the new king or chief immediately becomes a person of great consequence. The records of the Books of Kings prove it. The “Gebhirah,” or Queen Mother, occupied a position of very high social and political importance; she took rank almost with the king.

In 2 Ki 24:15, it is expressly stated that Nebuchadnezzar carried away the king’s mother into captivity; Jeremiah calls her the 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). Again the queen mother is mentioned with the king, emphasizing her exalted position.

Now we can 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). Maacah had used her powerful influence to further the cause of idolatry. In this connection Athaliah’s coup d’état may be mentioned: After the violent death of her son Ahaziah (2 Ki 9:27), she usurped the royal power and reigned for some time in her own name (2 Ki 11:3; compare 2 Ch 22:12). This revolution was a radical departure from the usual traditions.

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 kings are recorded, not together with their wives, but together with the names of their 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).

(Above is adapted from the 1915 International Standard Bible Encyclopedia entry for “Queen Mother”)

While we’re at it:

  • 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 Maacah 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.”

Author: Father Silouan Thompson

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