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Holman Bible Dictionary

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Additional Resources
• Nave's Topical Bible
• Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
Seven days with mother
• Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
• Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Mary, Mother of Mark
• Smith's Bible Dictionary
Mary, mother of Mark
• International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
King's Mother
Queen Mother
Greek - Mary the mother of James, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary the mother of John Mark
Greek - without mother
Greek - mother, mother's, mothers
Greek - murderer of a mother, mothers
Greek - mother in law, wife's mother, mother-in-law
Hebrew - mother-in-law
Hebrew - mother, mother's, mothers, mothers'
Hebrew - mother
Hebrew - queen mother
Hebrew - mother-of-pearl
Hebrew - mother in law, mother-in-law

Female parent who carries, gives birth to, and cares for a child. Usually refers to humans but may refer to animals or even as a metaphor for deity. In the Bible a wife has two equally important roles: to love, support, and provide companionship and sexual satisfaction for her husband and to bear and rear children. So important was the latter that a stigma was attached to barrenness (Genesis 16:1-2; Genesis 18:9-15; Genesis 30:1; 1 Samuel 1:1-20; Luke 1:5-25, especially Luke 1:25).

The Bible refers to every aspect of motherhood: conception (Genesis 4:1; Luke 1:24); pregnancy (2 Samuel 11:5; Luke 1:24); the pain of childbirth (Genesis 3:16; John 16:21); and nursing (1 Samuel 1:23; Matthew 24:19). A new mother was considered to be ritually unclean, and an offering was prescribed for her purification (Leviticus 12:1; compare Luke 2:22-24). The Book of Proverbs (see Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 31:1) indicates that even in ancient times mothers shared with fathers the responsibility for instructing and disciplining children. Mothers have the same right to obedience and respect as fathers (Exodus 20:12; Leviticus 19:3), and in Old Testament times death was the fate of those who cursed or assaulted parents (Exodus 21:15; Exodus 17:1; Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Jesus enforced the Fifth Commandment and protected it against scribal evasion (Matthew 15:3-6).

Motherly virtues are often extolled: compassion for children (Isaiah 49:15), comfort of children (Isaiah 66:13), and sorrow for children (Jeremiah 31:15, quoted in Matthew 2:18).

The fact that God would use a human mother to bring His Son into the world has bestowed upon motherhood its greatest honor. Jesus set an example for all to follow by the provision He made for His mother (John 19:25-27). Jesus made it plain, however, that devotion to God must take precedence to that of a mother (Matthew 12:46-50). Even the Old Testament (Genesis 2:24) indicated that a man's devotion to his wife supercedes that to his mother.

In addition to the literal sense, including that of animal mothers (see Exodus 34:26; Leviticus 22:27), the word is often used metaphorically. Israel is compared to an unfaithful mother (Hosea 2:2-5; Isaiah 50:1). Revelation 17:5 calls Babylon (Rome) the mother of harlots (those who are unfaithful to God). A city is the “mother” of her people (2 Samuel 20:19). Deborah was the “mother” (or deliverer) of Israel. In a more positive vein, the heavenly Jerusalem is the “mother” of Christians (Galatians 4:26). Jesus spoke of His compassion for Jerusalem as being like that of a mother hen for her chicks (Matthew 23:37). Paul compared his ministry to a mother in labor (Galatians 4:19) and a nursing mother (1 Thessalonians 2:7).

James A. Brooks

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'MOTHER'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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