There are many great women in the Bible but very few are recognized predominantly for their mothering skills. There is, however, reason to believe all of them had a positive impact as mothers.
We must remember that mothering was originally designed for perfect mothers, partnered by perfect husband/fathers, dealing with perfect children. That possibility was destroyed before the first child was born so mothering in this life is always done under duress. It’s never going to be perfect. The intention of this post is to see the positives in spite of the negatives.
And when we look close, what we find is that most mothers in the Bible had a positive effect even when hampered by, not one, but at least three sin natures – mom, dad and child – in addition to difficult circumstances.
The mothering of some biblical figures isn’t highly visible because there just isn’t enough room in one book to include every mothering detail so we have to read between the lines to gain some insights. What we do know is that every mother faced the obstacles mentioned above.
Following is a list of some of the better known ladies, a description of what made them great and few of their mothering positives.
Sara and Naomi
Both of these women are known for honoring their husbands when their husbands were clearly wrong. In their circumstances, honor was an expression of faith not evidence of shutting down and God recognized them for responding the way they did.
Naomi’s story is recorded in the Book of Ruth and she is honored as much by the book as Ruth.
Sara was specifically mentioned as an example of marital faith in 1 Peter 3:5-6.
For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
It is Sara’s example that helps us understand how much faith Naomi had.
But, we have very little information in either case about their skills as mothers but both did assert some level of influence.
- Isaac made some colossal errors as a husband and father but in the end he made things right. We have to believe that it was Sara’s influence that made that possible. He repeated his father’s faults but it was Sara’s steadfastness that turned him around. Without her example I wonder if Isaac and Rebecca would have stayed together.
- It must have been a heart break for Naomi when both her sons married Moabite women who were considered out of bounds for Israelites. But, there is no doubt she made the best of a difficult situation by influencing her sons to pick girls with good character. One of the wives, Ruth, not only became a believer she also became an important connection in the lineage of Christ. Naomi gets credit for that.
I’m sure they wished things could have been better but bravo to both for doing their best in the situations they had.
These women were great in faith even in regard to mothering. They show us that mothers still have influence when things go badly wrong in the home. I say that to be honest not judgmental. Their husbands didn’t do much to encourage the development of their mothering skills but that didn’t stop them from being mothers.
Sincere mothers like this have influence. Their mothering wasn’t prominent but it was definitely present.
Eve and Mary
These two women hold special places as mothers because they both did what no other mother could ever do.
- Eve conceived and gave birth to the very first child born through biological processes and she had no one to reassure her that all things were happening normally. She probably had a few scary moments along the way.
- Mary conceived the only child ever as a virgin and initially she got no reassurance from her fiance, Joseph. Though a good man, Joseph intended to call the marriage off until God stepped into the picture and convinced him that all things were as it should be. The situation was frightening for Mary but she willing submitted to God’s will in the matter.
But the mothering described here was mostly biological and it is well established that biology alone does not a good mother or father make. Both women had great faith but we don’t have enough information to detail their day to day approach to mothering. What we do know is that they both mothered in very unusual circumstances. What they faced was completely out the box.
- Remember that Eve was the first mother to raise a sinful child and Mary was the first to raise a sinless child.
- Eve had no status quo to mimic and Mary’s mothering experience was completely outside mothering norms.
Hats off to both of these ladies for not falling apart in very unusual circumstances!
Jochebed and Hannah
These two ladies were remarkable as mothers. Hannah was the mother of Samuel and his birth was the direct result of her prayers. She was one of two wives to Jehoram, the other wife being Peninnah, and the two didn’t get along so well. The problems, other than sharing a husband with another wife, were:
- Hannah was barren, Peninnah was not.
- Peninnah gloated about her fertility making the situation more painful for Hannah.
Instead of starting a cat fight, Hannah responded by praying fervently for a son, promising to give the child back to God if God would honor her with conception. God honored her request with the birth of Samuel and she kept her promise.
Following Samuel’s birth, Hannah committed herself fully to raising him in preparation for service at the Tabernacle. To keep her focus on the task she refused to go to any of the yearly festivals.
Once he was old enough, probably 12 to 14 years of age, Hannah took him to the Tabernacle and left him there to serve. She did visit him yearly and took clothing as you can imagine any mother might do. Samuel became one the great prophets in Israel and no doubt his mother’s influence was the primary reason for his greatness.
Hannah also had several more children. You can read her story in the first few chapters of 1 Samuel.
Of all great mothers though, Jochebed takes the cake. She had three children: Aaron, Miriam and Moses. Her mothering instincts were exhibited under the worst possible circumstances.
- She was a slave. Slaves spend most of their energy just staying alive. There isn’t much left over for nurturing children.
- To keep her son, Moses, alive she had to defy government edict. Pharaoh had commanded all new born males to be destroyed.
- Being poor, she had no resources.
- Slave communities aren’t known for social support structures and there is no evidence the community even encouraged her to save her son. Conventional wisdom may have been, “let him die.”
- Her husband didn’t interfere but, being a hard driven slave, he wasn’t available to give much hands-on support.
- She did have the support of her daughter, Miriam, and together they managed to not only save Moses’ life they managed to get him into position to save the nation of Israel.
God honored her faith. Moses was more than spared:
- He was raised in the privilege of Pharaoh’s house as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.
- But, Jochebed had the privilege of nursing him until he was old enough to live without her constant attention.
- Jochebed probably had occasional contact with him even after that.
- Moses had the finest education offered in Egypt.
- He served as a military leader and tradition tells us he was an effective commander.
There is little doubt that Jochebed told Moses God would use him to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage and, of course, he eventually did just that.
Obviously, God had a hand in the situation but without Jochebed His hands were tied.
Here is the bottom line. Most mothers are good even when they don’t appear that way and here are the reasons why:
- As I said, mothers are not perfect. That fact limits there ability as mothers.
- They were raised by imperfect mothers before they became mothers. Even if they follow the example perfectly they won’t get it right.
- The surrounding communities are struggling with the same problems. There is an endless flood of books written by people influenced by the same wrong examples and the situation doesn’t seem to get any better.
- In a two parent system, the mother is sometimes interfered with by husbands and grandparents from both sides. The conflict creates insecurity which kids are very able to take advantage of.
- In a single parent situation, mothers are hard pressed to find support and assistance to monitor all things properly.
- In many cases a mother’s physical strength – an important component in raising kids – is diminished by the process of giving birth.
But, even with all these difficulties mothers still manage to make a positive impact on their children.
I had two mothers. One was an alcoholic and the other was addicted to prescription drugs but, in spite of these limitations, both had enormous influence in my life.
I hated it when my alcoholic mother made me learn the words on my spelling list and constantly badgered me about reading books but I love her for it today.
I hated it when my addicted mother made me iron my own school clothes, wash the dishes and make my bed but I love her for it today.
Never complain about your mother and never forget her on Mother’s Day even if you think she missed the mark. It is sad that she gets recognized for mothering only one day in each year. It is unforgivable if you forget it.
Don’t THINK!AboutIt. Remember your mother on Mother’s Day.