Important Mothers in Scripture
by Henry M. Morris III, D.Min. *
Several women are given recognition in Scripture. Some are recognized in unusual ways for traits of a mother’s heart seldom given much thought. This Mother’s Day might be a good time to learn from a few of them.
Eve, Mother of All Living
Biblically, Eve is most known for her sin. But God forgave Eve. She lived for centuries and gave birth to many “sons and daughters” (Genesis 5:4), although the rest of her life was dominated by this initial fall from perfection that set the stage for Satan to deceive “the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). The Bible admonishes us to learn from her being deceived by our “adversary the devil” (1 Peter 5:8). I have little doubt we will meet her in eternity and learn much from the “mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20).
Sarah, Mother of Nations
The life of Sarai, Abram’s wife from Ur of the Chaldees, is given a lot of ink in Genesis 16–18. Early on, she is portrayed as impatient, angry, and selfish, particularly in regard to her servant Hagar, who Sarai insisted should bear Abram a child in her name. Much could be said to justify Sarai during those early decades of their married life, but the truth is she struggled with her own faith regarding the promise that she would bear a promised heir who would be the head of a great nation.
As the plans of God materialized, however, God changed her name to demonstrate His favor. And the Hall of Faith cites her great faith, her ability to see the future fulfillment of God’s promises (Hebrews 11:11), and her willingness to obey Abraham to such a degree that she became the classic example of the biblical submission required of a godly wife (1 Peter 3:6).
Rebekah, Mother of Israel
Abraham and Sarah gave birth to Isaac, whose wife, Rebekah, was selected for him by Abraham’s servant. Rebekah gave birth to Jacob and Esau, of whom God specified that “the older shall serve the younger” before the boys were even born (Genesis 25:23; Romans 9:10-13).
Both Isaac and Rebekah knew of this specific prophecy, yet Isaac chose to ignore God’s choice and was ready to cede the blessing of the head of the family—and more importantly, the charge to carry out the plans God had invested in Abraham for the unique Israel and Messiah to come—to Esau, the godless “man of the field.” Rebekah and Jacob were faced with a backslidden Isaac and the horrible thought of deceiving him so the prophecy of God would be honored and not profaned through Esau.
Both Rebekah and Jacob made the sacrifice to follow God’s plan. She prevented her husband from making a mistake that would have no doubt brought the judgment of God down on Isaac’s head almost immediately. In fact, when Isaac finally did realize what he had almost done, he “trembled exceedingly” (Genesis 27:33). Rebekah was a bold and righteous woman who gave up much to protect her husband and implement the known plan of God for her household.
Rahab of Jericho
Rahab might not be generally remembered as a mother, but that is what the Lord remembers her for. Most of us know the saga of Jericho and the two spies. Joshua sent them out to survey the territory and “especially Jericho” (Joshua 2:1). They lodged in Rahab’s brothel. Back then, Jericho worshiped the moon goddess Ashtoreth, a cult that had religious fertility rites. The brothel was not the place for the common folk to go but rather for the more wealthy and city leaders—a perfect place to find out information about the state of affairs in Jericho.
Indeed, that is just what happened. Rahab had heard how the “terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you” (Joshua 2:9). She was willing to hide them from the king and his assassins and to beg asylum in Israel, “for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Joshua 2:11). She was a brave lady. Not only was she willing to risk her own life to switch sides, but she believed God to the extent that she included her family in her request and must have persuaded them to follow her in her conversion.
Later, after the city was taken, she married Salmon and became the mother of Boaz, the father of Obed, who sired Jesse, the father of King David. Little did she know who she would become, but God placed her in the Messianic line. She had to be bold enough to recognize the true God and make a public confession that cost the livelihood that provided for herself and many of her family. Thank God for “sinners” like Rahab.
Hannah, Samuel’s Mother
Childless for a long time, Hannah came to the tabernacle and prayed earnestly for a child. So intense was her petition that old Eli the priest thought she was drunk and tried to shoo her away. But God heard her prayer and gave her Samuel to love and prepare for service to God.
Hannah cared for Samuel during infancy and early childhood, and when the time came to fulfill her promise to God to give Samuel to Him, she joyfully took the young boy to Eli and dedicated him to the Lord’s service for the remainder of his life. No doubt other mothers have felt the double-sided angst of joy and sorrow at watching a young son enter the full-time service of the Lord. There were better-paying jobs back then as well as now, but Hannah knew the greater good and deeper joy of giving what was most costly to her over to the Lord for His use in the Kingdom (1 Samuel 3:19-21).
Abigail was married to Nabal, a fool and a “son of Belial” (1 Samuel 25:17, KJV). Abigail was a “woman of good understanding and beautiful appearance,” but her husband was “harsh and evil in his doings” (1 Samuel 25:3). David lived the life of a Robin Hood outlaw for several years and had protected Nabal and his enterprise for some time. David needed supplies for his growing army and sent messengers to Nabal to request help. Nabal refused and sent the messengers packing with insults as well as empty supply wagons.
David expected provisions from Nabal and reacted hotly to the insults, planning to attack Nabal and take by force what he should have had by right of territorial protection. Abigail got wind of the plan, took matters into her own hands, and outfitted a supply train to send to David in an effort to forestall the attack. When the supplies arrived, Abigail (already under risk from her husband), bravely confronted David and begged him “from avenging yourself with your own hand” (1 Samuel 25:26). With the passion and intensity of a bold woman, she persuaded David away from a bloody battle.
David listened to Abigail and stopped the attack. Nabal died from a stroke when he heard that he almost lost his life to David, and Abigail married David, giving him his second son, Chileab (2 Samuel 3:3). Apparently, God was pleased with Abigail’s open defiance of her evil husband’s wickedness and rewarded her accordingly.
Widow of Zarephath, Mother in Poverty
God told Elijah that He had commanded a widow (a pagan woman in a foreign territory) to sustain him while the drought prophesized by Elijah against Ahab continued (1 Kings 17). The widow was very poor and had nothing of substance, “only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar” (1 Kings 17:12). She and her young son were preparing to eat their last meal together, then wait to die.
Elijah, nonetheless, asked for bread. She fed him with apparent deference for his position as a prophet. The promise from Elijah was that if she would trust God’s word, God would make the flour and the oil last long enough to sustain all of them until the drought was over.
As promised, the flour and oil continued. But one day, the young son fell sick and died. That proved too much for the widow, and she began to rail at Elijah as the cause of her distress. (How often have we done such a thing?) However, Elijah prayed and the son was revived, restoring both the son’s life and the widow’s faith. Sometimes the Lord tests us to the breaking point—just to strengthen our faith so that it won’t break again.
This is a story that is far too familiar among pastor’s families. After long service, a faithful prophet (an Old Testament “pastor”) died and left his family without any visible means of support. The creditors were coming to take his widow’s two sons for indentured servants (that was legal back then). She came to the prophet Elisha for help, telling him she had nothing in the house but one pot of oil (2 Kings 4:2). He told her to go out into her city and borrow all the pots and pans she could find among her neighbors, and when she had done her best, to shut herself and her sons in her house and begin pouring the oil from her pot into the pots and pans of her neighbors.
She did as instructed, and when all the pots and pans were filled to the brim, she was told to sell the oil and live off the proceeds (2 Kings 4:1-7). Many a sermon has been preached from this little story. Some suggest that the widow didn’t have enough faith to borrow more pots, implying that she could have gained a better “retirement” if she had just had a better relationship with her neighbors. But most simply note that God will supply our needs (as promised in Philippians 4:19)—sometimes in ways that we don’t expect.
The Great Shunammite Woman
Elisha traveled a good bit. Often he would go by the home of a “notable woman” who suggested to her husband that they “make a small upper room on the wall” that Elisha could use whenever he came (2 Kings 4:8-10). In gratefulness for the favor, Elisha asked the lady if he could do something for her in return, to which she replied that she was okay and didn’t need anything.
But Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, learned that she did not have children, so Elisha interceded for her, and she became pregnant with a son. After a few years, the young child was struck with a blazing headache and quickly died. The notable woman did not panic but went as fast as she could to Elisha and begged for his help. Urgently, Elisha sent Gehazi to put his staff on the child’s chest, then went with the Shunammite lady to her home and spent a long time interceding for the child before God. Finally, the child revived and was given back into his mother’s arms (2 Kings 4:8-37).
The intensity of this event is full of applications. But the mother’s heart of this woman is certainly worth recognizing. Love—particularly mother love—does not have a monetary or cultural boundary. The wealthy mother loves just as deeply as the poor mother. Things (or the lack thereof) do not replace the mother’s heart cry.
Elizabeth, Older Mother
Elizabeth was the mother of John the Baptist. She was childless well up into her senior years, and when her husband, Zacharias, told her of the vision he had while serving in the temple, she knew that this son was going to be a gift from God. Obviously, pregnancy at her age would be very unusual, but coming as it did directly as a result of the personal message from Gabriel, Elizabeth was prepared to do everything in her power to follow the instructions they were given.
Once the young Mary heard her own miraculous message from Gabriel, Elizabeth recognized the “mother of my Lord” immediately when Mary arrived on a visit from Nazareth (Luke 1:43). For about three months, Elizabeth did her best to mentor young Mary and prepare her with an understanding from the Scriptures regarding what they both could expect from their miraculous sons.
Elizabeth offers us a godly example, not just in the acceptance of the physically dangerous pregnancy that she herself would undergo, but in the gracious time spent with another “special” mother-to-be to help her with what would eventually become a horrific series of events for both of them. In a similar fashion, Paul told young Timothy to have the “older women” teach the “young women” how to be good homemakers and faithful wives and mothers in their own homes (Titus 2:3-5).
Mary, Young Virgin Teen
Mary, the young lady God chose to bear the human body of our Lord Jesus, was most certainly a simple girl from a righteous family who was raised to willingly submit to the Word of God and follow the leading of her parents—and ultimately the leading of her husband-to-be.
As was often the case among Jewish families of that era, Mary probably knew she was engaged to Joseph, but as was the custom had not even come to the courting stage of their marriage when Gabriel appeared to her. Everything about that vision was outside of her experience and expectations. Yet, she was willing to do whatever God required of her once she confirmed that the messenger was indeed the Gabriel whom she had heard about from the family’s regular Scripture readings and household teachings. She quickly went to her godly relative Elizabeth for counsel and advice. Those months with her must have been very precious to young Mary.
The faithful and godly Elizabeth knew who and what her son would be and helped Mary with much we will probably never know about until we get to hear her testimony in heaven at the great Marriage Feast. Mary pondered during the approximately 30 years she had her son at home with her. But when the time came for Him to enter His public ministry, there is no evidence that she had ever tried to change His destiny or give Him anything but encouragement for the many trials that would come in the years ahead.
This young teen mother is one of the more godly and gracious examples recorded in the Bible for young girls to follow. One day we will all be able to thank her for her sacrifice and see the honor God will grant her in eternity.
Mother’s Day and Mother’s Heart
As we honor our earthly mothers this month, may we also give thanks to the Creator who made the unique female nature that reflects the complete and pure love of God for His children (1 John 4:19).
*Dr. Morris is Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Creation Research. He holds four earned degrees, including a D.Min. from Luther Rice Seminary and an MBA from Pepperdine University.
Cite this article: Henry M. Morris III, D.Min. 2017. Important Mothers in Scripture. Acts & Facts. 46 (5).