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The superiority of the Hebrew over all contemporaneous systems of legislation and of morals is strongly shown in the higher estimation of the mother in the Jewish family, as contrasted with modern Oriental as well as ancient Oriental and classical usage. The kings mother, as appears in the case of Bath-sheba, was treated with special honor. ( Exodus 20:12 ; Leviticus 19:3 ; 5:16 ; deuteronomy 21:18 deuteronomy 21:21 ; 1 Kings 2:29 ; Proverbs 10:1 ; 15:20 ; 17:25 ; 29:15 ; Proverbs 31:1 Proverbs 31:30 )
muth'-er ('em, "mother," "dam," "ancestress"; meter):
1. Her Position in the Old Testament:
In vain do we look in the Scriptures for traces of the low position which woman occupies in many eastern lands. A false impression has been created by her present position in the East, especially under Mohammedan rule. Her place as depicted in the Scriptures is a totally different one. Women there move on the same social plane with men. They often occupy leading public positions (Exodus 15:20; Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14). The love of offspring was deeply imbedded in the heart of Hebrew women, and thus motherhood was highly respected. Among the patriarchs women, and especially mothers, occupy a prominent place. In Rebekah's marriage, her mother seems to have had equal voice with her father and Laban, her brother (Genesis 24:28,50,53,55). Jacob "obeyed his father and his mother" (Genesis 28:7), and his mother evidently was his chief counselor. The Law places the child under obligation of honoring father and mother alike (Exodus 20:12). The child that strikes father or mother or curses either of them is punished by death (Exodus 21:15,17). The same fate overtakes the habitually disobedient (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).
In one place in the Law, the mother is even placed before the father as the object of filial reverence (Leviticus 19:3). The Psalmist depicts deepest grief as that of one who mourneth for his mother (Psalms 35:14). In the entire Book of Proverbs the duty of reverence, love and obedience of sons to their mothers is unceasingly inculcated. The greatest comfort imaginable is that wherewith a mother comforts her son (Isaiah 66:13).
2. Position in the New Testament:
And what is true of the Old Testament is equally true of the New Testament. The same high type of womanhood, the same reverence for one's mother is in evidence in both books. The birth of Christ lifted motherhood to the highest possible plane and idealized it for all time. The last thing Jesus did on the Cross was to bestow His mother on John "the beloved" as his special inheritance. What woman is today, what she is in particular in her motherhood, she owes wholly to the position in which the Scriptures have placed her. Sometimes the stepmother is spoken of as the real mother (Genesis 37:10). Sometimes the grandmother or other female relative is thus spoken of (Genesis 3:20; 1 Kings 15:10).
Tropically the nation is spoken of as a mother and the people are her children (Isaiah 50:1; Jeremiah 50:12; Hosea 2:4; 4:5). Large cities also are "mothers" (2 Samuel 20:19; compare Ga 4:26; 2 Esdras 10:7), and Job even depicts the earth as such (Job 1:21).
Henry E. Dosker
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