In Celebration of Mothers: A Look at Faithful Mothers of the Bible
Lessons from Eve
Eve is most known for disobeying God by eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She and Adam were both guilty of sinning against God, ultimately ushering sin and death into the world through their actions (Genesis 3:3,6,16-17). Although not much is mentioned about her role as a mother, we can learn a powerful lesson from Eve’s life as a mother: our actions have consequences.
Her choice to disobey God impacted the lives of her future children. If sin had not entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, their children would have experienced a very different world. We often do not know how the impact of our decisions will greatly affect those around us–especially our children. Through the example of Eve, we can make the conscious decision to love God and obey his commands, which will positively impact our children.
Sarah – Genesis 17:15-18:15, 21:1-7; Hebrews 11:11-12
Sarah was elderly when the Lord told her and Abraham that she would conceive and bear a son – so old, in fact, that she laughed at the prospect. She had struggled with infertility for many years and given up on having a child. However, the Lord fulfilled His promise and blessed them with their son, Isaac, whose name means “laughter”. We are told that Abraham was 100 years old at the time of his son’s birth.
Sarah is depicted in multiple places throughout the Shrine, including one of relief panels flanking the doors of the South Façade, and in the Incarnation Dome.
Jochbed or (Jochebed) – Exodus 2:1-10
As Pharaoh demanded that all the sons of the Jews be killed, Jochebed hid her son, Moses, for three months. When she was no longer able to hide him, she constructed a basket and set him afloat in the Nile River, trusting God to save him. Moses was found by Pharaoh’s daughter and grew up to be a great leader of the Israelites, leading them out of their captivity in Egypt.
Hannah – 1 Samuel 1:1-2:21
Hannah prayed for a child and struggled for a long time as the Lord remained silent and her husband’s other wife taunted her in her pain. When the Lord gave her a son, Samuel, she dedicated his life to the Lord, and he served in the temple. The Lord blessed Hannah with five more children, and Samuel became a great prophet.
At the Basilica, Hannah is depicted in one of the Chapels of the Joyful Mysteries, the Presentation Chapel, where her presentation of Samuel at the temple is paired alongside Mary and Joseph’s presentation of Jesus at the temple.
In the beginning of Hannah’s story, she prayed to the Lord in supplication by boldly asking for a son. At the end of her story, she offered a prayer of surrender to God. Hannah willingly surrendered her son back to God out of her love, reverence, and gratitude to him. Later on as Samuel grew in the temple, he became one of the most influential prophets in Israel.
Lois and Eunice – 2 Timothy 1:3-5
The grandmother and mother of Timothy respectively, Lois and Eunice trained him in the word of God. Thanks to their spiritual guidance, Timothy grew strong in the faith and became a prominent leader in the early church. Paul states in his second letter to Timothy:
“I am grateful to God, whom I worship with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, as I remember you constantly in my prayers, night and day. I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears, so that I may be filled with joy, as I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and that I am confident lives also in you.”
– 2 Timothy 1:3-5
Elizabeth and Mary
Elizabeth and Mary are mothers in the Bible with powerful stories that demonstrate how God’s plan and purpose for our lives will come to pass in his timing. Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah were devout followers of God, and Zechariah served as a priest in the temple of God. Even though they were both righteous in the sight of God, Elizabeth was barren and unable to have children (Luke 1:7).
One day while Zechariah was performing his priestly duties in the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and told him that his wife Elizabeth would have a son named John. This child would be no ordinary boy, but would help prepare the hearts of Israel for the coming Messiah (Luke 1:11-17).
Zechariah expressed doubt at the words of the angel, and wondered how this could happen since he and his wife were very old. Because of his unbelief, he was unable to speak until the child was born (Luke 1:19-20).
When Elizabeth became pregnant, she was humbled and honored at the wonderful privilege of becoming a mother to a future prophet, and declared,
“The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”Luke 1:25
Elizabeth was also the cousin of Mary, who would eventually become the mother of Jesus. When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, Mary came to visit her. Mary had recently received news from the angel Gabriel that she would give birth to Jesus, the Messiah (Luke 1:28-35). How great the excitement of these two women must have been to know that they were both carrying children who would powerfully impact the world!
Elizabeth and Mary both embraced their purposes as mothers with great humility, awe, and wonder. The Holy Spirit had already entered John the Baptist while he was in Elizabeth’s womb, just as the angel foretold to Zechariah (Luke 1:15, 41). Mary confidently told Gabriel that she was the Lord’s servant, and was open to God’s leading and direction in her life.
Rebekah’s story starts in Genesis 24. As Abraham was approaching the end of his life, he asked his servant to go to his home country to find a wife for his son Isaac. This led him to find Rebekah, who was willing to travel back to Canaan to marry Isaac (Genesis 24:57-58). Many years after Isaac and Rebekah were married, she gave birth to twins, Esau and Jacob. While she was pregnant, she felt the twins jostling inside her womb, and she inquired of the Lord about it (Genesis 25:21-22). God spoke to her saying,
“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”Genesis 25:23
When the twins grew up, Jacob (who was the youngest) swindled his older brother Esau out of his birthright and Rebekah helped Jacob deceive his father Isaac to receive the blessing that traditionally goes to the first born son (Genesis 25:29-34, Genesis 27).
What lessons can we learn from Rebekah’s life as a mother? Her family went through many challenges and difficulties, and in some ways, it seems that she positioned herself right in the middle of the family drama. She showed favoritism toward Jacob (not a good idea as a parent), and took matters into her own hands by deceiving her husband so that Jacob could receive the blessing.
These are clear examples of what not to do as a mother, but we can give Rebekah credit for seeking the Lord when she felt her sons jostling in her womb in Genesis 25:22. There are times when we observe the troubling actions and behaviors of our children, and our first response should always be to inquire of the Lord for wisdom and direction.
Naomi and Ruth
The story of Ruth and Naomi is a heartwarming narrative filled with sorrow, joy, and displays the beautiful bond between a mother-in-law and her tenacious daughter-in-law. The book of Ruth opens with a famine that ravaged the land of Bethlehem. Naomi, her husband Elimelek, and their two sons Mahlon and Kilion moved to the country of Moab in hopes to escape the harsh drought.
Sometime later, Elimelek died and Naomi was left with her two sons in a foreign country. Her sons married Moabite women (Orpah and Ruth), and after about ten years, both of Naomi’s sons also died (Ruth 1:1-5).
After hearing that there was food in Bethlehem, Naomi set out to return to her hometown–this time, without her husband or sons. Naomi urged her two daughters-in-law to return to their families and find new husbands, but Ruth was determined to not leave Naomi’s side. Ruth spoke these words to Naomi that have since then, been spoken during countless weddings and sermons across the globe:
“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”Ruth 1:16-17
This passage displays the great amount of love and dedication Ruth had towards her mother-in-law Naomi. The two women traveled together to Bethlehem, and Ruth began gleaning in the fields of a close relative of Naomi’s named Boaz. With Naomi’s help, Boaz and Ruth were married and had a son named Obed (Ruth 4:13-17).
Although Naomi tragically lost her sons, she still served as a loving mother-in-law to Ruth. If it were not for Naomi’s wisdom and advice to Ruth on how to glean the fields of Boaz and ask for him to be her kinsman-redeemer, Ruth may not have had the opportunity to marry Boaz.
We can learn from Naomi that even in the midst of heartbreaking circumstances, God can still use us to impact the lives of our family and community. Ruth’s obedience and adherence to Naomi’s instructions opened the door for her to marry Boaz, and ultimately produce a son in their family that would be part of the lineage of King David, and generations later, Jesus.