Throughout the Hebrew Bible, the theme of deception shows up again and again. In its most negative form, resulting in death or divine abandonment, it is considered treachery. In its more positive occurrences, resulting in triumph and divine approval, it is considered clever trickery. The distinction is connected to where the power lies. When a figure of authority uses underhanded means to achieve an end, it is considered an abuse of power; so King David’s scheme to kill Uriah and claim his wife results in divine retribution. However, when powerless figures use deception to accomplish their goals, it is seen as an admirable reversal of power, reminiscent of the trickster motif in folklore and mythology. Israel, as a nation with frequently less power than the surrounding empires, respected trickster tales as a promise that they too could gain control.
So far we’ve seen women use surrogates and women use political influence to affect the course of their children’s lives. Today we will look at women who experience divine aid in securing their children’s future.
In honor of the recent debt-fueled political shenanigans swirling around the nation, today we will move into the realm of political mothers: specifically, queen mothers. This title is reserved for the mother of the king during the Judean monarchies. There exists a great debate as to the extent of the queen mother’s authority and responsibilities; some believe she was second only to the king in power (Ahlström 62), some believe she represented the Canaanite goddess Asherah in human form (Ackerman 400), some believe she had no official status whatsoever (Ben-Barak 34). There is general consensus, however, that the queen mother had some status, and moreover that certain queen mothers had a significant effect on the monarchy. Regardless of all other concerns (cultic status, official position) these women—Maacah, Nehushta, Hamutal, and Bathsheba—use their influence to advance their sons’ political power. Furthermore, each of these women are responsible for putting their son on the throne in place of his elder (and therefore more likely to succeed) brother.
Before a mother can protect her children, there must first be children. In the Hebrew Bible, as in modern times, we find stories of initially barren women who go to desperate lengths to have children (think Octomom, but on a maybe less-crazy scale). This post will discuss the use of surrogate mothers in ensuring a viable bloodline, and the ensuing complications.