According to the Bible, Eve was the first person ever punished. Her sin? Having a mind of her own. Her punishment? She was sentenced to "motherhood." (See Genesis 3.) Happy Mother's Day, Grandma Eve!
Mother's Day is not an official biblical holiday, like Passover or the Day of Atonement. But the word "" does appear in the Bible 404 times. Mothers even make a brief appearance the Ten Commandments, "Honor thy Father and thy Mother."
The Proverbs give us 14 verses about mothers. Some Proverbs dispense wisdom: "Do not reject your mother's teaching." (Proverbs 1:8) Other Proverbs are inspirational: "Let her who bore you rejoice." (Proverbs 23:25) Some Proverbs tug on our heartstrings: "Do not despise your mother when she is old." (Proverbs 23:22) And one is downright scary: "The eye that...scorns to obey a mother will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures. (Proverbs 30:17) Whoever came up with that one must have forgotten to give junior his meds that day.
But the Book of Proverbs offers us more than a few adages about mothers. The whole book concludes with an expansive discourse on the
best...mom...ever!!! I call her
(Warning: if your mom is even
half as good as
you'll need to come up with a lot more than just some flowers and a Hallmark Card.) Proverb's Mom sews all the clothes for all her family. She rises while it is still night to prepare and cook the day's meals. She (not her husband) does all the manufacturing and marketing in the family's textile business. The husband sits at the edge of the village, under a tree, and chews the fat with his buddies all day.
organizes the family's household female servants, plants vineyards with her own hands. And...get this: she works out at the gym (well...maybe not at the gym back then...but she is known for her strong arms.) She has no fear of the future and is able to soothingly dissipate everyone else's anxiety. Proverb's Mom is also generous with the poor, puts a positive spin on her husband's reputation, home-schools her kids. Her kids are struck every day by her cheeriness. I'm guessing all her kids are in therapy these days...Proverb's Mom being such an improbable role model to impose on a child.
The Bible also gives us Jesus' mom, who is much more down to earth than Proverb's Mom, despite her being an official saint. We don't know much about St. Mary, but we do know a few very human things about her. She could make a dinger of a mistake, like the time she lost her son in a crowd (that year they made that pilgrimage to Jerusalem (Luke 2: 41-44). But he was 12 at the time, and you know how hard it is to monitor everything pre-teens are doing. Mary was a political firebrand, no doubt passing on to Jesus those lyric lines of hers: "God my Savior...has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty." She could get a little overbearing...as mothers occasionally will do...like the time she got worried that Jesus was getting overextended in his public life, so she gathered up some of the other relatives and tried to reign him in and sneak him back home and out of the spotlight. (Mark 3: 20-21) And she saw something no mother should ever have to see: the death of a child. (John 19: 26-27) What mom can't identify with Mary...or what father for that matter.
Other mothers are commended in the Bible. The mother of Isaac hired a servant to go find her boy a wife. The mother of Jacob helped him escape their dysfunctional family. The mother of Moses hid him in the river when the king of Egypt went on his genocidal rage. The mother of James and John lobbied for them to have high positions in Jesus' kingdom...but she got both her boys into trouble by it. Samson's mother warned him against marrying Delilah, and he probably should have listened to her.
Some social historians have written books about how mothering has changed over time and culture. And in some ways it has. My daughters will have more resources to keep my grandchildren safe and healthy than I had back in the day for them. My mother read Dr. Spock's advice on raising children, a resource my grandmothers never had. But over time, one thing seems not to have changed. Since Eve was indicted and sentenced in Eden, mothers of every race and creed have taken what they were told was their pain and punishment, and turned it into a sacrifice of grace and mercy and joy for their children. Happy Mother's Day! --Mike