The Bible speaks highly of mothers who raise children and guide their families in a righteous manner; in the oft-quoted Proverbs 31, the “wife of noble character” is honored by her husband and children for her virtues.
Motherhood wasn’t a requirement for godly women in Bible times—and just as today, not every woman who wanted children was granted her wish. But the mothers and matriarchs of the Bible exhibit qualities that all of us, male or female, parent or not, should strive to emulate. Here are a few of the famous mothers of the Bible, with links to their stories:
Mary, the Mother of Jesus
Perhaps no more famous mother exists than Mary, who at a young age learned from an angel that she would give birth to the long-awaited Messiah. Her song of praise in response, and the well-known events of Christ’s birth, are what usually spring to mind when we think of Mary. But her role as mother brought her grief as well as joy; we can only imagine what it must have been like for her to witness Jesus’ crucifixion.
Mary’s was not the only miraculous birth recorded in the New Testament. Elizabeth was a godly woman who was “righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly”—and yet she and her husband were unable to conceive a child. God answered her prayers late in her life and she gave birth to John the Baptist, but is perhaps best known for her prophetic encouragement of the young (and perhaps frightened) Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Hannah is one of the most inspiring mothers in the Bible, although her story is less well-known. Despite years of patience and prayer, she remained unable to have a child. One day “in her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly”—and God answered her prayer at last. But Hannah’s character truly shone when, in gratitude to God, she dedicated her newborn son to His service. Her son would one day become one of Israel’s greatest prophets.
Sarah, the Wife of Abraham
Sarah is one of the great matriarchs of the Bible—yet she didn’t become a mother until very late in life. In fact, her reaction to God’s promise that she would have a son was to laugh, as memorably recorded in Genesis 18. Nevertheless she did give birth to a son, and her lineage would include Jesus Christ himself.
There are many more famous mothers described in the Bible; many of them righteous, some not so much, but all used by God to bring about His design. This weekend, as we give thanks for the mothers in our lives, consider how you can embody the traits that define a godly mother—patience, kindheartedness, faithfulness—and consider how you can encourage the mothers in your community, young and old, as they work to meet that same standard.
While Mother’s Day is on your mind, here are a few Mother’s Day devotionals worth checking out (or passing along to mom):
- Raising Up a Hero of Faith — Sheri Rose Shepherd recalls an unexpected moment of spiritual growth in the life of her son.
- Am I a Bad Mom? — Lysa TerKeurst recalls a parenting experience that made her feel like a total failure as a mother—but finds in it a message of hope and encouragement.
- The Girlfriends in God devotional has been talking about motherhood all week! See How a Mom is Like a Lighthouse, Being a Mom That Matters, and Hats Off to Moms! (and subscribe to the devotional for more!).
- NIV Devotions for Moms is a weekly devotional written specifically for—you guessed it—moms. NIV Devotions for Women isn’t just for moms, but there’s plenty of relevant material there.
- Not everyone highlighted in our weekly Women of the Bible devotional was a mother, but many of them were—and there’s plenty for moms to learn from these stories of the Bible’s most famous (and occasionally infamous) women.
Happy Mother’s Day to you and to the mother figure in your life!