Maternal Images for God in the Bible


Hopefully, you are much aware of the biblical description of God as Father. Many feminist and Women’s theologies have attributed this linguistic and literary inclination to patriarchal influence. The Jewish culture in the Bible, like many African cultures, is male-dominated and so full of imperfections and patriarchal tendencies against women. But God’s message in such context sought to affirm female-humanity and denounce negative cultural aspects against women.

Metaphorically, God is severally depicted in the Bible as Mother. Bible does not refer to God exclusively in masculine metaphors rather it uses both masculine and feminine images to describe God. And the maternal images used have a lot to teach us about God.

But we have to clearly and strongly affirm here that depiction of God in these terms (masculine or feminine) is only for the purpose of us (finite) to comprehend the divine (infinite) in terms known to human experience (anthropomorphism). Otherwise God is distinct from his creation. He is above/beyond sexual categories and sexual differentiation. He is Spirit (Jn. 4:24).

Here are maternal images for God in the Bible. You will realize that it greatly helps understand God’s character in new light.

God as Human Mother– (who cannot forget her nursing child):

“For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant.” (Isa. 42:14)

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isa. 49:15)

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” (Isa. 66:13)

God as Mother Bird- (who shelters her children under her wings)

May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (Ruth 2:12)

I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” (Ps 57:1)

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge” (Ps 91:4).

More significantly, Jesus used this imagery:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Luke 13:34).

God sews, and prepares food, clothes- (Gen. 3:21; Ex. 16:4; Neh. 9:21);

“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” (Gen. 3:21-22)

God is the perfect midwife (Ps. 22:9; 71:6):

From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you.” (Ps. 71:6)

God is the woman who lost her coin– in Luke 15:8-10

God protects (Ps. 131:2; Hosea 11:3-4, 13:8)

Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open. Like a lion I will devour them; a wild animal will tear them apart.” (Hos. 13:8)

Both feminine and masculine metaphors in the Bible enriches our understanding of God and his character. These are personal terms that show us God’s intimacy to His people. It also affirms both male and female humanity. God tenderly cares, is concerned, protects and jealously shelters his people.

May he hide you under his wings!

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