Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! -Matthew 23:37
It’s quite interesting to imagine God as a mother. On any given Sunday, you can walk into a church and immediately hear masculine pronouns to describe God. It seems so interesting to think that God has a penis. After reading that line, you’re either laughing histerically or cringing at the thought of God with male genetalia. That’s okay. God doesn’t have a physical penis.
The idea of God as a mother is something that has been lost in mainstream Christianity. God has not only been white washed, but the image of God has been deeply influenced by patriarchy. There are multiple verses in the bible where God is not only described as a woman, but the actual name of God is that of a woman. I’ll start with the names of God.
There are five names for God that I have found that give God the image of a woman: El Shadai, Eloah, Ruach, Pneuma, and Elohim.
El Shadai is the first one and most interesting. There are debates over what it means exactly. The most intriguing one is “The breasted one”. In hebrew, El is a generic word for God and the word shad means breasts. Put them together and you have a God of breasts. There’s nothing more feminine and motherly than having breasts.
Next, we can look at the words Eloah and Elohim. Both of these words are interechangable. The only difference is that Elohim is plural, meaning “Gods” and not “God”. In Genisis 1:26, God says “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” If God were not also female, then humankind would only be mankind. We were made in the image of Elohim. We were made like them: male and female in a divine dance that defies both sex and gender. We are both masculine and feminine just as God is both masculine and feminine. We are the same, yet we are different.
Ruach is the hebrew word for Spirit. To be exact, it’s the Holy Spirit. We find Ruach all the way in the beginning. Genesis 1:2 says, “The earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” The word Ruach is the same word that the hebrew language uses as wind. The spirit of God, the sustaining sustinance, and the wind of God are all there hovering over the waters of the earth in the story of creation. God in Her beauty was there. God in Her beauty covered the earth. Ruach is not only a feminine noun in the Hebrews language, but the action that Ruach is doing is agreed upon to be feminine.
Pneuma is the Greek word for the Holy Spirit. The direct translation is breath. It was thought by Greek philosophers that this word was related to a person’s being, soul, or creative force. This word meets the male definition of God and the feminine definition of God in the middle because it’s a gender-neutral term. It is neither masculine or feminine. We see the same winds that hovered over the earth in Acts 2:2. God the Mother came through the house that the Apostles were in and baptized them with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God was around them and within them. Mother God was a part of them. She was creating a new person, giving them the sustinance that they needed, and giving them life.
Now that we have a grounding for the names of God, let’s look at some of the descriptions referencing Mother God.
“Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.” -Hosea 11:3-4
Here we find what seems like a mother figure loving and taking care of her children. Most importantly, we see God giving the image of breastfeeding a child. God taught this child to walk, loved the child, spent time with the child, and fed the child. This ties into what we talked about previously. Mother God, the breasted one, is taking care of and feeding someone. While this is all metaphor, as is any description of an indescribable being, we can’t overlook that the bible is painting a picture of a feminine God.
“I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs, and will tear open the covering of their heart; there I will devour them like a lion, as a wild animal would mangle them.” -Hosea 13:8
In this passage, God is described as a mama bear. The chapter this is from shows the anger and judgment of God to the nation of Israel. God shows that she will bring wrath just as a mother does while trying to protect her cubs. Mothers have wrath. Mothers aren’t always sweet.
“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” -Luke 15:8-10
In the middle of male figured parables describing God, we find this treasure. God is described as a woman looking for her lost coin. God rejoices when people repent and follow her righteousness. There are many ways to look at this parable, but it’s interesting to see God related as a woman who is franticly looking for a coin. God is comfortable with being both a woman and celebrating those who come to her.
By now, I hope that you can see that there are so many scriptures that bring the imagery of God the Mother to life. There are countless amounts of commentaries, traditions, non-cannon texts, and other sources that suggest that God is female. God isn’t just a father. God is a mother. She is strong, brave, loving, providing, creating, and giving constantly. She never fails, and nothing can keep us or move us away from her love. She is all around us and she is within us.
Happy Mother’s Day.