Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The Authority of Queen Mothers

Dr. Alice C. Linsley

In ancient Egypt, the influence and authority of queen mothers was often considerable because many pharaohs were very young when they came to the throne and their mothers served as regents. Royal mothers ensured that the future kings were healthy, prepared to rule, and kept in power. The role of the queen mother was never separate from the identity of the royal house and its political strategy.

The Nile Valley has a long tradition of queen mothers. This is exhibited by the prominence of Queen Mother Tiye who guided the rule of three kings. Tiye was the principal wife of Amenhotep III (c.1388-1351/50 BC). He reigned over a vast empire that extended from the Upper Nile to the Orontes River in Turkey.

The southern border of Amenhotep’s empire was at the fortified settlement of Karoy in Nubia and the northern border was Naharin in southern Turkey. Naharin was the territory of Abraham’s father Terah in Mesopotamia.

Queen Tiye's father was a high official and priest and her mother was a temple singer. It is possible that the name of Tiye's father “YuYa” is a theophoric reference to the High God as it appeared on Nubian inscriptions.

Before the time of Tiye, a queen named Merneith gave birth to a son known as Hor-Den. Hor-Den was a devotee of God Father (Ra) and God son (Horus/HR). This was when the Upper and Lower Nile regions were first united (c. 3000 BC), and Den, who was "King of Upper and Lower Egypt,” was the first depicted as wearing the double crown.

Balance of Authority Among the Hebrew

The social structure of the biblical Hebrew was neither patriarchal nor egalitarian. It reveals a balance of authority between males and females. There were male prophets and female prophets, male rulers and female rulers; inheritance by male heirs and inheritance by female heirs, patrilocal residence, and matrilocal residence; and Hebrew patronymics and Hebrew matronymics. In the Hebrew double unilineal descent pattern, both the patrilineage and the matrilineage are recognized and honored, but in different ways. The Hebrew persons named in Genesis acknowledge both female and male ancestors (cognatic descent). Cognatic kin are blood relatives who acknowledge both maternal and paternal ancestors.

As royal wives, Hebrew women exercised considerable influence within their social circles and with the ruler. The powerful influence of the royal mother is evident in the story of Bathsheba appearing before King Solomon. “Bathsheba therefore went unto King Solomon, to speak unto him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a seat to be set for the king's mother; and she sat on his right hand.” (1 Kg. 2:19).

This male-female balance of authority is evident in many Old Testament narratives. Consider the distinct duties and responsibilities of the mother's house versus the father's house. Naomi told her daughters-in-law to return to their mothers’ houses (Ruth 1:8-9). This was Naomi’s way of encouraging them to remarry since the mother’s house attended to the practical arrangements necessary for a newly married couple to begin their life together. This explains why Rebekah ran to her mother’s house after she received a proposal of marriage (Gen. 24:27-28). On the other hand, Judah did not want Tamar to remarry so he sent her to her father’s house (Gen. 38:11).

The blood symbolism of the Passover associated with Moses has a parallel in the blood symbolism of the scarlet cord associated with Rahab. The abusive behavior of drunken Noah toward his sons has a parallel in the abusive behavior of drunken Lot toward his daughters.

The gender balance is evident in the New Testament narratives also. When Jesus was presented in the temple His identity as Messiah was attested by the priest Simeon and the prophetess Anna. Men and women are among Jesus’ followers. The women reportedly provided many of the material needs of Jesus and the Disciples. Jesus restored life to Jairus’ daughter (daughter to father) and life to the son of the widow of Nain (son to mother). Paul commends both men and women to the Gospel ministry. Among them are Apollos, Priscilla, and Phoebe, a leader from the church at Cenchreae, a port city near Corinth. Paul attaches to Phoebe the title of prostatis, meaning a female patron or benefactor.

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