Traditionally, we tend to think of God in mostly masculine terms, especially as Father. However, did you know that the Bible also ascribes feminine features and characteristics to God? In particular, He is described in terms of motherhood on several occasions. Here are some examples:
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God as Mother Bear
Throughout the book of Hosea God laments the fact that the children of Israel forgot their first love for Him and essentially played the harlot by committing adultery with other gods. In His anger, God describes how He will rise up against them in judgement. One such example can be found in Hosea 13:8, which says:
“I will meet them like a bear deprived of her cubs; I will tear open their rib cage, And there I will devour them like a lion…”
What I find the most interesting about this passage is the fact that God’s ferocity and wrath are being likened to a feminine entity, which is not just unconventional in terms of how we tend to think of Him but how we tend to think of women.
This scripture shows that women are not just the “weaker vessels” that 1st Peter 3:7 suggests. We are also strong, fierce, fighters and forces to be reckoned with, particularly when the maternal urge to protect our children (like the mother bear in God’s analogy) is aroused!
God as Mother Eagle
Deuteronomy 32 details a song that Moses sang in praise of God after Joshua was chosen as the person who would succeed him after his death. This song basically outlined God’s faithfulness to the Israelites since He led them out of Egypt, where they had previously been slaves. A simile that he used to describe God’s able leadership can be found in Deuteronomy 32:11-12, which says:
“As an eagle stirs up its nest, Hovers over its young, Spreading out its wings, taking them up, Carrying them on its wings, So the Lord alone led [them], And there was no foreign god with [them]”.
This scripture tells us 3 things about God:
1) God is a faithful leader: This verse really demonstrates how much of a faithful leader God is. It shows how capable He is of guiding and directing us through our lives, if we would simply trust Him enough to allow Him to carry us in this way. Hence, one of my favourite scriptures in Proverbs instructs us to “trust in the Lord with all [our] heart, And lean not on [our] own understanding [but] in all [our] ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct [our] paths".
2) God loves us enough to push us forward to advance our development: Sometimes following God’s will for our lives will force us out of our comfort zones. For example, it may cause us to have to make sacrifices that we are unused to; walk away from loved ones and/or relocate, just as it did in Moses and the Israelite’s lives. The thing about this, though, is that these things do not always come about through positive circumstances. We humans are typically creatures of habit and comfort, preferring to take the path of least resistance. Therefore, in order to push us forward, God will sometimes allow chaos and sudden destruction to be let loose in our lives because He is “like [a mother] eagle that stirs up its nest,” forcing her young out of their safe place and ensuring that they spread their wings, and learn to fly.
3) God’s Protection: Just as the verse in Hosea spoke about God’s maternal instinct to protect His children, so does this scripture. It illustrates the fact that despite the many twists and turns that life may take; despite the moments where He takes us out of our comfort zones and we can’t see our way clear through natural means, He is:
- Ever present; hovering over us with watchful eyes just like the mother eagle in the analogy
- Carrying us, making sure that we don’t fall
A similar example of God’s urge to protect can be found in the symbolism that Jesus used of God as mother hen.
God as mother hen
This example is recorded in Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34, both of which record Jesus saying:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”
One of my uncles used to keep chickens on his property in Nigeria. As a little girl who grew up in the city of London seeing livestock in such close proximity, outside of a zoo or farm, was quite a novel experience to me. As such I became slightly obsessed with his chickens. To this day, he still reminds me of how I used to like to feed them and would terrorise them by chasing them around the yard. I also have very fond memories of sitting and observing the mother hens do exactly as Jesus described- gathering their brood under their wings.
A lot of the times when they did this it was to keep them together and guide them wherever she was going, whether it was towards food or back to their nest. This scripture therefore does not just speak to me of God’s ability to protect or even lead, but:
God’s ability to Guide: whether through-
- The Bible, which is His word (2nd Timothy 3:16)
- Speaking audibly, just as He did with Samuel and Jesus (1st Samuel 3:1-10; Matthew 3:17)
- The “still small voice” of the Holy Spirit, which tends to sound like our own inner voice (1st Kings 19:11-13)
- Other people, just as He did within Elizabeth and Mary’s relationship in addition to Deborah and Barack’s relationship
- Dreams (Matthew 2:12-13)
- Angels (Luke 1:26-38; Luke 1:5-17 and Luke 2:8-20)
- Ideas and visions (Exodus 35:31-35)
- Or other things such as our instincts about someone or something.
God’s love: God’s maternal instinct to protect, lead, guide and advance us speak very clearly of His love for us. The imagery of a mother hen covering her chicks with her wing is confirmation of this and reminds me of the scripture in Song of Solomon which states “His banner over me is love”.
You can tell from my personal story that I mostly identify with the idea of God as a mother hen but what about you, lovely? Which analogy did you most identify with and why? Either way, I hope that this devotional gave you more of an insight into our God, who is beyond gender or any other box or category. I also hope that this devotional opened your mind to the fact that we as women are both significant and relevant. We too, are God’s children, made in His image. Femininity is not weak; neither is it one dimensional. As Lesego Barona said in her interview, there is no “cookie cutter” version of womanhood. We all have a place and work to do for God and His Kingdom. Let’s support each other as we do so.