From a Biblical perspective, Mary’s queenship makes a lot of sense. In ancient Israel, it was the king’s mother who reigned as queen, not the king’s wife. Most kings in this period had large harems. King Solomon, for example, had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). It would have been impossible to bestow the queenship on 1,000 women! Yet, since each king had only one mother, the queenship was typically given to her.
The queen mother was given the title “Great Lady,” and we can see her importance in a number of passages from the Old Testament. For example, the queen mother is portrayed as a preeminent member of the royal court, wearing a crown on her head (Jeremiah 13:18) and heading the list of palace officials in the kingdom (2 Kings 24:12-15). She had a real share in her son’s reign, helping in his mission to shepherd the people (Jer. 13:18-20) and serving as a trusted counselor (see Proverbs 31). But most of all, the queen mother served as an advocate for the people, hearing their petitions and presenting them to the king.
Consider what happens when Bathsheba transitions from her role as the wife of king David to her role as queen mother after her son Solomon assumes the throne. When her husband David still reigns as king, Bathsheba enters the royal chamber, and she approaches him like most subjects in the kingdom would: she bows with her face to the ground, pays him homage and says “May my lord King David live forever!” (1 Kings 1:16, 31).
However, after David dies and her son Solomon becomes king, she is treated very differently, for now she is queen mother. Right away a man from the kingdom recognizes Bathsheba’s role as advocate and asks her to take a petition to the king. Expressing great confidence in her powerful intercession, he says: “Ask, he will not refuse you” (1 Kings 2:17). Bathsheba agrees to go to the king. But this time, when she enters the royal chamber, she finds herself receiving royal treatment. The king stands up to greet her and bows before her. He then orders a throne to be brought in for her, and she is seated at his right hand, the position of authority (1 Kings 2:19-20; cf. Ps. 110:1). Nowhere else in Scripture does the king honor someone as much as Solomon honors the queen mother in this scene.
Even more remarkable is how King Solomon affirms his commitment to the queen mother’s intercessory role in the kingdom. After Bathsheba mentions she has a request to present, Solomon responds, “Make your request, my mother, for I will not refuse you” (1 Kings 2:20). All this serves as important background for understanding how the New Testament portrays Mary, the mother of the King Jesus, as queen mother in Christ’s Kingdom.
Edward Sri is a well-known theologian, author and speaker. This article is based on his recent book Rethinking Mary in the New Testament.
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