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Maacah: Bible

by Rhonda Burnette-Bletsch

The regnal formula of Asa, king of Judah from 908 to 867 b.c.e., claims that his mother is Maacah the daughter of Abishalom (1 Kgs 15:10). This is problematic because the same woman is alleged to be the mother of Asa’s father, Abijah/Abijam (1 Kgs 15:2). An alternative tradition, calling Abijah’s mother Micaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah, is most likely an attempted harmonization of this difficulty (2 Chr 13:2). Either Abijah and Asa are brothers, not father and son, or Maacah was Asa’s grandmother, not his mother. Thus, Maacah is the wife of Rehoboam (2 Chr 11:20–23), whose favored status with her husband ensured Abijah’s succession. This tradition also offers the variant spelling “Absalom” for Maacah’s father. If this refers to the half-Geshurite son of David, Maacah and Rehoboam’s marriage would be politically advantageous. After serving as queen mother during Abijah’s short reign, Maacah continues in that position under her son or grandson, Asa. If Asa is her grandson, this atypical retention of Maacah’s title adds support to the contention that the queen mother was an official functionary in the Judean court and not simply the female parent of the king. Maacah’s role appears most clearly to be an office when Asa removes her from her position as gebirah (“great lady”) after she makes a cult object associated with the goddess Asherah. Ackerman suggests that the primary and generally accepted responsibility of the queen mother’s office was to devote herself to the cultic worship of Asherah. Thus, the lack of biblical evidence for this office might be partly explained by the Bible’s reluctance to admit Asherah worship was ever part of the official royal court.

Bibliography

Ackerman, Susan. “The Queen Mother and the Cult in Ancient Israel.” Journal of Biblical Literature 112 (1993): 385–401.

Andreasen, Niels-Erik. “The Role of the Queen Mother in Israelite Society.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 45 (1983): 179–194.

Ben-Barak, Zafrira. “The Status and Right of the Gebirah.Journal of Biblical Literature 110 (1991): 23–34.

Meyers, Carol, General Editor. Women in Scripture. New York: 2000.

Spanier, Kitziah. “The Queen Mother in the Judean Royal Court: Maacah—A Case Study.” In A Feminist Companion to Samuel and Kings. Edited by Athalya Brenner, 186–195. Sheffield, England: 1994.

3 Comments

I'm confused about the identity of Maacah's father: II Chronicles 13:2 describes "Maacah, the daughter of Uriel from Gibeah" (NLT) "Michaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah" (KJV); whereas I Kings 15:2 has "Maacah, the daughter of Absalom." (NLT) "Maachah, the daughter of Abishalom" (KJV). I wonder why the KJV has two different names for who I assume is the same person (Michaiah/Maachah = Maacah?); who was her dad?

With regard to the discrepancies in the spellings of words between various biblical translations, we need to remember that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic, and the New Testament was written mostly in Greek. When we see English spellings of words in the Bible, especially names of people and places, what we are actually seeing is an attempt to spell words according to how they sound when they are spoken in the languages in which they were written. In other words, there would be no great difference between a Susan and a Suzin, or even Seuzen. And then on top of that you have varying dialects of people who wrote the words in the native language. I admit it makes it kind of tough, especially when there are other more significant discrepancies like those that can result from calling a granddaughter a daughter, which seems to have been the custom in those days.

That happens a lot, as in Abijah vs Abijam. Names were actual phrases in the language at the time, e.g. Abijah means "father is the LORD". If you called that person "father is God", for example, it would be understood who you were referring to. It wasn't letter-perfect like today's names are. For Uriel of Gibeah it seems likely that it was either Absalom's son (which would make sense since Absalom was much older than Solomon, so Absalom's direct daughter would have probably been older than Rehoboam, which seems unlikely since she wasn't even Rehoboam's first wife), or Uriel was maybe Absalom's father-in-law and so grandfather to Maacah. The terminology in the Bible, and perhaps in the original Hebrew, was less specific because descent from someone was seen as important for inheritance purposes, so it wouldn't matter if you were their direct child or if you were their grandchild or great-grandchild, you were still their descendant. So because of this the word "grandmother" appears only once in the whole Bible (II Timothy 1:5), and "grandfather" nowhere. It makes it a little harder to trace what's going on sometimes, but that's kind of interesting in a way

How to cite this page

Burnette-Bletsch, Rhonda. "Maacah: Bible." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 26, 2017) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/maacah-bible>.

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