Motherhood in the Bible: Frequency, Interpretations, and Biblical Definition

Explore the richness of motherhood as portrayed in the Bible. Discover how many times the word 'mother' is mentioned, understand what the Bible says about mothers, delve into specific mother references, and grasp the Bible's definition of a mother.

Last Updated:
April 20, 2024
8 Minutes

Table of Contents

How many times is mother mentioned in the Bible?

In an effort to quantify the frequency of the term 'mother' in the Holy Scriptures, we delve deep into this spiritual reservoir. As you may already be aware, various versions of the Bible use different language, and thus, the exact count can vary slightly depending on the version. However, an approximate estimation done reveals that the word 'mother' appears around 330 times across both the Old and New Testaments in the English Standard Version (ESV). 

Isn't it fascinating, brethren, how the term 'mother' echoes itself across these sacred pages? We see it etched within the stories, psalms, proverbs, commandments, and prophecies, giving us an array of images of motherhood. The word manifests in various contexts - referring to biological mothers like Eve, adoptive mothers like Pharaoh's daughter, and spiritual mothers like the Church. 

While numbers may provide an intellectual understanding, it is the impression and connotation of the word in its liturgical use that truly bears fruit. Each mention of 'mother' in the Bible instills a broader understanding of this divine role — giving life, providing nurturing love, and offering steadfast faith

So, we behold the term 'mother' in the Bible not merely as a recurring word, but as testament to the importance of the maternal role and relationship bestowed by God. In the divine light of the scripture, it is surely more than a word—it represents a life-giving force, an unfathomable depth of love, and guiding wisdom. 


  • The term 'mother' occurs approximately 330 times in the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible.
  • These instances provide an enriching blend of insights into the mother's role—from biological to adoptive to spiritual domains.
  • The emphasis and recurrence of 'mother' underscore the reverence towards and significance of mothers in scriptural teachings.
  • In the broader biblical context, the word 'mother' is symbolic of life, nurture, faith, and wisdom.

What does the Bible say about the role of a mother?

The Bible, in its divine wisdom, has provided riches of knowledge on the essential nature and role of a mother. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, a mother's character is woven with threads of selflessness, love, patience, and nurturing. The scripture holds high regard for the position of a mother, underlining the deep obligation that children have towards her. Furthermore, it elucidates the mother's duty to mold her children through teaching, discipline, and godly living. 

It's no secret that mothers hold a pivotal role in the spiritual upbringing of their children, as highlighted in Proverbs 1:8, "Hear my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching." This scripture underscores the impactful role a mother plays in introducing her children to the wisdom of the Lord. 

Moreover, loving guidance and instruction of a mother are invaluable treasures, as illustrated in Proverbs 6:20-22. It says, 'My son, keep your father's commandment, and forsake not your mother's teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you when you lie down, they will watch over you and when you awake, they will talk with you.' This wonderful metaphor highlights that the teachings of a mother serve as a constant guide, leading her children towards the path of integrity and righteousness. 

Finally, the Bible also outlines the importance of respect towards mothers. The Bible verse Proverbs 23:22-25 reminds us, "Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old..." This piece of scripture encourages honor and esteem towards mothers, underscoring that their worth doesn't diminish with age. 


  • The Bible emphasizes the influential role of mothers in the spiritual guidance and upbringing of their children.
  • A mother's teachings, as per the Bible, are seen as invaluable guides leading her children towards righteousness.
  • Biblical scripture encourages children to uphold a deep sense of respect and honor towards their mothers, recognizing the immeasurable worth of the role they play.

What is the Catholic Church's stance on Mothers?

Within the spiritual confines of the Catholic Church, the notion of motherhood is held in high regard. This elevated esteem is rooted in Mother Mary’s pivotal role as the maternal figure who bore, nurtured, and raised the Son of God—Jesus Christ. Bestowed with the privilege of birthing the Savior in the humblest of circumstances, Mary's story transcends the ordinary, engraving an archetypal presentation of motherhood deep within the doctrine of Catholicism. 

In the profound mystery of the Annunciation, Mary demonstrated unwavering faith and acceptance of her sacred calling, providing Catholic mothers with a testament of hope and devotion, isn't it? The unique privilege of bearing life, bestowed upon women, is recognized in the church as a divine mission, mirroring Mary's acceptance to carry Jesus. 

In the realm of Catholic motherhood, love and discipline are intertwined, resonating deeply with the doctrinal teachings around moral and spiritual nurturing. This correlation is reflected in the Biblical instruction: Honor your father and your mother (Matthew 15:4-6, ESV). The command serves as a constant reminder to children while simultaneously underlining the significance and respect that mothers rightfully demand, doesn't it set a meaningful expectation? 

Lastly, let’s navigate through one of the most touching moments in Biblical narrative, when Jesus at His crucifixion, entrusted His mother to John, His beloved disciple. This scene not only conveys an intimate picture of trust and love but also signifies the broader Christian community's noble task of protecting and respecting mothers. 


  • The Catholic Church, drawing from the example of Mother Mary, holds motherhood in high esteem.
  • Motherhood is seen as a divine mission, marked by a unique privilege of bearing and nurturing life.
  • The Bible's command to honor parents places significance on the role of mothers.
  • The Catholic Church emphasizes the importance of protecting and respecting mothers in the faith community, mirroring Jesus entrusting his mother to John at the crucifixion.

How many times does the term 'mother' appear in the Old Testament?

With a profound respect, we delve deep into the sacred text of the Old Testament. Here, the term 'mother' graces the pages no fewer than 281 times. Each occurrence reminds us of the elevated place of motherhood in the grand design of God's divine plan. In Genesis 3:20, for instance, 'Eve' is declared the 'mother of all living', signifying the foundational role of mothers in creation and life. We're also reminded, through Exodus 20:12, to "Honor your father and your mother," a mandate that confirms the respect and value evidently placed on mothers within the biblical context. 

Yet, are we not compelled to ask, why this recurrence? Why is the term 'mother' revisited with such frequency? We find ourselves pondering, perhaps this is not mere repetition, rather a divine revelation. A sign lighting the path towards understanding the embodiment of love, care, sacrifice and nurturing that a mother represents. Is it conceivable the Almighty uses this repetition to teach us values like compassion and patience that emanate from the very heart of motherhood? 

However we interpret it, one thing remains certain; the word 'mother' is not just a term used often in the Old Testament. It's a symbol, a beacon glowing with the warmth of life, adorned by the unmistakable aura of divine love


  • The term 'mother' appears 281 times in the Old Testament.
  • This repetition emphasizes the significant role and value of mothers in socio-spiritual context.
  • The frequency of this term also signifies divine love, nurturing, and compassion associated with motherhood.

How does the Bible define the duties of a mother?

The Bible, in its divine wisdom, paints a vivid picture of what it means to be a mother and the sacred duties that come with this divine appointment. It emphasizes the nurturing, teaching, and guiding roles of a mother, positioning them as instrumental figures in the spiritual, intellectual, and emotional development of children.

When we turn to Proverbs 6:20 ESV, it begins the elucidation, "My son, keep your father's commandment, and forsake not your mother's teaching." This verse implies that a mother is a teacher of good conduct and moral values, an advisor whose guidance should not be easily dismissed. This theme carries forward in Proverbs 6:20-22 ESV, reinforcing the idea of embedding these teachings into daily life.

Proverbs 1:8 ESV echoes this sentiment, urging us to listen to the mother's teachings. It depicts a mother as a source of wisdom and knowledge - one who instills important values and principles in her children.

Moving ahead, in Exodus 20:12 ESV, the Bible explains a child's duty toward their mother - specifically, the commandment to honour her. Not only does this imply that mothers are deserving of respect for their role, but it also points towards the important task mothers have in fostering a this respect in their children.

Titus 2:3-5 ESV takes a step forward. It demonstrates that older women, who would naturally include mothers, are to set positive examples in behaviour and conduct. They are required to guide younger women in loving their husbands and children and in living a life in accordance with God's teachings.

Coupled with a mother's role as nurturer and guide, the Bible also echoes the relevance of prayer in a mother's life. A godly mother is seen as a warrior in prayer, understanding the power it holds in protecting and guiding her children.

To summarize, a mother according to the Bible: 

  • Instructs and instills moral values in her children, as seen in Proverbs 6:20-22 and Proverbs 1:8.
  • Is deserving of respect for her role and takes on the task of fostering respect in her children, as highlighted in Exodus 20:12.
  • Takes on the role of a role model, demonstrating godly behaviour to guide younger women and her children, indicated in Titus 2:3-5.
  • Is a prayer warrior, interceding for her household and relying on God's wisdom and strength.

What are the most notable mentions of mothers in the Bible?

We journey through the Bible and find an abundance of interactions, stories, and teachings about mothers - signifying the crucial part they play in the Divine narrative. A few mentions stand prominently, resonating across centuries and cultures, etching indelible footprints on the sands of time. 

Mary, the mother of Jesus, certainly shines as one of the most notable mothers in the Biblical accounts. Admired for her humility and faithfulness, she was told by an angel, "Blessed are you among women," as she was chosen to bear and raise the Son of God (Luke 1:28). Truly, could there be a higher honor or a more formidable challenge? 

The Bible introduces us to Eunice and her mother Lois in Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5). These women are noted for the sincere faith that dwelt within them - a faith they faithfully passed down to Timothy, their son and grandson, respectively. What better testament to the impact of a mother's spiritual influence? 

Turning the pages back to the Old Testament, we meet the determined Jochebed, mother of Moses, who defied Pharaoh’s decree to save her son (Exodus 2). We see a mother's courage and faithfulness, capable of altering the course of history itself. 

In a passage that speaks volumes about the nurturing nature of a mother, Isaiah 49:15 poses a striking rhetorical question - "Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?" This analogy, as used by the prophet, speaks of the unfathomable capacity for love borne by a mother. 

As we engage with these portrayals, we should also take to heart the advice spoken in Proverbs 1:8: "Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching." This not only highlights the significance of a mother's wisdom but also the importance of heeding it. 


  • Mary was chosen to bear and raise Jesus, earning a unique place of honor among women.
  • Eunice and Lois are celebrated for their sincere faith and its influence on Timothy.
  • In the Old Testament, Jochebed exhibits bravery and determination in protecting Moses.
  • Isaiah uses a mother's love for her child, a powerful example of undying affection and care.
  • Proverbs 1:8 underscores the value of a mother's teaching and the importance of listening to it.

Does the Bible provide guidelines on how to be a good mother?

In the sacred scriptures of the Bible, comprehensive guidelines are laid out for mothers on how to cultivate their role responsibly and meaningfully. One such significant stipulation comes from the teachings of Proverbs. Through the fundamental wisdom in Proverbs, it is suggested that mothers must not only provide physical nurturing but also offer guidance, discipline, and mentorship to their children. 

The words of Proverbs 1:8 ESV say, "Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching." This passage underscores the pivotal role of a mother in imparting wisdom and truth. But what does this really mean? Does it not propose that mothers should be the torchbearers of wisdom, guiding their children away from the perils of ignorance and into the light of knowledge and understanding? 

Furthermore, mothers are advised to be examples of godliness within the familial structure. As per Titus 2:3-5 ESV, older women are instructed to lead lives of reverence, displaying virtue, kindness, and self-control. They are especially urged to teach the younger women to love their husbands, their children, and to be upstanding in their conduct. 

Yet, beyond teaching and setting examples, the Bible emphasizes the indispensability of a mother's love. A mother should harbor an unequivocal love for her children, paired with the duty of their upbringing. This responsibility transcends the realm of physical and enters the spiritual, as prayer becomes a mother’s indispensable companion. Mothers are encouraged to pray incessantly, interceding for their children's lives. The power of a mother's prayer plays an effective part in shaping the lives of the young ones. 

To summarize: 

  • Proverbs instructs mothers to provide guidance, discipline, and mentorship to their children.
  • According to Titus 2:3-5, mothers are to model godliness and teach young women to love their families and conduct themselves uprightly.
  • The Bible underscores the essential place of a mother's love and the powerful influence of her prayers in her children's lives.

What are some biblical examples of motherly love?

First, let us turn to Mary, the mother of Jesus, who is possibly the most revered mother figure in the Bible. The commitment and unwavering faith that Mary embodies provide a perfect example of motherly love. She accepted God's will without hesitation, despite the inherent challenges and risks (Luke 1: 38). Furthermore, she faithfully accompanied Jesus to the cross, demonstrating a love that persists even in the face of immense suffering (John 19: 25-27). 

Naturally, we can't overlook the profound sentiment encapsulated by Isaiah 49:15. "Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?" Here, the Bible articulates a mother's love and dedication that cannot be easily forgotten by painting a vivid image of a nursing mother caring for her child. 

Another inescapable illustration is found in the relationship between Timothy and his mother Eunice, as referenced in 2 Timothy 1:5. Eunice's faith, deeply rooted and sincere, was passed onto Timothy, displaying an influential maternal guidance that spans over generations. It was her motherly love that guided Timothy to a virtuous life.

The Bible thereby provides us with remarkable examples of motherly love. It depicts mothers as beings of faith, strength, and immense love. In their actions, courage, and teachings, we observe pure, undying love for their children and an enduring bond that overcomes the toughest of ordeals. 


  • A perfect example of motherly love in the Bible is found in Mary, mother of Jesus, who accepted God's will without hesitation and accompanied Jesus to the cross (Luke 1:38; John 19:25-27).
  • Isaiah 49:15 encapsulates a mother's love and dedication by drawing a picture of a nursing mother caring for her child.
  • The relationship between Timothy and his mother Eunice, as mentioned in 2 Timothy 1:5, displays motherly love guiding Timothy to a virtuous life.
  • The Bible portrays mothers as beings of faith, strength, and immense love, overcoming the toughest of obstacles through their enduring bonds with their children.

How does the Bible's depiction of motherhood influence Christian views?

Our understanding of motherhood is largely shaped by the depictions and guidelines found in the Bible, forming the Christian perspective on this profound responsibility. From Genesis to Revelation, mothers play integral roles - roles marked by strength, tenderness, instruction, and unwavering love. 

Let's begin with Eve, the 'mother of all living.' She is the first instance of motherhood we encounter and through her we learn about the joy and pain that can be associated with motherhood (Genesis 3:16). Eve's experience set the stage for future mothers in the Bible and demonstrated the significance and impact of a mother's influence. 

Consider Mary, one of the most important figures in the New Testament. Her accepting and nurturing role as the mother of Jesus Christ underscores the importance of motherhood. She was entrusted with the upbringing of God's own son, an unimaginable responsibility that she embraced fully. 

Mothers in the Bible are often seen as instructors of faith. Consider Proverbs 22:6, 'Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.' This verse underscores the essential role of a mother in framing the moral and spiritual foundation of her children. 

Furthermore, the role of mothers extends beyond the family unit into the broader community as well. Titus 2:3-5 highlights the vital role of mature women in teaching and guiding younger mothers, reinforcing the chain of wisdom passed down through generations, strengthening the familial and communal bond. 

The Bible's portrayal of mothers isn't one-dimensional - it shows us the strength, the affection, the courage, the wisdom and the faith that defines motherhood. This depiction has in turn guided Christian understanding of motherhood, prompting mothers to be guides, protective nurturers, and spiritual teachers to their children. 


  • The Bible's depiction of motherhood fundamentally influences Christian beliefs, focusing on strength, nurturing, guidance, and unwavering love.
  • From Eve, 'the mother of all living,' to Mary, the mother of Jesus, we see examples of mothers who embraced brandishing joys and responsibilities with grace.
  • Motherhood in the Bible extends beyond the nurturing of children, covering spiritual instruction (Proverbs 22:6), and passing on wisdom to future generations (Titus 2:3-5).
  • Such biblical portrayals shape Christian perspective and expectations of motherhood, painting a multifaceted picture of mothers as protectors, nurturers, and spiritual mentors to their children.

Are there any biblical prophecies involving mothers?

Indeed, there are numerous biblical prophecies that involve mothers. One poignant instance is the prophecy delivered by the elderly Simeon in the temple who, upon seeing the infant Jesus, proclaimed to the child's mother Mary, "a sword will pierce through your own soul also" (Luke 2:35). This prophecy presaged the profound sorrow that Mary would later experience, witnessing the suffering and crucifixion of her son. 

Another significant prophetic occurrence involving a mother is found in the Old Testament. The prophet Isaiah delivers a prophetic word, where God uses the metaphor of a mother's love to illustrate the depth of His own love for His people. In Isaiah 49:15, God asks, "Can a mother forget her nursing child?", implicating that even if she does, He will never forget His people. 

Furthermore, the mother of Moses plays a prophetic role as she saves her son from Pharaoh's decree of death. This act of bravery is prophetic in nature, as Moses grows up to become the deliverer of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, mirroring the greater deliverance to come through Jesus Christ. 

The Bible is abundant with such powerful portrayals of mothers, their interactions with prophetic events, and their roles in shaping the course of biblical narrative. These instances underline the pivotal role mothers play in the fulfillment of God's plan for humanity. 


  • Mothers feature prominently in various biblical prophecies, such as Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was prophesied by Simeon to suffer greatly due to her son's fate.
  • God, in Isaiah's prophecy, uses the metaphor of a mother's love to signify His undying love for His people.
  • The mother of Moses acted prophetically by saving her son from death, foreseeing his future role as the deliverer of the Israelites.
  • These instances highlight the significant and often prophetic role of mothers in the Bible's narrative and in God's grand plan.

How does the Bible portray the relationship between mothers and children?

The Bible paints a vivid portrait of the profound bond between mothers and their children, emphasizing it as a relationship full of love, respect, and nurturing. Foundational to Biblical teachings is the understanding that mothers possess an inherent duty to steward their children's growth. This responsibility, as elucidated in Proverbs 6:20, extends to both nurturing their physical and emotional well-being, as well as instilling in them the teachings of Scripture. 

Motherhood, as depicted in the Biblical narrative, is a calling divinely established and highly esteemed. Mothers, in accordance to Proverbs 6:20-22, are urged to pass on wisdom and life lessons to their children, shaping them not only in their childhood but through their entire life journey. Simply put, a mother's teachings are a guiding light for her children—a beacon to illuminate their path even in moments of uncertainty. 

Perhaps no other passage in the Bible encapsulates the irreplaceable role of a mother more powerfully than Isaiah 49:15. The verses draw a parallel between a mother's love for her nursing child and God's unfailing love for His people, highlighting the depth and intensity of maternal love. 

Furthermore, we see a poignant episode near the cross, where Jesus bestows the care of his mother, Mary, to his beloved disciple, showcasing the deep bond of love and trust that marks the mother-child relationship. Even in his final moments, Jesus ensured the well-being of his mother, underlining the mutual care and respect intrinsic to this bond.

  • The Bible underscores the deep, inherent bond between mothers and their children, marked by love, respect, and nurturing.
  • Mothers, as per Biblical teachings, bear the responsibility of stewarding their children's physical, emotional, and spiritual growth.
  • Proverbs 6:20-22 emphasizes a mother's role in imparting wisdom and life lessons to her offspring, shaping their character and life journey.
  • Isaiah 49:15 uses a mother's love for her nursing child as a metaphor for God's unfailing love, signifying the unmatched depth of maternal love.
  • In the Bible, Jesus entrusts the care of his mother to his beloved disciple, further emphasizing the fundamental role of mutual care and trust in the mother-child relationship.

Do biblical teachings about mothers vary between the Old and New Testaments?

In the rich tapestry of Biblical scripture, both the Old and New Testaments speak to the importance and role of mothers, but do so in ways reflective of their respective cultural and historical contexts. By tracing the narrative of motherhood between these two Testaments, we can discern the shifts and continuities that shape our modern understanding. 

In the Old Testament, mothers often occupy spaces of high honor and heavy responsibility. The matriarchs—Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel—each play integral roles. We see Rebekah guiding Jacob in receiving his father's blessing (Genesis 27), and we witness Jochebed saving her son Moses from slaughter (Exodus 2). These examples underscore mothers as sources of wisdom, guidance, and protection. They also point to the cultural acknowledgement of both the physical and spiritual labor performed by mothers. 

In the New Testament, however, the emphasis shifts. While mothers are indeed respected, we trace a thematic transition from physical motherhood to spiritual nurturing, as seen in the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary is celebrated for her faith and obedience to God's will (Luke 1:38), embodying spiritual characteristics the New Testament promotes across all believers, regardless of gender or biological role. 

Both Testaments honor the role of the mother, but the shift from the Old to the New Testament broadens the application of traits associated with traditional motherhood—compassion, nurturance, wisdom, and spiritual guidance—to all believers. Indeed, the Bible does not just illuminate mothers in their roles as parents. It magnifies maternal qualities as part of a life well-lived, according to the essence of divine love. 


  • In the Old Testament, mothers wield significant influence and frequently fulfill crucial roles pertaining to wisdom, guidance, and protection.
  • The New Testament shifts towards a theme of spiritual nurturing, as seen in the life of Mary, who epitomizes faith and obedience to God's will.
  • While honoring the role of mothers, the Bible broadens the application of maternal traits like compassion, nurturance, wisdom, and spiritual guidance to all believers.

Should Working Christian Women Become Stay-at-Home Moms?

Can we find a definitive answer in the divine pages of the Bible to the question of whether Christian mothers should shift from working women to full-time stay-at-home caregivers? While a definitive instruction is absent, we find guiding principles that may shine a light on the path towards a balanced decision. 

Let's consider a key verse from Titus 2:3-5 ESV: 'Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.' This verse shows that according to the scriptures, a mother has a valuable role in bringing up their children and caring for their homes, however, it does not explicitely state that all Christian women must exclusively become stay-at-home moms. 

Examining Proverbs 31, often referred to as the 'virtuous woman' passage, we see a model of a woman who is industrious, enterprising, and manages her household effectively, while also making a difference in the world around her. This can be interpreted as a portrait of a woman who strikes a balance between work and home responsibilities. 

Remember, the primary concern is to ensure the best upbringing for children from a biblical perspective. This may look different for different families. Some may find that it is in their children's best interest for the mother to stay at home, while others may find that a working mother is able to provide both materially and spiritually for the family. We find wisdom in the bible, not strict prescriptions. Therefore, it becomes a matter of prayerful consideration, sincere introspection, and dedicated discernment for each Christian Mother. 


  • The Bible emphasizes the importance of a mother's role in nurturing and educating her children, but does not specifically mandate that Christian mothers must become stay-at-home moms.
  • Interpretations of Titus 2:3-5 and Proverbs 31 indicate that a balanced approach between work and home responsibilities can bReferencese considered virtuous.
  • The decision for a woman to work or stay at home should be made after thoughtful and prayerful consideration of what is in the best interest of the child/children and family, guided by biblical principles and wisdom.

Facts & Stats

The word 'mother' is mentioned approximately 330 times in the Bible.

The first mention of a mother in the Bible is in Genesis 3:20, where Eve is called 'the mother of all living'.

The last mention of a mother in the Bible is in Revelation 17:5, referring to 'the mother of harlots'.

The Bible often uses the term 'mother' to refer to cities or nations, such as in Isaiah 50:1 and Galatians 4:26.

In Proverbs 31, the Bible provides a detailed description of a virtuous woman and mother.

The Bible uses the metaphor of a mother bird protecting her young to describe God's care for His people in Deuteronomy 32:11.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is one of the most frequently mentioned mothers in the New Testament.

In the Ten Commandments, honoring one's father and mother is listed as the fifth commandment in Exodus 20:12.

The Bible often uses the term 'mother' in a metaphorical sense, such as in Proverbs 6:20 where wisdom is personified as a mother.


Leviticus 19:3

Luke 1:46-48

Luke 1

John 19:25-27

John 19

Matthew 27:56

Luke 7:1

John 16:21

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