My beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
HISTORICAL AND EMINENT WOMEN IN
THE OLD TESTAMENT (Part II)
JOCHEBED – MOTHER OF MOSES
Amram and Jochebed were the parents of Moses, who were of the priestly house of Levi. When the child was born, his mother kept him hidden for three months. She then enclosed him in a basket woven of rushes and sealed with pitch and concealed him among the reeds at the river’s edge.
Pharaoh’s daughter came to bathe at this spot and when she saw the basket she sent a maid to fetch it. Upon opening it, the baby started to cry and the princes felt pity for it, realizing that it was one of the Hebrew children her father had ordered killed. Moses’s older sister Miriam had been watching from a little distance and offered to find a Hebrew nurse to suckle the child. This was agreed, and she ran off to fetch Moses’s mother Jochebed. When he was older, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and gave him the name of Moses, ‘Because I drew him out of the water’ (Exodus 2:10).
Jochebed the mother of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, is one of the underappreciated mothers in the Holy Scripture, yet she showed tremendous faith in God. As Moses’s nurse, she ensured that Israel’s great leader would grow up under the godly influence of his biological mother during his formative years. Although little is known about Jochebed in the Holy Bible, her story speaks powerfully to all the mothers today.
HANNAH – THE MOTHER OF SAMUEL THE PROPHET
Hannah’s life story is one of the most touching in the Old Testament. Like a number of other mothers in the Holy Scripture, she knew what it meant to be barren or childless.
Hannah was cruelly taunted by her husband’s other wife. However, Hannah, a woman of great faith in God, never gave up on God. Her sincere prayers were answered. She gave birth to a son, Samuel. God went to bless Hannah with five more children, bringing great blessing to her for her faith in Him.
When Samuel was weaned, she brought him to the shrine at Shiloh and left him to be reared by the priests, as she had promised to God. The child Samuel grew up and helped with the religious services. Each year Hannah came with her husband to worship and brought her son a coat she had made for him.
God blessed her firstborn son by choosing him to be His great Prophet.
BATHSHEBA – WIFE OF DAVID
David was the youngest son of Jesse the prosperous sheep farmer. Jesse and his seven other sons were invited by Samuel the Prophet to a ceremony. Samuel asked Jesse where were all of his all sons. He replied that the youngest one, David, was out tending the sheep. On Samuel’s insistence, David was hurriedly brought to him. The Prophet Samuel anointed him with oil "and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day on." (1 Samuel 16:13).
The Lord helped David to kill Goliath the philistine.
One warm moonlit evening the sleepless king David strolled on the roof of the palace and looked down to see a young woman bathing herself on a lower roof. Smitten by her beauty, David asked who she was and was told her name was Bethsheba and the wife of Uriah, a Hittite officer in his army. David sent discreetly for her and made love to her. Bethsheba informed the king that she had become pregnant by him. Fearful of the scandal if the adultery became known, David sent her husband Uriah back to the front with a sealed letter to Joab, saying, ‘Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest battle, and then draw back from him, that he might be struck down and die’ ( 2 Samuel 11:15). In this military engagement, Uriah was killed. After the traditional period of morning, Bathsheba became David’s wife and bore him a son.
Prophet Nathan exposed his adultery and admonished him for his sinful behavior. He sternly added his son by Bethsheba would forfeit his life to redress the wrong. The child fell ill and died. Another son was born to David and Bathsheba and was called Solomon who was loved by God and grew up to be Israel’s greatest king. From David’s line would come to Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Bathsheba would have the distinguished honor of being one of only five women listed in the Messiah’s ancestry.
ELIZABETH ( Hebrew ‘God is my oath) – THE MOTHER OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST AND FORERUNNER
Elizabeth, the mother of Saint John the Baptist, was visited by the mother of Jesus when they were both expecting their first babies. We read in the Gospel of Saint Luke 1:39-45, " Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country in haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zachariah and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the Mother of my Lord would come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord."
Elizabeth was the wife of a village priest, Zachariah. They were both of priestly descent, she from Aaron and he from Abijah. Both were devout and scrupulous in their observance of the Law; but they were childless, because Elizabeth was barren and they were getting older. When Elizabeth’s husband Zecharia was chosen by lot to tend the brazier on the altar of incense in front of the Most High Place. When Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah was carrying out this solemn task, he received a vision in which the Archangel Gabriel made him a promise: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John." (St. Luke 1:13). It was Elizabeth who at the child’s circumcision was to insist on his being named ‘John’, rather than Zachariah’ after his father.
Like Hannah before Elizabeth dedicated her son to God, and like Hannah’s son he also became a great Prophet, John the Baptist and Forerunner of Christ the Messiah. Saint Elizabeth’s joy was complete when a relative, her cousin Mary, visited her pregnant with the future Savior of the world.
Mary – the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin
The hymn to the Mother of God, Axion Esti.
"It is meet indeed to bless Thee, the Ever-Blessed and Most Pure and
Mother of our God. Thee that art more Honorable than the Cherubim,
and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim, who without spot
of sin didst bear God the Logos/Word; Thee, verily the Mother of God,
The dogmas concerning the Mother of God are bound up, with the dogmas of the Word’s becoming man. They are a) Her Ever-virginity, and b) Her name of Theotokos.
The bleesed and ever-glorious Virgin Mary, sprung from the royal family of David. Her father’s name was Joachim, and her mother’s name was Anna. Her father’s family, of the tribe of Judah, was from Nazareth of Galilee, but her mother’s family was from Bethlehem of Judea. Her mother, Anna, ws the daughter of Matthan the priest of the tribe of Levi.
They were both righteous before the Lord, and irreproachable and pious before men. Joachim was the shepherd of his own sheep. He feared the Lord in integrity and singleness of heart. Joachim was very rich and he was always very generous with his offerings to God and those in need. In fact, Joachim supplied the poor and all that feared God with food. At the age of twenty, he married Anna. They had lived together for fifty years, but had neither a son nor daughter, they were childless. Both Joachim and Anna felt shame and grieved over their childnessess.
When Joachim went to the mountain for some time where he fasted and prayed, saying, ‘I will not go down either for food or drink until the Lord my God shall look upon me, prayer shall be my food and drink.’ As he was alone, the Archangel Gabriel stood by him. Joachim was frightened at his appearance, but the Angel told him not to fear, saying, "Fear not, Joachim, do not be disturbed by my appearance, I am the Angel of the Lord and have been sent by Him to tell thee that thy prayer has been heard and that thy charitable deeds have gone up into His presence. God has seen thy shame and has heard the reproach of unfruitfulness which has been unjustly brought against thee; for God is the avenger of sin, not of nature. Accordingly, Anna, thy wife, will bring forth a daughter to thee and thou shall call her name MARY. According to thy vow, she shall be devoted to the Lord from her infancy, and she shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from her mother’s womb. Mary shall not eat or drink anything unclean, nor shall her conversation or life be among the crowds of the people, but in the Temple of the Lord, that it may not be possible to say, or so much as to suspect, any evil concerning her."
While the holy Anna, her mother, was in the garden, behold, the same Angel of the Lord then appeared to her, saying, "Anna, Anna, the Lord hath heard thy prayer, and thou shalt conceive and bring forth, and thy seed shall be spoken of in all the world." And Anna, ‘As the Lord, my God liveth, if I beget either male or female, I WILL BRING IT AS A GIFT TO THE LORD MY GOD AND IT SHALL MINISTER UNTO HIM, ALL THE DAYS OF ITS LIFE."
"I am the Angel who has presented thy prayers and alms before God, and now I have been sent to thee to announce to thee that there shalt bring forth a daughter, who shall be called Mary, and WHO SHALL BE BLESSED ABOVE ALL WOMEN. SHE SHALL BE FULL OF THE FAVOR OF THE LORD, EVEN FROM HER BIRTH. SHE SHALL REMAIN IN HE FATHER’S HOUSE UNTIL SHE IS WEANED AND, THEREAFTER, SHE SHALL BE DELIVERED TO THE SERVICE OF THE LORD. SHE SHALL SERVE GOD, DAY AND NIGHT, IN FASTING AND PRAYERS. SHE SHALL ABSTAIN FROM EVERY UNCLEAN THING AND SHALL NOT DEPART FROM THE TEMPLE UNTIL SHE SHALL REACH THE YEARS OF DISCRETION."
Anna gave birth to her daughter and the child grew increased in strength daily. When Mary became three years old, she was taken with an escort of young girls. Upon arriving, they then put off Mary’s traveling clothes and arrayed her with clothes that were neater, and indeed, clothes befitting a queen.
The High Priest Zachariah, the husband of Annah’s niece Elizabeth, is the furture father of Saint John the Baptist. When he beheld the Virgin’s approach, he rejoiced in Spirit, and said, "Mary, the Lord God hath magnified thy name to all generations and, by thee, to the very end of time., the Lord will show His redemption to the children of Israel." Then Zachariah the priest of God, received her into the temple with rejoicing and established her there. He then took Mary to the vema. Thus she lived in the Holy of Holies for nine years. The Holy of Holies, a place that none dared enter, except the High Priest–and, then again, only at his appointed time, and this happened but ONCE A YEAR. Saint John Maximovich writes that Mary was settled in the quarters for virgins which existed in the temple. She spent so much time in prayer in the Holy of Holies that one might say that she lived in it. She desired to fulfil the commandment of God, "Ye shall be holy, for I am the Lord your God am Holy" (Leviticus 19:2).
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in Christ’s Holy Resurrection,
The sinner and unworhty servant of God
+ Father George