Greek word: Matar or meter “from Sanskrit ‘to measure’; but whether denoting the ‘moulder,’ or the ‘manager’ is debated” (Thayer).
English word: Mother “(from) Middle English ‘moder’ … the change from the ‘d’ to the ‘th’ seems due to Scand. influence … from Aryan root ‘ma,’ ‘to measure, shape’ … orig. sense uncertain; probably ‘manager’ of the household (Walter Skeat, A Concise Etymological Dictionary of the English Language). Another view: “The ancestral Indo-European word for ‘mother’ was ‘mater,’ which has descendants in virtually all Modern European languages. It was probably based in the syllable ‘ma’ suggested by the burbling of a suckling baby, which also lies behind English ‘mama,’ ‘mamma,’ and indeed ‘mammal’” (www.word-origins.com).
Whatever the exact origin of the word, every Christian should be a respecter of motherhood. Godly mothers should especially be held in high esteem. The Bible teaches, “Honor your father and your mother” (Ephesians 6:2 cf. Exodus 20:12). “Listen to your father who begat you, and do not despise your mother when she is old” (Proverbs 23:22). Live a life which rejoices your parents. “He who begets a wise child will delight in him. Let your father and mother be glad, and let her who bore you rejoice” (Proverbs 23:24-25). We’re told concerning the virtuous woman, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her” (Proverbs 31:28).
The role of a mother is used in scripture to illustrate care and concern: (1) Jehovah in telling Israel that He hadn’t forsaken them said, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? (Isaiah 49:15). (2) Jehovah described His carrying of Israel with these words, “Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been upheld by Me from birth, who have been carried from the womb: Even to old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you!” (Isaiah 46:3-4). (3) Jehovah spoke of His comfort saying, “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem ” (Isaiah 66:13). (4) Jesus said of His concern over Jerusalem , “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!” (Matthew 23:37). (5) Paul said of his, and Silvanus, and Timothy’s love for the brethren at Thessalonica, “We were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7). The word “cherishes” is from the Greek “thalpo” which “primarily means ‘to heat, to soften by heat’; then ‘to keep warm,’ as of birds covering their young with feathers, Deuteronomy 22:6, Sept., metaphorically ‘to cherish with tender love, to foster with tender care’” (Vine’s). The image of Paul may be of a mother keeping her child warm.
A Few Things Moms Do
1. The etymology of the word “mother” seems to have to do with managing, or molding and shaping. Good mothers manage the home. They are “homemakers” (Titus 2:5, NKJV), and are to “manage the house” (1 Timothy 5:14). Moreover, they exert a great influence in shaping their children (2 Timothy 1:5). “The wise woman builds her house” (Proverbs 14:1).
2. Jehovah mentioned, “the son of her womb” (Isaiah 49:15). Normal length of gestation is 266 days, almost nine full months. Your mother carried you and delivered you. They don’t call it labor for nothing!
3. Jehovah and Paul both mentioned, “nursing” (Isaiah 4915; 1 Thessalonians 2:7). Your mother may have so fed you. Whether it was by breast or by bottle, if she fed you, she dedicated much time to you. Today, doctors speak highly of breast-feeding. Generally speaking, a mother’s milk is ideal for the infant. Breast milk contains antibodies which help the baby’s immunity system gain strength. Such is not present in cow’s milk or formula. Breast milk fat and protein are easier to absorb than in cow’s milk or formula. Breast milk contains more carbs than cow’s milk. These carbs are thought to be needful in brain development. Breast milk averages 40 times more vitamin E than cow’s milk. It is as if it had been designed and specially formulated for human infants!
4. Jehovah mentioned holding and carrying of the child “from birth … from the womb” (Isaiah 46:3-4). Have you ever tried to carry a child around with you for extended periods of time? It is tiring. Many times the care of small children is left almost exclusively to the mother. Herodotus said of Persian sons “until they are five years old, they are not taken into their fathers’ sight, but live with the woman. This is to prevent a father from being grieved by the death of a son during the period of his early upbringing” (1:136). We may not be this extreme. However, it is still true that mothers typically devote most of their time to small children.
5. Jehovah speaks of the comforting of a child by his mother (Isaiah 66:13). She stayed up with you at nights while you cried.
6. Jehovah described a mother who doesn’t forget (Isaiah 49:15). Think of Mary. She kept a mental scrapbook of her son (Luke 2:19; 2:51).
7. Jehovah described a mother who still wanted to help even in old age (Isaiah 46:4). Parenting never really ends.
8. Jesus described the protective care of a hen’s wings (Matthew 23:37). Foy L. Smith commented, “When I was a lad in a small Oklahoma town I would see the old hen gather her little chicks under her wings when they were threatened. If she could not safely make it to the shed with her chicks, she would squat in the middle of a downpour and spread her wings for the refuge of her chicks. She tried to protect her own” (The Book of Matthew, 1988 Spiritual Sword Lectureship Book, p. 601).
If you have such a mother, “rise up and call her blessed” (Proverbs 31:28).