Monday, May 23, 2022
Bible & Archaeology (University of Iowa)

The Hebrew noun אם (ʾēm) is the word for "mother." Typically, אם (ʾēm) describes or classifies the familial relationship between persons, as seen in Genesis 2:24: "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother (אמו) and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh." The noun אם (ʾēm) will also be used in narratives to reiterate the familial relationship between persons; for example, Genesis 27:11 states: "But Jacob said to his mother (אמו) Rebekah."

There are additional figurative uses of אם (ʾēm) in the Hebrew Bible that draw on the social understanding of the mother as a caregiver and protector for purposes of characterization. Two notable examples of this use of אם (ʾēm) are the classification of Deborah "as a mother (אם) in Israel" in Judges 5:7 and the description of the city Abel Beth Maacah as "a city that is a motherאם) in Israel" in 2 Samuel 20:19.