QUEEN: Malkah, feminine noun (Strong’s 4436); Malak, verb “to become queen or king” (Strong’s 4427); Gebirah, Lady/Queen Mother, feminine noun (Strong’s 1377).
Root: מלך and גבר
Sounds like: mal’kah, m’lak, g’beera
I am Canadian, a member of the Commonwealth, and a descendant of United Empire Loyalists… which means I am Canadian because some of my ancestors left the newly formed United States in order to remain loyal to the British Crown. Because of our historical roots, my parents instilled in me a great respect for our Queen.
Tomorrow Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will be buried alongside her parents, her sister and her late husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Whether you are part of the Commonwealth or not, Queen Elizabeth stood as a woman of impeccable character. Throughout her life she emitted kindness, servitude, and a gentle humility. She also held on strongly to her faith in Jesus. Part of her royal title included the words “defender of the faith”, and she took those words very seriously. She was an image bearer of God and I am happy that she is celebrating in the Presence of YHWH as you read this.
Foreign Queens of the Bible
The words for queen only shows up only occasionally in the Hebrew Bible, and it was used to describe only a handful of women:
- The Queen of Sheba
- Vashti, Queen of the Persians
- Esther, the Jewish Queen of the Persians
- Tahpenes, Queen of Egypt (1 Kings 11:19)
- and Candace, Queen of the Ethopians (Acts 8:27)
Note that these women were all queens of foreign lands. Esther was the only one of Jewish descent, but she was a queen in Persia, not Israel.
Queen of Sheba
The most lavish of these foreign queens was the Queen of Sheba. Her story, found in the book of Kings gives us an idea of the lavishness and richness of these foreign kingdoms:
1 Kings 10:1-13
Now when the queen of Sheba [mal’kat Sh’va] heard about the fame of Solomon in relation to the name of YHWH, she came to test him with riddles. So she came to Jerusalem with a very large entourage, with camels carrying balsam oil and a very large quantity of gold and precious stones. When she came to Solomon, she spoke to him about everything that was in her heart.
And Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was concealed from the king which he did not explain to her. When the queen of Sheba [u-mal’kat Sh’va] saw all the wisdom of Solomon, and the house that he had built, and the food of his table, the seating of his servants, the service of his waiters and their attire, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings which he offered at the house of YHWH, she was breathless.
Then she said to the king, “It was a true story that I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. But I did not believe the stories until I came and my own eyes saw it all. And behold, the half of it was not reported to me. You have exceeded in wisdom and prosperity the report which I heard. Blessed are your men, and blessed are these servants of yours who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom! Blessed be YHWH your God who delighted in you to put you on the throne of Israel; because YHWH loves Israel forever, He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.”
Then she gave the king 120 talents of gold, and a very large amount of balsam oil and precious stones. Never again did such a large quantity of balsam oil come in as that which the queen of Sheba [mal’kat Sh’va] gave King Solomon. And the ships of Hiram as well, which brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir a very great number of almug trees and precious stones. The king made from the almug trees supports for the house of YHWH and for the king’s house, and lyres and harps for the singers; such almug trees have not come in again, nor have they been seen to this day.
And King Solomon granted the queen of Sheba [l-mal’kat Sh’va] everything she desired, whatever she requested, besides what he gave her in proportion to his royal bounty. Then she departed and went to her own land together with her servants.
The Queen of Sheba, who travelled from far abroad to hear the wisdom of Solomon for herself, recognized that Solomon was, indeed, wise beyond measure. She also offered a blessing and gave credit to the Hebrew God, YHWH, for rewarding Israel with such astounding wisdom.
Yeshua (Jesus) pointed to the Queen of Sheba (Matthew 12:38-42 & Luke 11:29-32) saying that she saw the wisdom of Solomon standing in front of her, but the people surrounding Yeshua could not see the wisdom standing in front of them. The Queen of Sheba had said to Solomon: “I did not believe the stories until I came and my own eyes saw it all” (1 Kings 10:7). She could see what the religious leaders standing in front of Yeshua could not… the glory and wisdom of YHWH standing in front of them.
Queen Vashti & Queen Esther
Queen Vashti was the queen to King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) of Persia. When he demanded that she come to court in order to show off her beauty to the officers, she refused (Esther 1). For her disobedience to the king, Vashti lost her title of “queen”. Ahasuerus searched for a new queen consort and Esther was chosen:
The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favour and kindness with him more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal turban on her head and made her queen [wai-ya-m’likey’ha] in place of Vashti. Then the king held a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his officials and his servants; he also made a holiday for the provinces and gave gifts in proportion to the king’s bounty.
Unbeknownst to the king, Esther was Jewish. She became a pivotal advocate for the Jewish people in Persia. Esther wisely used her position in court to gain favour of the king and protect her people, who were under a grave threat of extermination:
Now it came about on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner courtyard of the king’s palace in front of the king’s rooms, and the king was sitting on his royal throne in the throne room, opposite the entrance to the palace. When the king saw Esther the queen [Esther ha-mal’kah] standing in the courtyard, she obtained favour in his sight; and the king extended to Esther the golden scepter which was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the top of the scepter. Then the king said to her, “What is troubling you, Queen Esther [Esther ha-mal’kah]? And what is your request? Up to half of the kingdom it shall be given to you.”
Esther knew that the king’s advisor, Haman, wanted to exterminate the Jews from Persia and she found a way to destroy his plans and eliminate Haman’s power. The story of Esther is a beautiful example of the gentle strength of a good queen who protected her people and honoured her faith.
Queen Tahpenes & Queen Candace
The Bible also gives a very brief mention of Tahpenes, Queen of Egypt, whose sister married Hadad the Edomite (1 Kings 11:19). We also read about Queen Candace of Ethiopia (Acts 8:27) whose treasurer, a eunuch, came to Jerusalem and met, and was baptised by, Philip, Yeshua’s disciple. These are small examples which tell us that royal women did command respect in the ancient world.
Queens of Israel and Judah
The Queen of Sheba, Queen Candace of Ethiopia (Acts 8:27), Tahpenes Queen of Egypt (1 Kings 11:19), Vashti and Esther, queens of Persia, were all queens of Gentile nations, but Israel and Judah also had reigning women who were consorts to the king.
None of Saul’s, David’s or Solomon’s wives were described as queens, but it was implied. We know that their wives held some weight in court. Bathsheba confronted her husband David, at the end of his life, as an advocate for her son Solomon. She made sure that David named Solomon as the next king, even though David had older sons to choose from (see 1 Kings 1).
Unfortunately, some of the queen consorts that stand out the most in the Bible, stand out because of their wickedness.
Jezebel was a Phonecian princess who married Ahab, king of Israel, and became his consort. She was consistently wicked and encouraged pagan worship. The writers of the Hebrew Bible never graced her with the royal title of queen.
Athaliah, Jezebel and Ahab’s daughter, was married to Jehoram, king of Judah. When her son died, Athaliah essentially elected herself as Queen of Judah.
Athaliah’s reign consisted mostly of murdering male royal children in order to maintain the throne for herself. However she missed one child, who hid in secret, and it caused her downfall.
2 Chronicles 22:10-12
Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she rose and eliminated all the royal children of the house of Judah. But Jehoshabeath the king’s daughter took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king’s sons who were being put to death, and placed him and his nurse in the bedroom. So Jehoshabeath, the daughter of King Jehoram, the wife of Jehoiada the priest (for she was the sister of Ahaziah), hid him from Athaliah so that she would not put him to death. He kept himself hidden with them in the house of God for six years while Athaliah reigned [moleket] over the land.
Athaliah was a terrifying queen, but the writers did not grace her with the title. By not calling Jezebel or Athaliah “queen”, it may have been the writer’s not-so-subtle way of protesting their reigns as queens of Israel and Judah.
Gebirah, Royal Lady/Queen Mother
Another word that indicates queenship was gebirah (as opposed to gebir, meaning Lord). This term, indicating a royal Lady, was most widely used to describe the queen mother (mother of the reigning sovereign). For example, this description was used for Maacah the mother to king Asa of Judah:
1 Kings 15:13 (See also 2 Chronicles 15:16)
Now Asa did what was right in the sight of YHWH, like his father David. He also removed the male cult prostitutes from the land and removed all the idols which his fathers had made. And even his mother Maacah, he also removed her from the position of queen mother [mi-g’virah], because she had made an abominable image as an Asherah; and Asa cut down her abominable image and burned it at the brook Kidron.
The prophet Jeremiah also used the term g’virah to highlight the downfall of Judah’s royalty when Babylon would destroy Jerusalem:
Give glory to YHWH your God, before He brings darkness and before your feet stumble on the dusky mountains and while you are hoping for light He makes it into deep darkness and turns it into gloom.
But if you will not listen to it, My soul will sob in secret for such pride; and my eyes will bitterly weep and flow down with tears because the flock of YHWH has been taken captive.
Say to the king and the queen mother [w-la-g’virah], “Take a lowly seat, for your beautiful crown has come down from your head”.
At the Babylonian invasion, the leaders of Judah and their wives and families would have fallen hard, such as king Jehoiakim and his queen, Nehushta. At her husband’s death Nehushta became Queen Mother to King Jehoiachin of Judah. Together they were defeated and exiled to Babylon (2 Kings 24:8-12). Their crowns fell from their heads just as the prophet Jeremiah had predicted.
The Real Monarch
When the Hebrew people demanded to have a king, like other nations had, YHWH was saddened. He was their Great Heavenly King, and he had hoped His people would see it. But they were blinded by comparing themselves to others and not seeing themselves as royally set apart. They said to the prophet Samuel…
1 Samuel 8:5b-7
…”appoint us a king to judge us like all the nations.”
But the matter was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to YHWH. And YHWH said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people regarding all that they say to you, because they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being King over them.”
YHWH granted their wish to have a human monarchy, but not without warning. Samuel outlined what it would look like to have a royal family lording over the people:
1 Samuel 8:11-18
And he said, “This will be the practice of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and put them in his chariots for himself and among his horsemen, and they will run before his chariots. He will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to do his plowing and to gather in his harvest, and to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will also take your daughters and use them as perfumers, cooks, and bakers. He will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. And he will take a tenth of your seed and your vineyards and give it to his high officials and his servants. He will also take your male servants and your female servants, and your best young men, and your donkeys, and use them for his work. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants. Then you will cry out on that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but YHWH will not answer you on that day.”
Between kings, queens and politicians, we choose leaders all the time… and good leadership is a helpful thing. But these people are human, and no more beloved in the eyes of God than anyone else. When these people start to see themselves as more important than those they are meant to lead, they miss the point of their purpose. And when we elevate their importance above YHWH, we also miss the point.
Good Queenship & Kingship
For the most part, the kings and queens of the Hebrew people put themselves, and their power, ahead of YHWH. But we are given glimpses into what good kings and queens looked like (see David, Hezekiah, Josiah, and Esther). These royals placed YHWH at the top of their lives and lived in humble service to others. Good queens and kings did not rule for their own power, but ruled by reflecting YHWH in all their actions of leadership.
In this regard, Queen Elizabeth II was a phenomenal queen. In her 2008 Christmas speech she said:
‘I hope that, like me, you will be comforted by the example of Jesus of Nazareth who, often in circumstances of great adversity, managed to live an outgoing, unselfish and sacrificial life…
…He makes it clear that genuine human happiness and satisfaction lie more in giving than receiving; more in serving than in being served.’
Queen Elizabeth understood, and lived by, the words of Yeshua:
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles domineer over them; and their people in high position exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you; rather, whoever wants to become prominent among you shall be your servant; and whoever wants to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
We, like Queen Elizabeth, are part of the Royal Family of YHWH. We are princesses and princes of YHWH’s realm and while we are blessed to be on earth, we are to reflect the family that we come from. If we truly are His image bearers in this harsh world, then we ought to live in humility and servitude to each other, even though we come from the most important Royal Family in existence!
Queen Elizabeth was an image bearer of God because she took this to heart. She was a faithful servant to her people… and now her servitude is over and she is celebrating in the glorious Garden Kingdom of YHWH. I can imagine her being ushered into the Presence of YHWH with the words, “Welcome home, Elizabeth”. To all the faithful children of YHWH, we will stand together on common ground one day and these same words will be said to you, “Welcome home…”
Next week: Revisiting “The Way”
2 thoughts on “Malkah/Gebirah: The QUEEN”
“We are princesses and princes of YHWH’s realm and while we are blessed to be on earth, we are to reflect the family that we come from.” Amen. Our position as children of the Most High comes with the call to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and faithfully reflect His heart — a servant heart devoted to pleasing the Father. Thank you for this wonderful reminder of what spiritual royalty is all about. ~ In His Love, Tabitha
Amen, indeed! 💛
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