The Last Davidic Queen Mother

Eastern Icon of Mary and Queen Mother
An Eastern Orthodox Icon of Mary as Queen Mother. This one shows Mary’s mother and father, not in the gospels.

The last Davidic king’s mother is mentioned twice using the actual term gebirah[i] (queen mother)…

Jehoiachin…“and his mother’s name was Nehushta the daughter of Elnathan.”  II Kings 24:8

She rode out with her son to be taken into captivity in Babylon. She was mentioned before his “princes.”

Then when tiny Judah was defeated in their battle against Nebuchadnezzar…And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign. II King 24:12

The Curse and the Return

The defeat and deportation of the royal family and the High priests and Levites, the lower order of priests, was the excuse the priest’s needed to rid themselves of kings. It has long been thought that the Torah or Old Testament stories were written or at least compiled while in Babylon by the priests. They still had a Davidic king to reckon with, but he was now called Nasi, Prince of the Congregation.

The prophet Jeremiah, however, cursed the line of Davidic kings, blaming them for the tiny nations’ defeat and the loss of their nation and Temple and would not allow the son of Jehoiachin, the last king who was defeated by Babylon, to rule:

As I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence; And I will give thee into the hand of…Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon…And I will cast thee out, and thy mother that bare thee…Write ye this man childless…for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.  Jeremiah 22:24-30

After a generation of exile some of the Judeans were allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple. One of the main criteria the exiled priests used for choosing who could return was each person’s genealogy. The apocryphal Book of Ezra I made a long list of those that were allowed to return. Josephus, using Ezra’s list recounted the return this way…

And thus did these men go, a certain and determinate number out of every family…above the age of twelve years…there were also others besides these, who said they were Israelites, but were not able to shew their genealogies, six hundred and sixty-two; some there were also expelled out of the number and honour of the priests, as having married wives whose genealogies they could not produce, nor were they found in the genealogies of the Levites and priests…Antiquities of the Jews XI. III

The Last Son of David and his Strange Wife

Among those returning, despite the curse, was one last son of David, Zorobabel the son of Salathiel of the tribe of Judah, who had been a ‘governor” in Babylon. The Second Temple, the temple built after the return, is often referred to today as Zorobabel’s Temple. The next prophet in line, seeing there was actually an heir who returned, tried to lift the curse from the family.

Sing, O daughter of Zion…be glad and rejoice with all thy heart, O daughter of Jerusalem. The Lord hath taken away thy judgments…the king of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more…Zephaniah 3:14

It did not last long, however. Ezra the Priest arrived in Jerusalem from Babylon and read the Laws of Moses in the new Temple to people who had, interestingly, never heard of them before…perhaps because the priests had dug out and gathered the laws together while in Babylon. The law that was read out to the people stressed the abomination of marrying “strange wives.” As we have seen that law came from the priests, not the kings. Ezra, acting as a High Priest, said…

Now when these things were (read out), the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations…For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yes, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass…Now when Ezra had prayed…there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore….And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. Now therefore make confession unto the Lord God of your fathers and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives. Ezra 9-10

Some of those “astonished” to find themselves married to “strange wives” were Prince Zorobabel and his brothers. The Old Testament tells us no more about the “sons of David” and the priests took over governing Judea from their new Temple once again, and quite happily…

…made use of a form of government that was aristocratically, but mixed with an oligarchy, for the high priests were at the head of their affairs…Jesus, the son of Josadek…and his posterity, who were in all fifteen… Antiquities of the Jews XI. III

[i] Queen Mother, A Biblical Theology of Mary’s Queenship by Edward Sri, Emmaus Road, 2005 and my post on Bathsheba.

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