Really Terrible Bible Inspirations: (Un)Happy Biblical Mother’s Day!

It’s Mother’s Day today in many countries around the world. Many more countries have already or will soon be honoring mothers everywhere. Moms are important! Whether the moms you’re celebrating today are your biological, adopted, step, honorary, grand, great-grand, friends, cousins, or otherwise admired mothers, they’ve played a critical role in ensuring that a) there will be children and b) those children are (usually) at least somewhat civilized. I’ve watched my own moms and all the moms in my circles parent kids, and I’m incredibly grateful to them for doing that tough job. Some of them even do it mostly alone, which is even tougher! Massive respect, Moms!

In honor of Mother’s Day, let’s see what sort of inspiration we can get from the Book of Genesis. Sorry-not-sorry to say it’s mostly really terrible.


Image shows a painting of a barefoot woman gazing lovingly into her baby's bassinet. Kittens play on the floor by their feet.
Genesis 3:16 and Paul Peel’s “Mother Love.”

Genesis 3:16 is juxtaposed with Paul Peel’s “Mother Love.” I love the frolicking kittens! And the mother’s adoring expression as she gazes at her infant clashes wonderfully with God’s vicious curse. I mean, seriously, what kind of asshole condemns all mothers for all time to horrific suffering in childbirth just because this one chick ate a piece of fruit this one time?

Image shows a mother holding a young toddler, captioned with Genesis 21:14.
Genesis 21:14 and Karoly Brocky’s “Mother and Child”

Karoly Brocky’s idyllic “Mother and Child” is a beautiful contrast to the terrible verse where Abraham forces his sex slave and their son into the desert. He provides her only one bottle of water and a bit of bread – obviously, he’s one of those dudes who doesn’t believe in child support. But, y’know, it’s totes okay cuz God gave him the go-ahead.

Genesis 21:15 with Joaquín Sorolla‘s
Genesis 21:15 with Joaquín Sorolla‘s “Clotilde y Elena en las Rocas”

Joaquín Sorolla‘s lovely “Clotilde y Elena en las Rocas” provides a poignant contrast to Hagar’s stark desperation.

Genesis 21:16 with Philip Hermogenes Calderon’s “Letter from Daddy.”
Genesis 21:16 with Philip Hermogenes Calderon’s “Letter from Daddy.”

We conclude Hagar’s saga with Genesis 21:16. Her despair at watching her son die of hunger and thirst, having been cast out by his father, is jarring against the serene and happy mother and child in Philip Hermogenes Calderon’s “Letter from Daddy.”

Don’t despair, Moms! God finally remembered he’d promised to use the kid to sire a few nations, so he had an angel show Hagar a well at the very last minute. Everybody lived! This time…

Genesis 30:3 with Charles François Jalabert’s “The Awakening.”
Genesis 30:3 with Charles François Jalabert’s “The Awakening.”

Our final Mother’s Day inspiration from Genesis: Charles François Jalabert’s “The Awakening,” a sweetly maternal scene, contrasts with Rachel giving her hubby a sex slave to use as a surrogate mother. When you think about it, this is really terrible stuff!

So, uh, yeah. Happy Mother’s Day! Just don’t look to your Bible for sweet sentiments today.

And if you’d like any of the above images on convenient items to put on display or strategically leave where Christians can find them, you can find everything you’d like at Red Bubble.

Feel free to share the images around as long as my identifying info stays on – they’re copyrighted, but I certainly don’t mind non-commercial use with attribution. Have fun with them! Do tell me if you get any Christianist heads to explode.


Really Terrible Bible Stories vol. I: Genesis is now available at Amazon! Worldwide, even! To order outside the United States, visit your country’s Amazon website and search for “Really Terrible Bible Stories” by Dana Hunter. Thanks for reading!

Really Terrible Bible Inspirations: (Un)Happy Biblical Mother’s Day!

4 thoughts on “Really Terrible Bible Inspirations: (Un)Happy Biblical Mother’s Day!

  1. rq

    Abraham: the original MRA.
    Also, I find it funny how women are supposed to take such joy in childbearing when god has specifically told them that he intends to cause them great suffering throughout the process. Embrace your suffering, ladeez, it’s naturally god-given!
    Anyway, Happy Mother’s Day. Going to have delicious cake with mine after work, because she totally deserves an awesome cake and a whole lot more.

  2. 3

    It strikes me how selective the Hagar story is. Send a thousand women with children into the wilderness with very limited supplies and 999 have their kid die and then, what is presumed to be the protocol, the woman troops back, or does she die in grief? The thousandth, Hagar, finds a water source and they, and their kid live on. This seems like the most likely course of events.

    Of course, the all very human story/mythology machine get hold of it, as humans are prone to allow to happen, and the whole bloody picture gets restructured. The 999 dead kids are quickly forgotten because their story is a mythological dead end. Whereas the one who happened to live is assumed to have had a divine encounter and to have been favored by a deity for having lived. Hagar, being a mere woman, is quickly forgotten as the story moves on with the child’s ‘favored by God’ credentials having been established.

    Now the immediate concern is that there is no mention of those presumed 999 other cases. Not directly. But the story is clearly one about moving from the common and expected toward the highly exclusive status of ‘touched by God’. The story starts out with the master of the house putting out a woman. This would seem to mean this is familiar territory. Perhaps even common. Sure, give the girl a bit of bread and water and send them out into the wilderness. The bread and water provides a disconnect from charges of murder. Well officer … last I saw them they were alive and well … they were going on a journey … I even pitched in some bread and water to help them out … The form seems to be quite routine. Perhaps even the norm for how one handles excess women and children and something of a tradition. Send them away and let nature decide.

    Indians play the same general game when they stake calves away from their mother and let them die of benign neglect. You see Indians, some sects more than others, can indeed eat beef providing they have not killed the animal. If a calf dies … it would be wasteful to let the meat of the calf rot. Some sects demand that the corpse be fed to wild animals to avoid the bad karma but some are not adverse to a little beef for special occasions.

    Such moral disconnects are not unusual. Devout Jews unable to flip a switch on Saturday can get a neighbor to do it.

    Sending your concubine and her child into the wilderness, where every expectation is that she will die, and then finding the bones a few moths later … oh so sad … lets get back for dinner. Those 999 seem implicitly present.

  3. 4

    “what kind of asshole condemns all mothers for all time to horrific suffering in childbirth just because this one chick ate a piece of fruit this one time?”

    And if I recall correctly she didn’t have the knowledge of right and wrong before eating the fruit so she couldn’t know until after the fact that she had done something wrong.

    So it’s more like punishing all women for the fault of someone who is ethicaly like a two years old.

Comments are closed.