“Biblical Proofs” for the Feminine Face of God in Scripture

Welcome, Rachel Held Evans readers! Just so you know, this post outlining female depictions of God in Scripture makes the most sense in conjunction with its follow-up post, telling the story of my head-on encounter with God’s feminine side: Weeping with the Goddess in Jake’s Kitchen.

I’m not much of a “proof-texter.” I don’t like using the Bible as a weapon to fight out my outlook on life versus someone else’s. Further, I’m committed to the ‘progressive hermeneutic’ of ongoing revelation/unpacking the riches of God in our midst. Even so: I don’t, in celebrating the feminine face of God (and sharing my experience of the same), think I’m going ‘beyond the Bible.’ Here’s a sampling of the wealth of feminine images of God in Scripture, including the Apocrypha.

Take a moment and let these sink in*:

Sophia:
First nine chapters of Proverbs focus on Wisdom

  • Proverbs 4:13 she is your life, giver of life
  • Proverbs 8:35 whoever finds me finds life
  • Proverbs 8:15 decrees what is right
  • Proverbs 8: 22 – 31 like Wisdom herself, before the foundation of the earth I was there. Wisdom comes from God, was created by God
  • Wisdom 7:22 – 8:1 She is the fashioner of all things; 21 attributes which is the product of two perfect numbers 3 & 7. Wisdom is perfection multiplied by perfection. Intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, distinct, invulnerable, loving good, keen, irresistible, beneficent, humane, steadfast, sure, free from anxiety, all powerful. Overseeing all, penetrating through all other intelligent spirits
  • Wisdom 8:1 She orders all things
  • Wisdom 7: 24 She pervades and penetrates all things
  • Wisdom 7:27 She renews all things – renewable energy
  • Wisdom 9:10 She shares the throne of God
  • Wisdom 7:10 – 14 She’s the source of all things new
  • Sirach 1:1 – 8 It is God who knows wisdom and pours her forth upon the world
  • Sirach 24: 1 – 27 Hymn of self-praise sung by Wisdom in which she describes herself, her origins, her relationship to God and the good things she does for human beings. She came from the mouth of God, she is God’s word, breath, Spirit; as the spirit/wind that hovered over the waters of creation and as mist / steam that covered the earth at the beginning; she is universal, everywhere. Her image as a tree echoes Proverbs 8 – she strikes root among God’s people. She feeds all who long for her. Her food is sweeter than honey. Her food is herself. All who eat of her will hunger still, who drink of her will thirst for more. One will never be able to get enough of what she offers. What she offers is life. She concludes her song with a promise similar to Proverbs 8:35 – 34 – those who obey her will not be shamed. Those who serve her will not fall short. I believe she is the personification of God’s wisdom as the feminine archetype.

Birthing God – womb
• Gen 7:1 – Breasts illuminate a feminine image of God
• Deut. 32:18 “You forget the rock who begot you, unmindful of the God who gave birth to you”

• Job 38:8 “Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?”
• Job 38: 28-29 God’s fathering of rain and giving birth to ice from her womb
• Isaiah 42:14 “I groan like a woman in labor; I will gasp and pant”
• Isaiah 46: 3-4: “You who have been carried since birth, whom I have carried since time you were born” – incubating in God’s womb
• John 1:12: Those who believe in God are born of God
• John 4:7: Everyone who loves is born of God
• John 16:21: God is bringing forth a new humanity like the pangs of a woman in labor; her hour has come
• Acts 17: In God we live and move and have our being
• Gal 4:19: God’s womb is in pain
• Romans 8:22 From the beginning to now the entire creation has been groaning in one great act of giving birth (creation)

Creator God of Israel is also imaged as the shaper, maker and mother God who formed Israel in the womb and birthed Israel with labor pains:
• (Deut. 32:18; Psalm 90:2; Proverbs 8:24 – 25; Isaiah 43:1,7,15; 44:2, 24; 45:9, 11; 51:13; 54:5 From the word “womb” (rehem) comes the verb “to have compassion” (raham), and the phrase “Yahweh’s compassionate (rahum) and gracious” repeatedly appears in the Hebrew scripture to describe the merciful and saving acts of God in history. (Deut. 4:31; 2 Chronicles 30:9;  Nehemiah 9:17; Ps 78:38; 86:16; 103:8; 111:4; 112:4; 145:8; John 4:7 These verses show images of God who demonstrates “womb – like compassion” for her child Israel.
• God creator is sometimes depicted as woman giving birth and sometimes a reproductive image of God as both male and female: Deut 32:18; Job 38:28 – 29; Is 42:14; Acts 17; John 16:21; Gal 4:19; Rom 8:22; John 1:12

Nursing mother:
• Isaiah 49:15 does a woman forget her baby at the breast, or fail to cherish the son (daughter) of her womb
• Numbers 11:12 was it I who conceived all this people, was it I who gave them birth that you should say to me, carry them in your bosom like a nurse with a baby at the breast
• Psalm 131:2 – 3 But I have clamed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul within me is like a weaned child.
• John 7: 38 From his breast shall flow the fountains of living water
• 1 Peter 2:2 – 3 You are newborn and like babies you should be hungry for nothing but milk – now that you have tasted the goodness of Christ

Nurturing God – mother:
• Gen 1 :2 nesting mother
• Deut 32 : 11 – 12 mother eagle
• Hosea 11:34 I myself taught Ephram to walk, I took them in my arms
• Hosea 13: 8 I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs
• Psalm 131 image of repose – like a child in its mother’s arms as content as a child that has been weaned
• Ps 17:8 guard me in the shadow of your wings
• Ps 36:7 all people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings
• Ps 57:1 in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge
• Ps 61:4 find refuge under the shelter of your wings
• Isaiah 31:5 like birds hovering overhead, so the Lord of hosts will protect Jerusalem
• Isaiah 46:3 – 4 who have been borne by me from your birth carried from the womb… even when you turn gray, I will carry you. I have made and I will bear, I will carry and will save
• Isaiah 66: 10 –13 comforting mother…… as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you
• Luke 15:8 woman tirelessly sweeping for her lost coin, for what is important to her
• Luke 13: 34 (Matt 23:37), how often I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings

Other images:
• Ruah – Gen 2:7, Ps 104: 29; Jn 3:8 presence gives life; feminine Hebrew word meaning breath, wind, inspiration or spirit.
• Rahamin Hebrew word for compassion – root word, rahan, means womb.
• El Shaddai – God of the mountains or God of the breasts
• Seamstress – Gen 3:21
• Washerwoman Isaiah 4:4, Psalm 51:7
• Midwife Psalm 22:9 – 11, Psalm 71:6; Isaiah 66:9
• Woman baking bread Matt 13:33
• Seeks justice Proverbs 8:18

*I’m pretty sure I originally derived this list from somewhere, though now I forget where. If you know where, please share in the comments and I’ll attribute.

Recommended Reading if you want to explore the feminine imagery of God more fully:

In Memory of Her by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza (Feminist)

Is It Okay to Call God “Mother”?: Considering the Feminine Face of God by Paul R. Smith (Evangelical)

Embracing Jesus and the Goddess: A Radical Call for Spiritual Sanity  by Carl McColman (Episcopagan)

Journeys by Heart: A Christology of Erotic Power by Rita Nakashima Brock (Womanist)

Revelation of Love  by Julian of Norwich (Contemplative Catholic)

She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse by Elizabeth A. Johnson (Feminist)

The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image by Leonard Shlain (a general literary-historical investigation)

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd (Post-evangelical, post-Mainline)

The Maternal Face of God by Leonardo Boff (Catholic-Liberationist)

The Unknown She: Eight Faces of an Emerging Consciousness by Hilary Hart (Perennial)

31 Responses to “Biblical Proofs” for the Feminine Face of God in Scripture

  1. Matt Dabbs May 31, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    Is it possible the feminine imagery here is describing many different things? Some cases it is about creation itself, not God. In other cases it is about attributes of God (like his wisdom and compassion). Still at other times it is about the way God acts – he is a creative God and the one who generated all life that exists. Is there a difference in saying God is feminine or has a feminine image and saying he embraces the qualities of both males and females? Sometimes we try to find balance by swinging the pendulum so far the other way that we knock a ton of other truths out of the way in the process. It is important we embrace the whole picture and not just part. We have probably been guilty of neglecting some of these verses, swinging the pendulum too far the other way. It is good when we can embrace all truth even when there is tension in doing so. Thanks for the list.

    • james warren August 8, 2016 at 4:03 pm #

      Matt–thanks for this website. I want to know if there is a metaphor for God that is simply “and old woman.”

      I have run across this a few times before but I have been stymied for the last week-and-a-half trying to locate the specific passage or verse where this description can be found.

    • James Warren August 8, 2016 at 4:07 pm #

      Matt, are you familiar at all with a metaphor for God that is simply “an old woman?” I have run across the information a few times in the past but I am having no luck at all finding out the chapter and verse where this phrase is found.

      Like I said, I know it is in there; I have used Google and a few other search engines but I am frustrated–I have yet to find aq reference.

      • Rud Mudlyn October 7, 2016 at 9:17 am #

        God is never the “Old Woman,” in the biblical text. You can’t find it because it is not in there.

  2. Ellen H. May 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    Mike this is awesome, thanks!

  3. Donna May 31, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    All I want to say here is, “Yes, but….”. 🙂
    And there are too many “buts” for me to pick one.
    Yes, but God is indefinable by human definitions. To try and do so is to limit a limitless God!
    Yes, but in the beginning God created man in His image; male and female He created them. God encompasses all that is male and all that is female because He took woman out of man.
    Yes, but to try and make God female is to make Him less than all that He is.
    Yes, but you cannot separate the aspects of God. The whole concept of the Trinity gets wobbly when we try and separate the three Persons. They cannot be separated just as the maleness and femaleness of God cannot be separated out. Even in the passages that were cited, in context, almost all of them also point to other aspects of God.
    I am not a scholar and am probably treading in waters well over my head in this blog. But I know that I know what I know. God is God and He is more interested in how much we know Him than in how much we know about Him.
    I love the fact that God has so much in His word for me to identify with as a woman. I love the fact that He has so much in His word for me to understand about men. There is so much wealth of knowledge within the pages of Scripture to keep my intellect fascinated for eternity…. and yet it is my heart that He says fascinates Him. That is an aspect of God that will draw all people to Himself, male or female, if we get it.
    Maybe I am just simple. For me there has never been a conflict as to the gender of God. He is male but a complete male: one that contains all of the aspects of both human genders. We are made in His image… we are like Him… but He is definitely not like us! 🙂

    • Kristen June 3, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

      Donna, this post does not appear to me at all to be “trying to make God female.” Neither is it trying to “limit a limitless God.” Instead, it explores the multitudinous feminine images that appear alongside the masculine images of God in the Bible.

      In saying that God is male, are you not doing the very thing you fault this post for doing? Does not making God male limit God? When God uses so many metaphors for Godself that are feminine, are you not trying to separate out an aspect of God by insisting that God is male?

      And what exactly does it mean to say, “God is male, but a complete male: one that contains all the aspects of both human genders”? Are you saying that maleness is more “complete” than femaleness? In that case, what is the female? An incomplete male?

      Are you saying that maleness, to be “complete,” must also contain femaleness? In that case, what does it mean to speak of “maleness” at all, as juxtaposed to “femaleness”?

      I think it makes more sense to say what Genesis 1:26 says, that God made humans in God’s image, male and female– that humanity, both male and female, is a reflection of God’s image. It makes sense to differentiate between what we mean by “male and female,” and what we mean by “masculine and feminine.” As far as “masculine and feminine” (the attributes), the Bible is clear that God contains both. As far as “male and female,” (the physiology), the Bible is clear that God is neither.

    • Hunter June 9, 2012 at 11:08 am #

      So, if I’m reading you correctly: to call God a female is to limit God. To call God a male does NOT limit God, because only males can be complete?

      If God made women so incomplete that they can’t even be complete people, I don’t think they’d have been called upon so often to do God’s work, in the Bible and in the present day.

    • Eric June 11, 2012 at 5:20 am #

      What a fascinating thread! From my baseline reading of Scripture, the only Person in the Trinity that takes on any gender in the human sense is God the Son. Both God the Father and the Holy Spirit remain genderless in the “created, human” sense.

      I also would like to point out that Adam’s companionlessness is the first thing that that God declares “not good”, and this declaration happens *before* the fall. Combined with the rabbbinical definition of ‘good’ (life begetting life), we can see that fallenness or evil is not a direct definer or counter-point of goodness….

      From an explicit Trinitarian reading of Scripture, one can see parallels between the timing of Woman out of Man and the Son out of the Father…. we may be confusing sexuallity with “different, but of the same essence”, a Nicene orthodox Trinitarian truth which can inform purdiscussion of gender….

  4. Joel Watts June 16, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    I’m not sure if this is covered, but Mike, be sure to include that Jesus is Sophia in Paul’s thought – See 1 Co. 1.24-30.

  5. Mary Ann September 19, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    To try and make God male is to make Her less than She Who Is.

  6. hector January 3, 2014 at 8:45 am #

    as a first time visitor, i thank you for this post: wow.
    it has been inconceivable to me that this dimension of god has been missing for so long.

    a book i would add to the bibliography of the other post:
    FACE OF THE DEEP: a theology of becoming.
    Catherine Keller

    this is an excerpt i wrote in my amazon-review:

    Keller has here unshackled theology from the sterile mis-reading of the second verse of the first chapter of Genesis:

    one that has blinded generations upon generations to the maternal dimension of the creation dance.

    May this lucidity incite us all to plunge deep into baptizing waters that are at once chaotic and life-giving, and thus, the matrix of all becoming.

  7. hector January 3, 2014 at 9:00 am #

    oh, and how could i forget: the best and freshest take on MM:

    The Meaning of Mary Magdalene:
    Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity
    Cynthia Bourgeault

  8. Brad August 4, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    Jesus as wisdom/sophia – Matthew 11:19.

  9. Attah francis. June 6, 2015 at 1:38 am #

    Virgin mary is the feminine face of God

    • Holly Moody November 21, 2015 at 9:55 am #

      The virgin Mary is still subservient to the male God

  10. Attah francis. June 6, 2015 at 2:03 am #

    Thanks so much you have given every reasons to believe in my mother virgin mary not only as the mother of jesus but the mother of my soul for one to be a son and daughter of God one has to be given birth by a woman. You can’t be a son and daughter to a man without a woman it is not possible on earth and in heaven as far as their is a father there must be a mother. At foot of the cross jesus said woman see your son and son see your mother. Jesus is our father while virgin mary is our mother, the new ADAM and EVE

  11. Attah francis. June 6, 2015 at 2:15 am #

    Thanks so much for given every reason to believe in my mother virgin mary not only as the mother of jesus but also as the mother of my soul, for one to be a son and daughter to a father one must have a mother. in heaven and on earth you must have a mother and a father to form a family. Jesus is our father while virgin mary is my mother. Remember what jesus said at foot of the cross woman see your son, son see your mother then jesus is the father. Jesus is the new ADAM while virgin mary is the new EVE. Virgin mary woman of book of revelation 12

  12. Rud Mudlyn May 8, 2016 at 4:19 am #

    You could also include Luke 13:34, Jesus weeping over Jerusalem like a Mother Hen.

  13. Rud Mudlyn October 7, 2016 at 9:13 am #

    James Warren, God is never the “Old Woman,” in the biblical text. You can’t find it because it is not in there.

  14. Alyse May 15, 2017 at 4:03 pm #

    Mike,

    I came across this post after reading The Divine Dance, and attending Trinity: The Soul of Creation conference in April of this year. I am starting my own venture (ThisWinterWoman.com) largely out of a personal need and a public desire to honor the femininity of God. The importance of recognizing the non-masculinity of God cannot be over stated. I so appreciate this work, and will be referencing it often. Thank you for compiling this list, and for speaking with and teaching the other commentors about the truth of this and the desperate need our world has for Her.

  15. Andrej June 21, 2017 at 6:28 am #

    Sure God has female characteristics in scripture. Jesus even said He is like the mother hen to Jerusalem.

    But keep the balance. The Greek [gennao] and Hebrew [yalad] word for born simultaneously means begotten. It is genderless.

    Also, wisdom being female and thereby revealing God’s female characteristics is not a theologically viable idea. Hebrew has only two genders, male and female. It has no neuter, so all words are either one or the other. This may sound strange to English ears where the neuter gender is used for most non-living things, but it is how all words are. We could likely find many other attributes of God that are described by a female word.

    Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24), and He is male.

  16. clyde thomason June 27, 2017 at 5:48 pm #

    Coming Queen in Jewish Gematria Equals 459
    Psalm 45:9

    Coming Hebrew Queen in Jewish Gematria Equals 1459
    1 x 4 = 4
    Psalm 45:9

    Tribe of Ophir in Jewish Gematria Equals 459
    Psalm 45:9

    Ancestors in Jewish Gematria Equals 459
    Psalm 45:9

    Prophecy in Jewish Gematria Equals 666
    Ophir in Jewish Gematria Equals 207
    666 – 207 = 459
    Psalm 45:9

    Queen in Gold in Jewish Gematria Equals 450
    Psalm 45

    Messianic Psalm in Simple Jewish Gematria Equals 145
    1 x 4 = 4
    Psalm 45

    My Heart in Simple Jewish Gematria Equals 30
    Psalm 45.9 – 30 = 15.9 (Right To Left)
    9 x 5 = 45
    45 + (1) = Psalm 45:1

  17. David George October 21, 2017 at 3:09 pm #

    The sun of God, just before the time of Exodus, the monotheistic life giving force was the sun of course. I ask me what or who is the lifegiver in the present moment. It includes the sun, all people and all things. All combine to make life possible.

    No one is saying that God is a woman, or ever was. We tend to say the God is king of the world and is Jesus. The living presence of Jesus. I think of Mary, Elizabeth, John…and the people around at the time. They were all a part of who Jesus was, especially his mother.

    Some traditions worship Mary too.

    Being present with God strips away all the details. It puts aside some of the questions. In this context God just is.

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