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Making Sense of Motherhood: childbirth as a metaphor of power

I’m really enjoying ‘Making Sense of Motherhood’, which includes contributions from a number of Aussies, and is edited by Beth Stovell. I’m going to write a review of it once I’m finished, but here’s a little snippet.

In her chapter, ‘The Birthing Spirit, The Childbearing God’ Stovell discusses the same mothering image of God in Isaiah 42 as Serene Jones in ‘Feminist Essays in Reformed Dogmatics’. Stovell picks up on the question around how this metaphor for God is related to the one of God as warrior also in Isaiah 42.

She mentions that both similes serve to underscore Yhwh’s power. I loved this insight. When you think of an image of God’s power, is birthing a child one that you reach for? In my culture, childbirth is largely sanitised and invisible, partly contributing to a conception of femininity as weak. It is not natural for us to draw on motherhood imagery when discussing strength or power.

Apparently there was something of a tradition in Ancient Near Eastern cultures of comparing women giving birth to warriors. There’s significant overlap when you think about it: both battle and birthing involve “danger, courage, blood, pain, the threat of death, the preservation of life.”

Stovell points out that the interaction of these metaphors bring the destructive and the creative together through masculine and feminine figures, and that in this way the pictures of destruction and salvation which are presented in Isaiah 42 are united. Much attention has been given to the masculine or feminine characteristics of God, but seeing masculine and feminine together enhances our picture of God far more.

Categories: Woman Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

4 replies

  1. I must confess there’s a small part of me that would like to go through labour again because I definitely did feel (second time around at least) that it was a very satisfying feat of courage and strength. And a particularly unique and powerful use of my body.

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