Catholic theology has long understood Mary to be the queen in her son’s kingdom. In this post I spoke to how Mary is the woman in Revelation 12, and in this vision of John she is portrayed in heaven as a queen. Protestants in general reject this idea and are often quick to point out the Bible speaks of only one “queen of heaven.” That is a reference to a false pagan goddess recorded in the book of Jeremiah, who was worshipped by pagan cultures as a fertility goddess. The Israelites also began to offer sacrifice to this false goddess and by doing so committed idolatry. God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah regarding the sins of the people, and said “The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger” (Jeremiah 7:18). In an article discussing the false goddess as the queen of heaven, this Evangelical site provides this perspective:
“There is no queen of heaven. There has never been a queen of heaven. There is most certainly a King of Heaven, the Lord of hosts. He alone rules in heaven. He does not share His rule or His throne or His authority with anyone. The idea that Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the queen of heaven has no scriptural basis whatsoever. Instead, the idea of Mary as the queen of heaven stems from proclamations of priests and popes of the Roman Catholic Church.”
Often when presented with the truth when the Bible speaks of a “queen of heaven” it’s about a false pagan goddess, Catholics do not know how to respond. But when we take a deeper look at Scripture, we will understand two relevant thoughts.
The first is an understanding that just because there is a counterfeit queen of heaven mentioned in Scripture that in no way eliminates the possibility of Mary being the true and legitimate queen of heaven. The existence of counterfeit money doesn’t prove there isn’t real money; in fact, the opposite would be true. Daniel refers to Nebuchadnezzar, pagan king of Babylon as “king of kings,” (Daniel 2:37), but that doesn’t eliminate Christ from legitimately holding the title of “King of Kings” (Revelation 17:14, 19:16). If we profess Mary can’t legitimately be the queen of heaven because of the use of that title for a false pagan deity, wouldn’t we also need to continue with that logic? Many false religions have “holy books” – does that mean Christianity doesn’t have an authentic and inspired holy book in the Bible? False gods from mythology also had sons – does that eliminate Jesus from being the true Son of God? Of course not.
The second thing we will notice when we take a deep dive into Scripture is there is indeed a Biblical basis to understand Mary as the authentic queen of heaven. As with all Marian theology, that understanding is rooted in a true understanding of who Jesus Christ is.
When the angel Gabriel told Mary she’d been chosen to be the mother of the Savior, he told her about Christ — “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33)
At the time Gabriel announced to Mary that her son would receive the throne of his father David, the line of Davidic kings had been vacant for approximately 600 years. The line ended when Babylon invaded Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and carried the people into slavery. But God had promised David that the throne of his kingdom would be forever. Through the prophet Daniel God told David he would make his name great (2 Samuel 7:9), he would be his son (2 Samuel 7:14), and he would establish the throne of his kingdom forever (2 Samuel 7:13). We see this prophecy fulfilled when Christ came to receive “the throne of his father David.”
There is another Old Testament reference to a king who “sat upon the throne of David his father; and his kingdom was firmly established” and that is King Solomon, David’s son (1 Kings 2:12). King Solomon is a “type” of Christ. And beginning with the reign of King Solomon we see another royal office established, and that is the role of the queen mother. In 1 Kings 2:12-20 we see this story:
So Solomon sat upon the throne of David his father; and his kingdom was firmly established. Then Adoni′jah the son of Haggith came to Bathshe′ba the mother of Solomon. And she said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably.” Then he said, “I have something to say to you.” She said, “Say on.” He said, “You know that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel fully expected me to reign; however the kingdom has turned about and become my brother’s, for it was his from the Lord. And now I have one request to make of you; do not refuse me.” She said to him, “Say on.” And he said, “Pray ask King Solomon—he will not refuse you—to give me Ab′ishag the Shu′nammite as my wife.” Bathshe′ba said, “Very well; I will speak for you to the king.” So Bathshe′ba went to King Solomon, to speak to him on behalf of Adoni′jah. And the king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her; then he sat on his throne, and had a seat brought for the king’s mother; and she sat on his right. Then she said, “I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.” And the king said to her, “Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you.”
There are several important aspects of that passage to explore. The first is the quite remarkable action that King Solomon takes when Bathsheba enters. He rose to meet her, he bowed down to her, and then he sat her at his right hand, a position of authority. That the king of Israel would bow to any person is astounding. Bathsheba’s role had gone from one of many wives who bowed to the king (1 Kings 1:16) to one of the majestic dignity of the queen mother, whose king bowed to her as a sign of respect.
Another aspect is the expectation she could intercede with the king. Adonijah did not dare to approach King Solomon with his request, but he did approach Bathsheba, telling her Solomon “will not refuse you.” Solomon himself affirmed this expectation when he told Bathsheba “I will not refuse you.” Critics of the understanding the queen mother could intercede with the king are quick to point out that Solomon not only refused her request but had Adonijah killed. While Solomon is the “son of David” and his kingship foreshadows that of Christ, the Old Testament typologies are never the perfection we see in Christ. Nonetheless, the role of the queen mother is established in the Old Testament typology as is the eternal kingship of Christ. And at the wedding of Cana we see Mary as intercessor with her son, who not only does not refuse her request to provide more wine for the wedding feast but fulfills it abundantly with the best wine.
The role of the queen mother does not end with Bathsheba; it is found throughout the record of the Old Testament kings who sit on the throne of David. When we read the lineage of the kings, the name of the mother is always given to us (1 Kings 14:21, 2 Chronicles 13:1-2, 1 Kings 15:1-2, 1 Kings 22:42, 2 Kings 8:26, 2 Kings 12:1, 2 Kings 14:1-2, 2 Kings 15:1-2, 2 Kings 15:32-33, 2 Kings 18:1-2, 2 Kings 21:1, 2 Kings 21:19, 2 Kings 22:1, 2 Kings 23:31, 2 Kings 23:36, 2 Kings 24:8, 2 Kings 24:18).
We also see a reference to the queen in Psalm 45. As with many psalms there is both a current historical reference as well as a messianic prophecy. In historical context is it most likely referring to Solomon receiving a new bride. But it also foreshadows a future king who is addressed as God. Hebrews 1:8-9 says “But of the Son he says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, the righteous scepter is the scepter of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, thy God, has anointed thee with the oil of gladness beyond thy comrades.’” This is a direct quote from Psalm 45:6-7.
And then next in Psalm 45 verses 8-9 we read “From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad; daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.” And continuing in verse 10 we hear words addressed to her – “Hear, O daughter, consider, and incline your ear” that conclude with “I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations; therefore the peoples will praise you for ever and ever.”
While in its historical context this psalm is likely referring to King Solomon and Bathsheba would be his queen mother, there is only one queen mother from the Davidic kings who can fulfill the prophecy that God would cause her name to be celebrated in all generations. That of course is Mary, the queen mother of the kingdom of Jesus. Luke 1:48 shows us the fulfillment of this prophecy when Mary proclaimed “For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.”
And even though the prophet Jeremiah records a false “queen of heaven” who was offered sacrifice in a spirit of idolatry by the Israelites, he too recognizes the role of the queen mother. Along with Jeremiah 29:2, in Jeremiah 13:18 the prophet is instructed to deliver this message from God – “Say to the king and the queen mother: ‘Take a lowly seat, for your beautiful crown has come down from your head.’” The line of Davidic kings did indeed have many problems and were not always faithful to God, as is true of the queen mother. Not so with Jesus and Mary, who fulfill these roles in the eternal kingdom of God. And as with all things, Mary’s role is completely dependent upon Jesus, and who He is. There is no “queen mother” without the “King of Kings.” And she always points us to him.