In the Hebrew Bible, Gebirah (//; Hebrew: גְּבִירָה, gĕvîrâ, -bîrâ; feminine of גְּבִיר, gĕvîr, -bîr, meaning 'lord') is a title ascribed to several queen mothers of Israel and Judah. Literally translated, it is best understood as 'Great Lady' or 'mistress'. However, given that this title is most often attributed to a queen mother, the two have become synonymous, and therefore gĕbîrâ is most often translated as 'Queen Mother'. When romanised, gĕbîrâ can be used as both a common noun ("a gebirah", "the gebirah") or a proper noun ("the Gebirah"), as with most royal titles. Although not present in the Masoretic Texts, the plural form gĕbîrôt is commonly used by academics to avoid the intra-word switching of gebirahs.
The gebirah is believed by some scholars to have held great power as counsel of the king. In 1 Kings 2:20, Solomon said to his Mother Bathsheba, seated on a throne at his right, "Make your request, Mother, for I will not refuse you". William G. Most, a Catholic author, sees here a type of Mary. The position of the queen mother (gĕbîrâ) was a privilege of the highest honour, and was the highest authority for a woman in Israel or Judah. In fact, the only time a woman held higher office was in the case of Athaliah, who held the throne of Judah as queen in her own right, despite being illegitimate in the eyes of the scripture.
Due to certain references in the text, it is often theorised that there was a connection between the position of the gebirah and the worship (legitimate or otherwise) of the Canaanite deity Asherah. Such theories are, however, subject to much scrutiny and debate, and no conclusive evidence is available to us at this time.
To further complicate matters, the word gĕberet (//; Hebrew: גְּבֶרֶת, also גְּבִרְת, gĕbirĕt, and גְבָרֶת, gĕbāret, meaning 'lady', 'mistress', or 'queen') occurs 9 times in the Masoretic Text. In comparison, gĕbîrâ occurs only 6 times. Scholars generally take one of two stances with gĕberet: either classing it as an acceptable variation of the word gĕbîrâ within the ketiv (featuring a common qere), or opting for a distinct separation of the two words, despite their converged meanings.
- Ackerman, Susan (1993). "The Queen Mother and the Cult in Ancient Israel". Journal of Biblical Literature. 112 (3): 385–401.
- Andreasen, Niels-Erik (1983). "The Role of the Queen Mother in Israelite Society". Catholic Biblical Quarterly. 45 (2): 179–194.
- Ben-Barak, Zafrira (1991). "The Status and Right of the Gĕbîrâ". Journal of Biblical Literature. 110 (1): 23–34.
- Bowen, Nancy (2001). "The Quest for the Historical Gĕbîrâ". Catholic Biblical Quarterly. 64: 597–618.
- Brewer-Boydston, Ginny M. (2011). Good Queen Mothers, Bad Queen Mothers: The Theological Presentation of the Queen Mother in 1 and 2 Kings (PhD diss.). Baylor University Graduate School.
- Cushman, Beverly W. (2006). "The Politics of the Royal Harem and the Case of Bat-Sheba". Journal for the Study of the Old Testament. 33 (3): 327–343.
- Spanier, Ktziah (1994). Brenner, Athalya (ed.). "The Queen Mother in the Judaean Royal Court: Maacah - A Case Study". A Feminist Companion to Samuel and Kings. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press: 186–195.