Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.
— 2 Kings 24:18
By the time we get to Zedekiah, who was little more than a puppet king, Judah, like Israel, had fallen into enemy hands. Unlike Israel though, whose people were assimilated, or scattered, and still unaccounted for today,1 the citizens of Judah stayed together, enslaved in Babylon, but eventually released back into their own lands. One way that the book of Kings shows us the authenticity of Judah over the rebel state of Israel is through the mention of the mothers of kings. For all but two of the Judean kings the mother of that king is named on his ascent. There are various theories to account for this unusual convention, 2 but whichever way it is viewed it is apparent that it mattered greatly who one’s mother was. Jewishness today (and perhaps also back then) descends through the mother, not the father. There can be no uncertainty who one’s mother is, while there can be a great deal when it come to fathers. Establishing identity matrilineally was thus important to establish authenticity.
Today, generally speaking, it is our mothers determine who we are to a greater extent than our fathers. This is obviously true for single-parent (mother-only) families but also true for many co-parenting families. Traditionally it has been the mother’s job to raise children, while the father went to work. Things are less black and white today, but motherhood is as vital as it ever was. To carry a child for forty weeks, feeding and nurturing it with one’s body means a bond forms between mother and child that is unequalled in fathers. I like that the writers of Kings see fit to mention the name of the mother of each king. It shows a recognition for the importance of this relationship, regardless of any political motive.