Queen The Hebrews had no word properly answmering to our term queen in the sense of a female sovereign, neither had they the dignity which that word denotes. Of the three Hebrew terms used as the equivalents of "queen" in the A. V. (גּבַירָה שֵׁגָל מִלכָּה), the first (malkah) alone is applied to a queen reygnant; the first and second (shegal) equally to a queen consort; without, however, implying the dignity which in European nations attaches to that position; and the third (gebirah) to the queen mother, to whom that dignity is transferred in Oriental courts. The etymological force of the words accords with their application. Malkah is the feminine of mlek, "king;" it is applied in its first sense to the queen of Sheba (1Ki 10:1), and in its second to the chief wife, as distinguished from all other females in a royal harem (Es 1:9 sq.; 7:1 sq.; Song 6:8): the term "princesses" is similarly used in 1Ki 11:3. Shegal simply means "wife," i.e. of the first rank, as distinguished from mere concubines; it is applied to Solomon's bride or perhaps mother (Ps 45:9), and to the wives of the first rank in the harems of the Chaldee and Persian monarchs (Da 5:2-3; Ne 2:6). Gebirdh, on the other hand, is expressive of authority; it means "powerful" or "mistress," being the feminine of גּבַיר, gebir, "master," or "lord." The feminine is to be understood by its relation to the masculine, which is not applied to kingly power or to kings, but to general authority and dominion. It is, in fact, the word which occurs twice with reference to Isaac's blessing of Jacob: "Be lord over thy brethren;" and "I have made him thy load" (Ge 27:29,37). It would therefore be applied to the female who exercised the highest authority, and this, in an Oriental household, is not the wife, but the mother, of the master. Strange as such an arrangement at first sight appears, it is one of the inevitable results of polygamy: the number of the wives, their social position previous to marriage, and the precariousness of their hold on the affections of their lord combine to annihilate their influence, which is transferred to the mother, as being the only female who occupies a fixed and dignified position. Hence the application of the term gebirah to the queen mother, the extent of whose influence is well illustrated by the narrative of the interview of Solomon and Bathsheba, as given in 1Ki 2:19 sq. The term is applied to Maachah, Asa's mother, who was deposed from her dignity in consequence of her idolatry (1Ki 15:13; 2Ch 15:16); to Jezebel as contrasted with Joram (2Ki 10:13, "the children of the king and the children of the queen"); and to the mother of Jehoiachin or Jeconiah (Jer 13:18; comp. 2Ki 24:12; Jer 29:2). In 1Ki 11:19, the text perhaps requires emendation, the reading followed in the Sept., הִגּדוֹלָח"the elder," according better ith the context. The limited use which is made even of the restricted term gebiraih is somewhat remarkable. It is only employed twice with reference to the wife of a king: in one of these two cases it is applied to the wife of the king of Egypt, where the condition of the royal consort was more queenly than in Palestine (1Ki 11:19; comp. Willkinson, Anc. Egypt. ii, 59; iii, 64; v, 28); and in the other to Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, who, as the daughter of a powerful king, appears to have enjoyed peculiar privileges in her matrimonial state (2Ki 10:13). In two other places it is not clear whether the king's wife or mother is intended (Jer 13:18; Jer 29:2); and in the remaining passages it is pointedly referred to the king's mother in such terms as clearly show that the state which she held was one of positive dignity and rank (1Ki 15:13; 2Ch 15:16). SEE WIFE.
The result of all inquiry into the subject seems to show that among the Jewish kings the usages bearing on this point were not different from those which are still exhibited in Western Asiatic courts. Where woman never becomes the head of the State, there can be no queen regnant; and where polygamy is allowed or practiced, there can be no queen consort. There will, however, be a chief wife in the harem; and this is no doubt the rank indicated in the Bible bv the words which we render "queen." This rank may be variously acquired. The first wife of the king, or the first whom he took after his accession, usually obtained it; and if she is both of high birth and becomes the mother of the first son, her position is tolerably secure; but if she possesses neither of these advantages, she may be superseded in her position as head of the harem by a wife of higher birth and connections subsequently espoused, or by one who becomes the mother of the heir apparent. The king, however, will sometimes act according to his own pleasure in this matter, promote any favorite lady to this dignity, and also remove her from it at his pleasure; but more generally he finds it convenient to follow the established routine. The daughter of the king of Egypt was, doubtless, from her high rank, the chief wife of Solomon; as was Jezebel, for the same reason, the chief wife of Ahab. In like manner the high-born mother of Absalom was probably the chief wife of David, although it is possible that the mother of the eldest son, Amnon, at first enjoyed that distinction, which, we may safely presume, eventually devolved on Bathsheba, after her son Solomon had been recognised as the heir. In one of Mr. Morier's amusing books (Hajii Baba in England) there is a passage which strikingly illustrates this matter. The court of Persia is there represented as being perplexed how to answer a letter which, in ignorance of Eastern customs, had been addressed by the queen consort of England "to the queen of Persia." The cause of the dilemma thus created was that — "Although the shah's principal wife is called the banou harem, or head of the seraglio, yet her situation in the State bears as little affinity to that of the queen of England as one may say the she buffalo kept in the enclosure for food and milk has to the cow fed and worshipped by the Hindu as his god. Our shah can kill and create banous at pleasure, whereas the queen of England maintains her post till the hand of fate lays her in the grave" (comp. Chardin, Voyages [ed. Langles], vol. 6 ch. xii; Thornton's Turkey, ii, 264-286). Very different was, and is to this day, in Western Asia, the position of the king's mother, whose state is much the nearest to that of a European queen of any with which the East is acquainted. It is founded on that essential principle of Oriental manners whichl in all cases considers the mother of the husband as a far superior person to his wife, and as entitled to more re. spect and attention. This principle should be clearly understood; for it extends throughout the Bible, and is yet entirely different from our own social arrangementsi under which the mother, as soon as she becomes widowed, abandons her place as head of the familv to the daughter-in-law. Mr. Urquhart has admirably illustrated and developed this principle in his Spirit of the East (ii, 387 sq.); and his remarks, although primarily illustrative of Turkish manners, are, with some unessential limitations, applicable to the ancient and modern East. In p. 389 there is an anecdote of the late Ibrahim Pasha, who is represented as staying a whole week in the harem of his mother, waiting to find a favorable opportunity of pressing a request upon her; and when admitted, kissing her feet, refusing to be seated, and standing an hour and a half before her with his arms crossed, without, after all, succeeding in the suit which he — the conqueror of Syria and the victor of Konieh — preferred to an aged woman. The arrangement in the seraglios of the more magnificent Hebrew monarchs was probably similar to that of Turkey, with this difference, that the chief women in the harems of the Jewish sovereigns entered it as wives, and not as slaves. The grand signior, from an indeterminate number of female slaves, selects his favorites, who are distinguished by the title of cadun, which, as it means "lady of the house," seems nearly equivalent to the Hebrew gebirah. The number of these is said to be limited to seven, and their rank seems to correspond to that of the "wives" of the Hebrew seraglio, whose number was unlimited. The mother of a boy is called hasseky, unless the boy die, in which case she descends to her former rank. The caduns, or wives, of a deceased or deposed sultan are all removed from the imperial harem to a separate palace, with the single exception of the valide sultan, the mother of the reigning sultan, who has her liberty, a palace, and revenues to support a suitable establishment. But the hassekies, or those who have a son living, are treated with marked respect, as in the natural course of events they may become valide. The title of sultan (for the Turkish has no distinction of gender), though from courtesy it may be given to the hassekies, is, strictly speaking, appropriate only to the sovereign's mother, and to the sons and daughters of the imperial family (Thornton, 2, 276; Urquhart, 2, 433). This statement, especially the last point of it, strikingly illustrates the view we have taken as to the more queenly position of the king's mother than of his wife in the Jewish and other Asiatic courts. It must be clearly understood that this position is by no means peculiar to the modern East, or to the Jews among the ancient Orientals. Heeren, indeed, thinks that the power of "the queen mother" was even more considerable among the ancient Persians than among the modern Turks (Hist. Researches, i, 400); and the narratives of Herodotus and Ctesias respecting the tyrannical influence exercised by Parysatis, Amestris, and others bear ample testimony to this fact. The careful reader of Scripture will easily be able to trace the same ideas respecting the position of the king's mother among the Israelites. In how marked a manner does the mother of Solomon come forward at the end of her husband's and the beginning of her son's reign! She takes an active part in securisng her son's succession; it is in the conviction of her commanding influence that Adonijah engages her to promote his suit, alleging "he will not say thee nay;" and then, when Bathsheba appears before her son, the monarch rises from his place, advances to meet her, bows himself before her, and seats her on the right hand of his throne (1Ki 1:2). That the king's mother possessed high dignity is further evinced by the fact that Asa found it necessary to remove his mother, Maachah, "from being queen," on account of her abuse of the power which that character conferred (1Ki 15:13). Jezebel was, as already stated, very powerful in the lifetime of her husband; but it is only under her son that she is called "the queen" (gebiraih); and the whole history of his reign evinces the important part lwhich she took in public affairs (2Ki 9:22,30,37; 2Ki 10:13). Still more marked was the influence which ler daughter Athaliah exercised in Judah during the reign of her son Ahaziah, which was, indeed, such as enabled her at his death to set the crown on her own head, and to present the anomaly in Jewish history of a regnant queen (2 Kings 11). SEE WOMAN.