One day as Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd called out, “God bless your mother—the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!”
This well-wisher was bestowing a blessing in true Jewish fashion. Luke records the event just after the Pharisees had been challenging Jesus. 1 This blessing holds significant details about the importance of lineage.
Searching the Old Testament you will find the same blessing in Genesis. Jacob’s last words to his sons are a prophetic poem. As Jacob speaks to Joseph, we observe the blessing.
by El Shaddai, who will bless you
with blessings from heaven above,
blessings from the deep, lying below,
blessings from the breasts and the womb.2
There are only around 8,000 Biblical Hebrew words. Often words have multiple meanings. The following extract is from an insightful blog post.
As it turns out, no one knows exactly what Shaddai means, except that it’s one of the many Jewish names for God. Some people argue that Shaddai is from “shadad,” destruction–a way of thinking about the aspect of God that has to do with powerful devastation, even death. But others point out that Shaddai sounds very similar to “Shadayim,” or breasts–so maybe it’s more about the life-giving, nourishing aspect of God. Which sure sounds like what Jacob is talking about here, these blessings of the breast and womb. 3
Jacob gave an extensive blessing to the lineages of Judah and Joseph. God’s favour and nourishment are on their ancestors.
So blessed is the lineage of Jesus, but why mention His mother? The following Jewish article explains the significance.
We can always be sure who a person’s mother is, whereas the father’s identity is never absolutely unquestionable. When praying for someone’s life, we obviously do not want to confuse his/her identity by using mistaken lineage.
On a deeper level, a Jew’s spiritual essence is inherited via his or her mother, as evidenced by the fact that Judaism is passed down matrilineally. When praying for another, we want to emphasize their essential and eternal link to G‑d, as derived from their mother’s side. 4
Yes, God had blessed the lineage of Jesus. Consider the words of Elizabeth upon meeting a pregnant Mary.
“How blessed are you among women!
And how blessed is the child in your womb!”
Jesus fully explains the reason for the blessing by highlighting a response to God.
“Far more blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
Both Jesus and Mary were chosen. They listened and then responded to God. Consider Mary’s reply to Gabriel.
“I am the servant of God; may it happen to me as you have said.”
1. Bible | Luke 11:14-28 and Matthew 12:22-39
2. Bible | Genesis 49
3. Blog | Torah MOMentary: Blessings of the Breast & Womb – Read here
4. Blog | Why Use the Mother’s Name When Praying for Someone? – Read here