What Is the Gender of Yahweh?

As we’ve mentioned before, a large and apparently growing percentage of the posts by Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — the ayatollah of Appalachia, the world’s holiest man who knows more about religion and science than everyone else — are about the subject of gender. We usually ignore them because that’s not an issue we’re concerned about, but today it’s somewhat different.

Ol’ Hambo just posted this at the website of Answers in Genesis (AIG), his creationist ministry: “Mother God”and the ELCA — Is God a “She”? Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

“Mother God, you have fed us with the nourishment of your spiritual food. Raise us up into salvation and rid us of our bitterness, so that we may share the sweetness of your holy word with all the world.” That was the prayer recently posted [link omitted] to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ECLA) Twitter account. God a “she”? Our Creator as “Mother God”?

Hambo seems to be horrified. He says:

Now, “God is spirit” (John 4:24), and so he doesn’t have a body or a gender in the sense that we, as humans made in God’s image, do. However, throughout Scripture, God consistently refers to himself as our “Father” — not our mother — and uses the pronoun “he,” not “she.”

That may be so, but we’ve seen Hambo rant about humans who — regardless of their physical nature — choose the pronoun they prefer for themselves. Hambo always wants to use the pronoun that biologically applies to a person. So what about Yahweh? Is there any gender there? Hambo tells us:

Now, there are some passages that refer to God caring for his people and use terms that are often applied to mothers. However, none of these passages ever refer to God as a woman or mother . . . or use female pronouns for God. They are simply metaphors to give us glimpses into who our God is. [So what’s God’s gender?] Both men and women are made in God’s image (equal yet different with unique roles) and reflect God’s image uniquely.

This is very confusing! Hambo continues:

So why does it matter if we refer to God as Father or Mother? Well, first of all because we want to be biblical [Indeed we do!] — and again, there is no “Mother God” ever mentioned in the Bible. There is only one true God, and he is the God revealed to us in Scripture. We cannot add to the Bible or add our own ideas about who God is to what he has revealed to us.

It seems that God’s gender is unknown — or ambiguous at best. But what do we know compared to Hambo? Let’s read on:

Second, it matters because of the motivation that individuals generally have who refer to a “Mother God.” They’ve rejected what the Bible teaches about male and female. [Gasp!] They’ve rejected that men and women are created equally in God’s image yet different and have been given different roles in the home and in the church. They claim that these are antiquated ideas from the male patriarchy meant to advance and secure male privilege. That’s a very low view of Scripture and results in man-made doctrine, rather than doctrine derived from God’s inspired Word.

What’s he saying — that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is a gay denomination? That’s what it seem like. Here’s another excerpt:

When we handle Scripture correctly — as we have been commanded to do — we see that the Bible’s teaching about men and women doesn’t hold women in bondage or give men some kind of privilege. Those who teach such things need to reexamine Scripture.

Your Curmudgeon is far from being a bible scholar, but we think there are passages that say otherwise, at least to us — e.g.: Ephesians 5:22–33 (“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord”), and also Colossians 3:18–19 (“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord”). But what do we know, compared to Ol’ Hambo?

Ah, here comes the end of Hambo’s post:

So should we pray to “Mother God”? No. Absolutely not. [Are we clear?] The one true God is not our “Mother” — he is our Father — and there is no God but him (Isaiah 44:6). To worship any other God is idolatry.

But what about the Cosmic Aardvark? Oh well, never mind.

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24 responses to “What Is the Gender of Yahweh?

  1. siluriantrilobite

    Ken’s greatest philosophical claim is that the only valid question about the past or something unseen that one can claim is to ask “were you there?”. Therefore, I can only conclude that Hambo has peeked under God’s toga or loincloth and has seen a most magnificent giant penis. Hambo has probably given a lot of thought to God’s throbbing schlong. Ham can tell us about huge and veiny and glowing God’s beautiful penis really is. Ham was there, on his knees, mouth agape in awe. And Hambo spoketh thus: “I’m coming Lord, I’m coming!”

    >

  2. A bit more graphic than I prefer. Let’s tone it down from now on.

  3. Michael Fugate

    “When we handle Scripture correctly — as we have been commanded to do — we see that the Bible’s teaching about men and women doesn’t hold women in bondage or give men some kind of privilege. Those who teach such things need to reexamine Scripture.”

    This proves Ham has never read the Bible.

  4. There is a theory that YHWH in the beginning had a wife, called Asherah. But Ol’Hambo of course knows better and frankly I’m hardly interested, because I don’t believe anyway. But this is mildly interesting – YHWH might be male, he seems to have a feminine side as well.

    https://www.womensordination.org/resources-old/female-images-of-god-in-the-bible/

    Shouldn’t Ol’Hambo go on a quest for the woman deep inside him, now he still has got the time?

  5. Charley Horse X

    Made in his image….hermaphrodite…would serve that purpose. “It” would work for me, too. I still am wanting to know if Gabriel had it in for It or if It banged Mary. Of course, Joseph and Mary could of made all that up. Were you there?

  6. Gwyllm Griffiths

    Most Abrahamic theologians today affirm that God transcends gender. The traditionally masculine language historically favored in referring to this genderless Deity is probably mainly due these religions having been born and raised within overwhelmingly patriarchal cultures (not only of the past; fundamentalists today tend to be pretty toxic in this regard still, treating females as second-class citizens in varying ways).

  7. Richard Andersen

    “To worship any other God is idolatry.” Well, I’m certainly not guilty of that offense!

  8. @Michael Fugate
    “This proves Ham has never read the Bible.”
    I am sure he does read his Bible, or at least has read it in the past. But, like any creationist, he needs to ignore those parts which don’t fit in with his worldview.

  9. (To the ELCA) Shouldn’t it be mother Goddess? As for the Bible, I suspect that the mythology originally that led to Yahweh as a male personality. In fact, from my limited research on the subject Yahweh himself is derived from the Babylonian Marduk, and definitely male.
    Later theological inventions such as monotheism split into a trinity, may have changed the original god into something that would transcend gender. (I recall from my stint in the ELCA that “officially” God had no gender, but was a personality so the pronoun “it” was unacceptable, so male or female pronouns would be OK)

  10. Michael Fugate

    Let’s ask God which pronouns God prefers.
    I, me, mine
    We, Ours, Our
    They, Theirs, Their
    Pronouns, I don’t use no stinkin’ pronouns. I’m God.

  11. Gwyllm Griffiths

    Fun fact: in the Quran, God speaks directly to the reader, as the author of that book, in the authorial voice of the “royal we.” In other words, in the Quran’s first-person narrative, God refers to himself in the plural: “We” created the universe, “We” did this or that, etc. Sort of like the Queen of England: “We are not amused.” Take that, pronouns! (What happens to pronouns in pantheism, where God is everything and everything is God? “All That Is” is not amused?”)

  12. The Greeks didn’t have this problem. The Olympian gods were clearly either male or female.

  13. @SE
    Chaos and Erebus are neuter, and perhaps Tartarus.

  14. Gwyllm Griffiths

    Yeah, but what about the all-encompassing Hindu Brahman — neither a He nor a She, but an It? (Not to mention the eternal Tao?)

    None of which, of course, relates to anything on Ham’s horizon.

  15. Dave Luckett

    You only have to read Ham to realise that he’s is, himself, a hamaphrodite. He loves only himself. Har har.

    But if you can bear to read both Ham and the Bible, there is no doubt at all of the facts. The Bible speaks with many voices. Most – not all, but most – are uncompromisingly patriarchal.

    (Side note: a patriarchy is a society in which positions of leadership, power and authority are associated more strongly with the male than the female. It should be obvious from this definition that there are degrees of patriarchy. It is also the case that practically all human societies of which we have reliable record have been patriarchies. Some exceptions exist.)

    To resume: Anybody who can proclaim that the Bible “doesn’t hold women in bondage or give men some kind of privilege” is only advertising HIS ignorance. (Pronoun chosen with intent.) It does precisely that, in most places.

    The Bible – the Old Testament, at least – permits polygyny and concubinage, but not polyandry. The Bible demands, not only in the letters of Paul, but in Ham’s beloved Genesis 3:16, that the husband be the master of the wife. Both Adam and Eve disobeyed, but Eve cops extra curses, of which the above is one. (If you think that the so-called “Curse of Adam”, viz: “only by the sweat of your face will you win your bread” is specific to men, you’re kidding yourself.) The Bible states that a daughter shall inherit only in default of male issue. (Numbers 27:8). It requires that a rape victim must marry her violator. (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) (Arguments that he could not then divorce her, and this was really a means of forcing a rapist to provide for his victim, ignore the hideous reality of the transaction.) For that matter, under Mosaic law, husbands could usually divorce their wives simply by giving them a “bill of divorcement”, but wives could not divorce their husbands. Jesus squelched that, a little, but retained divorce in the case of the wife’s adultery – but only hers, not her husband’s.

    Women have some leading roles in the Bible – Deborah, Judge of Israel, comes to mind – but rarely. They can even be heroines, but, as in the cases of Esther and Judith, they achieve that status through their beauty and “feminine wiles”. There is no Biblical parallel for, say, Joan of Arc or Boudicca or Aethelflaed of the West Saxons or Jeanne Hachette.

    No. Ancient Hebrew society was, like all the societies of that day, massively and uncompromisingly patriarchal, and may have been even worse than, say, contemporary Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Mediterranean and Celtic societies for lack of a mother goddess, an Earth-mother.

    Ham is, as usual, talking through his socks. He’s fooling people, of course. I’ll do him the charity of thinking he’s fooling himself first. But for him to claim a knowledge of what the Bible says, and to assert the rubbish he does, requires a brass-bound chutzpah that can only be the product of an ego swollen to monstrous proportions.

    I don’t know how he gets away with it. The people he’s addressing are supposed to be “Bible believers”. They are supposed to be ordering their lives according to what the Bible says. How on earth can they bear to be so ignorant of it as to accept Ham’s falsehoods?

  16. In a paternalistic society it’s requisite that the ruling god be a male. That’s also necessary because the number of deities has been reduced to one, all others have been demoted or eliminated from the host of gods. For the learned people of ancient times, and now, it’s easier to remember just one big guy than a host of deities.
    But actually the waters have been muddied by some with triplets like god the father, god the sun and god the Holy Ghost.

  17. One prominent text: the tenth commandment, about respecting property, including wives.

  18. @DavidK, while here is no neuter gender in Hebrew grammar, the Spirit of God (Genesis 1:2) is grammatically female

  19. Apparently all Semitic languages (Hebrew, Aramaic as well as Arabic, Babylonian, etc.) have only two genders, and there are Hebrew nouns which change their gender in the plural Whatever that tells us.
    Greek has a neuter gender.

  20. @TomS, ” there are Hebrew nouns which change their gender in the plural”; examples? My rusty schoolboy Hebrew can’t think of any

  21. Bayit, house, f. has the m. plural form batim
    ‘ab, father has the f. plural form ‘abot
    Jouon-Muraoka Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, p 247 says “The gender of a noun is usually the same in the singular and in the plural (or dual)” and cites a source that Biblical Hebrew has 80 m nouns with -ot plural and 40 f nouns with -im plural. “… nouns for a wide range of flora and fauna display the ot pl. ending.”

  22. Many transgender people prefer the pronoun “they”.

    Since Christians consider God to be The Trinity, “they” “They” should work for God as well. At least among Christians. I’m surprised that Ham, who professes to be a Christian, hadn’t considered this option.

    (But then, they consider The Trinity to be a Father, a Son, and a Holy Ghost, or Spirit. Lots of testosterone there.)

  23. @TomS, thanks. I’d call those irregular endings, rather than gender changes. Nothing from the Bible leaps to mind, but I’ve seen “abot” take a masculine numeral although as you say -ot Is n the ormally feminine. @Retiredscienceguy, the Holy Ghost (spiritus sanctus) is masculine, although come to think of it not only the spirit of God in Genesis, but the divine presence (Shekhinah) in rabbinical Hebrew, is unambiguously feminine. However, Judaism at least until 19th century reform variants was unambiguously patriarchial, as are the most traditional forms today

  24. @retiredsciguy
    “They” is increasingly used as a singular, not just for trans people. Wikipedia has an article on “Singular they”.