The Old Testament Hebrew word for faithfulness is emunah (אֱמוּנָה), and it means to have firmness, demonstrate steadfastness, or practice fidelity. It’s where we get the word amen. It’s a completed act of steady faith and trust despite the circumstances around us.
In the New Testament, the primary word used for faithfulness stems from the root word pistis (πίστις). Similarly, this word means faithfulness, but other nuances include: faith, belief, trust, confidence, and fidelity.
Women in Scripture have much to teach us about faithfulness. Not all were mothers, but many were. What does their unique role as matriarchs teach all of us about being faithful amid trials? How can we exegete their lives and apply their choices to our own circumstances?
Let’s look at three lesser-known mothers and glean what we can about faithfulness from their actions.
1. Jochebed’s faithful protection
We learn something surprising about Jochebed in Exodus 6:20: “Amram married his father’s sister Jochebed, and she gave birth to his sons, Aaron and Moses. (Amram lived to be 137 years old.)” Jochebed, Moses and Aaron’s mother, married her nephew.
Once Moses came hollering into the world, we see her protectiveness kick in. “She saw that he was a special baby and kept him hidden for three months” (Exod 2:2).
Jochebed protected her son from the machinations of an exacting pharaoh who dictated death to Hebrew boys. Her faithfulness revealed that she feared God far more than she feared the prevailing monarch. This would be seen as a treasonous act—had she been found out, it could have meant death for both Moses and his mother. Nevertheless, she risked her life for the sake of her son.
Later, the author of Hebrews commends the parents’ faith: “It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s command” (Heb 11:23).
Later, she placed Moses firmly into God’s hands—an act of beautiful faith. “But when she could no longer hide him, she got a basket made of papyrus reeds and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. She put the baby in the basket and laid it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile River. The baby’s sister then stood at a distance, watching to see what would happen to him” (Exod 2:1–4).
Jochebed loved her son. In fact, she loved him so much that she entrusted him to God. Hers was not a child sacrifice (her daughter Miriam ran after the papyrus bassinet, after all), but a relinquishing to the God who also loved Moses very much. It was this surrender that enabled Moses to grow up as royalty, to learn the ways of the Egyptians whom he would later confront, emancipating the people of Israel from slavery.
Her trust reminds us that faithfulness is simply walking out God’s evident faithfulness to us. Jochebed’s is the kind of courageous life that rests in the sovereign plan of God, even if it means defying the culture around her. She reminds us that being faithful sometimes means taking scary leaps that seemingly make no sense, yet while maintaining trust when we cannot see the outcome.
Jochebed’s faith had legs. When the cries of Moses could no longer be muffled, she acted, creating a mini ark for Moses (itself an echoing of God’s faithfulness to humanity through Noah’s ark), and let him float.
2. Rahab’s outsider faithfulness
We usually don’t think of motherhood when we ponder Rahab’s life. After all, the first thing we know about her is her unsavory profession—harlotry. And yet, despite her job (which most likely provided economic stability), Rahab demonstrated extreme faithfulness when she met Israel’s spies and protected them.
Her words reflect a distant belief. She’d seen God’s judgment, favor, and guidance from afar. But even so, she understood him theologically to be the Maker of all. She told the spies, “For the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below” (Josh 2:11).
Even though she was not a part of Israel’s surprising deliverance crossing the Jordan on dry land, she believed in God’s power nonetheless. Jesus commended this kind of belief when he said, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” (John 20:29b). She didn’t have to see to believe.
What a demonstration of faith from someone outside the nation of Israel! Outcasted, prostituted, and bereft of hope in her citadel city of Jericho, Rahab seized the moment and chose to follow this far-off God based on hearsay. Like Jochebed, she was a fierce protector. Her secretive act sheltered the spies from discovery, giving them the opportunity to live.
The author of Hebrews commends this plucky faith: “It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies” (Heb 11:31).
Like the Jochebed story, we see hospitality as a tenet of faithfulness. To welcome a stranger is to share the heartbeat of God who constantly reminds the Israelites of the quartet of the vulnerable: the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the alien. It was the latter that Rahab welcomed. She greeted foreigners, hid them, then sent them safely on their way.
James further cements this idea of hospitality: “Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road” (Jas 2:25).
Faithfulness, in the life of Rahab, involved actions.
Later we learn that her actions are rewarded by a surprising welcoming. She is sewn into the fabric of Israel, marrying Salmon (who some scholars believe was one of the spies). Although she demonstrated motherly protection and hospitality prior to giving birth, it’s her offspring that demonstrate the outrageous beauty of God’s plan to include all humanity in redemption.
In the genealogy of Jesus, Rahab’s motherhood is highlighted. She, an outsider to Israel, has become part of Jesus’s DNA. Her great grandson, David, would prove to be the lineage and archetype of the coming Messiah.
“Salmon was the father of Boaz [whose mother was Rahab]. Boaz was the father of Obed [whose mother was Ruth]. Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon [whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah]” (Matt 1:5–6).
3. Eunice’s faithful witness
Eunice was Timothy’s mother, the daughter of Lois (who is also mentioned in Scripture). Her name means conquering well or having good victory. It’s derivative of the Greek word, nike. Along with Lois and Timothy, they lived in Lystra in Asia Minor.
Eunice was a faithful Jew who most likely became a Christ follower after the first visit Paul made to Lystra (cf. Acts 13–14). Later we read, “His [Timothy’s] mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:1). This may have meant that Eunice suffered ostracism from the surrounding Jewish community—not only had she married a non-Jew, but she embraced what many thought to be a cult when she followed Jesus of Nazareth.
This mixed lineage meant Paul had to address Timothy’s state. “In deference to the Jews of the area, he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:3). This circumcision would allow Timothy to reach both Jew and Greek. He must have seen his mother navigate both worlds, which would be strong preparation for his ministry.
We know from 2 Timothy 3:11 that persecution was normative in Lystra, so Eunice would’ve learned to endure it. “You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured. You know all about how I was persecuted in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra—but the Lord rescued me from all of it.”
Paul commends not only Timothy, but his mother and grandmother when he writes, “I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you” (2 Tim 1:5). Here we see faithfulness again as a holy action, an imparting, a demonstration of belief. Timothy learned from his mother and grandmother what it meant to be a faithful follower of Jesus.
Eunice demonstrates the power of spiritual parenting. As Christ followers, we don’t merely experience Jesus Christ, but when we encounter him, we can’t help but impart his irresistability to others. Jesus reminds us of this in the Great Commission, that we are teach everyone (both Jew and Gentile) to become disciples, and we are to walk out our faith in an invitational, contagious way.
Three faithful mothers
Three unusual mothers, Jochebed, Rahab, and Eunice, remind us of the breadth of the story of Scripture. They represent a pre-exodus Israel, a conquering Israel, and the grafting in of all people into the church of God. Their faithfulness in each context reminds us that we, too, can be faithful where we are.
We can protect like Jochebed, even when we face peril.
We can believe in God’s power like Rahab, even if we feel like outcasts.
We can courageously impart our faith to the next generation like Eunice, even if we’re ostracized by our community.
Together all three mothers changed the world, one by birthing a deliverer, another by seeding the Messiah lineage, and another by building the church.
More resources about mothers in the Bible
Mary: Devoted to God’s Plan
Regular price: $13.99
Women in the Bible (Interpretation: Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church)
Regular price: $29.99
Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels
Regular price: $16.99
31 Women of the Bible: Who They Were and What We Can Learn from Them Today (audio)
Regular price: $12.98