🔼The name Melecheth-hashamayim: Summary
- Queen Of The Heavens
- From (1) the noun מלכת (meleket), queen, (2) the particle ה (he), of the, and (3) the noun שמים (shemayim), heaven(s).
🔼The name Melecheth-hashamayim in the Bible
It's not clear whether Melecheth-hashamayim is actually a personal name but if it is, it occurs five times, all in the book of Jeremiah (7:18, 44:17-19 and 44:25), where the prophet speaks of people submitting food and drink offers to the "Queen of Heaven."
But the story of the Queen of Heaven goes beyond your average violation of the First Commandment (that's the one that says "you shall have no other gods before me"; Exodus 20:3). The main theme of the Bible is the evolution of mankind's knowledge of the Laws of Nature (a.k.a. the Word of God), and the cyclic but progressive accumulation of knowledge over time is depicted as the evolution of Moses' tabernacle into Solomon's temple, its destruction and Zerubbabel's rebuild, then Herod's capitalistic expansion, and finally the coming of the Word in the Flesh in Jesus of Nazareth, his death, his resurrection, and finally the people in which he is incarnate, and who in turn are the "living stones" that form a "living temple" (1 Peter 2:5).
In modern times we know that sound knowledge of Natural Law (a.k.a. the Word) means the difference between feast or famine, war or peace, health and disease, and that the Scientific Method is the most effective way to learn about the Word, but in antiquity scientists had to compete with a wide array of nonsense. Apart from the Israelites, most people didn't realize that the whole of nature's vast dynamic is in fact the expression of one single natural rule. That one rule obviously can be considered to consist of countless sub-rules but these sub-rules never violate the unity they are part of. And although the expressions of these rules are never the same, the rules themselves never change (Matthew 5:18). And, most crucially, this rule and its sub-rules can be known by looking at nature (Psalm 97:6, Romans 1:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:21).
The Bible writers promoted unbiased research (Genesis 14:5, Leviticus 13:3, Matthew 6:26), respectful dialogue (Matthew 5:44), intelligent experimentation (Judges 6:37-39, 1 Samuel 6:9) and the formation of conventions across the widest possible human habitat (Isaiah 28:13, 1 Kings 10:24). But the hardest part of their mission was to convince the people that faith in the scientific method (Hebrews 11:1) always wins from faith in gods and amulets. Most people believed that nature was chaotic and not one, and that all things that happened did so because of the unrelated whims of unrelated gods. Many people lost their entire families to starvation because they had preferred making quick sacrifices to their fertility deities over having to listen to priests drone on about months and seasons, proper times and agricultural procedures. Entire peoples were slaughtered because they had preferred to follow their local hero into battle over studying the art of diplomacy. The diseased begged for healing from lifeless rocks and rendered their cash to quacks rather than to doctors.
The first time the Queen of Heaven is mentioned the Israelites are still safely in Jerusalem, offering to Baal and the Queen. Then the threat of the Babylonian invasion looms upon them and they run to Jeremiah for word from YHWH (42:2). He advises them to offer no resistance to the invaders but come to a peaceful agreement with them. They reject this idea and take flight to Tahpanhes in Egypt, taking Jeremiah along with them, who explains that the sword will certainly come to Egypt too and flight is futile. The other famous "prisoner of the Lord," Paul of Tarshish, would later agree with Jeremiah: don't bring a knife to a sword fight, and either be the guy with the biggest sword or do what he says (Romans 13:1-7).
Once safely in Egypt, however, the people again embrace the worship of the Queen of Heaven. When asked why, they explain that when they did so in Judah, they had food and peace, and when they stopped it, their world fell apart (44:17). It's like old uncle Barney who stopped smoking at age 67, came down with lung cancer at age 69 and quickly picked up smoking again to cure it.
🔼Who is the Queen of Heaven?
Jeremiah's struggle with the Queen of Heaven is a struggle with people who lean on science only in times of crises. When the dust settles and lives have been saved, diseases cured, hostilities averted and wealth restored (Matthew 11:5, John 14:12), these people again embrace their holy crystals, their entertainers and their biases. And always in the name of culture and tradition, of tolerance and play. And always until the next crisis forces them to abandon their stars and idols and knock humbly on the doors of their underfunded doctors and engineers. People who wonder why God gives children cancer should instead wonder why we give them Deadpool and Facebook.
The Queen of Heaven was worshipped all throughout the ancient world, but it's not clear whether this term applied to a specific goddess who was named such, or was rather an honorary title that could be applied to any goddess (Anat, Astarte, Asherah, Inanna, Isis, and so on). She might even have to do with the so-called צבא השמים (saba hashamayim), or "host of heaven" (see the name Sabaoth) which may refer to stellar constellations and ultimately the zodiac, whose worship was obviously forbidden (Deuteronomy 4:19, 17:3, 2 Kings 17:16, 21:3-5, 23:4-5, Isaiah 24:21, 34:4, Jeremiah 8:2, 19:13, Zephaniah 1:5, Acts 7:42) but whose signs should nevertheless be duly heeded (Genesis 1:14, 1 Kings 22:19, Nehemiah 9:6, Jeremiah 33:22, Daniel 4:35, 8:10).
The difficulty is that when an entity is not part of observable reality (Nessie, Yeti), any quality applied to the entity is purely based on the tastes of the audience, and such entities may vary within a culture or overlap from culture to culture. If a group of devotees comes to agree that the Loch Ness Monster is really a white hairy ape-man, well, who is to argue?
It's also not clear what characteristic is expressed in this name. Intuition suggests that the epithet Queen of Heaven describes a kind motherly lady who controls all that is splendid and godly, but humanity's collective intuition might actually be mistaking a white hairy ape-man for an aquatic dino.
The gospel of Jesus Christ as told in the four gospels tells the same story as the rest of the Bible: namely how the Word came to have human form (or how humanity collectively came to know natural law). That means that Jesus' mother Mary represents a certain kind of society; a society of seekers among many societies of seekers (collectively called Joanna, Mary Magdalene, and so on; see our article on the name Mary for more on this), but the only one who actually successfully gave birth to the Word.
In the fourth century AD, the gospel of Jesus Christ was hijacked by Roman Emperor Constantine to form Christianity, which is basically a reboot of Roman Imperial Theology and wholly pagan. The literary figure of Jesus, which originally had summed up Humanity's Knowledge of the Law of Nature (Colossians 2:3), came to embody the emperor of the world, Pantokrator, which was actually Constantine. And Constantine had a mother, Helena, who understood the power of marketing, so she invested heavily in all sorts of relics and icons and such. And that resulted in the worship of Mary, who became swiftly known by the very title by which pretty much all the mother goddesses of antiquity were known: Queen of Heaven. It appears to have seemed like a good idea at the time.
🔼Etymology of the name Melecheth-hashamayim
The name Queen of Heaven, or Melecheth-hashamayim, consists of two main elements that are coupled by the letter ה (he), which may be the definite article (the heavens), and may even imply relation ("of the" heavens).
The first part of our name, מלכת (meleket), is spelled identical to the so-called construct form of the noun מלכה (malka), queen or court-lady. The term "Queen of Sheba" also uses this construct form and is spelled מלכת שבא (malkat sheba). However, when the Masoretes inserted their pronunciation symbols into the text (about a thousand years after it was written), they decreed that our word מלכת (meleket) should be pronounced different from the construct form מלכת (malkat). This has prompted many modern scholars to understand that the two are not the same word, and that מלכת (meleket) uniquely describes the Queen of Heaven.
The noun מלכה (malka), queen or court-lady, derives from the noun מלך (melek), meaning king:
The noun מלך (melek) means king, and a king is not merely a glorified tribal chief but the alpha of a complex, stratified society, implying a court and a complex government.
The Bible insists that a society must be governed by a triad of anointed sovereigns, namely prophets, priests and the king. A good king causes his people to be prosperous and peaceful whereas a bad one causes poverty and strife. The difference between the two is dictated by how close to the Law of Nature (a.k.a. the Word of God) the king operates. A kingdom that is wholly in tune with the Law consists of only sovereign individuals and is thus without a physical king.
An Aramaic cognate verb מלך (malak) means to consult, which confirms that the concept of royalty indeed evolved from wisdom and intellectual prowess rather than brute physical or political strength, as is commonly suggested.
From this noun derives the verb מלך (malak): to be or become king, the nouns מלכה (malka) and מלכת (meleket): queen or court-lady, the noun מלוכה (meluka): kingship or royalty, and the nouns מלכות (malkut), ממלכה (mamlaka) and ממלכות (mamlakut), meaning sovereignty or kinghood.
The second part of our name is the same as the noun שמים (shamayim), heavens:
The verb שמם (shamem) means to be desolate, devastated or abandoned. It usually describes a literal empty place but may also be used to describe a mental state, in which case it refers to being appalled.
Adjective שמם (shamem) means devastated or deserted. Nouns שממה (shemama), שמה (shamma), שממון (shimmamon) and משמה (meshamma) denote various forms and degrees of waste, devastation, horror or appalment.
Verb ישם (yasham) is a by-form of the previous and means the same, albeit with an apparent emphasis on dry and arid lands. Noun ישימון (yeshimon, or variants) refers to desolate regions and mostly describes deserts. Noun ישימה (yeshima) describes the mental equivalent (whatever that might be).
Noun שמים (shamayim) means heavens. It's a plural form of a non-existing singular word שמי (shamay), coming from an assumed root שמה (shama). Whether or not this word is formally related to the above, to the ancients the heavens were clearly known as a vast emptiness that filled the observer with existential horror.
Equally striking is the noun שם (shem), which means name or renown. This suggests that the ancients saw someone's empty head as the same howling infinite as empty space, and all formal knowledge of the whole of creation that a person might accrue equal to this person's name.
🔼Of Kings and Queens
So yes, the name Melecheth-hashamayim means Queen of Heaven, but neither the word "queen" nor the word "heaven" meant the same in antiquity as it does today. To start with, in Hebrew the genders of words have very little to do with being a boy or a girl. That is why many Biblical male characters have names that are in fact feminine nouns (Aiah, Beracah, Jaala), and many female characters have names that are masculine nouns (Tamar, Jael, Hodesh). That indicates that it's by no means certain that a thing that is described by a feminine word, actually has anything to do with human womanhood, or that a thing that is described by a masculine word has anything to do with a human manhood.
In Hebrew, masculinity points toward singularity or individuality, which is why (a) body parts of which we have only one are described by masculine words in Hebrew, (b) the word בן (ben), son, applies to both boys and girls, and (3) both the Father and the Son are male (since they are one; Deuteronomy 6:4, John 10:30). Femininity, on the other hand, points toward multiplicity or collectivity, which is why (a) body parts of which we have two are feminine, (2) the word אמה ('umma), people or tribe, closely relates to אם ('am), mother, and (3) the whole of mankind in its final form is a Bride (Revelation 19:7). This also explains why "woman [a collective] comes from man [an individual]" and not the other way around (Genesis 2:22, 1 Corinthians 11:8).
The word מלכה (malka) does not simply describe a female king — i.e. a human female person who is in all matters of governance equal to (or dare we say: better than) her male counterparts — but emphasizes a government that at the core contains multiplicity. Since the dawn of civilization, enlightened peoples have understood that the deepest core of any government should always be one single law (male) that always works the same for everybody, and not the many opinions of corrupt, biased or easily influenced members (female). To science too there can only be one natural law (male), although it needs to be birthed by a whole lot of scientists (female). For any kind of justice or efficiency to exist, there cannot be any trace of duplicity (female) at the supremacy level.
The word מלכה (malka) mostly occurs in plural in the Bible and mostly refers to "ladies of the court," which in our modern age would translate as political parties. The only time that this word refers to ladies in Israel is in the Song of Solomon 6:8-9, where the king of Jerusalem praises his bride and notices sixty "queens" and eighty "concubines," which obviously refers to elements of government (perhaps provinces and vassal states). The singular form of our word is used to describe queens Vashti and Esther (Esther 1:9, 2:22), who were obviously firmly subject to their king, much like a modern cabinet would be. The only real sovereign queen mentioned in the Bible is the Queen of Sheba, who nevertheless rushed to Solomon for wisdom and was left "spiritless" (and impregnated according to extra-Biblical legend) and full of awe of Solomon's wisdom and the benevolent effect his rule had on his people (1 Kings 10:1-10).
Which leaves the pressing mystery of why the Masoretes considered the first part of our name, מלכת (meleket), to be a different word and not the same as מלכה (malka), queen or court lady. Many of the best and brightest since have pondered this puzzle, but no major insight has been able to wrought any sort of consensus. Here at Abarim Publications we don't know either, of course, but it seems clear to us that:
- At the heart of any society should exist one single unified set of Law that in principle cannot change — but unfortunately sometimes has to. No Law is just, or stable, until it is in harmony with the eternal law of nature. Finding this harmony and composing a just human law is the job of prophets.
- The King (whether boy or girl, president or chair-person, ribosomes or mRNA) embodies and vocalizes the Law (hence too Nehemiah 8).
- The Queen debates and challenges the Law which the King embodies (hence too 1 Corinthians 14:35).
This is a pretty fair arrangement, but what happens when the King dies and is not succeeded? Then the Queen Widow will have no access to the Law because there will be no one to vocalize it for her. If she nevertheless stays Queen, and keeps debating and challenging the Law, while she has no access to a proper vocalization of the Law, she will certainly attract all sorts of slimy suitors to corrupt her, and eventually spiral into echolalia or explication ad nauseam. Israel's demand for a king coincided with a period in which prophecies were rare (1 Samuel 3:1), and Israel's wisdom tradition mushroomed into the colossal library of Jewish lore when her last kings were murdered (Matthew 23:13). Our modern world is likewise governed by a bowl of legal and religious spaghetti and has likewise lost all sense of absolute justice. Hence Babylon the Great says, "I sit as a queen and I am not a widow" (Revelation 18:7).
If we here at Abarim Publications would have to bet, we would bet that the word מלכת (meleket) means Queen Widow, rather than simply Queen.
The final part of our name, שמים (shamayim), is a plural word that means heaven(s). Most people in antiquity agreed that the heavens not only contained the sun, moon and stars but was somehow also the abode of the deity. But the idea that the virtuous go to heaven upon their death is a purely Christian invention and not Biblical. The Bible speaks of a resurrection on earth, and a New Jerusalem on earth. Even the elect 144,000 get to stand on Mount Zion, which is on earth (Revelation 14:1), and the Creator will be enthroned among his people, on earth (Revelation 22:3-5).
To people who don't understand that nature is governed by a singular, unchanging set of rules, nature seems deeply chaotic and at the mercy of forces that are wildly at odds with each other. If these forces are then deified, these people will quickly come down with a belief in warring and utterly unpleasant gods. In other words: heaven to the ancients was a place where personified forces, much stronger than any human, slugged out their differences. To the ancient polytheists, the gods were awful beasts whose divine fury slaughtered entire tribes as a matter of collateral damage. The ancient gods were violent and, significantly, wholly indifferent to human suffering, and the only chance of survival the ancients had was to butter these things up with offerings and homage.
Ultimately, the heart of polytheism is defeatism and victimhood. The heart of monotheism is mastery and stewardship. That's the difference.
The worship of a deity called Melecheth-hashamayim, or Queen of the Heavens, reflects an utter surrender to ignorance and impotence. The "heaven"-part suggests an embrace of polytheism, which in turn negates the primary character of both creation and its Creator, and leaves the believer an addict to hopeless victimhood. Conveniently though, such believers are very easy to herd together, control and pillage from, which explains why the world's plunder class promotes bogus belief systems and superhero movies.
The "queen"-part of our name suggests something even more morbid, namely a regression from monotheism, and that due to the death (or rejection) of the King, the one who vocalized the Law, and who was once deeply desired and intimately known.
Long ago, when humankind lived in the wild, knowhow meant the difference between life and death. Sharing properly verified information with a neighboring tribe made the whole hood more secure, which is why in deep antiquity everybody taught everybody else. But in a wealthy and stable society, life is so secure that people's ignorance won't directly kill them, and the need to be truthful is no longer as urgent. This in turn leads to a lively trade in all sorts of sugar coated garbage, and while there's nothing wrong with a good yarn or a thrilling piece of fiction, things quickly take a turn to the much worse when the tether to truth is severed in favor of a shiny lie.
What cancer is to the body, Melecheth-hashamayim is to the mind.