Israel’s monarchy arose in specific circumstances. In the ancient Near East, most nations were monarchies ruled by a king. Most cultures practiced polygamy, so a king often had several wives. This posed problems. Whom should the people honor as queen? And, more importantly, whose son should receive the right of succession?

In most cultures, these problems were resolved by a single custom. The woman honored as queen was not the king’s wife, but his mother. The custom served as a stabilizing factor. As wife of the former king and mother to the present king, the queen-mother embodied dynastic continuity.

This played out historically at the beginning of King David’s dynasty. His first successor, Solomon, reigned with his mother, Bathsheba, at his right hand. “Gebirah” (“Great Lady”) was an office with real authority. “So Bathsheba went to King Solomon. … And the king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her … and she sat on his right hand” (1 Kings 2:19).

Notice that Solomon rose from his throne when his mother entered. This makes the queen-mother unique among the royal subjects. Anyone else would rise in Solomon’s presence; even the king’s wives were required to bow before him (1 Kings 1:16). What do Solomon’s actions tell us about his mother’s status?

First, his power is not threatened by her. He bows, but he remains monarch. She sits at his right hand, and not vice versa. Clearly he was in the habit of honoring her requests — not out of legal obligation, but rather out of filial love. When Adonijah first approaches Bathsheba to beg her intercession, he says, “Pray ask King Solomon — he will not refuse you” (1 Kings 2:17).

He relied on her, too, to be his chief counselor. Chapter 31 of the Book of Proverbs provides an illustration of this. Introduced as “[t]he words of Lemuel, king of Massa, which his mother taught him” (v. 1), the chapter goes on to give practical instruction in governance. The queen-mother could be counted on for frankness. She was unique in her relationship to the king.

When prophets foretold the restoration of the House of David, they always predicted a new “gebirah” bearing the infant king (see Isaiah 7:14 and Micah 5:2).

As David established a holy city in Jerusalem, so his ultimate successor would create a heavenly Jerusalem, where his mother would reign at his right hand, clothed with the sun, crowned with 12 stars (signifying the 12 tribes of Israel), and with the moon at her feet.

As David’s first successor reigned beside his queen-mother, so would David’s final and everlasting successor. The Davidic monarchy finds its perfect fulfillment in the reign of Jesus.

Only with this Davidic key can we unlock the mysteries of this month’s great feasts, the Assumption on August 15 and the Queenship of Mary, a week later on August 22. Celebrate both with an awareness that God planned them from the beginning of King David’s monarchy — and, indeed, from the beginning of time.