Sunrise in Giglio Veroli

Sunrise in Giglio Veroli

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Adoption in the Jewish Bible

Adoption in the Jewish Bible
We had a wonderful past 4 days in the beach city of Sorrento. We sampled lots of Lemon stuff, took a white-knuckle bus ride to Amalfi, traversed through Naples, visited Pompeii, and saw more 2000 year old paintings and mosaics then I ever knew existed. It was a great family trip and a memorable week. It was capped by watching Stanford take apart Virginia Tech, a big win for a very impressive team, Go Cardinal!

The theme for this sabbatical has been family and lately I have been trying to get a better handle on what Paul meant when he speaks about Adoption. Paul has some very intriguing ideas of what we receive through a relationship with Jesus, a unique, prevailing image is adoption. Last week we looked into Greco-Roman practices as those were a big part of the culture Paul lived in. This time though, we will delve into the Jewish Scriptures which were equally, if not more important in Paul’s worldview.

To begin, Adoption is not a major image in the Jewish Bible. We will see a few instances of it. Even though they are from some of the major stories of the Bible, they are few and far between. Paul however, knew his scriptures well and there is no question that he was familiar with each of these major adoption images.

The first images of adoptions are merely implied. Abraham and Sarah have left their home in Ur to go to the promised land as God called them to. The promise is descendents, land, and a special relationship with the living God. The challenge though, they were old and had no children. Sarai comes up with an interesting idea in Gen 16:2
and Sarai said to Abram, “You see that the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave-girl; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.
this whole story does not go well for Sarai, or for the the slave-girl. ( the child born to Hagar is called Ishmael and there is a whole story that goes along with it- see Gen 16 for those interested)

The next instance is much clearer. At the end of Genesis the Jacob/Israel has travelled to Egypt to live with Joseph. Jacob makes this statement to Joseph in Gen 48:5-6:
Therefore your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are now mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are. As for the offspring born to you after them, they shall be yours. They shall be recorded under the names of their brothers with regard to their inheritance.
These 2 tribes continue to be named as children of Jacob/Israel from that moment on. This is a clear example of adoption.

The next clear adoption statement comes in Egypt as well, albeit 400 years later. In the beginning of the Exodus, we see Moses as a baby being floated on the water to avoid being killed. It is the daughter of Pharoah who finds him and takes him as her son, “ When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses,a “because,” she said, “I drew him outb of the water.”
A significant part of the Moses story is this adoption as he is a son of Abraham raised as a son of Pharoah.

The only other clear instance of adoption in the Jewish Bible is Esther 2:7, 15
Mordecaib had brought up Hadassah, that is Esther, his cousin, for she had neither father nor mother; the girl was fair and beautiful, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai adopted her as his own daughter.
...Esther daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had adopted her as his own daughter, ...

Both of these scriptures clearly show Mordecai’s care of his niece Esther who was an orphan by adopting her.

There are other possible instances of adoption in other Bible stories, but they are only possible and not probable or implicit. They include all stories where a man is given a daughter in marriage, that was one of the blessing/duties of an adopted son. As well stories like Ruth where the child of Ruth is considered a child of Naomi.

The last scripture we will tackle at this juncture could possibly be the most important one. It takes place when David decides he wants to build a house for God (a temple.) God puts the big kebash on that idea, but in the process offers an incredible promise to David, one that figures in big in the Messianic hopes. Here is part of it, from 2 Sam 7:11b-16:
and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. But I will not takeb my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me;c your throne shall be established forever.
Here we see an offspring of David being considered a son of God. God affims that the son will be a biological descendent of David (who shall come forth from your body) but also just a clearly affirms his own fathership and the child’s sonship. Some scholars see in this a whole adoption formula that Paul might have been drawing from, others don’t see anything of the kind.

A key idea here, though, is the powerful image of God being the father of Israel. Certainly the image of God as father is very strong in the New Testament. It is a very powerful theme as well in the Jewish Bible, that will be the topic for next week.

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff Doug, though just to prove that I was reading carefully and paying attention - I'm wondering why you said 'Mordecai's care of his NIECE Esther' if the scripture says that HER dad was HIS uncle? I'm confused! Chris D.