Adoptions in the Bible

In the Bible, there are several different examples of "adoption" (or adoption-like) relationships. Learn about them here.

Human Adoptions

Abraham had a son named "Ishmael" with Hagar (one of the family slaves). At first, Sarah (Abraham's wife) accepted Ishmael as something like an "adopted" son; but later, Sarah also gave birth to a son with Abraham, named "Isaac". After Isaac's birth, Hagar and Ishmael were sent away: Ishmael was no longer accepted as some type of "adopted" son by Sarah (Genesis 16:1-16; 21:1-21).

Moses was "adopted" by the daughter of the "Pharoah" (official title of the Egyptian monarch) (Exodus 1:8-2:10). This was the goal of the birth mother of Moses, as a desperate attempt to save Moses from an order issued by Pharoah to kill all male Hebrew children. After Moses was grown, Pharoah became angry with Moses and tried to have Moses killed, effectively ending the "adoption" (Exodus 2:11-15).

The prophet Samuel grew up with the priest Eli (1 Samuel 1:1-3:21). His biological parents came to see him on holy days. It seems to me to be very much like a child that has gone away to something like a "boarding school". We don't typically think of the principal of such a school as having "adopted" the children in the school; but the children are somewhat "parented" by principal, teachers, etc.

David was "adopted" into King Saul's household; and Saul's son by birth, Jonathon, loved David as much as he (Jonathon) loved himself (1 Samuel 17:55-18:15). However, King Saul soon became jealous of David, and wanted to kill David (1 Samuel 18:6-11 (this actually continues the rest of Saul's life; but this is enough to see that Saul began to want to kill David)). Although Saul turned against David, Jonathon continued to love David. Sadly, Jonathon stayed with Saul; and both of them died the same day, in a battle against the Philistines (1 Samuel 31:1-6).

Solomon judged a dispute between two women where one woman had kidnapped the other woman's child and was apparently planning to raise the child as her own (1 Kings 3:16-28).

Hadad, an Edomite, was accepted into Pharoah's household as a child; and his son, Genubath, lived in Pharoah's household along with Pharoah's sons by birth. Hadad went to Egypt to escape the attacks of the Israelites on Edom, and was an enemy of King Solomon (1 Kings 11:14-20).

As mentioned on this website on the webpage titled "Miracles of Elijah and Elisha" (this page will open in a new window), Elisha became very much like an "adopted" son of Elijah. Elisha left his parents by birth to go with Elijah; and Elisha inherited from Elijah a "double portion" of the spirit of Elijah, along with Elijah's clothes. Such an inheritance was reserved for the firstborn son (1 Kings 19:19-21; 2 Kings 2:9-14).

Esther, also known as "Hadassah" (her Babylonian name) was adopted by her cousin Mordecai after her biological parents died (Esther 2:5-7).

Yeshua (Jesus) was born by the virgin Mary, as a miracle of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18-25 (includes reference to Isaiah 7:14); Luke 1:26-35). Joseph (a carpenter) married Mary, and accepted Jesus as his own son (Matthew 13:55; John 6:42).

While Yeshua (Jesus) was on the cross, He declared John (His disciple) and Mary (His mother by birth) to be mother and son. Since Mary was not John's mother by birth, this would effectively be an adoption (John 19:26-27).

Paul the Apostle treated Timothy (1 Timothy 1:2-18; 2 Timothy 1:2) and Onesimus (Philemon 1:10) as his sons. Paul referred to Titus both as a "son" (Titus 1:4) and a "brother" (2 Corinthians 2:13).

Adoption by Yehovah (God)

As a group, Yehovah (God) treats the nation of Israel as His "firstborn son" (e.g. Exodus 4:22-23; Hosea 11:1-2). However, Israel is actually adopted by God, because God chose Israel (Deuteronomy 7:6-8; Romans 9:3-8, especially Romans 9:4,8).

Individually, in Psalm 68:5, we are told that God is the Father of the "fatherless". Yeshua (Jesus) told those of us that belong to God that we should not call any earthly man our "father"--that we should be "fatherless" with regard to earthly fathers--because we all have one Father, Yehovah (God), who is in Heaven (Matthew 23:9).


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