Family in the Bible

Family in the Bible

Site: Rock Family

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There is pressure from all sides to reinvent the definition of what family means. But how is family described in the Bible? Because the Bible is God's word, and what God says is important, so let's play connect the dots.

God cares (pays great attention to) our family relationships/​blood connections/​biological heritage:
Genesis 2:22  hub
Genesis 6:18  hub
Genesis 12:2-3  hub
Genesis 17:6  hub
Genesis 17:16  hub
Genesis 17:20  hub
There's a warning and a promise built into the second of the 10 Commandments:
Exodus 20:4-6  hub
First let's discuss the promise. That's some promise. "A thousand generations" is a long time. If we say a generation is even as low as 15 years, that would be 15,000 years. And remember that God gave the 10 Commandments hundreds of years after Abraham:
Genesis 12:4  hub
Genesis 15:5-6  hub
Genesis 18:11  hub
Genesis 21:5  hub
And hundreds of years after the 10 Commandments, God was still bragging about Abraham, a man who had loved God, taken Him seriously, and kept His commands:
Isaiah 41:8  hub
And still hundreds of years after Isaiah, we find Jesus discussing "heirs" with his opponents:
Matthew 22:41-46  hub
Continuing the promise of family importance, God doubled down the promise to Abraham to Abraham's descendent, David.
2 Samuel 7:12-16  hub
These promises are (at least one of the reasons) why it's so important that Matthew and Luke preserved Jesus's lineage:
Matthew 1:1  hub
Luke 3:31-34  hub
God made some huge promises to Abraham, and either God had to keep those promises or He'd be either a liar or incompetent. The genealogies help prove that God fulfilled those promises. By showing the direct biological (family) connection from Adam to David to Jesus, this demonstrates God's integrity and character.

Next let's discuss that warning we read in the second of the 10 Commandments. At first God may seem harsh. Punishing the children? Why? Because kids are naturally like their parents. There are many times in the Bible where a leader made poor choices and his descendents kept up the tradition and even did worse. Sometimes even bragging they'd do worse than their parents. Because if dad did it then it must be ok for me to do it too. It's very hard for someone on the outside of that father/​son relationship to step in and say "what your dad did was horrible, and son you'd better do the opposite." So God's not picking on kids, He's saying He knows human nature:
Genesis 8:21  hub
Despite our crudeness/​callousness, our Creator obviously cares greatly for His creation, especially the children. He said so himself multiple times when He visited us in person:
Isaiah 54:13  hub
Mark 10:13-16  hub
Matthew 18:1-7  hub
Matthew 18:10-14  hub
Luke 17:1-4  hub
Acts 2:39  hub
Family is also clearly important to God because He describes Himself in familial terms:

Heavenly Father:
Matthew 5:48  hub
(Plus 5 more references in Matthew, though this exact phrase is not found in any other books. Matthew uses other terms no other gospel writer uses, including "church" and "kingdom of heaven".)

Son of God:
Mark 1:1  hub
Matthew 4:6  hub
Luke 3:22  hub
Luke 4:41  hub
John 20:31  hub
Acts 9:20  hub
1 John 4:15  hub
My Father:
Matthew 7:21  hub
Matthew 26:39  hub
Luke 10:22  hub
John 8:54  hub
Our Father:
Matthew 6:9-15  hub
Still more family highlights:
Deuteronomy 8:5  hub
Deuteronomy 32:6  hub
Deuteronomy 32:11  hub
Isaiah 1:2  hub
Isaiah 49:15  hub
Isaiah 64:8  hub
Isaiah 66:13  hub
Jeremiah 31:9  hub
Jeremiah 31:32  hub
Hosea 11:3-4  hub
Matthew 12:50  hub
Matthew 23:37  hub
John 5:17-18  hub
Galatians 3:26  hub
Ephesians 3:14-15  hub
2 Corinthians 6:18  hub
1 John 1:3  hub
Clearly if we lose our understanding of Earthly family then our ability to relate to God will be damaged.
John 3:12  hub

Notice how the Bible records the first 2 words God ever said directly to humanity:
Genesis 1:28  hub
And the theme never lets up:
Genesis 9:1  hub
Genesis 9:7  hub
Malachi 2:15  hub
How are we to accomplish this? The solution is pretty simple:
Genesis 3:16  hub
Genesis 3:20  hub
Genesis 4:1  hub
Genesis 4:17  hub
Genesis 16:4  hub
Luke 1:30-35  hub
There is only one way to fulfill the command God gave us. It has been observed scientifically that only living things are capable of producing more life. And there is an important technicality here:
Genesis 1:27  hub
Genesis 5:2  hub
Genesis 6:19  hub
The distinction of male and female is not trivial and not to be dismissed. Each has a very specific purpose in the circle of life (and therefore, in a family) and confusing the two is counterproductive. A person is born either male or female, and when they cause a baby to be conceived they also become either father or mother, respectively. God gave us a framework within which parenting is supposed to exist:
Genesis 2:18  hub
Genesis 2:24-25  hub
Exodus 21:10  hub
1 Corinthians 7:2-3  hub
1 Corinthians 7:8-9  hub
Hebrews 13:4  hub
Not just any pair of male and female are supposed to pump out babies. With the use of the keyword "wife" in Genesis 2:24, the concept of marriage begins as early as day 6 of creation, making this social custom/​tradition as old as humanity itself. God specifically made woman for man, and He gave one woman to the one man. God points out in Exodus 21:10 (and Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 7) that making babies is a unique function of marriage (not love, lust, employment, friendship, nor any other relationship).

Making babies is a command from God, but the activity is only permitted in a very narrow spectrum of all our social relationships. It is supposed to be in a unique relationship. The definition of family is supposed to be so tight that the only 2 ways out of a family are either to leave your birth family to go start a new family of your own, or death:
Genesis 2:24  hub
Romans 7:1-3  hub
1 Corinthians 7:39  hub
Once you've made the choice to create a new family, there is only one excuse to choose to undo it...
Matthew 19:3-12  hub
...and one other exception is recorded as permitted in scripture:
1 Corinthians 7:15  hub
In the narrow circumstances of death, infidelity, and cross-worldview abandonment, remarriage is perfectly fine. (Remarriage is explicitly approved in Romans 7:3 and 1 Corinthians 7:8-9,39. And 1 Timothy 3:2 ESV can easily be interpreted as "one at a time".) But for the rest of us, family creation is supposed to be one way, not a revolving door:
Exodus 20:14  hub
Leviticus 20:10  hub
Malachi 2:15  hub
Hebrews 13:4  hub
Marital faithfulness is such an important concept that God included it in both the 7th and 10th Commandments and then rephrased for us sinners when He visited in person:
Exodus 20:17  hub
Matthew 5:27-28  hub
The trick is not in being divorced, it's the choice. If you spouse leaves you for someone else, or leaves against your will, that's different than you choosing to abandon your spouse. It's not hard to understand why Jesus's disciples balked when they heard Jesus's narrow interpretation of divorce (Matthew 19:10). This is why it's so important to make a good choice of who you want to marry up front. (Note there is no Biblically defined timeline for courtship, the point is spiritual alignment. For some couples this takes a long courtship to conclude, some have proven they can conclude quickly, and some have proven were incompetent to determine even after many dates.) Our Creator cares deeply about each of us, so it's perfectly normal He cares who we marry:
Exodus 34:15-16  hub
Deuteronomy 7:3-4  hub
Proverbs 31:30  hub
Malachi 2:11-12  hub
1 Corinthians 7:39  hub
2 Corinthians 6:14  hub
The only kind of people who believe opposite our worldview who will attract us as a mate are people who are strong enough to turn us from ours. Because we aren't attracted to losers. That's one of the key reasons why it's so dangerous to allow ourselves to be attracted to anyone with a different worldview.

When we read God's word and take it seriously it's clear that God gives us limits for our protection and for our benefit. This is why He cares who we marry, because he wants the best for us. As an example of God caring about our family line, there's even a command that may seem pretty strange at first, at least to a 21st Century American. The key is the second half of verse 6, beginning with "so that".
Deuteronomy 25:5-10  hub
As a result of being man's helper (Genesis 2:18) it's very common for a woman to look for a man to "fix." The Disney movie Rapunzel was one of the best examples, where the beauty of the heroine's body and mind alone caused the proud rebel/​thief/​criminal to change into a domesticated gentleman, without even any need for training! But the character transformation of the hero was as much fantasy as the heroine's magic golden hair (Genesis 3:16 b). There is a fine line between looking for a person whose gaps you fill (good) and looking for someone who's terribly broken to prove to the world how awesome of a fixer you are. It's finer than we'd like to admit.

Starting a family is easy. Raising one is a different matter entirely. This is why so many movies focus on the former and sitcoms focus on the later. Our Creator continues to care what we do after we marry, and after we've caused babies to be born:
Deuteronomy 6:6-7  hub
Deuteronomy 8:5  hub
Deuteronomy 11:19  hub
Deuteronomy 24:5  hub
Proverbs 20:7  hub
Proverbs 22:6  hub
Joel 1:3  hub
Malachi 2:15  hub
Matthew 18:21-22  hub
Ephesians 5:22-33  hub
Ephesians 6:4  hub
1 Timothy 3:4  hub
Raising kids is hard. Really hard. That's why there's the old saying "it takes a village to raise a child." And that saying is why when you drive down the highway you can see signs that say "childhood home of [someone famous]", because the culture of the town (of all the other parents in the community) influenced the character of how that now famous person grew up. This is also one reason it's detrimental for the majority of women to work full time. When all the men and all the women work full time, who's got time to raise the kids? (This is a generalization and a truism, it isn't meant to pick an argument.) I heard a great quote by the wife of Dr. Richard Swinson: "no success anywhere makes up for failure at home." This warning of course applies to both men and women. There's nothing magic about men working and women not, I'm just saying the Bible sets a clear example for us of gender identity and it's counterproductive for us to burden women with the responsibilities of men as well as their own. This doesn't mean women should be banned or anything like that. There's just a sad reality that there are negative consequences for society when most families have both parents working full time.

Many of the parents in the Bible had reason to be embarrassed by their kids:
Genesis 4:8  hub
Genesis 37:18,27  hub
1 Samuel 2:12  hub
1 Samuel 8:4-5  hub
2 Samuel 13-14  hub
Bill Cosby had a great short story about this back in the 1990s:

Whenever your kids are out of control, you can take comfort from the thought that even God's omnipotence did not extend to his kids. After creating heaven and earth, God created Adam and Eve. And the first thing God said to them was: "Don't"

"Don't what?" Adam asked.

"Don't eat the forbidden fruit," said God.

"Forbidden fruit? Really? Where is it?" Adam and Eve asked, jumping up and down excitedly.

"It's over there," said God, wondering why he hadn't stopped after making the elephants. A few minutes later God saw the kids having an apple break and he was very angry. "Didn't I tell you not to eat that fruit?" The First Parent asked.

"Uh huh," Adam replied.

"Then why did you do it?" God asked exasperatedly.

"I dunno, " Adam answered.

God's punishment was that Adam and Eve should have children of their own. Thus the pattern was set and it has never changed. But there is a reassurance in this story. If you have persistently and lovingly tried to give your children wisdom and they haven't taken it, don't be so hard on yourself. If God had trouble handling his children, what makes you think it should be a piece of cake for you?

Cosby's story is cute perspective in hindsight. But returning to the original, God used a best practice of warning His kids what His expectations were, the consequences of disobedience (Genesis 2:16-17), and then followed through on the first offense (Genesis 3:17-19, 3:23-24).

There are a few verses about disciplining children. Most of them were written by King Solomon (yes, the guy who's kids tore the kingdom apart). But still, he was called by God the wisest man who ever lived, so he deserves some credit. (Some advice is easier to give than to follow, and sadly not all advice works for everyone all the time.)
1 Kings 3:12  hub
Proverbs 13:24  hub
Proverbs 19:18  hub
Proverbs 22:15  hub
Proverbs 23:13-14  hub
Proverbs 29:15  hub
Proverbs 29:17  hub
Colossians 3:21  hub
Hebrews 12:7-11  hub
And then of course there's what Solomon's father, David, said:
Psalm 103:13  hub
Although Solomon and his sons were the textbook example of the warning in the 2nd commandment (described at the top of this page) it could easily be argued Solomon himself was fully responsible (1 Kings 11:9-12) rather than his kids. This doesn't mean God is vindictive. If He were, none of us would be here. It does mean He has the right not to help everyone all the time. And we sure need His help (Deuteronomy 30:20, Acts 17:25).

Do you remember the 5th Commandment? It's one of the least controversial:
Exodus 20:12  hub
It's easy to think this was the lone commandment to children. But this was given to adults and children alike. It's elaborated on multiple times:
Exodus 21:17  hub
Proverbs 23:22  hub
Mark 7:9-13  hub
Ephesians 6:1-3  hub
Colossians 3:20  hub
1 Timothy 5:4  hub
1 Timothy 5:8  hub
It's not surprising, because it reinforces these commands He gave us:
Deuteronomy 6:6-7  hub
Deuteronomy 11:19  hub
And by the way, men, it's all on us. We are the head of the family (Ephesians 5:23). Voddie Baucham summarizes our role as "the spiritual priest, the spiritual prophet, the physical provider, and the physical and spiritual protector of our households" (1 Timothy 3:1-15, Titus 1:6-9). Men should pray for our women, not prey on them. If your family is in ruins, you are the one who has to step up first to fix it (not your wife and not your kids). If your wife is crazy, maybe you're not innocent. The good news is, if you change yourself you just might be pleasantly amazed at the change in your wife. If your kids are crazy, I am all too aware of how toxic our culture is, but it's up to you to be teaching your kids about holiness (not self righteousness) to explicitly combat the toxicity of the culture (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Ezekiel 3:16-21). Teaching them in advance is much easier than after it's too late, and it's easier to lead by example than by hypocrisy. If this is too big a burden for you, then that's fine (Isaiah 56:4-5, Matthew 19:10, 1 Corinthians 7:1,8,25-28) but then don't cheat the system and go through the motions of having a girlfriend. And especially don't engage in the one activity that results in babies.

There's a recurring theme that God cares for widows and orphans. Guys (and girls) don't even think about abandoning your family. Single parents, God has sympathy, that wasn't His preference:
Isaiah 1:16-17  hub
Malachi 3:5  hub
James 1:27  hub
Relating to orphans, there's strong support for adoption in the Bible. For one, Moses, Israel's greatest leader, was adopted.
Exodus 2:10  hub
Esther 2:7  hub
Romans 8:15  hub
Ephesians 1:5  hub

So, all considered, is this the only definition of family? Certainly not, this is just the foundation, and each family is going to be very unique. But any ideal definition should include all this, and when we're teaching our kids we had sure better be teaching them to recognize and strive for the ideal. By the way, the idea of staying neutral ("respectful") and allowing our children to figure out their spirituality on their own? That's not noble, it's unbiblical. God specifically commanded us to teach our kids about who He is and what He's done.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7  hub
Deuteronomy 11:19  hub
Psalm 71:18  hub
Proverbs 22:6  hub
Joel 1:3  hub
Malachi 2:15  hub
Ephesians 6:4  hub
2 Timothy 2:2  hub
This isn't meant to guilt people who don't have a nuclear family. If that didn't work out for you then I'm truly sorry. But for the health of our posterity, our community, and our world we need to be ready to distinguish between the way our life turned out and the way it should, or could have. And if your family turned out awesome, that's cool. But recognize you're in the minority and this is not about us. It's about our Creator knowing what's best, and how He's gone out of His way to tell us in advance, hoping that we'd listen to Him.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20  hub
Jeremiah 29:11  hub
Because while believing in God is important, believing Him is even more.
James 2:19  hub
Matthew 7:21  hub
Last Modified: Friday, December 1, 2017

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