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Adopted People in the Bible

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By faitha - Posted on 20 May 2009

BibleA reader would like to hear about “those in the bible adopted by someone not their mother.” Because studying and debating the Bible is one of my hobbies, I thought this would be a fun topic to discuss.

Of course, you are not going to find adoption decrees or home studies in the Bible. Imagine a world without ICPC requirements … ahhh … but I digress…

The first person to come to mind would be Moses. Pharaoh had ordered the midwives to kill all of the Hebrew baby boys when they were born, so Moses’ mother hid her baby for three months. The mother placed baby Moses in a basket where Pharaoh’s daughter bathed in the Nile. Pharaoh’s daughter found the baby, adopted him, and raised Moses as her son. See Exodus 2.

Jesus was also technically involved in step-parent adoption because God Himself was the father. Mary was already pregnant with Jesus when she married Joseph. Joseph, who was a carpenter, raised Jesus as his son, and Jesus was known as “the carpenter’s son.” See Matthew 13:53-57.

Next, we have Ruth who was esteemed by her mother-in-law Naomi but who was really viewed more like a daughter. Naomi would refer to Ruth as “my daughter.” (See Ruth 3:16-18.) When Ruth had a baby, she laid the baby on Naomi’s lap as a symbol of Naomi adopting the baby:

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son … Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. The women living there said, "Naomi has a son." ~ Ruth 4:13, 16-17

Adopting babies appears much earlier in the Bible than even these stories. When Jacob married two sisters, sibling rivalry ran amuck. Jacob loved Rachel more, but Leah bore him children while Rachel was barren. So, Rachel told Jacob to “lie with” her handmaiden, and Rachel adopted her children:

So [Rachel] gave [Jacob] her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, and she became pregnant and bore him a son. Then Rachel said, "God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son." Because of this she named him Dan. ~ Genesis 30:4-6

Yes, the Bible includes all sorts of adoptive relationships, even friendships that grow to be more like brothers:

After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father's house. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt. ~ I Samuel 18:1-4

Even Jesus saw others as his “mother and brothers” who were not blood-relatives. He defined this relationship in a different way:

Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you." "Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother." ~ Mark 3:31-34

The Bible contains many examples of adoptive relationships. What makes us family is not our blood but our common bond and relationship.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

Rakefet's picture

Another really good example is Queen Esther who was adopted by her cousin Mordecai:
Here is the quote from Esther 2:7
"He had brought up Hadassah, that is Esther, the daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother; the maiden was beautiful and lovely, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai adopted her as his own daughter."

We celebrated my daughter's bat mitzvah this past Purim and she participated in the reading of the scroll of Esther. I pointed out to her that she and Esther had both been adopted.