ADOPTION (Part 1 of 4)

IN THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES, WHERE IS THE FIRST INDICATION OF CHILDREN BEING ADOPTED?

“And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir” (Genesis 15:3).

LATER WE SEE CLEAR EXAMPLES OF ADOPTIONS IN OTHER PASSAGES.

In an all-time irony of how the LORD works his purpose (Rom. 8:2829), Moses the savior of the Jewish people, was reared in the house of the enemy of the Jews. Moses was the son of Amram and Yochebed of the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe. Miriam and Aaron were his brother and sister. He was born in Egypt during the period in which the Israelites (Hebrews) had become a threat to the Egyptians simply because of their large population. The Pharaoh had ordered that all newborn male Hebrew children be cast into the Nile to drown. Two things would be accomplished by this action: 1. The murder of the Hebrew male children would diminish that nation. 2. The Nile River god would accept the sacrifice at the same time.

Amram and Yochebed took their newborn son, placed him in a waterproof basket and hid him in the tall grasses of the Nile. Meanwhile, his sister Miriam hid and watched over the baby from a distance. A group of women and their servants were bathing nearby. Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him when he was just three months old. Moses’ parents did not want to give their child to the Egyptian princess, but if they had tried to keep him, they knew he would have died because of the Egyptian Pharaoh’s decree, that no Hebrew male child could live. The Pharaoh’s daughter, hearing the baby cry, found and rescued him. She named him “Moses,” meaning, “drawn from the water.” Her desire for a son fulfilled, she made certain that he had the best of everything, including education (Exo. 2:1-10 KJV).

Moses was brought up in the splendor of the Egyptian court as the Pharaoh’s daughter’s adopted son. Grown to manhood, he was aware of his Hebraic roots and shared a deep compassion for his oppressed relatives. He became furious while witnessing an Egyptian master brutally beating a Hebrew slave, and he impulsively killed the Egyptian. Fearing the Pharaoh’s punishment, he fled into the desert of Midian, becoming a shepherd for Jethro, a Midianite priest whose daughter Zipporah he later married. While tending the flocks on Horeb Mountain in the wilderness, he saw a bush burning yet not turning to ash. He heard a voice from within the bush telling him that he had been chosen to serve as one to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. God told Moses to declare the unity of God to his people. At that time most Israelites were worshipping the many gods of the Egyptians. Moses was to tell them that there was only one God (Exo. 3:12-15).

The tremendous responsibility of Moses’s task, his feeling of inadequacy because of his own position as a shepherd, and his inability to speak well, brought forth a hesitancy and lack of confidence. The Divine answer was “Who made man’s mouth?” He was then assured that Aaron, his brother, could speak well and would serve as his spokesman both to the children of Israel and to the Pharaoh. The promised destination for the Israelites’ journey was a “land flowing with milk and honey.”

What was the “time” in which Moses was born? What political events had transpired? Stephen in Acts 7:1-60 gives those details precisely.

“But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, 18 Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph. 19 The same dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live 20 In which time Moses was born, and was exceeding fair, and nourished up in his father’s house three months: 21 And when he was cast out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son. 22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds” (Acts 7:17-22 KJV).

What cruelties did the children of Israel endure at the hands of the Egyptians?

“…. And they (the Israelite slaves) met Moses and Aaron, who stood in the way, as they came forth from Pharaoh: 21 And they said unto them, The Lord look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us. 22 And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me? 23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all” (Exo. 3:6-9Exo. 5:6-23 KJV).

ULTIMATELY, MOSES REJECTED HIS ADOPTIVE FAMILY. CONSIDER FOR A MOMENT TWO REASONS FOR HIS ACTIONS.

  1. Is there any reason to believe Moses disliked his adopted family?
  2. Had he been abused or neglected?
  3. Did he want to leave Egypt for material advantage?
  4. Why did Moses choose to leave Egypt?
  5. Did he know he was adopted and simply want to go back to his own people?
  6. What was the stated reason for his rejecting his adoptive family?

“By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward” (Heb. 11:24-25 KJV).

He first chose God’s people because of the Egyptian slave driver, who made him to flee from Egypt into the land of Midean. Later, Moses deliberately chose his people because they were God’s people. God planned to bring the Christ through the nation of Israel.  He must have learned from God himself about the eternal reward God had for his people or he would not have had respect unto the recompense of the reward.

HELP FOR OUR HUMAN FRAILTIES

In Mark 9:14-29, we read of the boy that Jesus healed, who had a deaf and dumb spirit and who often had fits.  Jesus asked the father whether he believed the boy could be healed and the father cried out and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

Words could not express that piercing emotion—that deep-seated need for help to overcome his human frailties.

I have often thought of the pitiful concubine in Judges 19 whose frailties caused her to run away from her husband and back to her home.  In her father’s house she had affection and familiar things that made life easier, but the Lord says she was unfaithful.

Did she make vows when her father sold her?

What happened that caused her to run away?

We are not told those things, but we know she was at least “unfaithful” to the covenant her father made with her new owner.

She did not run off with a lover.

She ran home!

Not only did she lack faith, but she also was not submissive.   Judges 19:2 says, “And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father’s house to Bethlehemjudah and was there four whole months.”

Those strong words define the frailties that made up her character.

On the other hand, Sarah was blessed to have a “familiar friend” and a brother who became her husband. The new land and the people were strange to her, but her husband was the solid rock that brought her through it all.

“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecc. 4:9-12).

THIS is yet another reason why one’s life companion must be chosen carefully and must be a disciple of Christ (2 Cor. 6:4). Many young people find someone who is “in the church,” but fail to realize that not all church members are children of God (Matt. 13:38-40).

THE PRICE OF A LIFE

As a teen in high school, I became an avid reader, fascinated by the earliest of English literature with its accounts of the surfs and lords—presumably displaced Christians running from persecution—willing to serve in order to live. My curiosity and imagination went beyond my classmates’ because of Biblical accounts I related to the literature. Terms like “man price” and “wergild” immediately conjured relationships to Biblical laws regarding “cities of refuge” or the “avengers of blood.”

A classic literary example of a dispute over the wergild of a slave is contained in Iceland’s Egil’s Saga.

In the Story of Grettir the Strong, chapter 27, “The Suit for the Slaying of Thorgils Makson”, Thorgeir conveys to court Thorgils Arison’s offer of wergild as atonement for killing Thorgils Makson.

We read in the epic poem, Beowulf, a hero of the Geats in Scandinavia, that he comes to the aid of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, whose mead hall (in Heorot) has been under attack by a monster known as Grendel. Beowulf paid wergild from his father to Hrothgar by killing the monster Grendel and his mother. Grendel and his mother were believed to be descended from Cain. After Beowulf slays him, Grendel’s mother attacks the hall and is then also defeated. Victorious, Beowulf goes home to Geatland in Sweden and later becomes king of the Geats. After a period of fifty years has passed, Beowulf defeats a dragon, but is fatally wounded in the battle. After his death, his attendants bury him in a tumulus, a burial mound, in Geatland.


Fair Use and Attribution

The modern novel, The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, is another example of “man price” being paid. The journal of Isildur reveals that he was justified taking the One Ring as a wergild for the deaths of his father and brother in battle. Appendix A of The Return of the King also mentions a rich wergild of gold sent by Turin II, Steward of Gondor, to King Folcwine of Rohan, after the death of his twin sons in battle.

How do these secular accounts relate to Christian evidences and our need to see where these practices originated?

CITIES OF REFUGE

Six Levitical cities were set aside to provide shelter and safety for those guilty of manslaughter. Of the 48 cities assigned to the Levites, six were designated as cities of refuge, three on either side of the Jordan River (Numbers 35:6-7; Joshua 20:7-8). The three cities of refuge west of the Jordan were KEDESH in Galilee, in the mountains of Naphtali (Joshua 20:7; Joshua 21:32); SHECHEM, in the mountains of Ephraim (Joshua 20:7; Joshua 21:21; 1 Chronicles 6:67); and HEBRON, also known as KIRJATH ARBA, in the mountains of Judah (Joshua 20:7).

The three cities east of the Jordan River were BEZER, in the wilderness on the plateau, or plain, of Moab, and assigned to the tribe of Reuben (Deuteronomy 4:43; Joshua 20:8; Joshua 21:36), RAMOTH GILEAD, or Ramoth in Gilead, from the tribe of Gad (Deuteronomy 4:43; Joshua 20:8; Joshua 21:38); and GOLAN, in Bashan, from the half-tribe of Manasseh (Deuteronomy 4:43; Joshua 20:8; Joshua 21:27).

In the ancient Near East if a person were killed, it was the custom that the nearest relative became the “avenger of blood” (Numbers 35:19; Numbers 35:21-27; Deuteronomy 19:12). It became his duty to slay the slayer. However, if a person killed another accidentally or unintentionally, the cities of refuge were provided as an asylum, “that by fleeing to one of these cities he might live” (Deuteronomy 4:42).

The regulations concerning these cities are found in Numbers 35; Deuteronomy 19:1-13, and Joshua 20. If the manslayer reached a city of refuge before the avenger of blood could slay him, he was given a fair trial and provided asylum until the death of the high priest. After that the manslayer was permitted to return home; but if he left the city of refuge before the death of the high priest, he was subject to death at the hands of the avenger of blood.

According to Scripture, who or what was the avenger of blood?

Deuteronomy 19:12—Then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die.

Joshua 20:3—That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.

Joshua 20:5—And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime.

Joshua 20:9—These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them, that whosoever killeth any person at unawares might flee thither, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation.

What were the cities of refuge?

Numbers 35:11—Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares.

Numbers 35:14—Ye shall give three cities on this side Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge.

Joshua 20:2—Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses:

1 Chronicles 6:67—And they gave unto them, of the cities of refuge, Shechem in mount Ephraim with her suburbs; they gave also Gezer with her suburbs,

COMPARING OURSELVES AMONG OURSELVES

There can only be two outcomes if we compare ourselves with another human being: Either we are proud that we are better than he is, or we are embarrassed and ashamed and tempted to be envious of him.

Love envies not (1 Cor. 13:4).
Love is happy for another person’s gain (Jonathan with David).
Hate is envious of another’s gain (Saul with David).

GOD TELLS US TO EXAMINE OURSELVES TO SEE HOW WE MEASURE UP TO THE “RULE” OF CHRIST’S HEART.

WHAT SHOULD EVERY CHRISTIAN’S MEASURING STICK BE?

Continue reading COMPARING OURSELVES AMONG OURSELVES