A Handbook of Bible Law - Family law & relationships

Copyright 1991 by Charles A. Weisman. 2nd Edition: Aug., 1992; 3rd Edition: Dec., 1994

Family law & relationships

Comments: The term 'family,' as it occurs in the English Bible, is nearly always the translation of the Hebrew word mishpachah, which properly means 'clan,' although it is often used in the narrower sense of 'family.' The word bayith, or 'house' is on occasion rendered 'family' and in other cases makes inference to the household or family.

The head of the family or house was the patriarch or father, as is represented by the frequently occurring phrases, "my father's house," or "Joseph's house," etc. The father directed and controlled the religious course of the family or household, as Joshua declared, "but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Josh. 24:15).

The legitimacy and birthright of a child was derived from the father., not from the mother. The weaning of a child, especially the first-born or heir, was the occasion of festivities (Gen. 21:8). Likewise the birthright was gained or passed on by some official act or 'blessing' by the father upon the heir (Gen. 48:8-20).

The family is a type of small community, and its success and orderly existence demands that certain duties and responsibilities be performed on the part of its members, especially of the parents. As Blackstone states:

"The most universal relation in nature is that between parent and child... The duties of parents to legitimate children principally consist in three particulars; their maintenance, theirprotection, and their education "' (1 B1. Comm. 446).

The duty towards education of the young was regarded of the greatest importance. All the children, both boys and girls, were under the tutelage of the woman of the house until the boys gradually came to be more closely attached to the men, and then were taught by them the knowledge of the profession from which the family gained its livelihood, as is still done today.

The father and mother were the chief foundations of knowledge and authority (Prov. 1:8; 4:1-4; 6:20; et seq.). In well-to-do families, nurses (2 Sam. 4:4) and instructors, or tutors (2 Kings 10:1, 5), were not uncommon. The means of obtaining 'higher' education existed by way of teachers (1 Chron. 25:8; Psa. 119:99), and by the wise men and elders of the city who taught the law, the traditions or history, and wisdom or the understanding of things.

The duty of children to obey and honor their parents is critical not only to the order of the family unit, but also to society which they will become more and more a part of. Children that have no respect for their parents will have little or no respect for others. The importance of this duty is shown by its appearance within the Ten Commandments- "Honor thy father and thy mother" (Exod. 20:12).

The idea of the Christian family is a communion resting on an ethico-Christian foundation, and forming the closest of all human relationships. It is likened to the highest and most perfect union, that of Christ and the church (body of believers), with Christ as its head.

6A - Parent responsibility

  1. Children are a gift and heritage from God, and thus are to be asked of from God. Gen. 25:21; Gen. 30:17; Gen. 33:5; Deut. 28:4; Ruth 4:13; Psa. 127:3.
  2. Parents are to love their children. Titus 2:4.
  3. Parents should pray for and bless their children. Gen. 48:9, 15; 2 Sam. 12:16; 1 Chron. 29:19; Job. 1:5; Mark 5:23; John 4:46-49; Heb. 11:20-21.
  4. Parents should sternly chastise and punish their children to put them on a righteous course - For he who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves his son disciplines him diligently. Prov. 3:12; Prov. 13:24; Prov. 19:18; Prov. 22:15; Prov. 23:13-14; Prov. 29:15, 17; Heb. 12:7.
  5. Father to have authority over children. Deut. 30:3-5; 1 Tim. 3:4.
  6. The head of the house is to provide for the family. Job 42:15; Luke 11:11; 2 Cor. 12:14; 1 Tim. 5:8.
  7. Parents are responsible to save up for their children's future. 2 Cor. 12:14.
  8. Fathers are not to provoke children to anger. Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21.
  9. Mothers are to be concerned about the ways of their household. Prov. 31:27.
  10. The sins of the fathers are visited on their children to the third and fourth generation. Exod. 20:5; Exod. 34:7; Isa. 14:20-21; Lam. 5:7.

6B - Requirements of Children

  1. Children are to obey and listen to their parents. Gen. 28:7; Prov. 1:8, 9; Prov. 6:20; Prov. 13:1; Prov. 13:22; Prov. 23:22; Rom. 1:30; Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:20.
  2. Children to honor their father and mother. Exod. 20:12; Deut 5:16; Matt. 15:4; Mark 10: 19; Luke 18:20; Eph. 6:2.
  3. Everyone shall fear (reverence) his mother and his father. Lev. 19:3.
  4. Children are to hear the instruction of their father, and forsake not the law of their mother. Prov. 1:8; Prov. 4:1-2; Prov. 6:20; Prov. 19:27.
  5. A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother and father. Prov. 10: 1; Prov. 17:25; Prov. 19:13.
  6. Children shall not rob their father or mother. Prov. 28:24.
  7. Children are to take care of their parents. Gen. 45:9-11; Gen. 47:12; 1 Tim. 5:4.
  8. Children are not to curse their parents. Lev. 20:9.

    6C - Rebellious Children

    1. A child that is rebellious and who refuses to obey his parents is to be put to death. Deut. 21:18-21; Rom. 1:30, 32.
    2. Cursed is the one who treats his father or his mother with contempt. Deut. 27:16.
    3. Children that curse their father or mother are to be put to death. Exod. 21:17; Lev. 20:9; Prov. 20:20; Matt. 15:4; Mark 7:10.
    4. Children that strike their father or mother are to be put to death. Exod. 21:15.
    5. It is a sin for children to rob parents. Prov. 28:24.
    6. He who mistreats his father, and drives away his mother, is a son who brings shame and disgrace. Prov. 19:26.
    7. Condemnation offered to he who mocks his father and scorns his mother. Prov. 30:17.

      6D - Education of Children

      1. Parents should see that children are educated and instructed in the ways and laws of God. Gen. 18:19; Deut 4:9-10; Deut 6:6-9; Deut 11:18-20; Deut 31:12,13; Josh. 22:24-27; Psa. 78:1-7; Joel 1:3; Eph. 6:4.
      2. Children to be taught to fear God. Psa. 34:11.
      3. Bible stories and illustrations, and the works of God, are to be taught to each generation. Exod. 10:2; Exod. 12:25-27; Exod. 13:14; Deut. 6:20-25; Josh. 4:22; Psa. 78:4-6.
      4. Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Prov. 22:6.
      5. Education to be by right examples. Prov. 20:7; 2 Tim. 1:5.
      6. Reproofs for discipline to be given to the young to keep them from immoral temptations and lusts. Prov. 6:23-29; Prov. 7:4-5.

      6E - Inheritance and Birthright

      1. Firstborn son is to receive the father's birthright. Gen. 15:4; Gen. 25:5; 1 Chron. 5:1; Matt. 21:37-38.
      2. Illegitimate children not to receive birthright. Gen. 21:9-12; Judges 11:1-2; Gal. 4:30.
      3. Blessings to be bestowed on the heir of the family. Gen. 27:30; Gen. 48:9.
      4. Birthright of the firstborn can be sold to another son . Gen. 25:31-34; Heb. 12:16.
      5. A greater portion of the father's inheritance to be given to the firstborn son. Gen. 25:5-6; Deut. 21:17.
      6. Primary part of inheritance to go to firstborn son rather than a favored son. Deut. 21:15-17.
      7. Houses and riches are given as an inheritance from a father. Prov. 19:14.
      8. Land ownership can pass by inheritance. Num. 34:14-18, 29; Num. 36:9.
      9. A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children. Prov. 13:22.
      10. Daughters are to receive an inheritance from their father when he has no son. Num. 27:1-8.
      11. If a man has no children his inheritance is given to his brothers. Num. 27:9.
      12. If a man has no children or brothers then his inheritance is given to his father's brethren or his nearest family kin. Num. 27:10-11.
      13. Birthright of firstborn son can be lost and given up to another son if the firstborn commits a sin against the family. 1 Chron. 5:1-2.
      14. When a man dies having no children and his widow marries her husband's brother, the son she bears by him shall succeed in the name of the brother which is dead and shall have his birthright and inheritance. Deut 25:5-6.
      15. A will and testament is in force after a man is dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives. Heb. 9:17.
      16. A heir, as long as he is a child, is under guardians until the time prescribed by his father that he is to inherit. Gal. 4:1-2.

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