Friday, September 29, 2017

Proverbs 22:6 and Adoption, part 1 of 2

A while ago, I published at What is Truth? parts a study on Proverbs 22:6 and related texts on child-rearing, demonstrating exegetically that godly parents who train up their children in the way they should go, the way of moral righteousness, have God's promise that their children will be converted and live for God.  (See the complete study Children of Obedient Parents Turning out for God--Certainty or Mere Possibility in Proverbs 22:6?)  I wanted to examine whether or not these promises were still applicable for adopted children.  Most people I asked about it, who seemed to derive their position from Scripture, stated that they were, but I also had the suggestions that: 1.) generational curses upon the third and fourth generation of those who hate God (cf. Exodus 20:5); 2.) a type of "spiritual DNA" that left the children of certain groups of people more depraved than others, or 3.)  human experience that adopted children did not turn out for God like other children did showed that Proverbs 22:6 and related texts were not true for adopted children.

I would be interested in your exegetical thoughts on the analysis below (part one today, part two next Friday, Lord willing), comments on the reasons given above for why Proverbs 22:6 and other related texts are allegedly not true for adopted children, and any experience or comments in applying Biblical principles to adopted children of your own or in your congregation.  It might be good to read the first part of the study I linked to above before examining this second portion.  Also, if Greek and Hebrew words are garbled in this blog post, please see the PDF file of this study here).

Do Proverbs 22:6 and the other related texts apply to adopted children raised for God, or only to children raised by parents who conceived them?  Scripture does not limit the promise of Proverbs 22:6 or other related texts to children raised by parents who conceived them—adopted children are included in the promise of Proverbs 22:6.
            First, the immediate context of the passages in Proverbs supports the inclusion of adopted children in the promise.  Proverbs 22:6 simply commands:  “Train up a child,”[1] with no limitation only to children that one has personally conceived; the text simply refers to “a child.”  As adopted children equally have the morally right “way [they] should go,” so they likewise have the promise that when they are old they will not depart from that righteous way.  Similarly, Proverbs 23:13-14 does not promise that only one’s biologically conceived child will be saved from hell if he receives proper corporal punishment, but that any such “child” will be saved from damnation.  Likewise, Proverbs 22:15 clearly refers to all children.  Proverbs 22:15a does not limit foolishness to the heart of biologically conceived children—adopted children also have foolishness in their hearts—and Proverbs 22:15b specifies for adopted children also that the rod of correction will drive their foolishness far from them.  The immediate context of Biblical promises concerning childrearing demonstrates that adopted children are included.
            Second, the word “child” (na‘ar)[2] in Proverbs 22:6 is frequently employed in Scripture for a person who is not conceived by those whose “child” he is.  The word is used for servants in Abraham’s household who have no biological relationship to the patriarch (Genesis 14:24; 18:7) and for “young men” who were servants in Abraham’s household and who are contrasted with “Isaac his son” (Genesis 22:3).[3]  The word is also used both for the servants of Abraham and for Isaac in the same verse (Genesis 22:5), used specifically for Isaac (Genesis 22:12), and used specifically for young male servants (Genesis 22:19).  Many verses employ the word na‘ar for biological children.[4] Many others employ it for servants in a household with no biological relationship to the household head,[5] and the word is employed even for young men in the very broadly defined “household” of members of the military underneath a military commander.[6]  Many passages mix the biological and non-biological uses of na‘ar together in close proximity[7] because na‘ar in Proverbs 22:6, and many other texts, does not contrast children in a household based on their biological relationship (or lack thereof) to the household head but specifies youth in contrast to age.
            Thus, na‘ar frequently emphasizes youth and contrasts the child or children from newly born infants[8] on up to yet unmarried young men[9] with elders or the old.[10]  Other Hebrew words sharing the n‘r root likewise emphasize youth.[11]  Na‘ar is used in general for the “young” in contrast to the “old” where the “young” are not limited to children of their older biological parents (Genesis 19:4).[12]  The word is used of the youth of the Messiah (Isaiah 7:16; 8:4), who was biologically from His mother Mary but adopted by His human father Joseph.  (No text containing the word ever contrasts a na‘ar as a biological child with an adopted child who is allegedly not a na‘ar.)  In many texts, youth is clearly emphasized by the word na‘ar.[13]  Indeed, in many passages of Scripture na‘ar is employed to contrast the young with the old, at times in comprehensive terms that necessarily include youth not biologically related to the head of their household.[14]  Na‘ar contrasts the “young” with the “old” as comprehensive and inclusive terms for every single person in the nation of Israel (Exodus 10:9).  The word is used for a “little child” or for “little children” who do not know how to go out or come in,[15] for a child who is unable to speak (Jeremiah 1:6-7), for a child who can barely count or write (Isaiah 10:19), and for a child who is being taught how to walk (Hosea 11:1-3).  A number of verses speak of children who are “young and tender.”[16]  The na‘ar is parallel to the “infant” and contrasted with the “ancient” (Isaiah 3:4-5).  It is parallel to “young men”[17] and is the opposite of “old”[18] and “old men” (Psalm 148:12).  A sixteen-year old is one who is “yet young [na‘ar]” (2 Chronicles 34:3).  An emphasis upon having few years or being young in age is extremely common.[19]  When David fought Goliath the Israelite was a “youth” (na‘ar) while Goliath was “a man of war from his youth” (1 Samuel 17:33).[20]  The phrase [ha]na‘ar na‘ar, the repetition of the word na‘ar twice in succession, is rendered “the child was young” (1 Samuel 1:24).[21]  Thus:
Na‘ar always stands in contrast to zāqēn [old]; in many passages, it has become part of a stock phrase as an antonym to zāqēn . . . Gen. 19:4; Josh. 6:21; Est. 3:13 . . . Ex. 10:9; Isa. 20:4; Lam. 2:21 . . . Jer. 51:22; Ps. 148:12[.] These phrases are typical examples of merism, a figure that expresses a totality by emphasizing its opposite extremes: “young and old” . . .  = “one and all.” . . . These observations show that naʿar clearly refers to youth. . . .  [F]or the rabbis both naʿar and the abstract neʿurôṯ are precise terms for youth, with the particular connotation of vigor and strength.[22]
The point in Proverbs 22:6 is plainly this regular Biblical contrast between the “child” or “youth” and the aged or “old”; the na‘ar, the “child/youth,” who is properly “trained up” will, even when “old,” continue in that right way.  The question of whether a particular child is raised by adopted or biological parents is irrelevant to the text.
            A king like Solomon or his son Rehoboam would have had many young servants in his royal household that required proper “training up” that they might become righteous servants of Jehovah in Israel’s theocracy.  Were Proverbs 22:6 and the other Biblical texts in Proverbs restricted to biological children, then Proverbs—and essentially all the rest of Scripture—contains no instruction about how to raise servants or other non-biological youth present in the household of the addressee of Proverbs, along with vast numbers of other households over the centuries of Israel’s theocracy.  Such a situation is highly unlikely.
            Furthermore, a child that God brings into the world, despite that conception taking place through sin such as fornication, is still a na‘ar to whom the promise of Proverbs 22:6 applies.  A child produced in Abraham’s household through the union of Abraham with a woman other than Sarah is still a na‘ar (Genesis 21:12, 17-20);[23] no difference in vocabulary exists between a child born out of such a sinful conception and the twins born to Isaac and his legitimate wife (Genesis 25:27).  Furthermore, na‘ar is used for one of a different nationality from the head of the household—Joseph, the Hebrew, was a “servant” (na‘ar) of Potiphar, the Egyptian (Genesis 41:12).  Furthermore, na‘ar can refer to biological children of parents of different nationalities (Genesis 48:16).  Godly parents who obey Proverbs 22:6 need not fear that God’s promise will fail if they adopt a child born out of immorality, nor if they adopt a child of a different ethnicity or national origin.  If they train him up properly, he will be saved and follow in the paths of righteousness even into his old age.
            Indeed, were an ungodly familial heritage a basis for rejecting adoption or a nullification of Proverbs 22:6, Jehovah would not have led Moses to command[24] Israel to bring into their households tens of thousands of young Midianite girls[25] “for conversion, and eventually even to marry them”[26] when they came of age.  The Pentateuchal command only makes sense because those young children would in great numbers follow the path of righteousness in Israelite households as they were trained up in God’s way, despite their most debauched heathen heritage.  Many of these adopted children of pagans would have become the wives of the generation in Israel that, under the blessing of God, entered Canaan by faith and took possession of the promised land under the smiles of heaven.
            Furthermore, the godly prophet Samuel was essentially adopted into Eli the priest’s family (1 Samuel 1-2).  The Lord would not have answered Hannah’s prayer and blessed her vow, and the inspired book of 1 Samuel would not present Hannah’s prayer in a positive light, if Eli’s essentially adopting Samuel and raising him from a very young age was contrary to God’s mind as expressed in Proverbs 22:6.  The godly Elkanah and Hannah are in no sense presented as a negative example. 

(See part two of this study next Friday.)

[1]           חֲנֹ֣ךְ לַ֭נַּעַר
[2]           rAoÅn. Scripture also, of course, frequently employs ben (NE;b) to refer to a son or a child.  Numbers of passages employ rAoÅn and NE;b of the same persons (2 Samuel 13:32; 2 Kings 9:1, 4; Job 1:18-19; Hosea 11:1).
[3]           wóønV;b q∞DjVxˆy t™Ea◊w w$ø;tIa ‹wy∂rDo◊n y§EnVv_tRa jå;qˆ¥yÅw w$ørOmSj_tRa ‹vObSjÅ¥y`Aw r®q#O;bA;b M%Dh∂rVbAa M°E;kVvÅ¥yÅw
[4]           Genesis 34:19; 37:2; 43:8; 44:22, 30-32, 33-34; 1 Samuel 1:22, 24, 25, 27, 2:11; 4:21; 16:11; 2 Samuel 12:16; 13:32; 14:21; 18:5, 12, 29, 32; 1 Kings 14:3, 17; 2 Kings 4:29, 30, 31, 32, 35, 38; Job 1:19; 24:5; 29:5.
[5]           Numbers 22:22; Judges 7:10-11; 9:54; 19:3, 9, 11, 13, 19; Ruth 2:5, 6, 9, 15, 21; 1 Samuel 2:13, 15; 9:3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 22, 27; 10:14; 14:1, 6; 16:18; 20:21, 35-41; 21:2, 4, 5; 25:5, 8, 9, 12, 14, 19, 25, 27; 26:22; 2 Samuel 9:9; 13:17, 28, 29, 34; 16:1, 2; 18:15; 19:17; 1 Kings 11:28; 18:43; 19:3; 2 Kings 4:12, 19, 22, 24, 25; 5:20, 23; 6:15, 17; 8:4; 19:6; Isaiah 37:6; Job 1:15, 16, 17; Esther 2:2; 6:3, 5; Nehemiah 4:16, 22, 23; 5:10, 15, 16; 6:5, 13:19.
[6]           2 Samuel 1:15; 2:14, 21; 4:12; 20:11; 1 Kings 20:14, 15, 17, 19.
[7]           E. g., 2 Samuel 18:5-15; 2 Kings 4:12-38; Job 1:15-19.
[8]           2 Samuel 12:16.
[9]           2 Samuel 1:5-6; 1 Kings 20:19-20 (note that here rAoÅn and vyIa possess the same referent).
[10]          Job 29:5-8.
[11]          E. g, h∂rSoÅn, “young girl” (Genesis 24:14, 16, 28, 55, 57, 61; 34:3, 12; Exodus 2:5; Deuteronomy 22:15-16, 19-21, 23-29; Judges 19:3-6, 8-9; 21:12; Ruth 2:5-6, 8, 22-23; 3:2; 4:12; 1 Samuel 9:11; 25:42; 1 Kings 1:2-4; 2 Kings 5:2, 4; Esther 2:2-4, 7-9, 12-13; 4:4, 16; Job 40:29; Proverbs 9:3; 27:27; 31:15; Amos 2:7); Myîr…wo◊n, “youth, early life” (Genesis 8:21; 46:34; Leviticus 22:13; Numbers 30:4, 17; 1 Samuel 12:2; 17:33; 2 Samuel 19:8; 1 Kings 18:12; Job 13:26; 31:18; Psalms 25:7; 71:5, 17; 103:5; 127:4; 129:1-2; 144:12; Proverbs 2:17; 5:18; Isaiah 47:12, 15; 54:6; Jeremiah 2:2; 3:4, 24-25; 22:21; 31:19; 48:11; Lamentations 3:27; Ezekiel 4:14; 16:22, 43, 60; 23:3, 8, 19, 21; Hosea 2:17; Joel 1:8; Zechariah 13:5; Malachi 2:14-15); rAoOn, “youth” (Job 33:25; 36:14; Psalm 88:16; Proverbs 29:21); twørUo◊n, “youth” (Jeremiah 32:30).
[12]          Natural man-wife relationships were not exactly the norm among the sodomites in Sodom and Gomorrah.
[13]          Psalm 119:9; Ecclesiastes 10:16; Isaiah 13:18; 65:20.
[14]          Exodus 24:1, 5; Deuteronomy 28:50; Joshua 6:21; 2 Samuel 1:5; 2 Samuel 1:6, 13, 15; 17:18; 2 Kings 5:22; Job 29:5, 8; Lamentations 2:21; 5:13; Zechariah 2:4; 11:16.
[15]          NOf∂q rAoAn / Myˆ…nAfVq MyîrDo◊n, 1 Kings 3:7; 11:17, 28; 2 Kings 2:23; 5:14; Isaiah 11:6.
[16]          1 Chronicles 22:5; 29:1; 2 Chronicles 13:7.
[17]          Isaiah 40:30; Lamentations 5:13.  Indeed, just as these texts parallel the rAoÅn and the r…wj;Db, so does 2 Samuel 1:1-5 parallel rAoÅn and vyIa.  The rAoÅn can refer to a youth from infancy to his general manhood, but not to one who is aged or elderly.  rAoÅn also either always or almost always refers in the Old Testament to a youth who has not yet married.
[18]          Esther 3:13; Job 29:8; Lamentations 2:21; Psalm 37:25; Isaiah 20:4; Jeremiah 51:20.
[19]          E. g., Exodus 33:11; Joshua 6:23; Judges 8:14, 20; 13:5, 7-8, 12; 24; 17:7, 11-12; 18:3, 15; 1 Samuel 1:22, 24, 25, 27; 2:11, 17-18, 21, 26; 3:1, 8; 4:21; 17:33, 42, 55, 58; 20:35-41; 30:13, 17; 1 Chronicles 12:28; 22:5; 29:5; 2 Chronicles 13:7; 34:3.
[20]          Saul tells David:  :wyá∂rUo◊…nIm h™DmDjVlIm vy¶Ia a…wöh◊w hD;t$Aa rAo∞An.  The abstract plural Myîr…wo◊n is employed for Goliath.
[21]          :rAo`Dn rAo™A…nAh.
[22]          H. F. Fuhs, “rAoÅn,” ed. G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry, trans. David E. Green, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998), 480.
[23]          Note that “God was with the lad” (Genesis 21:20), although the manner in which he was conceived was sinful and contrary to God’s plan for lifelong monogamous marriage.
[24]          …wäySjAh in Numbers 31:18 is a command—it would have been sinful for Israel to slay these girls instead of sparing their lives and bringing them into their households.
[25]          Numbers 31:17-54.  The adult Midianite women had committed adultery with Israel and were worthy of death, even as the male Israelites who had sinned with these women had already been put to death (cf. Exodus 32:27); furthermore, the male children would perpetuate the wicked Midianite nation and, in their disgustingly sexually perverse culture, could well be filled with venereal diseases through the sodomy common in the pagan cultures surrounding Israel.  The young virgin girls could be trained up in the way of righteousness, turn out to live for God, and be incorporated into the covenant people through marriage when they manifested their conversion in a righteous life and reached the appropriate age.  Were a righteous life not what one would expect based upon proper training of children even from the most perverse family backgrounds, the Pentateuch could hardly record a judgment on Israel for taking as wives the pagan and licentious Midianite women and not long afterwards a command to incorporate young Midianite girls by the ten thousand into Israelite families with the possibility of future marriage into the holy covenant people when they came of age.
            The situation in Deuteronomy 21:10-14, where an adult pagan woman is brought into an Israelite household, is not truly parallel, for it is: a.) Not commanded (as the adoption in Numbers 31:18 is a direct Divine command), but clearly only permissive; b.) Recorded for the protection of the woman; c.) Assumed to very frequently turn out badly (21:14).
[26]          Rashi, cited in Michael Carasik, Numbers, The Commentators’ Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2011), paragraph 4055.


Anonymous said...

We have five biological and two adopted children, so I am reading this post with much interest. Why is the story of the prodigal son not applicable to a Christian family and their children? The interpretation often given is that of God the Father (the perfect Father) yet having a wayward son.

Hem Smeding

KJB1611 said...

Dear Hem,

Thank you for the question. I believe that this would draw too much from a parable that has a specific point not related to child rearing, somewhat like if we concluded that God was female (I speak as a fool) because of the parable of the woman who lost one of her ten coins. Furthermore, in the parable of which you speak both sons picture unconverted people, the one unconverted sinners who come to Christ and the other unconverted Pharisees who do not like it when the unconverted sinners come to Christ, and obviously we would not do well to conclude that all the children of godly people are unconverted until some of them waste everything and ruin their lives in riotous living and then come back.

Thanks again.