• Pete Johnson
Woman holding white slabs that say Spirit of Adoption

Adoption is a beautiful thing. The concept has been around for a long time. The Hammurabi Code, an ancient code that more than likely predated Abraham, lists 282 laws that covered everything from commerce interactions to adoption. In this code, laws 185-194 give specific details regarding adoption.

There were several reasons in the ancient world why one might adopt. One would be for lack of an heir.

Abraham (Abram) felt the need to consider adoption for this very reason. Genesis 15:2-4

“But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”  And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.”

God had promised Abraham (Abram) that he would have a multitude of descendants. This promise was made even though at the time Sarah (Sarai) was barren, and at the time Abraham was getting quite anxious.

Another interesting aspect of adoption in the ancient world comes to us by way of Egypt, known as the (Egyptian) “Adoption Papyrus”. In this document, a widowed woman adopts three slave children and raises them as her own children, thus lifting them out of slavery and eligible recipients of a future inheritance.

Pharaoh’s daughter in Exodus 2:5-10 exercises this adoption concept with the baby Moses.

“When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because”, she said, “I drew him out of the water.” Exodus 2:10

 Adoption makes way for an individual to live with and be part of another family, a different life. It also provides the individual with all the rights, privileges, and future inheritances that biological children enjoy.

However, some aspects of ancient adoption found in the Code of Hammurabi doesn’t fare well for certain adoptees.

 [186] If a man adopt a son, and if after he has taken him he injure his foster father and mother, then this adopted son shall return to his father’s house.

 [192] If a son of a paramour or a prostitute say to his adoptive father or mother: “You are not my father, or my mother,” his tongue shall be cut off.

There are also some facets of adoption that do not require the adoptee to live with the adopted family at present, yet still provide all family rights, privileges, and future inheritances that the biological children will receive.

A Biblical example can be found in Genesis 48

Jacob, on his death bed “adopts” Jospeh’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, as his own.

“And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are.” Genesis 48:5

Even though Joseph’s two sons were raised by Joseph and their mother in Egypt, they would be called sons of Jacob, which qualified them for a future inheritance.

“… They shall be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance.”

What was their inheritance to be?

As Jacob’s sons, an allotment in the Land of Promise- Canaan. (Joshua 16,17)

None of the sons of Jacob physically saw their inheritance, not even Ephraim and Manasseh, the adopted sons. Perhaps the thought of such a great inheritance, so far away geographically and so far away on the timeline, never really crossed their minds.

Jacob as a patriarch of the Jewish people was a great man. What a wonderful position to be in, adopted by Jacob- Israel. Ephraim and Manasseh, as adopted sons, were given a promise by Jacob himself that they would receive an inheritance just like his biological sons.

So solid was the promise and name of Jacob that the woman at the well invoked the memory of the greatness of Jacob in John 4 while Jesus was conversing with her.

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

You might very well be asking, “What do adoption, Jacob, and Jesus have to do we me?

First: God was very clear regarding his promise to the sons of Jacob- Israel about the inheritance of the land. If they obeyed, they would stay in the land, if they did not, they would be removed from the land. The inheritance was an everlasting inheritance yet with stipulations for both Jacob’s “adopted” sons as well as his biological sons.

As great as Jacob was, he did have not the power in himself to ensure that his future generations of sons and daughters would adhere to God’s law which would enable them to enjoy the family inheritance.

Second: Both apostles, Paul and Peter, have something valuable to say about adoption and the family inheritance that comes with it.

Paul writes in Romans 8:15:
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 

As born-again believers, we have been “adopted” into the family of God.

What an awesome thought. Once, we who were slaves to sin, rebels toward God, have now been adopted by God himself, through Jesus Christ. Before our adoption, our inheritance was related to our “father the devil”, no earthly fellowship with Christ, eternal hell, and separation from God.

What is our inheritance then if we are adopted sons and daughters of God?
Earthly fellowship with Christ, eternal salvation, and fellowship with God forever.

An inheritance through adoption that does not have stipulations; As a true born-again believer it is an inheritance that you can’t lose, nor is there any fear that the father who adopted you will send you back. 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice,…” 1 Peter 1:3-6