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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary

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The taking of one as a son who is not so by birth.

(I.) Natural: As Pharaoh's daughter adopted Moses; Mordecai Esther; Abraham Eliezer (as a slave is often in the East adopted as son) (Genesis 15:2-3); Sarai the son to be born by Hagar, whom she gave to her husband; Leah and Rachel the children to be born of Zilpah and Bilhah, their handmaids respectively, whom they gave to Jacob their husband. The handmaid at the birth brought forth the child on the knees of the adoptive mother (Genesis 30:3); an act representative of the complete appropriation of the sons as equal in rights to those by the legitimate wife. Jacob adopted as his own Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, on the same footing as Reuben and Simeon, his two elder sons (Genesis 48:5). Thereby he was able to give Joseph his favorite son more than his single share, with his brothers, of the paternal heritage. The tribes thus were 13, only that Levi had no land division; or Ephraim and Manasseh were regarded as two halves making up but one whole tribe.

In 1 Chronicles 2, Machir gives his daughter to Hezron of Judah; she bore Segub, father of Jair. Jair inherited 23 cities of Gilead in right of his grandmother. Though of Judah by his grandfather, he is (Numbers 32:41) counted as of Manasseh on account of his inheritance through his grandmother. So Mary, being daughter of Heli, and Joseph her husband being adopted by him on marrying his daughter, an heiress (as appears from her going to Bethlehem to be registered in her pregnancy), Joseph is called in Luke's genealogy son of Heli. By the Roman law of adoption, which required a due legal form, the adopted child was entitled to the father's name, possessions, and family sacred rights, as his heir at law. The father also was entitled to his son's property, and was his absolute owner. Gratuitous love was the ground of the selection generally. Often a slave was adopted as a son. Even when not so, the son adopted was bought from the natural father. A son and heir often adopted brothers, admitting them to share his own privileges; this explains beautifully John 8:36, compare Hebrews 2:11; or else the usage alluded to is that of the son, on coming into the inheritance, setting free the slaves born in the house. The Jews, though not having exactly the same customs, were familiar with the Roman usage's.

(II.) National: as God adopted Israel (Romans 9:4; Deuteronomy 7:6; Exodus 4:22-23; Hosea 11:1); compare Jeremiah 3:19, "How shall I put thee among the children (Greek huiothesia ) ... thou shalt call Me, my Father." The wonder expressed is, how shall one so long estranged from God as Israel has been be restored to the privileges of adoption? The answer is, by God's pouring out on them hereafter the Spirit of adoption crying to God, "Father" (Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8; Hosea 3:4-5; Zechariah 12:10).

(III.) Spiritual and individual. An act of God's sovereign grace, originating in God's eternal counsel of love (Ephesians 1:4-5; Jeremiah 31:3); actually imparted by God's uniting His people by faith to Christ (John 1:12-13; Romans 8:14-16; Galatians 3:26; Galatians 4:4-5). The slave once forbidden to say father to the master, being adopted, can use that endearing appellation as a free man. God is their Father, because Christ's Father (John 20:17). Sealed by the Holy Spirit, the earnest of the future inheritance (Ephesians 1:13). Producing the filial cry of prayer in all, Jew and Gentile alike (See ABBA) (Galatians 4:6); and the fruit of the Spirit, conformity to Christ (Romans 8:29), and renewal in the image of our Father (Colossians 3:10). Its privileges are God's special love and favor (1 John 3:1; Ephesians 5:1); union with God, so perfect hereafter that it shall correspond to the ineffable mutual union of the Father and Son (John 17:23; John 17:26); access to God with filial boldness (Matthew 6:8-9; Romans 8:15; Romans 8:26-27), not slavish fear such as the law generated (Galatians 4:1-7; John 4:17-18; John 5:14); fatherly correction (Hebrews 12:5-8); provision and protection (Matthew 6:31-33; Matthew 10:29-30); heavenly inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-4; Revelation 21:7).

The "adoption" is used for its full manifestation in the resurrection of the believer with a body like Christ's glorious body (Romans 8:23). Christ was Son even in His humiliation; but He was only "declared (definitively in the Greek) the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:4), "the first begotten from the dead" (Revelation 1:5). Hence Paul refers, "Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee" (Psalms 2:7) to the day of His resurrection. Not that He then first became Son, but His sonship was then openly vindicated by the Father's raising Him from the dead (Acts 13:33). So our "adoption" is still waited for, in the sense of its open manifestation (Romans 8:11; Romans 8:19; 1 John 3:2). It is now a reality, but as yet a hidden reality. Our regeneration is now true (Titus 3:5), but its full glories await Christ's coming to raise His saints. The first resurrection shall be the saints' manifested regeneration (Matthew 19:28). They have three birthdays: the natural, the spiritual, the glorified. Sonship and the first resurrection are similarly connected (Luke 20:36; 1 Peter 1:3). By creation Adam (Luke 3:38) and all men (Acts 17:28-29) are sons of God; by adoption only believers (1 Corinthians 12:3). The tests are in 1 John 3:9; 1 John 4:4; 1 John 4:6; 1 John 5:1; 1 John 5:4; 1 John 5:18-21.

Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Adoption'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​fbd/​a/adoption.html. 1949.
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