Family Life and Relationships in the Old Testament:

Old Testament families are made up of parents, children, unmarried sisters, widows, concubines, servants, travelers, strangers and the cattle all falls under the protection of the head of the family.

(Exodus 20:10)

The Old Testament gives many examples of what comprises a family and members of a household. This includes parents, children, and other relatives such as unmarried sisters, widows, concubines, servants, travelers, strangers and the cattle all falls under the protection of the head of the family. (Exodus 20:10).

The oldest male relative was regarded as the head of the household, the father, master, and the ultimate authority of the house. All who belonged to him and claimed their allegiance to him were considered part of the household and shared similar beliefs and values. Noah and his household were instructed by the LORD God to build and to enter the ark. (Genesis 7:1-5). The role of Adam, after the fall, in the sweat of his face became the tiller of the land until he returns unto the ground. (Genesis 3:15).

The LORD God had taken from man a rib, and He made a woman for Adam, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:22-24).

The woman was to be a helpmate, created equal with the male. (Genesis 2:18). The women saw her main purpose was as a helpmate and having children. It was after the fall, women were multiply her sorrow and her conception; in sorrow she shall bring forth children; and her desire shall be to her husband, and he shall rule over said the LORD God. (Genesis 3:16). The mother has authority over the family life and often gave directions. Her primary role was to provide love and care for the members because Eve was the mother of all living. (Genesis 3:20). The Ten Commandment commands us to “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 5:16).

It is the father who has the responsibility to maintain the wealth of the family. He has the responsibility of being the provider for the household. The possibility would depend on where he lived. He could be a fisherman (Jeremiah 16:16), shepherd (Genesis 4:2 like Able; Genesis 46:32), a farmer or tiller of the ground. (Genesis 3:15 like Adam; Genesis 4:2 like Cain). He could even have a trade like a potter (Jeremiah 18:4), weaver, engraver, embroiderer, (Exodus 35:35). He could be a builder (Genesis 6:14) or even worker in gold, and in silver, and in brass. (Exodus 31:4).

It was the responsibility of the father to educate their families on religious manners. The father taught their sons on their national history and Law of Moses also including statutes and judgments of the LORD God. (Exodus 10:2; Deuteronomy 4:1, 9-14). The LORD God gives instructions to Israel: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4:- 9).

Discipline came under the control of the father. A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just. The father that spares his rod hates his son; the father that loves him discipline or corrections him earnestly. (Proverbs 13:22, 24). Father’s corrected their sons Correct thy son, and the son shall give them rest and a delight to their soul. (Proverbs 29: 17).

The father also has the responsibility to find a wife for his son’s in his household. Another important paternal responsibility was to provide wives for male offspring in the household. Abraham was old and sent his eldest servant to go find a wife for Isaiah of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom he had dwell. (Genesis 21: 1-3). Judah took it one more step. He took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him. Judah then told his second son to marry Tamar and go into her and raise up the child to his brother. (Genesis 38:6-10).

The mother was responsible for the early education of the sons and the daughters. (Proverbs 1:8). The mother was responsible for instruction and direction for the children. (Proverbs 6:20). It is reasonable to say that the mother’s trained up their daughter to perform the jobs they have. Spinning wool and flax and weave it with her hands. Cooking for her family and those in the household; including being prudent in buying food. She handles the finances buying the field and she works the vineyard. She trims the candle so it does not go out at night. She gives to the poor and reaches out to the needy. She makes fine linen and tapestry, and sells it and completes her household chores without idleness. The mother was the center of love and honor and is praised for her good works by her husband and children. (Proverbs 31:13–31).
Children were very important to the family and were considered a heritage and reward of the LORD God. (Psalms 127:3-5). The status of male and female differ greatly. A daughter could be sold to be a maidservant. (Exodus 21:7–11). The rights of children were improved with the announcement of the code of Mosaic Law. If a man have two wives, one he loved, and the other hated, and they have born him children, both the loved and the hated. If the firstborn son the one he hates then he will make his son to inherit that which he has and may not make the son of the one he loves firstborn to inherit over the one that he hates. He shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he has. (Deuteronomy 21:18–21). Equally if a man has a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the mother or the father then his father and mother shall lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city. All the men of his city shall stone him with stones that he die: so shall they put evil away from among them; and all Israel shall hear, and fear. (Deuteronomy 21:18–21).

Those who belonged to the tribe knew that they had to work for common interests and accept responsibility for the whole group. All members of the family were to be protected and assisted in time of need. The Old Testament shares a unique treatment of slaves, who were viewed as people in their own right. They expect to be set free. If a Hebrew servant, shall serve for in the seventh he shall go out free without cause. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. (Exodus 21:1–6). If a brother that lives nearby and grows poor and be sold unto you shall not be compelled to be as a slave. He may be hired as a servant, and as a sojourner, that is a stranger. He may serve unto the year of jubilee. (Leviticus 25:39–41).The year of jubilee is every fifty years when all the twelve tribes of the Jewish nation proclaim the fiftieth year as Holy, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and you shall return every man unto his possession, and you shall return every man unto his family. (Leviticus 25:8-13). Both man servants or slaves and woman servants or slaves shall be heathen which are usually of non-Hebrew people and of them you shall buy. The children of the strangers that do sojourn or live among you, of them shall you buy, and of their families that are with you, which are born in your land: and they shall be your possession. They shall be as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession. (Leviticus 25:44–46).

Slaves had rights even if they ran away from their master. They shall not be delivered unto his master. He shall dwell among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of the gates, where he chose: the escaped slave shall not be oppressed. (Deuteronomy 23:15–16).

Concubines were women, often slaves or servants whom a man had regular sexual relations, but to whom he was not married. A concubine did not have the rights of a wife and her children were not rightful heirs, though a wife might offer a servant to her husband as a concubine to have children on her behalf. (Genesis 15:1-5). Concubines were accepted in a bigamous society. David took more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron: and there were sons and daughters born to David. (2 Samuel 5:13). Children born to concubines were not rightful heirs. (Genesis 21:10-12).

The family also cares for the widows in their family. It was the morally right thing to do. The LORD is a father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows. (Psalms 68:5). The prophet condemns the injustice toward the widows. Through the prophet Isaiah seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, and plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:17). The prophet Jeramiah warns not to oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. (Jeremiah 7:6).

The LORD God promised Abraham he would make him a great name and make him a great nation. The LORD God would bless those that blessed Abraham and curse those that curses him and in him shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 12:1–3). The LORD God promised to make the seed of Abraham to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto his seed all these countries; and in his seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 26:4).

Joshua boldly stated as for his whole family would serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15). The family was the center of the religious life and worship. Just like the bold statement made by Joshua we should understand the importance of family. Not just our immediate family but the like kind family that w own allegiance to. The true family of the LORD God through the blood of Christ.
The LORD God promised David he would make him a house and set up his seed after him, which shall proceed out of his bowels, and would establish his kingdom. The LORD would establish the throne of His kingdom forever. The LORD God would be his father, and he shall be His son. (2 Samuel 7:11–14). This is where we get the prospective of the relationship between Father and son. If the son commits a wrong doing the father will correct and rebuke him rod of men, and with the stripes which is stroke, plague, disease, mark, plague spot, or wound of the children of men. The mercy of the LORD God will not depart away from him. The LORD God promised his house and his kingdom shall be established for ever before him: thy throne shall be established forever. (2 Samuel 7:14–14).

Cite Article Source

MLA Style Citation:

Holstein, Joanne “Family Life and Relationships in the Old Testament:.” Becker Bible Studies Library Feb 2015.<,>.

APA Style Citation:
Holstein, Joanne (2015, February) “Family Life and Relationships in the Old Testament:.” Becker Bible Studies Library. Retrieved from,.

Chicago Style Citation:
Holstein, Joanne (2015) “Family Life and Relationships in the Old Testament:.” Becker Bible Studies Library (February),, (accessed).

Joanne Holstein is a Becker Bible Studies Teacher and Author of Guided Bible Studies for Hungry Christians. She is a graduate of Psychology/Christian and Bible Counseling with Liberty University. She is well-known as a counselor to Christian faithful who are struggling with tremendous burden in these difficult times. She is a leading authority on historical development of Christian churches and the practices and beliefs of world religions and cults.

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