The Biblical Family

Those on the right, the ones who oppose marriage equality, have a lot to say about family. Actually, what they talk about is the biblical family, believing the Bible lays out the design for how a family should operate and what it should look like. In their minds, that is the classic nuclear family: father, mother and 2.5 kids (the half isn’t a real child, it’s a ratio. Poor Horatio). There’s a little problem with here; as far as I know, there is no place in the Bible that says that. And, when you look at families in the Bible, they are nothing like families today. So, let’s do that. Here are a few “biblical” families:

  • Let’s start with the father of the Abrahamic religions, Abraham himself. Old Abe had an illegitimate son, ran that son off when his wife became pregnant and then tried to offer that child as a burnt offering to God, who instead sent a goat to take Isaac’s place. What a dad!
  • Next, we have Moses, who was set adrift in the Nile River in hopes that Pharaoh’s daughter would save him from her father’s edict that all Hebrew babies be killed. After killing an Egyptian and running away, he met a Midianite priest named Reuel who gave Moses one of his daughters in gratitude for running off some rival shepherds and helping his daughters water his flock. That’s how I got my first wife, you know.
  • Now, let’s move on to Hebrew law. According to the law of Moses, a woman who is raped should be forced to marry her rapist. After, of course, he pays fifty pieces of silver to her father. And, a woman whose husband dies without a male heir is taken into her brother-in-law’s house and sleeps with him until she has a son. Then, there’s the principles of marriage itself. Throughout the time covered in the Bible, marriage belonged in the realm of private law; i.e private agreements between families. In these agreements, women had no say in the matter of her husband; he was picked out by the head of the household and the choice was based on what was best for the family, not what was best for her. In other words, women weren’t much more than livestock to be traded. Why don’t we do this anymore?
  • This brings us to the story of Ruth. Ruth was a Moabite woman who married the son of Naomi, an Israelite. When he and his brother died, there were no men left in the family and the women left Moab and returned to Naomi’s people. There, she offered herself to Boaz. In the biblical account, it says that Ruth waited for Boaz to fall asleep one night during the barley harvest. Then, she went over and uncovered his “feet”. (hint, it ain’t really feet they’re talking about). When he awoke and found she told him to spread out his robe over her. According to John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes, that means “..take me to be thy wife, and perform the duty of an husband to me.” If that’s not plain enough, they did the deed.
  • Need I mention that polygamy and the keeping of concubines was a widely accepted practice. The Bible tells us that Solomon, wise man and King of Israel, had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Quite a ways from mom, dad and 2.5 kids.

There are more stories of the “biblical” family, but I think you get my point: the biblical family looked nothing like families today. In this light, saying you believe in the biblical or traditional family is more than a little silly.