Moses: A Modern Adoption Parallel [not] Found in the Bible
One of the reasons I’m so interested in talking about adoption from a Biblical perspective is that I’ve rarely met a Christian who adopted, was in the process of adopting, or planned to adopt in the future, who did not volunteer [very specifically] that God called them to adopt.
Regardless of how the subject of adoption comes up (amongst Christians), the overriding theme is the same. (And if you’re like me and come from a family that considered adoption and has been talking, thinking, and writing about what God says and doesn’t say about adoption in the more than two decades since; believe me, it will come up.)
God called; we answered.
When someone says God called them to do something or that something was a God-thing, or that God very specifically provided in some unique and touching way, it seems very disrespectful (as I said in my previous post), almost irreverent, to question that…even if it seems far-fetched and even if it’s not something that “gels” with my understanding of the Bible.
If you do raise any questions or concerns about adoption there are generally only two, polar opposite, responses.
In the first camp there are those who say, “Hmm…That is interesting. I never thought of it like that before. I’ll be chewing on that later.” They poke and prod and mull it over. Then they ask the hard questions, because it’s normal to ask hard questions when there are hurting children all over the world and we’ve been programmed since before we can remember that adoption is the altruistic answer to that hardship.
In the second (and much bigger) camp, the response is one that is both wildly emotional and defensive and quickly escalates into an all-out offensive (this is no exaggeration; I’ve seen this so much and it breaks my heart each time). The person responding may not have even been part of the original conversation, have NO adoption in their family (there are eight adoptions between me and my husband’s families), or have any future plans to adopt. Yet it is completely unacceptable that anyone would question “such a perfect picture of what God did for us by adopting us!”
And part of that is understandable, because it stands in the face of everything we’ve been taught by the church about adoption in the Bible.
As I mentioned last week in my first blog post in this series, I am very careful about sharing that God told me to do something, or that I am in any way hearing from God on a matter because I have seen this so abused as the end-all-be-all to any conversation that doesn’t sit right with the recipient (on any subject, not just adoption), yet it is in these latter conversations that the God-card is, universally, played.
Any attempt to share truth from God’s Word (or question a “truth” that may not actually be in there) is summarily rejected and followed up with how God spoke, called, showed, or prompted obedience to Him in the area of adoption.
And you just can’t argue with that 😉 The God-card trumps reason, facts, study, and direct quotes from Scripture. Every time. Of course I’m kidding; nothing “trumps” God’s Word. But you’d hardly know it in these situations where Scripture is routinely, both subtly and blatantly, misquoted and twisted.
Now again, I’m talking about my experiences with Christians. When I’ve talked to non-believers about adoption, like the barren woman who drove in my car last night (she was out of gas), a foster mom who tapped out on fertility treatments long ago, and had her own car loaded with things for twin toddlers whom she (and the woman she calls her wife) accepted in the middle of the night only a week ago… they tell it like it is. “I’m doing the foster-adopt thing because I want another kid; and I want twins this time.”
The world is [obviously] called to an entirely different standard (based on every Christian argument for adoption). And guess what? On the subject of Christians and adoption, they’re not impressed.
In these conversations, there’s no pretense, no altruistic explanation for why they’re adopting. They don’t even pretend they’re right or have any answers. They just want a kid. And guess what? I can accept that far more easily.
I don’t feel a calling to stop adoption worldwide, though I have many reservations about adoption on almost every level and would like to see many changes and fewer adoptions (preferably guardianships). And I’m not hoping to in any way “call out” Christian families who have chosen to adopt (just maybe those who use their adoption experience as a platform for persuading anybody and everybody that they too should adopt). But I do feel a calling (and I’m layin’ down my God-card here…) to speak and write in a way that causes Christians to think about and understand more accurately what the Bible says (and doesn’t say) about adoption.
So let’s jump in with the first example, from the Old Testament, and hopefully I will be able to share additional ones in the remaining time we have during National Adoption Month.
And one more thing, I am operating under the premise that Christians claiming to have heard from God and who quote some of the Bible to support adoption also believe all of the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, and something to be taken literally. I have, however, found this to be surprisingly untrue when it comes to Christians discussing or defending adoption specifically, but for the sake of this post we’ll just operate as if we all believe, and take literally, the Bible in its entirety 🙂
MOSES IN THE BIBLE
One of the first stories Christians typically cite as a Biblical precedent for modern adoption is the story of Moses which takes place in Exodus, a book that starts out by listing a genealogy that is further clarified as, “All the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number…” (Ex. 1:5a*, emphasis mine)
Whoever wrote the book of Exodus (scholars believe it was Moses) didn’t bother to mention any adoptions. And with all the foreshadowing in Scripture of Christ’s coming, there had to have been a lot of adoptions seeing as these were actually God’s chosen people, who feared Him, and were already following strict laws to honor Him even prior to receiving the official Ten Commandments.
(Ok, Ok, I say that totally tongue in cheek in case you’re speed-reading and beginning to wonder….)
On the contrary, this passage very clearly states that those in the lineage were birth children. (And it is additionally a reiteration of a mere portion of a much longer lineage previously outlined in Genesis.)
It seems to me that, at this point in Biblical history, God is very interested in birth history, lineage, bloodlines, heritage, culture, and family. Adoption doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the radar.
But that’s just me. Let’s keep going.
Moses was not adopted because Pharaoh’s daughter wanted a child. She didn’t set up contact with a Hebrew orphan crisis manager, and wait months and months for “her” child, though she certainly had the means and funds to do so (or take any child from among the Hebrews of her choosing). (She was just taking a bath.)
In fact, Pharaoh’s daughter didn’t even initially raise Moses, she said to Moses’s mother, “Take this child away and nurse him for me and I shall give you your wages.” Ex. 2:9a
There is also no mention of Pharaoh’s son-in-law, the would-be adoptive father. Adoption in the church is often justified by saying that a child is better off in a Godly home where it can be raised by two parents. (This is one of the arguments most commonly made for teenage/unwed mothers to give up their children, instead of the church offering unconditional, no-strings-attached support to those women.)
Citing the story of Moses as an example/precedent of Biblical adoption flies in the face of those claims. Moses was born to a God-fearing set of parents and then raised by the heathens who “adopted” him. This is the complete opposite of what is considered to be the preferred scenario for modern adoption in the church.
What is even more interesting about the story of Moses in the Bible, and how Christians talk about adoption today, is that Moses’s mother put Him in the reeds near the banks of the Nile River. No mention is made (whether it was there or not) of a divine prompting received by the adoptive mother, Pharaoh’s daughter, to go seek a baby…even though this baby was to become part of God’s plan to lead His people out of Egypt…you’d think the adoptive mother would have heard from God. Yet there is no record of that.
Yet, in probably 99.9 percent of modern adoptions spoken about in the church, the number one factor is the calling, the burden, and the heart that God has given to the people wanting to adopt. (Again, the only thing you “can’t” argue with 🙂 )
NO “FOREVER FAMILY”
If we use Moses as an example of adoption in the Bible, let’s keep in mind that it is Pharaoh’s daughter (the adoptive parent) who is used for what she can provide (bring Moses into position) then cast aside and forgotten, never to be mentioned in the Bible again (not “the birth mother”).
There was no attempt at a closed adoption. Pharaoh’s daughter “named him Moses, and said, ‘Because I drew him out of the water'” (Ex. 2:10b). Moses knew who he was (even though he was discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter while still an infant) and his heart seemed to be with his people, not with the Egyptians who had so lovingly spared him from death, welcomed him into their culture, raised and educated him, and provided for him at the palace.
Despite all of this provision by the woman who had “nurtured him as her own son” (Acts 7:20.), he sees an Egyptian beating one of his “brethren” and murders him (Ex. 2:11-12). (Even the writer of Exodus recognizes the Hebrews as Moses’s family. Not the Egyptian “forever family” that adopted him.) Later, his adopted “grandfather”, Pharaoh, tries to kill him (Ex. 2:15).
This is not exactly a great example of adoption working out in the Bible.
It is with Moses’s own siblings, Miriam and Aaron, that God’s purpose is fulfilled. Moses is obviously restored to his family (as with all child separations in the Bible) and ministers for the remainder of his life to the people of his birth. When he is buried, it is in an unknown place in the land of Moab in Israel (Dt. 34:5-6), not in a lavish Egyptian tomb.
We could argue that Moses gave up a lot – wealth, power, position – by leaving his adoptive family, yet that is not only what he chose, but what God chose for him. And in the end, He is not recognized by God for what his adoptive parents provided, the “better” life they made for him, the way his history was melded to that of his “forever family”. No, he is simply called “the servant of the Lord” (Dt. 34:5).
Amran and Jochebed were putting themselves in jeopardy by sparing their son, Moses. Male children were being killed all around them. Anyone could have given them up for fear of their own lives. I think they were called by God to not only hide their son but then to strategically place him where he could be discovered by the only woman in Egypt who could spare his life.
I think it was God prompting his parents and their obedience (not that of the prospective adoptive mother) that got Moses in position to lead God’s people out of their terrible existence.
And if we, as Christians, are going to cite Moses as an example of adoption in the Bible, we need to keep all of this in mind…not just the parts that serve our purpose.
I sincerely hope this has provided food for thought. I feel I am to write further but in the meantime, if you are interested in more information and a somewhat different observation into the story of Moses in the Bible as it concerns adoption today, check out this post by Australian blogger Rohan MeEnor.
*All Bible references (in all of my posts) are from the New American Standard Version of the Bible (NASB) unless specifically noted otherwise.