Family Relationships | Free Online Biblical Library

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Family Relationships



1. In General

2. Parents and Children

3. Brothers and Sisters

4. Uncles, Aunts, Cousins, Kinsmen


1. Husband and Wife

2. Father-in-Law, etc.

3. Brother-in-Law, etc.


1. Foster-Father

2. Master and Servants

3. Host and Guest

4. The Dependent Stranger

The family or domestic relations of the Bible include

(1) those of consanguinity or blood relationship,

(2) affinity or marriage relationship, and

(3) legal convention.

Those of consanguinity may be divided into lineal and collateral groups; the former are those of parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, and ancestors and descendants in general; the latter are those of brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts in relation to nephews and nieces, cousins of various degrees, including mere tribesmen and even remoter kinsfolk. The relations of affinity include besides that of husband and wife or concubine, the relations among rival wives, and their children, those of father-in-law and mother-in-law in relation to son-in-law and daughter-in-law, and those of brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. The domestic relations based on legal convention are either legal fictions or the results of agreement: among the former we must include those of foster-father or mother and foster-children; among the latter the relations between master and the various classes of servants and slaves held by the ancient Hebrews, those between host and guest, especially where they became covenant brothers, and between the citizen and the stranger who had attached himself to him for his protection.

I. Consanguinity.

1. In General:

Genealogies were carefully kept by the ancient Hebrews (compare those of Genesis, Numbers, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Matthew, Luke), not only because they formed the basis of a man’s title to his property (Nu 27:8-11; exceptional case, Nu 36:1-12), but also because on one’s pedigree depended the right of his family to intermarry with the priestly caste. Descent was traced through the father; a man’s closest association was therefore with his father’s family, and he was ordinarily referred to as the son of his father, thus Isaac the son of Abraham (Ge 25:19), Joshua the son of Nun, Caleb the son of Jephunneh (Nu 14:6). Still there are instances of men named for their mothers (Joab the son of Zeruiah), and a man’s relation with his mother’s family was fully recognized in the laws forbidding incest. No lineal relatives were permitted to intermarry (Le 18:7,10). The relations of ancestors and descendants were considered so close that the ordinary terms of relationship between children and parents are used constantly in relation to grandparents and remoter ancestors. The wishes of a great-grandfather are respected long after his death as the wishes of a father (Jer 35:16).

2. Parents and Children:

3. Brothers and Sisters:

4. Uncles, Aunts, Cousins, Kinsmen:

II. Affinity.

1. Husband and Wife:

2. Father-in-Law, etc.:

3. Brother-in-Law, etc.:

III. Other Domestic Relations.

1. Foster-father:

2. Master and Servants:

The "family" as the word is used of ancient peoples included dependents. The Hebrew mishpachah is connected with the word shiphchah, "maidservant," as the Latin familia is connected with famulus, "servant." For a discussion of the various classes of servants and slaves, Hebrew and foreign, male and female, see Slavery.

3. Host and Guest:

See Hospitality.

4. The Dependent Stranger:

See Stranger and Sojourner.

Nathan Isaacs and Ella Davis Isaacs