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What the Bible Teaches Us about Adoption

  • Sarah Frazer Contributing Writer
  • Updated Sep 03, 2019
What the Bible Teaches Us about Adoption

On a chilly March day, my husband and I held up our right hands and swore: to care for our adopted daughter the rest of her life. Two years later we did the same for our son. There are many ways to make a family. And maybe because adoption has always been God’s Plan A, I love it even more.

Where is adoption first mentioned in the Bible?

The first time adoption is mentioned directly in the Bible is in Exodus 2. Israel’s great leader who brought them out of captivity and into the Promised Land was adopted. Before Moses was even born, a wicked Pharaoh decreed that all Jewish boys who were born should be thrown into the Nile River.

Have you ever stopped think about such an evil act? We like to focus on the fact that Moses was saved, but how many babies died? How many innocent lives were taken before they were able to even have a chance at life?

Moses was born into a world where being a baby was a dangerous thing. It’s beautiful that God’s solution to this killing of babies was adoption. Moses was put into the river, and could have died. But instead, our sovereign, loving God orchestrated it so he would be saved.

Moses was rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter. She asked her handmaiden to go and retrieve the infant. Moses was then brought to live in the palace. (Exodus 2:5-10; Acts 7:21)

What is the biblical definition of adoption?

According to Bible Study Tools, adoption is the “Act of leaving one's natural family and entering into the privileges and responsibilities of another.” In the New Testament many of the apostles used this term to describe our salvation.

In the Old Testament, the word “adoption” does not appear. The legal aspects of adoption were not outlined in the Jewish law, but it was most certainly practiced; as we saw in the life of Moses and also in the story of Esther (Esther 2:7).

Adoption in the Bible contains both a legal aspect and a spiritual aspect. Legally it is simply having a new family. Spiritually it is a beautiful picture of our salvation.

Our adoption is used to describe how we are born into God’s family - both Jews and Gentiles are adopted sons. (Galatians 4:5)

Who was adopted in the Bible?

As mentioned before, the story of Moses is the first time where adoption is mentioned in the Bible; but in the Old Testament we see other examples of adoption. Esther was adopted by her uncle (Esther 2:7), Mordecai.

Another example of adoption in the Old Testament was the children of Israel. Many times God refers to Himself as their “Father” (Isaiah 1:2; Hosea 11:1). God chose Israel among all of the nations to be a father to them.

In the New Testament we find an amazing example of adoption. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, was adopted by Joseph. Mary’s husband, Joseph, was not Jesus’ true Father. The Holy Spirit was Jesus’ Father (Matthew 1:18). But Joseph took Jesus in as his own.

What an example of adoption we have! I am comforted by this for my own children. I have two adopted children and sometimes I worry that when they grow up no one will “understand” their feelings about being adopted. But you know Who will understand? Jesus!

I can’t wait to share Jesus’ adoption story with my children and let Him comfort their hearts.

What does the Bible say about adoption and orphans?

Because adoption was God’s plan from the beginning, He has had a lot to say about adoption. Let’s just take a look at a few verses. We will see adoption and orphans are God’s heart.

God cares for lonely children.

Psalm 68:5-6
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

God defends the fatherless.

Deuteronomy 10:18
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.

Caring for orphans is a command.

James 1:27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Caring for the “least of these” serves Jesus.

Matthew 18:5
And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Participating in orphan care is a must.

Isaiah 1:17
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless and plead the case of the widow.

We are to speak up for the silent.

Proverbs 31:8
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.

Adoption is the heart of the gospel.

Ephesians 1:5
He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.

God watches over orphans.

Psalm 146:9
The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

When you care for the ‘least of these’ God is glorified.

Matthew 25:40
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

What does it mean to be adopted as a child of God?

Romans 8 paints a beautiful picture of our adoption into God’s family. Can you picture this: The papers are signed. Your bags are packed. You are standing at the door of the orphanage. Yes. You are an orphan. But in your heart, today, there is hope. A glimmer of sparkle and beauty around the corner. Your Hope, your family, your Abba is coming!

Did you know you really are an orphan? Did you know your Heavenly Father has yet to come and bring you to your real home?

Hope is coming. The assured expectation is just a breath away. No matter how long you stare at the door, no matter how long you hold your bags ready to leave, you hold hope close to your heart. You are that orphan. You are waiting for your Abba Father to return.

Romans 8 speaks about groaning. We all are familiar with the Holy Spirit saying prayers for us, with groaning too deep for words. But did you know your own heart is groaning? You are groaning, sighing (Romans 8:23) for the return of Christ. Romans 8:23 says, “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.” For this hope we were saved.

You are adopted. No longer an orphan, but living in the orphanage, you have a assured expectation. But you also must wait for your Abba Father. While you hope, hang on to the rest of Romans 8 as the promises from God Himself.

God’s heart for adoption is all over scripture. Let’s remember that adoption’s heart is all about love. God is writing all of our stories and adoption is the red thread which binds us all together.

headshot of author Sarah FrazerSarah Frazer is a writer and Bible study mentor at She is the wife of Jason and mother of five - two are adopted from China. Although she serves in her local church, holds in-home Bible studies, and is preparing to be a full-time missionary to Honduras, her passion is to encourage women to get in the Bible. Sarah is also an author of three self-published Bible studies for women. She share tools for deep-rooted Bible study at Download her free prayer challenge at

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