Biblical Family Values

When I hear talk about “biblical” family values, the words from the movie Princess Bride roll through my mind: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Biblical family values? The Bible doesn’t so much tell us how to live our lives as it tells us how not to live them. Consider:

• Cain kills his brother Abel because God liked his offering better. (Genesis 4)

• Ham has sex with Noah’s wife and she bears their illegitimate son, Canaan, whom Noah then curses. (Genesis 9:20-25)

• Abraham is married to his half-sister and regularly lies about their relationship, allowing Sarah to be taken by other men as their wife, to his financial advantage. (Genesis 12:10-20, 20:1-18). Abraham’s son Isaac? Like father, like son. (Genesis 26:1-11)

• Abraham attempts to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering. (Genesis 22)

• Abraham divorces his concubine and his son born to her, sending them out into the wilderness, destitute. (Genesis 21:8-20)

• Jephthah sacrifices his only daughter as a burnt offering in order to fulfill a vow. (Judges 11:29-40)

• Lot gets drunk and gets his two daughters pregnant. (Genesis 19:30-38)

• An unnamed Levite’s concubine runs away from him; he chases her down and he and her father force her to return with him. On the way back, he lets her get raped and murdered, then cuts her body into twelve pieces. He then sends a piece of her to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. (Judges 19)

• David has multiple wives. One son kills another son because he had raped his half-sister. (2 Samuel 2:2, 5:13; 2 Samuel 13)

• David commits adultery with Bathsheba and murders her husband; it will be a later son born of their relationship, Solomon, who will become heir and take the throne after David. (2 Samuel 11, 2 Samuel 12:24)

• Solomon will then kill his half-brother after he asks if he can marry one of David’s concubines. (1 Kings 2:13-25)

• Solomon has 700 wives and 300 concubines. (1 Kings 11:1-8)

• Most of the kings after them have multiple wives; fratricide is common, which is actually kind of normal for monarchies. (1 Kings-2 Kings)

• Ezra orders men to divorce their wives and abandon and disown their own children. (Ezra 10)

Notice that many of the individuals in the above list are considered heroes of the faith (see Hebrews 11), even though their behavior is reprehensible. And nevertheless, God still used them and blessed them, even though they practiced “biblical” family values.

Send to Kindle

About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
This entry was posted in Bible, Culture, Religion, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Biblical Family Values

  1. Lucas Dawn says:

    Old Testament family values are indeed a mixed bag, with many negative examples. Even in the New Testament, Jesus elevates the values of his new family of disciples over those of former natural families (e.g. Mt. 8:21-22; 10:21,34-37; 12:46-50).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *