Studies in Sonship, part 2: Sons of the Prophets

Apr 25, 2012

Before we can comprehend the deeper things, we must first lay a foundation with how the word “son” is defined in Scripture. Continuing where we left off in our definitions of “son,” as used in the Bible, we find this.

5. The word son can refer to a son by adoption. In our modern society, it is very common for one of the spouses in a second marriage to legally adopt the children of the spouse’s previous marriage. It is also very common for couples to adopt babies which are either orphaned or unwanted, and to which the adoptive couple has no blood relationship.

To the best of my knowledge, this latter type of adoption—where there is no blood relationship at all—is not found by example anywhere in the Scriptures. So that when we come to the study of the adoption of sons, especially as we just read in Romans 8, we must not let our modern practices of adoption color our ideas on the term as it is used in the Bible.

One of the most prominent cases of adoption in the Bible story is, of course, where the patriarch Jacob-Israel adopts the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, who are his grandsons, as his firstborn sons. (See Genesis 48).

Definition #6. The word son can also refer to a group of people from a particular geographic region, which in the biblical context, was very closely related to tribal, national, or we would say today, ethnic groups…meaning, these individuals were all from the same common ancestor; they shared a bloodline. Let’s look at couple of examples.

1 Kings 4:29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore.

30 And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children [ben-sons] of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.

Job 1: 3 His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men [ben-sons] of the east.

We have another example in the story of Gideon.

Judges 6:33 Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the children [ben-sons] of the east were gathered together, and went over, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel.

All of the six definitions that we have set forth to this point share one thing in common: the word son has application to family and bloodline. From this point on, as we continue to look at these definitions of the word son as used in the Bible, we’re looking at allegorical and metaphorical usages. In other words, they are figures of speech, and these “sons” are not necessarily sons by literal bloodline descent.

7. A son can refer to someone who is a student or a disciple of someone else. For example, we recall the story of Samuel. This is at the time when his mother, Hannah, took him and gave him over to the tutelage of Eli the priest.

1 Samuel 3: 6 And the LORD called yet again, Samuel. And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And he answered, I called not, my son [ben-son]; lie down again.

Here is another example which I cite for a very special reason.

2 Kings 4:1 Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead;…

The “sons of the prophets” here are not referring to the physical offspring of these men, but rather to those who are under a course of instruction for ministerial service. The reason I cite this verse is because it serves a dual purpose. We have just seen the first purpose. The second is not germane to the topic of sonship itself, but yet it should be of importance for all Christians to understand.

Coming from a Catholic upbringing, I find this is yet another Scripture that flies right in the face of Roman Catholicism’s requirement for their priests to be celibate. As some of you know, I graduated from Catholic minor seminary (i.e., high school level. And no, not the Jesuit order, as some have lied about me. It was the order known as The Congregation of the Most Precious Blood, which their priests designate by the abbreviation “C. PP. S.” after their names. The omission of the period after the first “P” is not an error; that is the way it is abbreviated for the Latin word, pretsiosissimi, which means “most precious.”)

I am only jesting in part when I state that I only remained in the Catholic seminary until I got old enough to realize what celibacy really meant. For those who do not know me personally and for the record, I left the seminary and Catholicism when I was 18 years old.

Now to drive the point home, notice in the verse just cited, that these ministers, these sons of the prophets, were married! So much for celibacy. Here are some further examples of the word “son” used figuratively as a disciple.

1 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;

2 Unto Timothy, my own son [Greek word: teknon; offspring, son, child] in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.

Titus 1:1 Paul, … 4 To Titus, mine own son [teknon; offspring, son, child] after the common faith

Philemon 10 I beseech thee for my son [teknon; offspring, son, child] Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:

1 Corinthians 4:14 I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons [teknon; offspring, son, child] I warn you.

15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

This last verse is relative to Paul’s spiritual fatherhood of his Corinthian “sons.” Even though they had many other instructors, Paul is claiming a very special relationship here, the father-son relationship. Turn to the first epistle of Peter, chapter 5. The apostle Peter claims the same relationship with evangelist Mark.

By the way, we explained in our Bible versions series a long time ago, that Mark was very probably the amanuensis for Peter. An amanuensis is someone who takes dictation. Mark was the scribe for Peter. In other words, the gospel of Mark is in reality the gospel of Peter!

1 Peter 5: 13 The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son.

The Greek word is not teknon here. This is the Greek word G5207 huios {pronounced hwee-os’} It has a much longer definition, but includes virtually all the same meanings as teknon: offspring, son, child, disciple.

8. The word son can also be used to describe the character, disposition, behavior and conduct of individuals. This is an important one so we will spend some time on this one.

1 Samuel 25:14 But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, saying, Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to salute our master; and he railed on them.

15 But the men were very good unto us, and we were not hurt, neither missed we any thing, as long as we were conversant with them, when we were in the fields:

16 They were a wall unto us both by night and day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep.

17 Now therefore know and consider what thou wilt do; for evil is determined against our master, and against all his household: for he is such a son [ben] of
Belial, that a man cannot speak to him.

Question: Was Abigail’s husband, Nabal, the physical son of a man named Belial? Of course not. This was simply a figure of speech, an idiomatic expression, to indicate what a jerk this man Nabal was. He was worthless and wicked. We will have more to say on sons of Belial in the next installment. (To be continued.)

Category: Teaching