Adoption Stories in the Bible

Some of the greatest people in the bible come from adoptive families.

Denalee Chapman June 11, 2015

Adoption is nearly as old as the world. As members of the human race, we have been providing for, taking care of, and loving each other for millennia. Following are five tender adoption stories that we read about in the Bible:

Israel (Jacob) Adopts His Grandsons
1. Israel (Jacob) Adopts His Grandsons

You’ll remember the great love story of Jacob and Rachel. Jacob was so committed to marry his love that he agreed to work seven years for her father, Laban, in order to be given Rachel’s hand in marriage. However, he was tricked into marrying Rachel’s older sister, Leah, instead. But his love for Rachel didn’t go away, instead he agreed to seven more years of labor to be given Rachel to wife.

Jacob had many children with other wives, and Rachel was barren for many years. Finally, Rachel birthed two sons, one of them was Joseph. Jacob favored Joseph, and he became hated by his brothers who ended up selling him into slavery. As can be the case for all of us in our trials in life, Joseph’s horrendous experience ended up turning in his favor, as well as for the good of all of his people.

Joseph, Jacob’s favored son, was eventually reunited with his family. Before he met up again with his family in Egypt, Joseph’s wife had two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. Jacob, their grandfather, was a righteous man whose name was changed to Israel by the Lord. In his old age, Israel adopted both Ephraim and Manasseh, giving them blessings as though they were his sons by birth (Genesis 48).

Although Israel (Jacob) did not raise his two adopted sons, because of his great love for their father Joseph, he loved them too. He made sure they were provided for, both temporally and spiritually, as he laid his hands on their heads and blessed them as their patriarch.

Pharoah's Daughter Adopts Moses
2. Pharoah's Daughter Adopts Moses

After Joseph died, the Egyptians grew to hate the Jews. A pharaoh who knew nothing of Joseph and the good that he did for the Egyptians, began to feel threatened by the ever growing number of Hebrews. He ordered the deaths of all infant Hebrew boys. He told the midwives to save the newborn girls, but to drown the boys.

During this time, a couple married and the wife gave birth to a baby boy who was perfect and wonderful. She hid him for 3 months, but as he got older, she knew it would be difficult to keep him hidden and safe. She decided to build a little floating bed for him, and sent him out on the river. Pharaoh’s daughter is the one who discovered the baby boy. She was smitten by him and, with Pharaoh’s blessing, adopted him.

One of the beautiful twists to this story is that Moses’ sister was watching as Pharaoh’s daughter pulled him from the river. She offered to find a wet nurse for him. Moses’ birth mother was paid by Pharaoh’s daughter to continue to give life to Moses. It is a beautiful, merciful turn in the story of Moses’ adoption. Moses was raised to be a leader. But he never forgot his heritage. It was the prophet-leader Moses who saved the Israelites and led them to the Promised Land.

Hannah Gives Samuel to Eli
3. Hannah Gives Samuel to Eli

Perhaps one of the most relatable infertility experiences in the bible is in the book of 1 Samuel. Elkanah had two wives, Penninah and Hannah. Penninah was very fertile, Hannah was not. Hannah’s heart ached at her inability to conceive. She was a righteous woman and prayed fervently for a child.

One year, at a time when her heart was very tender, she attended the temple while fasting. Her husband asked, “Hannah, why weepest thou? And why eatest thou not? And why is thy heart grieved?” (1 Samuel 1:8). Elkanah did what he could to console Hannah, but to no avail. “And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore” (1 Samuel 1:10). Eli, the prophet, saw her praying and promised her, “Go in peace; and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou has asked of him” (1 Samuel 1:17).

Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel. After discussion with her husband, she determined to forego the annual temple trips until Samuel was older and she had weaned him. Then the time came. Samuel, though still a young child, was old enough for Hannah to fulfill her promises to the Lord. She took Samuel to Eli at the temple and said, “I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord. For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him; Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:26-28). Hannah left Samuel to be raised by Eli in the temple. Although she visited and brought gifts to him every year, Samuel was essentially adopted by Eli and was raised to be a prophet. A beautiful sidenote to this story is that Hannah went on to have many more children.

Mordecai Adopts Esther
4. Mordecai Adopts Esther

We don’t know anything about Esther’s early life, except that she was a Jew, raised in a devout family, and became an orphan. As a young lady she was adopted by Mordecai, her cousin. We know she was raised well and had a great relationship with her adoptive father.

Esther was one of the beautiful young women who were called to the King’s Court when he was in search of a new wife. Clearly, adoption was a positive thing in Esther’s life, because she was a woman of great confidence, kindness, and filled with love. Esther “obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her” (Esther 2:15). She was loved by all—the servants, the other young women, even royalty. The King “loved Esther above all the women,” and so she became the Queen (Esther 2:17).

No one in the palace knew that Esther was a Jew. One of the King’s closest confidantes was Haman. He hated the Jews, and especially hated Esther’s adoptive father, Mordecai. Haman talked the King into signing a decree to have all of the Jews in his kingdom killed. When Mordecai heard of this, he made contact with Esther and asked her to use her influence to get the order repealed. Esther knew she would be in danger of losing her life if she approached the King without him summoning her. Esther and her family and friends fasted and prayed for three days.

On the third day Esther approached the King and he welcomed her, rather than having Esther killed. Esther then devised a plan to share her heritage with the King, to expose Haman and his wicked schemes, and to save all of the Jews. Esther’s adoptive father, Mordecai, saved Esther – and Esther, then, saved Mordecai and all of the Jews.

Joseph Adopts Jesus
5. Joseph Adopts Jesus

Joseph was blindsided when he learned that Mary, his espoused wife “… before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” (Matthew 1:18) But he loved Mary, and he was a man of God. While he pondered and prayed, “… behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 1:20). The angel told Joseph that the child would be a boy, and that Joseph should name him Jesus. Joseph essentially adopted Jesus before He was born. Then he raised Jesus, as all adoptive fathers do, as his own. In fact, many had trouble accepting Jesus as the Messiah because they knew him as “the carpenter’s son.” (Matthew 13:55)

Years ago, my husband (a musician) wrote a Christmas song. One verse says:
Little tiny sleepy head;
Resting in a manger bed;
Little baby reaches high;
Meets a tear from Momma’s eye;
Daddy squeezes Momma’s hand;
All is well in this Holy Land.

After he wrote that verse, he asked me what I thought of calling Joseph His daddy. After all, Jesus’ father is God, not Joseph. I knew then in my head what I would learn later in my heart. Joseph really was His daddy. It didn’t matter that His birth father was another. Three months later we adopted our son. That night, when my husband was holding him, gazing down at his perfect face, I asked him, “What do you think now of calling Joseph Jesus’ daddy?” He got it.

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Denalee Chapman

Denalee is an adoptive mother, a motivational speaker, a writer, and a lover of life. She and her husband have adventured through the hills and valleys of life to find that the highest highs and the lowest lows are equally fulfilling. Book Denalee to speak to your group, or find Denalee's writings, including her books on her website at

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