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Holman Bible Dictionary

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• International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Father's House, Fathers' House

A name given to extended family units in the Ancient Near East reflecting a social organization in which a dominant male headed the family. These units might be large (Jacob's house included 66 descendants when he entered Egypt, Genesis 46:26). A father's house could designate the clans within a tribe (Exodus 6:14-25) or even an entire tribe (Joshua 22:14). The common designations “house of Jacob” (Exodus 19:3; Amos 3:13), “house of Israel” (Exodus 40:38) and the unusual designation “house of Isaac” (Amos 7:16) all refer to the nation Israel in terms of a father's house.

During patriarchal times a marriage was expected to be within the house of one's father (Genesis 11:29; Genesis 20:12; Genesis 24:4,Genesis 24:15,Genesis 24:38,Genesis 24:40; Genesis 29:10; Exodus 6:20; Numbers 36:8-10). Some of these marriages within the clan were later prohibited (Leviticus 18:9,Leviticus 18:12; Leviticus 20:17,Leviticus 20:19). In patriarchal times married women were regarded as remaining part of their father's house (Genesis 31:14; compare Genesis 46:26 where the enumeration of Jacob's house does not include his sons' wives). In later times married women were regarded to have left their father's houses (Numbers 30:3,Numbers 30:16). Widows were expected to return to their fathers' houses (Genesis 38:11). Genesis 31:14 suggests that in patriarchal times married women might normally expect to share in their father's inheritance. Later law limited this right to cases in which there were no sons to inherit (Numbers 27:8).

In John 2:16 “My father's house” is a designation for the Temple which was then equated with Christ's body (John 2:21). The reference to “My Father's house” with its many dwelling places (John 14:2) can be explained in two ways. House can be understood as a place or as a set of relationships, a household. Already in the Psalms the Temple is the house of God where the righteous hope to dwell (Psalms 23:6; Psalms 27:4). It is a short step to the idea of heaven as God's dwelling where there is ample room for the disciples. If house is understood as household, the focus is on fellowship with God. In contrast to servants, a son abides in his father's house (John 8:35). As Son of God, Jesus enjoys unique fellowship with God. By believing in Christ, we are empowered to become children of God (John 1:12), members of God's household, and share in fellowship with the Father. The two meanings do not exclude each other. Both may be included in Jesus' promise in John 14:2.

Chris Church

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'FATHER'S HOUSE'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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