Three words are usually found in the Bible where the family is indicated. These three are the Hebrew word bayith and the Greek words oikia and oikos. The unit of the national life of Israel, from the very beginning, was found in the family. In the old patriarchal days each family was complete within itself, the oldest living sire being the unquestioned head of the whole, possessed of almost arbitrary powers. The house and the household are practically synonymous. God had called Abraham "that he might command his children and household after him" (Genesis 18:19). The Passover-lamb was to be eaten by the "household" (Exodus 12:3). The "households" of the rebels in the camp of Israel shared their doom (Numbers 16:31-33; Deuteronomy 11:6). David's household shares his humiliation (2 Samuel 15:16); the children everywhere in the Old Testament are the bearers of the sins of the fathers. Human life is not a conglomerate of individuals; the family is its center and unit.
Nor is it different in the New Testament. The curse and the blessing of the apostles are to abide on a house, according to its attitude (Matthew 10:13). A divided house falls (Mark 3:25). The household believes with the head thereof (John 4:53; Acts 16:15,34). Thus the households became the nuclei for the early life of the church, e.g. the house of Prisca and Aquila at Rome (Romans 16:5), of Stephanas (1 Corinthians 16:15), of Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16), etc. No wonder that the early church made so much of the family life. And in the midst of all our modern, rampant individualism, the family is still the throbbing heart of the church as well as of the nation.
Henry E. Dosker
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