Marriage and Family: Fathers in Genesis

The words “father” and “fathers” occur some 1,650 times in the Bible, and close to two hundred times in the book of Genesis. Curiously, “father,” abba, is listed as Strong’s #1 Hebrew word. Good news, dads: we’re number one! Tough news, dads: being number one is a very serious matter!

Toddlers usually pronounce a variant of “mother” first, but “father” is often one of the first words spoken by a newly-born child in God’s family. It was a particular joy to many of us, a few moments after having trusted Christ, to bend the knee and begin to pray meaningfully for the first time, saying: “Father…. ” That we can address the Creator of the universe, the God of all the earth, Jehovah, the Almighty, and call Him Father, is a sublime truth!

The subject of the Fatherhood of God in the Bible is most instructive. Notice Paul’s words to the Ephesians: “I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of Whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph 3:14, 15). This means, among other things, that as Father, God is the original source of fatherhood … and the perfect pattern … for every father. Christian fathers, we especially, should take our cue from Him.

Let us look at several fathers in Genesis and see how they measured up to the Fatherhood of God. First, Adam: A Father’s Fall.

His Favor

Adam was the first man, first husband, and first father on earth (1 Cor 15:45; 1 Tim 2:13), so it is fitting that we begin with him. He was put by God in the Garden of Eden and married a woman brought to him by direct divine intervention, especially suited as a help meet for him. This made him a very favored man. We don’t know how long Adam enjoyed fellowship with God in that Garden, but the quality of that fellowship would also equip him with the ingredients necessary to have become one of the best fathers this world has ever seen.

His Fall

Adam is mentioned by name about thirty times in the Bible. That is all! Eighteen of those references are in Genesis chapters 2 to 5. Sadly, anything about him after that, aside from chronological lists, has to do with his fall. Job (31:33) closes the Old Testament record on Adam referring to his transgression and iniquity; Paul does so on a similar note when he refers to him in the New Testament (Rom 5; 1 Cor 15; and 1 Tim 2).

Eve is a name that only appears four times in the Scriptures. It is one of three names that she had. Adam first called her Woman (Gen 2:23), when he looked at her in relation to himself. He called her Eve (Gen 3:20) when he considered her motherhood. Finally, God called them both Adam (Gen 5:2), linking them together but, sadly, as a fallen couple.

His Faithlessness

Taking advantage of your intimate acquaintance with the Biblical account of Adam’s story, and of your fertile imagination, let’s imagine some school children visiting in a museum one day, or, in a hall of fame called “Hebrews 11.” The displays are all lined up: Dad after dad, and story after story of how great men (and women!) of early Bible times were able to live for God because of their unswerving faith. But one little fellow in the group speaks up and says: “I see Abraham, and Noah, and Abel … but … how come Adam is not displayed?” “Well,” the guide answers, “Adam should have been on display too, but he fell.” You have noticed that in that great chapter of the Bible, Adam is conspicuous because of his absence. Even though Adam was saved in the end, he is remembered more because of his fall than because his faith. What a sad record for a father!

His Family

Satan had his eye on Eden’s couple, as he does on families today. Eve was deceived by him and then Adam disobeyed. Adam tried to justify his fall by blaming his companion, Eve, and even the circumstances God had brought him into (Gen 3:12), but God held Adam accountable for what happened (Rom 5:12). Adam’s fatherhood started off banished from Eden and far from the place of fellowship and favor that God had intended for his posterity. Dear dads, whatever we do, let us be careful not to forfeit the blessing that God wants for our children.

Cain was eternally ruined by his father’s fall, and the Flood swept his descendants away. It cost Abel a premature and violent death, even though it seems like Adam planted seeds of devotion to God in him (or was it his mother?) Seth’s children still suffer from the evil consequences of the fall to this day. Paul referred to the Lord Jesus as “the last Adam” (1 Cor 15:45), not “the second Adam.” There will not be another fall. We suffer from the first Adam’s fall, but as believers we enjoy the last Adam’s forgiveness.

The glaring lesson is, dads, that our spiritual downfall will not only affect ourselves and those around us today, but may well have drastic, hurtful, and lasting consequences on future generations. Boys and girls who grow up under the stigma, shame, and sorrow of a father who fell will face many difficult circumstances in life. You probably know someone today that is far from assembly fellowship and usefulness for God because of a father’s fall.

Adam could have benefited from Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians: “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12). Will we? We should.