Ron L. Deal
Stepfamilies come in many shapes and sizes. Most today are born from divorce, the death of a parent, or after non-marital childbirth (and the mother later marries someone other than the father). In the Old Testament, most were born out of polygamy (usually a husband with more than one wife). A stepfamily of a different color, I like to say.
We often assume that God’s ideal design for the family, that is, one man and one woman who marry for life and raise their biological children, must be the story of believers throughout the ages. After all, God-followers have families that reflect God’s design, right?
Consider the genealogy of Jesus. As you discover what we do know about his non-traditional family lineage, keep in mind that since polygamy was common even to the time of Jesus most of the “unknown” family situations listed below were likely stepfamilies as well.
1 A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:
2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, [stepfamily – at least 3 wives/stepmoms; when Sarah tried to separate Abraham from her stepson, his son Ishmael, it caused Abraham great distress (see Gen 21)]
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, [dysfunctional stepfamily - 4 wives/stepmoms, multiple half-siblings, and a great deal of family hostility, competition, and jealousy, e.g., selling Joseph into slavery]
3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, [Perez and his twin brother Zerah were conceived when his father Judah had sex with his widowed daughter-in-law Tamar whom he thought was a prostitute]
Perez the father of Hezron, [unknown family type]
Hezron the father of Ram, [unknown family type]
4 Ram the father of Amminadab, [unknown family type]
Amminadab the father of Nahshon, [unknown family type]
Nahshon the father of Salmon, [unknown family type]
5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, [Rahab was a prostitute]
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, [Ruth was a widow who remarried]
Obed the father of Jesse, [unknown family type]
6 and Jesse the father of King David. [unknown family type]
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, [stepfamily - Solomon is born to a marriage formed from adultery and murder; David had 8 wives/stepmoms and unnumbered concubines; David’s daughter Tamar was raped by her half-brother Amnon, who was in turn murdered by his half-brother Absalom]
7 Solomon the father of Rehoboam, [stepfamily – around 700 wives and 300 concubines (I imagine too many kids to count!)]
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, [stepfamily – 18 wives/stepmoms and 60 concubines; 28 sons and 60 daughters]
Abijah the father of Asa, [stepfamily – 14 wives/stepmoms; 22 sons and 16 daughters]
8 Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, [unknown family type]
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, [unknown family type]
Jehoram the father of Uzziah, [unknown family type]
9 Uzziah the father of Jotham, [unknown family type]
Jotham the father of Ahaz, [unknown family type]
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, [unknown family type]
10 Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, [we know of one marriage]
Manasseh the father of Amon, [we know of one marriage]
Amon the father of Josiah, [we know of one marriage]
11 and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. [stepfamily – 2 wives/stepmoms]
12 After the exile to Babylon:
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, [unknown family type]
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, [unknown family type]
13 Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, [unknown family type]
Abiud the father of Eliakim, [unknown family type]
Eliakim the father of Azor, [unknown family type]
14 Azor the father of Zadok, [unknown family type]
Zadok the father of Akim, [unknown family type]
Akim the father of Eliud, [unknown family type]
15 Eliud the father of Eleazar, [unknown family type]
Eleazar the father of Matthan, [unknown family type]
Matthan the father of Jacob, [unknown family type]
16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. [Is this a stepfamily? How do we categorize this one? Joseph is clearly not Jesus’ biological father (walking away from Mary and the pregnancy is understandable given that he didn’t have an immediate fatherly attachment to Jesus. And yet, he graciously adopts him as his own.]
17 Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David [at least 2 stepfamilies, one case of incest, one prostitute, and one remarriage], fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon [at least 5 stepfamilies], and fourteen from the exile to the Christ [at least one stepfamily/adoptive family fashioned by immaculate conception].
For certain, 19% of the families in the genealogy of Jesus were non-traditional families. (In actuality it is probably much higher.)
Today in America 40% of all couples with children are stepfamilies.
Stepfamilies have always been a part of God’s people—and in increasing numbers, it appears, always will be. Praise be to the God who loves families—all families—and redeems them for His glory!
Ron L. Deal is president of Smart Stepfamilies™, director of FamilyLife Blended™, a popular conference speaker on marriage and family matters, and author/coauthor of a series of DVD’s, books, and curriculum for stepfamilies including The Smart Stepfamily, The Smart Stepmom, The Smart Stepdad, The Remarriage Checkup, and Dating and the Single Parent. Learn more at www.FamilyLife.com/blended and www.SmartStepfamilies.com.