The adrogatio of the older Roman law—a legal process by which a man can create betweenhimself and a person not his child relations that properly belong only to father and child—is unknown to both Biblical and Talmudic law. But the feeling that the man and woman who bring up a child, and more especially those who teach the child virtue and the fear of God, should be honored as parents is strongly expressed in the Talmud (Sanh. 19b), which, in the usual way, strengthens the views of the sages with quotations from Scripture. Concerning the sons of Michal, daughter of King Saul, mentioned in II Sam. xxi. 8, Rabbi Joshua b. Ḳorḥa, one of the sages of Mishnaic times, asks:
"Did Michal bear them? Did not rather Merab bear them? Merab bore them, and Michal reared them; to teach us that whoever rears an orphan in his own house is, in the words of Scripture, deemed its parent. R. Ḥanina drew the same doctrine from Ruth, iv. 17. 'And the women her neighbors gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi.' Now, did Naomi bear him? Did not Ruth bear him? Ruth bore him and Naomi reared him; therefore he is called Naomi's child.
Adoption in Female Line.
"R. Eleazar, quoting Ps. lxxvii. 15, finds the doctrine in these words: 'Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah!' And was not Jacob their father? Yes; Jacob begat them, but Joseph nourished them; therefore they take his name. R. Samuel b. Naḥmani says, on the authority of R. Jonathan: Whoever teaches the son of his companion the Law, has the right, in the sense of Scripture, to be deemed that person's father: for it is said (Num. iii. 1, 2): 'These are the generations of Aaron and Moses,' and farther on: 'And these are the names of the sons of Aaron'; this is totell thee that Aaron begat them, and Moses taught them: hence they are set down under Moses' name."
By a similar exegetical process Moses is called the son of Bithiah, the daughter of Pharaoh (I Chron. iv. 18), whom legend identifies with the Egyptian princess who saved and reared Moses (Meg. 13a). As a matter of fact the Scriptures show how Pharaoh's daughter brought up Moses, as if she were his mother; and how Mordecai, after the death of Esther's father and mother, "took her unto himself for a daughter" (Esth. ii. 7), and Esther treated him with the implicit obedience due to a father. But it is not likely that, in case of his death, she would have inherited his estate in preference to nearer blood relations; neither does it appear that a method for creating such a relation between them as would make her his heiress was ever known to the laws of Israel.
There is, however, one passage in Scripture (Gen. xlviii. 5), "Ephraim and Manasseh . . . are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine," which indicates that the writer was probably acquainted with Adoption in the legal sense, such as would give to the chosen children the right of inheriting from the person adopting them; for the obvious intent of the passage is to account for the establishment of two tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, with distinct territories, on an equality with the tribes claiming descent from Jacob's sons.
Adoption in a legal sense is practically unknown in lands and conditions in which in case of childlessness a man may marry another wife in order to beget a son for his heir (see Koran, sura xxxiii. 3, and Hughes, "Dictionary of Islam," s.v. "Adoption"). In fact, the Mosaic institution of the Levirate, by which the surviving brother is enjoined to marry his deceased brother's wife in order to give him a male heir, shows that Adoption in the Roman sense did not exist among the ancient Hebrews (see Deut. xxv. 5-6; compare, however, Sifre, ii. 289; Yer. Yeb. ii. 10b; Bab. Yeb. 24a, where this primitive view is no longer accepted). The Adoption of the slave as son and heir, as indicated in the Bible in the words of Abraham, "One born in my house is mine heir" (Gen. xv. 3), was probably practised frequently in the manner described in I Chron. ii. 34 et seq., where Sheshan is mentioned as having given his daughter as wife to his servant and adopted their sons as his own.
Yet some form of Adoption was in use in Biblical times. At first, barren wives are found giving to their husbands their female slaves with the view of adopting any children borne by the latter (Gen. xvi. 2, xxx. 3), the mode of Adoption being that the handmaid brought forth her child upon the knees of the adoptive mother (Gen. xxx. 3; compare Gen. 1. 23). According to Josephus ("Ant." i. 7, § 1), Abraham, being at first childless, adopted Lot as his son. According to Philo ("Vita Mosis," i. 5) and Josephus ("Ant." ii. 9, § 7), the daughter of Pharaoh formally adopted Moses as her son (Ex. ii. 10). So Ruth, iv. 16 and Esth. ii. 7 are understood by many (see Vulgate to Esther) as referring to Adoption; the placing of the child upon the knee or bosom (Ruth, iv. 16) resembling the old Teutonic mode of Adoption (Grimm, "Deutsche Rechts-Alterthümer," p. 464). According to Ewald ("Alterthümer," p. 191), the mode of Adoption was the casting of a garment upon the person to be adopted: the term "Mantelkind," in German, points to the same origin. Elijah cast his mantle upon Elisha to indicate that he had adopted him as his spiritual heir (I Kings, xix. 19-21); and so, Ewald thinks, should the words be explained which Ruth uses to Boaz: "Spread thy skirt over thy handmaid, for thou art the redeemer" (go-el) (Ruth, iii. 9). When the Lord finds Israel as a waif in the wilderness, He is described as performing the same symbolical rite: "I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness, and entered into a covenant with thee" (Ezek. xvi. 8), Now, while the former sentence was rather to denote a nuptial relationship (see W. Robertson Smith, "Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia," p. 87), it is probable that this was the original mode of recognizing paternal relations to a child with the duty of protection implied thereby. It is possible that spreading of the garment over a woman was a more primitive form of marriage; while the spreading of the mantle as in the case of Elisha was a mode of installation or investiture as prophet. Accordingly, the stranger who enters into new religious relation with the Deity of his adopted land is said to come under the wings of the Deity whose protection he seeks. Thus Boaz says to Ruth: "A full reward be given thee of the Lord, God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to seek refuge" (Ruth, ii. 12). This became the standing expression for conversion to the Jewish religion in rabbinical times; for example, Abraham brought many Gentiles under the wings of the Shekinah (Ab. R. N. ed. Schecter, text B, xxvi., and elsewhere). God is in this manner represented as extending His Fatherly protection to the proselyte who recognizes Him as his God and Father. From this point of view Paul always speaks of conversion as "adoption" (υἱοφεσία), literally, acceptance as God's children: Rom. viii. 15, "Ye have received the Spirit of adoption [being accepted as children], whereby we cry, Abba, Father"; Rom. ix. 4, "Israelites, to whom pertaineth the adoption" [= the acceptance as God's children]; Gal. iv. 5, Eph. i. 5. Compare "Apost. Const." ii. 26 and 32, "The bishop, your father, leads you to a new birth for adoption."
- Ben Chananja, 1858, i. 391 et seq.;
- Fassel, Das Mosaisch-Rabb. Civil-Recht, § 178;
- Mayer, Die Rcchte der Israeliten, Athener, und Roemer, ii. 426 et seq.