Exodus Motif in Adoption

The Exodus motif is applied to the people of God in 1 Peter 2:9-10. Israel’s journey, testing, and receiving God’s covenant were based on their identification as God’s son (Exodus 4:23). Adoption (huiothesia, υιοθεσία) is an important Pauline metaphor describing one’s connection with God the Father (as well as with the Son and the Holy Spirit) (Ephesians 1:5; Romans 8:23; Galatians 4:5), and the Exodus motif is significant in understanding Paul’s metaphor of adoption.

Both Fisher and Carson have argued that the Exodus pattern was the prototype for God’s deliverance and redemption of His people throughout the Bible. Garner sees adoption as an “inclusive benefit” of one’s union with Christ as a result of redemption providing justification and sanctification, but does not refer to the Exodus theme of deliverance. Estelle discusses Paul’s view of spiritual adoption as a “new exodus” of deliverance from the tyranny of sin and the devil (Galatians 4; Romans 8). Roberts and Wilson conclude that in Galatians 4 spiritual adoption and the Exodus are connected by redemption from slavery. This paper draws out the implications of adoption (sociological and spiritual) and its relationship to the Exodus in greater detail.

The Exodus includes the Israelites’ departure from Egypt, their journey in the wilderness, and their entry into the Promised Land. This same threefold pattern is seen in adoption (both sociological and spiritual): deliverance/departure, journey/adaptation, and arrival/acceptance. Sociological adoption is marked by children leaving their home of origin, being adopted by their new parents and given a new identity, struggling in the realization of this adoption, and entering into a place of rest aligned with their adoption. God’s adoption of His children also includes a new beginning (2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Peter 2:9-10), formal adoption by Him (Romans 8:15), and an ongoing struggle to live the new life (Galatians 2:20). God’s adoption of His children results in their justification, and their entry into a promised land as an inheritance (Ephesians 1:11).

Just as the Israelites experienced God’s deliverance from slavery, so God’s children experience release from slavery to Satan (Romans 8:12-15). The Exodus of Israel required God’s call and rescue, as do God’s children. The legal terms of Israelites’ adoption were spelled out on Mount Sinai, and those of God’s children are enumerated in 1 Peter 1:13-23 (as a summation of the Sinaitic Covenant). The Israelites experienced a liminal period going from Egypt to the Promised Land, and God’s children undergo liminality in the “already/not yet” process of sanctification. The Israelites had to rely on God for sustenance, and their new identity was solidified by shared experiences. While their destination is described in general terms, neither the Israelites nor God’s children fully appreciate this. Instead, the new beginning initiates a period of spiritual warfare and doubts.

In sociological adoption, both parents and children experience their own Exodus-type journey, punctuated by multiple transitions along the way. Understanding how spiritual adoption is connected to the Exodus motif results in a greater appreciation of one’s sanctification.