Was God Known as Father in the Old Testament? – By Asher Chee (Dated 29 Jan 2021)
“In attempting to denigrate the Old Testament, Joseph Prince teaches that God was not known as father in the Old Testament, but only in the New Testament, when Jesus revealed God as father. More recently, Joseph Prince has claimed that in the Old Testament, God was known as a distant God rather than a loving father. However, that is not at all true.
There are many passages in the Old Testament which testify to the fact that the people of God knew him as their father, and considered themselves his children. Here are a few examples:
In Exodus 4:22-23, God tells Pharaoh: “Israel is my son, my firstborn, and I say to you, release my son so that he may serve me!”
In Isaiah 1:2, speaking of Israel, God says: “I have made great and raised sons, and they have rebelled against me!”
In Isaiah 63:16, the righteous remnant of Israel says to God: “You are our father. If Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not recognize us, you, Jehovah, are our father!”
In Malachi 1:6, God says: “If I am a father, where is my honour?”
In order for God to challenge the Israelites in this way, it must have been that they acknowledged him as “father”.
In 1 Chronicles 29:10, David prayed to God: “Blessed are you, Jehovah, God of Israel, our father from eternity and unto eternity!”
Probably one of the more prominent passages which might come to mind is Malachi 2:10:
Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?
According to the parallelism, it is indisputable that the “one father” here is the “one God” who “created us”.
Some might argue that this fatherhood of God here is based upon creation; in other words, God is the father of every human being only because he created them. However, that misses the point which Malachi was trying to make.
Notice that this creation which Malachi speaks of here is the basis upon which he exhorts his audience – the people of Israel – that they should not be dealing treacherously with each other. He reminds them they are brothers; not just because they are descended from the same ancestry, but because they all have “one father” – God himself. Hence, the creation which Malachi speaks of here is a covenantal creation. In other words, Israel is said to be “created” by God when he adopted them as his covenant people.
Deuteronomy 32:6 says to Israel,
Do you thus repay the LORD, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?
Here, we see God being described as the “father” of Israel. Why? Because he made them. The Hebrew word for “make” here is synonymous with the word for “create” in Malachi 2:10. Later on in verse 18, God is referred to the one who “begot” Israel, and “gave birth” to them. Israel was “born of God” in that sense when he adopted them as his own children. This “adoption” is what the Apostle Paul talks about in Romans 9:4, where he says that “to them [the Israelites] belong the adoption”.
The prophet Isaiah also appeals to this concept of covenantal creation and fatherhood.
In Isaiah 43:1, God is described as the one who “created” and “formed” Israel. In verse 15, God reiterates that he is “the creator of Israel.” In verse 6, God refers to individual Israelites as “my sons” and “my daughters,” implying that he is indeed their father! In verse 7, God describes his covenant sons and daughters as “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
In Isaiah 45:11, God again implies his fatherhood over Israel in the context of his covenantal creatorship of them:
Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and the one who formed him: “Ask me of things to come; will you command me concerning my children and the work of my hands?
In Isaiah 64:8, remnant Israel prays:
But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Again, notice the relation between God as covenantal creator and therefore as father.
Once we grasp this concept of covenantal fatherhood in the Old Testament, the fatherhood of God in the New Testament starts to make more sense. The Israelites, the Old Covenant people of God, were the prefiguring shadow of the New Covenant people of God. When we became part of the New Covenant, we became “born” of God (John 3:3, 5–8) and received the “adoption” to become “children of God” (Romans 8:15, 23; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5).
The Old Testament clearly presents God as father. When Jesus came to earth and talked to his fellow Jews about God as their “father”, he was not teaching them anything new that they did not already know. Rather, he was drawing upon their prior knowledge of God as the father of his people in the Old Testament Scriptures. God is the father of his covenant people, and all those who become part of the New Covenant by faith enjoy the privilege of knowing God as their father in Heaven.
Therefore, Joseph Prince’s claim that God was not known as father in the Old Testament, is demonstrably false.”
Attending Gospel Light Christian Church, Singapore