Sheik and his wife (Ramallah)
Sheik and his wife (Ramallah)

I’m reading Orientalisms in Bible Lands By Edwin Wilbur Rice and it starts with establishing the centricity of the family in Oriental (in the “old-timey” sense of the word: all cultures EAST of the Mediterranean) culture. The center of the family is the father:

3. The ” Father:’— To the Oriental, the family is a little kingdom in itself. The “father,” or head, is king — a supreme ruler in his realm. The Oriental requires a “father” at the head of every company, every band of traders and travelers, as well as for every tribe, community, and household. The Oriental cannot conceive of any such band or company without a “father,” though not one in the band may be kith or kin to the so-called “father.” They may be servants, stragglers, or strangers that are journeying together, yet one of their number must be “father” to all the others. Any other idea is unthinkable to the Oriental mind. Their idea of “father” also includes a wider range. What a man invents, makes, manages, of that, too, he is the “father.” Thus, Jubal “was the father of all such as handle the harp and pipe,” because he was the reputed inventor of these instruments, and Jabal was the “father of such as dwell in tents and have cattle,” because he was the supposed pioneer in that mode of life^; not because either of these men was the natural father of all such persons. Even when one becomes the preserver, protector, or helper of another, he was called a ” father,” as Joseph says God made him “a father to Pharaoh.” The young Levite became “a father and priest, ” to Micah and the Danites.^

With this established, I love what it says about the practice of raising the son like a slave:

5. The Son. — From almost every point of view, the structure of an Oriental family is a puzzle to Occidentals. A son, when he is a child, in nowise differs from a slave, though he is lord of all.* This seeming paradox grows out of the structure of the Oriental family. Prof. Post points out that now in the Orient the women of a monarch’s household are commonly slaves. Many of the women in the households of the pashas and sheikhs are also slaves. “Thus the children are in subjection.” They must kiss the father’s hand when they see him: must always stand in his presence with folded hands; eat apart from him; in a word, feel and act like slaves. This training fits the child (so they think) to appreciate the transition from subjection to the rights of a son, when his days of tutelage are over.

What a powerful picture of our adoption into the family of God! The son of those days understood what it meant when he acquired his place in the family, his heirship; According to Romans 8, I also have entered into the rights of a son:

16The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.