Is often synonymous with ancestor, founder, or originator, as Ge 4:20-21; Joh 8:56; Ro 4:16. Joseph was a father to Pharoah, Ge 45:8, as his counselor and provider. God is the FATHER of men, as their Creator, De 32:6; Isa 63:16; 64:8; Lu 3:38. But as we have forfeited the rights of children by our sins, it is only through Christ that we can call God by that endearing name, "our Father," Joh 20:17; Ro 8:15-17.
In patriarchal times, a father was master and judge in his own household, and exercised and authority almost unlimited over his family. Filial disobedience or disrespect was a high offence. Under the law, certain acts of children were capital crimes, Ex 21:15,17; Le 20:9; and the father was required to bring his son to the public tribunal, De 21:18-21. See MOTHER.
a name applied (1) to any ancestor (De 1:11; 1Ki 15:11; Mt 3:9; 23:30, etc.); and (2) as a title of respect to a chief, ruler, or elder, etc. (Jg 17:10; 18:19; 1Sa 10:12; 2Ki 2:12; Mt 23:9, etc.). (3) The author or beginner of anything is also so called; e.g., Jabal and Jubal (Ge 4:20-21; comp. Job 38:28).
Chaldaic 'abba. Christ's endearing filial mode of addressing God; so believers (Mr 14:36; Ro 8:15); from 'aabah, "to show kindness." God's fatherhood is the ground and pattern for human fatherhood. Abraham was "father of nations," both by natural descent from him and by spiritual fellowship in his faith (Ge 18:18-19; Ro 4:17). The godly father's blessing brought great good, his curse great evil (Ge 9:25-27); the undutifulness of Ham entailing a curse on his race, the dutifulness of Shem and Japhet a blessing on their races (Ge 27:27-40; 48:15-20,22). The fifth commandment, "honor thy father and mother," is the first with special promise (Eph 6:2).
Love descends rather than ascends; hence this commandment is more needed than one concerning parents' duties to children, but this is added (Eph 6:4; Col 3:21). Dishonoring parents is one of the worst sins (Ex 21:15-17; 1Ti 1:9; Mal 1:6; Isa 45:10). Still the parent was not to inflict death, but to bring the refractory child before the city elders in the gate or place of justice (De 21:18-21). Any ancestor is called "father" or "mother" (Isa 51:2; Jer 35:16-18, the sons of Jonadab son of Rechab, a striking instance of the blessing on obedience to parents; Da 5:2; 2Ch 15:16 margin). "Father" is used also for protector, patron (Job 29:16; Ps 68:5; De 32:6). "Fathers" mean elders (Ac 7:2; 22:1). The pupils of a spiritual master are called "sons" (2Ki 2:3; 4:1).
Father expresses one worshipped or reverenced (Jer 2:27; 2Ki 2:12; 5:13; 6:21). The inventor of any art is called "father" of it or of its practicers (Ge 4:20-21; Joh 8:44; Job 38:28; 17:14). So the source (2Co 1:3) or instrument of spiritual blessings, as "mercy," regeneration. 1Co 4:15; "though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." The father's great duty was to teach God's laws continually to his children; "speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up ... that your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children ... as the days of heaven upon the earth" (De 11:18-21).
Except as creator and preserver of all, God is not revealed as Father in the O.T. "Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?" Mal 2:10. The Lord Jesus is also prophesied of as 'the everlasting Father' or 'Father of the everlasting age.' Isa 9:6. It was reserved for the N.T. times that God should be made known as Father; and this was done only by the Lord Jesus while upon earth, who constantly spoke to His disciples of God as their Father in heaven. Mt 5:16,45,48-6:1; 6:8,14-15, etc. He could, as the Son, while on earth thus make Him known to them. After the resurrection the Lord was able to send this message to His disciples, whom He now calls His 'brethren:' "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." Joh 20:17. The will of the Father and the work of His Son, the source of eternal life to them, had brought the disciples in this respect into the same heavenly position as the risen Christ Himself before the Father. The term 'father' is used symbolically when there is a moral likeness between a leader and his followers. Joh 8:38-44.
In the O.T. the word ab is at times used as 'founder:' thus in 1Ch 4:4 one is mentioned as the 'father' of Bethlehem.
The position and authority of the father as the head of the family are expressly assumed and sanctioned in Scripture, as a likeness of that of the Almighty over his creatures. It lies of course at the root of that so-called patriarchal government,
which was introductory to the more definite systems which followed, and which in part, but not wholly, superseded it. The father's blessing was regarded as conferring special benefit, but his malediction special injury, on those on whom it fell,
... and so also the sin of a parent was held to affect, in certain cases, the welfare of his descendants.
The command to honor parents is noticed by St. Paul as the only one of the Decalogue which bore a distinct promise,
and disrespect towards them was condemned by the law as one of the worst crimes.
It is to this well-recognized theory of parental authority and supremacy that the very various uses of the term "father" in Scripture are due. "Fathers" is used in the sense of seniors,
and of parents in general, or ancestors.
FATHER. This word, beside its common acceptation, is taken in Scripture for grandfather, great-grandfather, or the founder of a family, how remote soever. So the Jews in our Saviour's time called Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their fathers. Jesus Christ is called the Son of David, though David was many generations distant from him. By father is likewise understood the institutor of a certain profession. Jabal "was father of such as dwell in tents, and such as have cattle." Jubal "was father of all such as handle the harp and organ," or flute, &c, Ge 4:20-21. Huram is called father of the king of Tyre, 2Ch 2:13; and, 2Ch 4:16, even of Solomon, because he was the principal workman, and chief director of their undertakings. The principal prophets were considered as fathers of the younger, who were their disciples, and are called sons of the prophets, 2Ki 2:12. Father is a term of respect given by inferiors to superiors. "My father," said Naaman's attendants to him, "if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing," 2Ki 5:13; and so the king of Israel addresses the prophet Elisha, 2Ki 6:21. Rechab, the founder of the Rechabites, is called their father, Jer 35:6. A man is said to be a father to the poor and orphans, when he supplies their necessities, and sympathizes with their miseries, as a father would do toward them: "I was a father to the poor," says Job 29:16. God declares himself to be the "Father of the fatherless, and Judge of the widow," Ps 68:5. God is frequently called our heavenly Father, and simply our Father; eminently the Father, Preserver, and Protector of all, especially of those who invoke him, and serve him: "Is he not thy Father that bought thee?" says Moses, De 32:6. Since the coming of Jesus Christ, we have a new right to call God our Father, by reason of the adoption which our Saviour has merited for us, by clothing himself in our humanity, and purchasing us by his death: "Ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God," Ro 8:15. Job entitles God "the Father of rain," Job 38:28; he produces it, and causes it to fall. The devil is called the father of the wicked and the father of lies, Joh 8:44. He deceived Eve and Adam; he introduced sin and falsehood; he inspires his followers with his spirit and sentiments. The father of Sichem, the father of Tekoah, the father of Bethlehem, &c, signify the chief persons who inhabited these cities; he who built or rebuilt them. Adam is the first father, the father of the living; Abraham is the father of the faithful, the father of the circumcision; called also the "father of many nations," because many people sprung from him; as the Jews, Ishmaelites, Arabs, &c. God is called "the Father of spirits," Heb 12:9. He not only creates them, but he justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies them, and thus confers upon them eternal happiness.