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5 Types of Fathers in the Bible

There are Fathers In The Bible, But How Are They As Dads?

Even though my children are now grown, I believe that being a dad has been one of the greatest and most fulfilling experiences of my life.  But I must also admit, next to being a husband, it’s been one of the toughest challenges of my life.

Before I became a dad, I had no clue how to be one.  Like most men, who either grew up without a dad in the home or was emotionally and spiritually disconnected to the one they had, all I ever knew growing up as a kid was the kind of father I didn’t want to be.

Little did I know at the time, that perspective was a set up for failure as a dad.  Because it’s almost impossible to get to where you want to go trying to avoid where you don’t want to be.

types of fathers in the bible

Using Manly Characteristics As Examples of The Fathers We As Men Can Become

It wasn’t until I opened my Bible to study the ways and character of my Heavenly Father that I learned about the kind of earthly father I wanted to be. But I also stumbled upon lessons I could learn from the different types of fathers in the Bible who were just simple men like me.  Men like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, King Saul, Samuel, Eli, Jesse, and King David, just to name a few.

Even though there’s a lot to learn about these men by the sons they produced, the Bible doesn’t specifically go into a lot of depth about each of them as dads.  But I think if we look closer, and we connect the little that we know (the types of fathers they were) to something we’re more familiar with (the military), I think we can get a clearer picture and learn some valuable lessons about becoming better dads.


5 Types of 'Earthly Fathers' Many Men Represent

Regardless of the kind of father you may have had, there are generally 5 types of dads we can all choose to become.  Just think military…

what does the bible say about fathers

Types of Fathers In The Bible - Number One

The Prisoner of War (POW) Dad. 

This is the dad who is present in his children’s life, but he’s not positively engaged in it. And he’s not just disengaged, he’s enraged. To his children, he always seems angry, and because of that anger, he hurts others with his words, tone, and actions. The family walks on proverbial eggshells around him because they don’t know when or if the angry guy inside him will rear his ugly head.

An example of this type of dad in the Bible would be King Saul, Jonathan’s dad (1 Samuel 13 thru 1 Samuel 31).  Even though Saul was king, he was an insecure king with an uncontrollable temper, and he often took out his anger on anyone he felt was a threat to his leadership, including his own son.  Although Jonathan turned out to be an exceptional son, despite his dad, he never really had the kind of relationship he probably desired as a son.

One of the most valuable lessons you can learn as a dad from King Saul’s life is to know who God called you to be as a leader and parent – to be humble and faithful and not insecure and fearful.

different types of fathers in the bible

Types of Fathers In The Bible - Number Two

Missing in Action (M.I.A.) Dad.

This is the dad who chooses not to be present in his children’s life. He may have helped bring them into the world, but he doesn’t want to have anything to do with them. He’s not engaged, and his children may not even know who or where he is. They probably wouldn’t recognize him if they saw him on the street. He chooses to stay away because the pain and shame of returning are too great for him to face.

We don’t really hear a lot about this type of dad in the Bible, but a man that probably comes the closest to this type of dad would probably be Eli, the Priest (1 Samuel 4).  For a lack of a better way of describing him, the Bible depicts him as being terrible as a priest, as well as a being a failure as a father.  Yes, Eli had his moments, but for the most part, he’s remembered for being neglectful as a dad.

If you read about Eli’s life as a priest and parent, you will learn that he lacked two important qualities when it comes to parental discipline: firm resolve and corrective action.  His failure as a dad resulted in him having two abusive sons.

But the good news for this type of dad is that it’s not too late for you to change and show up for duty.  But you must first overcome the guilt and shame of not being present and engaged in your child’s(ren) life.

what does bible say about dads

Types of Fathers In The Bible - Number Three

Absent Without Leave (A.W.O.L.) Dad. 

This is the dad who’s physically present in the home, but he’s not emotionally present when he’s there. The children see him, but the children can’t seem to talk to him. He comes home and secludes himself from the family. He may not necessarily be a bad dad; he’s just emotionally detached from others in his home. So, he struggles in silence as those he loves struggle in his absence.

An example of this type of dad in the Bible would be King David (1 Chronicles 3). Although called by God, “a man after His own heart,” King David struggled mightily as a father. In fact, the issues surrounding King David’s dysfunctional family would even make Dr. Phil blush.  

There were probably a lot of contributing factors to King David’s failure in the home, but a lot of it, like the M.I.A. Dad may have been a result of his own personal guilt and shame.  

A valuable lesson to learn from King David’s failure as a father is to know that nothing ever gets solved or resolved by NOT communicating.  Engage your children in daily conversation, and get to know and understand their heart, not just their bad habits.

what does the bible say about fathers responsibilities

Types of Fathers In The Bible - Number Four

Reserved Duty Dad. 

This is the dad who treats fatherhood like a part-time job. He’s engaged with his children, but only occasionally—maybe only on the weekends, when it’s most convenient for him. He has good intentions, but his children require more time than he’s willing or able to give. His children need him to be a full-time dad, but he’s content with giving them a part-time effort.

I know this may be a stretch, but the man who I think comes closest to this type of dad in the Bible was Jacob (Exodus 6).  Jacob had twelve sons, the most popular one being Joseph.  And Jacob struggled being a parent, often showing favoritism, causing resentment in the hearts of his children.

But for the most part, Jacob wasn’t a horrible dad, because it does seem that his children respected him as a father; so, he probably had his moments.  

The take-a-way we need to learn from the Reserved Duty Dad is to establish and practice consistency.  

When it comes to children, they say the word “love” is spelled T-I-M-E, and that’s exactly what the Reservist Dad needs to commit to – more time with children.  Children, especially when they’re younger, will always choose time with their dad over money from their dad.

what do the bible say about fathers

Types of Fathers In The Bible - Number Five

Active Duty Dad. 

This type of Dad isn’t a perfect dad, but he’s a consistently and emotionally present dad. He’s actively engaged, attentive, available, and accessible to his children.  He’s intentional about learning and winning the hearts of his children, even if he has to struggle to do it. He loves, protects, serves, and provides for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. He’s not afraid to affirm his love for his children, and when they’re in his presence, they feel emotionally and physically safe and secure.

Ironically, I believe the man who eventually struggled as a father (King David), had this type of dad in Jesse (1 Samuel 16,17,22).  Jesse had eight sons and two daughters.  He was a man who followed God, and trusted God to keep his son, David safe.  Jesse also supported his sons at war, having David send food for them, inquiring about their welfare. 

Other than that, not much more is mentioned about Jesse as a dad.  But it appears he exhibited most of the character traits of an Active Duty Dad.

types of fathers in the bible

In summary, the types of fathers in the Bible can give us a glimpse of the kind of dad we can choose to become, but it doesn’t give us any instructions – just examples.

And it seems like the types of dads we become are often influenced by the types of dads we had growing up. 

But regardless of the type of father we had, whether good, bad, average, or absent, our “dad type” may explain us as men, but it doesn’t excuse us as parents. Our children deserve for us to be the best versions of ourselves and to serve as a blueprint of what a real dad should be, especially when it comes to being a godly one.

christian father

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