Parenting Is Kind of Like a Suzerain Vassal Treaty

A suzerain-vassal treaty is usually made between 2 kings or 2 nations, where the stronger ruler (the suzerain) gives military and economic protection to a smaller ruler (the vassal) and his people in exchange for a promised loyalty to the stronger ruler. The suzerain (the powerful ruler) would impose certain conditions or regulations upon the vassal. It is somewhat of a political covenant. This was a common form of treaty between the 13th-15th centuries. The structure of a suzerain-vassal treaty looks like this:

  1. Preamble – This is where the suzerain would give His name and title of his office.
  2. Historical Prologue – This would the events leading to and forming the basis for the treaty. The suzerain would rehearse the historical based for this treaty.
  3. General Stipulations – Here is where the suzerain would share the conditions or requirements of the vassal’s loyalty and in return promises protection during times of war or great needs.
  4. Specific Stipulations – Then copies are made of the treaty to be kept by both sides and then read publicly in the vassal state once per year.
  5. Divine Witnesses – The rulers of both countries will meet.
  6. Blessings and Curses – The suzerain states if there is obedience to their regulations, they will experience blessing. If not or there is unfaithfulness, there will be cursing upon that vassal.

As I was hearing this form of treaty explained yesterday in an O.T. class at my church, I got to thinking how similar this kind of treaty is to parenting.

  1. Preamble – Parents and children know who is in charge – who might be the suzerain (the parent) and who might be the vassal (the child).
  2. Historical Prologue – Perhaps this might be the section where parents would instruct their children on why the Bible gives us the family, why God places parents in their particular role, why a child is to honor their parents, and why God gives parents the responsibility of instruction and nurturing.
  3. General Stipulations – Rehearsing the meaning of obedience and honor for children.
  4. Specific Stipulations – Specific “rules of the house” might be rehearsed here.
  5. Divine Witnesses – This might be the one section of this treaty where I don’t find a parallel.
  6. Blessings and Curses – Kids know that poor choices will result in a consequence (e.g., discipline). Rewards may be given for obedience; discipline may be given for disobedience.

Did God intend for us to see parenting through this lens – through this treaty? Probably not. But it was fun to think about anyway!

Parenting is an arrangement between parent and child where God places one party as sovereign over another – the parent over the child. God has done the same with us. As our Sovereign, we too have the privilege of serving Him and experiencing His blessing when we “hold up our end of the bargain.”

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