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People's Dictionary of the Bible


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Birthright. Genesis 25:31. The first-born son among the Jews enjoyed special privileges above his brethren, and these privileges were hence called his birthright, or his right by birth. Among these privileges were: great dignity, Genesis 49:3; a double portion of his father's estate, Deuteronomy 21:17; and, in the royal families, usually succession to the kingdom, 2 Chronicles 21:3; consecration to the Lord, Exodus 22:29. In consequence of this fact—that God had taken the Levites from among the children of Israel, instead of all the first-born, to serve him as priests—the first-born of the other tribes were to be redeemed at a valuation made by the priest, not exceeding five shekels, from serving God in that capacity. Numbers 18:15-16; comp. Luke 2:22 ff.—Horne's Introduction. The eldest son seems to have been regarded, in the father's absence, as in some respects his representative. A father might direct how his property should be distributed after his death, hough it interfered with ordinary customs; but we hear nothing of the will in a technical sense in the Bible, until we come to the epistle to the Galatians. Daughters were generally left portionless, it being expected that they would be provided for by the eldest brother or by their husbands. When there were no sons, however, they became joint heirs of their father's estate, providing they did not marry outside the family line. Even then they might claim their portion if the husband took the family name of his wife. In cases where there were only daughters in the family, and they unmarried, their names were entered in the registers of families as representatives of the father's house. See Bissell's Biblical Antiquities. The paternal blessing was also in a peculiar sense the right of the first-born, though the right itself and all the blessings of it might be forfeited or transferred, as in the case of Jacob and Esau, Genesis 25:33; Reuben and Joseph, 1 Chronicles 5:1. But by whomsoever enjoyed, it was regarded as invested with great dignity and superiority. The Jews attached a sacred import to the title "first-born." Hence the peculiar force and appropriateness of the titles "first-born," "first-begotten," given to the divine Redeemer. Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:18; Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 1:4; Hebrews 1:6.

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Bibliography Information
Rice, Edwin Wilbur, DD. Entry for 'Birthright'. People's Dictionary of the Bible. 1893.

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Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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