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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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or PRIMOGENITURE, the right of the first-born or eldest son. The birthright, or right of primogeniture, had many privileges annexed to it. The first-born was consecrated to the Lord, Exodus 22:29 ; had a double portion of the estate allotted him, Deuteronomy 21:17 ; had a dignity and authority over his brethren, Genesis 49:3 ; succeeded in the government of the family or kingdom, 2 Chronicles 21:3 ; and, as some with good reason suppose, in ancient times to the priesthood or chief government in matters, ecclesiastical. Jacob, having bought Esau's birthright, acquired a title to the particular blessing of his dying father; and, accordingly, he had consigned to him the privilege of the covenant which God made with Abraham, that from his loins the Messiah should spring; a prerogative which descended to his posterity. Reuben forfeited the blessings of his birthright, as we see by the express declaration of his father Jacob, in his benediction of his children, Genesis 49:1 , &c, for the crime of incest with his father's concubine, on account of which his tribe continued all along in obscurity; while the priesthood was conferred on Levi, the government on Judah, and the double portion on Joseph, to descend to their respective tribes. And this preeminence of the first born took place from the beginning, and as much belonged to Cain, before his forfeiture of it, as it did to Reuben before his. See Genesis 4:7 ; Genesis 49:3 . Thus the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, offered sacrifices, and were priests as well as kings in their respective families, Genesis 12:7-8 ; Genesis 13:18 ; Genesis 17:7 ; Genesis 26:25 ; Genesis 31:54 ; Genesis 35:7 . Job, in Arabia, acted in the same capacity, Job 1:5 ; and it is highly probable that, among the ancient Heathen nations in general, the first-born were entitled not only to the civil authority, but also to the priesthood. This seems to have been the case in Egypt, in the time of Moses: and hence Jehovah's destroying their first- born, as it was the last miracle wrought in that country before the Exodus, so was it the most dreadful, and most effectual in prevailing on Pharaoh and the Egyptians to dismiss the Israelites.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Birthright'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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Thursday, June 4th, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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