Deuteronomy 21:17
But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he has: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.
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21:15-17 This law restrains men from disinheriting their eldest sons without just cause. The principle in this case as to children, is still binding to parents; they must give children their right without partiality.Moses did not originate the rights of primogeniture (compare Genesis 25:31), but recognized them, since he found them pre-existing in the general social system of the East. Paternal authority could set aside these rights on just grounds Genesis 27:33, but it is forbidden here to do so from mere partiality. 15-17. If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated—In the original and all other translations, the words are rendered "have had," referring to events that have already taken place; and that the "had" has, by some mistake, been omitted in our version, seems highly probable from the other verbs being in the past tense—"hers that was hated," not "hers that is hated"; evidently intimating that she (the first wife) was dead at the time referred to. Moses, therefore, does not here legislate upon the case of a man who has two wives at the same time, but on that of a man who has married twice in succession, the second wife after the decease of the first; and there was an obvious necessity for legislation in these circumstances; for the first wife, who was hated, was dead, and the second wife, the favorite, was alive; and with the feelings of a stepmother, she would urge her husband to make her own son the heir. This case has no bearing upon polygamy, which there is no evidence that the Mosaic code legalized. Acknowledge, i.e. make it appear that he owns him.

Double portion; for the phrase, see 2 Kings 2:9 Zechariah 13:8; and for the thing, see Genesis 25:31 1 Chronicles 5:1.

The beginning of his strength, i.e. the first evidence of his manly strength and ability for procreation. But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn,.... Own him and declare him to be so, both by his will and the division of goods by him; or he shall "separate" him, as Onkelos; distinguish him from all his other sons, and make known to all, as the Targum of Jonathan, that he is his firstborn:

by giving him a double portion of all that he hath; or, "that is found with him" (t); which he was in the possession of when he made his will, or divided his goods; and so refers not to what might come into his hands afterwards, or should be his in reversion afterwards; in this the firstborn had not his double portion, only in what his father was for the present possessed of; so that if a man had two sons, his goods were divided into three parts, and the firstborn took two parts, and the other the third; if three sons, they were divided into four parts, of which the firstborn had two parts, and the others each of them one; if four sons, they were divided into five parts, and the firstborn took two, and the other three one apiece, and so in proportion; the division was made according to their number:

for he is the beginning of his strength; as Jacob said, of Reuben; see Gill on Genesis 49:3 the right of the firstborn is his; before this law was given, there was a birthright, or a privilege belonging to the firstborn, which gave him the preeminence in the family to his brethren; but whether he was entitled to a double portion of goods, previous to this law, is not certain; however, by this it was his right, and might not be alienated from him; for, according to the Jewish canons (u),"if a man say, such an one my son, the firstborn, shall not take the double portion, and my son such an one shall not inherit with his brethren, he says nothing, cause he disposes contrary to what is written in the law.''This law of the firstborn in the mystery of it may respect our Lord Jesus Christ, the firstborn of God, and the firstborn of Mary; and who had a double portion of the gifts and grace of the Spirit, or rather the Spirit without measure, the oil of gladness he was anointed with above his fellows, and is the firstborn among many brethren, among whom in all things he has the preeminence; and also the elect of God, the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven, who have a double portion, both temporal and spiritual things, the promise of this life and that to come, grace here and glory hereafter; and the ultimate glory is but one inheritance, they all share alike in, being equally children, and all firstborn; and it may have regard also to the Jewish and Gentile churches, the former was the beloved wife, the latter some time not beloved, and yet the children of the Gentile church have a larger measure of the Spirit than those of the jewish church had; see Romans 9:25.

(t) "quod inventum fuerit ei", Pagninus, Montanus., (u) Misn. Bava Bathra, c. 8. sect. 5.

But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a {h} double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is {i} his.

(h) As much as to two of the others.

(i) Unless he is unworthy, as Reuben, Jacob's son, was.

17. acknowledge] Grätz by adding one consonant reads, make him the first-born.

a double portion] Heb. mouth or mouthful, of two, only here and 2 Kings 2:9, Zechariah 13:8; cp. hand or handful, Genesis 43:34.

beginning of his strength] Genesis 49:3.

and his is the right of the firstborn] So some Heb. MSS, Sam. LXX, etc.Verse 17. - A double portion; literally, a mouth of two; i.e. a portion (so "mouth" is used in 2 Kings 2:9; Zechariah 13:8) equal to that of two; consequently, the firstborn inherited twice as much as any of the other sons. Amongst all nations and from the earliest times, the right of the eldest son to pre-eminence among his brethren has been recognized; and in legislating for Israel, Moses so far simply sanctioned a usage he found already existing; the assignment, however, of a double share in the inheritance to the eldest son is a new and special provision, mentioned only here. Beginning of his strength (cf. Genesis 49:3). Treatment of a Wife who had been a Prisoner of War. - If an Israelite saw among the captives, who had been brought away in a war against foreign nations, a woman of beautiful figure, and loved her, and took her as his wife, he was to allow her a month's time in his house, to bewail her separation from her home and kindred, and accustom herself to her new condition of life, before he married her. What is said here does not apply to the wars with the Canaanites, who were to be cut off (vid., Deuteronomy 7:3), but, as a comparison of the introductory words in Deuteronomy 21:1 with Deuteronomy 20:1 clearly shows, to the wars which Israel would carry on with surrounding nations after the conquest of Canaan. שׁבי and שׁביה, the captivity, for the captives.
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