Wednesday, February 8, 2012
What privileges and responsibilities came with the birthright of a firstborn son?
▪ From as far back as patriarchal times, God’s servants accorded special rights to a man’s firstborn son. Upon the death of the father, his eldest son assumed the responsibilities of family head. He would care for the family and exercise authority over those members of his household who continued to dwell there. The firstborn also represented the family before God. While all sons received an inheritance, the firstborn received the principal inheritance. Compared to the amount of property the other sons might inherit, the firstborn received a double portion.
In the days of the patriarchs, the eldest son could forfeit his right as firstborn. Esau, for example, sold the birthright to his younger brother. (Genesis 25:30-34) Jacob transferred the birthright from his firstborn son, Reuben, to Joseph. Reuben lost the privilege because of his immoral conduct. (1 Chronicles 5:1) However, under the Mosaic Law, a man with more than one wife could not transfer the benefits of the birthright from the first son of one wife to the first son of another wife just because the latter was particularly beloved. The father was to respect the right that naturally belonged to his firstborn.—Deuteronomy 21:15-17.