Scripture: “If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him children, and if the firstborn son belongs to the unloved, then on the day when he assigns his possessions as an inheritance to his sons, he may not treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the unloved, who is the firstborn, but he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the firstfruits of his strength.” Deuteronomy 21:15-17 ESV
Observation: As Moses continues his review of the law, he begins chapter 21 addressing protocol for atoning unsolved murders, marrying female captives, and granting inheritance rights of the firstborn (above text).
As we read Moses’ scenario of two wives bearing a son, but the firstborn’s mother is unloved, we wonder whether he had the story of his forefather Jacob in mind. Undoubtedly, Jacob favored Rachel over Leah, but Leah bore Jacob his first son: Reuben. Nevertheless, the eleventh son born to Jacob (and the first for Rachel), Joseph, remained Jacob’s favorite. So when the time arose to bless his sons, Jacob granted Reuben’s birthright to Joseph because Reuben slept with one of Jacob’s concubines (1 Chronicles 5:1). Whether Jacob acted rightfully or not is a moot point. Per God’s direction, Moses likely wanted to set the record straight and nullify precedence based on Jacob’s story.
Takeaway: This gracious provision reveals the heart of God. Our just Lord shows no partiality to his children. Understanding that sin (unatoned by a lack of faith in Christ) is the only reason our holy Father would reject us, we can be confident that he does not impart his love and care based on our merit to others. And he expects us to do the same as parents.
Another aspect of God’s character in this story is that he provides according to our needs. The double inheritance primarily addresses the family line’s longevity by ensuring that one son would retain a sufficient portion of the land and improvements to maintain possession of the family estate. Otherwise, the risk of losing the farm due to hardship (drought, infestation, war, etc.) beyond their control increases with equal but smaller shares among many. But there may be another aspect to this provision. We, as parents, learn on the job, and our firstborns bear the brunt of our learning curve. Still, given adequate resources, the oldest child may develop the fortitude to overcome our failures.
So what does a double portion look like beyond material gain? Our children need more than real estate or a large cash transfer at our passing. They need to know their Creator and parents love them and that they will find uncompromised value, ultimate security, and sustaining happiness in God alone. And a double portion won’t go amiss for any of them.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for giving us your best with a double inheritance: your Son and Holy Spirit who indwell us. Would you please help us pass on a double portion of your blessings to all our children so that they might have all the resources they need to appropriate and mature their inheritance in Christ? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling