6 occurrences in 6 dictionaries

Reference: Birthright


The privilege of the firstborn son. Among the Hebrews, as indeed among most other nations, the firstborn enjoyed particular privileges; and wherever polygamy was tolerated, it was highly necessary to fix them, De 21:15-17. Besides the father's chief blessing, Ge 27, and various minor advantages, the firstborn son was, first, specially consecrated to the Lord,

Ex 13:11-16; 22:29; and the firstborn son of a priest succeeded his father in the priestly office. Among the sons of Jacob, Reuben the firstborn forfeited the right of the firstborn, Ge 35:22; 49:3-4, and God gave it to Levi, Nu 3:12-13; 8:18. Secondly, the firstborn was entitled to a share of his father's estate twice as large as any of the other brethren received, De 21:17. Thirdly, he succeeded to the official dignities and rights of his father, 2Ch 21:3. In some of these privileges there is an allusion to Him, who is "the firstborn among many brethren," Ro 8:29; Col 1:18; Heb 1:2-6. Universal dominion is his, and an everlasting priesthood.

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(1.) This word denotes the special privileges and advantages belonging to the first-born son among the Jews. He became the priest of the family. Thus Reuben was the first-born of the patriarchs, and so the priesthood of the tribes belonged to him. That honour was, however, transferred by God from Reuben to Levi (Nu 3:12-13; 8:18).

(2.) The first-born son had allotted to him also a double portion of the paternal inheritance (De 21:15-17). Reuben was, because of his undutiful conduct, deprived of his birth-right (Ge 49:4; 1Ch 5:1). Esau transferred his birth-right to Jacob (Ge 25:33).

(3.) The first-born inherited the judicial authority of his father, whatever it might be (2Ch 21:3). By divine appointment, however, David excluded Adonijah in favour of Solomon.

(4.) The Jews attached a sacred importance to the rank of "first-born" and "first-begotten" as applied to the Messiah (Ro 8:29; Col 1:18; Heb 1:4-6). As first-born he has an inheritance superior to his brethren, and is the alone true priest.

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A double portion fell to the firstborn, compare De 21:15-17, whence Joseph's two sons, who received the birthright forfeited by Reuben the firstborn, were counted as heads of the tribes Ephraim and Manasseh (Ge 48:5-6,22; 49:4; 1Ch 5:1). The "princes" of the congregation were so probably by primogeniture (Nu 7:2; 21:18). The rebellion of the Reubenite leaders, Dathan and Abiram, may have arisen through jealousy at the preeminence which others enjoyed above them, Reuben their first father baring had originally the primogeniture; compare Nu 16:1-2, with Nu 26:5-9. Esau transferred his birthright to Jacob for a paltry mess of pottage, profanely setting at nought what was the spiritual privilege connected with it, the being progenitor of the promised Messiah (Ge 25:33; Heb 12:16-17).

It is striking how often God set aside the birthright, in order to show that the objects of His choice are "born not of bloods (Greek natural descents), nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (Joh 1:13).Thus Isaac is preferred to Ishmael, Jacob to Esau, Joseph to Reuben, David to his elder brothers. Solomon to Adonijah the elder of the two (1Ki 2:15). Ordinarily the firstborn inherited the throne (2Ch 21:3), typifying Messiah the "first begotten" of the Father, "the Firstborn among many brethren," and Heir of all things (Ro 8:29; Heb 1:6). All the firstborn of Israel were claimed by Jehovah as His, He having saved them when Egypt's firstborn were slain (Ex 22:29). He allowed them to be redeemed, and the tribe of Levi to serve Him in their stead (Nu 3:12-13). The whole nation was God's firstborn among all the peoples (Ex 4:22). The spiritual Israel in a still higher sense is "the church of the first born written in heaven" (enrolled as its citizens in the book of life) (Heb 12:23; Jas 1:18; Re 14:1-4).

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the advantages accruing to the eldest son. These were not definitely fixed in patriarchal times. Great respect was paid to him in the household, and, as the family widened into a tribe, this grew into a sustained authority, undefined save by custom, in all matters of common interest. Thus the "princes" of the congregation had probably rights of primogeniture.

Nu 7:2; 21:18; 25:14

(Gradually the rights of the eldest son came to be more definite: (1) The functions of the priesthood in the family with the paternal blessing. (2) A "double portion" of the paternal property was allotted by the Mosaic law.

De 21:16-17

(3) The eldest son succeeded to the official authority of the father. The first-born of the king was his successor by law.

2Ch 21:3

In all these Jesus was the first-born of the father.

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BIRTHRIGHT, 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, Ex 22:29; had a double portion of the estate allotted him, De 21:17; had a dignity and authority over his brethren, Ge 49:3; succeeded in the government of the family or kingdom, 2Ch 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, Ge 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 Ge 4:7; 49:3. Thus the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, offered sacrifices, and were priests as well as kings in their respective families, Ge 12:7-8; 13:18; 17:7; 26:25; 31:54; 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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