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What is a…
birthright

Hebrew: בְּכֹרָה —transliteration: bekorah

Meaning: the right of the first son born of the father; the firstborn son’s right

This word denotes the special privileges and advantages (depending on one’s viewpoint) belonging to the FIRSTBORN-SON among the Hebrews.

Male or female

In Old Testament Scripture, the terms “birthright” and “firstborn” do not apply to females, only males. They are male terms. Among the ancient Hebrews, the gender of the noun bekor translated in English as “firstborn” is male (masculine), not feminine; it always means the firstborn-SON. Since that was inherently understood in that culture, there is no need for the word בֵּן (ben) “son” or אּישׁ (ish) “man” (male) to be added to “bekor.”

Multiple wives situation

In the case where a man had 2 or more wives and potentially several sons from each, there was still only 1 firstborn son, and only 1 birthright. The eldest of all the FATHER’S sons had the birthright and the rank that flows from it, not the firstborn of the mother.

Also, biblically, a bastard son could not qualify as firstborn-son, only a legitimate son could do so, as this is a consecrated position/rank.

No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of his descendants, even to the 10th generation, shall enter the assembly of the Lord. —Deuteronomy 23:2 NASB

Privileges, advantages and responsibilities

  • Consecration to God / Priesthood

    He became the priest of the family. Reuben, son of Jacob (Israel) was the firstborn of Israelite tribal patriarchs, and so the priesthood of the tribes belonged to him. That honor was, however, transferred by God from Reuben to Levi, as recorded in Numbers 3:12-13 and 8:18.

  • Special Inheritance

    The firstborn son had allotted to him also a double portion of the paternal inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:15-17). Reuben was, because of his undutiful conduct, deprived of his birthright (Genesis 49:4; 1 Chr. 5:1). Esau transferred his birth-right to Jacob (Genesis 25:33).

  • Legal Authority

    The first-born inherited the judicial authority of his father, whatever it might be (2 Chronicles 21:3).

    However, by Divine order, David excluded Prince Adonijah in favor of Prince Solomon.

  • Responsibility

    If the father died or was badly disabled, the firstborn-son became responsible for protecting and providing for the family, when he was of age. He became the family’s replacement patriarch—the head of the family. He was responsible for making decisions and solving problems facing the his family group. He had to provide for his father’s widow (or widows), and for all his unmarried sisters.

Messiah

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

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Article Version: September 28, 2017