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Joseph - Son of Jacob

Rights of the Firstborn

Chapter 21

Hebrew English
טו  כִּי-תִהְיֶיןָ לְאִישׁ שְׁתֵּי נָשִׁים, הָאַחַת אֲהוּבָה וְהָאַחַת שְׂנוּאָה, וְיָלְדוּ-לוֹ בָנִים, הָאֲהוּבָה וְהַשְּׂנוּאָה; וְהָיָה הַבֵּן הַבְּכֹר, לַשְּׂנִיאָה.
15 “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, 
טז  וְהָיָה, בְּיוֹם הַנְחִילוֹ אֶת-בָּנָיו, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-יִהְיֶה, לוֹ--לֹא יוּכַל, לְבַכֵּר אֶת-בֶּן-הָאֲהוּבָה, עַל-פְּנֵי בֶן-הַשְּׂנוּאָה, הַבְּכֹר.
16 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, 
יז  כִּי אֶת-הַבְּכֹר בֶּן-הַשְּׂנוּאָה יַכִּיר, לָתֶת לוֹ פִּי שְׁנַיִם, בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר- יִמָּצֵא, לוֹ:  כִּי-הוּא רֵאשִׁית אֹנוֹ, לוֹ מִשְׁפַּט הַבְּכֹרָה.  {ס}
17 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. The right of the firstborn is his. 

Joseph, in the Old Testament, was the firstborn son of Jacob and Rachel, Genesis 30:22–24; 37:3.

Joseph obtained the birthright in Israel because Reuben, the firstborn son of Jacob’s first wife, lost the privilege by transgression, 1 Chronicles 5:1–2. Because he was worthy, Joseph, as the firstborn son of Jacob’s second wife, was next in line for the blessing. Joseph also received a blessing from his father shortly before Jacob died, Genesis 49:22–26.

Joseph was a man of great character, an individual “discreet and wise”, Genesis 41:39. His rejection of Potiphar’s wife is an example of faith, chastity, and personal integrity, Genesis 39:7–12. In Egypt, when Joseph revealed his true identity to his brothers, he thanked instead of blamed them for how they had treated him. He believed their actions had helped to accomplish God’s divine will, Genesis 45:4–15.

Latter-day revelation reveals the larger mission of the family of Joseph in the last days, Genesis 50:24–38.

Commentary - Adam Clarke

Deuteronomy 21:15

One beloved, and another hated - That is, one loved less than the other. This is the true notion of the word hate in Scripture. So Jacob hated Leah, that is, he loved her less than he did Rachel; and Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I Hated, that is, I have shown a more particular affection to the posterity of Jacob than I have to the posterity of Esau. From this verse we see that polygamy did exist under the Mosaic laws, and that it was put under certain regulations; but it was not enjoined, Moses merely suffered it, because of the hardness of their hearts, as our Lord justly remarks in Matthew 19:8.

Matthew 19:8 ESV He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so”

The firstborn's service to the Jewish people

Originally, the firstborn of every Jewish family was intended to serve as a priest in the temple in Jerusalem as priests to the Jewish people but they lost this role after the sin of the golden calf when this privilege was transferred to the male descendants of Aaron.