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Deuteronomy 21:15-17

Laws Concerning Children

21:15 Suppose a man has two wives, one whom he loves more than the other, 1  and they both 2  bear him sons, with the firstborn being the child of the less loved wife. 21:16 In the day he divides his inheritance 3  he must not appoint as firstborn the son of the favorite wife in place of the other 4  wife’s son who is actually the firstborn. 21:17 Rather, he must acknowledge the son of the less loved 5  wife as firstborn and give him the double portion 6  of all he has, for that son is the beginning of his father’s procreative power 7  – to him should go the right of the firstborn.

1 tn Heb “one whom he loves and one whom he hates.” For the idea of שָׂנֵא (sane’, “hate”) meaning to be rejected or loved less (cf. NRSV “disliked”), see Gen 29:31, 33; Mal 1:2-3. Cf. A. Konkel, NIDOTTE 3:1256-60.

2 tn Heb “both the one whom he loves and the one whom he hates.” On the meaning of the phrase “one whom he loves and one whom he hates” see the note on the word “other” earlier in this verse. The translation has been simplified for stylistic reasons, to avoid redundancy.

3 tn Heb “when he causes his sons to inherit what is his.”

4 tn Heb “the hated.”

5 tn See note on the word “other” in v. 15.

6 tn Heb “measure of two.” The Hebrew expression פִּי שְׁנַיִם (piy shÿnayim) suggests a two-thirds split; that is, the elder gets two parts and the younger one part. Cf. 2 Kgs 2:9; Zech 13:8. The practice is implicit in Isaac’s blessing of Jacob (Gen 25:31-34) and Jacob’s blessing of Ephraim (Gen 48:8-22).

7 tn Heb “his generative power” (אוֹן, ’on; cf. HALOT 22 s.v.). Cf. NAB “the first fruits of his manhood”; NRSV “the first issue of his virility.”

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