Seventy-four of the Torah’s 613 commandments are in this lesson. These include the laws of war captives, the inheritance rights of the firstborn, the wayward and rebellious son, burial of the dead, returning a lost object, protection of animal species, keeping your property safe from possible accidents, and the various forms of forbidden plant and animal hybrids.
Deuteronomy 21:15 If a man has two wives, הָאחַת the one loved and the other hated and they both bear him children and if the firstborn son is from the woman who is hated: 16 Then when it comes time for him to pass his inheritance to את־ his sons את which he has may not begiven to the firstborn את־ son of the loved wife before the firstborn son of the hated wife: 17 But את־ the firstborn son of the hated wife, he will acknowledge by giving him a double portion of all that he has: because he is the firstfruits of his manhood; the right of the firstborn is his. C-MATS
Question: What is a double portion? The firstborn son takes a share equal to that of two brothers together. If a man with four sons divided up his inheritance, he divided the inheritance into five equal shares, giving two shares to the firstborn and one share to each of the other three sons. Chumash
Question: What are the rights and responsibilities of the first born? The position holds great honor and responsibility.
- In the absence of the father he had authority over his brothers. For example, it was Rueben, the firstborn, who saved Joseph from being killed by his brothers. Reuben heard it and he took him out of their hands; and said, Let’s not kill him. And Reuben said to them, Shed no blood, but cast אֹתֹו him into that pit that is in the wilderness and lay no hand upon him; so that he might rescue אֹתֹו him out of their hands and bring him back to his father again Genesis 37:21-22. C-MATS
- He was accountable to the father for the welfare of his younger brothers and sisters. Reuben was very distressed when he failed to rescue Joseph from the pit. He tore his clothes and was ashamed to face his father. Reuben returned to the pit; and saw that Joseph was not in the pit; and he tore את־ his clothes. And he returned to his brothers and said, The child is gone; now where will I go? Genesis 37:29-30. C-MATS
- When the parents were aged, it was the oldest son’s responsibility to care for his parents. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. 1 Timothy 5:8 C-MATS
- At the death of the father, the firstborn became the head of the home and received a double portion as his share of the inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:15-17).