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Deuteronomy 21:15-16 meaning...

This passage delves into the complex family dynamics that can arise when a man has multiple wives, each bearing him children. The scenario presented involves a man with two wives, one who is loved and the other who is hated. The focus is on the inheritance rights of the firstborn sons in such a family setting.

The Reality of Favoritism: The mention of one wife being loved and the other hated acknowledges the harsh reality of favoritism within polygamous relationships. The emotional dynamics and potential conflicts within such families are acknowledged by the law.

Equal Inheritance Rights: Despite the personal feelings of the husband, the law ensures equal inheritance rights for the sons of both wives. The firstborn son, irrespective of the mother's status as loved or hated, is accorded the rightful position as the firstborn with its associated privileges.

  • Protection of Rights and Dignity

Deuteronomy 21:15-16 serves not only to address issues of inheritance but also to safeguard the dignity and rights of the children born within this familial context.

Preventing Injustice: The law prevents potential injustice by mandating that the firstborn son of the wife who is hated should not be disadvantaged in terms of inheritance. This provision ensures fairness and equity, counteracting any potential bias or discrimination.

Acknowledging Legal Realities: While the emotional dynamics of the relationships are acknowledged, the legal framework ensures that personal sentiments do not infringe upon the legal rights of the children. The law provides a mechanism to mitigate the impact of familial discord on matters of inheritance.

Significance for Believers: Equity and Compassion

Equitable Treatment: The passage emphasizes the importance of treating all children with equity, regardless of the emotional dynamics between spouses. This aligns with broader biblical principles of justice and fairness.

Human Dignity: By safeguarding the inheritance rights of the firstborn sons, the law promotes the dignity of each child, recognizing their worth and identity within the family structure.


Exodus 21:9-11: This passage addresses the rights of wives in a polygamous setting and the provision of equal treatment. It establishes a legal framework for addressing the well-being and dignity of wives.

Proverbs 17:17: "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." While not directly related to polygamous situations, this proverb underscores the importance of love and fairness in familial relationships.

Conclusion - Balancing Emotion with Justice: Deuteronomy 21:15-16, within the context of ancient Israel, addresses the intricate interplay of emotions and legal rights within a polygamous family. It stands as a reminder of the importance of balancing personal feelings with principles of justice, equity, and the inherent dignity of every individual. While the cultural and social contexts may differ, the underlying principles of justice and compassion resonate with timeless significance for believers today.

Deuteronomy 21:15-16. If a man has two wives, the one beloved, and the other hated, and they have borne him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son is hers who was hated; then it shall be, in the day that he causes his sons to inherit that which he has, that he may not give the son of the beloved the rights of the firstborn before the son of the hated, who is the firstborn.


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