Deuteronomy 21:15-17

Key Verse(s):

Deuteronomy 21:17 (CSB)

17 He must acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved wife, by giving him two shares of his estate, for he is the firstfruits of his virility; he has the rights of the firstborn.


This is a short, but interesting passage. At first, we might be tempted to assume there is a tie in with the previous passage concerning the taking of wives from lands of conquest. But, there is nothing in the passage itself that mandates that interpretation, and is instead quite neutral to the topic.

Right off the bat we may be tempted to balk at the entire passage due to the start: bigamy. Again, we should not take Deut. 21:15 as an endorsement of God for having multiple wives. There is nothing here to suggest anything more than God’s regulation of man’s [sinful] custom.

The remainder of the passage focuses on the real issue here: following through and doing what is right, not what we might be tempted to do by following our desires. This is not an issue of divorce due to a husband not “loving” his wife anymore, which, by the way, is not grounds for divorce in God’s eyes. This is an issue of honoring the firstborn son, as created and designed by God, as expected. If the father were to dishonor that expectation due to his own emotional feelings towards his wives, then he has placed his emotions above God’s command here, an apparent held custom of the Israelites, and the symbolic significance of the firstborn.

We would do well to recognize this guidance in our culture today, where far too often our decisions are made on what makes us happy, who we like or dislike at the moment, or any number of fleeting, trivial, and petty factors, rather than on common sense, long held traditions, and God’s values.


Lord, thank you for never falling short in what you promise… even when we fail to follow through on our own promises and expectations. I am sorry for the many times I have made poor decisions, often based on my own emotional benefit rather than traditional values and your word. I pray for the guidance to follow you and basing my choices and actions on pleasing and following you. Amen.


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