In Genesis 27, Isaac blesses Jacob when Jacob pretends to be Esau. Where does the first-born blessing come from? Is this a practice that God gave Isaac similar to how God gave Abraham the commandment to circumcise all males? Or, is this something that Isaac learned from the surrounding cultures? Or did Isaac just make this up himself?


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The firstborn of one's mother is referred to in the Bible as one who "opens the womb" of his mother. God told Moses to consecrate every firstborn male to Him (Exodus 13:1-2).

The first blessing mentioned in the Bible was from God to both Adam and Eve, whom He created (Genesis 1:28). The second blessing from God was upon Noah and his three sons (Genesis 9:1).

The Bible establishes that it is God who issued the first blessing. Genesis 27 shows that although Jacob received the birthright, Isaac blessed both his sons.

The practice of bestowing a birthright on the eldest son (primogeniture) is first recorded in Genesis 25 when Jacob, by deception, received the greater blessing from his father Isaac:

The earliest account of primogeniture to be widely known in modern times involved Isaac's son Jacob being born second (Genesis 25:26) and Isaac's son, Esau being born first (Genesis 25:25) and entitled to the "birthright", but eventually selling it to Isaac's second son, Jacob, for a small amount of food (Genesis 25:31–34) A similar transfer is shown by the writer of 1 Chronicles 5:1-2 where, although the tribe of Judah prevailed above their brethren, nevertheless the "birthright", the double portion of two tribal allotments, was Joseph's.

According to the Law of Moses, the firstborn may be either the firstborn of his father, who is entitled to receive a double portion of his father's inheritance (compared to the other siblings), (Deuteronomy 21:17) or the firstborn of his mother. Deuteronomy 21:15–17 provides inheritance rules preventing the husband with more than one wife from leaving property to the son of the favoured wife. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firstborn_(Judaism)

A blessing, on the other hand, does not necessarily result in the first born receiving the birthright.

A blessing could be given regardless of birthright. However, a greater blessing was given to the one who held the birthright. After Jacob’s deception, Esau complained that “he took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” (Genesis 27:36). Esau begged his father for some type of blessing to be given to him, and he did receive a secondary, inferior blessing (verses 38-40).

An interesting parallel took place later in the life of Jacob. Jacob’s son Joseph had two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Manasseh was the elder son and should have had the birthright. But when Jacob bestowed his blessing upon his grandsons, he crossed his hands, much to Joseph’s surprise, placing his right hand on the younger son. In this way, Ephraim, the younger son, received the greater blessing (Genesis 48).

In Genesis 49, Jacob gave blessings to each of his 12 sons. Reuben, the firstborn, had forfeited his birthright due to an egregious sin (verse 4). The birthright was instead given to Joseph’s sons (1 Chronicles 5:1). All of Jacob’s sons received some sort of blessing.

While a birthright belonged to the firstborn son, anyone could receive a blessing. In the time of the patriarchs, such blessings acted as a “last will and testament” and were highly prized as a means of revealing God’s will. https://www.gotquestions.org/blessing-birthright.html

You might find this answer on the principle of birthright useful: What is the biblical basis for thinking God established the principle of birthright and inheritance

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