In what ways does the Bible refer to a double portion?
The concept of a double portion is mentioned six times in the Bible.
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Deuteronomy 21:17 says, "he shall acknowledge the firstborn … by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the firstfruits of his strength. The right of the firstborn is his." The firstborn son was to receive twice as much of an inheritance as any other son in the family.
The rights of the firstborn were extremely important in antiquity. The influence of the firstborn is seen as early as the animal sacrifice given by Abel in Genesis 4:4: "Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions." The final judgment upon Egypt was the death of the firstborn (Exodus 11:5). Israel was called God's firstborn: "Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son" (Exodus 4:22). Genesis 27 also demonstrates the importance of the firstborn. Despite the fact that Jacob and Esau were twins, Esau had been delivered first and expected a special blessing. Jacob instead deceitfully took it, pretending to be Esau to his aged father, causing tremendous family problems. Colossians 1:15 refers to Jesus as the firstborn over all creation. This is not a reference to Jesus being born, but rather a reference to His position of importance over all created things.
A double portion is the right of a firstborn in terms of inheritance, but can also be a sign of love. In 1 Samuel 1:5 we read that Hannah's husband gave her a double portion: "But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb." This double portion was not required, but was a way Hannah's husband could show her preference and was considered a great gift.
In 2 Kings 2, Elijah was about to leave the earth and asked Elisha what gift he would desire. Elisha asked for a double portion of the Spirit God had given to Elijah: "Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me" (2 Kings 2:9). Elisha wanted to be Elijah's successor; in some senses he was requesting both to be considered as a firstborn and to be shown love.
Isaiah 61:7 mentions the double portion twice in the same verse: "Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy." In contrast with shame, there would be a double blessing. This double portion was associated with joy and gladness. In some ways this is similar to the restoration of Job, in which he received twice what he had prior to his tribulations (Job 42:10).
However, the double portion is not always positive. In Revelation 18:6 we read, "Pay her back as she herself has paid back others, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed." In this context, the double portion refers to a heavy judgment upon a future city of Babylon due to its evil.
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