Question:

What are the biblical guidelines in regard to the proper way to distribute an inheritance? In regards to emphasis, should it be based on sex, capability, relationship, need, character or other factors? For example, should inheritance be given more to a male, a wise person, or a close family, or needy one? Ref: Eph 5:23, I John 3:17, I Tim 5:8, 6:9-10, Ecc 2:18-19, 5:13-14, 7:11, 11:1-2, Matt 25:14-18.


Answer:

The verses you give do not deal with inheritance.

During the patriarchal age, there were two aspects to inheritance: the blessing and the double portion. The blessing designated who would be the head of the extended family after the father passed on. When a man died, his estate was divided by the number of children he had plus one. One child received two of the portions. Typically the eldest son received both the blessing and the double portion, but a man could alter the recipient.

For example, Ishmael was the eldest son of Abraham, but the blessing and double portion went to Isaac. In fact, Abraham sent off Ishmael and his six sons by Keturah before his death (Genesis 21:14; 25:6), leaving Isaac as the sole inheritor.

Another exception was Jacob. Reuben was his eldest son, but Reuben had sex with one of his father's concubines (Genesis 35:22) and was, thus judged too unstable (Genesis 49:3-4). Simeon and Levi were the next two in line, but they judged to be too violent because they slaughtered a town in vengeance of their sister (Genesis 34:25; 49:5-6). Judah then received the blessing (I Chronicles 5:2), but Joseph was given the double portion by having his two sons adopted as Jacob's own sons (I Chronicles 5:1).

Generally it was the sons who inherited, but Job added his daughters to his estate (Job 42:15).

In Israel, the basic practice of inheritance continued, but rules were added. "If a man has two wives, one loved and the other unloved, and they have borne him children, both the loved and the unloved, and if the firstborn son is of her who is unloved, then it shall be, on the day he bequeaths his possessions to his sons, that he must not bestow firstborn status on the son of the loved wife in preference to the son of the unloved, the true firstborn. But he shall acknowledge the son of the unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his" (Deuteronomy 21:15-17).

Illegitimate sons could be blocked from inheriting (Judges 11:1-12).

When a man died without sons, the rules for inheritance were as follows: "And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'If a man dies and has no son, then you shall cause his inheritance to pass to his daughter. If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father's brothers. And if his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to the relative closest him in his family, and he shall possess it.' And it shall be to the children of Israel a statute of judgment, just as the LORD commanded Moses" (Numbers 27:8-11).

In the New Testament there are no rules for inheritance.