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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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The property or estate of the father fell, after his decease, into the possession of his sons, who divided it among themselves equally, with this exception, that the eldest son had two portions. The father expressed his last wishes or will in the presence of witnesses, and probably in the presence of the heirs, 2 Kings 20:1 . At a more recent period the will was made out in writing. The portion that was given to the sons of concubines depended altogether upon the feelings of the father. Abraham gave presents, to what amount is not known, both to Ishmael and to the sons whom he had by Keturah, and sent them away before his death. It does not appear that they had any other portion in the estate. But Jacob made the sons whom he had by his concubines heirs as well as the others, Genesis 21:8-21 ; Genesis 25:1-6 ; Genesis 49:1-27 . Moses laid no restrictions upon the choice of fathers in this respect; and we should infer that the sons of concubines, for the most part, received an equal share with the other sons, from the fact, that Jephtha, the son of a concubine, complained that he was excluded without any portion from his father's house, Judges 11:1-7 . The daughters not only had no portion in the estate, but, if they were unmarried, were considered as making a part of it, and were sold by their brothers into matrimony. If they had no brothers, or if they had died, the daughters then took the estate, Numbers 27:1-8 . If any one died intestate, and without offspring, the property was disposed of according to Numbers 27:8-11 . The servants or the slaves in a family could not claim any share in the estate as a right; but the person who made a will, might, if he chose, make them his heirs, Genesis 15:3 . Indeed, in some instances, those who had heirs, recognized as such by law, did not deem it unbecoming to bestow the whole or a portion of their estates on faithful and deserving servants, Proverbs 17:2 . The widow of the deceased, like his daughters, had no legal right to a share in the estate. The sons, however, or other relations, were bound to afford her an adequate maintenance, unless it had been otherwise arranged in the will. She sometimes returned back again to her father's house, particularly if the support which the heirs gave her was not such as had been promised, or was not sufficient, Genesis 38:11 . See also the story of Ruth. The prophets very frequently, and undoubtedly not without cause, exclaim against the neglect and injustice shown to widows, Isaiah 1:17 ; Isaiah 10:2 ; Jeremiah 7:6 ; Jeremiah 22:3 ; Ezekiel 22:7 ; Exodus 22:22-24 ; Deuteronomy 10:18 ; Deuteronomy 24:17 .

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Testament'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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