Both Boys Get Early Inheritence

Return of the Prodigal Son, Il Guercino, Timken Museum, San Diego

Both Boys Get Early Inheritance
Luke 15:21-22 (Prodigal and Faithful Sons)

“Then he said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that will come to me.” So the father divided the property between them.” (Luke 15:11-12, New Jerusalem Bible)

Between them. Both of them. Them.

We make note of something in the parable of the prodigal son you may have missed. This jumped out to us while reading Kenneth Wuest’s translation (but any translation might have made this possible), and demonstrates yet again that one can find a little nugget of God’s Word on the 517th time of reading scripture which was missed during the first 516 readings.

Luke 15:11-12, Wuest New Testament: And he said, A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to the father, Father, give me directly the share of the estate which falls to me. And he distributed to them his wealth.

We aren’t sure what to make of it, and upon first examination and thought, we do not see it having any impact on the parable. The parable says it and then never directly touches it again. But please double check our first impressions, as God rarely places incidental bits of fact in his Word that carry no meaning to be plumbed.

We have not yet gone looking in the commentaries for an analysis.

It is this: the father gives inheritances to BOTH sons. Both sons receive an early inheritance, prior to the father’s death.

Fundamental to our (surface) understanding of the parable is that the young, irresponsible son receives (by unwise parenting) his inheritance early. And because his father foolishly gave in to the request, the irresponsible son magnified his character flaws in a big way.

But we see that both sons received an early inheritance.

And so…. what? Something? Nothing?

See Luke 15:11-12:

Expanded Bible: And he said – A certain man, had two sons. And the younger of them said unto the father – Father! give me the share that falleth to me, of what there is. And, he, divided unto them the living.

KJV: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.

NASB: The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them.

Holman CSB: So he distributed the assets to them.

Moffatt: He also said: There was a man who had two sons, and the younger said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that falls to me.’ So he divided his means among them.

Phillips: So he divided up his property between the two of them.

Message: So the father divided the property between them.

The Voice: And so the father liquidated assets and divided them.

Wycliffe: And he parted to them the chattel.

A large majority of translations use “divided” and a few use “distributed.” We suppose that with “divided,” the older son may not have had his money “distributed,” but we don’t think that is in play here. It seems that the older son got his cash, and probably managed it properly, as he properly managed everything else in his responsible, mature, Godly, obedient-to-his-father life.

Wescott-Hort Greek: και ειπεν ο νεωτερος αυτων τω πατρι πατερ δος μοι το επιβαλλον μερος της ουσιας ο δε διειλεν αυτοις τον βιον

In the Greek, αὐτοῖς / autois is a plural personal pronoun, and carries the meaning “between them.” Plural. Them.

The verb is διεῖλεν / dieilen, and carries either the meaning “divided” or “distributed” as a dictionary definition.

We grabbed the image above of the Greek-English interlinear and parts of speech from StudyLight.

So, is there anything to this casual disclosure that both sons received an early reward? Does it alter any previous understanding of the proverb? Does it magnify whatever we understood about the (real subject of the proverb) older, faithful son?

Has God given you, committed Christian, an early reward?

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This complex parable has much going on. In addition to whatever else your commentary might explore, does your good source of commentary mention the fact of both sons receiving an early inheritance? Does it comment?

If you choose to reply to this Bible Bit, as always, please cite scripture, quote scripture, and provide good analysis you’ve found in the scholarly and devout literature of recent and older and ancient commentary. And please try to stick to the narrow focus of the Bible Bit.

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We pray that you read the actual Bible for yourself! God’s blessings to you!!!

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