779. Division of Property

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Luke 15:1212And 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. (Luke 15:12). 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.
Neither Jewish nor Roman law permitted the father to have the arbitrary disposal of all his estate. The property was entailed on the sons at the father’s death, the daughters not being allowed to inherit unless there were no sons. See Genesis 31:1414And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house? (Genesis 31:14); Numbers 27:88And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter. (Numbers 27:8). The general application to this law is seen in the fact that, when Job gave an inheritance to his daughters as well as to his sons, special mention is made of the act as though it were a remarkable occurrence. See Job 42:1515And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren. (Job 42:15). The first-born son received a double share. See Deuteronomy 21:1717But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his. (Deuteronomy 21:17).
Some commentators, in illustrating this text, suppose that the sons had a right to demand a division of the property during the father’s life-time, and that the father could not refuse such a demand. The text, however, does not necessarily imply this. For all that here appears, it may have been merely a request urged by the son and granted by the father. There is nothing to show that the father was compelled to comply. He did comply, it is true but whether by compulsion or of his own volition is not stated. Mr. Burder (Oriental Customs, 1086) gives an extract from Halbed’s Code of Gentoo Laws, in which it is stated that under certain circumstances the sons had a right to demand of their father a division of his property during his lifetime. There is no evidence, however, that either Jews or Romans had any such law, though they may have been acquainted with it as existing in India.
The verisimilitude of the parable is sufficiently observed, without any reference to a law of compulsion, by supposing it customary sometimes for fathers of their own volition to divide their estate among their sons. This is said to have been sometimes done among the Romans, and that it may have been an occasional custom among the Jews is evident from the example of Abraham, who “gave all that he had” to his son Isaac. See Genesis 24:36; 25:536And Sarah my master's wife bare a son to my master when she was old: and unto him hath he given all that he hath. (Genesis 24:36)
5And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac. (Genesis 25:5)