Esau forfeited his birthright to his brother Jacob for the sake of a meal of lentil stew and bread (Genesis 25:29-34). The birthright consisted of the special privileges that belonged to the firstborn male child in a family. Prominent among those privileges was a double portion of the estate as an inheritance. If a man had two sons, his estate would be divided into three portions, and the older son would receive two. If there were three sons, the estate would be divided into four portions, and the oldest son would receive two. The oldest son also normally received the father's major blessing. Indeed, the Hebrew word for blessing (berakah) is virtually an anagram of the word that means both birthright and firstborn (bekorah). Legal continuation of the family line may also have been included among the privileges of the firstborn son.
Deuteronomy 21:15-17 prohibited a father from playing favorites among his sons by trying to give the birthright to other than the firstborn.
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'BIRTHRIGHT'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".