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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

(Heir, (See Birthright ; Inheritance refers exclusively to land.) The Mosaic law enforced a strict entail; the property was divided among the sons, the oldest receiving a double portion (the father not having the right, as the patriarchs had, of giving a special portion to a favorite son:  Genesis 48:22), the rest equal shares ( Deuteronomy 21:17). If there were no sons it went to the daughters, on condition that they married in their own tribe; otherwise they forfeited the inheritance ( Numbers 27:8 ff;  Numbers 36:6 ff). The son of an heiress, as with the Athenians, bore the name not of his father but of his maternal grandfather. If there were no daughters the property went to the brother; if no brother, to the paternal uncle; lastly, to the next of kin. The aim was to keep the land in the family and tribe. Succession thus was a matter of right, not of favor; the Hebrew Yarash , "to inherit," means possession and even forcible possession ( Deuteronomy 2:12;  Judges 11:24).

A distribution of goods ("personal", Ousia ) was sometimes made in the father's lifetime ( Luke 15:11-13); the land ("real property", Kleeronomia ) could only be divided after the father's death ( Luke 12:13). If a brother died childless the surviving brother should wed his widow and raise seed to his brother. The Mosaic law herein adopted existing usages, which also prevail still in S. Africa, Arabia, among the Druses and tribes of the Caucasus ( Genesis 38:8-9;  Deuteronomy 25:5-10;  Matthew 22:23-25). Childlessness was regarded as such a calamity that the ordinary laws of forbidden degrees of affinity in marriage ( Leviticus 18:16) were set aside.

Moses allowed the obligation to be evaded, if the brother-in-law preferred the indignity of the widow loosing his shoe off his foot, in token of forfeiting all right over the wife and property of the deceased, as casting the shoe over a place implies taking possession of it ( Psalms 60:8;  Psalms 108:9); also the indignity of her spitting in his face, so that his name becomes a byword as the barefooted one, implying abject meanness. The office then devolved on the nearest kinsman ( Ruth 2:20;  Ruth 3:9-13;  Ruth 4:1-12). Naomi, being past age of marriage, Boaz takes Ruth her daughter-in-law, and has also to redeem the sold inheritance of Elimelech, Naomi's husband. The child born is reckoned that of Naomi and Elimelech ( Ruth 4:17), Chilion being passed over. Naomi, not Ruth, sells the land ( Ruth 4:3). A Jew could never wholly alienate his land by sale ( Leviticus 25:23-24).

A kinsman, or the owner, could at any time redeem it at a regulated charge ( Leviticus 25:23-27). At the year of Jubilee it reverted without charge ( Leviticus 25:28).  Jeremiah 32:6-9; Elimelech's nearest kinsman would not exercise his right of redemption, lest he should mar his own inheritance; namely, if he should have but one son by her, that son would be Elimelech's legal son, not his; so the succession of his own name would be endangered. The inalienability of land made Naboth reject as impious Ahab's proposal ( 1 Kings 21:3); typifying Christ's inalienable inheritance of a name more excellent than that of the angels ( Hebrews 1:4). Houses in walled towns (not in unwalled villages, as being connected with the land) and movables could be alienated for ever; a wise law, essential to progress and marking the superiority of Jewish legislation to that of most nations.

Wills were unknown among the Jews until Herod made one. The subdivision of land by the absence of the law of primogeniture, and the equal division among sons except double to the oldest, suited a country like Palestine of hills and valleys, not admitting much horse labour and agricultural machinery on the large scale which large farms require. Small farms suited the hand labour required for the terraces reaching to the tops of the hills. The numerous towns in Galilee, moreover, had their wants best supplied by numerous petty farms. Subdivision tends also to the multiplication of population, and so to repairing the waste of life caused by wars. It attaches large numbers to their country, as proprietors, eager to defend the soil which is their own, and on which each ate of his own vine and fig tree ( Isaiah 36:16).

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [2]

A — 1: Κληρονόμος (Strong'S #2818 — Noun Masculine — kleronomos — klay-ron-om'-os )

lit. denotes "one who obtains a lot or portion" (kleros, "a lot," nemomai, "to possess"), especially of an inheritance. The NT usage may be analyzed as under: "(a) the person to whom property is to pass on the death of the owner,  Matthew 21:38;  Mark 12:7;  Luke 20:14;  Galatians 4:1; (b) one to whom something has been assigned by God, on possession of which, however, he has not yet entered, as Abraham,  Romans 4:13,14;  Hebrews 6:17; Christ,  Hebrews 1:2; the poor saints,  James 2:5; (c) believers, inasmuch as they share in the new order of things to be ushered in at the return of Christ,  Romans 8:17;  Galatians 3:29;  4:7;  Titus 3:7; (d) one who receives something other than by merit, as Noah,  Hebrews 11:7 ." * [* From Notes on Galatians, by Hogg and Vine, pp. 177,178.]

 Judges 18:7 2—Samuel 14:7 Jeremiah 8:10 Micah 1:15

A — 2: Συγκληρονόμος (Strong'S #4789 — Noun Masculine — sunkleronomos — soong-klay-ron-om'-os )

"a joint-heir, co-inheritor" (sun, "with," and No. 1), "is used of Issac and Jacob as participants with Abraham in the promises of God,  Hebrews 11:9; of husband and wife who are also united in Christ,  1—Peter 3:7; of Gentiles who believe, as participants in the Gospel with Jews who believe,  Ephesians 3:6; and of all believers as prospective participants with Christ in His glory, as recompense for their participation in His sufferings,  Romans 8:17 ." * [* ibid, p. 178.]

B — 1: Κληρονομέω (Strong'S #2816 — Verb — kleronomeo — klay-ron-om-eh'-o )

"to be an heir to, to inherit" (see A, No. 1), is rendered "shall (not) inherit with" in  Galatians 4:30 , RV, AV, "shall (not) be heir with;" in  Hebrews 1:14 , RV, "shall inherit," AV, "shall be heirs of." See Inherit. Cp. kleroomai, "to be taken as an inheritance," kleronomia, "an inheritance," kleros, "a lot, an inheritance."

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [3]

HEIR. —The heir (κληρονόμος) is one who enters on a position of privilege different from that of servants ( Matthew 21:38), through no personal exertion of his own, but as the result of filial relationship. This position is a thoroughly right and legal one, and absolutely valid. The thought of succession to a title upon the death of the present holder is not insisted upon. The son is naturally the heir, and the title is one of present privilege as well as the assurance of fuller possession in the future.

Christ, the Son, is the heir of all things ( Hebrews 1:2; cf. our Lord’s application of the term to Himself in the parable of the Wicked Husbandman,  Matthew 21:38). The complete lordship over Creation was given to Adam ( Genesis 1:28,  Psalms 8:6). The land of Canaan, again, was promised to Abraham and his seed ( Genesis 13:14-15). These assurances given to Adam and to Abraham were absolutely fulfilled in Christ, who, as the firstborn of all creation, Himself both the Agent of the Creator’s work and summing up in His own Person all created objects ( Colossians 1:15-17), enjoys an eternal and incorruptible inheritance. ‘The heirship of the Son was realised in the Incarnation, and in its essence is independent of the Fall (Westcott on  Hebrews 1:2), though conditioned by it as to its circumstances.’ It was the sin of man which caused the suffering and humiliation through which Christ, after the work of redemption was complete, won a name which is above every name ( Philippians 2:9). He had inherited in the eternal purpose of God (ἕθηκεν,  Hebrews 1:2) a name more excellent than the angels ( Hebrews 1:4).

The title of ‘heir,’ then, passes on to those who have obtained the blessing of Divine sonship in Baptism or Regeneration, corresponding spiritually to the promise made to Abraham. The Old Covenant (Testament) could not make men perfect, therefore God provided them with more strength, and in place of a worldly inheritance gave them a spiritual and eternal one. This title of heirship may be forfeited, if those who are called to it are not worthy of their inheritance. So Christ speaks in the Apocalypse: ‘He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will he his God, and he shall be my son’ ( Revelation 21:7). We, then, being made children of God through faith in Christ, are heirs according to the promise made to Abraham, who was accepted through faith in God’s word against all appearances. No longer servants, but heirs, we are entitled to the Divine privilege of sonship through adoption. We are called to inherit a blessing as all true servants of God through Baptism.

It remains to be seen who are specially mentioned in the Gospels as heirs to this privilege: (1) ‘The meek shall inherit the earth’ ( Matthew 5:5). (2) Those who have given up houses, lands, earthly relationships, etc., shall receive an hundred-fold and inherit eternal life,  Matthew 19:29,  Mark 10:17,  Luke 18:18. (3) The sheep in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats ( Matthew 25:34), i.e. those who have shown mercy to the weak and suffering, and whose service has been accepted by Christ as done to Himself, shall inherit the Kingdom prepared for them from the beginning of the world. But, on the other hand, no fornicator or unclean person or covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the Kingdom of God and of Christ ( Ephesians 5:5). See also Inheritance.

C. H. Prichard.

King James Dictionary [4]

HEIR, n. are. L. haeres, haeredis.

1. The man who succeeds, or is to succeed another in the possession of lands, tenements and hereditaments, by descent the man on whom the law casts an estate of inheritance by the death of the ancestor or former possessor or the man in whom the title to an estate of inheritance is vested by the operation of law, on the death of a former owner.

We give the title to a person who is to inherit after the death of an ancestor, and during his life, as well as to the person who has actually come into possession. A man's children are his heirs. In most monarchies,the king's eldest son is heir to the throne and a nobleman's eldest son is heir to his title.

Lo, one born in my house is my heir.  Genesis 15

2. One who inherits, or takes from an ancestor. The son is often heir to the disease, or to the miseries of the father. 3. One who succeeds to the estate of a former possessor.  Jeremiah 49;  Micah 1 4. One who is entitled to possess. In Scripture, saints are called heirs of the promise, heirs of righteousness, heirs of salvation, &c., by virtue of the death of Christ, or of God's gracious promises.

Heir-presumptive, one who, if the ancestor should die immediately, would be heir, but whose right of inheritance may be defeated by any contingency, as by the birth of a nearer relative.

HEIR, are. To inherit to take possession of an estate of inheritance, after the death of the ancestor.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [5]

Heir. The Hebrew institutions relative to inheritance were of a very simple character.

Under the patriarchal system, the property was divided among the sons, of the legitimate wives,  Genesis 21:10;  Genesis 24:36;  Genesis 25:5, a larger portion being assigned to one, generally the eldest, on whom devolved the duty of maintaining the females of the family.

The sons of concubines were portioned off with presents.  Genesis 25:6.

At a later period, the exclusion of the sons of concubines was rigidly enforced.  Judges 11:1. Ff.

Daughters had no share in the patrimony,  Genesis 21:14, but received a marriage portion.

The Mosaic law regulated the succession to real property thus: it has to be divided among the sons, the eldest receiving a double portion,  Deuteronomy 21:17, the others equal shares;

if there were no sons, it went to the daughters,  Numbers 27:8, on the condition that they did not marry out of their own tribe,  Numbers 36:6, ff.; otherwise the patrimony was forfeited.

If there were no daughters, it went to the brother of the deceased;

if no brother, to the paternal uncle; and,

failing these, to the next of kin.  Numbers 27:9-11.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [6]

 Genesis 21:10 24:36 25:5 Deuteronomy 21:17 Numbers 27:8 36:6 27:9-11 Hebrews 1:2 Colossians 1:15 Galatians 3:29 Hebrews 6:17 11:7 James 2:5 Romans 4:13 8:17

Morrish Bible Dictionary [7]

This is used in various applications as of one coming into a possession. It is applied to the Lord when He came to Israel seeking fruit. They said in effect, "This is the heir: come let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours."  Mark 12:7 . Christ is appointed by God to be heir of all things.  Hebrews 1:2 . Believers are by grace made sons through Christ, hence heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.  Romans 8:17;  Galatians 4:7; cf.  John 17:22 .

Webster's Dictionary [8]

(1): ( n.) One who receives any endowment from an ancestor or relation; as, the heir of one's reputation or virtues.

(2): ( n.) One who inherits, or is entitled to succeed to the possession of, any property after the death of its owner; one on whom the law bestows the title or property of another at the death of the latter.

(3): ( v. t.) To inherit; to succeed to.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [9]

See Inheritance

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [10]

HEIR . See Inheritance.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [11]

See Inheritance .

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [12]

âr  :

1. The Word "Heir"

In the New Testament "heir" is the invariable translation of κληρόνομος , klērónomos (15 times), the technical equivalent in Greek, and of the compound συνκληρόνομος , sunklērónomos , "co-heir," in   Romans 8:17;  Ephesians 3:6;  Hebrews 11:9;  1 Peter 3:7 (in   Galatians 4:30;  Hebrews 1:14 , contrast the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American)). In the Old Testament "heir" and "to be heir" both represent some form of the common verb ירשׁ , yārash , "possess," and the particular rendition of the verb as "to be heir" is given only by the context (compare e.g. the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) in  Jeremiah 49:2;  Micah 1:15 ). Exactly the same is true of the words translated "inherit," "inheritance," which in by far the great majority of cases would have been represented better by "possess," "possession" (see Inheritance and OHL on נחל ). Consequently, when God is said, for instance, to have given Palestine to Israel as an 'inheritance' ( Leviticus 20:24 , etc.), nothing more need be meant than 'given as a possession.' The Septuagint, however, for the sake of variety in its rendition of Hebrew words, used klēronoméō in many such cases (especially  Genesis 15:7 ,  Genesis 15:8;  Genesis 22:17 ), and thereby fixed on 'heir' the sense of 'recipient of a gift from God.' And so the word passed in this sense into New Testament Greek -  Romans 4:13 ,  Romans 4:14;  Galatians 3:29;  Titus 3:7;  Hebrews 6:17;  Hebrews 11:7;  James 2:5; compare  Ephesians 3:6;  Hebrews 11:9;  1 Peter 3:7 . On the other hand, the literal meaning of the word is found in  Mark 12:7 (and parallels and   Galatians 4:1 - in the latter case being suggested by the transferred meaning in   Galatians 3:29 - while in   Romans 8:17;  Galatians 4:7 , the literal and transferred meanings are blended. This blending has produced the phrase "heirs of God," which, literally, is meaningless and which doubtless was formed without much deliberation, although it is perfectly clear. A similar blending has applied "heir" to Christ in  Hebrews 1:2 (compare   Romans 8:17 and perhaps   Mark 12:7 ) as the recipient of all things in their totality. But apart from these "blended" passages, it would be a mistake to think that sonship is always consciously thought of where "heir" is mentioned, and hence, too much theological implication should not be assigned the latter word.

2. Heir in Old Testament Law

The heirs of property in the Old Testament were normally the sons and, chief among these, the firstborn.

(1)  Deuteronomy 21:15-17 provides that the firstborn shall inherit a "double portion," whence it would appear that all the other sons shared equally. (It should be noted that in this law the firstborn is the eldest son of the father , not of the mother as in  Exodus 13:2 .) Uncertain, however, is what  Deuteronomy 21:15-17 means by "wife," and the practice must have varied. In   Genesis 21:10 the son of the handmaid was not to be heir with Isaac, but in   Genesis 30:1-13 the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah are reckoned as legitimate children of Jacob. See Marriage . Nor is it clear that  Deuteronomy 21:15-17 forbids setting aside the eldest son because of his own sin - compare the case of Reuben (  Genesis 49:3 ,  Genesis 49:1;  1 Chronicles 5:1 ), although the son of a regular wife ( Genesis 29:32 ). The very existence of  Deuteronomy 21:15-17 , moreover, shows that in spite of the absence of formal wills, a man could control to some extent the disposition of his property after his death and that the right of the firstborn could be set aside by the father ( 1 Chronicles 26:10 ). That the royal dignity went by primogeniture is asserted only (in a particular case) in  2 Chronicles 21:3 , and both David ( 1 Kings 1:11-13 ) and Rehoboam ( 2 Chronicles 11:21-23 ) chose younger sons as their successors. A single payment in the father's lifetime could be given in lieu of heritage ( Genesis 25:6;  Luke 15:12 ), and it was possible for two brothers to make a bargain as to the disposition of the property after the father's death ( Genesis 25:31-34 ).

(2) When there were sons alive, the daughters had no right of inheritance, and married daughters had no such right in any case. ( Job 42:15 describes an altogether exceptional procedure.) Probably unmarried daughters passed under the charge of the firstborn, as the new head of the family, and he took the responsibility of finding them husbands.   Numbers 27:1-11;  Numbers 36:1-12 treat of the case where there were no sons - the daughters inherited the estate, but they could marry only within the tribe, lest the tribal possessions be confused. This right of the daughters, however, is definitely stated to be a new thing, and in earlier times the property probably passed to the nearest male relatives, to whom it went in later times if there were no daughters. In extreme cases, where no other heirs could be found, the property went to the slaves (  Genesis 15:3;  Proverbs 30:23 , noting that the meaning of the latter verse is uncertain), but this could have happened only at the rarest intervals. A curious instance is that of  1 Chronicles 2:34 ,  1 Chronicles 2:35 , where property is preserved in the family by marrying the daughter to an Egyptian slave belonging to the father; perhaps some adoption-idea underlies this.

(3) The wife had no claim on the inheritance, though the disposition made of her dowry is not explained, and it may have been returned to her. If she was childless she resorted to the Levirate marriage ( Deuteronomy 25:5-10 ). If this was impracticable or was without issue she returned to her own family and might marry another husband ( Genesis 38:11;  Leviticus 22:13; Rth 1:8). The inferior wives (concubines) were part of the estate and went to the heir; indeed, possession of the father's concubines was proof of possession of his dignities ( 2 Samuel 16:21 ,  2 Samuel 16:22;  1 Kings 2:13-25 ). At least, such was the custom in the time of David and Solomon, but at a later period nothing is heard of the practice.

(4) The disposition of land is a very obscure question.  Numbers 36:4 states explicitly that each heir had a share, but the continual splittin up of an estate through successive generations would have produced an impossible state of affairs. Possibly the land went to the eldest born as part of his portion, possibly in some cases it was held in common by the members of the family, possibly some member bought the shares of the others, possibly the practice differed at different times. But our ignorance of the facts is complete.

Note . - T he dates assigned by different scholars to the passages cited have an important bearing on the discussion.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [13]

(some form of the verb יָרִשׁ , to Possess; Gr. Κληρόνομος , a Receiver By Lot). The Hebrew institutions relative to inheritance were of a very simple character. Under the patriarchal system the property was divided among the sons of the legitimate wives ( Genesis 21:10;  Genesis 24:36;  Genesis 25:5), a larger portion being assigned to one, generally the eldest, on whom devolved the duty of maintaining the females of the family. (See Birthright).

The sons of concubines were portioned off with presents ( Genesis 49:1 sq.), but this may have been restricted to cases where the children had been adopted by the legitimate wife ( Genesis 30:3). But Jacob made the sons whom he had by his concubines heirs, as well as the others ( Genesis 49:12-27). Moses laid no restrictions upon the choice of fathers in this respect; and we may infer that the sons of concubines, for the most part, received an equal share with the other sons, from the fact that Jephthah, the son of a concubine, complained that he was excluded from his father's house without any portion ( Judges 11:1-7). Daughters had no share in the patrimony ( Genesis 31:14), but received a marriage portion, consisting of a maid-servant ( Genesis 29:24;  Genesis 29:29) or some other property. As a matter of special favor they sometimes took part with the sons ( Job 42:15). The Mosaic law regulated the succession to real property thus: it was to be divided among the sols, the eldest receiving a double portion ( Deuteronomy 21:17), the others equal shares: if there were no sons, it went to the daughters ( Numbers 27:8), on the condition that they did not marry out of their own tribe ( Numbers 36:6 sq.;  Tobit 6:12;  Tobit 7:13), otherwise the patrimony was forfeited (Josephus, Ant. 4, 7, 5). If there were no daughters, it went to the brother of the deceased; if no brother, to the paternal uncle; and, failing these, to the next of kin ( Numbers 27:9-11). In the case of a widow being left without children, the nearest of kin on her husband's side had the right of marrying her, and, in the event of his refusal, the next of kin ( Ruth 3:12-13): with him rested the obligation of redeeming the property of the widow ( Ruth 4:1 sq.), if it had been either sold or mortgaged: this obligation was termed מַשְׁפִּט הִגְּאֻלָּה ("the right of inheritance"), and was exercised in other cases besides that of marriage ( Jeremiah 32:7 sq.). If none stepped forward to marry the widow, the inheritance remained with her until her death, and then reverted to the next of kin. (See Widow).

The object of these regulations evidently was to prevent the alienation of the land, and to retain it in the same family: the Mosaic law enforced, in short, a strict entail Even the assignment of the double portion, which under the patriarchal Regime had been at the disposal of the father ( Genesis 48:22), was by the Mosaic law limited to the eldest son ( Deuteronomy 21:15-17). The case of Achsah, to whom Caleb presented a field ( Joshua 15:18-19;  Judges 1:15), is an exception; but perhaps even in that instance the land reverted to Caleb's descendants either at the death of Achsah or in the year of Jubilee. The land being thus so strictly tied up, the notion of heirship, as we understand it, was hardly known to the Jews: succession was a matter of right, and not of favor-a state of things which is embodied in the Hebrew language itself, for the word יָרִשׁ (A.V. "to inherit") implies Possession, and very Forcible possession ( Deuteronomy 2:12;  Judges 1:29;  Judges 11:24), and a similar idea lies at the root of the words אֲחֻזָּה and נֲחִלָה , generally translated "inheritance." Testamentary dispositions were, of course, generally superfluous: the nearest approach to the idea is the Blessing, which in early times conveyed temporal as well as spiritual benefits ( Genesis 27:19;  Genesis 27:37;  Joshua 15:19). It appears, however, that eventually the father had at least the right of expressing his last wishes or will in the presence of witnesses, and probably in the presence of the heirs ( 2 Kings 20:1). The references to wills in the apostle Paul's writings are borrowed from the usages of Greece and Rome ( Hebrews 9:17), whence the custom was introduced into Judaea: several wills are noticed by Josephus in connection with the Herods (Ant. 13, 16, 1; 17:3, 2; War, 2, 2, 3). With regard to personal property, it may be presumed that the owner had some authority over it, at all events during his life-time. The admission of a slave to a portion of the inheritance with the sons ( Proverbs 17:2) probably applies only to the personality. A presentation of half the personality formed the marriage portion of Tobit's wife ( Tobit 8:21). A distribution of goods during the father's lifetime is implied in  Luke 15:11-13 : a distinction may be noted between Οὐσία , a general term applicable to personalty, and Κληρονομία , the Landed property, which could only be divided after the father's death ( Luke 12:13).

There is a striking resemblance between the Hebrew and Athenian customs of heirship, particularly as regards heiresses ( Ἐπίκληροι ), who were, in both nations, bound to marry their nearest relation: the property did not vest in the husband even for his life-time, but devolved upon the son of the heiress as soon as he was of age, who also bore the name, not of his father, but of his maternal grandfather. The object in both countries was the same, viz. to preserve the name and property of every family (Smith, Dict. Of Class. Ant. s.v. Epiclerus). (See Inheritance).

In  Colossians 1:15, Christ is called "the first-born of every creature," i.e. "the Heir of the whole creation," as in  Hebrews 1:2 he is called the "Heir of all things." Believers are called "Heirs of the promise," "of righteousness," "of the kingdom," "of the world," "of God," "joint heirs" with Christ, inasmuch as they are partakers of the blessings which God bestows upon his children, implying admission to the kingdom of heaven and its privileges ( Galatians 3:29;  Hebrews 6:17;  Hebrews 11:7;  James 2:5;  Romans 4:13;  Romans 8:17), and finally possession of the heavenly inheritance ( John 17:22-24;  Revelation 3:22). (See Adoption).

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [14]

Heir [[[Birthright; Inheritance]]]