Did Ishmael ben Avraham receive a double-portion in accordance to the rights of the firstborn? Or did he forfeit them because he was estranged from the family?

I know that the law of the double portion came later, but as always, we hear Avraham Avinu knew Torah, read Torah, learned Torah, and so, I am just wondering.

Where is there in Rabbinic sources, inclusive of Midrashim, a discussion, to whom if anyone did Abraham give a double portion?

Devarim 21:17 כִּי אֶת-הַבְּכֹר בֶּן-הַשְּׂנוּאָה יַכִּיר, לָתֶת לוֹ פִּי שְׁנַיִם, בְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר-יִמָּצֵא, לוֹ: כִּי-הוּא רֵאשִׁית אֹנוֹ, לוֹ מִשְׁפַּט הַבְּכֹרָה.

  • hebrewbooks.org/… Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 14:30
  • @GershonGold Toda. One can fully expect a midrash to say that. Do you know of any dissenting opinion anywhere?
    – ninamag
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 14:46
  • This halacha applies to a man who has two wives, and the son of the wife he hates inheriting a double portion. Can we verify that Avraham married Hagar or was she just a concubine?
    – ezra
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 16:13
  • @ezra Just want to say that Devarim 21:15a states כִּי-תִהְיֶיןָ לְאִישׁ שְׁתֵּי נָשִׁים and there is also no discussion or mention in the rest of the pasuk whether kiddushin or nissuin took place. The man simply has two women.
    – ninamag
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 17:26
  • 1
    @ezra do children from outside marriage not inherit??
    – Double AA
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 18:01

3 Answers 3


The verses strongly indicate that not only did Avraham not give a double portion to Yishmael, he gave (basically) everything to Yitshak.

For example, right before stating that Avraham died, Genesis (25:5) states that he gave all of his possessions to Yitshak:

וַיִּתֵּ֧ן אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־ל֖וֹ לְיִצְחָֽק

And Avraham gave all he had to Yitshak.

The only exception to this listed is that he gave gifts to the children of the concubines (25:6):

וְלִבְנֵ֤י הַפִּֽילַגְשִׁים֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לְאַבְרָהָ֔ם נָתַ֥ן אַבְרָהָ֖ם מַתָּנֹ֑ת

And to the children of the concubines that Avraham had, Avraham gave gifts.

This seems to be consistent with Sarah's declaration (Genesis 21:10) that Yishmael would not inherit together with Yitshak.

Indeed, the Midrash (Genesis Rabba 61:7) illustrates the descendants of Yishmael claiming their unfulfilled due for the double portion, as the "son of the despised wife", whereupon they are told that Avraham chose to give everything to Yitshak. This affirms the implication that he did not give a double portion to Yishmael.

Although Avraham's division of his assets is listed before his death, the placement of those verses right before his death indicates that he allotted all of his possessions right before his death, and possibly distributed them. The gifts are thus not necessarily identical with the post-death distribution, but are related. The Midrash addresses the post death double portion, and indeed, conflates it with the verse about giving everything to Yitshak. This indicates that the Midrash too understood that either the verse refers to the division after his death, or that he dived everything up before his death.

In the same vein, R. Eliyahu Mizrahi (Genesis 24:10) understands based on Genesis (25:5) that he left everything to Yitshak. He asks how Avraham could have ignored Yishmael, according to the Midrashim that he kept the Torah, as he should have given Yishmael the double portion. He suggests that Avraham did so on the basis of the verse (21:12):

כִּ֣י בְיִצְחָ֔ק יִקָּרֵ֥א לְךָ֖ זָֽרַע

For it is through Isaac that offspring shall be continued for you.

Indicating that Yitshak; not Yishamel, was the rightful heir.

R. Hayyim Paltiel (25:6) asks the question as well, and answers that either Avraham transferred his possessions before his death, so he avoided the requirement to bequeath a double portion to Yishmael, or he based himself on the verse declaring Yitshak his rightful heir. Alternatively, he suggests that both Avraham and Yishamel were considered converts who sever their legal relationships with one another, so he was not obligated to leave him a double portion.

R. Yissakhar ber Eilengerg writes in B'er Sheva to Sanhedrin 91a, that Yishamel was not even included in the children of the concubines to whom Avraham sent gifts.

  • So, you are saying that Isaac received his full inheritance while his father Avraham was still alive?
    – ninamag
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 15:31
  • @ninamag That is a suggestion of Rabbenu Hayyim Paltiel. Other sources such as the Midrash conflate the verse about Yitshak with the double portion, indicating that they either agree with Rabbi Paltiel, that as you write, Yitshak received his inheritance while Avraham was alive, or that the verse refers to the division which took place after his death, but was arranged before his death, (as folks generally don't arrange divisions of property after their deaths)
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 15:34

R. Yehuda, expounding on Gen. 25:5, extrapolates from a different verse that Abraham bequeathed the birthright to Isaac (Devarim Rabba, beg. Ch. 11).

In Midrash Sekhel Tov (end of Chayei Sara §13) a midrash is recorded saying that בכר (firstborn) is written by Ishmael lacking a vowel to indicate that he did not inherit the birthright.


Rabbi Hertz among others point out that the sending away of Yishmael and his mother was the official method at that time of disinheriting the child of a concubine. This is similar to the gifts given to the children of Keturah before Avraham died. Note, that this occurred when Yishmael was about 15 or so, while he did maintain ties with Avraham and his family.

Rashi Vayeira 22:3 shows that 35 years later Yishmael was with him when he took Yizchak to the Akeidah

his two young men: Ishmael and Eliezer, for a person of esteem is not permitted to go out on the road without two men, so that if one must ease himself and move to a distance, the second one will remain with him. — [from Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer, ch. 31; Gen. Rabbah ad loc., Tan. Balak 8]

Chayei Sarah 25:9 shows that Yishmael was at the funeral and acknowledged Yitzchak as the heir.

9 And Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the Cave of Machpelah in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which faces Mamre,


Isaac and Ishmael: (Gen. Rabbah 30:4, 38:12) From here [we may deduce] that Ishmael repented and let Isaac go before him, and that is the meaning of “a good old age” which is stated regarding Abraham (above 15:15). - [B.B. 16b]

Thus, at the time Avraham died, Yitzchak was his only legal heir.

The rule cited in Devarim applies only after the revelation at Sinai and only to wives that are fully married with chupah and kiddushin.


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