“And he said, "There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭15:11-12‬ ‭ESV‬‬ https://www.bible.com/59/luk.15.11-12.esv

I am enjoying re-reading Timothy Keller’s Prodigal God. ( Here is a Keller sermon brief which is somewhat of a synopsis of the points Keller makes in the book.) Despite absorbing such profound thinking by Keller, and some casting about online for the thoughts of other great thinkers, I remain perplexed by the imagery in Luke 15:11,12, specifically, the younger son’s demand for his inheritance.

Taken in the context of the beginning of Luke 15,

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭15:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬ https://www.bible.com/59/luk.15.1-2.esv

...most sources have the person of the younger (“prodigal”) son symbolizing the tax collectors and sinners that Jesus is dining with, to the shock and anger of the Pharisees and scribes, who are symbolized by the older son. I can see how the father’s immediate response to the younger son’s demand is a symbol of the ready mercy and grace that Jesus is extending to those who are outside of the religious elite of the day, in actuality whom He is dining with even as He is telling the triad of parables.

But I’m stuck on the way the younger son unapologetically demands his inheritance early. (My guess is that it is a sort of literary device that serves to show God’s unflinching willingness to honor our free will, even when what we decide is self-destructive? That our willfulness can separate us from Him?)

What does the Hermaneutics Stack say specifically about the younger son’s demand?

  • I am of the opinion that the younger son is representative of the ten lost tribes of The house of Israel. Here is my response that in short explains it. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/32910/… So as a quick comment, the young son claiming his inheritance is the ten tribes walking away from God as He hands them a certificate of divorce for not wanting Him to be their bridegroom of in this case his Father. They squander it with the gentiles but Jesus makes passage for them to return according to John 1:13. – Nihil Sine Deo Feb 24 '19 at 4:57
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    You make a very compelling argument, which is all new to me! Thanks for the link... – Laurent R. Feb 24 '19 at 6:17
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    Keller says that the younger son "got a place back in the inheritance ... at the expense of his other son". I see nothing to support this view. The repentant son was willing to return to his father's house as a servant, and the father consoled the elder son by reminding him that everything belonged to him, as his brother had already spent his share. The wasteful son is welcomed back to the family, but is certainly not given half of his brother's share. – Ray Butterworth Feb 24 '19 at 14:39
  • The robe and the ring are symbols of the younger son regaining royal status and inheritance as a true son. The only way this could occur is if the elder brother’s inheritance is split with the younger son. Keller: “Jesus Christ is the true elder brother... he gave us his robe, his ring, his place, his wealth - all at his own expense.” Which is the True Gospel. He sites Hebrews 2:11: “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says [to God], ‘I will declare your name to my brothers.’” – Laurent R. Feb 24 '19 at 20:30
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    Autodidact, I agree. @RayButterworth and I were discussing the Keller sermon. Ray I also see your point that Keller ends that sermon in an unexpicable rush and his points are confusing. It is a reach to say that the older brother is Jesus, just based on Luke 15, but I think Keller meant “ultimately”, which is supported by Heb 2:11. There simply aren’t enough characters available here in the comments to have a proper debate in which our individual points can be well- and thoroughly-stated. (I would love it if one of you guys would just go ahead and answer the question already!) – Laurent R. Feb 25 '19 at 4:36

I have heard it explained that since an inheritance is something you gain when someone dies, the younger son was basically telling his father that he would rather see him dead than alive. That outspoken hatred portrays humanity’s innate nature toward God before salvation.

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  • Do you have any more information about this assertion? Perhaps a reference? How did you arrive at this conclusion? – user25930 Mar 5 '19 at 10:45
  • Welcome to the site. Please take tour by scrolling down below and clicking on tour link. It will explain what constitutes an acceptable response, criteria wise. You may use Scripture to reinforce your assertions like this one <Heb 9:17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive> Just know that BHSE prefers references and citations as much as possible. – Nihil Sine Deo Mar 5 '19 at 11:34

It is interesting because according to tradition the younger son would only get very little if anything. Unlike the older son who would stand to inherit almost all of it.

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