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“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?

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    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. Feb 24, 2019 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, 2019 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. Feb 24, 2019 at 14:39
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    If I can respond to your comment on Jesus being the elder brother, the elder brother was ashamed of his own Father. Jesus to me, in this parable is the father and the elder brother in my view are the Jews who refused to join with the returning younger brother because the Jews “slaved” away while the younger brother was out “having fun” and squandering his inheritance. Jews today refuse Jesus (the father) and are ashamed of Him as a Messiah just like the elder brother was ashamed and embarrassed that his father would run and expose his ankles. Jesus took that shame for the prodigal on the cross Feb 25, 2019 at 4:03
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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, 2019 at 4:36

5 Answers 5

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In Luke 15, Jesus told 3 parables: The Parable of the Lost Sheep, The Parable of the Lost Coin, and the The Parable of the Lost Son, representing three different kinds of Christians.

The lost sheep represents the innocent and obedient child of God who accidentally wanders away from God due to life's complex circumstances. The lost coin represents the precious one who is misplaced. The lost son represents, of course, a prodigal.

“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

This is the strong-willed, egoistic, demanding, give-me-give-me child of God.

give
δός (dos)
Verb - Aorist Imperative Active - 2nd Person Singular

He made a most unrighteous demand on his father. For what? Not to invest but to squander his future wealth. The demand symbolizes the prodigal's ego which then is served as a foil for the Father's grace and forgiveness. His immaturity, impatience, and recklessness caused him to demand and spend egoistically. He learned the lesson finally in

Luke 15:21 "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

Before, he demanded the worth of his share of inheritance. Now, he doesn't think he is worthy. He has learned to let go of his ego and picked up humility.

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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, 2019 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. Mar 5, 2019 at 11:34
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The younger son was the gentiles who in Christ would be joined with the Jews in the Church, the inheritance of the Lord.

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    Hello Ed. Welcome to the site. I am very interested in your answer and especially the meat behind your idea. In their wisdom, Bible Hermeneutics has important guidelines regarding responses. We all grow intellectually when the answers are formulated analytically and provide substantiated references. It takes some getting used to at first - the expectation of this level of integrity in debate is not typical in the contemporary world. You will find it refreshing. The Tour (linked below) explains the group’s expectations.
    – Laurent R.
    Apr 11, 2022 at 19:32
  • @Laurent R. What a kind introduction, friend. Refreshing to see. Apr 11, 2022 at 22:30
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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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  • Sorry for the down vote, nothing personal, but this answer does not conform to BH’s standards of supplying references, and has been left here un-improved for three years. Consider this a nudge?
    – Laurent R.
    Apr 14, 2022 at 1:51
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The younger son only ask for his portion (verse 12). He realized the the full inheritance belonged to the first born. For any living siblings there was given a portion. Just a thought.

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    Welcome to BH. Please see the Tour and the Help (below, bottom right) as to the purpose and the functioning of the site We are looking for substantial answers with substantiated references.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 30, 2020 at 19:53
  • As with the answer above, this one has my down vote because it has not been improved in the past many months despite a request for references. We are very interested in your idea! Please give your answer a bit more substance, as described in the Tour (see link below.)
    – Laurent R.
    Apr 14, 2022 at 1:54

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