22 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Prodigal Son

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It’s an epic story, praised for its beauty, extravagant grace, surprising narrative and simplicity, but do you really know it?

The story of the Prodigal Son may be in Luke 15: 11 -3 2 is one of the most iconic parables in all of Scripture. There is arguably more artwork( sculptures, paints, literature, stained glass) focused on the Prodigal Son than any of the other 30 parables in the Bible. It’s an epic story, praised for its beauty, extravagant grace, surprising narrative and simplicity.

But do you know the story as well as you think you do?


Here are 22 insights from the Prodigal that could surprise you, but even if they don’t, it’s a powerful reminder about God’s extravagant grace toward ushis sons and daughters.

1. The word “Prodigal” doesn’t mean rebellious or lostit means “wasteful” and “extravagant.” The word origin refers to a person who’s reckless and squanders their wealth.

2. The parable is fictional. The events in the tale didn’t happen , but they’re meant to unpack a powerful truth through storytelling.

3. The narrative wasn’t told to foster Christian parents with rebellious kidsit was told by Jesus to Pharisees and scribes to unpack the lavish love of God for sinners.

4. The parable of the Prodigal is the last of three parables Jesus shares about loss and redemption The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and The Lost Son and it’s best read in that context to understand the full force of Jesus’ narrative.

5. When the prodigal son asked for his inheritance, “its like” saying to his father, “I wish you were dead.” It was a huge insult, weighted with dishonor and guilt.

6. In the Jewish culture at this time, doing something like this would’ve likely cut you off from the community eternally. And being a part of “the worlds largest” community was critical for survival, health and overall quality of life.

7. In reality, the parent would’ve had to split up the land and sell a portion of his assets to give his son the requested inheritance.

8. When the prodigal son was done partying and find himself alone and hungry, he took a task feeding slop to pigs. Why is this significant? In the Jewish culture animals were “unclean” animals . If a Jewish human longed for the food of swine it was definitely hitting “rock bottom.”

9. The prodigal son decides to head homethinking that maybe his father would receive him as a servant. This is proof that the son didn’t understand the depth of his father’s love and compassion.

10. The prodigal son rehearses a speech, but he never gets to use it .

11. When the father insures his son return, he runs to greet him. Operating in the Ancient Near Eastern culture was taboo at that time. It involved a human to pull up his tunic to his hips and expose his legs( to keep from tripping ). The practice was frowned upon and typically brought dishonor and embarrassment.

12. If a Jewish son expended his fund, devoting it over to the Gentiles, he would’ve been cut off from the community upon his return. The parent likely operated to meet his son to reach him before anyone else in the community had a chance to confront him. The fact that the Father runs to receive him is scandalous and shocking and runs against the culture norm.

13. We title the story “The Prodigal Son, ” but it could be just as easily titled “The Running Father, ” says New Testament scholar N.T. Wright.

14. The parent didn’t chided the son but gave him a lavish welcome home partycalling for his maids to prepare the fattened calf, a ring, a robe and shoes. This is God’s stance toward repentant sinners, and it’s always bold, surprising and overflowing with joy.

15. The parent dedicated his son a robe to restore his dignity in front of the community. No doubt the son was tattered and dirty from feeding slop to swine and the parent clothes him as an act of love and compassion and to honor his son in full view of the village.

16. The father also devoted the son a ring. Wearing rings during this time in history was a sign of both wealth and stance . The power of this symbol reflects the father’s desire to restore his son as a family member and a respectable is part of the communityunder the shadow of the fatheronce again.

17. Next, the parent asked his servants to get his son a pair of sandals. This, perhaps the most practical gift, was a gesture that said, “I want you around for a while.” The sandals prepared him to walk with the parent without anxiety of cutting or soiling his feet from the ground.

18. But there was one last giftthe fattened calf. This various kinds of extravagant feast was set aside for incredibly important occasions. No longer would his son settle for the pods of pigshe would now dine on the best meat offered in the presence of his family and, likely, everyone in the village.

19. The story has a part two about the older son, that are typically gets overlooked, but it’s just as important.

20. The older son represented the Pharisees and scribesthey felt disrespected by God’s scandalous grace to the sinner and the outcast. Besides, they’ve been keeping the rules since day one why didn’t they get a party ?

21. The father’s response to the older son? “All I have is yours too, but this requires a celebrationmy son was dead and now he’s alive again! ” This is a great picture of God’s stance to the self-righteous sinnerkind, direct, generous, but still focused on the power of repentance.

22. The parable ends with the repudiation of the older brother to attend the feast. We don’t know what happened, but Jesus left the story dangle, open-ended for the issues and debate, as he often does.

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