The firstborn of an unclean animal had to be redeemed by an estimation of the priest, with the addition of one-fifth (Lev 27:27; Num 18:15). According to Exod. 13:13; 34:20, the firstborn of an ass was either ransomed by a sheep or lamb, or its neck had to be broken.
Figuratively, Israel was God’s “firstborn” (Exod 4:22; Jer 31:9) and enjoyed priority status. God compared His relationship to Israel with the relationship of a father and his firstborn son. Within Israel, the tribe of Levi represented the firstborn of the nation in its worship ceremony (Num 3:40-41; 8:18).
First son born to a couple and required of newly married people was believed to represent the prime of human vigor (Gen 49:3; Ps 78:51). In memory of the death of Egypt’s firstborn and the preservation of the firstborn of Israel, all the firstborn of Israel, both of man and beast, belonged to Yahweh (Exod 13:2,15; cp. 12:12-16). This meant that the people of Israel attached unusual value to the eldest son and assigned special privileges and responsibilities to him.
After Joseph saved Egypt from starvation (Genesis 41), the Israelites lived in Egypt as guests. Eventually, the Egyptians forgot about Joseph and enslaved the Israelites (Exodus 1:6-14). For many years the children of Abraham suffered under Egypt’s slavery.
Jacob entered the world grasping-literally. The secondborn of twin boys, Jacob started his life journey by grasping his brother Esau’s heel. The symbolism is difficult to ignore. Jacob wanted what was his-and then some.
In the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel, we meet a woman named Hannah. She was married in a man named Elkanah, of the tribe of Ephraim. They lived in the hill country, in a little town with a big name-Ramathaim-zophim.
This verse is part of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). An estate was normally divided by a father among his sons at his death. But the father in this parable did so while he was still alive. Continue reading A SQUANDERED INHERITANCE→
When God chooses to do anything, His choice involves saying yes to something and no to something else. Here, the choice seems arbitrary to our thinking. It could as well have been firstborn females, or last born, as far as we can jusdge.
A shepherd from Midian and his brother stood before Pharaoh and demanded the release of the Hebrew slaves. Pharaoh was the strongman leader of the strongest country in the world. He ignored God’s command to release 600,000 male slaves and their women and children. Despite the demonstration of God’s power-the Nile turned to blood-Pharaoh returned to his palace and put “the whole thing out of his mind” (Exodus 7:23 NLT). Continue reading MEN OF THE BIBLE (PHARAOH: A HEART IN DENIAL)→