What the scriptures say about
FIRST BORN
first son, male
References:
Easton's Bible Dictionary | Smith's Bible Dictionary | International Standard Bible Encyclopedia | Thompson Chain Reference

FIRSTBORN in scriptures [BibleGateway Search]   Site search: FreeFind

Select Cross Reference Bible links
Genesis 4:4 (Abel's offering)
Genesis 48:17-19 (Ephraim replaced Manasseh)
Genesis 49:2-4 (Reuben replaced)
Exodus 11:4-7 (Egypt's firstborn)
Exodus 12:12 (Egypt's firstborn, judgment on their gods)
Exodus 13:1-2 (Israeli firstborn belong to God)



FIRST-BORN [Easton's Bible Dictionary] - also see Redemption of and Sanctification of first born

Sons enjoyed certain special privileges (Deuteronomy 21:17; Genesis 25:23,31,34; 49:3; 1 Chronicles 5:1; Hebrews 12:16; Psalms 89:27). (See BIRTHRIGHT .)

The "first-born of the poor" signifies the most miserable of the poor (Isaiah 14:30).
The "church of the first-born" signifies the church of the redeemed.

The destruction of the first-born was the last of the ten plagues inflicted on the Egyptians (Exodus 11:1-8; 12:29,30).

Menephtah is probably the Pharaoh whose first-born was slain. His son did not succeed or survive his father, but died early. The son's tomb has been found at Thebes unfinished, showing it was needed earlier than was expected. Some of the records on the tomb are as follows:

"The son whom Menephtah loves; who draws towards him his father's heart,
the singer, the prince of archers, who governed Egypt on behalf of his father.
Dead."


FIRST-BORN, Redemption of [Easton's Bible Dictionary]

From the beginning the office of the priesthood in each family belonged to the eldest son. But when the extensive plan of sacrificial worship was introduced, requiring a company of men to be exclusively devoted to this ministry, the primitive office of the first-born was superseded by that of the Levites (Numbers 3:11-13), and it was ordained that the first-born of man and of unclean animals should henceforth be redeemed (18:15).

The laws concerning this redemption of the first-born of man are recorded in Exodus 13:12-15; 22:29; 34:20; Numbers 3:45; 8:17; 18:16; Leviticus 12:2,4.

The first-born male of every clean animal was to be given up to the priest for sacrifice (Deuteronomy 12:6; Exodus 13:12; 34:20; Numbers 18:15-17).

But the first-born of unclean animals was either to be redeemed or sold and the price given to the priest (Leviticus 27:11-13,27). The first-born of an ass, if not redeemed, was to be put to death (Exodus 13:13; 34:20).


FIRST-BORN, Sanctification of [Easton's Bible Dictionary]

A peculiar sanctity was attached to the first-born both of man and of cattle. God claimed that the first-born males of man and of animals should be consecrated to him, the one as a priest (Exodus 19:22,24), representing the family to which he belonged, and the other to be offered up in sacrifice (Genesis 4:4).


FIRSTBORN [Smith's Bible Dictionary]

Under the law, in memory of the exodus (when the first-born of the Egyptians were slain), the eldest son was regarded as devoted to God, and was in every case to be redeemed by an offering not exceeding five shekels, within one month from birth. If he died before the expiration of thirty days, the Jewish doctors held the father excused, but liable to the payment if he outlived that time. (Exodus 13:12-15,16; Leviticus 27:6)

The eldest son received a double portion of the fatherís inheritance, (21:17) but not of the motherís.

Under the monarchy the eldest son usually, but not always, as appears in the case of Solomon, succeeded his father in the kingdom. (1 Kings 1:30; 2:22)

The male first-born of animals was also devoted to God. (Exodus 13:2,12,13; 22:29; 34:19,20) Unclean animals were to be redeemed with the addition of one-fifth of the value, or else put to death; or, if not redeemed, to be sold, and the price given to the priests. (Leviticus 27:13,27,28)


FIRST BEGOTTEN [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia]

furst-be-got'-'-n (prototokos): This Greek word is translated in two passages in the King James Version by "first-begotten" (Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 1:5), but in all other places in the King James Version, and always in the Revised Version (British and American), by "firstborn." It is used in its natural literal sense of Jesus Christ as Mary's firstborn (Luke 2:7; Matthew 1:25 the King James Version); it also bears the literal sense of Jesus Christ as Mary's firstborn (Luke 2:7; Matthew 1:25 the King James Version); it also bears the literal sense of the firstborn of the firstborn of men and animals (Hebrews 11:28). It is not used in the New Testament or Septuagint of an only child, which is expressed by monogenes (see below).

Metaphorically, it is used of Jesus Christ to express at once His relation to man and the universe and His difference from them, as both He and they are related to God. The laws and customs of all nations show that to be "firstborn" means, not only priority in time, but a certain superiority in privilege and authority. Israel is Yahweh's firstborn among the nations (Exodus 4:22; compare Jeremiah 31:9). The Messianic King is God's firstborn Septuagint prototokos), "the highest of the kings of the earth" (Psalms 89:27). Philo applies the word to the Logos as the archetypal and governing idea of creation. Similarly Christ, as "the firstborn of all creation" (Colossians 1:15), is not only prior to it in time, but above it in power and authority. "All things have been created through him, and unto him" (Colossians 1:16). He is "sovereign Lord over all creation by virtue of primo-geniture" (Lightfoot). It denotes His status and character and not His origin; the context does not admit the idea that He is a part of the created universe. So in His incarnation He is brought into the world as "firstborn," and God summons all His angels to worship Him (Hebrews 1:6). In His resurrection He is "firstborn from the dead" (Colossians 1:18) or "of the dead" (Revelation 1:5), the origin and prince of life. And finally He is "firstborn among many brethren" in the consummation of God's purpose of grace, when all the elect are gathered home. Not only is He their Lord, but also their pattern, God's ideal Son and men are "foreordained to be conformed to (his) image" (Romans 8:29). Therefore the saints themselves, as growing in His likeness, and as possessing all the privileges of eldest sons, including the kingdom and the priesthood, may be called the "church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven" (Hebrews 12:23).

See also BEGOTTEN , and Lightfoot on Colossians 1:15.

T. Rees


FIRSTBORN, FIRSTLING [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia]

furst'-born, furst'-ling (bekhor; prototokos): The Hebrew word denotes the firstborn of human beings as well as of animals (Exodus 11:5), while a word from the same root denotes first-fruits (Exodus 23:16). All the data point to the conclusion that among the ancestors of the Hebrews the sacrifice of the firstborn was practiced, just as the firstlings of the flocks and the first-fruits of the produce of the earth were devoted to the deity. The narrative of the Moabite war records the sacrifice of the heir to the throne by Mesha, to Chemosh, the national god (2 Kings 3:27). The barbarous custom must have become extinct at an early period in the religion of Israel (Genesis 22:12). It was probably due to the influence of surrounding nations that the cruel practice was revived toward the close of the monarchical period (2 Kings 16:3; 17:17; 21:6; Jeremiah 7:31; Ezekiel 16:20; 23:37; Micah 6:7). Jeremiah denies that the offering of human beings could have been an instruction from Yahweh (Micah 7:20; 19:5). The prophetic conception of God had rendered such a doctrine inconceivable. Clear evidence of the spiritualization and humanizati0n of religion among the Israelites is furnished in the replacement, at an early stage, of the actual sacrifice of the firstborn by their dedication to the service of Yahweh. At a later stage the Levites were substituted for the firstborn. Just as the firstlings of unclean animals were redeemed with money (Exodus 13:13; 34:20), for the dedication of the firstborn was substituted the consecration of the Levites to the service of the sanctuary (Numbers 3:11-13,15). On the 30th day after birth the firstborn was brought to the priest by the father, who paid five shekels for the child's redemption from service in the temple (compare Luke 2:27; Mishna Bekhoroth viii.8). For that service the Levites were accepted in place of the redeemed firstborn (Numbers 3:45). See note. According to Exodus 22:29-31 the firstborn were to be given to Yahweh. (The firstborn of clean animals, if free from spot or blemish, were to be sacrificed after eight days, Numbers 18:16 ff.) This allusion to the sacrifice of the firstborn as part of the religion of Yahweh has been variously explained. Some scholars suspect the text, but in all probability the verse means no more than similar references to the fact that the firstborn belonged to Yahweh (Exodus 13:2; 34:19). The modifying clause, with regard to the redemption of the firstborn, has been omitted. The firstborn possessed definite privileges which were denied to other members of the family. The Law forbade the disinheriting of the firstborn (Deuteronomy 21:15-17). Such legislation, in polygamous times, was necessary to prevent a favorite wife from exercising undue influence over her husband in distributing his property, as in the case of Jacob (Genesis 25:23). The oldest son's share was twice as large as that of any other son. When Elisha prayed for a double portion of Elijah's spirit, he simply wished to be considered the firstborn, i.e. the successor, of the dying prophet. Israel was Yahweh's firstborn (Exodus 4:22; compare Jeremiah 31:9 (Ephraim)). Israel, as compared with other nations, was entitled to special privileges. She occupied a unique position in virtue of the special relationship between Yahweh and the nation. In three passages (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:6), Jesus Christ is the firstborn -- among many brethren (Romans 8:29); of every creature (Colossians 1:16). This application of the term to Jesus Christ may be traced back to Psalms 89:27 where the Davidic ruler, or perhaps the nation, is alluded to as the firstborn of Yahweh.

See CHILD; CHILDREN ; CIRCUMCISION ; FIRST-BEGOTTEN ; PLAGUES OF EGYPT .

NOTE -- The custom of redeeming the firstborn son is preserved among the Jews to this day. After thirty days the father invites the "Kohen," i.e. a supposed descendant of Aaron, to the house. The child is brought and shown to the "Kohen," and the father declares the mother of the child to be an Israelite. If she is a "Kohen," redemption is not necessary. The "Kohen" asks the father which he prefers, his child or the five shekels; the father answers that he prefers his son, and pays to the "Kohen" a sum equivalent to five shekels. After receiving the redemption-money, the "Kohen" puts his hands on the child's head and pronounces the Aaronite blessing (Numbers 6:22-27).

T. Lewis


FIRSTBORN [Thompson Chain Reference]
    * (First-born set apart as Belonging to God)
    * Exodus 13:2
    * Exodus 34:19
    * Leviticus 27:26
    * Numbers 3:13
    * Deuteronomy 21:17
    * Nehemiah 10:36 

Cross Reference Bible | Bible Dictionary | Today's Bible Commentary