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No. 73: Who Were the Firstborn Sons?

BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 73
May, 1995
Copyright 1995, Biblical Horizons

Numbers 3:40-51 tells us that the Levites were substituted for the firstborn of Israel. The firstborn belonged to God, as stated in Exodus 13:12-13 and 22:29. It is clear that the first group of firstborn claimed by God were those He saved at the first Passover (Ex. 12). These should have become the servants of Aaron as guardians of Israel, but Israel rejected Yahweh at the Golden Calf (Ex. 32). The Levites proved faithful, however, and their "hands were filled" with the blessing of serving Aaron and Yahweh because of this (Ex. 32:29). Thus, the Levites replaced the firstborn as guardians of God’s holiness and servants of the Tabernacle.

In Numbers 3:40-51, we find that there were 22,273 firstborn sons. This is a small number, since the number of adult men in Israel were 603,550. Clearly, many of these men were firstborn themselves. Obviously, the firstborn cannot include the adult males. Possibly, then, it includes only those under 20 years of age (Num. 1:3). Even here, however, we would have far too many.

The answer to this puzzle is found in Numbers 3:46-51. As is happened, there were 273 more firstborn than there were Levites. These extra firstborn were ransomed for five sanctuary shekels apiece.

Now, God had already told them in Leviticus 27:2-7 how human beings were to be valued, if dedicated to Him and then ransomed back. Males between 20 and 60 were valued at 50 silver sanctuary shekels. Males from 5 to 20 were valued at 20 such. Males over 60 were valued at 15 such. And males from one month up to 5 years were valued at 5 silver sanctuary shekels.

Thus, those firstborn who were ransomed for 5 shekels were between one month old and five years old. Every child who had passed his fifth birthday was excluded. On this basis, the number 22,273 makes sense.

Thus, the original Passover was designed to save, directly, the firstborn sons between the ages of one month and five years; indirectly, everyone else.

Since the Passover was for these children, and since it was a meal, I don’t see how anyone can deny that Passover was for them to participate in. And I don’t see how anyone can deny the truth of paedocommunion.