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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Firstborn


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(See BIRTHRIGHT.) Primogeniture gave princedom and priesthood in patriarchal times. So Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:23-33; Hebrews 12:16), Reuben (Genesis 49:3; 1 Chronicles 5:1). The oldest son in all Israelite families was regarded as sacred to God, because Israel's firstborn were exempted from the stroke which destroyed all the firstborn of Egypt on the first Passover night. The firstborn represented the whole people; Jehovah said to Pharaoh, "Israel is My son, My firstborn, and I say unto thee, Let My son go, that he may serve He; and if thou refuse to let him go, behold I will slay thy son, thy firstborn" (Exodus 4:22-23). Israel, as Jehovah's firstborn, was designed to be a" kingdom of priests and an holy nation" (Exodus 19:6).

It shall hereafter realize this high Calling in a degree that it has not yet realized it, standing as "the firstborn among many brethren" (like the antitypical Israel, Messiah, Romans 8:29; Hebrews 2:12), and priest among all nations, which in subordination to Jerusalem, the spiritual metropolis, shall be the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ, then manifested (Isaiah 61:6; Isaiah 66:21; Revelation 11:15; Zechariah 14:16; Jeremiah 3:17). The tribe of Levi was substituted for all Israel's firstborn to minister to the Lord (Numbers 3:12; Numbers 3:45; Numbers 3:50). There being 273 more of the firstborn in Israel than the males in Levi, the 273 were redeemed at five shekels apiece. Still, to mark the consecration of Israel to Jehovah, the redemption money was exacted for every firstborn (Numbers 18:15). But the firstlings of cattle were to be offered to the Lord.

An donkey was however redeemed with a lamb, or else killed (Exodus 13:13). Christ is the First-begotten. As such, He has the rights of primogeniture; for, as Hebrews 1:6 is in the Greek, "when God shall bring in again the First. begotten into the world, the shall be deemed worthy of not less honor, for "He saith (Psalms 97:7), Let all the angels of God worship Him." His being "brought into the world" (oikoumenee , "the inhabited world"), as the theater of His power, mainly applies to His second advent. In (Colossians 1:16, "the Firstborn of every creature"; implying priority and superlative dignity. Psalms 89:27, "My Firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth," David's antitype, the Messiah.

See Colossians 1:16 (proototokos pasees ktiseoos , as John 1:15; John 1:30; John 15:18, prootos mou , "long before Me"), "begotten long before every creature"; the reason why He is so designated follows, "for He is before all things." "First-begotten" marks at once His eternal priority and His condescending to brotherhood with us (Romans 8:29). "Only begotten" marks His relation to the Father by generation from everlasting. Since He is "long before every creature," He cannot be a creature Himself but the Creator. And as He is the first begotten, originating the natural creation, so He is "the firstborn (proototokos , 'first begotten,' Revelation 1:5) from ("out of", ek ) the dead," and therefore "the Beginning" (Colossians 1:18) of "the church of the firstborn" (Hebrews 12:23), the originating Agent of the new creation.

He was "begotten" of the Father to a new life at His resurrection (the day when the Father fulfilled Psalms 2:7 according to Acts 13:33; Romans 1:4) which is His "regeneration"; so He is "the Prince-leader (archeegos ) of life." "Regeneration," begun in the soul now, will extend to the body at the resurrection of the saints; and to nature, now groaning under the curse (Matthew 19:28; Luke 20:36; 1 John 3:2; Romans 8:11; Romans 8:19; Romans 8:23). As He is "the firstborn" in relation to the election church, so it is "the church of the firstborn," "a kind of first-fruits of His creatures" (James 1:18), in relation to the millennial church, and to the hereafter to be regenerated natural creation. As Christ is "the firstfruits," earnest and pledge of the coming resurrection, so believers are "a kind of first-fruits," a pledge and earnest of the ultimate regeneration of creation.

As He is first begotten by generation from everlasting, so believers by adoptions, "begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible," etc. (1 Peter 1:3.) As Israel, on the ground of being God's "firstborn," was a king-priestly nation, so believers (Revelation 1:6). The figurative phrase, "the firstborn of death," means the deadliest disease that death (personified) ever gendered (Job 18:13). "The firstborn of the poor," the poorest.


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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Firstborn'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/fbd/f/firstborn.html. 1949.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 27th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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