Summary: God replaces the firstborn with the Levites to foreshadow the atoning ministry of Christ.
We’re returning to Exodus 4:22-26 this evening because there’s more to discuss on the topic of the firstborn in Israel. To begin let’s read the passage again. God speaks to Moses from the burning bush and commands him to go to Pharaoh where the Israelites are held captive as slaves:
And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: 23And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn. 24And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him. 25Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. 26So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.
We’ve already shown some of the firstborn’s responsibilities, and last time we talked about how this verse prepares us for what’s to come in the event of the Passover. Only the firstborn was threatened, but he was spared through the lamb’s blood, and the whole family participated in the deliverance. Moses, likewise, was spared by the blood of his son. Of course this pointed us to Christ as we know he’s God’s firstborn, and it’s by his blood that his “family” is spared. John says that Jesus is “the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Rev. 1:4).
Redemption and the firstborn go hand-hand, and tonight we’re going to pick this topic up again in the book of Numbers:
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 6Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them. 7And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them, and let them shave all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean. 8Then let them take a young bullock with his meat offering, even fine flour mingled with oil, and another young bullock shalt thou take for a sin offering. 9And thou shalt bring the Levites before the tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt gather the whole assembly of the children of Israel together: 10And thou shalt bring the Levites before the LORD: and the children of Israel shall put their hands upon the Levites: 11And Aaron shall offer the Levites before the LORD for an offering of the children of Israel, that they may execute the service of the LORD. 12And the Levites shall lay their hands upon the heads of the bullocks: and thou shalt offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, unto the LORD, to make an atonement for the Levites. 13And thou shalt set the Levites before Aaron, and before his sons, and offer them for an offering unto the LORD. 14Thus shalt thou separate the Levites from among the children of Israel: and the Levites shall be mine. 15And after that shall the Levites go in to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt cleanse them, and offer them for an offering. 16For they are wholly given unto me from among the children of Israel; instead of such as open every womb, even instead of the firstborn of all the children of Israel, have I taken them unto me. 17For all the firstborn of the children of Israel are mine, both man and beast: on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for myself. 18And I have taken the Levites for all the firstborn of the children of Israel. 19And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and to his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the service of the children of Israel in the tabernacle of the congregation, and to make an atonement for the children of Israel: that there be no plague among the children of Israel, when the children of Israel come nigh unto the sanctuary. 20And Moses, and Aaron, and all the congregation of the children of Israel, did to the Levites according unto all that the LORD commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so did the children of Israel unto them. 21And the Levites were purified, and they washed their clothes; and Aaron offered them as an offering before the LORD; and Aaron made an atonement for them to cleanse them. 22And after that went the Levites in to do their service in the tabernacle of the congregation before Aaron, and before his sons: as the LORD had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so did they unto them. 23And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 24This is it that belongeth unto the Levites: from twenty and five years old and upward they shall go in to wait upon the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: 25And from the age of fifty years they shall cease waiting upon the service thereof, and shall serve no more: 26But shall minister with their brethren in the tabernacle of the congregation, to keep the charge, and shall do no service. Thus shalt thou do unto the Levites touching their charge (Num. 8:5-26)