We are told that following the first Passover, God brought Israel out of Egypt with a strong hand. At the same time, He informed Israel of the law of the firstborn. Previously God through Moses told the Israelites that all the firstborn in the land of Egypt (i.e. Egyptians) would be killed after the Passover. This occurred at midnight following the eating of the Passover lamb at the beginning of the 14th. As Israel began their exodus from Egypt, they were informed of a law involving their own firstborn. “Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine” (Exodus 13:2).
This law was made known to them in the context of the Days of Unleavened Bread and coming out of Egypt by the strength of God’s hand (see Exodus chapter 13). God laid claim to the firstborn of humans and animals. This was to be a constant reminder of who they were. They were God’s people. The land of Egypt represented sin and all the ramifications that flow from sin – bondage. To make the point that everything belongs to God – that He is the Creator of all things – He sacrificed the firstborn of Egypt. While at the same time He brought the firstborn of Israel to Himself. “And it came to pass, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all males that open the womb, but the firstborn of my sons I redeem” (Exodus 13:15).
This law was a formalization of what God had told Moses. “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, Thus says the Lord: ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn’” (Exodus 4:22). The law of the firstborn was a constant reminder that Israel had a special relationship with God. As each firstborn of man and beast was dedicated to God, they were reminded of that special relationship. “…They shall be Mine: I am the Lord” (Numbers 3:13).
This law was followed by Joseph and Mary with their firstborn – Jesus (Luke 2:22-24). He was redeemed as their firstborn. But more importantly, Christ, as the firstborn, gave the law deeper spiritual meaning. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation … And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:15-18). Christ was the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29).
The book of Hebrews makes an important connection for us. “But when He again brings the firstborn into the world [Christ] … For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering. For both he who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 1:6; 2:10,11). Just as Israel was declared to be His, so we are His! Through Christ as our Passover, we have been brought, metaphorically, out of Egypt by the strength of God’s hand. Collectively we become the “church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23).
The law of the firstborn was tied to the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread. So as we think about this very important time of the year, there are many aspects of application for us to consider. If we take the time to consider them, this Holy Day season will become more meaningful. “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors – not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die [Egyptian firstborn]; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live [Unleavened Bread]. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God [They shall be Mine]. (Romans 8:12-14).
As we observe the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread, we are reminded who we are – we have a special relationship with God as the firstborn among many brethren.