Primogeniture: noun 1. The state of being the firstborn child. 2. A rule of inheritance by the firstborn child.
Origin: Latin primogenitura, from primo ‘first’ – genitura ‘birth, begetting’.
According to the Law of Primogeniture, the firstborn male is considered the heir of the father. The firstborn receives a double portion of the inheritance, and at the death of the father he becomes the patriarch of the family. In the kingdom of God this principle went even further, for the firstborn male who opened the womb was considered holy (set apart) unto God. This Law of the Old Testament pointed to the day when the firstborn Son of God would come. He is the ultimate example of one who is holy to the Lord.
And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to Yahweh (as it is written in the Law of Yahweh, “Every first-born male that opens the womb shall be called holy to Yahweh”)…
There are a number of profound, parallel themes that run throughout the Scriptures that all point to the fact that whatever is first in order and preeminence belongs to Yahweh. It was Yahweh’s original intent in the Old Testament that every firstborn male of a household would be devoted (consecrated) to Him. This firstborn male would serve as priest. It was only after the Israelites sinned in the wilderness with the golden calf that Yahweh exchanged the firstborn of all Israel for the males of the tribe of Levi. Because the tribe of Levi had answered Yahweh’s call in respponding to idolatrous worship, they were chosen to stand in as a replacement for all the firstborn of the twelve tribes of Israel.
All the numbered men of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron numbered at the command of Yahweh by their families, every male from a month old and upward, were 22,000.
Then Yahweh said to Moses, “Number every first-born male of the sons of Israel from a month old and upward, and make a list of their names. And you shall take the Levites for Me, I am Yahweh, instead of all the first-born among the sons of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the first-born among the cattle of the sons of Israel.” So Moses numbered all the first-born among the sons of Israel, just as Yahweh had commanded him; and all the first-born males by the number of names from a month old and upward, for their numbered men were 22,273.
Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the Levites instead of all the first-born among the sons of Israel and the cattle of the Levites. And the Levites shall be Mine; I am Yahweh. And for the ransom of the 273 of the first-born of the sons of Israel who are in excess beyond the Levites, you shall take five shekels apiece, per head; you shall take them in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), and give the money, the ransom of those who are in excess among them, to Aaron and to his sons. ” So Moses took the ransom money from those who were in excess, beyond those ransomed by the Levites; from the first-born of the sons of Israel he took the money in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary, 1,365. Then Moses gave the ransom money to Aaron and to his sons, at the command of Yahweh, just as Yahweh had commanded Moses.
When I read this passage in preparing this study I was struck by the significance of certain numbers. Consider how unusual it is that the full number of all of the males of the tribe of Levi would come out to a round multiple of a thousand. This is no estimate provided here in Scripture. It is an exact count, for note that the number of firstborn among the rest of Israel was noted precisely at 22,273.
What then is the parable to be discerned in this symbolic number? Those who have been following these writings recently understand that the number 22 denotes the cutting off of the flesh. It speaks of that which is cleansed and purified. Certainly the Levites fit this description, for only the Levites had answered Yahweh’s call to respond to the call to stand with God in reproach to the sin of idolatry. (One might argue that Aaron was the one to fashion the calf, and he was from Levi, but he testified that he was forced by the people to do this action, and it was against his will. That God spared Aaron when He judged the people I believe was a token that Aaron’s failing was not that of idolatry, but of fearing the people. A lesser transgression for which he was forgiven.)
It is Yahweh who opens and closes the womb, and it was by Divine plan that He determined on the day that the Levites were numbered, these ransomed men who would be set aside as a holy possession unto Himself, that their number should be exactly 22,000 on that day. It has been declared that when a number is of the first order that it relates to an individual (such as the number 22). When a number is raised to the level of the hundreds, it relates to the nations (such as 2200). When a number is raised to the level of the thousands it is a reference to the heavens (such as 22,000). Examples of this can be seen in the 7,000 reserved for Yahweh in the day of Elijah, men who had not bowed the knee to Baal. It can also be observed in the 144,000 of Revelation, the number of the overcomers on Mount Zion.
This number therefore speaks of those ransomed by the Lord. It speaks of a full number appointed by Yahweh in the heavens, who at an individual level had separated themselves from idolatry and impure conduct. It is always such individuals that Yahweh will choose to be His representatives in the earth. It is these who were set aside as holy unto the Lord. They had no inheritance in the earth, as did their brothers, for Yahweh said He would Himself become their inheritance.
At that time Yahweh set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of Yahweh, to stand before Yahweh to serve Him and to bless in His name until this day. Therefore, Levi does not have a portion or inheritance with his brothers; Yahweh is his inheritance, just as Yahweh your God spoke to him.)
Those who love Yahweh will understand what an inestimable inheritance belonged to the tribe of Levi. All of the rest of Israel received an inheritance of land and, even though it was a land flowing with milk and honey, it did not compare with the unfading and imperishable inheritance belonging to the tribe of Levi. Any man from Israel who understood what they lost in that day when God chose the Levites to replace the firstborn should have rent his clothes and sat down in sackcloth and ashes. He should have cried out with the most grievous of lamentations, declaring that the joy of his life had been taken away. Yet no such sorrow was recorded among the people, for these blind men did not see that which they had forfeited.
The same is true for the church today. Multitudes who have received Christ as their inheritance, and access to His presence for all ages, and the honor of partaking of His glory, have traded it away for the worthless baubles of this world. Multitudes of saints are more attracted by the puny and fading riches of this world, and have chosen a pursuit of mammon over a pursuit of Christ who sits in unapproachable glory at the right hand of God the Father. How they will weep and howl and gnash their teeth on that day when their works are tested by fire and they suffer loss. The loss will include being restricted from the presence of Yahweh and all of His most holy things.
“Because they ministered to them before their idols and became a stumbling block of iniquity to the house of Israel, therefore I have sworn against them,” declares Yahweh God, “that they shall bear the punishment for their iniquity. And they shall not come near to Me to serve as a priest to Me, nor come near to any of My holy things, to the things that are most holy; but they shall bear their shame and their abominations which they have committed.”
Although this is a pronouncement against idolatrous priests, it hearkens back to the sins of the firstborn males who were to be priests. All men are disqualified according to the same judgment. Even as the firstborn of Israel were disqualified due to idolatry and sensuality, so too are many Christians today disqualified. They will be restricted from the presence of Yahweh in coming ages. They shall bear the punishment of their iniquity. On the day that it is revealed what was forfeited, there will be such wailing that it causes me to tremble with fear at the thought of all that many are now casting away for fleeting pleasures and possessions that will then appear as less than dung.
This number 22,000 therefore stands as a symbol of those who have separated themselves from the pursuit of all worldly idols; wealth, pleasure, ease, comfort, security, fame, etc.. It speaks of those who have turned away when their brothers embraced unrestrained passions and desires for that which satisfies the flesh. It speaks of those who have embraced the cross.
Being a priest, being set aside as holy unto God, is a right of the firstborn. Yet, as we have seen with Israel as a nation, this right can be taken away and given to one more worthy. This occurred on an individual level on a number of very pronounced occasions. One of these was when Jacob obtained the birthright and the blessing, having taken it from Esau. This outcome was from the Lord. Everything about Jacob showed that he highly prized the birthright and the blessing, while Esau despised them, selling his birthright for a bowl of pottage. This attitude of failing to show the utmost desire for one’s birthright is considered one of the most severe transgressions in Scripture and in the eyes of Yahweh.
See to it that…there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
The birthright of the saints is God Himself. Yet how poorly esteemed is this birthright in the eyes of the church! How much like Esau are the children of God! They have traded away an inestimable and imperishable treasure for that which satisfies their flesh for a brief moment. The church is filled with Laodiceans, and the trade they have made is the worst bargain this Universe has ever witnessed. I am sure the angels are appalled as they look on the glory of God and then see the petty things that occupy the minds of those who are called to be possessors of Holy God.
Jacob, though he used conniving methods, valued the birthright exceedingly. He came out of the womb gripping his brother’s heel, for he could not stand the thought that another should get that which he so highly valued. His life manifested a fixation upon obtaining both the birthright and the blessing, and because he so desired it Yahweh was pleased that he should have it.
There was another young man who obtained the birthright when he was not born to it. His brothers also despised it, and due to their wickedness it was taken from the firstborn and given to one who was more worthy. This young man was Joseph.
Consider the parallels between the story of Jacob and Esau. Like Esau, Reuben was the firstborn. The preeminence was to be his. The double portion and blessing were to be his. Yet Reuben lost this right due to a moment of unrestraint when his fleshly appetite was clamoring to be satisfied, and he esteemed this momentary pleasure more highly than the honor of the firstborn. Reuben went into his father’s concubine and had sexual relations with her. From this single momentary act, where the satisfaction passed as fleeting as a single breath, he forfeited all that could have been his.
Reuben, you are my first-born; my might and the beginning of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Uncontrolled as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it– he went up to my couch.
We see in Joseph a different heart. Where Reuben was as uncontrolled as water, Joseph was as solid as a rock. When Potipher’s wife sought to entice Joseph to engage in sexual sin, Joseph refused, though he was pressed often.
We see that Jacob and Joseph model two complementary traits of those who will be accorded the honor of the firstborn. Jacob was willing to relentlessly and patiently pursue the desire of his heart. This was seen not only in his pursuit of the birthright, but in his love for Rachel. Jacob worked fourteen years to acquire Rachel as his bride. Where Jacob modeled the characteristic of steadfastness in pursuit of a goal, Joseph modeled self-control in his willingness to abstain from temporary pleasure in order to walk honorably before God.
Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob and, like the tribe of Levi at the debacle of the golden calf, he stood apart from his brothers. He did not partake of their evil. Because of this he was despised. He was cast out and experienced many hard years of suffering. Chief among his suffering was the pain of separation from the father whom he loved, and who loved him. Can you see the parable in this as it relates to the saints and God the Father? Elijah, who is a type of the company who will prepare the way for the Lord’s return for His bride, is prophesied to return to turn the hearts of the fathers to the sons, and the hearts of the sons to the fathers. This refers not only to earthly sons and fathers, but to the relationship between God and his sons.
When his brothers came to buy grain in Egypt, Joseph’s thought was immediately to inquire about the health of his father. This he did at their next return as well. Finally when he was reunited with the father from whom he had been separated, he embraced him and wept.
And Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; as soon as he appeared before him, he fell on his neck and wept on his neck a long time. Then Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face, that you are still alive.”
I have often wept myself as I have read this account. I can imagine the deep emotion of son and father reunited after many years. Both had been grieved at the separation, never knowing that they would ever be together again. From this day forth, Jacob treated Joseph as the firstborn. The preeminence was bestowed upon him. When Jacob was near to death, it was Joseph he called to instruct him concerning his burial. Reuben had forfeited this honor. Reuben would not be allowed to prepare his father’s body for burial.
In the writing Joseph – Preparing the Body for Burial, I spoke of the call of a Joseph company to prepare the body of Christ for burial in this last day. This right, which is a great honor, has been given to a Joseph Company of believers because they have proven more honorable than their brothers. They have turned aside from a pursuit of the world and have chosen to bear the reproaches of Christ that they might obtain an imperishable inheritance. These have not despised the inheritance of the saints, trading it for momentary satisfaction of fleshly appetites. They have esteemed the inheritance of the saints in heaven more highly than anything this world has to offer.
These things should serve as a warning for all those who have embraced the current prosperity doctrines of the church. Those who would be satiated with momentary pleasure will find the birthright taken from them and given to another.
You need not be the firstborn of your household to receive the birthright. You need not even be male. You must simply esteem Christ as your possession more highly than any of the passing pleasures of this world. David was neither the firstborn son, nor of the tribe of Levi. Yet he received the preeminence, for his was a heart after God. David wrote:
Yahweh is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; Thou dost support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.
In a beautiful poetic form, David alludes to the time when the lot was cast to determine each tribe and family’s possession in the promised land. He said that when the lot was cast for him that Yahweh was with him. His portion was one of great beauty, for Yahweh Himself was allotted to David for his inheritance. David chose the priestly inheritance. He yearned to be set aside for Yahweh, and for Yahweh to be set aside for him. The restoration of this relationship between the heavenly Father and his sons is the work of Elijah who must come again before the return of Christ.
Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of Yahweh. And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their sons, and the hearts of the sons to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.
I have mentioned that there are parallel themes that run throughout Scripture that show the primacy of that which comes forth first, and how it is considered holy unto the Lord. This is not only observed in the law of the firstborn, but also in regard to firstfruits. The first product of every season was to be consecrated to God.
In what way then are those who receive the birthright in this hour the firstborn and firstfruits? It is in their love for Christ, and their pursuit of Him as their reward and inheritance. It is these who are first to be purified, cleansed from an idolatrous pursuit of all that is in the world, and turned to a pursuit of the person of God. Because they are the first among their brothers to pursue Christ with such passion and resolve, the right of primogeniture belongs to them. With Paul they can exclaim:
I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own. I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward. So let those [of us] who are spiritually mature and full-grown have this mind and hold these convictions; and if in any respect you have a different attitude of mind, God will make that clear to you also.
Let us make Christ always our first love. To love God in such a way is to fulfill all the law and the prophets. Make the blessing pronounced upon the head of Joseph your own.
Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; Its branches run over a wall. The archers bitterly attacked him, and shot at him and harassed him; But his bow remained firm, and his arms were agile, from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), from the God of your father who helps you, and by the Almighty who blesses you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills; May they be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his brothers.
The right of the firstborn can be yours. Make it your pursuit.
May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.