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What is a…
firstborn

Hebrew: בְּכוֹר —transliteration: bekor

Meaning: firstborn son, the son first born, eldest son

This word occurs 119 times in Scripture, in various forms. In Old Testament Scripture, the unmodified word “bekor” never applies to females, only males. It is a male term, as is the word for birthright. Among the ancient Hebrews, the gender of the noun bekor translated in English as “firstborn” is male (masculine), not feminine; without any modifiers, it always means the firstborn-SON. Since that is inherently understood in that culture, there is no need for the word בֵּן “son” to be added to “bekor.”

Old Testament Law

Firstborn-sons enjoyed certain special privileges (Deuteronomy 21:17; Genesis 25:23, 31, 34; 49:3; Hebrews 12:16; Psalms 89:27). (See BIRTHRIGHT.)

What to do when there are multiple wives?

In the case where a man had 2 or more wives and potentially several sons from each, there was still only 1 firstborn son, and only 1 birthright. The eldest of all the FATHER’S sons had the birthright and the rank that flows from it; being the firstborn-son of the mother was not the deciding factor.

In the case where a man had 2 or more wives and his eldest son was born from a wife he no longer loves, the father cannot change the firstborn status to that of the son of the wife he most loves. The true eldest, legitimate son still receives his birthright, under the law of Moses.

…he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; to him belongs the right of the firstborn. —Deuteronomy 21:15-17 NASB

What about an illegitimate eldest son of a father?

Biblically, a bastard son could not qualify as firstborn-son, only a legitimate son could do so, as this is a consecrated position and rank.

No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of his descendants, even to the 10th generation, shall enter the assembly of the Lord. —Deuteronomy 23:2 NASB

Sinful firstborn-son lost his birthright

Jacob’s son Reuben fornicated with his father’s concubine Bilhah, so he lost his firstborn-son place in the family tree—forfeiting his birthright to others chosen by his father.

Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel [Jacob] (for he [Reuben] was the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright. —1 Chronicles 5:1 NASB

Firstborn of the poor

In the King James Bible, the phrase “firstborn of the poor” (Isaiah 14:30 KJV) means the most miserable of the poor—the most helpless.

Christ as firstborn

In reference to Christ, the word firstborn “refers to prominence of position or title, not to the order of time. Christ was not the first to be born on the Earth, but he holds the highest position of sovereignty. As ‘firstborn,’ he is also set apart to the service of God and, being preeminent, is entitled to the inheritance.” —Dr. John F. MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible

Church of the Firstborn / Assembly of the Firstborn

The biblical phrase “church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23) refers to the assembly of the redeemed. “The firstborn is Jesus Christ. The ‘assembly’ is comprised of believers who are fellow heirs with Christ, the preeminent One among many brethern (Romans 8:17; 29).”

Destruction of the firstborn in Egypt

The death of the firstborn was the last of 10 miraculous plagues sent by God. This last plague was inflicted on any in Egypt who failed to heed God’s warning by placing the blood of a sacrificed (Passover) lamb on the doorposts of their home (Exodus 11:1-8; 12:29-30). The execution was performed by a Destroyer from God.

It is interesting that archaeology revealed the Pharaoh Menephtah had a firstborn-son who was slain. His son did not succeed or survive his father, but died early. The son’s tomb has been found unfinished at Thebes, showing it was needed earlier than was expected. Some of the records on the tomb are as follows:

“The son whom Menephtah loves; who draws towards him his father’s heart, the singer, the prince of archers, who governed Egypt on behalf of his father. Dead.”

ALSO SEE:

  • What is a BIRTHRIGHT? Answer
  • What is an HEIR? Answer
  • What is SANCTIFICATION OF THE FIRSTBORN? Answer
  • What is the REDEMPTION OF THE FIRSTBORN? Answer
  • What is a PLAGUE? Answer
  • Miracles of the Bible
Article Version: September 28, 2017