CONSECRATION OF THE FIRST BORN
According to Jewish Law, the firstborn son had special responsibilities and privileges. He shall inherit a double share of his father’s property (Deut 21:17). The Israelites believed that their firstborn males and animals belonged to God. He had commanded: “Consecrate to me every firstborn. The first to open the womb among the Israelites, whether human or animal, is mine” (Ex 13:2). Parents should offer the child to God and then redeem him (Num 18:15-16). They sacrificed animals and bought back the child from God by giving five shekels to a priest. That amount was worth a month’s income. That helped to support the priests who consecrated themselves to God’s service in the place of the firstborn sons of Israel (Num 3:11-13). Thus, the non-Levites ransomed their firstborn for five shekels (Num 18:16). They did this on the 40th day by presenting the child to a local priest and paying him the money.
The LORD asked Moses to tell the children of Israel the reason for the consecration of the firstborn: “As Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD slew every firstborn in Egypt, of man and beast alike. That is why I sacrifice to the LORD all the males that open the womb, but the firstborn of my sons, I redeem” (Ex 13:15). The offering of the firstborn male to God was a grateful remembrance of God saving the firstborn male of Israelites at the time of the original Passover from Egypt, while the angel killed the firstborn of the Egyptians (Ex 12:12).
Since Jesus was also the firstborn male of Mary, she and Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple. Even if the parents have only one son, yet they consider him as the firstborn. So, the parents of Jesus presenting him to God as firstborn does not imply that Mary had other sons.
Joseph and Mary took the infant Jesus to the Temple and offered him to God. The Bible does not mention any payment by the parents to redeem him from God because he would serve God as a priest like the Levites. He later sacrificed himself as a priest and lamb for the remission of humanity’s sin. Since Mary’s purification and presentation of Jesus in the Temple happened 40 days after Christmas, the feast falls on 2 February according to the church calendar.
Unlike the Old Testament period, now all Christians are the firstborn of God in Jesus. According to Hebrews 12:23, all the members of the church are “the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven.” God, who had saved the lives of the firstborn male children of Israelites in Egypt, has redeemed all of us by His Son’s bloodshed as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29). Paul urges: “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom 12:1-2).