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Biblical Context and Significance

In Jewish tradition, the firstborn son held unique duties and privileges. According to Deuteronomy 21:17, he was to inherit a double portion of his father’s property. Additionally, parents were required to offer their firstborn to God and then redeem him, as stated in Numbers 18:15-16. This practice applied even if the parents had only one son. Thus, the presentation of Jesus as the firstborn in the Temple does not imply that Mary had other children.

The LORD commanded the Israelites through Moses, “Consecrate to me every firstborn. The first to open the womb among the Israelites, whether human or animal, is mine” (Ex 13:2). This consecration commemorated God’s deliverance of the Israelites during the original Passover when the firstborn males of the Israelites were spared while those of the Egyptians were struck down (Ex 12:12). Therefore, as the firstborn male of Mary, Jesus was presented in the Temple according to this tradition.

Firstborn males and animals were considered to belong to God. While animals were sacrificed, firstborn sons were redeemed by paying five shekels to a priest, which was equivalent to a month’s income. This payment supported the priests who served in place of the firstborn sons of Israel (Num 3:11-13). This redemption typically occurred on the 40th day by presenting the child to a local priest and paying the required amount (Num 18:16).

In the case of Jesus, the Bible does not mention this payment. Instead, Joseph and Mary took the infant Jesus to the Temple and offered him to God without redeeming him, signifying that Jesus would serve God as a priest. Later, Jesus would offer himself as both priest and sacrificial lamb for the remission of humanity’s sins. Mary’s purification and Jesus’ presentation in the Temple took place 40 days after his birth, celebrated on February 2nd in the church calendar.

Israel, the Firstborn of God

While all people are children of God, Israel held the unique status of being God’s firstborn nation. The LORD instructed Moses to tell Pharaoh: “Thus says the LORD: Israel is my son, my firstborn. I said to you: Let my son go, that he may serve me. Since you refused to let him go, I will kill your son, your firstborn” (Ex 4:22-23). Israel’s sonship was symbolic, reflecting their covenantal relationship with God.


Matthew references Hosea 11:1 when describing the Holy Family’s return from Egypt: “When Israel was a child, I loved him. Out of Egypt, I called my son.” This passage has a threefold meaning: God liberating Israel from Egyptian slavery, Jesus emerging from Egypt after a period of life-threatening danger, and Christ liberating all believers from spiritual slavery, granting them sonship through baptism. The Catholic Church teaches, “Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte ‘a new creature,’ an adopted son of God, who has become a ‘partaker of the divine nature,’ member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit” (CCC-1265).

Regardless of our birth order, gender, or background, we are all children of God through our faith in Jesus Christ. This status is a profound privilege that we must cherish and uphold throughout our lives. As believers, we are called to live out our faith in gratitude for the redemption we have received, continually offering ourselves in service to God and others.

May we remember that, just as Jesus was presented and consecrated to God, we too are consecrated through baptism, called to live holy and dedicated lives. Let us embrace our identity as children of God, living in the light of this divine relationship, and sharing the love and grace of God with the world.

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