First-Begotten; First-Born

Concise Bible Dictionary:

3. God claimed for Himself all the first-born of the children of Israel, and of their cattle. The first-born of Israel were redeemed by the sons of Levi, as far as they went, and the remainder were redeemed with money (Num. 3:12-5112And I, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that openeth the matrix among the children of Israel: therefore the Levites shall be mine; 13Because all the firstborn are mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: mine shall they be: I am the Lord. 14And the Lord spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, saying, 15Number the children of Levi after the house of their fathers, by their families: every male from a month old and upward shalt thou number them. 16And Moses numbered them according to the word of the Lord, as he was commanded. 17And these were the sons of Levi by their names; Gershon, and Kohath, and Merari. 18And these are the names of the sons of Gershon by their families; Libni, and Shimei. 19And the sons of Kohath by their families; Amram, and Izehar, Hebron, and Uzziel. 20And the sons of Merari by their families; Mahli, and Mushi. These are the families of the Levites according to the house of their fathers. 21Of Gershon was the family of the Libnites, and the family of the Shimites: these are the families of the Gershonites. 22Those that were numbered of them, according to the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, even those that were numbered of them were seven thousand and five hundred. 23The families of the Gershonites shall pitch behind the tabernacle westward. 24And the chief of the house of the father of the Gershonites shall be Eliasaph the son of Lael. 25And the charge of the sons of Gershon in the tabernacle of the congregation shall be the tabernacle, and the tent, the covering thereof, and the hanging for the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, 26And the hangings of the court, and the curtain for the door of the court, which is by the tabernacle, and by the altar round about, and the cords of it for all the service thereof. 27And of Kohath was the family of the Amramites, and the family of the Izeharites, and the family of the Hebronites, and the family of the Uzzielites: these are the families of the Kohathites. 28In the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, were eight thousand and six hundred, keeping the charge of the sanctuary. 29The families of the sons of Kohath shall pitch on the side of the tabernacle southward. 30And the chief of the house of the father of the families of the Kohathites shall be Elizaphan the son of Uzziel. 31And their charge shall be the ark, and the table, and the candlestick, and the altars, and the vessels of the sanctuary wherewith they minister, and the hanging, and all the service thereof. 32And Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest shall be chief over the chief of the Levites, and have the oversight of them that keep the charge of the sanctuary. 33Of Merari was the family of the Mahlites, and the family of the Mushites: these are the families of Merari. 34And those that were numbered of them, according to the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, were six thousand and two hundred. 35And the chief of the house of the father of the families of Merari was Zuriel the son of Abihail: these shall pitch on the side of the tabernacle northward. 36And under the custody and charge of the sons of Merari shall be the boards of the tabernacle, and the bars thereof, and the pillars thereof, and the sockets thereof, and all the vessels thereof, and all that serveth thereto, 37And the pillars of the court round about, and their sockets, and their pins, and their cords. 38But those that encamp before the tabernacle toward the east, even before the tabernacle of the congregation eastward, shall be Moses, and Aaron and his sons, keeping the charge of the sanctuary for the charge of the children of Israel; and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death. 39All that were numbered of the Levites, which Moses and Aaron numbered at the commandment of the Lord, throughout their families, all the males from a month old and upward, were twenty and two thousand. 40And the Lord said unto Moses, Number all the firstborn of the males of the children of Israel from a month old and upward, and take the number of their names. 41And thou shalt take the Levites for me (I am the Lord) instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel; and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstlings among the cattle of the children of Israel. 42And Moses numbered, as the Lord commanded him, all the firstborn among the children of Israel. 43And all the firstborn males by the number of names, from a month old and upward, of those that were numbered of them, were twenty and two thousand two hundred and threescore and thirteen. 44And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 45Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle; and the Levites shall be mine: I am the Lord. 46And for those that are to be redeemed of the two hundred and threescore and thirteen of the firstborn of the children of Israel, which are more than the Levites; 47Thou shalt even take five shekels apiece by the poll, after the shekel of the sanctuary shalt thou take them: (the shekel is twenty gerahs:) 48And thou shalt give the money, wherewith the odd number of them is to be redeemed, unto Aaron and to his sons. 49And Moses took the redemption money of them that were over and above them that were redeemed by the Levites: 50Of the firstborn of the children of Israel took he the money; a thousand three hundred and threescore and five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary: 51And Moses gave the money of them that were redeemed unto Aaron and to his sons, according to the word of the Lord, as the Lord commanded Moses. (Numbers 3:12‑51)).
In the O. T. also the title had the force of pre-eminence, irrespective of the time of birth. David, though the youngest, was made the firstborn: (Compare Psalm 89:2727Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. (Psalm 89:27)). Christ also in every relationship must have the first place, as is manifest in the above passages.

From Anstey’s Doctrinal Definitions:

This term is used in Scripture in two ways:
•  To denote those who are born first in a family—birth order.
•  To denote those who are first in rank and position, having a place of preeminence among others.
Some examples of the two ways in which the term is used in the Old Testament are:
Colossians 1:1515Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: (Colossians 1:15) says that He is “the Firstborn of all creation.” Being the Creator of the universe (John 1:33All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:3), etc.), when He came into the world (His incarnation), He could have no other place than that of Head of His own creation. Being the Firstborn among His creatures distinguishes Him as having a superior place to them. Colossians 1:1818And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:18) indicates that the Lord is Firstborn in another way. When He rose “from among the dead,” He became the “Firstborn” of a whole new race of men (Rom. 8:2929For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)“many brethren). Since they are of the same “kind” as He is in new creation (compare Gen. 1:2424And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. (Genesis 1:24)), they are entirely suited to be His eternal companions, and thus “He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb. 2:1111For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, (Hebrews 2:11)). As “the Firstborn from the dead,” the Lord Jesus is the triumphant Redeemer who now has the right to receive the saints’ praise and worship (Rev. 1:5-65And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5‑6)). Revelation 1:55And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (Revelation 1:5) indicates that the Lord as “Firstborn” has the title and right to take the inheritance (every created thing) and to reign over it, which He will do at His Appearing (Rev. 1:77Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. (Revelation 1:7)). (Hebrews 1:66And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. (Hebrews 1:6), in the KJV says First-begotten,” but it should be translated “Firstborn.”)
As “Firstborn,” the Lord has many brethren under Him in His new creation race (Rom. 8:2929For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)), but as the “Only-begotten,” there are no brethren connected with Him because that term denotes divine essence, which no creature can have or will ever reach. (See Only-begotten.)
THE CHURCH OF GOD—The term is also applied to the Christians. In the Greek manuscripts it is in plural, and is translated by W. Kelly as “firstborns [firstborn ones]” to indicate it (Heb. 12:2323To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, (Hebrews 12:23)). This shows that those who have been called by the gospel today, and thus are part of the Church of God, have been set in a special and favoured place among all of God’s blessed creatures in His family (Eph. 3:1515Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, (Ephesians 3:15)). They have a superior place in the family of God—even above angels—with superior blessings that correspond with their privileged place! It is not that they are better than the others in the family, but because God has purposed to display “the glory of His grace through them (Eph. 1:66To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (Ephesians 1:6)). He has taken the lowest of men and through grace has set them in the highest possible place of blessing. (See Adoption.)