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Advent greetings friends and family; Again I, and a men's group I meet with weekly, are considering the nativity of Christ Jesus, and again I am stumped as to whether Luke is mentioning His Redemption or not. The key Scriptures from the Law seem to be: Exodus 13:2; Numbers 8:16; Numbers 18:15

Edit: My original question given in the Title, and near the end of this Original Post, somehow is not read, or easily missed. I state it again: Was the infant Jesus "redeemed", formally, as the firstborn presumed of Joseph & Mary? I don't see it addressed in Luke or Matthew, but I may not understand the language in Luke [or the translators may vary widely].

The commentaries I usually consult are inconclusive or evasive or confused. One example that attempts to resolve the "omission" here. In part, the response is:

On Jesus' eighth day of life, He was circumcised, and, as a firstborn, He was dedicated to God's service. It is interesting that Luke makes no mention of Mary and Joseph offering a lamb as a redeeming sacrifice, though he does record the sin and burnt offerings that they presented later on the fortieth day of His human life.

This omission appears to be because:

  1. Jesus Himself was to become the redeeming sacrifice to which all other redeeming sacrifices had pointed since Moses' time;

  2. His physical life was now completely dedicated to God, as had been pictured by all the other firstborn since Moses' time; and

  3. He was not to be redeemed from a life of total service to God, neither by the offering of a lamb nor by the service of the now corrupt Levitical priesthood. The imperfect Levitical priesthood, which had pictured His perfect life of service since Moses' day, was soon to be set aside, and His own priesthood (after the order of Melchizedek; see Hebrews 6:20) would be reinstated.

The offering of the two turtledoves or pigeons refers to the fortieth-day purification, not to the fact that Jesus was the firstborn."

[my note: not all Jewish commentaries agree as to 40 days: some say 31, some 33, a question being whether the ancient observance rendered the 7 as inclusive within the 31 or 33]

Was Jesus perhaps "devoted" to God instead of redeemed? For that, He would have needed to be of the Levitical line some way, right?

I would be glad to read any article of substance on the matter if you would provide a link.

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    You mention Luke but what specific scripture of Luke's gospel are you referring to? Are you referring to Luke 2:22-24 as mentioned in the link you provided?
    – agarza
    Dec 9, 2021 at 16:27
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    Since Jesus' entire life was devoted to the service of God, was there any need to 'redeem' : he was given to God's service continually, as was Samuel.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 9, 2021 at 17:10
  • yes. sorry i thought i had said that
    – Richard7
    Dec 9, 2021 at 22:55

2 Answers 2

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You ask, "was the infant Jesus redeemed, ritually, according to the Law?" and according to Luke's account. Let's stick to Luke's account, beginning with his astounding point about Mary's son even before birth. He records the elderly Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist (who was to prepare the way for Messiah) exclaiming at Mary's arrival at her house:

"Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:42-43 A.V.)

Immediately, we know Luke is showing how Mary's child was no ordinary child, and that even though Elizabeth's child was miraculously conceived to prepare the way for Messiah, this Messiah is Elizabeth's Lord, even while in Mary's womb! And the child in her womb recognized that, as the Holy Spirit demonstrated (vss. 40-41).

At Messiah's birth, angels told shepherds that the new-born was "Saviour, which is Christ the Lord". Then, after his birth, he was circumcised on the 8th day, and at Mary's ritual purification, Jesus was presented in the temple, to God:

"As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord. And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons" (Luke 2:23-24).

Then read the words of Simeon, and of Anna, as they held the baby and prophesied! Luke could not make it clearer that even though Mary and Joseph were doing all that the Law prescribed for a new-born, first-born baby, this was the long-awaited Messiah, the Saviour, the Lord. Luke is not mentioning the redemption of baby Jesus, but that this baby is the Redeemer! How delicious, then, is the way Luke states at the end of his gospel that some disciples said to the resurrected Jesus (who they didn't recognised as such),

"But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel"... Then he said to them, 'O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?' And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:21-27).

Luke's account shows that Moses and the prophets deal with what concerns Jesus. Not what the Law says - what Moses and the prophets teach about Christ! To be wrapped up in the Law about first-born babies is to miss the entire point. Jesus' parents obeyed the Jewish Law, being Jewish, but whatever they thought they were doing, Moses and the prophets showed God was doing something far greater than anything stated in the Law about first-born babies!

The sinless, only-begotten Son of God came into this world as a baby to be the Redeemer. The Redeemer does not need to be redeemed. But the Law was carried out so that nobody could accuse Jesus' parents of violating the Law, for Jesus came to fulfil the Law, and the Prophets. Likewise, it was right for Jesus to be baptised by John, though Jesus had no sin to repent of. Jesus told John to go ahead, "for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15). And as the Holy Spirit was wonderfully present then, so at Jesus' presentation in the temple, as a baby. Luke's account is redolent with reference to the Holy Spirit then. That must not be missed, but it will be if it's only the Law that is being examined.

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  • Beautifully written Anne. (Simeon is my favorite character in all this drama). So of special interest is v.27, in the singular, “the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law…”; unless we dismiss this as Luke’s confusion, the sole prescription of Law is that of paying the five shekels. So I am cornered by lack of evidence or motivation urging any other reason “after the custom of the Law” for the “presentation”. I conclude that Joseph (not Mary) paid the five shekels. Recall Jesus’s lesson on compliance biblehub.com/context/matthew/17-24.htm
    – Richard7
    Dec 12, 2021 at 14:01
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It is true, that at the first Passover, at the Exodus from Egypt, God demanded that the firstborn of every womb be dedicated to God in remembrance of the deliverance of the firstborn during the 10th plague.

Ex 13:2, 14-16 - Consecrate to Me every firstborn male.a The firstborn from every womb among the Israelites belongs to Me, both of man and beast.

In the future, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you are to tell him, ‘With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. And when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both of man and beast. This is why I sacrifice to the LORD the firstborn male of every womb, but I redeem all the firstborn of my sons.’ So it shall serve as a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead, for with a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.”

This dedication the firstborn to the LORD was summarized at the formal establishment of the Israelite covenant recorded in the "Book of the Covenant" (Ex 24:7) in Ex 19-23 under God's stated intention to have the firstborn as priests dedicated to God

Ex 19:5 - And unto Me you shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

[Compare 1 Peter 2:9, 12.] Later, this was changed - God instructed Moses to substitute the dedication of the firstborn with the tribe of Levi when the Levitical Covenant was established with a formal priesthood:

Num 3:11-13 - Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel in place of every firstborn Israelite from the womb. The Levites belong to Me, for all the firstborn are Mine. On the day I struck down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast. They are Mine; I am the LORD.”

Later in the same chapter, more details of this exchange are given:

Lev 3:44-50 - Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the Levites in place of all the firstborn of Israel, and the livestock of the Levites in place of their livestock. The Levites belong to Me; I am the LORD. To redeem the 273 firstborn Israelites who outnumber the Levites, you are to collect five shekels for each one, according to the sanctuary shekel of twenty gerahs. Give the money to Aaron and his sons as the redemption price for the excess among the Israelites.”

So Moses collected the redemption money from those in excess of the number redeemed by the Levites. He collected the money from the firstborn of the Israelites: 1,365 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel. And Moses gave the redemption money to Aaron and his sons in obedience to the word of the LORD, just as the LORD had commanded him.

Thus, instead of the firstborn of every womb, God now required the Levites to be dedicated to the LORD and acts as a formal priesthood. We see this same Levitical Covenant referenced in many other places such as:

  • Neh 13:29 – “the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites”
  • Jer 33:18, 21 – “covenant with the Levitical priests.”
  • Mal 2:4-8 – “the covenant with Levi”
  • Num 25:10-13 – the eternal covenant of priesthood was also a covenant of peace and a covenant of “salt” (Num 18:19), ie, very solemn and eternal.
  • Isa 54:10 & Eze 34:25 also describes the covenant of peace with the Levites

As far as Jesus Christ is concerned, the NT emphasizes (inter alia) two points:

  1. Jesus was the redeeming firstborn, Luke 2:7, Rom 8:29, Col 1:15, 18, Heb 1:6, Rev 1:5, and we are to compose the church/assembly of the firstborn, Heb 12:23.
  2. Jesus is the High Priest of the New Covenant and thus the anti-type or fulfillment of the Levitical covenant, Heb 4:14-16, 5:10, 7:23-28, 8:1, 2, 9:1-28, 10:1-18.
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    @Richard7 - Jesus is called the firstborn many times in the NT (as documented above) AND was ALSO the High Priest. Thus, He was BOTH.
    – Dottard
    Dec 9, 2021 at 23:50
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    That's given: the question, which is in the title and again down the page of my original post, and just now stated a third time [Edit I posted] is was the infant Jesus redeemed, ritually, according to the Law? Some commentaries seem to confuse the various requirements for the mother and infant and say that the redemption rite is implied in the Luke narrative but I just don't see it at all.
    – Richard7
    Dec 10, 2021 at 13:21
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    @Richard7 - the redemption money was paid (once for all) when the Levites were taken instead of the firstborn. After that, no such redemption occurred again. Please read the response above for all the references.
    – Dottard
    Dec 10, 2021 at 19:57
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    Thank you. Moses redeemed those who were not Levites to free them from the obligation to serve because they were obligated at birth. The practice initiated, not ended there: what’s described was a one-time catchup for those already born. According to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pidyon_haben# and jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/6138-first-born-redemption-of “is obliged to redeem his first-born son thirty days after the latter's birth….The son, if the father fails to redeem him, has to redeem himself when he grows up” unless a grandfather is Kohen…which may be the answer. ?
    – Richard7
    Dec 11, 2021 at 12:40
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    Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer’s comments on Luke 2:22 “ All first-born sons were the property of Jehovah, destined to the temple-service originally and before the institution of the Levites (Numbers 8:14 ff.); hence they had to be presented in the temple to God as His special property, but were redeemed from Him for five shekels, Exodus 13:2; Numbers 8:16; Numbers 18:15 f.; Lightfoot, p. 753; Lund, l.c. p. 753; Michaelis, Mos. R. § 227, 276; Saalschütz, Mos. R. p. 97.”
    – Richard7
    Dec 11, 2021 at 13:30

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