In my last several posts we have discussed the census of the Israelites as apart from the census of the tribe of Levi. This was because God set-apart the Levites as His and servants.
One could reasonably say that God adopted the tribe of Levi away from Jacob making them His own. From here forward, then, the Levites are considered separate from Israel.
Now the census taken of the Levites was similar to the one ordered in chapter 1 of all of Israel. One major difference, however, is that in the census of all Israel…which, by the way was only of MALE Israelites…. a male had to be 20 years of age or older in order to be counted. This was because the purpose of that census was military conscription.
Let me make clear that the term “firstborn” ONLY applies to males. Firstborn daughter is an oxymoron… there is no such thing.
And this is because the Firstborn is more of an office conferred upon a male child than of simple order of birth. That is, the first son born to a man didn’t necessarily hold the office and perform the duties of the Firstborn, though in general they did.
Those duties and rights and privileges could be given to another son…for any number of reasons…and it was not that terribly unheard of for that to happen.
In fact that exact thing occurred in the lives of the first 3 Patriarchs: Abraham sired Ishmael, who was born first, and then along came Isaac.
But Abraham gave the firstborn office to Isaac. Isaac sired Esau, who was born first, and then out came Esau’s twin brother Jacob.
But Isaac gave the firstborn office to Jacob (although it was through trickery as it was not Isaac’s intention to do so). Jacob sired several sons with Rueben being the first son born, but Jacob gave the office of firstborn to Judah, the 4th son born to him, at least partially as punishment upon Reuben for defiling one of Jacob’s concubines.
In the census of the Levites the age of the males to be counted began at only 1 MONTH of age so even the tiniest infant boys were included.
Why one month?
- 1st, circumcision didn’t take place until the boy was 8 days old. Circumcision was that moment when a boy child OFFICIALLY becomes a member of Israel…meaning that that young boy now operated under the covenant of Abraham. He became an Israelite upon his circumcision. Until his circumcision he was not officially a member of Israel.
- The 2nd reason for the 1-month requirement in order to be included in the census is that a child had to be one month old in order to be redeemed. So only a Redeemed person (a Levite) could be substituted for another Redeemed person (an Israelite firstborn).
In Jewish law an infant less than 30 days old is not considered a person. I’m not saying he’s not considered human. It’s just that at 30 days there is a status change, in which an infant gains more value.
This is undoubtedly came about due to the high rate of infant morality in that era, which of course is different now, but by strict Jewish Law the usual rites of mourning are suspended if a baby less than 1 month old dies.
This law had other effects as well. If someone accidentally killed an infant of less than 1 month of age the compensation due the parents would be very small. But once that child reached 1 month of age the compensation jumped drastically because that child had reached the status of a “person”.