“He sent the young men of the people of Israel to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings of oxen to Adonai.”-Exodus 24:5
We’re told the “young men of Israel” were assigned to perform the sacrificial offerings.
Many scholars will say this was just a practical expedient.
In other words, all that brute young muscle power was necessary to lug those bulls up the mountain.
Well, all them scholars and commentaries are just plain WRONG and they are overlooking a very key ingredient to understanding how Israel as a society functioned PRIOR to the Mosaic Law taking full effect.
The truth is, in other scenes in the Torah when the sacrificing of bulls takes place, there aren’t any special instructions to use young people to lug the carcasses of bulls around.
The thing is the young men being spoken of here aren’t just simply “young” men.
They are the FIRSTBORN.
It is important to understand that BEFORE the Levitical priesthood was established, each individual family served as their own church so to speak.
And it was the firstborn male who normally performed the religious sacrificial rituals.
The firstborn was literally the priest of the house.
This tradition was normal and customary throughout all known ancient Eastern cultures and the Hebrews were no exception.
A lot of people think that the person who served as the firstborn priest was either the father or the grandfather if he happened to be living with his grown-up kids.
It was the firstborn who were assigned to officiate over the priestly duties.
Keep in mind that the firstborn does NOT necessarily mean the oldest person in a household.
The firstborn is the FIRST son a man’s wife gave birth to, period.
However, God was about to throw a serious monkey wrench into this whole firstborn tradition by establishing His own official priesthood, which would be the Levitical Priesthood.
Once this happened, individual families would no longer be permitted to perform their own sacrifices on their own household altars in their own ways.
In addition, all of the Israelite firstborn were about to be booted out of their valued positions as family priests.
We’re talking about a massive restructuring here.
The Lord was going to fire all the firstborn family priests of Israel!
In later parts of the Torah, we will encounter some subtle and not-so-subtle hints of the reluctance of families to trust God and let go of their own private traditions and rituals (this situation sounds familiar, doesn’t it?).
And of course, the firstborns were going to be ticked off beyond measure at having to give up their treasured firstborn rights to certain members of the tribe of Levi.