“…because they are entirely given to me from among the people of Israel; I have taken them for myself in place of all those who come first out of the womb, that is, the firstborn males of the people of Israel. For all the firstborn among the people of Israel are mine, both humans and animals; on the day I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I set them apart for myself. But I have taken the L’vi’im in place of all the firstborn among the people of Israel…”-Numbers 8:16-18
Let’s take a look at the principle of KIPPUR or “atonement” in action from the perspective of redemption, which as we all know is another foundational Biblical concept we should all be well familiar with.
The Torah reminds us many times that redemption is a costly thing and can only be accomplished via a ransom being paid.
Let’s start at the beginning when God decided to redeem Israel from slavery in Egypt.
Do you recall what the redemption price was?
The redemption price was the death of all the firstborns.
And when I say “all the firstborns“, I mean ALL of them.
The firstborns of Israel AND the firstborns of Egypt were included.
Actually, even the firstborn of the animals, cattle and other livestock were included!
The slaughter of the firstborns was the ransom God required to redeem Israel from slavery in Egypt.
However, here’s the thing.
Although God had laid His claim on all the firstborns, He decided He would NOT kill the firstborn of those households who trusted Him by slaughtering a lamb and then painting the blood of that lamb on the doorposts of their homes.
Those firstborns (both Hebrews and Egyptians) who TRUSTED God by following His instructions concerning the first passover lamb were spared death, and those firstborn who did NOT trust God by applying the blood of the first passover lamb to their homes were killed.
Of course we all know what happened.
The vast majority of the Israelites (and I believe a good number of Egyptians as well) trusted the God of Israel resulting in their household firstborns being spared the wrath of God.
On the other hand, the vast majority Egyptians who did NOT trust God had their firstborns killed as a ransom.
Recall the following verse from Proverbs 21.
“The wicked become a ransom for the righteous,
and the unfaithful for the upright.”
This event in Egypt was a perfect example of the wicked becoming a ransom for the righteous.
Recall the following Biblical principle:
“For all the firstborn among the people of Israel are mine, both humans and animals; on the day I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I set them apart for myself.”
Now understand that just because the firstborns of Israel had escaped Egypt did NOT necessarily mean their status had changed.
The firstborn remained God’s HOLY property.
What that means is that the firstborn still owed a lifetime of service to God.
However, God decided to substitute the Tribe of Levi for the Israelite firstborns.
Once that decision was made, the Israelite firstborns would no longer be obligated to serve God all of their lives.
That responsibility would now fall on the Levites.
Do you recall the census that was conducted earlier on in Numbers?
In this census, on a person-to-person basis, each Levite male was to be a substitute for each Israelite firstborn.
Now do you remember that there weren’t enough Levite males to cover the number of Israelite firstborns?
For the leftover Israelite firstborns, money had to be paid to the priesthood for their redemption.
Again, the point being made is that redemption is NOT free!
It requires a sacrifice.
Let’s get our bearings here.
First, the lives of the firstborn Egyptians paid for Israel’s redemption.
Second, the Levites were substituted for the firstborn.
Third, let’s next read Numbers 8:12.
“Then the Levites are to lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, using one for a sin offering to the Lord and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites.“
So the Levites passed on the ransom payment they would normally have to pay with their lives onto the bulls.
Again, notice that verse 12 clearly states the bulls’ lives are being taken “to make atonement for the Levites“.
What we are witnessing is a long chain of substitution being established.
And who was at the final end of this long chain of ransom payments?
It was Yeshua.
It is right here in the Torah that the principle that redemption can be accomplished via an authorized substitute to pay the ransom rightly owed a perfectly HOLY and JUST God is established
A ransom we are told Yeshua rightfully paid.
Finally, let’s move on to the last verses of Numbers 8.
“The Lord said to Moses, “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer.”-Numbers 8:23-25
The chapter closes by specifying the age range of those Levites are who to do the heavy physical work of the Tabernacle with upper end being cut off at the age of 50.
However, this did not mean that the men over 50 were allowed to sit around and do nothing.
They were still involved in service.
They just didn’t have to do any of the heavy physically taxing labor.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“But if we walk in the light,
as he is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Yeshua, his Son,
purifies us from all sin.“
-1 John 1:7
“Later, knowing that everything
had now been finished,
and so that Scripture would be fulfilled,
Yeshua said, “I am thirsty.”
A jar of wine vinegar was there,
so they soaked a sponge in it,
put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant,
and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.
When he had received the drink,
Yeshua said, “It is finished.”
With that, he bowed his head
and gave up his spirit.”
“Now every cohen stands
every day doing his service,
offering over and over the same sacrifices,
which can never take away sins.
But this one,
after he had offered for all time
a single sacrifice for sins,
sat down at the right hand of God,
from then on to wait until his enemies
be made a footstool for his feet.
For by a single offering he has brought
to the goal for all time those who are
being set apart for God and made holy.”
NEXT TIME WE BEGIN NUMBERS CHAPTER NINE