God’s Response to Human Power Structures • Firstborn Ep. 1

[Music] Why do some people have more power than Others why do kings pass on their power To their oldest Sons what makes one Person more eligible to be in charge Than another person and does power Always corrupt we are beginning a new Theme study here on the podcast it's a Theme we're calling the firstborn and It's really a theme about well who gets To be in charge who gets to have power And how will they use it the idea Appears in the first pages of the Bible Connected to the phrase image of God you Could argue this is one of the dominant Themes of Genesis in terms of the New Testament the firstborn is a title Ascribed to Jesus multiple places in the New Testament in the letters of Paul two Times in the letter to the Hebrews and In the last book of the Christian Bible The Revelation so it goes from end to End and it's kind of like once you see How the theme works then you can't unsee It you just start to see it everywhere I'm a firstborn child in my family and While I got to do a lot of things first Among my siblings I wasn't really given A special position or privilege in my Family because of birth order but in the Ancient world being the firstborn son Was extremely special the firstborn was Meant to carry on the family Legacy to Receive a double portion of inheritance

They're given the unique Authority and Power of the family and really this is All just a main theme in Genesis about Humans Discerning good and bad the basic Human assumption when it comes to the Good and bad and the future of the Family is that the firstborn son should Be elevated overall and sometimes what These humans do to put a son in that Position of firstborn or to produce that Firstborn causes pain and grief and Division and abuse and so what God is Constantly doing is subverting and Overturning human assumptions about Power and privilege as we unpack this Theme we're gonna see he frequently Picks the second born or the late cover He picks the less likely the oppressed Be overlooked and he chooses them to be The leader spoiler the god portrayed in The Bible Consistently and by consistently meaning In almost every generation is Overturning and inverting this cultural Assumption that the firstborn should Have the right to the father's Authority Or priority today timaki and I begin the Theme of the firstborn and John Collins You're listening to Bible project Podcast thanks for joining us Here we go Okay okay let's see where this goes So we're gonna start a new theme yes Video discussion yeah feels like it's

Been a while for us well in real time Yeah at least in real time for us it's Been a while Yeah but it might be that this also is The first to come out that's right since Our whole movement yeah reading through The Torah and movements right yeah we Talked about first yeah five Scrolls of The Hebrew Bible which was awesome yeah I always really enjoyed that so yeah but What we're gonna do in this series is Dive into a theme biblical theme trace It from the first pages of the Christian Bible to the end and It's all in prep connected to a theme Video yeah we're gonna be releasing at Some point in the Bible project future For us yeah it might be past but Depending on when you're listening to This it's actually slotted to come out For Christmas oh 22. oh sweet yeah oh Okay great and when you say it John what Is the it is what is the theme video That we're going to be discussing the Theme video you call it the firstborn The firstborn yes the theme of the Firstborn It's a very That's very kind of in the weeds geeky Yeah Bible idea yeah it's maybe not the First Thing that somebody would maybe think of As a like prominent theme that runs Throughout the Bible yeah but it is oh

But it is You know we've had some theme videos That feel pretty intuitive you know Heaven and Earth You know those two words are in the First line of the first sentence of the Bible right we've done ones on God yeah The Messiah the Messiah Holy Spirit but Then we've done ones that I think are Important they're like sleeper themes Where they're right there they actually Pervade everything but they maybe don't Come up in terms of being mentioned all The time the image of God is like this It's just a phrase that is only used two Times in two occasions in Genesis and Then a few times in the New Testament But as we've discovered over the years That idea underlies every single page of Scripture and the story of the Bible Doesn't make a lot of sense without Understanding that idea so that's an Example okay yeah so firstborn is kind Of like that and actually it's it Appears a lot more than the image of God Though oh firstborn that's true yeah That's right and actually the idea of The firstborn is in intimately connected To the theme of the image of God cool as We won't discover great but uh yeah so The theme of the firstborn it fits our Categories for a theme it appears ah the Idea Appears in the first pages of the Bible

Connected to the phrase image of God Okay then the idea of some sort of Conflict over the status of the Firstborn yeah that's Cain Abel comes Right to the surface and Cain and Abel Though as we're going to see later in This conversation that's actually the Second cycle of that theme not the first It appears the idea of the firstborn Getting inverted or subverted or the Rights or authority of a firstborn Getting turned upside down given to a Younger sibling You could argue this is One of the dominant themes of Genesis Right and it echoes throughout the rest Of the Hebrew Bible And then in terms of the New Testament The firstborn is a title Ascribed to Jesus multiple places in the New Testament in the letters of Paul two Times In the letter to the Hebrews And in the last book of the Christian Bible the revelation So it goes from end to end yeah it does And it's kind of like once you see how The theme works then you can't unsee it You just start to see it everywhere so That's at least why I guess I'm making a Case you're making a case that is a Theme all right yeah I believe you yeah I mean you didn't have to try to Convince me yeah but uh that's a good Overview I suppose so first born I think

At a first blush yeah for some reason For me it might feel completely Disorienting what are you talking about But actually from many cultures it's Really important yep who's the firstborn Of the family I'm a firstborn yes you Are yeah yeah yeah I think I so funny Yeah some people are really into birth Order yeah like it's one of the first Things they ask when they meet somebody Or you know as they're getting to know Somebody yes like my wife's like this Yeah okay if she's getting to know Someone by the second or third Conversation you're acting like a middle Child Totally yeah or the firstborn or that's Yeah yeah I mean there's a lot of I Don't know family systems research that Is gone yeah gone into this and there Are like typical patterns Right that shape the mentality and Developing psychology of a human based On their birth order right I think it Must be yeah it must shape you in some Way yes not to say always in the exact Same way yeah I bet there's people Listening to this conversation who could Give us a lecture right now So what you're naming aside from that is Just that there is a cultural practice That pops up in human societies and Cultural Traditions throughout all of Human history in all parts of where

Humans have ever been Of this practice of the firstborn child And in patriarchal cultures the Firstborn male child the firstborn son Having a place of special honor In terms of responsibility Authority Maybe the future of the The Inheritance Yeah or estate or wealth property of the Family and that the firstborn son Bears Some special role for probably a Majority of human history in a majority Of places that was at play to some That's right degree yeah it's not like I Said I I'm the firstborn in my family Yes and I had no special like yeah I Wasn't treated correct differently I Didn't get a different yeah Status Inherited whatever like that's just not A normal thing in our culture that's Right it doesn't matter yeah that's Right yeah and that has to do with the Fact that you and I are in a culture That right now stands at the end of a Long process Of creating a whole new story about Human identity and value and worth That's not tied to how most human Cultures have thought about these things Right for most of human history yeah so We're the outlier if you think what Firstborn second born what does it Matter yeah if that's your mindset Approaching this topic and you know That's my cultural upbringing too then

What that shows is that I'm a minority In human history and thinking about so The biblical authors are writing in a Context where it matters so much matters A lot a lot yeah in an interesting way Though because the biblical not the way You would expect but not in the way you Would expect yeah they what spoiler You're going to subvert the norm yeah Spoiler the god portrayed in the Bible Consistently and by consistently meaning In almost every generation is Overturning and inverting this cultural Assumption that the firstborn should Have the right to the father's Authority Or priority kind of well yeah in terms Of human Partners yeah but then when you Probe a layer deeper in what you see Coming out in the New Testament is the The status of a firstborn Is like baked into the structure of the Universe Okay so anyway we're just spinning all Around it we are yeah okay but we're Just naming that this ah the technical Term uh if you look in biblical studies Theological literature sociological Literature is called the law of Primogenitor which is a Latin phrase Primo meaning first and genitour meaning Like descendant Offspring okay lineage The first this is Latin Latin yeah Primo Tannature the first of the the first of The Offspring first of The Descendants

Yeah do we need we need a fancy Latin Word just to make ourselves feel special I got I'm just saying like if you start Looking for this theme describe okay by Biblical Scholars and theologians the Phrase is the law of primogenitor but That's it the practice that a firstborn Son is somehow a special unique Representative of the father this is the Patriarchal institution yeah in kind of Male dominant cultures that the Firstborn son By natural right it assumes the Responsibility Authority and Representation of the father as well the Power Authority and the future of the Estate so it's against that cultural Backdrop That the biblical story is going to just From the first Pages start just doing Twists returns and inversions And the shock factor of all those Inversions won't really land Unless you get that basic cultural Assumption that's in the background Should we start there then should we Start with kind of trying to be Sympathetic with that cultural Assumption okay yeah sure we can also Problematize it a little bit because as I looked into this topic especially in An ancient near Eastern cultural Background things were a little more Complicated okay but sure yeah did you

Want to lead us exercise of the Imagination well you know we gotta Imagine you're living in a culture where Your security hmm and your well-being All depends on your family structure Yeah right sure you don't have some Other employer you know that can how you Have like stock with or a retirement Pension plan with you don't have the Government have with some sort of safety Net like you have your family yeah your Family is your present and future web of Safety yeah and stability Yeah that's right that is how most human Societies have operated for most a few Minutes And when it comes to then how is the Family going to continue to work Generation after generation who's going To lead The family yeah yep then there has to be Someone who's responsible for making Sure the family's taken care of and Basically becomes the little King of the Yeah of this Tiny Tribe I suppose yeah Yep which is often and most culture is a Patriarch yeah you know it's interesting To think about those that and this is Where I don't know because the biblical Story doesn't Take place in or wasn't written in a Time when humans were in hunter-gatherer Stage you know it was during the Agricultural yeah yeah so kind of the

Assumed State of the ideal state of a family Within the biblical story is settled on The land that is abundant Farm in the Land with an extended family that Provides safety stability and Order yeah So what I don't know is whether Something like the law of the firstborn Or the practice of elevating the Firstborn if that held in previous Stages of human society developing like 100 gatherers yeah I don't know the Answer to that that's interesting no Well I mean from the very little I've Heard it sounds like there was less of a Sense of ownership of things everything Just was a lot more shared and under Gathering yeah that's right yeah because Yeah it's not about yeah your family Identity wealth production isn't Necessarily tied to a piece of land yeah You actually don't yeah you don't own Land you're moving around yeah Everything's shared yeah there's not a Lot to inherit or disinherit you just Kind of like everyone's helping each Other okay can ship it's almost like Everyone's part of like yeah you're in The tribe you're in the family yeah yeah Interesting but I don't know a ton yeah Yeah that's interesting little side Trail yeah to flag but in the biblical Story and the cultural background of the Biblical authors where that all takes

Place it's Um the biblical authors in Israel this Is Israelite literature their first Place of existing was in the land A Federation of tribes In the settled agricultural life there And that Society was structured yeah Patriarchally in terms of like extended Families and that with Patriarchs and Then all of a sudden who Will carry the leadership And hold the security And property of the family through each Generation and here we come into why the Law or the practice of the firstborn How it fits in terms of the structure of A family in a society and I'm sure it Depended Um actual benefits of a firstborn Probably changed from generation like Different times of human history even Within Israel I suppose but was there a General kind of rule of like the Firstborn gets like a double portion Yeah this yeah so this is debated okay Because our Ancient evidence is very thin actually But sorry just one more note before we Do that just children in general Play a different role in cultural Imagination in that kind of society Because children are also producers and Protectors of family wealth Farm hands Yeah you know like they're your first

Laborers you know to help go help you And so having large families Is a sign of abundance and adds to your Security the more children the more Abundance and security that there is and So there's something about the first of Those Yeah and you know maybe here we can jump Out of trying to sympathetically imagine In ancient context and actually just Think of like if you grew up going to School and at recess and you're picking Teams oh like who gets picked for Something yeah there's something about Being first or just lining up for Something I'll do my kids are at this All the time they want to be first in Whatever line it is even if it's only Three people even it's just my two boys It's like a big deal who's in the front And I'm constantly you know trying to Talk with them about this like it Doesn't matter To them it does there's something innate Within them That being first there's something Primal to how humans imagine the world That being first is somehow okay I get That again it feels good to be chosen First in kickball I get that I don't fully get the like I need to be First in line hmm like Mom comes out to Hand out popsicles First yeah

Really that's just like I want mine Before somebody else I want it now That's the idea I want it now and if I'm Second then I get I might not get the Flavor I want Yeah I don't know yeah it's Primal sorry But keep going on your well team uh You're saying for you that really even As a kid you don't remember thinking That that was important I'm I can't remember feeling that was That important yeah I think because it's So once you get socialized I probably Just don't remember yeah but hmm yeah There was definitely a concern of like I Don't want to be too far in the back of The line where I'm gonna miss out yes Okay yeah but you know for me actually The first also comes with a little Pressure I'm like you you can't see Anyone like how are they gonna handle This yeah yeah sure like maybe I can Learn something from that how the first Person deals with this this is your Firstborn right position in your family Well yeah that's first born and there is A trailblazing aspect of being the Firstborn in a family yeah yep and so When I was outside of the context of the Family it felt nice to kind of like be Like oh someone else you go first I'm Gonna I'm gonna see how you handle this That's interesting yeah I get that I I Was the second born in my family and I

Learned a lot by observing my older Sister okay I learned a lot and Definitely informed how I thought about My behavior and my decisions in my Family So okay interesting bringing this up I'm Just was trying to say there's something Primal and there's something I think Fairly Universal in human nature that There's a desire to be first and that There's some sense that the first either Gets the thing first or that it's a Place of importance I don't know there's Also something really special about if You're a parent having your first child I mean it represents like the beginning Of your you know family in a way yes and Kind of the proof of like we can do this You know like we can have kids and There's so much joy and there's Something so special about that first Moment with your first child yeah and Then you have to retrain yourself and You learn when you have another kid like This kid is just as special Because they're completely different Yeah but there's something about the First and I think in a culture where Like now you're dependent on your kids Like it would just kind of make sense to Be like man this first child yeah like Deserves Yeah yep he's here first yeah you know There may also be something to the fact

Just chronologically that's the child That will develop first oh yeah and Become an adult first yeah become an Adult first and therefore have the Ability to like share the adult response Very practical First yeah that's a more Practical observation yeah Foreign [Music] So here's what's interesting is that This definitely was a practice in Ancient near East surrounding the Biblical authors and the timeline of the Bible so there's actually only one law In the Torah In Deuteronomy that addresses it Explicitly and it's interesting So this is in Deuteronomy chapter 21 Verse 15 through 17. And this law is going to make your ears Ring with the story of Jacob and Esau And of Jacob's wise Rachel and Leia from Book of Genesis So if a man has two wives so look at me Was common at a certain phase of ancient And interesting culture if a man has two Wives and the one is love and the other Unloved And let's say both the loved and the Unloved wives bear him Sons if the first Born son that's the chronologically First one Is the son of the unloved wife Then it will be in the day that he Wills

What he has to his sons oh look inherits Or when he gives us yeah yeah the Position of the firstborn to take over The authority of the family yeah and Take responsibility for wealth or Property or whatever the patriarch Cannot make the son of the loved wife The firstborn before the son of the Unloved who is the actual firstborn Just because you have a favorite wife Like your firstborn is your firstborn Yeah yep but he shall acknowledge the Firstborn that son of the unloved wife By giving him a double portion of all That he has for he is the beginning of His power hmm To him belongs the right of the Firstborn so there's actually a lot of Fascinating things But it's clear this is in the backdrop Of an assumption that first of all There's a somehow this law of Primogenitor the right of the firstborn Here it's the Hebrew word Oh yeah sorry it's language here so Hebrew the word firstborn is and it Comes from the verb which is the verb to Produce the first child And it's actually this verb there's a Verb for to produce a first child the First Offspring and it's a verb used of Plants Animals and humans okay so like a wheat Stock like the first head Define yes

First head of grain oh yeah an animal we Don't have a word for this do we hmm no The closest would be adopting a king James-ism from this word which is the First fruits first fruits yeah oh but That's a noun this is a verb oh yeah a Verb to produce your first seed yeah Your first officer there's no verb yeah That counts for plants animals and Humans or even counts for you the any of Them yeah right what would you say Um the first fruiting well you could say That calf was that cow's firstborn [Music] Yeah there's a specific verb So here we're back into agricultural Context yeah you know it's important When they have a verb for it a specific Verb for bearing the face you know we've Like gone very far from how they view it Yeah we don't have a verb okay there you Go thank you thanks for thanks for being Persistent on that yeah I see your point And it's a very good one no it's true It's true that's exactly right Yep Producer firstborn yep yeah the first And again it can be used First fruit yeah the first of the Produce yeah let's not forget that again Given the agricultural context of the Hebrew Bible that there's a deep analogy Between the ground and the womb And therefore between seed like male

Reproductive seed the fluid and seeds That go into the ground there's deep Analogy there and then of the fruit of That Union between seed and ground which Is fruit Yeah in the plant form or in the animal Form in the human form the fruit of the Womb fruit of the womb yep or the fruit Of the ground So there's the Deep analogy in the Biblical imagination between those two And that's where this verb fits in that Interesting that is interesting yeah I Have a hunch that in English there might Be a verb in agricultural lingo it's Just we wouldn't know it oh interest For the plants a plant's first first Fruit fruit yeah like when a tree has Its first Fruit or a Vine there might be a verb For that maybe yeah someone knows it Might be a verb for that the Greek word Use of the New Testament that is the Title of Jesus as we'll see in a little Bit is the Greek word it's a compound Word prototos Prototocus Compound Proto first and tokos which is One who is born Proto prototos The firstborn yeah yeah it's fairly Straightforward So prototicos was the Greek word used in The Septuagint the first translation of The Hebrew Bible which was into Greek to

Translate bakar to translate these Hebrew words yep the noun before and the Verb and then it was adopted into Greekified Judaism called Hellenistic Judaism and then Into the New Testament Wait say that again greekified Jew oh Hellenistic Judaism which is the fruit Of after Greek culture married with Every other culture in the ancient world After Alexander the Great but instead of Calling it Hellenistic I said first Greekified because that's what and what Happened during oh well a gazillion Things happened I mean but particular to This word oh for this word is that the Hebrew Bible and the way its language Reflects the view of reality was what do You say tuned to a Greek cultural key in The first Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible okay and that what became The predominant Bible of Greek speaking Jews throughout oh the ancient world Okay throughout the diaspora and the Second temple period and Jesus and all the his first followers And the authors of the New Testament Were the product of that Greek plus Ancient Biblical Hebrew marriage of a Really fascinated diving deeper into That yeah it's a fascinating topic yeah But it's it's all about culture how Language is a reflection of an assumed Cultural way of viewing reality so they

Were reading the Hebrew Bible in Greek As their primary source many people were Many people it was bilingual okay and But just the point is that the Hebrew Bible was tuned to a Greek key as it Were once Hellenistic culture you know Just reshaped the world and the New Testament is the product of that Marriage right well it's not product Only of that marriage there's a lot of Other things but the language and Imagery used in the New Testament It's not just Hebrew Bible Fast forward a couple hundred years it's Hebrew Bible tuned to the key of Hellenistic language and culture yeah And thought yeah which is what makes the New Testament so rad because it's like The ultimate cross-cultural Ultra stands Wow I could tell there's new territory For us we're looking at a rabbit hole a Deep deep Rabbit Hole in our Conversation right now and I can tell You're like well part of the reason is I've been thinking a lot about the soul Hmm oh yes and yeah I've been realizing That like there's something that Happened when Hebrew Bible was Greekified yep and is it that the idea Developed or it just they got new Language to talk about the same things They were always kind of talking about Great question and yeah yeah yeah Actually I learned a lot I just learned

A lot recently on a reading project I Did and I would love to talk about that More sweet all right so I think have we Sufficiently kind of explored this basic Idea of this cultural background so it's Interesting oh yeah sorry This was all a rabbit Trail because we Were talking about the law in Deuteronomy oh yeah yeah we didn't even Finish talking about that so what's Interesting about this a lot of Deuteronomy 20 minutes later however Long it was uh man has two wives is that It really so this is assumes the Practice of elevating the firstborn son Yeah the chronologically first Sun if It's if you're a polygamist family Family where a man has more than one Wife but What's interesting is that what the law Is recognizing is that there will be Situations where you don't want to give The right of the firstborn will not be Honored it assumes that that happens Okay and so here's what's interesting And this was new to me as I was learning About this topic is that in the ancient Near Eastern literature and so here I'm Depending on a very helpful resource Produced or edited overseen by John Walton who we've interviewed yeah on the Podcast before he's a Biblical scholar Who really tries to make ancient near Eastern cultural background

More understandable more accessible to Normal Bible readers so he oversaw the Production of a whole Commentary series Called The zondervin Illustrated Bible Backgrounds commentary the zi BBC That's the book for me it goes through The whole Old Testament and it will just Go through every story in poem giving You any relevant kind of cultural Background stuff that you might not know But that will illuminate or add some Multi-dimensional Color to use many metaphors to the story So on this law commentary on this law on Deuteronomy 21 he mentions that this law Or right of the firstborn Functioned in the ancient near East but Not everywhere nor was it always Observed even though everywhere present So he goes through the Code of Hammurabi Gives some examples ancient Assyrian Laws legal like documents from all these Ancient near Eastern cities Maori and Nuzi and Allah and what you find is There is a basic assumption it's the Same as a Hebrew Bible there's a basic Assumption that this practice of giving The firstborn son was the norm but there Were exceptions and just like in the Hebrew Bible there's a law addressing What if a dad wants to make an exception I see there are also laws that do make Exceptions also down in Egypt and Babylon and Assyria but all the laws are

Usually little unique variations so Let's see like in Egypt he gives an Example in Egypt in the Middle Kingdom The LA primogenitor could be disregarded By a dying father Property could be willed to a brother oh For example So here's the thing yeah maybe the Firstborn son is like incompetent or Maybe he died or who knows we don't know Yeah but the point is there's this law You know that states that or cultural Practice that you could Your brother could stand in the place of The firstborn So that's interesting but what the laws As a whole show is that it was a general Practice but that there were and the General practice to be clear in the Deuteronomy passage was to give a double Portion that's right which means just Twice as much as you give other people Other kids yeah so let's say uh five Kids yeah I guess you would divide it up Six ways and then the first one gets First one would get the double portion That's the idea was that common in these Other cultures too was it the double Portion Uh mentality yeah interesting Do you think that changed well so here's What Walton says so here's some ancient Indonesian laws called a collection of The laws of lipid Ishtar who is the king

Which say that the inheritance of a Father should go equally to the children Of two wives However in Hammurabi's Code the first Wife's firstborn receives a preferential Share so that's like the law and Deuteronomy yeah yep although it's a Little less um concrete what does that Mean that preferential share yeah that's True yep there was an ancient eastern City of Mari documents found where There's a legal decision recorded to Grant a double portion to the Natural Firstborn son okay that's just like the Law in Deuteronomy in 15th century BC in The city of nuzi where another legal Collection was discovered the same exact Laws followed double portions and it's The city of Allah on the orantes river There's a text that mentions a father Who was aware of but did not have to Recognize the law of the firstborn in His will so that's interesting he could Designate a first son oh he could Designate a first son for inheritance Purposes maybe that's saying he could Pick Which which son gets yeah give have the Right of the first part yeah so same Text from the city of Amar is the sun Receives an extra share so I think he's Collected here A bunch of ones that are Similar okay but then when he cites Examples from Egypt it's different a guy

Could name his brother yeah the dude you Know Egypt do things different in there Or their entire family could just be the Trustee in the New Kingdom area in the New Kingdom era he says the oldest son Was the expected Heir but the whole Family or an appointed trustee yeah Could become the heir so maybe for some Reasons unique to Egypt the institution Or the practice said Became less important developed yeah Yeah I bet there's a whole Rabbit Hole Down there Neo-babylonian laws the sons of a first Wife received two-thirds two-thirds of The Inheritance while the sons of the Second wife received one-third okay Sons Were who were of different status might Fare differently so you get to feel like Okay this was known there's a general Sense yes the firstborn should get more And then from that kind of agreed upon Yes status quo yeah there's variations On yes then what flexibility is there Yeah [Music] Thank you [Music] Foreign So a lot more digging and details we Could do but that we got the general Portrait like what is this practice And that it was widespread in the Ancient near East and that it's the

General assumed backdrop of the biblical Story However so this is a pivot it's a new Step in our conversation right now when You get to the actual Story the biblical Story that begins in Genesis One of the most dominant themes in Genesis is how God the Creator God is Constantly subverting and inverting This practice of elevating the firstborn By God elevating or choosing or blessing Or foregrounding the younger siblings Over the actual firstborn At like every level of the story happens Over and over and over yeah that's right So you mentioned Cain and Abel yeah Kane's the firstborn evil second born God favors Abel's offering instead of Canes that's right and immediately you Should be thinking like why whatever This second board yeah and while the Story may or may not provide some Details about why I think the story does Give little Clues but all that says it's The first time that happens between Siblings Later when you get to the descendants of Noah and Noah has three sons Shem ham And japheth What's interesting is that ordering of Their names is not their birth order the Firstborn or the older is yaphet japheth And then there's ambiguity about the Birth order of Shaman ham it seems

Likely that it was yaphet then Shem then Ham that's interesting ham was the Youngest of the three which might Explain the thing that he did in the Tent who did the thing in the tent ham Ham ham does some scandalous thing in a Tent with his dad yeah looking on his Dad's nakedness and if he is the Third Born that actually kind of helps make Sense of what he's doing he's trying to Jump ahead in line oh on the family line It happens again with Abraham and his Brothers and this isn't a big narrative Way with those kids who gets the Blessing yeah that's right Shem is the One one who's blessed and it said that Yahweh the Creator God is going to come And dwell in the tents of Shem okay so Yahweh chooses Yahweh yeah the second or Third born Yahweh chooses to associate Himself in his presence and his name With Shem who's not the firstborn okay Second time yeah God chooses a clear That's right late Comer that's right When you get through the lineage of the Biblical story it goes through Hashem And it traces to a guy named tarach who Has three sons And There God chooses and blesses and Elevates like Shem The younger son Abraham over his older Brothers okay And then one of those older brothers has

A son named lot And lot goes with Abraham to you know The land of Canaan and then that causes All kinds of Abraham's older brother has A son a lot of rams then nephew his Nephew comes with but what lot Represents is the family of his older Brother and so the tension between lot And Abraham it's kind of like a sibling Revolution yeah it is about that sibling Rival oh okay yeah okay yep then Abraham Takes two wives That's a whole story We've talked about many times in the Past uh Hagar Who is a slave but that he marries so Then he has two wives Sarah And Hagar and it's Hagar who has the First born son yeah Ishmael and then Sarah Bears Isaac and the blessing Goes to Isaac goes to Isaac and not to Ishmael that continues with Isaac's two Sons where the firstborn is Esau Second point is Jacob and this one like The volumes really turned up I feel like The whole Narrative of the tension Between Esau and Jacob really focuses in In fact it's the story where the word Firstborn and the noun the right of the Firstborn is used for the first time and They're twins so like yeah the status is Like mere minutes minutes yeah totally Yeah that's right so it's like this yeah And it's the theme of the birth story Because Jacob comes out grabbing yeah

That's his brother as if you know from Birth he's trying to get that position That his brother has and it turns out That's a position that God Has destined him for yeah is to have the Position of the firstborn even though He's not chronologically the firstborn So what's interesting and obviously not Like a guy with so much character that Like no he's terrible that God should Give him the firstborn because you're Not the firstborn but he got so much Yeah promise so much so potential Jacob No the whole point of the Jacob story is To show that yeah he's snake sneaky Snake-like from the start grabbing that Heel so there's the sibling rivalry in The inversion of the firstborn but then What's interesting is that you go Another layer deep it's like an Inception that movie Inception inversion Of the firstborn within an inversion of The firstborn because then the story of Jacob and his two wives also becomes a Story of inverted firstborn because Jacob falls in love with a woman who is The second born uh her name's Rachel He meets her at a well you know it's a Great scene and he wants to marry her And his dad Lavon says absolutely and Then he pulls a fast one on him and Gives him his firstborn daughter yeah it Was Leia and so Rachel is the love Leia Is the unloved sexual the wording so

That law we wrote in red Deuteronomy is Hyperlinking hyper that story exactly Yeah and what the law is saying is here In Israel we're never going to do what Jacob did which is favor the sons of the Loved wife over the actual firstborn That came from the unloved wife so the Most interesting is through those two Wives and then they're two slaves Jacob Produces a family of 12 sons and a Daughter And then the next cycle of Genesis is All about the Rivalry and the inversion Of the firstborn among the twelve Brothers yeah so now we have the 12 Brothers who become the 12 tribes yep And yeah the standout brother of this Whole story becomes Joseph yeah among Rachel's Sons with Jacob it's Joseph Becomes the favored one and then among Leia's Sons it's the fourth born Judah That becomes the prominent one and the Really the whole story is about this Rivalry of Joseph and all his brothers And then specifically this rivalry of Joseph and Judah and the actual Firstborn Reuben he's just left behind In the dust As well as the second and third born Simeon and Levi but the reason they're Left in the dust is because each of them There's the narrative about each of them Doing something really terrible that Disqualifies them in the eyes of their

Father okay so that's interesting so This is all through Genesis yeah Totally it's like every turn yes like You would expect well the firstborn Should be favored yeah he's not yeah so And how this fits in is that God is Constantly subverting and overturning The natural human assumptions about Power and privilege if the assumption is The firstborn should have the power Should have the privilege and have the Authority God's saying like well maybe not yeah And really this is all just a main theme In Genesis about good and bad humans Discerning good and bad and so the Assumed idea is the basic human Assumption when it comes to the good and Bad and the future of the family is that The firstborn son should be elevated Overall and sometimes what these humans Do To put a son in that position of Firstborn or to produce that firstborn Causes problem causes pain and grief and Division and abuse okay and so what God Is constantly doing is subverting and Overturning human assumptions about Power and privilege that's what all These inversions are about yeah and That's a main narrative theme throughout Genesis and it just continues to Echo Throughout the rest of the Hebrew Bible Moses and Aaron for example oh yeah yeah

Aaron's the firstborn Izzy Aaron's the Older brother yeah yep no way yeah and So he's chosen for the role of the high Priest but the first thing even before He steps into his job he's Leading the People into idolatry and it's the Younger brother Who got elevates to the top of Mount Sinai to you know and he intercedes and Rescues for the people of Aaron's sons Aaron has four sons and the first two in Their first day on the job in the Tabernacle do break you know violate Protocol And so God takes our lives and elevates The Third born elizar to the place of The honored son This happens with oh actually my Favorite place this Motif gets explored Is in the opening chapters of Samuel With the story of Hannah And the birth of Samuel Because Hannah Is married to this guy named elkana and Elkana has another wife penina and Penina has all these sons and is able to Produce fruit of the womb but Hannah Cannot but interestingly elkana loves Hannah more But penina has the place of social Prominence in the family because she can Produce children yeah and so the whole Story is about how God chooses and Elevates and gives a special gift to

Hannah over and above penina and then That is the gift of Samuel her son who She surrenders over to become a Nazarite To like a virtual high priest and he Lives in and around the temple and then The actual high priest at the time Eli Has these older Sons who were like Terrible guys and God elevates the Little Samuel the little boy Samuel Who's not even the Levi yeah over the Priestly line super cool story Ah David Yeah David is the youngest son this one Yeah this one stands out to me I Wouldn't have thought of Moses hmm Samuel wouldn't have come to mind but Yeah David David this is the classic Story of like he I mean he's small in Stature yeah he's yeah he's out in the Field taking care of the sheep yeah yeah He's not even in the running mm-hmm at First yeah and actually the main this is In first Samuel chapter 16 the main Point of the story is God tells the Prophet to go to the house of this guy Who has a son who am I gonna Elevate his King and so in the story such a great Story so in the story Samuel this is the Samuel the prophet is told to go to the House of this guy Jesse the Bethel Homite for I have seen for myself a king Among his sons So Samuel goes to his house And he has Jesse line up all his sons

This is great for Samuel 16 Verse 6 and When the sons came Samuel looked upon Eliav The firstborn And he thought oh surely the Lord's Anointed one is now before the Lord But the Lord said to Samuel don't look Upon his appearance Don't look at the height of his stature Because this guy Elio Another guy not the guy For the Lord does not see as humans see Humans look on the appearance of the Outside But the Lord looks on the heart So then Jesse says okay second born come On up In a dab he makes impasse before Samuel And Sam says nope it's a classic Storytelling here now totally then Jesse Made Third born shama passed by nope Samuel says Jesse made Seven Sons passed Before Samuel Then Samuel said to Jesse no none of These has the Lord chosen uh are these All your sons and then Jesse says oh Well there is the the youngest there's The runt the runt and he's the one so It's clearly this story is turning up The volume on this theme Here Yeah Yeah And notice here it once again it's about Human expectations about power and Privilege yes yeah very clearly here The tallest you know and Theory the

Strongest or the the firstborn with the Firstborn right yeah the order he goes Through the sons is from first to last In birth order yeah exactly yeah so that Story clearly is turning up the volume Here so what's fascinating is not only Is David elevated over his brothers But then when he's elevated over To become king in the place of Israel's First King Saul David is also elevated Over Saul's firstborn Jonathan Jonathan is the firstborn to become king After Saul and Jonathan can see that God's chosen David and there's that Famous story where he gives him all These special items and says I you're The chosen one not me So Solomon Next Generation Solomon is David's son but I think I forget what Word he's not firstborn forget Bathsheba's first he's bathsheba's first But David had many wives yeah and the Sons in line for the role of firstborn Or Absalom who's then killed and then Another son named adonija in the Rivalry David and Absalom and then between Solomon and adonijah are the main focus Of the beginning of the book of Kings [Music] Foreign So this is a major theme throughout the Hebrew Bible yeah It's a big deal Yeah big deal a lot of these stories

Don't really land unless you yeah are Tuning into this theme that's right yeah So much focus on these sibling rivalries Correct and why the David story is so Important is because it's saying Explicitly what has been going on Implicitly throughout the whole Bible With this theme is that Yahweh is Opposed to Human institutions of power and Privilege that distort Our perception of what is good and bad We have an idea of what is good And the good is the first one yeah or The biggest yep the most powerful yes That's the good that's the good and What's good is to make sure that I Create a firstborn and that I am in Control of things and all of that ends Up creating so much Strife in the Stories in the stories that's right yeah And then God comes Strife meaning humans Taking advantage of each other yeah Tricking each other abusing exception Violence sexual abuse murder I mean it's Yeah it's like the worst of human nature On display yeah in trying to elevate or Produce firstborn Sons yeah it's a major Repeated theme and so this practice of God in subverting it is a major theme of The Hebrew Bible the god opposes the Proud but gives grace to the humble Actually that's a proverb and we just Tend to think proud and humble as being

Individual character dispositions but in Honor shame culture That's very much about social Rank and Hierarchy the proud are those who would Assert high social rank for themselves And the humble are those who have a low Social position and God loves to or is It yeah as job will say it multiple Times he'll bring down the mighty or no Hannah says it in her song oh yeah he Loves to bring down the mighty from Their Thrones and Elevate those sitting In the dust to the seat of Nobles and Princes that's what this is about is Jesus riffing on this when the first Will be last yes we first absolutely When his disciples come to him and say We're wondering who's who gets to sit at Your right and left right hand or like Which one of us is the greatest yeah Yeah you know and Jesus is just like oh My gosh yeah those who want to be first Are actually the last and those who take The position of the last will be the Servant So yeah Jesus is distilling this key Theme in the Hebrew Bible into these Teachings Okay so all of that being said Here's the puzzle here's a fascinating Little puzzle okay so after all yeah It's very clear That God is not down with the firstborn For the sake of the firstborn yeah

That's right if it's too strong to say That God's opposed to this practice it's At least to say what God is opposed to Is people abusing each other hurting Each other In order to get their children or Produce a firstborn Heir you could you'd Almost feel like he's opposed to it yeah But exactly totally yeah inherently So this That you walk away from the Hebrew Bible Going okay I get it I get it I get what This God's about right if he may be Anti-firstborn All right to put it maybe a little Hyperbolically or that he uh highly Suspicious highly suspicious of that This institution can do anything good For humans yeah so isn't it interesting That when you get to the story of Jesus What the four gospel accounts Claim About Jesus what's explicit in the Letters of Paul it's explicit in the Letter to the Hebrews and in the Revelation so in all the layers and Parts of the New Testament There is a very clear Emphasis on Jesus's identity As the firstborn As the firstborn son the Son of God God's special firstborn with the right To power and authority and Responsibility over all of creation and Not necessarily being born first in his

Family as much as like this idea of Right yeah it's almost like meta idea of Like the firstborn of well as yeah I Would say the first point of creation Yeah so in for example Colossians Chapter one Jesus is called the image of The invisible God okay so using the Phrase from Genesis the image of God and Then he equates it in terms of poetic Parallel lines the firstborn over all Creation Yeah so to be the image of God is to be In the position of the firstborn of all Creation Then he calls Jesus a few lines later he Is the beginning The first the firstborn from among the Dead So he's claiming for Jesus to be Preeminent representation of the father Overall creation and to be the beginning And source of the new creation that is The resurrection from the dead So what's interesting here is that Jesus And you're like oh I guess God is down For the right of the firstborn because I guess Jesus is holds that place in the Universe so he's not always opposed to It okay it just seems like he was in Romans chapter 8 Jesus is called the image What Paul is talking about is God has Called and purposed that a group that a Human family would form to be

Transformed into the image of his son So that his son would become the Firstborn among many siblings So the plan of God was always That the Human family Would be perfectly transformed into the Image of the firstborn so here the idea Is there's a firstborn of a family we Get that but then it's like taking that Idea to another level and saying there's A firstborn of all of humans of all Creation Of all creation I don't know what that Means we talk about that yeah later yeah But then here the firstborn of a family Of many Brethren yeah the idea of like The whole Human family yeah that's right Like he's the first yep he holds the Status of the firstborn Over a whole family of brothers and Sisters and they are all being Transformed into the image of that Firstborn son that's idea here So when you get into the letter to the Hebrews in chapter one and then in Chapter 12 once again Jesus is called The firstborn And in both cases it's a place of status And honor all creation is called to bow Down in worship specifically Heavenly Beings angels are called Down To Worship The firstborn that's in Hebrews chapter One and then in chapter 12 The community of Jesus's followers is

Called the Assembly of the firstborn or In some translation it's the word Ecclesia Church the Church of the Firstborn So instead of saying the Church of Jesus You could just say the Church of the Firstborn it's like a title for him yes And then in the the Revelation the last Book of the Christian Bible in Revelation chapter 1 verse 5. Jesus is Called the faithful witness the Firstborn from among the Dead the ruler Of the kings of the land Hmm So Being the faithful witness being the one Who has stood Faithful telling the bearing witness to The truth about the father That's equated to having the status of The firstborn And then that's equated to being the Ruler of the kings of the land But this interesting puzzle because all Of a sudden It's sort of like God is not down for Humans who connive And scheme their way to become or get Their child to be the firstborn all Throughout the Hebrew Bible makes me Think I guess God's anti-firstborn but Then return to the New Testament and the Story gets a little more complex yet Again yeah because the firstborn is

Really a theme about Authority and power And responsibility responsibility that Comes with that representation yeah yeah And so you could think as you read the Bible oh so God's not down with Giving that authority to someone just Basically because of when they showed up Yeah on the scene that's right but he is Interested in making sure someone does Have that place that place yeah and then There's a kind of a lineage yeah that Goes And so I guess to try to understand What's the puzzle the puzzle is ah when We get to Jesus Is the puzzle is why isn't he Celebrated as a a second born yeah I Think what's interesting is that with All of this emphasis in the New Testament saying Jesus holds the place And status of the Eternal Firstborn yeah within the very being of God uh the community that is the one God Yeah father son and spirit The puzzle is You would think that God is anti this Institution or practice of just because The firstborn son has that role Inherently that son deserves the right To have power and authority but then the Whole claim about Jesus is he actually Is the legitimate holds legitimately out Of all the humans in the story right Here is the one who can truly

Legitimately be called the firstborn Because he actually is the first he Actually is the Son of God but he also Is chosen and he also is the one who Does pass the test and like he does kind Of like you know yeah it all comes Together yeah so it's interesting the Gospel authors want to retain both Themes both ideas because what they're Constantly going to show is a Jesus's Humble Origins yeah The poor family that it comes from that He outside even though he's born in the City of David Bethlehem it's not from There yes from a you know Rural Hill Country up in Galilee from stick Town Nazareth he is not trained in Jerusalem He's not a Bible scholar with Traditional credentials so all of that Is portraying Jesus as the outsider yeah The younger sibling the one who holds a Place of love social rank okay and then Being crucified as a criminal but then This new testament theology has a comes And says surprise like yeah he actually Has this identity yeah that's so first Born yeah it's good it's a new category Of firstborn it's first born over yeah All of creation yeah that's right you Could say the story from Jesus's birth From his incarnation To the cross and the resurrection it's a Story in historical time of this Subversion of the firstborn okay because

Jesus right all this humble Origins he's The outsider and that's the one that God Elevates to the position of the Firstborn and so that's the narrative But then that narrative is framed within A wider claim to say The one whom God has exalted by raising Him to be you know the son of man over Heaven and Earth that one was and always Has been the eternal Son of God who legitimately holds that Place of representation who existed from The beginning who is the beginning he is The beginning he is the beginning and The end so he is legitimate firstborn so It's this interesting God both subverts His pattern what he's subverting is not The idea that God should have a true Representative son what he's opposing is The way that humans Try to scheme and create and get that Power Through a redefinition of good and bad And so Jesus becomes like the model the True model of what the legitimate Firstborn Is and should be which is a model of Humility and love and and self-giving Compassion yeah But it's this kind of this cool twist Yeah in the way the New Testament tells The story of Jesus So that's kind of the big picture yeah We did the whole thing I guess we just

Did the whole thing what we can do now We just painted the whole picture yeah Yeah so what would be fun to do is go Back and dive into some of these Specific moments of God inverting this Practice oh and actually Specifically to talk about that Cain and Abel I don't think is the first time That this theme appears it appears with Adam and Eve's relationship to the sky Rulers and to the animals I think is Where the first time the same appears Um and if you think I'm crazy there's a Bunch of second temple Jewish literature To show you that I'm not that most that The theme first appears what did you say Adam's relationship Adam and Eve's Relationships with the sky rulers and to The animals the sky ruler is being yeah The high beings yep Sky rulers are first Yes the animals are first on day six of Creation the animals come first okay but It's the late comers the humans we're The last ones to arrive in the genus one They are the ones that are given Rule And authority over they're given the Image of God yeah all right let's get Into it that's what we'll talk about Next awesome there we go Thanks for listening to this episode of Bible project podcast next week we're Going to dive in to the first place Where this theme takes roots and if the Theme of the firstborn is about sibling

Rivalry and God choosing the younger Brother over the older you would think The first story to look at is the story Of Cain and Abel but in fact this theme Begins earlier in Genesis 1 through 2 Where Yahweh makes rulers of the sky and Rulers of the land Spiritual Beings Above to represent God and humans below The humans are the late covers the dirt Creatures less glorious than the Spiritual Beings above but it's the Humans who are given authority to rule The human rulers come last in the Sequence of the six days they don't come First they come last even the animals Are before them the last Comer is the One who has given the authority to rule Over the land but isn't interesting as You read through the Hebrew Bible it's Consistently the late Comer that God Elevates to places of rule and Authority Today's episode is produced by Cooper Peltz with the associate producer Lindsey Ponder edited by Dan gummel Tyler Bailey and Frank Garza Hannah Wu Provided the annotations for our Annotated podcast in our app Bible project is crowdfunded non-profit And we exist to experience the Bible as A unified story that leads to Jesus Everything that we make is free because It's already been paid for by thousands Of people just like you thank you so Much for being a part of this with us hi

This is CJ and Sarah and we're from Euless Texas we first heard about the Bible project from my mother we use the Bible project to deepen our study of the Bible and discuss what we're learning Together our favorite thing about the Bible project is it shows how connected The Bible is through its themes and Design patterns we believe the Bible is A unified story that leads to Jesus Where a crowd-funded project by People Like Us find free videos study notes Podcasts classes and more at Bibleproject.com Foreign [Music]

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