by Matt Slick

Primogeniture is the biblical teaching that the firstborn has preeminence and authority over those that follow in the family.  It is an important part of biblical theology and can influence how certain verses are understood.  Take for example Col. 1:15 which says, "And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation."   Some cults like the Jehovah's Witnesses say that this verse means Jesus was first created.  That is wrong.  If the importance of "firstborn" is understood, the person would know it is not in reference to first created but to pre-eminent.  We know this because the first born title is transferrable.

In Gen. 41:51-52, "And Joseph called the name of the first-born Manasseh: For, said he, God hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house. And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath made me fruitful in the land of my affliction." Jer. 31:9, " . . . for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn."

Also, you can see in Gen. 25:29-34 where Esau sold his birthright of the firstborn to Jacob for a bowl of stew. 

"And when Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; 30 and Esau said to Jacob, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.” Therefore his name was called Edom. 31 But Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 And Esau said, “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?” 33 And Jacob said, “First swear to me”; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright."

The references in bold emphasize primogeniture more clearly.

  1. Gen. 49:3, "Reuben, you are my first-born; My might and the beginning of my strength, Preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power."
  2. Exodus 13:2, "Sanctify to Me every first-born, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me.”
  3. Deut. 21:17, “But he shall acknowledge the first-born, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; to him belongs the right of the first-born."
  4. Num. 3:13, "For all the first-born are Mine; on the day that I struck down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the first-born in Israel, from man to beast. They shall be Mine; I am the Lord.”
  5. Num. 8:17, “For every first-born among the sons of Israel is Mine, among the men and among the animals; on the day that I struck down all the first-born in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for Myself."
  6. 1 Chron. 5:1, "Now the sons of Reuben the first-born of Israel (for he was the first-born, but because he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright."
  7. 2 Chron. 21:3, "And their father gave them many gifts of silver, gold and precious things, with fortified cities in Judah, but he gave the kingdom to Jehoram because he was the first-born."
  8. 1 Chron. 26:10, "Also Hosah, one of the sons of Merari had sons: Shimri the first (although he was not the first-born, his father made him first)."
  9. Psalm 89:27, “I also shall make him My first-born, The highest of the kings of the earth."
  10. Col. 1:15, "And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation."
  11. Heb. 1:6, "And when He again brings the first-born into the world, He says, “And let all the angels of God worship Him.”
  12. Rev. 1:5, "and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood."

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.