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From the beginning the office of the priesthood in each family belonged to the eldest son. But when the extensive plan of sacrificial worship was introduced, requiring a company of men to be exclusively devoted to this ministry, the primitive office of the first-born was superseded by that of the Levites (Num. 3:11-13), and it was ordained that the first-born of man and of unclean animals should henceforth be redeemed (18:15).
The laws concerning this redemption of the first-born of man are recorded in Ex. 13:12-15; 22:29; 34:20; Num. 3:45; 8:17; 18:16; Lev. 12:2, 4.
The first-born male of every clean animal was to be given up to the priest for sacrifice (Deut. 12:6; Ex. 13:12; 34:20; Num. 18:15-17).
But the first-born of unclean animals was either to be redeemed or sold and the price given to the priest (Lev. 27:11-13, 27). The first-born of an ass, if not redeemed, was to be put to death (Ex. 13:13; 34:20).