Tag Archives: Numbers 3

Thoughts on Birth Order

…for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether human or animal. They are to be mine. I am the Lord.”
Numbers 3:13 (NIV)

A lot has been made of birth order through the ages. In modern society psychologists have famously argued that certain traits seem to commonly accompany children born in a particular place within their family’s birth order. Some of it is attributed to how parents commonly respond to children in each place of the order, while some is attributed to the unique psychological development that happens for children in each place within the order. An only child typically has their own distinctive traits, as does the youngest child in the family (I’m one of those) no matter the number in the order.

In the ancient days of Moses the firstborn was set apart (e.g. “hallowed” or “sanctified”) for God. This is why Mary and Joseph took Jesus, as the first born, to be dedicated according to the law when Simeon and Anna prophesied over Him (Luke 2:22-38). The practice goes back to the events of the Exodus and the Law of Moses, as we read in today’s chapter. Throughout history, the firstborn male has been afforded special significance in many societies, especially when it comes to matters of inheritance.

The differences in birth order are fascinating to observe and discuss. Any parent can tell you stories about how different children are in different places in the birth order, and groups of parents will find that there is commonality in certain traits. Along life’s journey, however, I’ve found that it’s foolish to make too much of such things, just as it’s foolish to dismiss them entirely.

Through the Great Story there are significant characters from different birth orders. Jacob/Israel was the second born and usurped the birthright of his firstborn brother. Joseph and David were both the babies of their respective broods. And, so on.

This morning I’m thinking about birth order. One article I read this morning gave this set of common traits to mark the baby of the family:

  • Fun-loving
  • Uncomplicated
  • Manipulative
  • Outgoing
  • Attention-seeker
  • Self-centered

Ha! I want to embrace a few of the traits on the list and deny the others, though I have to own up to the fact that an argument can be made for every one describing me in some way, especially as a child. It doesn’t make me better or worse then my eldest sibling, just different, and perhaps suited for very different roles in life.

C’est la vie.

While God set the first born apart in ancient days for a particular significance, it doesn’t diminish the unique role each person plays in the story. Psalm 139 says each one of us are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Our place in the birth order doesn’t make us better or worse, though it may uniquely develop us for a particular role. I’ve learned in theatre that a key lesson in life is to fully give myself to, and enjoy the role I’m given, no matter the size of the part. Embracing this is the pathway to a tremendous amount of joy and contentment.

Chapter-a-Day Numbers 3

God spoke to Moses. He said, “Bring forward the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron so they can help him. They shall work for him and the whole congregation at the Tent of Meeting by doing the work of The Dwelling. Numbers 3:5-7 (MSG)

Every successful organization requires a diverse people with diverse sets of gifts and abilities. We need each other. When casting a show for the local community theatre, I’m always left with difficult choices. Many people want to be in the lead roles, standing in the spotlight, but everyone can’t have that role. The truth is that a really good production requires talented people to capably fill every role large and small, on stage and off. Some of my favorite roles over the years have been bit parts.

Nevertheless, every director or producer must eventually confront the frustration and anger of those who did not get cast in the roles they wanted. It comes with the job. You will always be second guessed. You will likely be threatened. You will never make everyone happy. Welcome to leadership.

In today’s chapter, the tribe of Levi is appointed among all the twelve tribes to manage the giant travelling tent sanctuary called the Tabernacle. Within the tribe of Levi, each clan was given responsibility for different parts of the massive structure.

Having helmed a handful of productions and having been in a leadership role in many different organizations over the years, I immediately began to hear the grumbling and complaints that had to have filtered their way up to Moses:

“Why do Aaron and his sons always get the important job? It’s all gone to their heads, I tell you. A bunch of arrogant jerks acting like they’re better than everyone else just because they’re the only ones who get to perform the sacrifices!”

“How in the world did the Gershonites get appointed to take care of the tent? They couldn’t patch so much as a water skin if their lives depended on it!”

“It would figure that Merari clan would get the easy job. They’ve always been a bunch of slackers.”

Not everyone gets the roles they want. As much as I may desire to have certain talents and abilities, I must eventually accept and celebrate the person God made me to be. I must bloom where I’m planted in the role appointed for me while appreciating and being grateful for others who use their own unique abilities in roles for which I’m not suited.