“They Also Took of the Firstlings of Their Flocks”

Alan C. Miner

According to John Welch, it has been questioned whether firstlings were ever used for burnt offerings or sacrifices under the law of Moses. Clearly they were. Under that law, the firstlings (i.e., first-born male animals) were dedicated to the Lord (see Exodus 13:12,15). Israelites were forbidden to use them for work or gain (see Deuteronomy 15:19-20). They were to take the firstlings to the temple to be sacrificed (see Deuteronomy 12:5-6, 11-14). Their blood was sprinkled upon the altar and their fat was burnt (see Numbers 18:17-18), and what was left was given to the individual and his household, to be eaten at the temple (see Deuteronomy 15:19-20). This symbolized the shedding of Christ's blood and was a type of his giving to his disciples ("Take, eat; this is my body"--Matthew 26:26). Since the days of Adam and Eve, the offering of firstlings at open altars has symbolized the sacrifice of God's first and only begotten son (see Moses 5:50. By bringing their firstlings to the temple, Benjamin and his people observed not only the ancient principles of sacrifice in general, but at the same time the specific provisions of the law of Moses with respect to the sacrifice of firstlings. [John W. Welch, "The Temple in the Book of Mormon," in Temples of the Ancient World, p. 351] [See the commentary on Alma 34:10]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary