Are there any early Judaic sources that discuss whether all firstborn sons HAVE to be redeemed, or can any firstborn son be dedicated as a priest - and NOT redeemed?
Note: Like, the Tannaim, the Mishnah, or Talmud.

At the very least, Scripture is clear that firstborn sons NOT dedicated as priests must be redeemed.


Initially, priests seem to have been taken from the "Firstborn Sons", not just Levites :

Exodus 13:2, (Shemot) - "Sanctify to Me every firstborn, every one that opens the womb among the children of Israel among man and among animals; it is Mine."

Number 3:41, (Bamidbar) - And you shall take the Levites for Me I am the Lord instead of all firstborns among the children of Israel. And [take] the Levites' animals instead of all the firstborn animals of the children of Israel.

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    Possible dupe judaism.stackexchange.com/q/53311/759
    – Double AA
    May 9 '17 at 1:54
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    I don't understand why the (edited) question is getting downvotes. While we all expect that in modern times kohanim won't find themselves accepting custody of other people's children, it's reasonable to ask whether it's actually optional. May 9 '17 at 2:38
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    @monic if the verse says to take a lulav is it reasonable to ask if it's optional? if all an answer needs to do is cite the verse, how good is the question?
    – Double AA
    May 9 '17 at 2:45
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    @DoubleAA -A.) My interest is not the verse, but Rabbinical thoughts and commentary. The verse is why I asked the question. I am just asking for references to commentary on the matter. B.) If Rabbinical Judaism was as simple as pointing to a verse, then we wouldn't have questions where Halakha appears to supersede Scripture, (Can The Torah Contradict Halacha (Jewish Law)?). C.) But - I will certainly update the question to emphasize that I am asking for external Rabbinical opinion. May 9 '17 at 2:47
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    @DoubleAA I assume the OP didn't know the (different) verse cited in the answer. The torah sometimes says something in one place and clarifies it in another, and people can miss that. I'm pretty sure we've had other questions arising from such situations. May 9 '17 at 2:53

The redemption of every first born child is mandatory as we see in the pesukim that I reference.

Shmos Bo 13:13

And every firstborn donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, and if you do not redeem [it], you shall decapitate it, and every firstborn of man among your sons, you shall redeem.

Additionally, Bamidbar Korach 18:15

Every first issue of the womb of any creature, which they present to the Lord, whether of man or beast, shall be yours. However, you shall redeem the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of unclean animals you shall redeem.

Once Hashem caused the Levites to redeem the bechorim, He then specified the various roles that the different groups of Leviim would serve in the Mishkan. Aharon and his sons were the priests and the remainder of the trib of Levi had the other roles in the mishkan (such as the choir etc.).

I see that you removed the Shmuel question. However, I answered it before you did so.

Shmuel Hanavi was a Levite and a descendant of Korach. The pasuk you refer to was where his father lived, not that he was from Ephraim. As we see from Medrash Tanchuma

Korach saw that Shmuel Hanavi was going to descend from him. Thus Korach concluded that if Shmuel Hanavi was going to come from him it must be that he deserves to be the leader. Rashi adds in that Korach felt he shouldn’t pass up taking the position of Cohen Gadol for himself. The Midrash explains that Korach didn’t realize that he would die, that his children would be Chozer Betshuva, and that Shmuel would descend from his son.

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    "The pasuk you refer to was where his father lived, not that he was from Ephraim" Usually people lived in areas based on their tribe. Can you demonstrate that this was an exception?
    – mevaqesh
    May 9 '17 at 0:27
  • @mevaqesh The Levites did not have a specific territory and were scattered among the entire country. As we see Medrash Tanchuma Korach saw that Shmuel Hanavi was going to descend from him. May 9 '17 at 1:19
  • @sabbahillel - +1, This answer is very helpful - showing the related commandments. However, the only reason I haven't accepted it - is because I have already read those references, but am hoping for "historical interpretation" of these texts, from Tannaitic, Mishnaic, or Talmudic sources - or even Parallel interpretations from the Targum. May 9 '17 at 2:59

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