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Page:A book of folk-lore (1913).djvu/236

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But we are drifting away from the point specially to be considered--the sacrifice of the first-born, for this is what really the dim superstition amounts to that shrinks from allowing a child of one's own to be the first to be baptised in a new font or the first to be buried in a new cemetery.

The conviction that the first-born child had to be sacrificed is very ancient. We see it in Genesis, where Abraham takes Isaac to Moriah, and in the subsequent redemption of the first-born by an offering to Jehovah. This was a belief or practice borrowed by the Hebrews from the Canaanitish inhabitants of the land.

The excavations of Tel-el-Hessy have revealed great numbers of infant bones, often in pots, buried under the platform on which rise some rude monoliths, and these were in all probability the first-born children of a family sacrificed to Baal.

In Exodus xiii.2 is the command: "Sanctify unto Me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is Mine." The first-born became saced, not sacred only but destined to be sacrificed, and the first-born child had to be redeemed at a price, whereas the first-born of cattle had to die. "The first-born of the Sons