I have fed you with milk
It is usual with the Jews to compare the law to milk, and they say F3, that
``as milk strengthens and nourishes an infant, so the law strengthens and nourishes the soul;''but the apostle does not here mean (hrwt lv blx) , "the milk of the law", as they F4 call it, but the Gospel; comparable to milk, for its purity and wholesomeness, for the nourishing virtue there is in it, and because easy of digestion; for he designs by it, the more plain and easy doctrines of the Gospel, such as babes in Christ were capable of understanding and receiving: and not with meat; the more solid doctrines of the Gospel, and sublime mysteries of grace; the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom; such truths as were attended with difficulties, to which the carnal reason of men made many objections, and so were only fit to be brought before such who are of full age, young men, or rather fathers in Christ; who have had a large experience, and a long time of improvement in spiritual knowledge, and have their senses exercised to distinguish between truth and error. The reason he gives for this his conduct is,
for hitherto ye were not able to bear it;
they could not receive, relish, and digest it; it was too strong meat for them, they being weak in faith, and but babes in Christ; wherefore he prudently adapted things to their capacities, and that in perfect consistence with that faithfulness and integrity, for which he was so remarkable: for the Gospel he preached to them, which he calls "milk", was not another Gospel, or contrary to that which goes by the name of "meat": only the one consisted of truths more easily to be understood, and was delivered in a manner more suited to their capacities than the other: he adds,
neither yet now are ye able;
which carries in it a charge of dulness and negligence, that they had been so long learning, and were improved no more in the knowledge of the truth; were as yet only in the alphabet of the Gospel, and needed to be afresh instructed in the first principles of the oracles of God; for anything beyond these was too high for them. The apostle seems to allude to the manner and custom of the Jews, in training up their children to learning; as to their age when they admit them scholars, their rule is this F5,
``they introduce children (into the school) to be taught when six or seven years of age, (wpwg Nynbw Nbh xk ypl) , "according to the child's strength, and the make of his body, and less than six years of age they do not take any in."''But sooner than this, a father is obliged to teach his child at home, concerning which they say F6,
``from what time is his father obliged to teach him the law? as soon as he begins to speak, he teaches him the law Moses commanded us, and "hear O Israel", and after that he instructs him, (Myqwop Myqwop jem jem) , "by little and little, here and there a verse", till he is six or seven years of age, and, (wyrwb ypl lkh) , "all this according to the clearness of his understanding";''i.e. as he is able to take things in; and even till twelve years he was to be used with a great deal of tenderness:
``says R. Isaac F7, at Usha they made an order, that a man should "use his son gently", until he is twelve years of age; the gloss upon it is, if his son refuses to learn, he shall use him (Mykr Myrbdbw txnb) , "with mildness and tender language."''
F3 Kimchi in Isa. lv. 1. Abarbinel, Mashamia Jeshua, fol. 26. 1.
F4 Jarchi in Cant. v. 12.
F5 Maimom. Talmud Tora, c. 2. sect. 2.
F6 Ib. c. 1. sect. 6.
F7 T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 50. 1.