As soon as a child was born it was washed, and rubbed with salt ( Ezekiel 16:4 ), and then swathed with bandages ( Job 38:9 ; Luke 2:7 Luke 2:12 ). A Hebrew mother remained forty days in seclusion after the birth of a son, and after the birth of a daughter double that number of days. At the close of that period she entered into the tabernacle or temple and offered up a sacrifice of purification ( Leviticus 12:1-8 ; Luke 2:22 ). A son was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, being thereby consecrated to God ( Genesis 17:10-12 ; Compare Romans 4:11 ). Seasons of misfortune are likened to the pains of a woman in travail, and seasons of prosperity to the joy that succeeds child-birth ( Isaiah 13:8 ; Jeremiah 4:31 ; John 16:21 John 16:22 ). The natural birth is referred to as the emblem of the new birth ( John 3:3-8 ; Galatians 6:15 ; Titus 3:5 , etc.).
(1) It was said by the angel beforehand of John the Baptist, "Many shall rejoice at his birth"; and when he was born Elisabeth said, "Thus hath the Lord done unto me .... to take away my reproach among men" (Luke 1:14,25). Among the ancient Hebrews barrenness was a "reproach" and the birth of a child, of a son especially, an occasion for rejoicing.
(2) This, no doubt, was due in part to the Messianic hope inspired and sustained by prophecy (see Genesis 3:15, where it was foretold that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head; and subsequent prophecies too numerous to mention). Cases in point worth studying are found in Genesis 4:1, where Eve rejoices over the birth of her firstborn and cries, "I have gotten a man with the help of Yahweh"; and 1 Samuel 1:20, where Hannah exults over her firstborn, calling his name "Samuel," "because," she says, "I have asked him of Yahweh."
(3) The marvelous passage in Isaiah 7:14, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel," must have intensified the longing and hope of every devout Jewish maiden to be a mother, if mayhap, under God, she might be the mother of Messiah--Immanuel! (Compare Matthew 1:22,23; Luke 1:13 f.)
George B. Eager
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