"To wean" in English Versions of the Bible is always the translation of (gamal), but gamal has a much wider force than merely "to wean," signifying "to deal fully with," as in Psalms 13:6, etc. Hence, as applied to a child, gamal covers the whole period of nursing and care until the weaning is complete (1 Kings 11:20). This period in ancient Israel extended to about 3 years, and when it was finished the child was mature enough to be entrusted to strangers (1 Samuel 1:24). And, as the completion of the period marked the end of the most critical stage of the child's life, it was celebrated with a feast (Genesis 21:8), a custom still observed in the Orient. The weaned child, no longer fretting for the breast and satisfied with its mother's affection, is used in Psalms 131:2 as a figure for Israel's contentment with God's care, despite the smallness of earthly possessions. In Isaiah 28:9 there is an ironical question, `Is God to teach you knowledge as if you were children? You should have learned His will long ago!'
Burton Scott Easton
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