Luke 2:42
And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
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(42)When he was twelve years old.—The stages of Jewish childhood were marked as follows:—At three the boy was weaned, and wore for the first time the fringed or tasselled garment prescribed by Numbers 15:38-41, and Deuteronomy 22:12. His education began, at first under the mother’s care. At five he was to learn the Law, at first by extracts written on scrolls of the more important passages, the Shemk or Creed of Deuteronomy 2:4, the Hallel or Festival Psalms (Psalms 114-118, 136), and by catechetical teaching in school. At twelve he became more directly responsible for his obedience to the Law, and on the day when he attained the age of thirteen, put on for the first time the phylacteries which were worn at the recital of his daily prayer. (See Note on Matthew 23:5.) It was accordingly an epoch of transition analogous to that which obtains among us at Confirmation. It was, therefore in strict accordance with usage, with perhaps a slight anticipation of the actual day, that the “child Jesus” should, at the age of twelve, have gone up with His parents to Jerusalem. If the conjecture suggested in the Notes on Luke 2:8, that the birth of our Lord coincided with the Paschal Season, be accepted, He may actually have completed His thirteenth year during the Feast; and so have become, in the fullest sense, one of the “children of the Law,” bound to study it and know its meaning. This at least fits in with, and in fact explains, the narrative that follows. In the later Maxims of the Fathers (Pirke Aboth) two other stages of education were marked out. At ten, a boy was to enter on the study of the Mischna (= “comments”), or body of traditional interpretations of the Law; at eighteen, on that of the Gemara (= “completeness”), or wider collection of sayings or legends, which, with the Mischna, made up what is known as the Talmud (= “learning,” or “doctrine”).

2:41-52 It is for the honour of Christ that children should attend on public worship. His parents did not return till they had stayed all the seven days of the feast. It is well to stay to the end of an ordinance, as becomes those who say, It is good to be here. Those that have lost their comforts in Christ, and the evidences of their having a part in him, must bethink themselves where, and when, and how they lost them, and must turn back again. Those that would recover their lost acquaintance with Christ, must go to the place in which he has put his name; there they may hope to meet him. They found him in some part of the temple, where the doctors of the law kept their schools; he was sitting there, hearkening to their instructions, proposing questions, and answering inquiries, with such wisdom, that those who heard were delighted with him. Young persons should seek the knowledge of Divine truth, attend the ministry of the gospel, and ask such questions of their elders and teachers as may tend to increase their knowledge. Those who seek Christ in sorrow, shall find him with the greater joy. Know ye not that I ought to be in my Father's house; at my Father's work; I must be about my Father's business. Herein is an example; for it becomes the children of God, in conformity to Christ, to attend their heavenly Father's business, and make all other concerns give way to it. Though he was the Son of God, yet he was subject to his earthly parents; how then will the foolish and weak sons of men answer it, who are disobedient to their parents? However we may neglect men's sayings, because they are obscure, yet we must not think so of God's sayings. That which at first is dark, may afterwards become plain and easy. The greatest and wisest, those most eminent, may learn of this admirable and Divine Child, that it is the truest greatness of soul to know our own place and office; to deny ourselves amusements and pleasures not consistent with our state and calling.Twelve years old - All males among the Hebrews were required to appear three times a year before God, to attend on the ordinances of religion in the temple, and it is probable that this was the age at which they first went up to Jerusalem, Exodus 23:14-17; Deuteronomy 16:16.

To Jerusalem - Where the feasts of the Jews were all held. This was a journey from Nazareth of about 70 miles.

After the custom of the feast - According to the usual manner of the feast.

42. went up—"were wont to go." Though males only were required to go up to Jerusalem at the three annual festivals (Ex 23:14-17), devout women, when family duties permitted, went also, as did Hannah (1Sa 1:7), and, as we here see, the mother of Jesus.

when twelve years old—At this age every Jewish boy was styled "a son of the law," being put under a course of instruction and trained to fasting and attendance on public worship, besides being set to learn a trade. At this age accordingly our Lord is taken up for the first time to Jerusalem, at the passover season, the chief of the three annual festivals. But oh, with what thoughts and feelings must this Youth have gone up! Long ere He beheld it, He had doubtless "loved the habitation of God's house and the place where His honor dwelt" (Ps 26:8), a love nourished, we may be sure, by that "word hid in His heart," with which in afterlife He showed so perfect a familiarity. As the time for His first visit approached, could one's ear have caught the breathings of His young soul, he might have heard Him whispering, "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God. The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go unto the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem!" (Ps 42:1; 87:2; 122:1, 2). On catching the first view of "the city of their solemnities," and high above all in it, "the place of God's rest," we hear Him saying to Himself, "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King: Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God doth shine" (Ps 48:2; 50:2). Of His feelings or actions during all the eight days of the feast not a word is said. As a devout child, in company with its parents, He would go through the services, keeping His thoughts to Himself. But methinks I hear Him, after the sublime services of that feast, saying to Himself, "He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste" (So 2:3, 4).

It is said by those who are learned in the Jewish writings, that till a child was of this age he was not obliged by the law to go. We have in Scripture nothing to ascertain us in the case; it is certain that our Saviour went at this age,

after the custom of the feast, that is, so as to be there about the fourteenth day of the month Nisan. And when he was twelve years old,.... Not that he was now, , "a son of the commandment", (r) to use the Jewish phrase; or now came under the yoke of the law; or was obliged to the duties of adult church membership, as is asserted by some; nor particularly to go to Jerusalem to make his appearance at the feast of the passover, or any other feast: for according to the maxims of the Jews, persons were not obliged to the duties of the law, or subject to the penalties of it in case of non-performance, until they were, a female, at the age of twelve years, and one day, and a male, at the age of thirteen years, and one day; but then they used to train up their children, and inure them to religious exercises before: as for instance, though they were not obliged to fast on the day of atonement, until they were at the age before mentioned; yet, they used them to it two or three year's before, as they were able to endure it: a son of nine, or ten years old, they train him up by hours; they make him fast so many hours; and one of eleven, or "twelve years old", they make him fast a whole day: but then this was not law, but custom; and which they observed, that they might be used to the commandments (s), and be expert in them, and ready to perform them when required. It is said, (t) that "there was a good custom in Jerusalem to make their little sons and daughters fast on a fast day; the son of a year, till the very day he is "twelve years old", when he fasts the whole day; and after that they carry him, and bring him before every ancient man, that he may bless him, and confirm him, and pray over him, that he may be worthy in the law, and in good works; and: every one that is greater than he in the city, he stands up from his place, and goes before him, and bows to him, to pray for him: and this is to learn him, that they are beautiful, and their works beautiful and acceptable to God; and they did not use to leave their little children behind them, but brought them to the synagogues, , "that they might be ready in the commandments".

That they might be inured to them, and expert in them, when they were under obligation to them; for they were not properly under the law, until they were arrived to the age above mentioned; nor were they reckoned adult church members till then, nor then neither, unless worthy persons: for so it is said (u),

"he that is worthy, at thirteen years of age, is called , "a son of the congregation of Israel";

that is, a member of the church. When therefore Joseph and Mary took Jesus along with them, at this age,

when they went up to Jerusalem, after the custom of the feast of the passover, it shows their religious regard to him; and may be an instruction to parents, to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, after their example,

(r) Aben Ezra in Genesis 17.14. (s) Misn. Yoma, c. 8. sect. 4. & Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 82. 1. Maimon. Hilch. Shebitat Asur, c. 2. sect. 10, 11. (t) Massechet Sopherim, c. 18. sect. 5. (u) Zohar in Exod. fol. 39. 4.

And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
Luke 2:42. ἐτῶν δώδεκα: this mention of the age of Jesus is meant to suggest, though it is not directly stated, that this year He went up to Jerusalem with His parents; ἀναβαινόντων includes Him. At twelve a Jewish boy became a son of the law, with the responsibility of a man, putting on the phylacteries which reminded of the obligation to keep the law (vide Wünsche, Beiträge, ad loc.).42. when he was twelve years old] No single word breaks the silence of the Gospels respecting the childhood of Jesus from the return to Nazareth till this time. We infer indeed from scattered hints in Scripture that He “began to do” His work before He “began to teach,” and being “tempted in all points like as we are” won the victory from His earliest years, alike over positive and negative temptations. (Hebrews 5:8. See Ullmann, Sinlessness of Jesus, E. Tr. p. 140.) Up to this time He had grown as other children grow, only in a childhood of stainless and sinless beauty—“as the flower of roses in the spring of the year, and as lilies by the waters,” Sir 39:13-14. This incident of His ‘confirmation,’ as in modern language we might call it, is “the solitary flowret out of the wonderful enclosed garden of the thirty years, plucked precisely there where the swollen bud at a distinctive crisis bursts into flower.” Stier, Words of Jesus, i. 18.

This silence of the Evangelists is a proof of their simple faithfulness, and is in striking contrast with the blaze of foolish and dishonouring miracles with which the Apocryphal Gospels degrade the Divine Boyhood. See my Life of Christ, 1. 58–66. Meanwhile we are permitted to see (i) That our Lord never attended the schools of the Rabbis (Mark 6:2; John 6:42; John 7:15), and therefore that His teaching was absolutely original, and that He would therefore be regarded by the Rabbis as a ‘man of the people,’ or ‘unlearned person.’ (See Acts 4:13; T. B. Berachôth, f. 47. 2; Sir 38:24 fg.) (ii) That He had learnt to write (John 8:6). (iii) That He was acquainted not only with Aramaic, but with Hebrew, Greek, and perhaps Latin (Life of Christ, i. 91); and (iv) That he had been deeply impressed by the lessons of nature (id. i. 93).

twelve years old] Up to this age a Jewish boy was called ‘little,’ afterwards he was called ‘grown up,’ and became a ‘Son of the Law,’ or ‘Son of the Precepts.’ At this age he was presented on the Sabbath called the ‘Sabbath of Phylacteries’ in the Synagogue, and began to wear the phylacteries with which his father presented him. According to the Jews twelve was the age at which Moses left the house of Pharaoh’s daughter, and Samuel was called, and Solomon gave his judgment, and Josiah carried out his reform. (Jos. Antt. ii. 9. 6, v. 10. 4.)Luke 2:42. Ἔτων δώδεκα, twelve years old) This step in the age must doubtless have had something remarkable connected with it in the case of pious boys, judging from the blessed example of the Saviour, who was wont to adapt Himself to the times of human age (to the epochs observed in the life of man): ch. Luke 3:23. No doubt from that time He every year came to the Passover. [Moreover the specimen of His glory given in this passage, dividing as it does the period of thirty years that elapsed from the nativity to the baptism of Christ into two almost equal parts, revived the remembrance of those miraculous facts (connected with His birth), the forgetting of which might otherwise have seemed to admit of excuse.—Harm., p. 59.]Verse 42. - And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. When a Jewish boy was three years old he was given the tasselled garment directed by the Law (Numbers 15:38-41; Deuteronomy 22:12). At five he usually began to learn portions of the Law, under his mother's direction; these were passages written on scrolls, such as the shema or creed of Deuteronomy 6:4, the Hallel Psalms (Psalm 114, 118, 136). When the boy was thirteen years old he wore, for the first time, the phylacteries, which the Jew always put on at the recital of the daily prayer. In the well-known and most ancient 'Maxims of the Fathers' ('Pirke Avoth'), we read that, at the age of ten, a boy was to commence the study of the Mishna (the Mishna was a compilation of traditional interpretations of the Law); at eighteen he was to be instructed in the Gemara (the Gemara was a vast collection of interpretations of the Mishna. The Mishua and Gemara together make up the Talmud. The Mishna may roughly be termed the text, the Gemara the commentary, of the Talmud). Twelve years old

At which age he was known as a son of the law, and came under obligation to observe the ordinances personally.

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