And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)She brought forth her first-born son.—On the question whether anything may be inferred from the word “first-born,” as to the subsequent life of Mary and Joseph, see Note on Matthew 1:25.
Wrapped him in swaddling clothes.—After the manner of the East, then, as now, these were fastened tightly round the whole body of the child, confining both legs and arms.
Laid him in a manger.—A tradition found in the Apocryphal Gospel of the Infancy fixes a cave near Bethlehem as the scene of the Nativity, and Justin Martyr finds in this a fulfilment of the LXX. version of Isaiah 33:16, “His place of defence shall be in a lofty cave.” Caves in the limestone rocks of Judæa were so often used as stables, that there is nothing improbable in the tradition. The present Church of the Nativity has beneath it a natural crypt or cavern, in which St. Jerome is said to have passed many years, compiling his Latin translation (that known as the Vulgate) of the Sacred Scriptures. The traditional ox and ass, which appear in well-nigh every stage of Christian art in pictures of the Nativity, are probably traceable to a fanciful interpretation of Isaiah 1:3, which is, indeed, cited in the Apocryphal Gospel ascribed to St. Matthew, as being thus fulfilled.
There was no room for them in the inn.—The statement implies that the town was crowded with persons who had come up to be registered there—some, perhaps, exulting, like Joseph, in their descent from David. The inn of Bethlehem—what in modern Eastern travel is known as a khan or caravanserai, as distinct from a hostelry (the “inn” of Luke 10:34)—offered the shelter of its walls and roofs, and that only. It had a memorable history of its own, being named in Jeremiah 41:17, as the “inn of Chimham,” the place of rendezvous from which travellers started on their journey to Egypt. It was so called after the son of Barzillai, whom David seems to have treated as an adopted son (2Samuel 19:37-38), and was probably built by him in his patron’s city as a testimony of his gratitude.
Swaddling clothes - When a child among the Hebrews was born, it was washed in water, rubbed in salt, and then wrapped in swaddling clothes; that is, not garments regularly made, as with us, but bands or blankets that confined the limbs closely, Ezekiel 16:4. There was nothing special in the manner in which the infant Jesus was treated.
Laid him in a manger - The word rendered "inn" in this verse means simply a place of halting, a lodging-place; in modern terms, a khan or caravanserai (Robinson's "Biblical Research in Palestine," iii. 431). The word rendered "manger" means simply a crib or place where cattle were fed. "Inns," in our sense of the term, were anciently unknown in the East, and now they are not common. Hospitality was generally practiced, so that a traveler had little difficulty in obtaining shelter and food when necessary. As traveling became more frequent, however, khans or caravanserais were erected for public use - large structures where the traveler might freely repair and find lodging for himself and his beast, he himself providing food and forage. Many such khans were placed at regular intervals in Persia. To such a place it was, though already crowded, that Joseph and Mary resorted at Bethlehem. Instead of finding a place in the "inn," or the part of the caravanserai where the travelers themselves found a place of repose, they were obliged to be contented in one of the stalls or recesses appropriated to the beasts on which they rode.
The following description of an Eastern inn or caravanserai, by Dr. Kitto, will well illustrate this passage: "It presents an external appearance which suggests to a European traveler the idea of a fortress, being an extensive square pile of strong and lofty walls, mostly of brick upon a basement of stone, with a grand archway entrance. This leads ...to a large open area, with a well in the middle, and surrounded on three or four sides with a kind of piazza raised upon a platform 3 or 4 feet high, in the wall behind which are small doors leading to the cells or oblong chambers which form the lodgings. The cell, with the space on the platform in front of it, forms the domain of each individual traveler, where he is completely secluded, as the apparent piazza is not open, but is composed of the front arches of each compartment. There is, however, in the center of one or more of the sides a large arched hall quite open in front ... The cells are completely unfurnished, and have generally no light but from the door, and the traveler is generally seen in the recess in front of his apartment except during the heat of the day ... Many of these caravanserais have no stables, the cattle of the travelers being accommodated in the open area; but in the more complete establishments ...there are ...spacious stables, formed of covered avenues extending between the back wall of the lodging apartments and the outer wall of the whole building, the entrance being at one or more of the corners of the inner quadrangle.
The stable is on the same level with the court, and thus below the level of the tenements which stand on the raised platform. Nevertheless, this platform is allowed to project behind into the stable, so as to form a bench ... It also often happens that not only this bench exists in the stable, forming a more or less narrow platform along its extent, but also recesses corresponding to these "in front" of the cells toward the open area, and formed, in fact, by the side-walls of these cells being allowed to project behind to the boundary of the platform. These, though small and shallow, form convenient retreats for servants and muleteers in bad weather ... Such a recess we conceive that Joseph and Mary occupied, with their ass or mule - if they had one, as they perhaps had tethered - in front ... It might be rendered quite private by a cloth being stretched across the lower part."
It may be remarked that the fact that Joseph and Mary were in that place, and under a necessity of taking up their lodgings there, was in itself no proof of poverty; it was a simple matter of necessity there was "no room" at the inn. Yet it is worthy of our consideration that Jesus was born "poor." He did not inherit a princely estate. He was not cradled, as many are, in a palace. He had no rich friends. He had virtuous, pious parents, of more value to a child than many riches. And in this we are shown that it is no dishonor to be poor. Happy is that child who, whether his parents be rich or poor, has a pious father and mother. It is no matter if he has not as much wealth, as fine clothes, or as splendid a house as another. It is enough for him to be as "Jesus" was, and God will bless him.
wrapt him … laid him—The mother herself did so. Had she then none to help her? It would seem so (2Co 8:9).
a manger—the manger, the bench to which the horses' heads were tied, on which their food could rest [Webster and Wilkinson].
no room in the inn—a square erection, open inside, where travellers put up, and whose rear parts were used as stables. The ancient tradition, that our Lord was born in a grotto or cave, is quite consistent with this, the country being rocky. In Mary's condition the journey would be a slow one, and ere they arrived, the inn would be fully occupied—affecting anticipation of the reception He was throughout to meet with (Joh 1:11).
Wrapt in His swaddling—bands,
And in His manger laid,
The hope and glory of all lands
Is come to the world's aid.
No peaceful home upon His cradle smiled,
Guests rudely went and came where slept the royal Child.
But some "guests went and came" not "rudely," but reverently. God sent visitors of His own to pay court to the new-born King.her firstborn Son, but ton uion authv ton prwtotokon, her Son, the firstborn; he was truly her Son, and her Son firstborn, but he was not called prowtotocov upon that account merely, for he was the firstborn of every creature, Colossians 1:15: he was the firstborn also of Mary, but it cannot be from thence concluded she had more sons, for where there is but one son he is the firstborn.
And wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, &c. Whether the inn was in the city, or in the suburbs adjoining near to the city, is not material for us to know; nor, considering the occasion of meeting at Bethlehem at that day, and the numbers who upon that occasion must be there, is it at all strange, that a person of no higher visible quality than a carpenter should not find a room in the inn, but be thrust into a stable; nor was it unusual in those countries for men and women to have lodgings in the same rooms where beasts were kept, it is no more than is at this day in some places even in Europe. Here the virgin falls into her labour, brings forth her Son, and lodgeth him in a manger; God (by this) teaching all Christians to despise the high and gay things of this world. He who, though he was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with the Father, thus making himself of no reputation; and being found in fashion as a man, thus humbling himself, as the apostle speaks, Philippians 2:6-8.
"Lo! the king Messiah is born; he said to him, what is his name? Menachem: he asked him, what is his father's name? he replied to him, Hezekiah; he said unto him, from whence is he? he answered, from the palace of the king of Bethlehem.
Which is elsewhere (l) reported, with some little variation; the Arabian said to the Jew,
"the Redeemer of the Jews is born; he said unto him, what is his name? he replied, Menachem is his name: and what is his father's name? he answered, Hezekiah: he said unto him, and where do they dwell? he replied, in Birath Arba, in Bethlehem.
And the Jewish chronologer affirms (m), that "Jesus the Nazarene, was born at Bethlehem Judah, a "parsa" and a half from Jerusalem.
And even the author of the blasphemous book of the life of Christ owns (n), that "Bethlehem Judah was the place of his nativity.
Jesus is called Mary's firstborn, because she had none before him; though she might not have any after him; for the first that opened the matrix, was called the firstborn, though none followed after, and was holy to the Lord, Exodus 13:2. Christ, as to his human nature; was Mary's firstborn; and as to his divine nature, God's firstborn:
and wrapped him in swaddling clothes; which shows, that he was in all things made like unto us, sin only excepted. This is one of the first things done to a new born infant, after that it is washed, and its navel cut; see Ezekiel 16:4 and which Mary did herself, having neither midwife nor nurse with her; from whence it has been concluded, that the birth of Jesus was easy, and that she brought him forth without pain, and not in that sorrow women usually do,
and laid him in a manger. The Persic version serves for a comment; "she put him into the middle of the manger, in the place in which they gave food to beasts; because in the place whither they came, they had no cradle": this shows the meanness of our Lord's birth, and into what a low estate he came; and that now, as afterwards, though Lord of all, yet had not where to lay his head in a proper place; and expresses his amazing grace, in that he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor: and the reason of his being here laid was,
because there was no room for them in the inn. It seems that Joseph had no house of his own to go into, nor any relation and friend to receive him: and it may be, both his own father and Mary's father were dead, and therefore were obliged to put up at an inn; and in this there was no room for them, because of the multitude that were come thither to be enrolled: and this shows their poverty and meanness, and the little account that was made of them; for had they been rich, and made any considerable figure, they would have been regarded, and room made for them; especially since Mary was in the circumstances she was; and it was brutish in them to turn them into a stable, when such was her case,And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)7. firstborn] The word has no bearing on the controversy as to the ‘brethren of Jesus,’ as it does not necessarily imply that the Virgin had other children. See Hebrews 1:6, where first-born=only-begotten.
wrapped him in swaddling clothes] Ezekiel 16:4. In her poverty she had none to help her, but (in the common fashion of the East) wound the babe round and round with swathes with her own hands.
in a manger] If the Received Text were correct it would be ‘in the manger,’ but the article is omitted by A, B, D, L. Phatnç is sometimes rendered ‘stall’ (as in Luke 13:15; 2 Chronicles 32:28, LXX.); but ‘manger’ is probably right here. It is derived from pateomai, ‘I eat’ (Curtius, Griech. Et. ii. 84), and is used by the LXX. for the Hebrew. אֵבוּם ‘crib,’ in Proverbs 14:4. Mangers are very ancient, and are to this day sometimes used as cradles in the East (Thomson, Land and Book, ii. 533). The ox and the ass which are traditionally represented in pictures are only mentioned in the apocryphal Gospel of Matthew , 14, and were suggested by Isaiah 1:3, and Habakkuk 3:2, which in the LXX. and the ancient Latin Version (Vetus Itala) was mistranslated “Between two animals thou shalt be made known.”
there was no room for them in the inn] Kataluma may also mean guest-chamber as in Luke 22:11, but inn seems to be here the right rendering. There is another word for inn, pandocheion (Luke 10:34), which implies an inn with a host. Bethlehem was a poor place, and its inn was probably a mere khan or caravanserai, which is an enclosed space surrounded by open recesses of which the paved floor (leewan) is raised a little above the ground. There is often no host, and the use of any vacant leewan is free, but the traveller pays a trifle for food, water, &c. If the khan be crowded the traveller must be content with a corner of the courtyard or enclosed place among the cattle, or else in the stable. The stable is often a limestone cave or grotto, and there is a very ancient tradition that this was the case in the khan of Bethlehem. (Just. Martyr, Dial. c. Tryph. c. 78, and the Apocryphal Gospels, Protev. xix., Evang. Infant. iii. &c.) If, as is most probable, the traditional site of the Nativity is the real one, it took place in one of the caves where St Jerome spent so many years (Ep. 24, ad Marcell.) as a hermit, and translated the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate). The khan perhaps dated back as far as the days of David under the name of the House or Hotel (Gêrooth) of Chimham (2 Samuel 19:37-38; Jeremiah 41:17).
The tender grace and perfect simplicity of the narrative is one of the marks of its truthfulness, and is again in striking contrast with the endlessly multiplied miracles of the Apocryphal Gospels. “The unfathomable depths of the divine counsels were moved; the fountains of the great deep were broken up; the healing of the nations was issuing forth; but nothing was seen on the surface of human society but this slight rippling of the water.” Isaac Williams, The Nativity.Luke 2:7. Ἔτεκε, she brought forth) O much wished-for birth, without which we ourselves might well wish that we had never been born! But do thou thyself, reader, see that thou makest sure of the benefit of that nativity.—V. g.]—πρωτότοκον, her first-born) A son is so called, before whom none else has been born, not a son who is born before others. The Hebrew בכור has a more absolute meaning.—ἐσπαργάνωσεν, wrapt in swaddling clothes) So the Wisd. of Song of Solomon 7:4, ἐν σπαργάνοις ἀνετράφην: therefore σπάργανα, swaddling clothes, are not in themselves as it were a thing worthless and torn. The rest of the attentions which used to be bestowed on infants just born, as described in Ezekiel 16:4, are not expressed here.—ἐν τῇ φάτνῃ, in the manger) Luke 2:12. A place put in antithesis to the ‘inn,’ the place for the reception of men. It is probable that some imitations of this manger were afterwards made at Bethlehem for the sake of pilgrims (just as they were made in every part of the Mount of Olives), some one of which was afterwards accounted as the very place wherein the infant Jesus lay. The Saviour had a manger for His bed. He was, when a child, destitute of the convenience of a rocking cradle, but yet was without taint of impatience.—ἐν τῷ καταλύματι, in the inn) Even in the present day, there is seldom found a place [room] for Christ in inns.
 The word is used of rags in Aristoph. Ach. 430.—ED. and TRANSL.Verse 7. - Her firstborn Son. This expression has no real bearing on the question respecting the relationship of the so-called brethren of Jesus to Mary. The writer of this commentary, without hesitation, accepts the general tradition of the Catholic Church as expressed by the great majority of her teachers in all ages. This tradition pronounces these brethren to have been
(1) either his half-brethren, sons of Joseph by a former marriage; or
(2) his cousins. In the passage in Hebrews (Hebrews 1:6), "when he bringeth in the First Begotten into the world," "First Begotten" signifies "Only Begotten." (On the whole question, see Bishop Lightfoot's exhaustive essay on the "Brethren of the Lord" in his 'Commentary on the Galatians.') There was no room for them in the inn. "The inn of Bethlehem, what in modern Eastern travel is known as a khan or caravanserai, as distinct from a hostelry (the 'inn' of Luke 10:34). Such an inn or khan offered to the traveler simply the shelter of its walls and roofs. This khan of Bethlehem had a memorable history of its own, being named in Jeremiah 41:17 as the 'inn of Chimham,' the place of rendezvous from which travelers started on their journey to Egypt. It was so called after the son of Barzillai, whom David seems to have treated as an adopted son (2 Samuel 19:37, 38), and was probably built by him in his patron's city as a testimony of his gratitude" (Dean Plumptre). The stable was not unfrequently a limestone cave, and there is a very ancient tradition that there was a cave of this description attached to the "inn," or caravanserai, of Bethlehem. This "inn" would, no doubt, be a large one, owing to its being in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, and would often be crowded with the poorer class of pilgrims who went up to the temple at the seasons of the greater feasts. Bethlehem is only six miles from Jerusalem.
The Greek reads literally, her son, the first-born.
Wrapped in swaddling-clothes (ἐσπαργάνωσεν)
Only here and Luke 2:12. Naturally found often in medical writings. Swaddle is swathed, from the verb to swathe.
In a manger (ἐν φάτνῃ)
Used by Luke only, here and Luke 13:15. Wyc. has a cracche, spelt also cratch. Compare French crche, a manger. Quite possibly a rock-cave. Dr. Thomson says: "I have seen many such, consisting of one or more rooms, in front of and including a cavern where the cattle were kept" ("Land and Book").
In the inn (ἐν τῷ καταλύματι)
Only here, Luke 23:11; Mark 14:14, on which see note. In both these passages it is rendered guest-chamber, which can hardly be the meaning here, as some have maintained. (See Geikie, "Life and Words of Christ," i., 121.) In that case the expression would be, they found no κατάλυμα, guest-chamber. The word refers to the ordinary khan, or caravanserai. Tynd., hostrey. "A Syrian khan is a fort and a mart; a refuge from thieves; a shelter from the heat and dust; a place where a man and his beast may lodge; where a trader may sell his wares, and a pilgrim may slake his thirst....Where built by a great sheikh, it would have a high wall, an inner court, a range of arches or lewans, an open gallery round the four sides, and, in many cases, a tower from which the watcher might descry the approach of marauding bands. On one side of the square, but outside the wall, there is often a huddle of sheds, set apart from the main edifice, as stables for the asses and camels, the buffaloes and goats. In the centre of the khan springs a fountain of water, the first necessity of an Arab's life; and around the jets and troughs in which the limpid element streams, lies the gay and picturesque litter of the East. Camels wait to be unloaded; dogs quarrel for a bone; Bedaween from the desert, their red zannars choked with pistols, are at prayer. In the archways squat the merchants with their bales of goods....Half-naked men are cleansing their hands ere sitting down to eat. Here a barber is at work upon a shaven crown; there a fellah lies asleep in the shade....Each man has to carry his dinner and his bed; to litter his horse or camel; to dress his food; to draw his water; to light his fire, and to boil his mess of herbs" (Hepworth Dixon, "The Holy Land").
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