Luke 2:44 Commentary - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
44. In the company The caravans in which the passover companies went for the purpose of protection against beasts and robbers must have been each large, composed of many parties, clans, and kindreds. Jesus might easily therefore have been not missed until the end of the first day.
Went a day’s journey
“The usual rate of traveling in the East is three miles an hour; and as the number of hours devoted to traveling rarely exceeds six or eight hours, the distance of an ordinary day’s journey may be considered as twenty or twenty-five miles. The first day, however, on starting on an expedition forms an exception to this rule: on that day it is not customary to go more than six or eight miles, and the tents are pitched for the first night’s encampment almost within sight of the place from which the journey commences. The only reason I heard assigned for starting thus late and stopping so early was, that it furnished an opportunity, if anything should prove to be forgotten, to return to the city and supply the deficiency. ‘We halted early,’ says Mr. Beldam, ‘according to custom, the distance being but thirteen miles from Cairo, in order to muster our forces, and ascertain that all things were provided for a longer flight.’
“The parents of Jesus are said to have traveled a day’s journey on their return, without knowing what had become of their son; they were ignorant whether he was in the company or not, and as if indifferent respecting his safety, make no inquiry in regard to him till the close of the day. Certain critics (it is one of Strauss’s objections) have represented this as so improbable [as well as careless in his parents] and unnatural as to throw discredit upon the truth of the entire narrative. But if the first day’s journey occupied two or three hours only, the difficulty disappears. They had reason to suppose that he was with some of the relatives or friends who were traveling with them; they could act naturally enough under the impression for so short a time, and would have no occasion for anxiety until his continued absence, when they came to halt, aroused their fears.” Hackett’s Bib. Ill., pp. 15-19.
Tradition of no great value fixes upon El Bireh, about three miles north of Jerusalem, as the spot where the present caravan stopped; inasmuch as this is the ordinary first station for the night with parties traveling north. But says Hackett, in his Eastern Travels, (p. 19,) “What route the parents of Jesus actually took on that occasion we cannot decide. The Galilean caravans, in order to avoid Samaria, usually crossed the ford of the Jordan near Bethshean, now Beisan, into Peraea, then passed down on the east side of Jordan, recrossed the river near Jericho, and ascended to Jerusalem through the desert which lies between the two cities. (See note on Joh 2:12.) A company returning to Galilee by the same route would be apt to stop, for the first night, near the eastern foot of the Mount of Olives; a ride at foot pace of not more than two hours. They would not be likely to go further the first day, because that would oblige them to encamp in a hostile region.”
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Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885) was a prominent university professor, theologian, and author. He served as Professor of Ancient Languages at Wesleyan University in Connecticut; as Professor of Rhetoric at the University of Michigan; and as editor of the Methodist Quarterly Review from 1856 to1884. He authored numerous books including Commentary on the New Testament (New York: Carlton & Porter, 1860); Commentary on the Old Testament (New York: Nelson & Phillips, 1873); What is Arminianism? (Toronto: W. Briggs, 1879); and Essays, Reviews, and Discourses (New York: Phillips & Hunt, 1887).