Luke 2:7 Commentary - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

7. Her first born See note on Mat 1:25. Van Oosterzee says, “The question of the brethren of Jesus must be decided independently of the phrase first born.” Not independently, we reply; the argument is far from standing as it would if Jesus were not twice called first born long after it was known, if true, that there was no second born. The proof though not conclusive of itself is cogent.

In swaddling clothes The verb to swathe or swaddle signifies to wrap tightly round with bandages or cloth. This custom of tightly binding the new-born infant was formerly practiced with injurious severity until medical men grew wiser.

Manger… inn It seems clear from the text that the manger was not in the inn or kahn. If the stable itself were in the khan it would hardly be said that there was no room for them in the khan. Hence there is good reason to believe with Dr. Thomson, “That the birth actually took place in an ordinary house of some common peasant, and that the babe was laid in one of the mangers, such as are still found in the dwellings of the farmers of this region.”

Manger “It is common,” says Dr. Thomson, to find two sides of the one room, where the native farmer resides with his cattle, fitted up with these mangers, and the remainder [of the room] elevated about two feet higher for the accommodation of the family. The mangers are built of small stones and mortar in the shape of a box, or rather of a kneading trough, and when cleaned up and whitewashed, as they often are in summer, they do very well to lay little babes in. Indeed, our own children have slept there in our rude summer retreats on the mountains.”

Dr. Thomson well says that the word house used by Matthew (Mat 2:11) “does not much favour the idea” held by many that the birth took place in a cave. Yet as this idea is as old as the middle of the second century, it is entitled to profound respect. Over the cave selected by that primitive tradition the empress Helena, mother of Constantine, erected the magnificent Church of the Nativity, which still stands, (or rather its successor built by Justinian,) as an object of profound interest to the Christian traveler in the East. It is the oldest Christian Church in the world. The cave which it encloses Isaiah 38 feet by 11, and at the eastern end a silver star in a marble slab designates the spot of the birth.

That a native tradition should have selected a cave as the “house” of the Saviour’s birth is good proof that there is nothing in the supposition unnatural or improbable. In the soft limestone rock of Judea, easily cut and usually dry, caves, either natural or artificial, abound, and they are used for a great variety of purposes. They are used for dwellings, inns, stables, fortresses, refuges, and sepulchers. Pococke mentions a cave capacious enough to hold thirty thousand men; and Dr. Bonar (quoted in Andrew’s Life of Christ) says of the cave of Adullam, “You might spend days in exploring these vast apartments; for the whole mountain seems excavated, or rather honey-combed.” Mr. H.B. Tristam (The Land of Israel; or, Travels in Palestine: London. 1865) says of Endor: “It is full of caves, and the mud-built hovels are stuck on to the rocks in clusters, and are for the most part a mere continuation and enlargement of the cavern behind, which forms the larger part of this human den.” In other parts these cave-houses abound of a more eligible quality, and the traditionary cave of the Nativity bears, therefore, we may admit, strong marks of genuineness.

Inn Called a khan when belonging to a village or city; a caravanserai in the rural region.

The khan is not like an American tavern or hotel, a place where all the wants of a traveler or boarder are richly supplied for pay. It is a building erected at public expense, where merely the bare room for man and beast exists; but the traveler must bring his own equipments, furnishings, food, and fodder. In earlier ages, with a scanty population, the hospitable tent-dweller, like Abraham, hastened to entertain his guest with a gratuitous banquet, partly to maintain that law of hospitality which, in the absence of all inns in the country, was necessary to make traveling practicable, and partly because a guest in the desert was a rarity to be accepted and enjoyed. But as a denser population grew, this became too expensive an enjoyment. A single building was set apart for strangers who had no friends in town; and the old habit of hospitality showed itself merely in erecting the khan by town expense.

The khan is usually much on the model of the eastern house, but of much larger extent, as described in our first volume, pp. 121, 326. Four rows of apartments are so constructed as to enclose a large yard, with a well in the centre, where the cattle may be kept. The outer wall is usually of brick upon a stone basement. The apartments are entered by the guest from the yard, and are elevated two or three feet above the level of the yard. Below and behind the row of the travellers’ apartments was often the row, or the long room, of stables, into which the floors of the apartments, being a little extended, formed a platform upon which the camels could eat. (See the section, next page.) The animals stood with their heads towards the platform, and to their noses were suspended hair-bags containing the grain which they ate, which they rested upon the platform in order to thrust their noses into the grain. If the birth took place in the khan stable, this platform was the manger upon which, wrapped in his swaddling clothes, the infant Saviour was laid.

Consult other comments:

Luke 2:7 - Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Luke 2:7 - The Greek Testament

Luke 2:7 - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Luke 2:7 - Calvin's Complete Commentary

Luke 2:7 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Luke 2:7 - Adam Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible

Luke 2:7 - Commentary on the Holy Bible by Thomas Coke

Luke 2:7 - Companion Bible Notes, Appendices and Graphics

Luke 2:7 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Luke 2:7 - Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Luke 2:7 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Luke 2:7 - Gnomon of the New Testament

Luke 2:7 - The Great Texts of the Bible

Luke 2:7 - Henry Alford's Greek Testament

Luke 2:7 - Biblical Illustrator Edited by Joseph S. Exell

Luke 2:7 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Luke 2:7 - Lightfoot Commentary Gospels

Luke 2:7 - Neighbour's Wells of Living Water

Luke 2:7 - Church Pulpit Commentary

Luke 2:7 - Commentary Series on the Bible by Peter Pett

Luke 2:7 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Luke 2:7 - Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Luke 2:7 - A Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Luke 2:7 - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Luke 2:7 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Luke 2:7 - Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament

Luke 2:7 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Luke 2:7 - Combined Bible Commentary

Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments