Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Swaddling Clothes and the Virgin Birth!
John D. Keyser
"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" (Luke 2:7).
"And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12).
It is well known that most people interpret the two verses above as referring to the clothing new-born babies wear today, i.e. the bundling of a new-born baby.
I, myself, did not understand the true interpretation of the word "swaddled" as used in the Middle East in times gone by. I ignorantly accepted these verses to mean the baby was bundled up in a blanket or other clothes. It was not until fairly recently that I stumbled across the word "swaddled" in a church booklet that clearly explained the meaning of the word through 1st-century Jewish eyes. With this in mind, let's take a look at the birth of the male-child Yeshua the Messiah.
Before we go into the Scriptural and historical understanding of this custom that was practiced by the majority of Semites -- including the Jews -- we need to know what being "swaddled" meant to them. In Jewish marriages, one of the greatest gifts that could be bestowed upon them was to have children -- and especially to have sons. This is because the Jews awaited the coming of their Messiah, and every Jewish family lived in the hope that their son would be that promised Messiah. Therefore, children were truly considered to be the "salt of the earth." Following is the procedure of a new-born baby being "swaddled."
A new-born child is not clothed, but "swaddled." The word "clothes" found in the old King James Bible, and other versions, is misleading to the neophyte Bible student. The word "clothes" in these verses should have read in a "swaddling band," as it is referred to in Job 38:9 -- "When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddling band for it."
Some versions of the Bible have "swaddling cloths" (without the "e"), which is a better way of translating it. However, "swaddling band" is the correct translation.
What exactly was a "swaddling band"? It was made from linen or cotton material and was five to six yards long (15-18 feet) we are told, and the width of the band was from four to five inches. Salt was pulverized by the mid-wife until it was in the form of a fine powder. When the baby was born, the mid-wife first washed the baby in water, then a piece of cloth about a square yard in size, was laid out and the baby placed on it in a diagonal position. As the custom was, the baby's body was sprinkled and gently rubbed with the finely powdered salt.
Swaddled infants did not have the free movement of their arms and legs. The legs were placed closely together and then the baby's arms were placed at its sides and the piece of swaddled cloth was folded over the baby's feet and arms. Then the swaddle band was wrapped from under the baby's chin, over the forehead and wrapped around and around the infant all the way down to the ankles. When the baby was finished being wrapped in the swaddling band, it had all the appearance of a mummy. It is not certain from the Bible whether a mid-wife did the swaddling in the Messiah's case, or whether Mary did it herself. Either way, the infant Yeshua would have been swaddled.
Now we come to the main reason for explaining the Middle Eastern custom of swaddling. Most Christian churches -- including the Churches of YEHOVAH God -- claim that Joseph was not the legitimate husband of Mary, and that he lived with her in celibacy. Another erroneous story is that Joseph was not the legitimate biological father of the Messiah, but a step-father -- and that the Messiah's brothers and sisters were from an earlier marriage of Joseph. These -- and other equally fabricated stories -- have no backing scripturally or historically, and are used to deceive people into believing falsehoods of the true "nativity" story.
From the book The Syrian Christ, by Abraham Mitre Rihbany, we read the following regarding swaddling --
And in describing such oriental customs it may be significant to point out that, in certain localities in Syria, to say to a person that he was "NOT SALTED" upon birth is to invite trouble, only a "benduq," (bastard, an illegitimate child) or the child of a unrecognized father is so neglected.
Yeshua's father was known, and he was Joseph, his Bethlehemite father. This is why Yeshua was swaddled in the oriental (Middle Eastern) custom -- because his father was known, making him a legitimate child. We read in Matthew 1:16 and Luke 2:48:
And Jacob BEGOT Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.
So when they saw him [Yeshua] they were amazed; and his mother said to him [Yeshua], "Son, why have you done this to us? Look, your FATHER and I have sought you anxiously."
Also, in Matthew 13:55 --
"Is this not THE CARPENTER'S [JOSEPH'S] son? Is not his mother called Mary? And his brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?"
Critics will still probably argue, "We have read about the Messiah being swaddled in scripture, but how can we be sure about the customs of swaddling bands and being salted, and that these things point to a recognized father when it has been shown to us only through the sayings of Orientals that hold to these traditions?"
The answer is: By the very people themselves who hold to this tradition. People from the Middle East have been observing this custom since before the time of the Messiah. Also, we have further proof, from the Bible, of the custom existing back to the time of Ezekiel the prophet. When YEHOVAH God instructed Ezekiel to speak to Jerusalem about all of her abominations, the city is presented figuratively as a foundling child (an infant of unknown parentage) Notice!
"Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations...As for your nativity [birth], on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; YOU WERE NOT RUBBED WITH SALT nor swathed in swaddling cloths...No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you; but you were thrown out into the open field, when you yourself were loathed on the day you were born" (Ezekiel 16:2, 4, 5).
Israel and Jerusalem, in those days of their abominations, were considered as HAVING NO FATHER because of their disobedience to YEHOVAH God. As a result, Jerusalem was pictured as an unswaddled foundling child cast out into a field. Therefore, this provides scriptural proof of what the custom of swaddling was among the Jews. As we have read in the Bible, Yeshua's father was well known as being his NATURAL FATHER, therefore Yeshua was swaddled in conformity with the custom of an infant of which BOTH parents were known among relatives and friends.
"Swaddled" is just one of many subjects that prove, without a doubt, that Mary's husband Joseph was the legitimate father of Yeshua the Messiah. It should be remembered that not to know the legitimate father of a child is to have that child known as a benduq (a bastard) which would have prevented having the child swaddled. Clearly, the virgin birth did not take place and Yeshua's father was Joseph -- NOT the holy spirit of YEHOVAH God!
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