Laid him in a manger - Wetstein has shown, from a multitude of instances, that φατνη means not merely the manger, but the whole stable, and this I think is its proper meaning in this place. The Latins use praesepe, a manger, in the same sense. So Virgil, Aen. vii. p. 275.
Stabant ter centum nitidi in praesepibus altis
"Three hundred sleek horses stood in lofty stables."
Many have thought that this was a full proof of the meanness and poverty of the holy family, that they were obliged to take up their lodging in a stable; but such people overlook the reason given by the inspired penman, because there was no room for them in the inn. As multitudes were going now to be enrolled, all the lodgings in the inn had been occupied before Joseph and Mary arrived. An honest man who had worked diligently at his business, under the peculiar blessing of God, as Joseph undoubtedly had, could not have been so destitute of money as not to be able to procure himself and wife a comfortable lodging for a night; and, had he been so ill fitted for the journey as some unwarrantably imagine, we may take it for granted he would not have brought his wife with him, who was in such a state as not to be exposed to any inconveniences of this kind without imminent danger.
There was no room for them in the inn - In ancient times, inns were as respectable as they were useful, being fitted up for the reception of travelers alone: - now, they are frequently haunts for the idle and the profligate, the drunkard and the infidel; - in short, for any kind of guests except Jesus and his genuine followers. To this day there is little room for such in most inns; nor indeed have they, in general, any business in such places. As the Hindoos travel in large companies to holy places and to festivals, it often happens that the inns (suraies ) are so crowded that there is not room for one half of them: some lie at the door, others in the porch. These inns, or lodging-houses, are kept by Mohammedans, and Mussulmans obtain prepared food at them; but the Hindoos purchase rice, etc., and cook it, paying about a halfpenny a night for their lodging. Ward's Customs.
Her first-born son - Whether Mary had any other children or not has been a matter of controversy. The obvious meaning of the Bible is that she had; and if this be the case, the word “firstborn” is here to be taken in its common signification.
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.
No room at the inn - Many people assembled to be enrolled, and the tavern was filled before Joseph and Mary arrived.
Satan represents himself as the prince of the kingdom of this world, and it was in this character that he approached Christ in the last of his three great temptations in the wilderness. “If thou wilt fall down and worship me,” he said to the Saviour, “all these”—pointing to the kingdoms of the world which Satan had caused to pass before Jesus—“will I give thee.” 1SM 223.1
Christ in the courts of heaven had known that the time would come when the power of Satan must be met and conquered if the human race was ever to be saved from his dominion. And when that time came, the Son of God laid off His kingly crown and royal robe, and clothing His divinity with humanity, came to the earth to meet the prince of evil, and to conquer him. In order to become the advocate of man before the Father, the Saviour would live His life on earth as every human being must, accepting its adversities and sorrows and temptations. As the Babe of Bethlehem, He would become one with the race, and by a spotless life from the manger to the cross He would show that man, by a life of repentance and faith in Him, might be restored to the favor of God. He would bring to man redeeming grace, forgiveness of sins. If men would return to their loyalty, and no longer transgress, they would receive pardon. 1SM 223.2
Christ in the weakness of humanity was to meet the temptations of one possessing the powers of the higher nature that God had bestowed on the angelic family. But Christ's humanity was united with divinity, and in this strength He would bear all the temptations that Satan could bring against Him, and yet keep His soul untainted by sin. And this power to overcome He would give to every son and daughter of Adam who would accept by faith the righteous attributes of His character. 1SM 223.3Read in context »
The lowly, those bound with poverty, pressed with care, burdened with toil, could find no reason in His life and example which would lead them to think that Jesus was not acquainted with their trials, knew not the pressure of their circumstances, and could not sympathize with them in their want and sorrow. The lowliness of His humble, daily life was in harmony with His lowly birth and circumstances. The Son of the infinite God, the Lord of life and glory, descended in humiliation to the life of the lowliest, that no one might feel himself excluded from His presence. He made Himself accessible to all. He did not select a favored few with whom to associate and ignore all others. It grieves the Spirit of God when conservatism shuts man away from his fellow man, especially when it is found among those who profess to be His children. 1SM 260.1
Christ came to give to the world an example of what perfect humanity might be when united with divinity. He presented to the world a new phase of greatness in His exhibition of mercy, compassion, and love. He gave to men a new interpretation of God. As head of humanity, He taught men lessons in the science of divine government, whereby He revealed the righteousness of the reconciliation of mercy and justice. The reconciliation of mercy and justice did not involve any compromise with sin, or ignore any claim of justice; but by giving to each divine attribute its ordained place, mercy could be exercised in the punishment of sinful, impenitent man without destroying its clemency or forfeiting its compassionate character, and justice could be exercised in forgiving the repenting transgressor without violating its integrity. 1SM 260.2Read in context »
Jesus paid an infinite price to redeem the world, and the race was given into His hands; they became His property. He sacrificed His honor, His riches, and His glorious home in the royal courts and became the son of Joseph and Mary. Joseph was one of the humblest of day laborers. Jesus also worked; he lived a life of hardship and toil. When His ministry commenced, after His baptism, He endured an agonizing fast of nearly six weeks. It was not merely the gnawing pangs of hunger which made His sufferings inexpressibly severe, but it was the guilt of the sins of the world which pressed so heavily upon Him. He who knew no sin was made sin for us. With this terrible weight of guilt upon Him because of our sins He withstood the fearful test upon appetite, and upon love of the world and of honor, and pride of display which leads to presumption. Christ endured these three great leading temptations and overcame in behalf of man, working out for him a righteous character, because He knew man could not do this of himself. He knew that upon these three points Satan was to assail the race. He had overcome Adam, and he designed to carry forward his work till he completed the ruin of man. Christ entered the field in man's behalf to conquer Satan for him because He saw that man could not overcome on his own account. Christ prepared the way for the ransom of man by His own life of suffering, self-denial, and self-sacrifice, and by His humiliation and final death. He brought help to man that he might, by following Christ's example, overcome on his own account, as Christ has overcome for him. 3T 372.1
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” 3T 372.2Read in context »
The house where Jesus is to meet with His people should be neat and attractive. If there are but few believers in a place, put up a neat but humble house, and by dedicating it to God invite Jesus to come as your guest. How does He look upon His people when they have every convenience that heart could wish, but are willing to meet for His worship in a barn, some miserable, out-of-the-way building, or some cheap, forsaken apartment? You work for your friends, you expend means to make everything around them as attractive as possible; but Jesus, the One who gave everything for you, even His precious life,—He who is the Majesty of heaven, the King of kings and Lord of lords,—is favored with a place on earth but little better than the stable which was His first home. Shall we not look at these things as God looks at them? Shall we not test our motives and see what kind of faith we possess? 5T 269.1
“God loveth a cheerful giver,” and those who love Him will give freely and cheerfully when by so doing they can advance His cause and promote His glory. The Lord never requires His people to offer more than they are able, but according to their ability He is pleased to accept and bless their thank offerings. Let willing obedience and pure love bind upon the altar every offering that is made to God; for with such sacrifices He is well pleased, while those that are offered grudgingly are an offense to Him. When churches or individuals have no heart in their offerings, but would limit the cost of carrying forward the work of God, and gauge it by their own narrow views, they show decidedly that they have no living connection with God. They are at variance with His plan and manner of working, and He will not bless them. 5T 269.2
We are builders for God, and we must build upon the foundation which He has prepared for us. No man is to build upon his own foundation, independent of the plan which God has devised. There are men whom God has raised up as counselors, men whom He has taught, and whose heart and soul and life are in the work. These men are to be highly esteemed for their work's sake. There are some who will wish to follow their own crude notions; but they must learn to receive advice and to work in harmony with their brethren, or they will sow doubt and discord that they will not care to harvest. It is the will of God that those who engage in His work shall be subject to one another. His worship must be conducted with consistency, unity, and sound judgment. God is our only sufficient helper. The laws which govern His people, their principles of thought and action, are received from Him through His word and Spirit. When His word is loved and obeyed, His children walk in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in them. They do not accept the world's low standard, but work from the Bible standpoint. 5T 270.1Read in context »