on Luke 2 :7
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.
on Luke 2 :7
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.
on Luke 2 :7
2:7 She laid him in the manger - Perhaps it might rather be translated in the stall. They were lodged in the ox stall, fitted up on occasion of the great concourse, for poor guests. There was no room for them in the inn - Now also, there is seldom room for Christ in an inn. Mt 1:25