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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Children

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The more children—especially male children—a person had among the Hebrews, the more was he honored, it being considered as a mark of divine favor, while sterile people were, on the contrary, held in contempt (comp. ; ; ; ; , sq.; 128:3; ; ). That children were often taken as bondsmen by a creditor for debts contracted by the father, is evident from ; ; . Among the Hebrews, a father had almost unlimited power over his children, nor do we find any law in the Pentateuch restricting that power to a certain age; it was indeed the parents who even selected wives for their sons (; ; ; ). It would appear, however, that a father's power over his daughters was still greater than that over his sons, since he might even annul a sacred vow made by a daughter, but not one made by a son (; ). Children cursing or assaulting their parents were punished by the Mosaic Law with death (; ; ). Before the time of Moses a father had the right to choose among his male children, and declare one of them (usually the child of his favorite wife) as his first-born, though he was perhaps only the youngest. Properly speaking, the 'firstborn' was he who was first begotten by the father, since polygamy excluded all regard in that respect to the mother. Thus Jacob had sons by all his four wives, while only one of them was called the first-born (); we find, however, instances where that name is applied also to the first-born on the mother's side (; comp. 2:42; ). The privileges of the first-born were considerable, as shown in Birthright.

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Fig. 131—Modes of carrying children

The first-born son, if not expressly deprived by the father of his peculiar rights, as was the case with Reuben (Genesis 49), was at liberty to sell them to a younger brother, as happened in the case of Esau and Jacob (, sq.). Considering the many privileges attached to first-birth, we do not wonder that the Apostle called Esau a thoughtless person (). There are some allusions in Scripture to the modes in which children were carried. These appear to be adequately represented by the existing usages, as represented in the following figure, in which #1 represents a Nestorian woman bearing her child bundled at her back, and #2, an Egyptian female bearing her child on her shoulder. The former mode appears to be alluded to in several places, and the latter in . For other matters regarding children, see Adoption, Birth, Birthright.

 

 

 

 


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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Children'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/kbe/c/children.html.

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Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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