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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(The act of parturition is properly expressed in the original languages of Scripture by some form of the verbs יָלִד, yalad', τίκτω, rendered " bear, "travail," "bring forth, "etc.). In the East (q.v.) childbirth is usually attended with much less pain and difficulty than in more northern regions, although Oriental females are not to be regarded as exempt from the common doom of woman, "in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children" (Genesis 3:16). It is, however, uncertain whether the difference arises from the effect of climate or from the circumstances attending advanced civilization; perhaps both causes operate, to a certain degree, in producing the effect. Climate must have some effect; but it is observed that the difficulty of childbirth, under any climate, increases with the advance of civilization, and that in any climate the class on which the' advanced condition of society most operates finds the pangs of childbirth the most severe. Such consideration may probably account for the fact that the Hebrew women, after they had long been under the influence of the Egyptian climate, passed through the childbirth pangs with much more facility than the women of Egypt, whose habits of life were more refined and self-indulgent (Exodus 1:19). There were, however, already recognised Hebrew midwives while the Israelites were in Egypt; and their office appears to have originated in the habit of calling in some matron of experience in such matters to assist in cases of difficulty. A remarkable circumstance in the transaction which has afforded these illustrations (Exodus 1:16) will be explained under (See STOOL).
The child was no sooner born than it was washed in a bath and rubbed with salt (Ezekiel 16:4); it was then tightly swathed or bandaged to prevent those distortions to which the tender frame of an infant is so much exposed during the first days of life (Job 38:9; Ezekiel 16:4; Luke 2:7; Luke 2:11). This custom of bandaging or swathing the new-born infant is general in Eastern countries. It was also a matter of much attention with the Greeks and Romans (see the citations in Wetstein at Luke 2:7), and even in our own country was not abandoned till the last century, when the repeated remonstrances of the physicians seem to have led to its discontinuance.
It was the custom at a very ancient period for the father, while music celebrated the event, to clasp the new-born child to his bosom, and by this ceremony he was understood to declare it to be his own (Genesis 50:23; Job 3:3; Psalms 22:11). This practice was imitated by those wives who adopted the children of their handmaids (Genesis 16:2; Genesis 30:3-5). The messenger who brought to the father the first news that a son was born to him was received with pleasure and rewarded with presents (Job 3:3; Jeremiah 20:15), as is still the custom in Persia and other Eastern countries. The birth of a daughter was less noticed, the disappointment at its not being a son subduing for the time the satisfaction which the birth of any child naturally occasions.
Among the Israelites, the mother, after the birth of a son, continued unclean seven days; and she remained at home during the thirty-three days succeeding the seven of uncleanness, forming altogether forty days of seclusion. After the birth of a daughter the number of the days of uncleanness and seclusion at home was doubled. At the expiration of this period she went into the tabernacle or temple, and presented a yearling lamb, or, if she was poor, two turtle-doves and two young pigeons, as a sacrifice of purification (Leviticus 12:1-8; Luke 2:22). On the eighth day after the birth of a son the child was circumcised, by which rite it was consecrated to God (Genesis 17:10; comp. with Romans 4:11). (See CHILD).
Roberts says, "When a person has succeeded in gaining a blessing which he has long desired, he says, 'Good! good! the child is born at last.' Has a person lost his lawsuit in a provincial court, he will go to the capital to make an appeal to a superior court; and should he there succeed, he will say, in writing to a friend, 'Good news! good news! the child is born.'
When a man has been trying to gain an office, his friend, meeting him on his return, does not always ask, 'Is the child born ?' or 'Did it come to the birth ?' but, 'Is it a male or a female ?' If he say the former, he has gained his object; if the latter, he has failed. The birth of a son is always a time of great festivity in the East; hence the relations come together to congratulate the parents, and to present their gifts to the little stranger. Some bring the silver anklets; others the bracelets or ear-rings, or silver cord for the loins; others, however, take gold, and a variety of needful articles. When the infant son of a king is shown, the people make their obeisance to him" (Orient. Illus.). This illustrates the offerings of the Magi, who came to Bethlehem to worship the infant Messiah, as recorded in Matthew 2:11. "When they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh."
The disease called empneumatosis, or false conception, does not appear to have been so unfrequent among the Hebrew women as among those of Europe. If it had been so, it probably would not have made its appearance on the pages of Hebrew writers in the shape of a figure of speech. The Hebrews were accustomed to expect, after severe calamities, a season of prosperity and joy. They accordingly compared a season of misfortune and calamity to the pains of a woman in travail; but the better destiny which followed they compared to the joy which commonly succeeds childbirth (Isaiah 13:8; Isaiah 26:17; 2 Kings 19:3; Jeremiah 4:31; Jeremiah 13:21; Jeremiah 22:23; Jeremiah 30:6 : Micah 4:9-10; John 16:21-22). But they carry the comparison still farther. Those days of adversity, which were succeeded by adversity still more severe; those scenes of sorrow, which were followed by sorrow yet more acute, were likened to women who labored under that disease of the system which caused them to exhibit the appearance and endure the pains of pregnancy, the result of which was either the production of nothing-to use the words of the prophet Isaiah, when it " brought forth wind," or when it terminated in the production of a monster (Isaiah 26:18; Psalms 7:14). On this disorder, which is well known to medical men, see Michaelis's Syntagma Comment. ii, 165. (See DISEASE).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Birth. (2)'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​b/birth-2.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.