The Significance of the Swaddling Cloths
There is nothing accidental about anything that happened in Jesus’ life. God becoming man was too important to mess up on even the most minor detail.
You will read that swaddling babies is what mother’s did back then and some today still do to newborns so Mary was simply doing what any mum would do. It makes the child feel safe and cocooned, like in the womb.
That would make sense except the angels tell the shepherds,
“This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12 (NASB)
If wrapping in cloths is standard issue for all babies, then the shepherd’s are none the wiser about the identity of the baby. But the sign has two clear components; wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
Lying in a manger is definitely an unusual place to lay a newborn and would almost certainly eliminate all other babies but the problem is there are lots of mangers in the area because Bethlehem and its surrounds were heavily shepherded. In which manger would they find the babe?
This is where the baby wrapped in cloths narrows the manger to one place. How so?
The answer lies in two verses written by Micah, 700 years earlier.
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will come forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His times of coming forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” Micah 5:2 (NASB)
The prophet Micah pinpointed the location of his birth: the little town of Bethlehem, where David, king of Israel, was born and grew up tending his father’s sheep in the surrounding fields. This is an often quoted verse and it is very prophetic.
But the clue to the exact location of his birth within Bethlehem lies in the sixth verse preceding Micah 5:2.
“As for you, tower of the flock, hill of the daughter of Zion, to you it will come— Yes, the former dominion will come, the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.” Micah 4:8 (NASB)
Tower, in Hebrew, is the word, “Migdal.” Alfred Edersheim, perhaps the foremost Jewish Biblical scholar ever, in his book, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah” believes, along with other Jewish scholars, that ‘tower of the flock’ refers to Migdal Eder, the place where the lambs set aside for temple sacrifices were raised. The flocks in the surrounding fields were vast, because there was an estimated population of around 5 million people in that area. During Passover, the annual celebration of the Hebrew nation’s deliverance from captivity in Egypt, one lamb was needed for every household. An estimated 250,000 sheep were needed every year to accommodate the Passover sacrifices and feast.
Every firstborn male lamb was considered holy and was set aside for sacrifice in Jerusalem. These newborn lambs would be wrapped tightly… swaddled… in specially designated temple cloths, to keep them from injury, and later they would be examined for blemishes. At the appointed time, the shepherds would take the firstborn males that were without mark or blemish, and lead them to Jerusalem, where they would be purchased by people wanting to present a sacrifice before the Lord to atone for their sins.
That’s how the shepherds knew exactly where Jesus would be found, because swaddling cloths linked with a manger (a feeding trough), could only apply to one particular location, Migdal Eder, the place where sacrificial lambs were wrapped and examined for perfection.
Stunning, isn’t it? This first-born, blemish free babe who would be the final sacrificial lamb was wrapped in the same temple cloths set aside exclusively for sacrificial lambs. What exquisite fine tuning!
Three decades later, the apostle John pointed out his cousin Jesus and said “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
And more than two millennia later, Jesus, the perfect Lamb that was slain, is still taking away the sins of all who accept His sacrifice that makes peace between them and God.
Peter and Heather
P.S. If you haven’t watched “The Chosen” Christmas Special this year, you are missing a real treat. Download “The Chosen” App and watch for free.
In fact, if you haven’t watched Seasons1 or 2, definitely binge worthy over the Christmas season. In our opinion the best dramatization of the Life of Jesus ever!