6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
1901 ASV Translation:
6 And it came to pass, while they were there, the days were fulfilled that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son; and she wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
In verse seven, the Textus Receptus has the definite article ("the") before the word "manger" (which the translators ignore) and the Nestle/Aland 26 does not. Otherwise, the texts are identical.
I. It is Luke's point that Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem because of the decree of Caesar.
II. Within that point, it is clear that they went during her last weeks of pregnancy.
I. Luke's Statement Regarding the Timing of Mary's Delivery.
A. The typical "Christmas Story" has Joseph walking alongside of a donkey which Mary is riding and they arrive late and they cannot find lodging in an "inn", so they take the stable.
B. Luke's record says only that they "went up to Bethlehem".
1. They could have as easily ridden horses (he on a spirited white stallion and she on a spunky mare), though the sacrifice made on the day of the presentation of their baby to the Lord signals their relative poverty -- Luke 2:24 compared with Leviticus 12:8 -- though it was not, apparently, abject poverty -- see Leviticus 5:11.
2. There is no indication that they arrived late in the day.
3. There is no indication that she gave birth on the night they arrived.
C. Luke's record addresses certain selected "facts" that need to be "milked" for their true significance instead of replaced with human embellishments that alter the story as Luke gave it.
1. The first "fact" given is that "It came to pass while they were there...".
a. The "it came to pass" is a familiar word, by now, in Luke's record and it seems to continue to have the impact of making the reader realize that, as the "seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months", go by, the plan of the only wise God is inexorably executed. He allows nothing -- no Caesar in Rome, no disbelieving priest in Jerusalem, no scepticism about His methods -- nothing to frustrate His prophetic word. He puts it in the hearts of men to do His will, whether a Caesar who makes a decree out of his own ego, or an heir of the Davidic throne who has a readiness to be obedient to authority.
b. The phrase "while they were there" is a translation of a string of words that focus upon the couple's "being there" -- i.e., in Bethlehem (the House of Bread) where the prophet had said that Messiah would be born (see Matthew 2:1-6). Luke clearly intended Theophilus to understand how important it was that Mary come to her term while she was in Bethlehem so that her Son could be born in Bethlehem. How long they were there before she gave birth is not recorded and is meaningless in terms of Luke's interest in tying the Messiah's origins to Bethlehem.
2. The second "fact" given is that "the days were accomplished...".
a. The verb is a simple historical aorist that means that the "days" assigned to the length of Mary's pregnancy were "fulfilled" -- i.e., her gestation period came to its determined end.
b. The "point" is that, that which was decreed by One greater than Augustus had finally come to its purpose.
3. The third "fact" given is that "...she was to deliver."
a. From 1:27, we have been anticipating the actual arrival of the Son of the Most High.
b. From 1:7, the story has been allabout the "births" of two "sons". The larger biblical picture involves the scenario of the coming of a Savior Who would be preceeded and introduced by a forerunner who was to be in the mode of the prophet Elijah, but the particular picture of this text is that the actual day of the arrival of the Deliverer had arrived.
4. The fourth "fact" given is that "...she brought forth her firstborn son...".
a. There is nothing new here -- the witness made it clear that she was to have a son and that, because she was a virgin, he would be her firstborn.
b. But, the statement compels us to focus where Luke's focus is: her Son, the Firstborn.
1) Firstborns, in the Scriptures, get a lot of press.
2) However, in the biblical record, God chose a fourth-born to begin the move toward the Messiah (He was to be the son of Judah), and He chose a last-born to continue that movement (David was the last of his father's sons as far as we know), so the question becomes: What is the particular point of mentioning that He was a Firstborn?
a) The answer seems to be a major issue of the entire text to this point: Messiah is going to be the legitimate heir of David's throne (1:32-33).
b) The inheritance of the regnal throne was typically reckoned according to birthright (though there is an abundance of the frustration of this pattern in the records of the kings).
5. The fifth "fact" given is that "she wrapped Him in swaddling cloths".
a. This, on the surface of it, seems unremarkable indeed -- and it becomes a matter of interest because the angels told the shepherds that it would be a "sign" to them of Messiah's birth that they would find Him wrapped in such cloths and lying in a manger.
b. Liddell-Scott, in the voluminous text detailing the meanings of words, says that the word translated "wrapped him in swaddling cloths" often meant to wrap a baby in cloth that clearly identified the baby's "true birth and family". If this be Luke's meaning, it signifies that Mary wrapped Jesus in cloth that would tie His identity to His Davidic lineage. This, indeed, would be a "sign" since the Christ Who is to bring Great Peace to the earth was, in a variety of ways, signalled to be the Greater Son of David, the King.
6. The sixth "fact" given is that she "laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn".
a. The word translated "laid" (anaklino) is interesting for these reasons...
1) It is a composite word made up of "ana" and the underlying verbal root "klino".
2) Luke uses it 5 of the 8 times it is used in the New Testament.
3) Luke's uses have these marks...
a) It describes how Mary treated Jesus after wrapping Him in the swaddling cloths, but when the angels told the shepherds they would have a "sign", it was that the baby would be wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying (keimai) in a manger.
b) It describes Jesus' behavior when invited to a Pharisee's house to eat, but in a parallel incident (11:37) the word to describe Jesus' behavior was different--it has the same prefix, but is built on a different verb (ana+pipto).
c) It describes Jesus' treatment of those He intended to feed -- He made them sit down (anaklino) after telling the disciples to "make them sit down" (kataklino).
d) It describes the Lord's behavior toward those whom He has found watching -- He will gird Himself, make them sit down, and He will serve them.
e) It describes the special favor of those welcome in the Kingdom (the word "anapipto" (referred to in "b)" above) is not used to describe this favorable position).
f) In Luke 9:58, Jesus used the unadorned "klino" to say that He had not place to "lay" his head.
4) Conclusion: What Mary did was to put Jesus in the manger in a manner that communicated her deep regard for Him. In Luke 7:36 (where Jesus is invited by a Pharisee to dine in his home), this word is used in sharp contrast to the Pharisee's real attitude toward Jesus as it comes out in his failures toward Him. In Luke's second record of Jesus being invited by one of these types, he switches over to "anapipto", a word that has no overtones of special regard. [This explains the switch in words in the angelic "sign" for the shepherds because the shepherds would not be able to tell of Mary's "regard" for her Son, so using anaklino would have made it an "impossible" sign. And, in Luke 14:10, Jesus uses "anapipto" so that His hearers will not go to the feast with delusions of their hosts special regard for them so that they may, in humility, take a lower seat.]
b. The shepherds were told they would find Him in a manger, which, if we take the word at face value, would mean that they would start looking for Him where the animals were fed. Being shepherds, they would immediately know the kind of place that would be. Being familiar with Bethlehem, they would immediately know how many such places there were in the town and where they were.
c. The explanation for Mary's behavior is given that "there was no room for them in the inn".
1) This probably signified a significant number of out-of-towners currently in Bethlehem -- either because of the Roman decree, or because it was a time of one of the feasts which drew the masses to the Jerusalem environs.
2) The text says that there was no place for "them" in the "guest-quarters". This might imply they had come to friends, or family, along with others who had come to Bethlehem to the same home, and the home in question only had a limited "guest-quarters". It does raise the issue of why those who occupied those quarters did not give place to a very obviously pregnant woman who was going into labor. That may not be as heartless as it might sound since the living conditions of all moderately poor people in those days were not what we would call spacious or "suitable". There is no indication that the place where the "manger" existed was significantly worse than any other place. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says that it was typical for animals to be kept in the same room as the people lived in with only a little bit of a raised floor to keep the animals away from the living area. And the text says nothing about whether the people who were occupying the "place" did what they could to give Mary help or not. The phrase "because there was no place for them..." is only the explanation for why Mary put Jesus in a manger -- a part of the "sign" given to the shepherds. It does not, of necessity, signal anything about the people of the place. In fact, Mary may well have determined to be less obtrusive, knowing that she was going to go into painful labor and might actually make a lot of noise. The text merely says that there was no place in the guest-quarters -- they were already taken. It leaves the issues of who made the choice to take up the place where the manger existed completely open. I can see, in Mary, a kind of self-effacing godliness that would not allow her to displace someone else just because she was going to give birth. A hard concept for rich, self-indulgent Americans, but nothing at all for an Aborigine to grasp.
A. Luke's focus is upon Joseph and Mary's being there (in the city of David, Bethlehem).
B. He records the "unfolding" of the Master's Plan ("Now it came to pass...the days were fulfilled...).
C. He tells of Mary's activities...
1. She gives birth to the Firstborn Son.
2. She wraps Him in the cloths of the house of David.
3. She places Him with enormous regard in a manger.
D. He explains the "manger" thing...
1. There was no "place" for "them" (Joseph and Mary).
2. The absence of "place" was in the "kataluma" -- the room(s) where temporary inhabitants "unwound" (the noun comes from a verb with strong overtones of 'dismantling' something -- implying that guests were expected to be able to shed the constraints of life temporarily in the kataluma).
3. The point of the absence of place was that it explains how Mary could have such a high regard for her Son and put Him in a "manger". There is absolutely nothing in the text that implies that Joseph and Mary were "badly treated"; the words simply dismiss any notion that the "Son" was badly treated. The world looks on things like this and thinks "how horrible for one of Stature to have to lie in a manger" with no regard for the fact that the baby isn't suffering from its own "I deserve better than this" mentality (what difference does the "bed" make to one who could care less about the surroundings? -- do babies sleep better in $20,000 cribs than in a $2 box?). Luke is "taking on" the foolishness of this world when he explains that Mary's "attitude toward her Son" was far more important than where He slept.
E. Bottom Line: Luke is detailing the development of the Master's Plan Who intends that all, someday, come to understand who Jesus is and what He is like. He is the Son of the Most High, and He is like unto One Who cares mostly about the attitudes people take, not the externals of how that attitude works itself out in the details.