December 31

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Swaddling Clothes

By Tresta Neil

Christmas, Holiday, Parenting, Symbology, Word Study

Swaddling Clothes were part of the sign for the shepherds.  It was how the angle told them they could recognize the child. It would be like us saying the babe will be in a white onesie.  

The word “swaddling” is found in three places in the Old Testament and each refers to a different “infant.”

Killing of the babies

First, Jeremiah refers to the “swaddled infants” – innocent newborn children in Judah – who were killed by order of the King of Babylon in Lamentations 2:22. Luke may have chose to use the word “swaddling” to help remind the Jews of how Herod copied the slaughter of children by the King of Babylon.

Next, Ezekiel (16:1-14) records the Lord speaking of the birth of the whole House of Israel. He tells them they were an unwanted newborn girl, left unwashed, unanointed, and unswaddled (or unclothed), left to die in an open field. Later, the Lord comes by and, in spite of all the blood, He caused the babe, Israel, to live. He swaddled her, nourished, and carried her all the way to Sinai where Israel (now the grownup bride) was again washed, anointed and clothed, this time in marriage garments, to make covenants with the bridegroom on the mountain temple.

Earth wrapped in clouds

Finally, to Job, the Lord compares the creation of earth to giving birth, the sea broke forth as if it issued out of the womb (Job 38:8-9). Then the Lord swaddled the newborn earth with clouds and soft darkness. Clouds are a common symbol in the Old Testament, “a cloud by day,” indicating the presence of God, protection, shelter, and life (rain). Later, after shaking off the wicked, He would press His name into the soft clay of the earth, sealing it His.

Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes for warmth and protection of life – symbolic of what Jesus would be for us – giving us warmth, protection and eternal life!  🙂

Painting by Joseph Brickey

Mary and Joseph had the wonderful opportunity to wash, anoint and clothe the very LORD of heaven and earth.

Every child is born in God’s image and through Christ’s tokens of blood, water, and spirit (see Moses 6:59) every parent can swaddle, cuddle and sing lullabies with the angels to their own children.

Birth and death, marriage and sealing, washing, anointing and clothing, real and restored innocence, warmth and protection are all the symbols found in the sign of the swaddling clothes.

But most of all, these bands signal the helpless state of the newborn infant, within the bounds of earthly mortality. Jesus, the Lord of the Universe, came as a helpless child and was swaddled like any other infant, an unimaginable condescension (see John 1:14; Philippians 2:7; 1 Nephi 11:16–20).

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