Rabbi Jason Sobel recently delivered a fascinating take on the significance of baby Jesus being placed in swaddling clothes after his birth in the nativity story — one that directly ties into the angelic announcement that was made to the shepherds.
“When the angels appeared to shepherds … [they] said to them, ‘This will be a sign to you. You’ll see a baby lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes,'” Sobel recounted, noting that he believes these shepherds weren’t ordinary, everyday shepherds.
In fact, he said they were raising lambs that were to be offered as sacrifices in the temple, noting that these lambs needed to be without blemish.
So, these so-called “Levitical shepherds” would wrap up the lambs in swaddling clothes to protect them. This is, of course, noteworthy, as it shows that the swaddling would have been an important connection point for the shepherds.
“What did they see?” Sobel asked of the shepherds’ arrival at the site of Jesus’ birth. “A baby born in the same place that the Passover lambs were born, swaddled like a passover lamb, pointing to the fact that Messiah was the lamb of God who would take over the sins of the world.”
Watch him break it all down below:
There are, of course, other theories about the swaddling clothes, as GotQuestions.org has noted:
There are some interesting theories about Luke’s detail of Jesus’ swaddling clothes. Some have postulated that the swaddling clothes were a foreshadowing—a prophetic reference—of Jesus’ burial cloths. The Greek word sparganoo is the root word used in the phrase “swaddling clothes,” and it means “to clothe in strips of cloth.” But this word sparganoo is never used in the New Testament to refer to burial cloth. In the descriptions in the Gospels of Jesus’ burial, we see variations on the phrase “wrapped in linen cloth,” and different Greek words are used for the binding. The swaddling clothes could prefigure Jesus’ burial (the Magis’ gift of myrrh in Matthew 2:11 is a clearer bit of foreshadowing), but the link can’t be proved linguistically.
Either way, Sobel’s take is certainly fascinating.