Ezekiel was the prophet who was called upon by God to bring condemnation to Jerusalem for deserting the God of their fathers. Ezekiel reminded them of their sins. There’s an interesting passage in Chapter 16 regarding the illegitimacy of their birth! As strange as that might sound, Ezekiel calls Jerusalem an illegitimate child. Verses 1-5 record Ezekiel’s condemnation; “Again the word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations, and say, Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling clothes. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born.” The wickedness of the people caused God to look at them as illegitimate. They chose to be children of the Canaanites, or children of the world, rather than children of God.

Many scholars argue that the common practice in Israel was that when a child was born the babies were, as one writer put it, “washed with water, rubbed with finely pulverized salt, then rubbed with oil, and lastly swaddled. An illegitimate baby could not be salted or swaddled.” One writer goes on to explain this whole process: “The swaddling was done by first placing the washed baby diagonally on a swaddle cloth. The infant was then rubbed with finely powdered salt and oil. The cloth was then brought up and over the baby’s arms, legs, and torso. Next the end of the swaddle band, made by tying together strips of linen cloth about four or five inches wide and up to six yards long, was held under the baby’s chin, then wrapped up over the forehead and then around and around the infant all the way down to the feet. Swaddling kept the child warm, restricted movement, and it was also thought that it ensured the baby would grow strong without deformity.”

Mary knew something special about her baby boy. Although she had never slept with a man she knew and it seems others knew that this was a legitimate baby. The same commentator goes on to say, “She knew that despite the rumors and hatemongers this child was legitimate and so by swaddling Him she proclaims to the entire world that her baby is God’s legitimate Son.” Thinking of him swaddled in the manger brings to mind a picture of him swaddled for his burial 33 years later. Mary did both! He was born a perfect, legitimate, Son of God, to be the perfect legitimate sacrifice for our sins. This commentator concludes by saying, “He was born to die for us, and by so doing He ‘swaddled’ us, proclaiming us His legitimate children and providing a way to take away our ‘deformity.’ But most important, Jesus Christ has changed our burial linens into the swaddling bands of new birth.”