The first century Palestine was a dangerous place to be a child. “Only about half of the children born lived beyond the age of eight, in part because of widespread infanticide, with famine and illness also being factors.”[1]

Life was cheap back in the day. There was a classic line recorded in a letter from a man to his wife. His name is Hilarion, hers is Alis. The letter is dated 1 B.C. Notice how casual he is about killing his son:

“Hilarion to Alis his wife heartiest greetings, and to my dear Berous and Apollonarion. Know that we tire still even now in Alexandria. Do not worry if when all others return I remain in Alexandria. I beg and beseech of you to take care of the little child, and, as soon as we receive wages, I will send them to you. If– good luck to you!–you have a child, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is it girl, throw it out. You told Aphrodisias to tell me: ‘Do not forget me.’ How can I forget you? I beg you therefore not to worry.” [2]

It is hard for us to imagine such a callus attitude toward a precious child. But the words precious and child were two words that would never be heard in the same sentence.

It is in this cultural context that Jesus invited children to come to him.

[1] Kennedy, D. James (2005). What if Jesus had never been born? (Kindle Locations 245-246). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

[2] Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (NT).