Alfred Edersheim lived from 1825 to 1889. He was a Jewish believer in Jesus. Recognized as the premier authority of his day on the Jewish foundation of the Scriptures, his writings should be in the library of every serious student of the Bible. They are invaluable in understanding the religious, cultural, and historical fabric of the Bible.
Edersheim wrote in his Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ:
“There can be no question that, according to the law of Moses, the early education of a child devolved upon the father; of course, always bearing in mind that his first training would be the mother’s (Deut. 11:19). If the father were not capable of elementary teaching, a stranger would be employed. Passing over the Old Testament period, we may take it that, in the days of Christ, home-teaching ordinarily began when the child was about three years old. There is a reason for believing, even before this, that careful training of the memory commenced, which has ever since been one of the mental characteristics of the Jewish nation. Verses of Scripture, benedictions, wise sayings, etc., were impressed on the child, and mnemonic rules devised to facilitate the retention of what was so acquired. We can understand the reason of this from the religious importance attaching to the exact preservation of the very words of tradition (Oral Law). The Talmud describes the beau ideal (perfect type) of a student when it compares him to a well-plastered cistern, which would not let even a single drop escape.”
Father’s, Teach Your Children!
Note that while the earliest education of children was the domain of the mother, it was the father who quickly took over. Sadly, this is very foreign to the way our faith is passed from one generation to the next today. It causes one to wonder what would the practice be of our children today if they awoke to observe their fathers already at work, conversing with their Father in memorizing His Word.
Believe it or not, prophetically looking forward to what would be the practice of Jesus, take a look at Isaiah 50:4:
The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.
Over 700 years before the birth of Yeshua, Isaiah spoke of the training God’s only Son would undergo. We know from the Gospel of Luke that by the age of 12, Yeshua was already so versed in both the Scriptures and the traditions that He amazed the teachers of the Mosaic Law in Jerusalem. We also know that following Jesus’ initial trip to Jerusalem, He returned to Joseph’s home where He kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
Based on his own Jewish culture, it is not unreasonable to assume that Joseph was an exemplary father who took seriously his responsibility to train up a child in the way he should go. Scripture memory must have been a part of Joseph’s training of Jesus, just as it is was an essential component in the life of every other Jewish home in the Galilee.
Now here is a captivating thought. Every believing father would be very encouraged to discover that his children began memorizing Scripture like they did in Jesus’ day. There is a familiar saying almost everyone recognizes. Interestingly, it is ascribed to an anonymous individual. Maybe that is because it so strongly speaks to all of us… Do as I say, not as I do.
God chose Joseph as an example for His Son. If you are a father, He chose you and me as an example to ours.