This word has considerable latitude of meaning in Scripture. Thus Joseph is called a child at the time when he was probably about sixteen years of age (Ge 37:3); and Benjamin is so called when he was above thirty years (Ge 44:20). Solomon called himself a little child when he came to the kingdom (1Ki 3:7).
The descendants of a man, however remote, are called his children; as, "the children of Edom," "the children of Moab," "the children of Israel."
In the earliest times mothers did not wean their children till they were from thirty months to three years old; and the day on which they were weaned was kept as a festival day (Ge 21:8; Ex 2:7,9; 1Sa 1:22-24; Mt 21:16). At the age of five, children began to learn the arts and duties of life under the care of their fathers (De 6:20-25; 11:19).
Figuratively the name is used for those who are ignorant or narrow-minded (Mt 11:16; Lu 7:32; 1Co 13:11). "When I was a child, I spake as a child." "Brethren, be not children in understanding" (1Co 14:20). "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro" (Eph 4:14).
Children are also spoken of as representing simplicity and humility (Mt 19:13-15; Mr 10:13-16; Lu 18:15-17). Believers are "children of light" (Lu 16:8; 1Th 5:5) and "children of obedience" (1Pe 1:14).
CHILD. Mothers, in the earliest times, suckled their offspring themselves, and that from thirty to thirty-six months. The day when the child was weaned was made a festival, Ge 21:8; Ex 2:7,9; 1Sa 1:22-24; 2-Chronicles/31/16/type/isv'>2Ch 31:16; 2 Mac. 7:27, 28; Mt 21:16. Nurses were employed, in case the mother died before the child was old enough to be weaned, and when from any circumstances she was unable to afford a sufficient supply of milk for its nourishment. In later ages, when matrons had become more delicate, and thought themselves too infirm to fulfil the duties which naturally devolved upon them, nurses were employed to take their place, and were reckoned among the principal members of the family. They are, accordingly, in consequence of the respectable station which they sustained, frequently mentioned in sacred history, Ge 35:8; 2Ki 11:2; 2Ch 22:11. The sons remained till the fifth year in the care of the women; they then came into the father's hands, and were taught not only the arts and duties of life, but were instructed in the Mosaic law, and in all parts of their country's religion, De 6:20-25; 7:19; 11:19. Those who wished to have them farther instructed, provided they did not deem it preferable to employ private teachers, sent them away to some priest or Levite, who sometimes had a number of other children to instruct. It appears from 1Sa 1:24-28, that there was a school near the holy tabernacle, dedicated to the instruction of youth. There had been many other schools of this kind, which had fallen into decay, but were restored again by the Prophet Samuel; after whose time, the members of the seminaries in question, who were denominated by way of distinction "the sons of the prophets," acquired no little notoriety. Daughters rarely departed from the apartments appropriated to the females, except when they went out with an urn to draw water. They spent their time in learning those domestic and other arts, which are befitting a woman's situation and character, till they arrived at that period in life when they were to be sold, or, by a better fortune, given away in marriage, Pr 31:13; 2Sa 13:7.
2. In Scripture, disciples are often called children or sons. Solomon, in his Proverbs, says to his disciple, "Hear, my son." The descendants of a man, how remote soever, are denominated his sons or children; as "the children of Edom," "the children of Moab," "the children of Israel." Such expressions as "the children of light," "the children of darkness," "the children of the kingdom," signify those who follow truth, those who remain in error, and those who belong to the church. Persons arrived at almost the age of maturity are sometimes called "children." Thus, Joseph is termed "the child," though he was at least sixteen years old, Ge 37:30; and Benjamin, even when above thirty, was so denominated, Ge 44:20. By the Jewish law, children were reckoned the property of their parents, who could sell them for seven years to pay their debts. Their creditors had also the power of compelling them to resort to this measure. The poor woman, whose oil Elisha increased so much as enabled her to pay her husband's debts, complained to the prophet, that, her husband being dead, the creditor was come to take away her two sons to be bondmen, 2Ki 4:1. "Children, or sons of God," is a name by which the angels are sometimes described: "There was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord," Job 1:6; 2:1. Good men, in opposition to the wicked, are also thus denominated; the children of Seth's family, in opposition to those of Cain: "The sons of God saw the daughters of men," Ge 6:2. Judges, magistrates, priests, are also termed children of God: "I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you are the children of the Most High," Ps 82:8. The Israelites are called "sons of God," in opposition to the Gentiles, Ho 1:10; Joh 11:52. In the New Testament, believers are commonly called "children of God" by virtue of their adoption. St. Paul, in several places, extols the advantages of being adopted sons of God, Ro 8:14; Ga 3:26. "Children or sons of men," is a name given to Cain's family before the deluge, and, in particular, to the giants who were violent men, and had corrupted their ways. Afterward, the impious Israelites were thus called: "O ye sons of men, how long will ye love vanity?" Ps 4:2. "The sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows," 57:4.