The Bible contains various allusions to the tender and confidential relation anciently subsisting between a nurse and the children she had brought up, Isa 49:22-23; 1Th 2:7-8. See also the story of Rebekah, attended through life by her faithful and honored Deborah, the oak under which she was buried being called "The oak of weeping," Ge 24:59; 35:8. The custom still prevails in the better families of Syria and India. Says Roberts in his Oriental Illustrations, "how often have scenes like this led my mind to the patriarchal age. The daughter is about for the first time to leave the paternal roof; the servants are all in confusion; each refers to things long gone by, each wishes to do something to attract the attention of his young mistress. One says, 'Ah do not forget him who nursed you when an infant;' another, 'How often did I bring you the beautiful lotus from the distant tank. Did I not always conceal your faults?' Then the mother comes to take leave. She weeps and tenderly embraces her, saying, 'My daughter, I shall see you no more; forget not your mother.' The brother enfolds his sister in his arms, and promises soon to come and see her. The father is absorbed in thought, and is only aroused by the sobs of the party. He then affectionately embraces his daughter, and tells her not to fear. The female domestics must each smell of the poor girl, and the men touch her feet. As Rebekah had her nurse to accompany her, so, at this day, the aya (nurse) who has from infancy brought up the bride goes with her to the new scene. She is her adviser, her assistant and friend, and to her will she tell all her hopes and all her fears."
Anciently a position of honour; so Deborah ("seen"), Ge 24:59; 35:8; Ru 4:16. (See DEBORAH.) Figuratively; Moses was "as a nursing father bearing the sucking child" (Nu 11:12). So Isa 49:23. So Paul, "we were gentle" (so the Alexandrinus manuscript and the Ephraemi Rescriptus (C), epioi, but the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus 'infants,' neepioi) among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her own (Greek) children" (1Th 2:7).
Healthy women among the Hebrews in ancient times were accustomed to suckle their own children (Ge 21:7). As in Palestine to-day, the child was suckled for a long time, sometimes as much as three years (1Sa 1:23 f., 2Ma 7:27). Weaning was the occasion of a joyful feast (Ge 21:8; 1Sa 1:24). But the nurse was also found in olden times in Israel, and was often held in great affection and honour (Ge 24:59; 35:8; Ex 2:7; 2Ki 11:2; Isa 49:23; 1Th 2:7). The nurse, m
Such in O.T. times were held in esteem, as was Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, Ge 35:8. Twice the expression, 'nursing fathers,' occurs, and queens are to be 'nursing mothers' to Israel in the future. Nu 11:12; Isa 49:23. Paul said, "We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children." 1Th 2:7.
In ancient times the position of the nurse, wherever one was maintained, was one of much honor sad importance. See
The same term is applied to a foster-father or mother, e.g.
NURSE. The nurse in an eastern family is always an important personage. Modern travellers inform us, that in Syria she is considered as a sort of second parent, whether she has been foster-mother, or otherwise. She always accompanies the bride to her husband's house, and ever remains there an honoured character. Thus it was in ancient Greece. This will serve to explain Ge 24:59: "And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse." In Hindostan the nurse is not looked upon as a stranger, but becomes one of the family, and passes the remainder of her life in the midst of the children she has suckled, by whom she is honoured and cherished as a second mother. In many parts of Hindostan are mosques and mausoleums, built by the Mohammedan princes, near the sepulchres of their nurses. They are excited by a grateful affection to erect these structures in memory of those who with maternal anxiety watched over their helpless infancy: thus it has been from time immemorial.