"But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they
found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him."
This passage recounts the incident of Joseph and Mary, upon leaving Jerusalem after the Passover celebration, discovering that Jesus was not among their traveling party and they are forced to return to the city and search for Him. In ancient times, depending upon the condition of the road and the terrain (1 Kings 19:4), a day's journey varied from eighteen to thirty miles.
According to James Freeman: "The first day of travel was purposefully shorter in distance than the usual distance traveled on other days. The custom was for a caravan to begin its journey moving quite slowly and then to camp for the night at a distance of three to eight miles from the original starting point. That way, if any goods or supplies were discovered absent, someone of the party could with little trouble return to the starting point, collect the missing items, and rejoin the caravan in time to continue with the journey." (Bible Manners and Customs – Notes on Luke 2:44, 45)
It is commonly thought that Jesus' family had traveled a substantial distance or length of time before they missed Him, but instead, it would have only been a few hours.
According to the Misna, Akrabba and the Talmud, "…wherefore, as Galilee lay north of Jerusalem, the bound of this day's journey must be Elath. Thus Nazareth was three days journey from Jerusalem.
Most Jewish writers* agree that a day's journey was ten parsas or large miles, which means forty lesser miles and the distance a middling (typical) man can walk on a middling day in the months of or Nisan, the time when days and nights were alike. However, it cannot also be thought that women and children should be able to travel so many miles a day. Therefore, very likely, this day's
journey was shorter: "
Bible scholars believe that Joseph and Mary set out on their journey on the twenty-second day of Nisan. The first stopping place of nearly all traveling parties leaving Jerusalem for the north was Beer or Beeroth. It is still a popular stopping point for today's travelers. Beer is only eight or ten miles from the city --about a three hour walk.
*T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 2. 3. T. Bab. Pesachim, fol. 93. 2. & 94. & Tosaphta in ib. fol. 11. 2. Seder Tephillot, fol. 144. 1. Ed. Basil.
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