The ancient world of the Roman Empire was not a child-friendly zone. There were laws, leaders and lazy people who accepted no responsibility toward children. To the contrary. There was an ancient practice called “exposure,” that is equivalent to the modern practice of abortion.
There is, first, the well-known case of Herod’s response to news of Jesus’ birth. “When king Herod heard this,” he was so troubled, he ordered that “all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under,” be “killed,” (see Matt. 2:1-18). Parents and friends were unable to protect those children, thus the prophecy of Jeremiah came to pass; the “weeping and great mourning” written by the prophet (Jer. 31:15). Jesus’ parents would flee to Egypt.
In the ancient, status-ordered world, children were at the bottom of the ladder. (Ortberg, John. Who Is This Man? (p. 24). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.)
What Did Jesus Believe About Children?
Jesus did not see people through the cruel lens of economic benefit, self-interests or cultural correct structure and language. There was a dignity He perceived as Creator (Heb. 1:2), knowing people were made in the image of God. He didn’t ignore or reject someone as useless or worthless because others imposed their hate on their fellows.
In Ortberg’s book (cited above), this is hard to read but boldly historical.
Many babies did not grow up at all. In the ancient world, unwanted children were often simply left to die, a practice called “exposure.” The head of the household had the legal right to decide the life or death of other members of the family. This decision was usually made during the first eight or so days of life. (Ortberg, John. Who Is This Man? (p. 28). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.)
What did Jesus believe? “Then children were brought to Him that He might lay His hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’ And He laid His hands on them and went away.” Matt. 18:13-15