We know that small children, including infants, were present when people gathered as a congregation in biblical times; for example, in Deuteronomy 29, Moses gathered all the people of Israel and addressed them. In verses 10-11 we read

10 Ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, 11 Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: (KJV)

What did people do with children in such gatherings? Being children, they would have made noises. Were there olden-day equivalents to the creche or crying rooms? Or were the adults, especially the leader, simply more tolerant towards children than people in religious gatherings are today? Can we know this from the text such as Deuteronomy 29:10-11?

I am interested especially with the case of very young children, i.e. three years old and under.

  • @adipro You'll find the answer at: The Offical Divided the Movie Mar 18, 2014 at 14:15
  • @PaulVargas, I have seen that movie some time ago, but did not remember whether it answers my question.
    – adipro
    Mar 18, 2014 at 21:18
  • @adipro I have reopened this on the basis of your edit and my slight revision edit (my edit mostly just added a tag, reworded a couple things to make them more succinct, and linked to the translation). Note that you do not have an exclusively Christian audience, so I changed 'church' to 'religious gathering' as 'church' would be anachronistic for a text in Deuteronomy.
    – Dan
    Mar 28, 2014 at 18:00
  • @PaulVargas, would you like to summarize relevant parts of the Divided movie that would answer my question?
    – adipro
    Jun 8, 2014 at 11:56

2 Answers 2


Deuteronomy 31:12 says to include everybody: "Assemble the people, the men and the women and the little ones, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn..." See also :13. This was done in 2Chron 20:13 and Ezra 10:1.

But Ezra didn't include everybody when he read the scroll publicly. Nehemiah 8:2 says: "And Ezra the priest brought the Law before the congregation, both men and women, and all that could hear with understanding". And in the next verse: "in the presence of the men and the women, and of those that could understand." Infants and toddlers don't "hear with understanding". Maybe they were left with non-Israelite servants? But I don't know how many of them were available.

So it looks like children were present some of the time but not always. If infants/toddlers were present, I think they would have been with a parent or nursemaid (because they were required to be there).

  • Thank you for bringing up Nehemiah 8:2-3 and your observation of the particular phrase "with understanding". Perhaps this is the only place in the Bible where such distinction is applied? In my earlier version of the question, I cited 2Ch 20:13, Ezr 10:1, Act 21:5 as other examples of such gatherings where children were present.
    – adipro
    Jun 8, 2014 at 20:47

Deuteronomy 6:7: and you must inculcate them in your sons and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.

Essentially God commanded his people to teach their children his ways.

Deuteronomy 31:12, which says: ‘Congregate the people, the men and the women and the little ones..., in order that they may listen and in order that they may learn.’

Here it says that the children would have to join their parents when they were instructed to meet together. As they were God fearing people, surely they would make sure that their children behaved and didn't disturb others.

  • Yes, I have no doubts that children were present in those gatherings. But I'm interested especially with the case of very young children, i.e. three years old and under, who would very likely cry. I'd like to know in more detail how people in biblical times dealt with all the noises. I speculate that they must have been much more tolerant than most people today, but I would appreciate a biblical or historical support.
    – adipro
    Jun 8, 2014 at 11:52
  • Even in modern day churches, parents can take their children out of the service when they need to discipline them. But in biblical times, where people gathered in the open, I imagine that there were nowhere for them to go when they needed to discipline their children, or I might be missing something of the setting during those ancient gatherings.
    – adipro
    Jun 8, 2014 at 12:03
  • In Jesus´ times people met in synagogues. They could take their children outside if needed. As far as people meeting in open areas the Bible doesn't mention the types of training and disciple that were common in those times. For all we know parents didn't raise brats like they do today.
    – mccjeff
    Jun 25, 2014 at 19:17

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