Children, Go Where I Send Thee – explanation of the lyrics

Children, go where I send thee was discovered in a school for black children in Kentucky by Jean Ritchie. This Christmas song is thought to be of traditional African American origin.

The possible meaning of the lyrics are given below.

One for the little bitty baby born, born, born in Bethlehem: This of course, refers to the infant Jesus.

Two for Paul and Silas: This verse honors Paul and Silas who went on many missionary journeys to spread the teachings of Christ. Alternate versions of this song have Two for the lily-white babes clothed all in green as the second line. These babes could be Jesus and his cousin, John the Baptist.

Three for the Hebrew children: The three Hebrew children could be Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These 3 young men were thrown into a burning furnace by the King of Babylon as they refused to bow down to the Babylonian idols. They walked out of the furnace unharmed. The three Hebrew children could also be the three wisemen who came to visit baby Jesus, though they were men and probably not of Hebrew origin.

Four for the four that stood at the door: The Bible tells the story of a paralytic man who wished to see Jesus, who was adressing an assembly of people in a house. A large crowd had gathered there, and the friends of the paralyzed man could not get his bed through the door of the house. So they climbed on the roof, created an opening and let their friend down to settle at the feet of Jesus, while they remained outside. The four who stood at the door could be these men. Many people interpret the four to be the four writers of the Gospel books – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, though this does not explain the part about standing at the door.

Five for the gospel preachers: The five are Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Peter. Paul is already mentioned above, in line two.

Six for the six that never got fixed: Could this mean the sinners who never change their ways? But why six? Alternate versions of this song have the lyrics Six for the six proud walkers (or waiters or waters). Six could also refer to the six jars of water that Jesus converted to wine at the wedding at Cana, though this does not explain the part about not getting fixed.

Seven for the seven that never got to heaven: Alternate lyrics are Seven for the seven who went to heaven and Seven for the seven who came from heaven. The seven in heaven could be the seven stars in Ursa Major or the sevenfold spirit of God or the seven early Christian churches or the seven stars in the right hand of Christ mentioned in the Revelation.

Eight for the eight that stood at the gate: Alternate lyrics are Eight for the eight who sealed their fate. This could refer to the eight people who entered Noah’s ark (Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives).

Nine for the nine all dressed so fine: This could refer to the nine orders of Angels in heaven. Alternate lyrics are Nine for the ninety-nine in line: Those waiting while the Good Shepherd sought his one lost sheep.

Ten for the ten commandments: This refers to the ten commandments given to Moses.

Eleven for the eleven deriders: To deride means to laugh contemptously or to ridicule. Who are these eleven people who laughed contemptously and who did they laugh at? I have no idea. Alternate lyrics are Eleven for the eleven who went to heaven which could refer to the eleven apostles (minus the traitor Judas Iscariot) who went to heaven.

Twelve for the twelve Apostles: This line is self-explanatory.

The lyrics and MIDI for Children, go where I send thee are found in our Christmas carols database.

1,432 Responses to “Children, Go Where I Send Thee – explanation of the lyrics”

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