In ancient times, a mother usually breast-fed her child for some time, unless such circumstances as inability to produce sufficient milk or her untimely death required that a nursing woman be acquired for that purpose. (Ex. 2:5-10) The time when breast feeding was discontinued and the child was accustomed to other food for nourishment marked a significant point in the young one’s life. (Isa. 11:8; 28:9) This happy event could call for a feast such as the one Abraham arranged at the weaning of Isaac.—Gen. 21:8.
In those days, women nursed their children much longer than they do now in most parts of the earth. Upon being weaned, Samuel was old enough to be placed in the care of High Priest Eli and to serve at the tabernacle. (1 Sam. 1:24-28) He must have been at least three years old then, for the registration of Levite males began at that age. (2 Chron. 31:16) Raphael Patri (Family, Love and the Bible, p. 175) says of Arab children: “Cases are known where a child was suckled until his tenth year.” The evidence indicates that Isaac was about five years old when weaned.—See ISAAC (When Weaned?).
A weaned child, though no longer yearning for nourishment from its mother, still finds security and satisfaction in her arms. Comparably, David had soothed and quieted his soul “like a weanling upon his mother,” and his soul was ‘like a weanling upon him.’ It was soothed, quieted, satisfied, apparently because he did not desire prominence, had manifested humility, avoided haughtiness and refrained from walking in things too great for him. He urged Israel to act similarly, humbly ‘waiting for Jehovah to time indefinite.’—Ps. 131:1-3.