The Narrative of Luke

Chapter 1

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Published 23 December 2009; Revised 6 December 2023

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Scripture Text: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. Scripture quotations may be taken from different Bible versions. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.

Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important early Jewish sources include the following:

DSS: the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last three centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. Online DSS Bible.

LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century B.C. Online. The LXX also included the Apocrypha, Jewish works produced from 400 B.C. to A.D. 1. Online.

Josephus: The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.), Jewish historian, trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.

Philo: Works by Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, the Jewish philosopher (20 B.C.─A.D. 50), consisting of 45 monographs. Online.

Targums: Aramaic translation of Hebrew Scripture with commentary: Targum Onkelos (A.D. 80-120), and Targum Jonathan (A.D. 150-250). Index of Targum texts.

Syntax: Unless otherwise noted definition of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and definition of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations.

Special Terms: In order to emphasize the Hebrew and Jewish nature of Scripture I use the terms Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), ADONAI (for YHVH), Torah (Pentateuch, Law), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament).

Dates are from Risto Santala, The Messiah in the New Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings (1992). Online.

See the article Introduction to Luke for background information on Luke and his book.

Chapter Summary

Luke begins his narrative of the life and ministry of Yeshua the Messiah with a private address to its recipient, Theophilus. Following the greeting Luke sets forth the circumstances of the conception and birth of John the Immerser, as announced to Zechariah by the archangel Gabriel. Zechariah expresses doubt regarding the revelation, and in consequence Gabriel declares that he shall be unable to speak until the accomplishment of the prediction.

Six months later Gabriel appears to Miriam of Nazareth, and predicts the miraculous conception and birth of the Messiah. Miriam then visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant, and offers an inspired song of exultation and praise. Luke duly reports the birth of John and the special circumstances of his naming, followed by an inspired prophetic song of his father. The chapter closes with a mention of John's development into adulthood and his dwelling in the wilderness until the time of his public appearance.

Chapter Outline

Prologue, 1:1-4

Zechariah and Elizabeth, 1:5-10

Good News of the Messenger, 1:11-17

Zechariah's Response, 1:18-20

Fulfillment of Prophecy, 1:21-25

Good News of the Messiah, 1:26-33

Miriam's Response, 1:34-38

Miriam's Visit with Elizabeth, 1:39-45

Miriam's Song of Praise, 1:46-56

Birth of of the Messenger, 1:57-66

Prophetic Song of Zechariah, 1:67-80

Date: c. A.D. 57-60

Prologue, 1:1-4

According to Liefeld the first four verses of this book is a single carefully constructed sentence in the tradition of the finest historical works in Greek literature. It was customary among the great Greek and Hellenistic historians (such as Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Polybius, and Diodorus Siculus) to explain and justify their work in a preface. Their object was to assure the reader of their capability, thorough research, and reliability. Contemporary to Luke is the first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37-100) who also wrote introductory prefaces to his histories of the Jewish people.

Geldenhuys notes that Luke begins with a model preface which is unique among the Yeshua biographies. He is the only one to speak in the first person and communicate his intentions beforehand. Luke's preface stands in contrast to the genealogical table of Matthew, the abrupt opening sentence of Mark, and the theological prologue of John. While the other Yeshua narratives were written for the general public, Luke's narrative is distinguished by being addressed to an individual whom he knew well. In that regard the narrative could almost be viewed as a letter.

1 Whereas many have undertaken to compile a narrative concerning the things having been fulfilled among us,

Whereas: Grk. epeidēper, conj. with a causal and formal emphasis; whereas, inasmuch as. Mounce adds "since now, since indeed, considering that." The conjunction is used in reference to a fact already known (BAG). This conjunction is a classical word used only here in the Besekh, but found in works by Philo and Josephus. It stands in stylistic contrast to the colloquial term used to begin the narrative in verse 5 (Liefeld).

many: pl. of Grk. polus, extensive in scope, here as an adj. indicating a high number. have undertaken: Grk. epicheireō, aor., set one's hand to, endeavor, proceed, undertake. The verb emphasizes the action of writing. to compile: Grk. anatassomai, aor. mid. inf., 'to arrange in order,' used of preparing a literary work and relating to the formal nature of the product; arrange, compile, put together in order, set forth.

a narrative: Grk. diēgēsis, narrative, account, or record. The noun denotes a full narration, as carefully recorded in an authoritative historical account which is thorough (HELPS). Lightfoot comments that the expression anataxasthai diēgēsin ("to draw up a narration") was the kind of phrase familiar among Jews, and especially applied to the commemoration of Passover. In Christianity the apostolic narratives are known as "Gospels," but the apostles do not use this term to describe their literature. Given the origin of "gospel" in Old English ("gōd-spell"), many Jews regard the word as a distinctively Christian word.

concerning: Grk. peri, prep., with an orientational aspect relating to being near, about, or having to do with something; about, concerning. the events: pl. of Grk. pragma, something that involves or presumes action by a responsible party, deed, matter or thing; used here of an eventful occurrence or phenomenon. Geldenhuys says pragma was chosen to emphasize that Luke is presenting historical facts (56). Thus, a number of versions render the noun as "events" (CEV, CSB, EHV, ISV, LEB, NABRE, NCB, NLT, NRSV, NTE, OJB, TLV).

In the LXX pragma occurs 125 times and translates chiefly Heb. dabar, a matter or thing about which one speaks or does (DNTT 3:1156). The noun first occurs in Genesis 19:22 where an angel uses the term in reference to the action he is about to take against Sodom. In the LXX pragma is used mainly for human acts (Gen 44:15; Ex 1:18; Lev 5:1), but several times for divine acts (Gen 24:50; 1Chr 21:7-8; Isa 25:1; 28:22; Amos 3:7).

having been fulfilled Grk. plērophoreō, pl. perf. pass. part., to reach a point at which nothing is lacking; accomplish, fulfill. The verb as used here relates particularly in reference to events or matters of interest to the Jews. Some versions render the verb as "accomplished" (ESV, NASB, NASU, RSV), but Luke alludes to the expectation of the Jewish people for a Messiah based on prophecies of the Tanakh and other Jewish writings of the time. Therefore, "fulfilled" seems the appropriate translation and is found in many versions. In this regard is the appropriate declaration of Amos 3:7,

"For the Lord ADONAI, will do nothing [Heb. dabar; LXX pragma], unless He has revealed His counsel to His servants the prophets." (TLV)

among: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position; in, within or among. us: Grk. hēmeis, plural first person pronoun. The plural pronoun occurs thirteen times in this chapter and can only refer to the descendants of Jacob and the nation of Israel. Here Luke includes himself in "us." Christian commentators generally ignore the significance of the pronoun and insist that Luke was a Gentile. However, Luke identifies himself with those to whom the things fulfilled had benefited, the chosen covenant people of Israel (cf. verse 69 below). It's also reasonable that "us" should include the recipient of this narrative, meaning he also was Jewish.

Luke confirms that by the time he decided to write his biography of Yeshua others had already engaged in writing about the life and ministry of Yeshua. Any of the disciples who had followed Yeshua could have undertaken the task. Initially these writings may only have been anecdotal accounts recorded in letters or other personal records of Yeshua's sermons or miraculous deeds, which had become well known (cf. Acts 10:37). Luke does not impugn or endorse the earliest efforts at narrative writing, nor does he imply that the early narratives had anything to do with his decision to write.

In the first decade of the Yeshua movement after Pentecost there would have been no rush to produce a complete biography of Yeshua given the singular focus of the apostles on carrying out Yeshua's commission to make disciples. Even so there would have been a natural interest in Jewish audiences to learn more about their Messiah.

2 just as those from the beginning, having become eyewitnesses and servants of the word, delivered them to us,

just as: Grk. kathōs, adv. emphasizing similarity, conformity, proportion or manner; as, just as. The adverb makes a link with the "many" in the previous verse. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. from: Grk. apo, prep. generally used to denote separation or origin, here the latter; from. the beginning: Grk. archē, is a multi-purpose word with the basic meaning of priority, here identifying the point of derivation or originating moment; beginning, start. The phrase "those from the beginning" probably refers to leading apostles (e.g., Peter, Jacob and John, Gal 2:9) associated with the beginning of Yeshua's ministry and the beginning of the Yeshua movement after Pentecost.

having become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part., to become or to transfer from one state or condition to another, here the former. In the LXX ginomai translates Heb. hayah, be, become, come to pass (BDB 224); first in Genesis 1:11. eyewitnesses: pl. of Grk. autoptēs, one who sees with his own eyes, an eyewitness. A significant qualification for assuming apostolic leadership as messengers of Yeshua was having been an eyewitness of the life and ministry of Yeshua, and especially his resurrection (John 20:25; Acts 1:22; 2:32; 3:15; 4:13; 9:27; 1Cor 15:5-8).

and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition with an extraordinary flexibility in usage; and, also, moreover, even, or indeed, with the context determining the exact sense. servants: pl. of Grk. hupēretēs, one who renders service; helper, attendant, assistant or servant. The term refers to one who serves a master or a superior. In the LXX hupēretēs occurs only twice and translates Heb. ebed, household slave, subject of a king or servant/worshiper of God, but used of an officer serving a king (Prov 14:35; Isa 32:5).

In all the passages where hupēretēs occurs the individuals had significant authority and responsibilities, some working for judges and others for the chief priests (Matt 5:25; 26:58, Mark 14:65, John 7:32; Acts 5:22, 26). The term is also used of a synagogue attendant who had many congregational duties, including care of scrolls (Luke 4:20). However, in several passages, as here, hupēretēs refers to one who proclaimed the message of Yeshua as the Messiah (Acts 13:5; 26:16; 1Cor 4:1).

of the word: Grk. ho logos is used primarily for a vocalized expression of the mind, as communication ranging broadly in extent of content and variety of form; word, discourse, message or teaching. In the LXX logos primarily translates Heb. dabar, speech or word, and used widely for a message, speech or saying of men (Gen 29:13; 34:18) or of God (Ex 4:28; 19:7) (DNTT 3:1087). Logos is also used for Heb. amar (to utter, say, Gen 34:8), imrah ("speech, utterance, word," Gen 4:23), and Aram. millah (word, utterance, matter, Dan 4:31) (DNTT 3:1087).

The King James Version capitalizes "Word," as used in John 1:1. While Luke might have engaged in a play on words, he more likely uses the term here in the sense of the good news proclaimed concerning Yeshua (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6:4; 8:4; 10:44; 11:19). In the Tanakh Moses and the prophets were considered servants of the word since they proclaimed the words of God (Josh 1:13; 1Kgs 8:56; 14:18; 2Kgs 24:2). After Pentecost Peter described himself as a servant of the word (Acts 4:29; 6:2). Calling the literary apostles "servants of the word" implies they had the skills necessary to be competent historians, interpreters of Messianic prophecies and faithful recorders of the truth (cf. 2Tim 2:15).

delivered them: Grk. paradidōmi, aor., to convey from one position to another, here of entrusting something to another; hand over, deliver. to us: Grk. hēmeis, plural first person pronoun. The pronoun is used again of the Jewish people to whom Luke belongs, but more particularly the Messianic Jewish community. According to the church father Jerome (A.D. 347–420) the phrase "delivered to us" refers to "gospel histories" produced by other apostles (Lives of Illustrious Men, Chap. VII). Irenaeus (120-202 A.D.) reported the order of publication of the official inspired biographies of Yeshua:

"2. Matthew published his Gospel among the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter and Paul were preaching and founding the church in Rome. 3. After their departure Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, also transmitted to us in writing those things which Peter had preached; and Luke, the attendant of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel which Paul had declared. 4. Afterwards John, the disciple of the Lord, who also reclined on his bosom, published his Gospel, while staying at Ephesus in Asia." (Eusebius, Church History, Book V, §8)

The record of Irenaeus quoted above suggests the sequence of writing, as well as the influence of Peter and Paul on the work of Mark and Luke. In the first century context, "published" and "transmitted" are synonymous terms. Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150-215) also confirmed the sequence of publication, but stated that the Gospels containing the genealogies were written first (Eusebius, Church History, Book VI, §14:6-7). John Chrysostom (347-407) in his commentary on Acts 1:1 declared that the content of Luke's narrative of Yeshua was the Gospel which Paul declared (citing 1Cor 15:5; 2Cor 8:18).

Luke implies that at least two of the Yeshua narratives, i.e. Matthew and Mark, were completed before his work. In regard to the dating reference of Irenaeus, Edmundson agrees with the report of early church fathers that Mark went with Peter to Rome in 42 and while there published his Gospel in 45 (49, 56). Robinson concurs with the early publication of the first two narratives, giving the earliest date for Matthew as 40 and the earliest date for Mark as 45 (316).

3 It seemed good also to me, having closely followed the events from the first, to write carefully in sequence to you, most excellent Theophilus,

It seemed good: Grk. dokeō, aor., to form an opinion, to seem, here meaning the making of a subjective judgment call in making a decision that seemed good. also to me: Grk. kagō (from kai, "also," and egō, "I"), conj. which serves to link in parallel a personal affirmation by way of addition to or confirmation of a preceding statement; 'and I,' but the dative case requires "to me." Luke means, "Having considered the many attempts at recording the deeds of Yeshua (verse 1 above) and the previous publication of two biographies of Yeshua (the previous verse), it seemed important to complete the historical portrait with what was not previously revealed."

having closely followed: Grk. parakoloutheō (from para, "beside, in the presence of," and akoloutheō, "to follow"), perf. part., be in close association with; follow, accompany. The preposition para intensifies the meaning of the verb, so as to follow closely, demonstrating diligent devotion. In Classical Greek literature the verb regularly meant to physically follow after in order to be at someone's side, or attend closely, especially of an audience (LSJ; Thayer). The verb occurs rarely in Jewish literature but is used according to the classical meaning in the LXX (2Macc 8:11; 9:27), in Philo (On the Birth of Abel §70) and in Josephus (Contra Apion 1:10, 23).

The verb parakoloutheō occurs only three times in the Besekh, the other two times used in reference to Timothy faithfully adhering to Paul's teaching (1Tim 4:6; 2Tim 3:10). All the lexicons concur that the verb is used here in a metaphorical sense: to follow closely in mind, to investigate, search out or trace so as to attain knowledge of. Many versions therefore render the verb as "investigated" (e.g., CJB, CSB, GNC, LSB, NASB, NIV, NLT, NRSV, TLV).

However, an alternative translation is "followed closely" (DLNT, EHV, ESV, GW, LEB, MJLT, NOG, NET, RSV, YLT), which in my view is more accurate. Considering the verb according to etymology implies a play on words. The root verb akoloutheō means "to accompany" or "to join as a disciple" (Thayer), and the preposition para, "beside," strengthens the meaning of the verb.

all things: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. The neuter plural form of the adjective complements the use of pragma in verse 1 to refer to historical events associated with the incarnation and ministry of Yeshua. from the first: Grk. anōthen, adv. with a temporal emphasis, from the beginning, from the first; here referring to the scope of the history. The phrase "all things from the first" alludes to beginning the story of Yeshua from the beginning as it occurred in Israel.

Conventional Christian interpretation denies the patristic claim of Luke being a disciple of Yeshua. We are supposed to believe that Luke was a Gentile outsider who had no personal knowledge of Yeshua and only came to faith as a result of apostolic evangelism in Antioch. Therefore the "Gospel of Luke" is only the result of information gained by interviewing witnesses to the events and the guidance of the Holy Spirit on composition of the narrative. In my view this claim is not unlike the line of dialog in The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan: "Merely corroborative detail, intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative."

The verbal clause "having closely followed all things from the first" could support the patristic claim that Luke himself was a follower of Yeshua, perhaps initially one of the crowd, but later as a believer. He was therefore an eyewitness of many of the events he records, especially since in verse one above he speaks of what was "fulfilled among us." Luke could write with authority because he had been one of the Seventy. Even so, the point of this clause is that Luke asserts his faithful adherence to the facts of Yeshua's story, from before his birth, his dramatic incarnation, his childhood and adolescence until his immersion and consecration by John the Immerser at the age of thirty.

Luke emphasizes that he paid diligent attention to the key events and stories of Yeshua's life, as well as his instruction. Perhaps Luke kept a journal in which he recorded, clarified and verified what he heard and saw. As one of the Seventy Luke had considerable contact with Yeshua. Nevertheless, research was especially important to telling the story of Yeshua's birth. This is also true of Matthew who could not have been present for the nativity, but we know was a disciple and apostle.

Since many of the same incidents are reported in the narratives by Matthew, Mark and Luke (aka "Synoptic Gospels"), often in similar or even identical language, many Bible scholars have attempted to explain the similarities by postulating that one writer copied from another, or, that two or all three of them had access to the same sources. Christian scholars generally suppose that Luke utilized material found in Mark's narrative, as well as an independent source known as Quelle ("source") or simply "Q" (Neale 140). For a rebuttal of this proposal see my article The So-Called Synoptic Problem.

to write: Grk. graphō, aor. inf., to write or inscribe as a physical act, generally in reference to a document and here in reference to this book. carefully: Grk. akribōs, adv., diligently, carefully. in sequence: Grk. kathexēs, adv., in sequence, used here of the narrative chronology. Luke asserts that not only was his narrative a factual recitation of history, but it was also an orderly account, that is, he presents the narrative of events in sequence. In Jewish literature chronology is not always as important as the message. In this regard the arrangement of content in the apostolic narratives could be considered more topical than chronological.

The apostolic narratives are in complete agreement in recounting the sequence of the major events of Yeshua's life: his birth, immersion, temptation, ministry, passion, death, resurrection and then ascension. Yet a closer comparison of the order of their accounts reveals several points at which they differ over the sequence of specific actions of Yeshua. Luke is the only one to insist that the progression of events in his narrative is strictly chronological.

to you: Grk. su, second person pronoun. most excellent: Grk. kratistos, adj., an honorary form of address used to persons who hold a higher official or social position than the speaker (BAG). In Greek literature the term is used colloquially of the aristocracy (LSJ). In Roman society kratistos was used as a title or mode of address of a man of the equestrian order ranked next after the senatorial order. The same title is used for addressing the Roman governors Felix (Acts 23:26; 24:3) and Festus (Act 26:25).

Thus, Geldenhuys suggests the letter's recipient was probably a procurator or governor in some province of the Roman empire. Brown suggests the title might indicate the office of a chief magistrate in Greece or Asia Minor. However, Luke provides no evidence to confirm these speculations. Thayer acknowledges "Perhaps also it served simply to express friendship." In the LXX kratistos occurs four times and translates a different Hebrew adjective each time with meanings of "the best" (1Sam 15:15), "pleasant" (Ps 16:6), "running over" (Ps 23:5), and "good" (Amos 6:2).

Josephus used the adjective in a few passages, first of ancient Midianites addressing Hebrew young men (Ant. IV, 6:8), then of a man named Vitellius who was dear to Josephus (Ant. XX, 1:2), and finally of a man by the name of Epaphroditus to whom he dedicated his Jewish historical works (Contra Apion 1:1). Josephus follows up the mention of the recipient with this statement: "I have made it evident to those who peruse them, that our Jewish nation is of very great antiquity." He did not say "the Jewish nation" but "our Jewish nation, implying that Epaphroditus was Jewish.

Theophilus: Grk. Theophilos ("friend of God"). The name occurs only here and in Acts 1:1. Based on the name many scholars believe Theophilus was a Greek. However, Theophilus could just as easily have been a Jew, since many Jews had Greek names (e.g., the apostles). Stern suggests that the meaning of the name might indicate that Luke was writing to a generic disciple, but the flow of the narrative rebuts this conjecture. Theophilus was a specific person living in a specific location. The location of Theophilus has been variously speculated, such as the nomination of Alexandria by Bengel and Benson.

Antioch is favored by Exell and Lumby because of a Theophilus being mentioned in the Clementine Recognitions as a prominent citizen in that city. The Clementine Recognitions, an extensive work of homilies purportedly authored by Clement of Rome (1st century), but dated in the 4th century, is generally regarded of Jewish-Christian origin. Since Luke was originally from Antioch and an association with the primarily Jewish congregation in Antioch could make Antioch a plausible location of Theophilus. Also, including Theophilus in the use of "us" in Luke 1:1-2 would support Theophilus being Jewish.

Scholars ignore the fact that there was a famous Jew by the name of Theophilus who served as high priest A.D. 37-41 and is mentioned by Josephus (Ant. XVII, 4:2; XVIII, 5:3; XIX, 6:2; XX, 9:7) (Jeremias 194, 378). The name of the high priest was also found in archeological evidence among the Herodian Mansions in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem (CJSB). "This is significant in that Luke begins and ends this Gospel account with references to the Temple" (D. Barag and D. Flusser, Israel Exploration Journal 26, no. I/2, 1986, pp. 39-44; cited in CJSB).

Bolt comments that "If he can be identified as Theophilus the high priest (ad 37–41), then Luke's narrative presents Jesus to a man who was at the centre of the Jewish circles that were largely responsible for rejecting Jesus." It's not impossible that the Theophilus to whom Luke wrote was the high priest (retired). Also, including Theophilus in the use of "us" in Luke 1:1-2 would support Theophilus being Jewish.

4 so that you may know the certainty concerning the words of which you were instructed.

so that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed; in order that, so that. you may know: Grk. epiginōskō, aor. subj., 'to know about,' here meaning to know an increasing measure, to know thoroughly, to know accurately and know well. the certainty: Grk. asphaleia, state of not being subject to falling or being tripped or overthrown; certainty, security. concerning: Grk. peri, prep. See verse 1 above. the words: pl. of Grk. logos. See verse 2 above. Many versions translate the plural noun as "things," but the noun is masculine, not neuter. A few versions have "the words" (DRA, MJLT, NRSVUE, TLV). The plural noun would allude to the content of the full message of the good news. See my article The Original Gospel.

of which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to specify or give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. you were instructed: Grk. katēcheō, aor. pass., to impart structured information, usually in an oral manner; inform, instruct, teach. Luke acknowledges that his reader has already been taught the story of Yeshua, perhaps by the eyewitnesses and reporters mentioned in verse 2 above.

Luke did not want Theophilus to have any doubts, but to rest in the certainty of Yeshua's identity as the Messiah. There is no reason to assume that Theophilus was unsaved. This same verb is used of Apollos who had some teaching about the Messiah before he went to Ephesus, but Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and explained the truth more accurately (Acts 18:24-26). Luke's task was to explain the truth about Yeshua more accurately to Theophilus.

Date: June 4 B.C.

Zechariah and Elizabeth, 1:5-10

Verse 5 begins the nativity narrative that continues to verse 38 of Chapter Two. The beginning of the biography manifests a change in the literary style. Geldenhuys notes that Luke "switches over to a Hebraistically tinted language corresponding to that of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament" (36). In other words the biography of Yeshua is written in Jewish Greek.

There is considerable debate concerning the dating of the events described in this chapter and the next. Many Bible scholars suggest 5 BC for the nativity of Yeshua, primarily because of assuming that Herod the Great died in 4 BC. The historical setting of the momentous events recorded by Luke does include various clues of both the year and time of year. Dates suggested in this nativity commentary are based on the assumption of Yeshua's birth in September 3 B.C. See my graphic presentation The Birth of Yeshua for a detailed analysis of determining the timeline of the nativity.

5 There was in the days of Herod, King of Judea, a certain priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah, and his wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

Reference: 1Chronicles 24:10.

Both here and in the next chapter Luke places the birth of the Messiah in the context of well-known political leaders.

There was: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 2 above. In the LXX ginomai often occurs in the Hebrew construction of something that "came to pass," especially the divine answer to prayer or fulfillment of prophecy (DNTT 1:181). in: Grk. en, prep. the days: pl. of Grk. ho hēmera, day, may refer to (1) the hours of sunrise to sunset, (2) the 24 hours that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose, or (4) an imprecise period (BAG). The fourth meaning applies here in the Hebraistic sense of a general reference point in relation to a historical figure (e.g. Jdg 5:6; 2Sam 21:1; 1Kgs 10:21; 1Chr 4:41), that also serves as a timeframe for accomplishing the purposes of God.

of Herod: Grk. Hrodēs, from hēros, 'hero,' known as Herod the Great. Herod the Great was born about the year 73 BC. According to Josephus, Herod was an Idumean on his father’s side and an Arabian on his mother’s (Ant. XIV, 1:3 and 7:3). The Idumeans were the descendants of Esau, and inhabited the Sinaitic peninsula south of the Dead Sea. The Edomites had been constant enemies of the Jews, but they were finally subjugated by John Hyrcanus, a Hasmonean leader of the 2nd century BC. He left them in possession of their land, but compelled them to undergo circumcision and adopt the Jewish law (cf. Ant. XIII, 9:1; XV 7:9; Wars IV, 5:5). The latter was an unprecedented act for a Jewish ruler.

Herod the Great was a polygamist (as allowed then by Jewish law) with ten wives who bore him at least nine sons and five daughters. More sons and daughters are likely since the offspring of his last two wives were not recorded. The date of Herod's death is much debated. The church fathers placed his death in 1 B.C., but beginning in the 19th century Christian scholarship generally rejected this tradition in favor of 4 B.C. However, in my view the 1 B.C. date is more likely. See my comment on Matthew 2:19.

King: Grk. basileus, king or chief ruler. In the LXX basileus appears frequently to translate Heb. melek. In the Tanakh the title "king" was not associated with the size of territory governed (often a city), but the authority wielded. The executive and judicial functions (and sometimes legislative) of government were vested in one person.

of Judea: Grk. Ioudaia, a fem. proper noun, Judea, a name applied to that part of Canaan occupied by those who returned after the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities (Zodhiates). In the LXX Ioudaia occurs 45 times and transliterates Heb. Y'hudah ("praised"), first used for the geographical territory given to the tribe of Judah (Ruth 1:1; 1Sam 17:1); next the southern Kingdom of Judah distinguished from the northern Kingdom of Israel (2Kgs 14:11; 2Chr 11:5); and then the province to which Jews returned after the exile (Ezra 1:2, 3; 5:8; 7:14; Dan 5:3).

Some versions incorrectly give the name as "Judaea" (ASV, BRG, JUB, KJV, NTE), but Judaea was the name given to the Roman province formed in A.D. 6, which comprised Idumea, historic Judea and Samaria. Some lexicons (BAG, Danker and Thayer) commit the egregious error of defining Ioudaia as "Palestine." Thayer (1889) and BAG (1928) may have been influenced by the fact that the biblical territory was called "Palestine" when those books were originally published. However, at no time in biblical history was the land called Palestine, a name derived from "Philistine." Danker is without excuse. See my article The Land is NOT Palestine.

Geldenhuys notes that here the geographic term "Judea" is used in the broad sense of including Judea, Samaria and Galilee (70; cf. Acts 10:37). At its height the kingdom of Herod the Great not only included those territories, but also Idumea, Perea, Gaulanitis, Trachonitis, Batanaea and Auranitis (Atlas 85). See the map here. The only area outside his control was the Decapolis. The reign of King Herod provides an important dating reference to the following narrative.

Herod had been appointed king "by the Romans," i.e., the Roman Senate with the nomination of Marc Antony (Josephus, Ant. XIV, 13:1; XVII, 8:1). The Roman historians Appian of Alexandria (AD 95−165), The Civil Wars V, 8:75, and Cassius Dio (AD 164−234), Roman History, Book 49, 22:6, also credit Antony for Herod's appointment, but they don't identify the year. The period of Herod's reign is generally given as 40−4 B.C., with the end date corresponding to the date of his death. [NOTE: The B.C./A.D. dating convention was not created until A.D. 525.]

In the first century two major calendar conventions were in use. Roman historians gave dates in years A.U.C. (Ad Urbe Condita - "from the founding of the city of Rome"). The A.U.C. system began on 21 April 753 B.C. The Roman calendar is also called the Julian calendar, named in honor of Julius Caesar. The first month of the Julian Calendar is January. However, the Greeks gave dates according to the Olympiad. The Olympiad System was based on the 4 year cycle of the Olympic Games. The Olympiad system began in Athens on 1 July 776 B.C. (Finegan 93).

The Olympiad system was used by Greek and Hellenistic historians. Josephus (A.D. 37−100), the Jewish historian, also used the Olympiad system for dating events, and relevant to the present subject the reign of Herod the Great. Josephus says that Herod went to Rome and with the sponsorship of Marc Antony the Senate approved him as king over Judea (Ant. XIV, 13:1; 14:5; Wars I, 12:5; 20:1). The last Hasmonean king, Antigonus, was still in power, but the Roman Senate condemned him as unworthy of the throne and gave its sanction for removing him. Josephus then reported the date of this event.

"And thus did this man [Herod] receive the kingdom, having obtained it on the hundred and eighty-fourth olympiad, when Caius Domitius Calvinus was consul the second time, and Caius Asinius Pollio [the first time]." (Ant. XIV, 14:5)

The 184th Olympiad ran from July 1, 44 B.C. to June 30, 40 B.C. (Finegan 97). Josephus does not give a year in the 184th Olympiad, as he sometimes does (e.g., Ant. XIV, 1:2, third year). However, the mentioning of Caius Domitius Calvinus and Caius Asinius Pollio, who were consuls together at Rome during the year of 40 B.C. only, strengthens the scholarly assumption that Herod's royal appointment occurred in 40 B.C. In terms of actual regnal years, Josephus provides this specific information.

"having reigned since he procured Antigonus to be slain, thirty-four years; but since he had been declared king by the Romans thirty-seven." (Ant. XVII, 8:1. These numbers are repeated in Wars I, 33:8.)

While Josephus reports the Senate's approval of Herod as king in 40 B.C., the years of his reign are not determined from that point. Two factors impact the determination of Herod's regnal years. First, kings do not share the throne simultaneously. Herod's regnal years could not begin until Antigonus was dead, which occurred three years after Herod was appointed (Ant. XIV, 15:14), in the 185th Olympiad (Ant. XIV, 16:4). Second, in Judea, following Seleucid practice, a new regnal year started on Tishri 1 (Sept-Oct), as was customary for non-Israelite kings (Rosh Hashanah 3a; cf. Neh 1:1; 2:1).

In addition, the Judean method of counting years did not include the accession year (Geldenhuys 134). So, while Herod's appointment may have occurred in 40 B.C., his regnal years did not begin until at least 37/36 B.C. The statement of Josephus that Herod reigned thirty-four years from the death of Antigonus would then mean a completed number ending in 30 August 2 B.C. and his death the following Spring occurred in his 35th year.

Herod demonstrated his skill at adapting to the changing political climate of the Roman empire. He manifested a lust for power, and efficiency at warfare. As a reigning monarch Herod became known for his building projects by building cities and temples in honor of the emperor and of the gods. Caesarea with its fine harbor was also built; and, being a Greek in his tastes, Herod erected theatres and arenas for games, the latter being offensive to Jews due to the nudity of athletes (Jos., Ant. XV, 8:1, XVI, 5:1; Wars I, 21:1, 5). For the Jews his greatest achievement was the rebuilding of the Temple, owing more likely to his vanity than any piety. The great project began in his eighteenth year as king (Ant. XV, 11:1).

a certain: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun used to indicate non-specification; a certain one, someone, anyone, anything. The pronoun is often used to distinguish someone in a class or in contrast to others. priest: Grk. hiereus, one who offers sacrifice to God and conducts sacred rites at the place of worship or sanctuary; priest. In the LXX hiereus translates Heb. kohen, priest, first in Genesis 14:18 in reference to Melchizedek. God stipulated specific standards for priests: only men from the tribe of Levi, free of physical defect and ordained at age 30 (Ex 29:9; Lev 21:17-23; Num 4:2-3). Here hiereus denotes the priest on duty in accordance with the assigned rota.

Zechariah: Grk. Zacharias, a transliteration of Heb. Z'kharyah ('Yah remembered'). In the Tanakh the name is spelled Zechariah. Zacharias is an attempt to replicate the pronunciation of Z'kharyah, without translating the meaning of the name. The Greek word ends with a sigma ("ς") because an ending with alpha ("α") would make the name feminine. A number of versions render the name in its Tanakh form "Zechariah" (ESV, HCSB, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV, RSV, and TLV). This is the form used in this commentary. Not much information is provided about Zechariah. He was a priest, a godly servant of the Lord.

"Zechariah" was an honored name in the history of Israel and thirty men mentioned in the Tanakh bear this name, eight of whom were Levites and six were priests (Barker 360-362). Most notable of these men is the author of the book of the "minor" prophet bearing his name. Zechariah the prophet was "the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo," a priestly family (Ezra 5:1; Neh 12:4; Zech 1:1). It's not impossible that the Zechariah of the nativity narrative was named in honor of the famous prophet.

of the division: Grk. ephēmeria, a class of priests and Levites who served for a stated number of days. In the LXX ephēmeria occurs in passages describing the assignment of Levitical and priestly duties (1Chr 9:33; 23:6; 25:8; 26:12; 28:1, 13, 21; 2Chr 5:11; 13:10; 23:9, 1; 8; 31:2, 15-17; 35:4; Neh 12:9, 24; 13:30). of Abijah: Grk. Abia (Heb. Aviyah). The descendants of Aaron were originally organized into 24 divisions or courses by David and Zadok the high priest (1Chr 24:3). The Abijah division was the eighth in order (1Chr 24:10).

According to Josephus only four of the original courses returned from captivity and those four were divided into the prescribed 24 courses. In the first century there were in excess of 20,000 priests in the courses (Contra Apion, 2:8). Each of the twenty-four divisions served in the temple for one week, Sabbath to Sabbath, twice a year, as well as at the three major pilgrim festivals when all males were to appear in Jerusalem in accordance with the Torah commandment (Deut 16:16) (Jeremias 199).

and: Grk. kai, conj. his: Grk. autos, an intensive personal pronoun, often used to distinguish a person or thing in contrast to another, or to give him (it) prominence. The pronoun may mean (1) self, (2) he, she, it, or (3) the same. The first meaning applies here. wife: Grk. gunē, an adult female person, without respect to age, marital or social status except as defined in the context, here "wife." In the LXX gunē translates the Heb. ishshah ("woman, wife"), first in Genesis 2:22. In Scripture when a woman belongs to one man with the expectation of intimate relations (Gen 2:21-22), the Hebrew or Greek word is translated as "wife."

of: Grk. ek, prep. may be used to denote derivation or separation, here the former; from, out of, out from among. Ek has a two-layered meaning, "out from" and "to," which makes it out-come oriented, i.e., out of the depths of the source and extending to its impact on the object (HELPS). the daughters: pl. of Grk. ho thugatēr, a female offspring, daughter, or a female descendant. In the LXX thugatēr translates Heb. bath, which is used of a female child born of a woman, an adopted daughter, a daughter-in-law and young women generally.

of Aaron: Grk. Aarōn, which transliterates Heb. Aharôn, the elder brother of Moses (by three years, Ex 7:7) and Israel's first high priest chosen by God. He was ordained to his office at Mount Sinai (Ex 28:1). Aaron died in the wilderness at the age of 123 years (Num 20:23-28). Being descended directly from Aaron was a distinguished lineage in Israel.

and: Grk. kai. her: Grk. autos. name: Grk. onoma is used in its central sense of identifying someone with a proper name. In Hebrew literature "name" also carries the extended sense of authority, qualities, powers, attributes or reputation. was Elizabeth: Grk. Elisabet, which transliterates Heb. Elisheba, means "my God is an oath" or perhaps "my God is abundance." She may have been named in honor of Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab and wife of Aaron the high priest (Ex 6:23). Descendants of Aaron were given specific guidance concerning marriage.

A common priest might marry a widow, but he could not marry a prostitute or a divorced woman (Lev 21:7). A high priest was forbidden to marry a widow, divorced woman, or a prostitute. The high priest was specifically required to marry a virgin of his own people (Lev 21:13-14). The purpose of such stringent rules was to prevent defilement for those who would represent the people before God (Lev 23:15). Violating these rules by any priest would result in loss of priestly privileges. For Zechariah to marry the daughter of a priest was considered a double honor (Edersheim 95; cf. Ber. 44a; Pes. 49a).

Many efforts have been made to calculate the date of Zechariah's duty to justify either a winter or fall date for the nativity. The only certain reference is that at the time of the destruction of the Temple on the 9th of Av in AD 70, the Jehoiarib course was on duty (Taan. 29a). Those doing the calculating typically begin with an assumption of the year of the nativity and then calculate the courses from A.D. 70 to that time. However, in A.D. 70 the Zealots had assumed control of the city and restructured priestly management. The mention of the Yehoyariv course does not imply a normal schedule. The situation was not normal.

Determining the time of the year Zechariah performed his duty as recorded by Luke is not a simple matter of just creating a chart that backdates the courses in sequence to the target year. Years on the Jewish calendar can have six different lengths to reconcile the lunar year with the solar year (see the article Jewish Calendar.) During the time between festivals priestly courses not on duty could be called in to help the weekly course who was (Sukk. 5:7) (Jeremias 202). Then availability of priests would be impacted by sickness, death, environmental calamity and wars, all of which were part of life in the first century.

In any event, Zechariah would have received his angelic announcement 15 months before Yeshua was born, since John the Immerser was six months older than Yeshua (Luke 1:36, 42). If Yeshua was born in December in proximity of Kislev 25 (Hanukkah, "Festival of Lights;" cf. John 1:9), then Zechariah's service described here occurred in September the previous year. If Yeshua was born in September in proximity of Tishri 15 (Feast of Sukkot or Tabernacles; cf. John 1:14) then Zechariah would have been serving in July (Ab) the previous year. There is no absolute certainty in this element of dating the nativity, but other elements favor Tishri for Yeshua's birth.

6 Now they were both righteous before God, walking without fault in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord.

Now: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought, "but;" (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter, "now, then;" or (3) a connective particle to continue a thought, "and, also," sometimes with emphasis, "indeed," "moreover" (Thayer). The second meaning applies here. they were: Grk. eimi, impf., 3p-pl., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). The imperfect tense is used of continuous or repeated action in past time.

both: Grk. amphoteroi, adj., both (of two). righteous: Grk. dikaios, adj., being in accord with Torah standards for acceptable behavior, upright or just. In the LXX dikaios translates Heb. tsaddiq, 'just or righteous' (BDB 843). In Scripture a righteous person is one who is innocent of wrongdoing and one who lives in a manner pleasing to God. before: Grk. enantion, prep., 'in front of,' 'before,' especially in the sense of being subject to scrutiny.

God: Grk. ho theos (for Heb. Elohim), properly, God, the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Creator and owner of all things (Gen 1:1; John 1:1-3). In the LXX theos translates Hebrew words for God, El, Eloah, and Elohim, as well as the sacred name YHVH (DNTT 2:67-70). YHVH is the one only and true God, the God of Israel. In Hebrew thought the plural form of Elohim represents fullness, which excludes the possible existence of any other deity (Isa 44:6; 45:5-6; 46:9). God is a Person, not a philosophical construct for monotheism. See my comment on John 1:1.

The second clause explains how Zechariah and Elizabeth could be called righteous. walking: Grk. poreuomai, pl. pres. mid. part., to go, used here in a Hebraistic sense, metaphorically to conduct oneself, live, walk. without fault: pl. of Grk. amemptos, adj., not subject to complaint or censure concerning behavior; blameless, faultless. Some Bible characters are described as having "walked" (Heb. halak) in a blameless manner before God, e.g. Enoch (Gen 5:22), Noah (Gen 6:9), Abraham (cf. Gen 17:1; 26:5; 48:15) and Job (cf. Job 1:8; 2:3; 31:5). in: Grk. en, prep. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 3 above. "All" does not admit exceptions.

the commandments: pl. of Grk. ho entolē, a directive for action, command, order or instruction. The noun refers to instruction that is obligatory and not merely informative. In the LXX entolē generally translates Heb. mitsvah, commandment (e.g., Ex 20:6; Ps 119:6). A mitsvah may be a human command, but is mostly divine instruction intended for obedience. Violation produces guilt and need for atonement. and: Grk. kai, conj. ordinances: Grk. dikaiōma, a declaration with binding force, an act God approves, focusing on its "result" (Zodhiates); a concrete expression of righteousness (HELPS); decree, ordinance, precept, requirement.

In the LXX dikaiōma is frequently found in the context of law, meaning an ordinance or a statute that sets forth a standard of righteousness (DNTT 3:354). The term occurs 70 times to translate Heb. choq or chuqqah, something prescribed, an enactment, an ordinance, a statute (BDB 349f), first used of divine ordinances that Abraham knew and obeyed (Gen 26:5). Choq-chuqqah often refers to regulations and statutes given to Israel for governing a wide variety of civil and religious matters (Ex 15:25; Num 30:16; 31:21).

Dikaiōma also translates Heb. mishpat, judgment, ordinance, some 40 times, first in Exodus 15:25. The Hebrew term translated with dikaiōma especially pertains to the rules that relate to the administration of justice and must be obeyed to enjoy the kind of life God promised (Ex 21:1; Deut 4:1; 6:2; 8:11; 10:13; 11:1; 17:19; 26:16; 27:10; 28:45; 30:10, 16). The emphasis here on righteousness based on God's commandments serves as a counterpoint to the controversies during Yeshua's ministry involving Pharisee traditions. For Zechariah and Elizabeth the written Torah was the foundation of their righteousness.

of the Lord: Grk. ho kurios may mean either (1) a person exercising absolute ownership rights, master; or (2) one esteemed for authority or high status, lord. Both meanings have application here. In the LXX kurios, occurring over 9,000 times, primarily replaces the sacred name YHVH, over 6,000 times, first in Genesis 2:21. Kurios is not a translation of YHVH, but an interpretative substitution that encompassed all that the Hebrew text implied by use of the divine name. The oldest LXX manuscript fragments actually have YHVH written in Hebrew characters in the Greek text (DNTT 2:512).

Kurios also translates Heb. Adonai, "Lord" (note the lower case), used of the triune God of Israel about 450 times (DNTT 2:511f). Adonai is the plural of Adōn, lord, master, or owner. The plural form Adonai is regularly used with singular verbs and modifiers, so it is best to regard Adonai as an emphatic plural or plural of majesty (HFC). Using kurios for Adonai is genuine translation. In the great majority of Tanakh occurrences Adonai is spoken by someone addressing God in petition (e.g., Gen 15:2; Ex 4:10; Deut 3:24; Josh 7:7), frequently in the Psalms. The significance of Adonai is that the God of Israel is "Lord" of all the earth (Josh 3:11, 13). The title of Adonai does occur in connection with a reference to God's commandments and ordinances (Neh 10:29).

In post-Tanakh Jewish literature, especially in Qumran, it became customary to substitute Adonai for the sacred name. The non-biblical texts from Qumran make it clear that Adonai was used as an invocation in prayers and therefore predominantly in liturgical texts (e.g., 1QM 12:8, 18; 1QH; 1QSb; 1Q34). For Philo kurios represented the royal power of God (On Dreams §1-163). Other Jewish literature used kurios as a term for God: Wisdom of Solomon (27 times); the Letter of Aristeas; and Josephus, Ant. IV, 8:19.

Christian versions translate kurios with "the Lord," but the Messianic Jewish versions CJB, MJLT and TLV render kurios with ADONAI (note small caps) as a substitution for YHVH. Tracey Rich points out that there was no prohibition against pronouncing the sacred name in ancient times (The Name of God, Judaism 101). In fact, YHVH is often spoken by Bible characters in the Tanakh, first by Eve (Gen 4:1). However, Messianic versions use ADONAI in deference to Jewish sensibilities based on a Talmudic regulation (Kiddushin 71a). For more information on the history and usage of YHVH see my article The Blessed Name.

The combined reference to commandments (entolē) and ordinances (dikaiōma) occurs 24 times in the Tanakh, first in Genesis 26:5 in the accolade of Abraham who lived according to God's commandments. The combined terms then occur multiple times in the Tanakh with the mention of YHVH as the divine authority (Num 36:13; Deut 4:40; 6:1-2; 8:11; 10:13; 11:1; 27:10; 28:45; 30:10, 16; 1Kgs 2:3; 2Kgs 17:13, 19, 34; 2Chr 19:10). Luke is clear that the origin of the moral code by which Zechariah and Elizabeth lived is the God of Israel who revealed them to Moses.

Concerning the righteous character and conduct of Zechariah and Elisheba, David Stern comments:

"Contrary to some Christian theologians, the New Testament teaches that the Torah of Moses offers righteousness. To be considered righteous before God, Z'kharyah and Elisheva had to love God and fellowman, trust God and believe his word. As evidence of this love and trust they observed all the rules of behavior God had revealed, including those which demanded repentance and a blood sacrifice as a sin offering when they fell short of full obedience."

7 and yet there was not a child to them, because Elizabeth was barren, and both of them were advanced in years.

and yet: Grk. kai, conj. See verse 2 above. Many versions translate the conjunction with "but." However, Gleason Archer insists that kai is never adversative, i.e. it never means "however" or "but" (HELPS). In other words kai is not used to contradict. Thayer explains that kai can sometimes convey a certain rhetorical or paradoxical emphasis, by adding something apparently at variance with what has been previously said; so that it is equivalent to "and yet."

there was: Grk. eimi, impf. See the previous verse. not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; not. a child: Grk. teknon, the immediate biological offspring (of either sex) of a man or woman, but may also refer to more distant relations. When used of immediate offspring a teknon is older than an infant, but younger than bar/bat mitzvah age. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. See verse 5 above. Luke then gives two reasons why the couple had no children. because: Grk. kathoti, adv., explanatory of circumstances; according as, because, inasmuch as. Elizabeth: Grk. ho Elisabet. See verse 5 above.

was: Grk. eimi, impf. barren: Grk. steira, adj., incapable of conception. Barrenness was often considered a sign of God's judgment (e.g., Gen 20:18; 2Sam 6:23). See verse 25 below. The previous verse declared that both Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous, "and yet" they had no child. and: Grk. kai. both: Grk. amphoteroi, adj. See the previous verse. of them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. were: Grk. eimi, impf., 3p-pl. advanced: Grk. probainō, pl. perf. part., to move forward from a position, here an allusion to advancement of time from birth.

in: Grk. en, prep. years: pl. of Grk. ho hēmera. See verse 5 above. The phrase is lit. "advanced in days" and corresponds to a common Hebrew idiom describing an elderly person, ba bayyamim, "advanced in days" (Gen 18:11; 24:1; Josh 13:1; 23:1). This description does not mean that Zechariah and Elisheba were as old as Abraham and Sarah who had Isaac when they were 100 and 90 years old respectively (Gen 18:1-5, 21:1-7). According to the Mishnah the age of sixty was considered the "commencement of agedness" (Avot 5:21).

Levites were required to retire at age fifty (Num 8:25-26), but there was no age limit for priests. Only physical impairment could disqualify a priest from service. The point is that the couple was well past normal child bearing years and their age description serves to emphasize the miraculous nature of the prophesied conception in verse 13.

8 Now it came to pass in his serving as priest before God in the order of his division,

Now: Grk. de, conj. it came to pass: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 2 and 5 above. The Greek construction egeneto de, which begins this verse, is a peculiar characteristic of Luke's writing style, appearing in the Besekh only in his writings, 17 times in this narrative of Yeshua and 20 times in Acts. The verb may be considered a Hebraism because it imitates the frequent use of Heb. hayah, "it came to pass," in the historical narratives of the Tanakh (185 times; first in Gen 4:8). The verb is used to signal a change in the narrative and often introduces some dramatic action by an individual that impacts biblical history or serves God's sovereign planning.

in: Grk. en, prep. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. serving as priest: Grk. hierateuō (from hiereus, "priest"), pres. inf., to serve in a priestly role. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. before: Grk. enanti, prep., relating to a position relative to another being; before, in the presence of. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 6 above. The phrase "before God" expresses literal truth in that Zechariah was performing his duty in the Holy Place and the Shekhinah glory of God filled the Holy of Holies. in: Grk. en. the order: Grk. taxis, an arranging, used here of a position or turn in an orderly sequence of activity, order.

of his: Grk. autos. division: Grk. ephēmeria. See verse 5 above. The noun refers to the division of Abijah. One could easily say that Zechariah's time to serve at the Temple was a God-ordained appointment. The phrase "to serve as priest" does not mean that Zechariah was only a priest when he was on duty. He was an ordinary priest all the time, but the phrase refers to performing particular tasks in the Temple as assigned. The ordinary priests lived in widely scattered parts of Judea and Galilee and only came to Jerusalem when they were on duty. During the week priests carried out specific duties in the daily ceremonies under the oversight of the chief priests.

Each weekly course was subdivided by daily courses to accomplish all the Temple duties. There were about 156 daily courses since each weekly course consisted of four to nine daily courses (Jeremias 163). Every day the morning sacrifice was offered, which included the incense offering, the burnt offering of a lamb, the food offering, the baked meal offering of the high priest, and the drink offering. Twenty-seven priests were chosen to perform all these rituals (Jeremias 201). The same routine would be repeated for the evening sacrifice. Because of the thousands of priests available, an individual priest was only allowed to perform this sacred duty once in his lifetime.

In the narrative Luke does not specify the month or season of Zechariah's duty. If his service had been during a festival Luke would have said so. With the suggested date of June 4 B.C. Zechariah's duty occurred after Shavuot (Pentecost).

9 according to the custom of the priestly office, he was allotted to burn incense, having entered into the Holy Place of the Lord.

Reference: Exodus 30:7.

according to: Grk. kata, prep., generally used to signify (1) direction, 'against, down;' (2) position, 'down, upon, in;' or (3) conformity or relation, 'according to, in reference to.' The third meaning is intended here. the custom: Grk. ho ethos, a way of doing things marked by recurring procedure, a usage formed from habit; custom, habit or practice. of the priestly office: Grk. ho hierateia, priestly office or service, priesthood. he was allotted: Grk. lagchanō, aor., to obtain by lot, referring to the end result after casting lots.

The director of the daily course (Heb. rosh beit av) selected the participating priests by lot each morning and then supervised their work. The practice of casting lots is mentioned seventy times in the Tanakh and was a common method in ancient Israel for making decisions when impartiality was needed. The Torah does not prescribe the means of casting the lot, but Solomon mentions the lot as being cast into the lap (Prov 16:33). Nothing is known about the actual lots themselves. They could have been sticks of various lengths, flat stones like coins, or some kind of dice; but their exact nature is unknown. The closest modern practice to casting lots is likely flipping a coin.

to burn incense: Grk. thumiaō, aor. inf., to burn incense. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. The incense burning ceremony coincided with the times of the morning and evening sacrifices (Ex 30:7-8). Edersheim suggests that given the mention of casting of lots, which occurred in the morning, then Zechariah's service occurred during the morning service (94). For a detailed description of the service see Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, Chapter Eight.

In order to burn incense two priests ordinarily helped the officiating priest. One brought glowing coals on a silver fire-pan from the Altar of Burnt Offering to the Altar of Incense in the Holy Place (Tamid 5:5; 6:2; 7:2). The second took from the officiating priest the bowl in which the dish of incense had lain until censing was finished (Tamid 6:3). The priest who offered the incense chose this second assistant himself.

having entered: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. part., to go or enter into a geographical area, manufactured structure or other place defined in the context. In the LXX eiserchomai translates Heb. bo, to come in, come, go in, go (BDB 97), first in Genesis 6:20. Luke records that on this occasion Zechariah was chosen to burn the incense. With the preparation of the fire-pan and incense having been completed Zechariah entered alone. into: Grk. eis, prep. focusing on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit, here complementing the previous verb; into, to.

the Holy Place: Grk. ho naos, the sanctuary proper, or the holy place, wherein God himself resides and where priests offered sacrifices, in contrast to hieros, which denotes the entire temple complex with all the courts. of the Lord: Grk. ho kurios. See verse 6 above. The dimensions of the Temple proper as reconstructed by Herod was 60 cubits long (90 ft.), 20 cubits wide (30 ft.), and 40 cubits high (60 ft.) (Josephus, Wars V, 5:5). This space was divided into the Holy of Holies and the Hekal or Holy Place and the Holy Place occupied two-thirds of the footprint.

At the entrance to the Holy Place hung a veil embroidered in blue, white, scarlet, and purple. The Holy Place was separated from the Holy of Holies by a similar curtain. The Holy of Holies was quite empty, but in the Holy Place stood the altar of incense near the entrance to the Holy of Holies, the seven-branched golden menorah to the south, and the table of showbread to the north (Barton). See a model of Herod's temple here.

10 And everyone of the multitude of people was praying outside at the hour of incense burning.

And: Grk. kai, conj. everyone: Grk. pas, adj. of the multitude: Grk. ho plēthos, relatively large number of any kind; multitude, great number. The noun is neuter, which implies inclusion of men and women. of people: Grk. ho laos, a group of humans, understood geographically or ethnically and in Scripture often viewed in contrast with the ruling class. The term corresponds to the Heb. am-ha'aretz, "people of the land," i.e., the people of Israel. However, the masculine form of the noun might denote men. was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 6 above.

praying: Grk. proseuchomai, pres. mid. part. (from pros, "toward" and euchomai, "to wish or pray"), to petition deity for some personal desire, to offer prayer. In the LXX proseuchomai translates Heb. palal, to intervene, mediate, intercede or pray (DNTT 2:862). The verb generally refers to earnestly petitioning God for His help with respect to an urgent need. Pious Israelites prayed three times a day (cf. Ps 55:17; Dan 6:10). The scope of the corporate prayer in this situation was primarily national as the people prayed regularly for deliverance from their enemies. The verb might also apply to a long formal prayer (cf. Matt 23:14; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47), such as the Shemoneh Esrei, which was offered daily.

In the first century prayer services were held daily at the temple: (1) morning (Heb. shacharit) at the third hour (9:00-10:00 am), (2) afternoon (Heb. minchah) at the sixth hour (noon-1:00 pm) and (3) evening (Heb. ma'ariv) at the ninth hour (3:00-4:00 pm) (Stern 228). Determination of the time was made from an improvised sundial on a Temple stairway (cf. 2Kgs 20:9-11; Isa 38:8). Many of the population were faithful to attend these services.

outside: Grk. exō, adv. of place, outside, used of a position that beyond a limit or boundary, here outside the Holy Place. In the LXX exō renders Heb. chuts, the outside, often in reference to the out of doors in relation to a structure. The "crowd" here would primarily be men in the Court of Israelites, but there would be women also in the Court of Women. at the hour: Grk. hōra, an incremental period of time in the day; hour. of the incense: Grk. thumiama, an aromatic substance burnt, incense. The burning of incense symbolized the prayers of the people ascending to God (cf. Ps 141:2; Rev 8:3).

Luke notes that the public prayer service coincided with burning of incense, which occurred at the morning and evening sacrifices (Ex 30:7-8). Exell comments that the reference to the "hour of incense" probably occurred on the Sabbath or some other holy day, but Luke offers no confirmation of this suggestion.

Good News of the Messenger, 1:11-17

11 And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense.

And: Grk. de, conj. an angel: Grk. aggelos, one sent, a messenger, whether human or heavenly (BAG). In the LXX aggelos translates Heb. malak, a messenger, representative, courier or angel (DNTT 1:101f). The term is used here to mean a heavenly messenger. Post-Tanakh Judaism developed an elaborate angelology (Stern 824), primarily the Essenes and Pharisees. The Sadducees did not believe in angels (Acts 23:8). Josephus said that the Essenes in particular preserved the names of the angels (Wars, Book II, 8:7). Angels figure prominently in Scripture as ministering spirits (Mark 1:13; Heb 1:14).

Angels are far different from popular assumptions about angels. Angels are not glorified humans that earn status in heaven by doing good works on earth. All individual angels mentioned in Scripture have masculine names or appear as men, contrary to popular art and media, which sometimes depicts them as female. In addition, only a special group of heavenly beings are mentioned in Scripture as having wings (Gen 3:24; Ex 37:9; Isa 6:2; Ezek 10:5; Rev 4:8), and these beings may not be angels at all. For a review of the varieties and classes of angels see my article The Host of Heaven.

of the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 6 above. The title is used here of the triune God of Israel, probably representing Heb. Adonai. The use of "Lord" stresses the authority over the angel. He does not serve the rebel leader of the fallen angels. The title "angel of the Lord" could also refer to an angel of higher rank, one who provided service to God as a personal messenger.

Such a high-ranking angel appears several times in the Tanakh, such as (1) the angel of God who gave instructions to Gideon for a sacrificial offering (Jdg 6:20-21); (2) the angel of God who directed Manoah to offer a burnt offering to YHVH (Jdg 13:9, 16), (3) the angel that inflicted a plague on Israel (2Sam 24:16; 1Chr 21:15-16), (4) the angel that appeared to Elijah (1Kgs 19:7; 2Kgs 1:3, 15); (5) the angel that struck the camp of the Assyrians (2Kgs 19:35); and (6) the angel who addresses God (Zech 1:12). So, the angel mentioned here is no ordinary angel.

appeared: Grk. horaō, aor. pass., to perceive physically with the eye, or in a fig. sense to experience something or to have extraordinary mental or inward perception; see, perceive, experience. In the LXX horaō translates Heb. ra'ah (SH-7200), to see, with a wide range of meaning, first in Genesis 1:9. The verb is actually passive voice, lit. "was seen." to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., Zechariah. Clarke notes that there had not been an angelic visitation in over 400 years and that was to the prophet Zechariah (520-518 BC). The last divine revelation had been to Malachi (430 BC), and his name means "my messenger/angel."

standing: Grk. histēmi, perf. part., to stand, used here of being in an upright position, used of bodily posture. at: Grk. ek, prep. the right: Grk. dexios, right as a direction or location, used of a bodily member or a location within a structure or in relation to a structure. of the altar: Grk. thusiastērion, an elevated place or structure at which religious rites are performed or on which sacrifices are offered to God. In the LXX thusiastērion translates Heb. mizbeach (SH-4196), altar, first in Genesis 8:20. of incense: Grk. ho thumiama. See the previous verse. The altar of incense was located in the Holy Place, just outside the Holy of Holies.

The direction of "right" is probably intended from the vantage of one facing the Holy of Holies. So far as we know this is the first and only angelic appearance in the Temple. Apparently the angel appeared after Zechariah walked into the room. Lightfoot suggests that given the angel's position he may have been in the Holy of Holies and came through the curtain.

12 And Zechariah was troubled, having seen him, and fear fell upon him.

And: Grk. kai, conj. Zechariah: Grk. Zacharias. See verse 5 above. was troubled: Grk. tarassō, aor. pass., to agitate as a term of physical motion, but used here figuratively of experiencing inner perplexity and emotional agitation. having seen him: Grk. horaō, aor. part. See the previous verse. and: Grk. kai. fear: Grk. phobos may mean (1) the feeling of need to escape from or avoid a threat; fear; (2) feeling of respect; reverence, awe; or (3) the process of causing in someone a feeling of need to escape from a situation; intimidation. The first meaning applies here.

fell: Grk. epipiptō, aor., come upon with sudden movement; fall upon, rush or press upon. Metaphorically the verb means to seize or to take possession of. upon: Grk. epi, prep., generally a marker of position or location; on, upon, over.' him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Since no human being could do what the angel just did Zechariah was justifiably frightened. In Scripture fear is not an uncommon reaction upon being greeted by an angel (cf. Jdg 13:20-22; Dan 10:8-12).

It may be that Zechariah's fear stemmed from being a Sadducee as many priests were. Sadducees did not believe in angels (Acts 23:8). It could also be a fear that he had made a mistake in conducting the sacred ritual. The Torah warned that failure to carry out priestly duties in the Holy Place in the prescribed manner would result in death (cf. Lev 16:2, 23; Num 18:32).

13 But the angel said to him, "Do not fear, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard, and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear a son to you, and you shall call his name Yochanan.

But: Grk. de, conj. the angel: Grk. ho aggelos. See verse 11 above. said: Grk. legō, to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or written, here the former. The focus of the verb may be declarative, interrogative or imperative; answer, ask, declare, say, speak, tell. In the LXX legō translates Heb. amar, to utter, say, shew, command or think (Gen 1:3). The angel no doubt spoke in Hebrew, the language of the Jews of that time. The opening phrase is a Hebraic manner of introducing quoted material since ancient writings did not contain punctuation.

Do not: Grk.  ("may"), adv., a particle of qualified negation, not. It differs from the other standard negative particle, ou, in that ou is objective, dealing only with facts, while is subjective, involving will and thought (DM 265). fear: Grk. phobeomai, pres. mid. imp., to fear. The verb has two basic meanings that are opposite: (1) to be in a state of apprehension, with emotions ranging from anxiety to terror; and (2) to have special respect or reverence for, i.e., deep respect. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX phobeomai translates Heb. yare, to fear or be afraid, stand in awe of, or to reverence, first in Genesis 3:10.

The middle voice, imperative mood and present tense of the verb combined with the negative particle indicates a strong command to stop a practice in progress. The angel immediately sought to allay Zechariah's natural fear and provide assurance that his life was not in danger. because: Grk. dioti, conj. that generally introduces a rationale or motive for the affirmation that precedes, "on the very account that, because, inasmuch as."

your: Grk. su, second person pronoun. prayer: Grk. deēsis, to stand in need of something and therefore to plead or beg of God. There are a variety of prayers: blessing, praise, thanksgiving, lament, petition, supplication, and intercession. In the Besekh deēsis is always used of a request to God for meeting a need. In the LXX deēsis is used to translate several Heb. words with the essential meaning of earnest prayer for oneself or intercession for another, especially Heb. techinnah, supplication for favor (1Kgs 8:28, 30, 38, 45; Ps 6:9; 55:1; 61:1).

has been heard: Grk. eisakouō, aor. pass., to pay attention to something orally, to hear or listen to. The angel proceeded to explain the reason for his presence. The angel affirmed that the petition and supplication of Zechariah was favorably received and answered by the God of Israel. Prayer expressed on earth is heard in Heaven. For Zechariah this prayer was an urgent supplication. There is no indication of how long Zechariah had been petitioning God, but the angel assured him that God had heard his prayer. It would be natural to assume that given the following angelic promise Zechariah may have also been praying for a child.

Yet, they had reached an age when they would have ceased expecting a child. Nevertheless, the life disappointment and shame of this godly couple would become the vehicle for bringing about God's plan for the redemption of Israel. Geldenhuys suggests as a representative of Israel the prayer was for the messianic redemption of Israel (63). The angel essentially says that the answer to Zechariah's prayer for Israel will start with him. The angel's message consists of seven promises and three instructions. The first promise is that messianic deliverance would begin with his wife.

Your: Grk. su. wife: Grk. gunē. See verse 5 above. On the surface the mention of "wife" seems superfluous since the wife's name is given next. Yet, the social status of the woman alludes to the order that God has created in the world. Zechariah is the head of his wife (1Cor 11:3; Eph 5:23), so the angel would not approach the woman directly.

Elizabeth: Grk. Elisabet. See verse 5 above. will bear: Grk. gennaō, fut., cause to come into being, here of a female parent, bear. The future tense is predictive. In the LXX gennaō is used chiefly for Heb. yalad, to bear, bring forth, to beget, to father (first in Gen 4:18), which can refer to either the male or female role in conception and birth (DNTT 1:176). Elizabeth's conception would occur in the normal manner after she and her husband returned home. The future tense implies completing nine months of pregnancy with a safe delivery.

to you: Grk. su. a son: Grk. huios, a male offspring or descendant, here the former. In the LXX huios translates Heb. ben (SH-1121), "son," "son of," first in Genesis 5:4. Not only does Gabriel provide the good news of a son, but he also instructed Zechariah in the naming of the son. and: Grk. kai. you shall call: Grk. kaleō, fut., 2p-sing., to call, here meaning to identify by name. The future tense has an imperative purpose here. In the LXX kaleō translates Heb. qara (SH-7121), to call, with the same meaning (Gen 1:5). his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. name: Grk. onoma is used in its central sense of identifying someone with a proper name.

In Hebrew literature "name" also carries the extended sense of authority, qualities, powers, attributes or reputation. Yochanan: Grk. Iōannēs, which attempts to transliterate the Heb. Yochanan. Clarke notes that the Hebrew name is nearly lost in the Greek Iōannēs, and in the Latin Johannes, and almost totally so in the English John. The original name is compounded of YHVH-chanan [show favor, be gracious], "the grace or mercy of YHVH." The meaning of Yochanan's name was very appropriate to the circumstances. The elderly parents received God's grace in the birth of their son and then the son's ministry would represent God's grace being extended to Israel.

The literary journey in Bible versions from the Heb. Yochanan to the English "John" is interesting. The Greek name was rendered as "Iohannes" in the Latin Vulgate (A.D. 405), but the Wycliffe Bible (1395), a translation of the Vulgate, inexplicably rendered the name as "Joon." The Tyndale Bible in 1525, translating from the Greek, changed the name to "Iohn" by dropping the last syllable of the Greek name. This spelling was followed in the KJV-1611. The Mace New Testament (1729) changed the "I" to "J" and Bibles after that date followed suit. Christians have been saying "John" ever since.

An alternate spelling of "Yochanan" exists in the Hebrew Tanakh; thus Messianic Jewish versions (CJB, MJLT, MW, OJB) render the name as "Yochanan" to emphasize his Hebrew name and Jewish heritage. The TLV, also a Messianic Jewish version, uses "John" in accordance with standard Bible versions, as does Heinz Cassirer in his New Testament translation God's New Covenant.

NOTE: For the purposes of this commentary the name "Yochanan" will be used for the Immerser and "John" for the apostle.

14 "And he will be a joy and gladness to you, and many will rejoice at his birth.

And: Grk. kai, conj. he will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. See verse 6 above. a joy: Grk. chara (from chairō, "to rejoice"), joy, delight, gladness, a source of joy. In the LXX chara appears only in the later writings and translates Heb. simchah, joy, gladness, mirth (1Chr 29:22; Neh 8:12; Esth 8:17; 9:17-18, 22; Ps 21:6; 30:11; Prov 14:13; Isa 55:12) (DNTT 2:356). In the Tanakh there is no apology for joy in the good things of life. God is the giver of all joy and all blessings.

and: Grk. kai. gladness: Grk. agalliasis, ecstatic delight, exuberant joy, intense gladness. In the LXX agalliasis translates Heb. rinnah/renanah/ranan, a ringing cry of joy, especially praise (Ps 30:5; 42:4; 47:1; 63:5; 100:2; 105:43; 107:22; 118:15; 126:2, 6; 132:16), as well as Heb. sason, exultation, rejoicing (Ps 45:7; 51:8, 12), and Heb. giyl, a rejoicing (Ps 45:15; 65:12). The Hebrew terms convey festive joy which expresses itself publicly over God's acts of salvation in the past and present (DNTT 2:353). to you: Grk. su, second person pronoun. The second promise of the angel is that unspeakable joy and jubilation will be experienced by Zechariah. He would exult when the unthinkable came to pass and he held his firstborn son. Elizabeth is not mentioned here but her emotional response will be deeper (verse 25 below).

and: Grk. kai. the many: pl. of Grk. polus, adj. See verse 1 above. The plural adjective refers to numbers and represents a Hebrew idiom occurring frequently in Scripture for a significant number of people, sometimes in a negative sense (Ex 23:2; Dan 9:27; 11:33; Rom 5:15, 19) and sometimes in a positive sense (Isa 53:11; Rom 5:15, 19; 1Cor 10:33). Here the idiom of "many" is positive. will rejoice: Grk. chairō, fut. pass., 3p-pl., to be in a state marked by good feeling about an event or circumstance; be happy, glad, delighted, rejoice.

In the LXX chairō predominantly translates Heb. sameach, a verbal adjective that means to be glad, joyful or merry (Ex 4:14; 1Sam 6:13). at: Grk. epi, prep., lit. "upon, on the basis of." his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. birth: Grk. genesis, birth, nativity. The third promise of the angel is that a sizable group of people will share in Zechariah's gladness and rejoice with him. In this case the "many" could denote his community, then of his priestly fraternity and by extension to all Israel.

15 "For he will be great before the Lord; and he must not ever drink wine or strong drink, also he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from the womb of his mother.

Reference: Numbers 6:3.

For: Grk. gar, conj., a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that; for." The conjunction has an causal function here he will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. See verse 6 above. great: Grk. megas, adj., large or great in extent and used as a spatial measurement; or fig. of measure, whether of age, quantity, intensity, importance or social position (BAG). The adjective is used here to emphasize importance. In the LXX megas translates several Hebrew words, primarily gadol, great, with same range of application, first in Genesis 1:16 (DNTT 2:425).

before: Grk. enōpion, prep., from a word meaning "facing" with the basic idea of being 'in sight of' or 'in the presence of.' the Lord: Grk. ho kurios, i.e., the God of Israel. See verse 6 above. The fourth promise of the good news of Gabriel regards Yochanan himself. The phrase "great before the Lord" might ordinarily imply elevation to high priest, since in the LXX this office is called ho hierus ho megas, "the great priest" (Lev 21:10; Num 35:25, 28; Josh 20:6; 2Kgs 12:10; 22:4, 8; 23:4; 2Chr 34:9; Neh 3:1, 20).

Yet, Yochanan would not serve in the priesthood, nor have any other position of authority. Public opinion wasn't all positive toward Yochanan (Luke 7:30, 33), but Yeshua will declare that "among those born of women there has arisen not one greater than Yochanan the Immerser" (Matt 11:11 BR). Yochanan would be great to God because of his obedience to carry out the vital mission given in the next two verses.

and: Grk. kai, conj. The angel then gives his second instruction. he must not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 7 above. ever: Grk. , adv. See verse 13 above. The double negative ou is the strongest form of denial with ou emphasizing the fact and emphasizing the wish. drink: Grk. pinō, aor. subj., to take in a liquid, to drink, usually of water or wine. Some versions translate the verb as simply predictive, "he will not/never drink" (e.g. CSB, LSB, NASU, NASB), but the subjunctive mood is the subjunctive of emphatic negation, expressing a prohibition (DM 172).

wine: Grk. oinos (for Heb. yayin) refers to the fermented beverage made from grapes. Wine was a popular beverage in Israelite culture and featured especially in sacrificial offerings (Ex 29:40). Some Bible expositors have asserted that the Hebrew and Greek words used to mean "wine," especially "new wine," actually referred to grape juice. However, the pasteurization process to prevent fermentation of grape juice wasn't discovered until the 19th century. In Scripture "wine" always refers to the fermented beverage regardless of its age. Wine was a national beverage as a result of God's blessing (e.g. Deut 7:13) and even included in Temple offerings (e.g. Ex 29:40).

The practical effect of this instruction for Zechariah is that Yochanan should not be allowed to drink the customary beverage at Sabbath and festival meals during his childhood and adolescence. John's separation from others would thus be impressed upon him from an early age. Yeshua will later offer a contrast between himself and Yochanan on the matter of drinking wine (Matt 11:18-19; Luke 7:33; cf. 1Tim 5:23). There is no moral distinction made between not drinking and drinking. Yochanan was being required to live according to a standard not required of other Israelites.

and: Grk. kai. strong drink: Grk. sikera, a strong intoxicating beverage. Danker says the term means beer, probably imported, but LSJ defines the term as fermented liquor. Bible scholars have a tendency to mix their terms. Wine results from fermentation; beer results from brewing and fermentation, and liquor results from distillation. Rienecker defines sikera as any intoxicating beverage prepared from grain or fruit. The term might imply that this beverage had a higher alcohol content than wine, so a few versions translate the term as "liquor" (AMP, CEB, CJB, GW, TLB, NOG, NASB, NASU).

In the LXX sikera translates Heb. shekar, intoxicating drink, which occurs 23 times, most in passages of prohibition or warning. God prohibited priests from drinking wine or strong drink when they offered sacrifices in God's presence (Lev 10:9; Ezek 44:21). Later literature of the Tanakh contains warnings about the danger of drunkenness resulting from "strong drink" (Prov 20:1; 31:4, 6; Isa 5:11, 22; 28:7; 56:12). However, drinking shekar was not absolutely prohibited, but permitted during festivals (Deut 14:26). The general prohibition in Scripture is not against consuming alcoholic beverages but against drunkenness (Prov 23:20; Rom 13:13; Gal 5:21; Eph 5:18; 1Pet 4:3).

The prohibition of both wine and strong drink was specifically imposed on Nazirites (Num 6:3), and even the mother of Samson (Jdg 13:4). Some scholars think that Yochanan was to be a Nazirite. However, the regulation for Nazirites went further than what was required of Yochanan. The regulations prohibited drinking vinegar, eating grapes or grape products, and cutting the hair. In addition, the Nazirite was not to go near a dead person, including his own family members. The angelic instruction clearly did not require Yochanan to be a Nazirite.

also: Grk. kai. The angel gives the fifth promise in his good news. he will be filled: Grk. pimplēmi, fut. pass., to cause to be in a condition that allows for no further addition, to be filled. The verb in this context does not mean being filled as a vessel is filled with water, but being wholly imbued, affected, or influenced with or by something (Zodhiates). with the Holy: Grk. hagios, adj., consecrated, set apart or sanctified by or for God and therefore different; holy, hallowed and when used of God worthy of reverence. In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadosh, which means separate, sacred, holy. Qadosh is first used of God in Leviticus 11:44.

Spirit: Grk. pneuma, wind, breath or spirit. Pneuma is used in the Besekh for the human spirit, transcendent beings, and particularly the Holy Spirit. In the LXX pneuma translates Heb. ruach, with the same range of meaning, first in Genesis 1:2; referring to the Spirit of God. In Scripture "holy" is only used as an adjective of "spirit" to refer to the Holy Spirit. The "Holy Spirit" is not the title of a separate being, because God is Spirit (pneuma ho theos, John 4:24), just as God is the Word (verse 1 above). All of the passages mentioning the Holy Spirit indicate that He is divine, not less or other than God.

The specific name "Holy Spirit" occurs only three times in the Tanakh (Ps 51:11; Isa 63:10, 11) given as Ruach Qodesh. The Holy Spirit is identified by three other forms in the Tanakh (Ruach Elohim, Gen 1:2; Ruach YHVH, Jdg 3:10; and Ruach Adonai YHVH, Isa 61:1). The Greek text of this verse does not have the definite article for either "Holy" or "Spirit," corresponding to the lack of the definite article in the three passages of Ruach Qodesh.

Messianic Jewish versions (CJB, MJLT, MW, TLV, and OJB) use the phonetic spelling of ha-Kodesh for "the Holy Spirit." This form mimics the English translation, but the Hebrew text of the three Tanakh passages with Ruach Qodesh do not have the definite article. (NOTE: Messianic Jewish spelling often uses the English "K" for the Hebrew letters Chet [ח], Kaf [כ] and Qof [ק]. See the standard transliteration chart for Hebrew letters.)

even: Grk. eti, adv., yet, still, here expressing time to mark a beginning. from: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 5 above. Here the preposition marks derivation. the womb: Grk. koilia, abdomen, here the female reproductive organ. of his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. mother: Grk. mētēr refers to a biological mother. The angel indicates that Yochanan will be filled while in the womb. See the note on verses 41 and 44 below. This prophecy is probably comparable to the declaration God made to Jeremiah, "before you were born I consecrated you" (Jer 1:5). Paul also said that he was set apart from the womb (Gal 1:5).

In addition, the description of being "filled" by the Holy Spirit conveys the thought of the highest prophetic inspiration (cf. Isa 11:2; 61:1; Joel 2:28). The expression also depicts spiritual fervor as contrasted in the exhortation, "Be not drunk with wine … but be filled with the Spirit" (Eph 5:18). Especially important is that like Elijah the filling by the Spirit will empower boldness in words and deeds.

16 "And he will bring back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God.

The angel next announces the sixth promise of his good news. And: Grk. kai, conj. he will bring back: Grk. epistrephō (from epi, "upon" and strephō, "to turn"), fut., to cause to return, to bring back. The verb is used here in the fig. sense of spiritual transformation. In the LXX epistrephō generally translates Heb. shuv, bring back to mind, to return, turn back, turn around, first in Genesis 8:12 (DNTT 1:354). When used for repentance shuv means to turn away from evil in the sense of renouncing and disowning sin, and to turn toward the good or conforming to Torah commandments (TWOT 2:909, e.g., 1Kgs 8:33, 35, 47-48; 2Chr 7:14; Isa 30:15; 59:20; Ezek 18:21; Hos 6:1; Jon 3:8).

many: pl. of Grk. polus, adj. See verse 1 above. The adjective is not hyperbole, but indicates a significant population (cf. Matt 3:5). of the sons: pl. of Grk. ho huios. See verse 13 above. The noun is used here of biological descendants. of Israel: Grk. Israēl, a transliteration of the Heb. Yisrael, which means "God prevails" (BDB 975). The name first appears in Genesis 32:28 where the angel with whom Jacob struggled informed him that his name would be changed to Israel. After Jacob's reconciliation with Esau the name change was made permanent along with significant covenantal promises. God said,

"Your name was Jacob. No longer will your name be Jacob, for your name will be Israel." So He named him Israel. 11 God also said to him, "I am El Shaddai. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation and an assembly of nations will come from you. From your loins will come forth kings. 12 The land that I gave to Abraham and to Isaac—I give it to you, and to your seed after you I will give the land." (Gen 35:9-12 TLV)

Throughout the Tanakh (some 600 times), Jacob's descendants are called the "sons of Israel" (first in Gen 32:32). Noteworthy is that Gabriel does not use the sectarian term Ioudaios ("Jew"). Reference to the "sons of Israel" is appropriate to the broad scope of John's ministry, as he brought God's message to all the sectarian groups among the descendants of Jacob. By definition the "sons of Israel" do not include Gentiles. Indeed, ethnic Jews never called Gentiles who embraced Judaism "Jews," probably because of the distinctive promise of the land of Israel to Jacob's descendants in perpetuity (Stern 339).

to the Lord: Grk. kurios (for Heb. Adonai). See verse 6 above. their: 3p-pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 6 above. The divine reference "Lord their God" affirms that the only God in existence identifies personally with the nation of Israel and thus reflects the special covenantal relationship God has with Israel. The phrase no doubt alludes to the Hebrew expression YHVH-Elohēhim ("ADONAI their God"), which occurs some 36 times in the Tanakh. YHVH so identifies with His covenant people that 120 verses of the Tanakh say, "YHVH Ĕlōhê Yisrāêl" (Ex 5:1), "ADONAI, the God of Israel." See verse 68 below.

The nature of the promise implies that Israel was in a poor spiritual state at the time. Israel was not united in devotion to God. There were competing philosophies among religious leaders. There was the continuing of Hellenistic influences left over from the Seleucid empire with the result that many Israelites forsook obedience to the Torah and adopted pagan customs. In the first century the sons of Israel were fractured into several groups: Essenes, Galilean Jews, Hellenistic Jews, Hellenized Jews, Herodians, Judean Jews, Pharisees, Sadducees, Samaritans and Zealots.

Yeshua would later lament the spiritual condition of Israel:

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" (Luke 13:34 ESV)

They needed the message of conviction, repentance, regeneration and moral renewal. They needed a leader passionately devoted to God and His Torah to call them back to God and a life of holiness.

17 "And he will go forth ahead of Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the disobedient in the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.

Reference: Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6; Sirach 48:10.

And: Grk. kai, conj. The conjunction introduces the seventh promise of the angel, which alludes to two prophecies. he: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., Yochanan. will go forth: Grk. proerchomai, fut. (from pro, "before" and erchomai, "to go"), to take an advanced position in the course of going, to go before, to precede. The prefix pro has a temporal emphasis. ahead: Grk. enōpion, prep. See verse 15 above. With the preceding verb the preposition adds emphasis to the idea of sequence, "immediately preceding as a forerunner" (Mounce). Some versions employ the translation of "ahead" (CEV, CJB, ERV, GNB, GW, NOG, WE).

of Him: Grk. autos. The pronoun is intended as a reference to the Messiah, i.e. Yeshua. In so doing the opening clause would allude to the prophecy of Malachi 3:1:

"Behold, I send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me; and suddenly the Lord, whom you seek, will come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says ADONAI-Tzva’ot." (BR)

in: Grk. en, prep. the spirit: Grk. pneuma. See verse 15 above. The noun is used here of the human spirit and in context denotes an internal mindset. and: Grk. kai. power: Grk. dunamis, the quality or state of being capable, here as an external exhibition of a singular capability. of Elijah: Grk. Ēlias, the ninth century B.C. prophet whose life and ministry is narrated by Jeremiah in 1Kings 17:1−2Kings 2:12. The original form of the Hebrew name is Eliyah ("Yah is God"), but in the Tanakh the name is predominately spelled Eliyahu (63 times). Both forms are transliterated in the LXX with Ēlias.

The English spelling "Elijah" was first introduced by John Wesley in his 1755 translation of the New Testament. Elijah is identified as "the Tishbite" (Heb. Tishbiy) of Gilead" (1Kgs 17:1), which lay east of the Jordan River extending about 60 miles from near the south end of the Sea of Galilee to the north end of the Dead Sea. Commentators generally regard Tishbiy as a noun marking a location, but it could also be an adjective denoting the name of a people group (BDB 986). Josephus says that Elijah was from the city of Thesbon (Grk. Thessebōnēs) in Gilead (Ant. VIII, 13:2). The LXX provides the full description: "Elijah the Thesbite, the one from Thesbon of Gilead."

In other words Elijah was born in Thesbon, but later went to live in the Tishbiy territory. Of course, names of places were normally taken from their original inhabitants. Known for his unorthodox dress and lifestyle, Elijah prophesied during the reigns of Ahab and Ahaziah in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Elijah's achievements included performing seven miracles, perhaps most notably the defeat of 850 pagan prophets on Mt. Carmel. Elijah also conducted a school of prophets (2Kgs 2:3-7) and trained Elisha to be his successor (1Kgs 19:16-19). Elijah did not die, but was taken to heaven in a whirlwind, not a chariot as supposed (2Kgs 2:11).

The second part of the seventh promise of the angel alludes to the prophecy of Malachi 4:5, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of ADONAI" (BR). The prophetic voice had been silent since the time of Malachi (c. 435 B.C.). But now there would be the Messenger (Mal 3:1) who would arrive before the Messiah. Though Yochanan would not be Elijah reincarnated, he would manifest two characteristics of the great prophet. First, Yochanan will have his "spirit," by which he means having the courage, passion, and zeal that motivated Elijah.

The second characteristic is "power," which refers to his divine empowerment of words and deeds. Yochanan would be able to accomplish God's will of proclaiming a vital message of repentance and preparing the people to receive the Messiah. Like Elijah Yochanan would draw men to become his disciples (Matt 9:14; Acts 19:1-3). Yochanan likely had the power to perform miracles as Elijah, but the story of Yochanan contains no mention of miracles. The angel then explains that John's commission is to fulfill the prophecy given in the first clause of Malachi 4:6.

to turn: Grk. epistrephō, aor. inf., to turn or return, here referring to changing a mode of thinking. The infinitive here emphasizes purpose and thus contains an implied instruction. The quoted passage in the MT has Heb. shuv, bring back to mind, to return, turn back, turn around. However, the verb epistrephō is substituted for the LXX reading, which uses apokastanō, "to restore." The chosen verb graphically illustrates a serious breach of relationship.

the hearts: pl. of Grk. kardia, the pumplike organ of blood circulation, used here fig. of selfhood or the combination of character, emotion, intelligence and the will. In the LXX kardia translates Heb. leb, inner man, mind, heart, will (BDB 523f). In this context the noun alludes to attitudes. of fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr, normally used of a male biological parent, someone who fulfilled the role of a father or an ancestor. In the LXX patēr translates ab, father, with the same range of meaning (Gen 2:24) (DNTT 1:616f).

to their children: pl. of Grk. teknon. See verse 7 above. The use of teknon is also a substitution since the MT has the plural banim, lit. "sons" and the LXX has the singular huios, "son." John's ministry purpose will be to bring peace to families, to put an end to the most bitter quarrels, such as are very frequently those between the nearest relations (Benson). The angel does not complete the quotation as found in Malachi. Instead the next clause could be viewed as a midrashic interpretation of the clause "and the hearts of the children to their fathers."

and: Grk. kai. the disobedient: pl. of Grk. apeithēs, not subject to persuasion or direction, thus disobedient, rebellious, or resistant. The plural noun could be an allusion to the adult children of the fathers just mentioned. in: Grk. en, prep. the wisdom: Grk. phronēsis, an enlightened perspective which has the insight to make intelligent life-applications (HELPS); understanding, practical wisdom. of the righteous: Grk. dikaios, adj. See verse 6 above. The "righteous" substitutes for "fathers" as being spiritual models.

Micah had once lamented the family relations in Judah: "For son treats father with contempt; daughter rises up against mother; daughter-in-law against mother-in-law: a man’s enemies are the people of his own house" (Mic 7:6 TLV). The situation in the time of Malachi had not changed much, but family strife was compounded by men divorcing their wives and marrying pagan women (Mal 2:11-16). The moral climate degraded even further during the Seleucid period (3rd to 1st cent. B.C.) as reported in Maccabees:

"In those days lawless men came forth from Israel, and misled many, saying, 'Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles round about us, for since we separated from them many evils have come upon us.' This proposal pleased them, and some of the people eagerly went to the king. He authorized them to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to Gentile custom, and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil." (1Macc 1:11-15 RSV)

As indicated by the later declarations of Yochanan the Immerser and Yeshua the religious institutions had become corrupt and the land was in serious need of spiritual revival. The angel then describes the desired goal of successful ministry.

to make ready: Grk. hetoimazō, aor. inf., put in a state of readiness; make ready, prepare. for the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 6 above. The title probably alludes to Heb. ha-adōn in Malachi 3:1, "the Lord whom you seek." a people: Grk. laos. See verse 10 above. having been prepared: kataskeuazō, perf. pass. part., to erect a structure; build, construct, erect. The verb properly means to make exactly ready, skillfully using implements according to a tooled-design (HELPS). The verb is used primarily in the Besekh of building a physical structure, but here the verb has a fig. use denoting the character of the people of God.

John's mission is to arrest the decline of Israel into sin and spark a spiritual revival, thereby avoiding God's wrath. The fact that thousands will favorably respond to John's later call to repentance illustrates the depth of the nation's moral decay. Such a revival would foster reconciliation in families. The hardest task will be turning the "disobedient ones," those not normally subject to persuasion or direction and living contrary to God's expectations set forth in the Torah. Yochanan will point them to the example of the truly righteous ones, such as his parents (verse 6 above). Thus, Yochanan will bring about a "prepared people," whose hearts eagerly anticipate and welcome the Messiah.

Zechariah's Response, 1:18-20

18 And yet Zechariah said to the angel, "According to what will I know this? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in her years."

And yet: Grk. kai, conj. Many versions do not translate the conjunction. The conjunction is used here to introduce a statement at variance with the revelation in the previous five verses. See the note on kai in verse 7 above. Zechariah: Grk. Zacharias. See verse 5 above. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 13 above. to: Grk. pros, prep. used to denote proximity or motion; to, toward, with. Here the preposition emphasizes being in company with another and speaking face to face. the angel: Grk. ho aggelos. See verse 11 above.

According to: Grk. kata, prep. See verse 9 above. what: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. The common translation of "how" is misleading if not inaccurate. The phrase kata tís is not a query concerning method, but a challenge to provide proof. Some versions translate the phrase more accurately with "whereby," "by what" or "based-on what."

will I know: Grk. ginōskō, fut. mid., to know, here to be in receipt of information; know, learn, find out. In the LXX ginōskō translates Heb. yada, which in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether of knowing persons or knowing by experience, as well as knowing by learning from a teacher (DNTT 2:395). this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it; this. The pronoun alludes to the prophecy of the angel in verse 13 above.

For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 15 above. The conjunction explains the reason for Zechariah's skepticism. I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. am: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 6 above. an old man: Grk. presbytēs, aged, elderly, old man. and: Grk. kai. my: Grk. egō. wife: Grk. gunē. See verse 5 above. is advanced: Grk. probainō, perf. part. in: Grk. en, prep. her: fem. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. years: pl. of Grk. hēmera, lit. "days" See verse 5 above. Zechariah justifies his doubt by pointing out the fact of the age of his wife and himself. "People our age can't have children."

The common translation of this verse may give the impression that Zechariah asked a fair question in the circumstances and then was unfairly rebuked in the next two verses. The angel had just described the ministry of a man who had not even been conceived. It raises the paradoxical issue of God's sovereign will and human will. The message about Yochanan is confident. It will happen, because God has decreed it. However, on the human level the mind could immediately raise logical arguments against the message. So, Zechariah essentially asks for a sign (cf. Matt 12:38; 16:1; Luke 11:16, 29). The appearance of an angel should have been sign enough.

The nature of Zechariah's question may support the thesis that he was a Sadducee or at least influenced by Sadducean philosophy. Sadducees did not believe in angels and were skeptical about miracles (cf. Acts 23:8; Josephus, Ant. XIII, 5:9; Wars II, 8:14). Zechariah analyzed the prophetic message according to human reason and acted as if he had the right to demand that God satisfy his criteria for believing the impossible. He had forgotten the truth recorded in the Torah, "God is not a man that He should lie" (Num 23:19). Even Job learned that a man cannot demand proofs from God (Job 40:1).

19 And answering, the angel said to him, "I am Gabriel, the one standing before God, and I was sent to speak to you and to announce these glad tidings to you.

Reference: Daniel 8:16; 9:21.

And: Grk. kai, conj. answering: Grk. apokrinomai, aor. pass. part., to answer or reply to someone, whether to a question, request, exhortation, command, etc. (BAG). In the LXX apokrinomai renders Heb. anah, to answer or respond to something said in conversation; to respond to an occasion and speak in view of circumstances or to testify or respond as a witness in a legal proceeding (BDB 772). Thayer says that apokrinomai in imitation of the Hebrew anah may mean "to begin to speak," but always where something has preceded (either said or done) to which the remarks refer.

the angel: Grk. ho aggelos. See verse 11 above. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 13 above. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The angel then mimics Zechariah's "I am" statement in the previous verse. The angel then responds as if he had been insulted. I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. am: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 6 above. Gabriel: Grk. Gabriēl transliterates Heb. Gavri'el, "strong man of God." He is one of two angels introduced by name in the Tanakh (Dan 8:16, 9:21); the other being Michael. When first seen Gabriel appeared as an ordinary man (Dan 8:15).

In non-canonical literature Gabriel is included in a list of seven archangels in 1Enoch 9:1, with their names given as Uri’el, Rafa'el, Ragu'el, Micha'el, Saraka'el, and Remi'el. 1Enoch 20:1-7 assigns special functions to each angel. Gabriel was thought to have charge over serpents, Paradise and cherubim. In 1Enoch 40:9 Gabriel is one of four angels who stand before God and presides over all that is powerful. Scripture does not confirm these declarations so they cannot be accorded the authority given to Scripture.

the one: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. standing: Grk. paristēmi, perf. part., may mean (1) to place beside; present; or (2) be in a position beside; stand near or stand by. The second meaning applies here. The perfect tense points back to the beginning when the angels were created. before: Grk. enōpion, prep. See verse 15 above. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 6 above. Revelation 8:2 also mentions "seven angels who stand before God," which may include Gabriel and Michael. In any event Gabriel's role as recounted in Scripture is to be a messenger with divine revelation to key Israelite personalities.

and: Grk. kai. I was sent: Grk. apostellō, aor. pass., to cause to move from one position to another, but often to send as an authoritative personal representative. Originally in Greek culture apostellō was used of sending an envoy to represent a king or a personal representative with legal powers. In the LXX apostellō translated Heb. shalach ("to stretch out or to send"), often in contexts of commissioning and empowering a messenger (DNTT 1:128). to speak: Grk. laleō, aor. inf., to make an oral statement and to exercise the faculty of speech; assert, proclaim, report, say, speak, talk about, utter.

to: Grk. pros, prep. Again the preposition emphasizes a face-to-face encounter. you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. Gabriel affirms that he did not initiate his visit to Jerusalem. The affairs of angels are directed by God (Heb 1:14) and incidents in the Bible of angels speaking to humans are rare. Bible personalities in the Tanakh to whom a celestial being visited and spoke include Hagar (Gen 16:7), Lot (Gen 19:15), Abraham (Gen 22:11), Jacob (Gen 31:11), Moses (Ex 3:2-4), Balaam (Num 22:32), Joshua (Josh 5:13-15), Israelites (Jdg 2:1), Gideon (Jdg 6:12), wife of Manoah (Jdg 13:3), Manoah (Jdg 13:13), Gad (1Chr 21:18), Elijah (1Kgs 19:5), Isaiah (Isa 6:7), Daniel (Dan 8:17; 9:22), and Zechariah son of Berechiah (Zech 1:9).

and: Grk. kai. to announce good news: Grk. euaggelizō (from , "good, well" and aggellō, "announce, herald"), aor. mid. inf., to announce the good message, and is used to mean (1) pass on information that provides good tidings to the recipient, and (2) spread good tidings of God's beneficial concern. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX euaggelizō stands for Heb. basar, to publish or bear tidings, whether good or bad, first in 1Samuel 31:9 (DNTT 2:108-109). The verb occurs 54 times in the Besekh, of which 24 are in Luke-Acts and 24 in the letters of Paul. The verb is most frequently found in passages in which the apostles proclaimed the good news of the arrival of the Kingdom of God in Yeshua (Luke 16:16).

In the great majority of verses where euaggelizō occurs Christian versions translate the verb as "preach the gospel," which clearly separates the emphasis of the verb from its Jewish context. In Christianity the "gospel" is defined as the good news that Yeshua died for our sins, and as a result there is now no condemnation for those who believe. Since the message of Gabriel does not mention Yeshua then Christian versions translate euaggelizō in this verse simply as "bring/tell good news," as if the good news only concerned Zechariah.

However, in the biblical context the "gospel" is God's provision of salvation for His covenant people (cf. Matt 15:24). The "Jewish Gospel" has an historical basis, a story of God's centuries-old relationship with Israel, as Zechariah himself will declare in his prophetic song (verses 68-79 below). Apostolic proclamations of the good news cite promises made to the patriarchs and to Israel through the Hebrew prophets and their fulfillment in the life and deeds of Yeshua (cf. Acts 2:14-40; 7:2-53; 13:16-40; 2Tim 2:8). See my article The Original Gospel.

to you: Grk. su. of these things: neut. pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See the previous verse. The plural pronoun alludes to the seven promises that Gabriel announced to Zechariah (verses 13-17). Thus, the good news announced by Gabriel is the fulfillment of Malachi's prophecy, the starting point for sharing the good news of the Messiah. These promises were the best news any man could receive, but Zechariah apparently did not appreciate the scope of God's sovereign plan. To understand the significance of Gabriel's message to Zechariah it's important to review the angel's appearance to Daniel.

Daniel had experienced three profound visions, first of a ram with two horns and a goat with one horn (Dan 8:3-7), second of the goat's horn being broken and four horns arising in its place (Dan 8:8), and third of a little horn that would arise from the four horns (Dan 8:9-12). After Daniel prayed for a divine explanation of the visions and Gabriel was sent to provide interpretation. The ram represented Media and Persia and the goat represented Greece and the first vision depicted a war in which Greece would conquer Media-Persia (Dan 8:20-21). The second vision represented the Greek empire being divided into four kingdoms (Dan 8:22).

The third vision represented a king that would arise from one of the four kingdoms (Dan 8:23-26). He would bring destruction to the holy people, including removing the daily sacrificial offerings and desecrate God's sanctuary. His reign of terror would last just over three years. The third vision left Daniel sick for days.

Gabriel appeared a second time after Daniel had spent time in intercessory prayer (Dan 9:20-21). Gabriel came to provide additional understanding of the visions Daniel had experienced. The message of Gabriel (Dan 9:24-27) prophesied seventy weeks to accomplish important spiritual goals, but especially the coming of the Anointed One or Messiah in order to provide atonement for sin. The appearance of Gabriel to Zechariah signals that the prophecy given by Malachi must be fulfilled before the prophecy of the Messiah announced to Daniel.

20 And behold, you will be silent and not able to speak until that day these things occur, because of these things you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their time."

And: Grk. kai, conj. behold: Grk. idou, aor. mid. imp., demonstrative interjection that arouses the attention of hearers or readers; (you) see, look, behold (BAG). In the LXX idou translates Heb. hinneh (SH-2009), lo, behold, which often serves to enliven divine monologues and narratives, particularly to invite closer consideration of something (e.g. Gen 1:29). Here the particle heightens the dramatic effect of the announcement by considering the impact on Zechariah hearing the heavenly messenger. You will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. See verse 6 above. Angels apparently have some discretion and in afflicting humans and Gabriel pronounces a two-fold judgment.

silent: Grk. siōpaō, pres. part., ceasing to speak, being quiet or silent. In other words, the larynx will be paralyzed to prevent the production of sound (pitch and volume) by the vocal cords. and: Grk. kai. not: Grk. , adv. able: Grk. dunamai, pres. part., the quality or state of being capable. to speak: Grk. laleō, aor. inf. See the previous verse. Anatomically producing speech requires the coordination of the vocal cords, pharynx, tongue, lips, and mouth. The point of the redundant phrasing is that Zechariah will be prevented from making any kind of sound and communicating orally. Any communication would have to be in writing.

until: Grk. achri, adv., a function word signifying an interval between two points with focus on continuity, here of an extension in time; as far as, until, while. that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 5 above. these things: neut. pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. The plural pronoun alludes to the prophecy of Elizabeth becoming pregnant, giving birth to a son and naming that son Yochanan. occur: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. subj. See verse 2 above. The judgment on Zechariah would last the nine months of Elizabeth's pregnancy, the time of her delivery and the baby's circumcision.

because: Grk. anti, prep., over against, opposite, instead of. In this instance the preposition denotes a reaction of retribution. of these things: neut. pl. of Grk. hos. you did not: Grk. ou, adv. believe: Grk. pisteuō, aor. (derived from pistis, "trust, faithfulness"), to have confidence in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. In the Besekh the verb often has the sense of a personal trust in God's power and His nearness to help. In the LXX pisteuō translates Heb. aman, to be reliable, to stand firm, trust, believe, be faithful (Gen 15:6).

my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. The pronoun, lit. "of me," does not denote origin, but, a mediatorial function. words: pl. of Grk. ho logos. See verse 2 above. The rebuke from Gabriel was a serious warning. Demanding a sign from Gabriel was tantamount to unbelief and unbelief is a rejection of trusting, and without trusting there is no faithfulness. Failing to trust in the angel's message could only lead to unfaithfulness toward God.

which: Grk. hostis, relative pronoun used as a generalizing reference to the subject of a verb or a preceding entity; who, which. will be fulfilled: Grk. plēroō, fut. pass., 3p-pl., to make full, here meaning to carry into effect or bring to realization; complete, fulfill, carry out. in: Grk. eis, prep. their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun.

time: Grk. kairos, time or season, here referring to a fixed and definite time, specifically of the time when the angel's words shall be proved by the event predicted. In the LXX kairos translates five different Hebrew words, primarily Heb. eth, 'time,' of an event or an appointed time (e.g. Gen 18:10) (DNTT 3:835). Gabriel indicates that fulfillment of the prophecy would occur in the normal time required for gestation, fetal development and delivery.

Fulfillment of Prophecy, 1:21-25

21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah and they were wondering at his delay in the Holy Place.

And: Grk. kai, conj. the people: Grk. ho laos. See verse 10 above. were waiting for: Grk. prosdokaō, pres. part., be on alert for; expect, wait for, look for. Zechariah: Grk. Zacharias. See verse 5 above. and: Grk. kai. they were wondering: Grk. thaumazō, impf., 3p-pl., be extraordinarily impressed; to wonder, be amazed, astonished, impressed, surprised. at: Grk. en, prep. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. delay: Grk. chronizō, pres. inf., take time longer than expected to do or accomplish something; take time, linger, delay. in: Grk. en. the Holy Place: Grk. naos. See verse 9 above. Again the noun refers to the sanctuary, not the entire temple complex.

Luke makes reference again to the gathered crowd mentioned in verse 10 above. The people had assembled for the time of prayer which coincided with the morning and evening sacrifice. People knew how long the prescribed duties took, so they naturally wondered what had delayed Zechariah in coming out.

22 But having come out, not being able to speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a supernatural appearance in the Holy Place. Also he was making signs to them and remained mute.

But: Grk. de, conj. having come out: Grk. exerchomai, aor. part., to move away from a place or position, to go or come out. The subject of the verb is Zechariah. not: Grk. ou, adv. being able: Grk. dunamai, impf. See verse 20 above. to speak: Grk. laleō, aor. inf. See verse 19 above. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The masculine form might intend only the men gathered in the Court of the Israelites. As Gabriel had predicted and imposed oral silence, so Zechariah may have opened his mouth but found he could make no sound.

and: Grk. kai, conj. they perceived: Grk. epiginōskō, aor., 3p-pl. (from epi, "upon" and ginōskō, "to know"), to know or recognize, especially by experience. Here the verb indicates drawing a conclusion or making an assumption based on visible criteria. that: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, used here to introduce a subordinate clause as complementary of the preceding verb. he had seen: Grk. horaō, perf. See verse 11 above. a supernatural appearance: Grk. optasia, something that is seen above and beyond all normal experience, a supernatural experience; an appearing. The term occurs only four times in the Besekh (also Luke 24:23; Acts 26:19; 2Cor 12:1).

Almost all versions translate optasia as "vision," which can be misleading. Luke does not use the regular word for vision (Grk. horama), which denotes a pictographic image seen with the eyes but without material substance (e.g. Acts 10:3, 10, 17, 19). Instead Luke uses the same word that occurs five times in the LXX narrative of Daniel's encounter with Gabriel who appeared to him (Dan 9:23; 10:1, 7-8, 16). Daniel actually met the archangel and carried on a lengthy conversation with him.

As an exception NLV translates optasia with "something special from God" and WE has simply "something." Luke does not intend to deny that Gabriel appeared in the flesh in the Holy Place as reported in verse 11 above. In the same way the report of the women going to the tomb of Yeshua and seeing an optasia of two angels (Luke 24:23) is not meant to deny the angels appeared bodily to the women (cf. Luke 24:4).

in: Grk. en, prep. the Holy Place: Grk. ho naos. See verse 9 above and the previous verse. Also: Grk. kai. he was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 6 above. making signs: Grk. dianeuō, pres. part., to express one's meaning by a sign or gesture. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Again, the masculine form probably refers to the men gathered in the Court of the Israelites. and: Grk. kai. remained: Grk. diamenō, impf., remain or stay, with focus on the durative aspect. mute: Grk. kōphos, adj., incapable of articulate speech.

Since Zechariah was unable to speak, he tried to communicate physically something about his experience. He could have been waving his arms and pointing back at the Holy Place, perhaps even mouthing words, hoping people would understand. The people deduced from the gestures he was making that he had seen something extraordinary in the Holy Place.

23 And it came to pass when the days of his priestly service were fulfilled, he departed to his home.

And: Grk. kai, conj. it came to pass: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verses 2 and 8 above. when: Grk. hōs, adv. with the primary function of connecting narrative components; used here in a temporal sense. the days: pl. of Grk. ho hēmera. See verse 5 above. The plural noun alludes to the prescribed period of a week, Sabbath to Sabbath. of his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. priestly service: Grk. leitourgia (from leitourgos, "servant priest"), religious service offered by a duly authorized minister, and in particular ministry of Jewish priests relative to the prayers and sacrifices offered to God (Thayer).

In the LXX leitourgia translates Heb. abodah, labor, service, used of service devoted to God, especially of priests and Levites (Ex 38:21; Num 4:24, 27; 8:22; 2Chr 8:14). were fulfilled: Grk. pimplēmi, aor. pass. See verse 15 above. Here the verb signifies completion of the time required to be in Jerusalem. Priests typically only went to Jerusalem for their prescribed duty and the annual festivals. he departed: Grk. aperchomai, aor., to be in movement from a position with or without mention of a destination; to go away, depart or leave.

to: Grk. eis, prep. his: Grk. autos. home: Grk. oikos (for Heb. bayit), a structure for habitation; house, home and by extension the household of that dwelling. The term implies a fixed residence. Most commentators suggest Zechariah's home was located in Hebron. See verse 39 below.

24 Now after these days, his wife Elizabeth conceived and hid herself five months, saying,

Now: Grk. de, conj. after: Grk. meta, prep., which may be used (1) as a marker of association; with, among; or (2) as a sequential marker; after, behind. The second usage is intended here. these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 18 above. days: pl. of Grk. ho hēmera. See verse 5 above. This is a typical Hebrew idiom to denote the passage of time. "These" days were the days that Zechariah had been on duty in Jerusalem. The idiom serves to imply that intimate relations did not occur during Zechariah's week of service, but only "after" (Grk. prep. meta) they returned home.

Elizabeth: Grk. Elisabet. See verse 5 above. conceived: Grk. sullambanō, aor. (from sun, "with" and lambanō, "to take"), lit. "to take possession of by capture," here used as a medical term meaning to conceive. Conception, of course, happens when sperm fertilizes an egg in the fallopian tube. Intimate relations occurred (or resumed) after arrival at home. Elizabeth's womb had been already restored with fertility by the Lord and thus conception occurred immediately. and: Grk. kai, conj. hid: Grk. perikrubō, impf., to conceal entirely, to keep out of sight. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. herself: fem. of Grk. heautou, reflexive pronoun.

Geldenhuys notes that Zechariah probably explained to his wife in writing about his experience in the Holy Place and the prophecy concerning their son (69). Elizabeth thus kept herself from public gatherings not from any lack of faith and fear of embarrassment in the event the angel’s announcement proved to be untrue. She really could not have spoken of the prophecy and conception to anyone during those months because there would have been no visible proof of her testimony.

five: Grk. pente, the number five. months: pl. of Grk. mēn may refer to the time of the new moon or a lunar month, here the latter. These five months became a time of quiet waiting on the Lord and probably enjoying the attentions of her husband. The reference to five months takes the reader up to the point of Miriam's visit (verse 39 below) and the time when Elizabeth could share her good fortune. saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 13 above. The verb is used to introduce the quoted material in the next verse.

25 that, "The Lord has done thus to me, in the days in which He looked upon me, to take away my disgrace among men."

Reference: Genesis 30:23.

This portion of the narrative ends with Elizabeth's own praise to God. She had the prophecy thanks to Zechariah's testimony, and probably knew (as only a woman can) when her womb was quickened and new life initiated therein.

that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 22 above. The conjunction is used here to introduce a direct quotation, functioning as quotation marks since ancient manuscripts did not have punctuation. The Greek text was inexplicably divided with the verb legō at the end of the previous verse, when normally sections containing quoted material have the verb and conjunction together (e.g. Luke 3:8; 4:4, 24, 41; 5:26; 7:4). Only a few versions translate the conjunction at the beginning of this verse.

The Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 6 above. Speaking in Hebrew Elizabeth probably said Adonai. Messianic Jewish versions have ADONAI (CJB, MJLT, TLV), which denotes YHVH. has done: Grk. poieō, perf., a verb of physical action, which may mean (1) to produce something material, make, create; or (2) be active in bringing about a state or condition; act, do, perform. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX poieō translates Heb. asah, do, make, work (first in Gen 1:7), and used of a wide range of human and divine activity.

thus: Grk. houtōs, adv. used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done or to be done; thus, in this manner, in this way or like this. to me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. Life, of course, occurs by the power and will of God (Deut 32:39; 1Sam 2:6; Job 33:4; Acts 17:25), but Elizabeth recognizes the divine provision made for her. The credit goes not to her husband but to the God of Israel. Frequently during these five months Elizabeth would reflect on the prophecy and joy would bubble forth once again.

in: Grk. en, prep. the days: pl. of Grk. hēmera. See verse 5 above. The temporal reference is to the latter time of her life when she was well aware that most of her life was past. in which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. He looked upon me: Grk. epeidon, aor., give attention to, concern oneself. Thayer has "look upon, regard." In the LXX epeidon occurs in passages to translate verbs that mean "to see" to express God looking upon someone with favor and acting in their behalf: Abel (Gen 4:4), Hagar (Gen 16:13), sons of Israel (Ex 2:25), and David (1Chr 17:17; Ps 31:7). Elizabeth was reminded that God had not forgotten her in the days of her barrenness, but was in fact causing her to wait for a great miracle.

to take away: Grk. aphaireō, aor. inf., cause to be no longer there; to take away or remove. my: Grk. egō. disgrace: Grk. oneidos, disgrace brought about by defamatory or insulting speech. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. Jewish culture at the time was infected with the false belief that suffering and bad circumstances happen because of sin (cf. John 9:1-2). They had forgotten the lesson of Job and the miraculous births of Isaac and Jacob. among: Grk. en, prep. men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos, human, man or mankind; i.e., one of the human race. In the LXX of this verse anthrōpos translates Heb. adam, which may mean man or mankind (BDB 9), first in Genesis 1:26.

The plural noun is intended in a collective sense. Bible versions are about evenly divided between translating the plural noun as "men" and "people," the latter a general reference to the community in which Zechariah and Elizabeth lived. However, the translation of "men" has merit, perhaps even an allusion to community and synagogue leaders who allowed the defamation to continue without correction. This statement may hint at the snide talk of neighbors, perhaps for years, which no doubt implied God's displeasure.

Elizabeth invokes the words of Rachel (Gen 30:23), the wife of Jacob, whose barrenness was ended by God’s direct involvement. Probably in private moments Elizabeth would smile and say to herself "God will show them."

Date: December 4 B.C.

Good News of the Messiah, 1:26-33

26 Now in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee whose name was Nazareth,

Now: Grk. de, conj. in: Grk. en, prep. the sixth: Grk. ho hektos, adj., sixth in a sequence. month: Grk. mēn. See verse 24 above. If Luke had included a reference such as "of the year," as occurs over 60 times in the Tanakh, then the "sixth month" would be taken as a specific month on the Jewish calendar. The Jews operated by two calendars, the religious calendar, which begins on Nisan 1 (March/April), and the civil calendar, which begins on Tishri 1 (Sept./Oct.). On the religious calendar the sixth month would be Elul (Aug./Sept.), and on the civil calendar the sixth month would be Adar (Feb./Mar.). However, the context clearly favors taking the sixth month in the sense of six months after the conception of Yochanan (cf. verse 24 and 36).

the angel: Grk. ho aggelos. See verse 11 above. Gabriel: Grk. Gabriēl. See verse 19 above. was sent: Grk. apostellō, aor. pass. See verse 19 above. from: Grk. apo, prep. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 6 above. In the five months since his appearance to Zechariah apparently Gabriel had returned to heaven. Now he is sent from Heaven again with a commission. to: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." The preposition implies that Gabriel walked into town. He didn't just pop in as he did with Zechariah. a city: Grk. polis, a population center whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly, a city or town. The destination was no small village.

of Galilee: Grk. Galilaia from the Heb. Galil, lit. "circle" or "region." Galilee was the northern part of Israel above the hill country of Ephraim and Judah and encompassed the areas originally given to the tribes of Naphtali, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, and Dan. Galilee was bounded by the Province of Syria on the west and north, the River Jordan and Sea of Galilee on the east and Samaria on the south. whose: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. name: Grk. onoma is used to convey identification by a proper name.

was Nazareth: Grk. Nazaret, which transliterates the Heb. Natzeret. A likely Hebrew root for Nazareth is the verb natzar, to watch, guard or keep (Merrill 116). The verb in its participial form (notzerat, "one guarding") alludes to the prominent hill near Nazareth (Luke 4:29). Merrill suggests the city may have taken its name from the name of the hill. Nazareth was located about seventy miles northeast of Jerusalem about halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea. Nazareth is situated among the hills of Galilee which constitute the south ridges of Lebanon, just before they sink down into the plain of Esdraelon (SBD). The hills formed a natural basin with three sides, but open toward the south.

A Roman road from Capernaum westward to the coast passed near Nazareth, over which Roman legions frequently traveled. While not mentioned in the Tanakh or Josephus, Nazareth was a city of some importance and considerable antiquity, and not as insignificant as has been represented. The city is formed on a prominent hill or mountain that overlooks a vast area of land and sea. In the time of Yeshua the city had a population of 15,000 to 20,000 inhabitants. The town perhaps came to prominence because of its association with Yeshua. No information is provided on how the soon-to-be parents of Yeshua came to be living in Nazareth.

27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, from the house of David; and the name of the virgin was Miriam.

Reference: Isaiah 7:14.

to: Grk. pros, prep. a virgin: Grk. parthenos, fem. noun, a woman beyond puberty who has never had sexual relations; maiden, virgin. A few versions translate the noun as "young woman" (GNB, GNC, Phillips, and WE) and the NEB has "a girl." The unwillingness to accurately translate parthenos amounts to defamation. Virginity in Scripture does not just refer to the presence of a hymen, but more as importantly not having "known a man," as Miriam describes herself in verse 34 below. She never engaged in any behavior with a man that would sully her reputation in the community.

In the LXX parthenos occurs 50 times and is used to translate three different Heb. words (1) almah, young woman of marriageable age and sexually a maiden; (2) betulah, an untouched maiden, a virgin, and (3) na'erah, young girl (DNTT 3:1071). The identification of chastity is meant to imply fulfillment of the prophecy given to Isaiah, as cited in Matthew's narrative (Matt 1:22-23),

"Therefore the Lord Himself shall give to you a sign: 'Behold, a virgin [Heb. ha-almah; LXX parthenos] will conceive and bear a son, and you shall call his name Immanuel'" (Isa 7:14 BR; LXX/MT).

However, considerable controversy resulted in 1952 when the Revised Standard Version ignored the LXX and translated almah in the Isaiah passage with "young woman." Other versions later followed suit. Almah occurs seven times in the Hebrew Bible (also Gen 24:43; Ex 2:8; Ps 68:25; Prov 30:19; SS 1:3; 6:8) and always refers to an unmarried woman of good reputation (Stern 6). The context of the Isaiah passage clearly applies the meaning of betulah, an untouched maiden, to almah.

In the LXX parthenos only translates almah two times, the other in Genesis 24:43, which pertains to Rebecca who is clearly identified as a virgin (Heb. betulah) in Genesis 24:16. While some who object to the virgin birth insist that Isaiah only prophesied a birth for King Ahaz, the pronoun "you" in the verse is plural, not singular, so the fuller context of the promised sign was for the entire house of David (Isa 7:13). Kaiser notes that the Hebrew noun in Isaiah 7:14 is ha-almah, which speaks not of "a virgin" but "the virgin," a special one God has in mind (Kaiser-Messiah 160). Kaiser also points out that there are no ancient documents that use almah to refer to a woman who is definitely not a virgin.

The promise of a virgin giving birth is an important Messianic prophecy. In the Tanakh accounts of long-barren women becoming pregnant through divine intervention (such as Sarah, Rebekah, and Hannah), there is never any thought of excluding a human father. Thus, Jews in the first century expected the Messiah to be begotten of a human father like all men. However, the translation of "virgin" is theologically important to establish both the supernatural conception and the deity of Yeshua, as set forth in verse 35 below.

The reader should note that the word for "virgin" here says nothing of age. A girl became accountable to the Torah (Heb. bat mitzvah, "daughter of the commandment") and thus treated as an adult when she became twelve years and a day old (Baba Kama 15a; Ketubot 39a; Kiddushin 63b; Niddah 5:6; Yoma 8:3). Adulthood for a girl was not only determined by age but also by her having passed through puberty, that is possessing breasts and pubic hair (Kidd. 81b; Ezek 16:7-8; cf. Song 8:8). Scholars generally assume Miriam's age to be between 12 and 15, but elements of the narrative suggest a mature and capable woman.

betrothed: Grk. mnēsteuō, perf. pass. part., means lit. "to woo and win," commit to marriage, and in Jewish culture meant betrothed. The perfect tense of the verb refers to some point in the past, perhaps as much as a year. The passive voice of the verb indicates the fact that a Jewish woman was betrothed to her husband, not vice versa. The participle is a verbal adjective so it refers to a relational condition of Miriam. She belonged to Joseph. In the LXX mnēsteuō translates the Heb. aras, to betroth (Ex 22:16; Deut 20:7; 22:23, 25, 27, 28; 28:30; 2Sam 3:14).

The translation of "engaged" in many versions is inaccurate and misleading. In Western culture "engaged" is only a promise to marry, but the Jewish custom was both religious and legal. One Christian preacher described Miriam as an "unwed mother," a totally defamatory opinion of Miriam's marital status. A number of versions correctly have "betrothed" (AMP, ESV, LSB, NABRE, NASB, NCB, NEB, NJB, NKJV, RSV). The verb alludes to the fact that in Jewish culture marriage involved two stages or two actions, betrothal and consummation.

Prior to the Sinaitic covenant marriage happened by a man obtaining a woman's consent and then having intercourse in private. From that point on she was his wife (e.g., Gen 25:1; 38:1-3; Ex 2:1). With the introduction of betrothal in Torah instructions a man would acquire the bride of his choice in the presence of witnesses (cf. 2Sam 3:14; Ruth 4:9-11). According to Jewish law in the first century betrothal could be accomplished in one of three ways: by money, such as a coin, or its equivalent (e.g. Ex 21:11; 22:16), by contract (e.g. Jdg 14:2; Ruth 4:9-10; Tobit 7:14), or by sexual intercourse (e.g. Deut 22:28-29) (Kiddushin 1:1).

With betrothal the woman belonged to the man and considered a married woman. That is, the woman became forbidden to all men but to whom she has now been designated. Having become a legal wife her status could only be changed by divorce or death (cf. Matt 1:19). By the first century tradition had standardized the betrothal period to not exceed twelve months for a virgin (Ketubot 5:2). Following the betrothal period the marriage was completed by the groom taking his bride into a private chamber and consummating the marriage. There was no formal wedding ceremony as such. For more information see my article Marriage in Ancient Israel.

to a man: Grk. anēr, an adult man without regard to marital status. In the LXX anēr translates several Heb. words, primarily Heb. ish, man (Gen 2:23) (DNTT 2:562). The phrase "betrothed to a man" indicates compliance with God's will that marriage be exclusively heterosexual (Gen 2:24). The modern concept of "homosexual marriage," a contradiction in terms, is an abomination to God (Lev 18:22; 20:13; Rom 1:26-27, 32).

whose: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. name: Grk. onoma. See verse 5 above. was Joseph: Grk. Iōsēph, a transliteration of Heb. Yosef, which is explained in Genesis 30:24 and means "he adds, increases." The first Joseph in the Bible was the son of Jacob the patriarch. The first Joseph is regarded by many as a type of the Messiah, because through him deliverance came to the entire family of Jacob.

Almost all that is known about Joseph of Nazareth is given in the nativity narratives. There may be a touch of irony and certainly a divine connection to the history of Israel in that Joseph's father was also named Jacob (Matt 1:16). In Matthew we learn that Joseph was a carpenter (13:55). Bible scholars generally assume that Joseph died sometime before Yeshua's public ministry began. Luke then identifies the ancestry of Joseph (cf. Matt 1:6-16). from: Grk. ek, prep. the house: Grk. oikos. See verse 23 above. The noun is used here in the figurative sense of descendants. Here Luke notes that Joseph belongs to a royal lineage (cf. Matt 1:1; Luke 3:31).

of David: Grk. David (for Heb. David, "dah-veed"), a personal name meaning "beloved" or "favorite" (HBD). David is one of the most important figures in Israelite history. God chose him to be king because He "sought out for Himself a man after His own heart" (1Sam 13:14). David became King of Israel at the age of 30 and reigned 40 years (2Sam 5:4; 1Chr 3:4). He made a tremendous impact on the nation. As a military leader he broke the power of pagan peoples in the land of Canaan. In the civil sphere he made Jerusalem his capital and solidified central authority. He centralized worship in Jerusalem and established Levitical choirs.

David wrote many psalms and 73 psalms are specifically ascribed to him. He was known as the "sweet psalmist of Israel" (2Sam 23:1). Especially important is that he compiled and organized psalms into what is known as the Book of Psalms (2Chr 29:30). Jeremiah left a simple eulogy: "David did what was right in the eyes of ADONAI, and he had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite" (1Kgs 15:5 BR). The last comment on David's life in the Tanakh is from Ezra who twice refers to David as a "man of God" (2Chr 8:14; Neh 12:24).

and: Grk. kai, conj. the name: Grk. ho onoma. of the virgin: Grk. ho parthenos. For a second time Luke stresses the point of the young woman's virginity at the time of her meeting with Gabriel. However, as the nativity story will reveal she did not remain a virgin by any definition.

was Miriam: Grk. Mariam, fem. name, an attempt at transliterating the Heb. Miryam, "Miriam" in English. The meaning of the name is not known for certain, but BehindtheName.com says that Miriam "was most likely originally an Egyptian name, perhaps derived in part from mry "beloved" or mr "love." Since Miriam of Nazareth had a familial connection to the house of Aaron (verse 36 below), her parents may have named her after the sister of Moses (Ex 15:20), who is also identified when first introduced as a "virgin" (Heb. almah, Ex 2:8).

The translation history of "Miriam" is strange. The Hebrew name of Miryam, sister of Moses, occurs 16 times in the LXX and every time is spelled in Greek as Mariam. Thayer notes that Mariam is also an exact transliteration of Aramaic Mariam, which is used in the Targums. In Christian English versions the name of Moses' sister is always rendered as "Miriam." However, the Latin Vulgate (405) translated Mariam with Maria, which the Wycliffe Bible (1325) rendered as "Marie."

The use of "Mary" in English Bibles for the mother of Yeshua began with the Tyndale New Testament (1525) and Christians have called this Jewish woman by this name ever since. The choice of English translators to use "Mary" instead of her Hebrew name "Miriam" can only be to minimize her Jewish identity. David Stern offers this apt observation:

"This unfounded and artificial distinction produced by translators subtly drives a wedge between Yeshua's mother and her own Jewishness … the name "Mary" evokes in the reader’s thinking an otherworldly image of "Madonna and Child," complete with haloes, beatific smiles and angels in array, instead of the New Testament's portrayal of a down-to-earth Jewish lady in an Israel village managing her wifely, maternal and other social responsibilities with care, love and faith." (3)

Little is known of Miriam of Nazareth and many curious points are left unexplained. From this context we know she lived in Nazareth, that she was betrothed to a man descended from King David and that she was a chaste woman. Nothing is disclosed of her life in Nazareth. She is curiously alone when she receives the angelic visitor. We do not know her age, and scholars simply assume she is a young girl. Yet the angel treats her as a mature adult.

28 And having entered to her, he said, "Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you."

And: Grk. kai, conj. having entered: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. part., lit. "having come in." See verse 9 above. Here the verb indicates entering Miriam's residence, and certainly not in a public area. With no mention of knocking the door may have been open. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 18 above. Again the preposition stresses a face-to-face meeting. her: fem. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. This is not a miraculous appearance as occurred in the Temple.

Rejoice: Grk. chairō, pres. imp., may mean (1) to be in a state marked by good feeling about an event or circumstance; be happy, glad, delighted, rejoice; or (2) an expression of greeting that is normally tantamount to assuring the other of one's good will, a kind of introductory social ointment; greetings, hail. Most versions apply the second meaning here with "greetings" or "hail." In the LXX chairō for the most part translates Hebrew words from the stem samach, be glad, rejoice (Ex 4:14; 1Sam 6:13; Isa 39:2), but also gil, rejoice (Prov 2:14; 23:25), and sis, to exult, rejoice (Isa 66:14) (DNTT 2:356).

Messianic versions have "Shalom" (CJB, MJLT, OJB, TLV), which is a greeting in Jewish culture. However, shalom is rarely used as a greeting in the Tanakh (Jdg 6:23; 19:20) and in the LXX shalom is translated with eirēnē. Zodhiates says that the imperative mood of chairō in a personal salutation, as used in this verse, essentially means "Joy to you" (cf. similar usage in Matt 5:12; Luke 6:23; 10:20). Gabriel is saying more than "Good morning." He came bearing good news from heaven, a definite cause for rejoicing. Several versions translate the verb here as "Rejoice" (CEB, HCSB, MW, NJB, NKJV, WEB). Weymouth has "Joy be to you!"

favored one: Grk. charitoō, perf. pass. part., voc., to endow with grace, and properly, highly-favored because of being receptive to God's grace. The verb occurs only twice in the Besekh (also Eph 1:6), and in the LXX only in Sirach 18:17. The verb is more Hellenistic than Hebraic (Nicoll). The participle is a verbal adjective, so it describes something about Miriam. The vocative case (direct address) of the participle could be rendered "you, favored with grace." A comparable Hebrew verb is ratsah, to be pleased with, accept favorably, and is used to described the granting of God's favor (2Sam 24:23; Ps 44:3; 85:1; 147:11; Ezek 43:27).

The participle does not mean, as Roman Catholics teach, that she is "full of favor" in the sense of being a divine mediator able to confer favor (Geldenhuys 75). The greeting as translated in the Latin Vulgate became the inspiration for the well-known prayer "Ave Maria" ("Hail Mary"), which dates from the 15th century (Ibid., 79). The portion of the prayer that contains the words "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners," was declared by Pope Pius V in 1568 to be authoritative. Such a prayer is blasphemy. The "favored one" is not the mother of grace, but the daughter of grace (Bengel). Miriam received favor from God by being singled out of all the young women in Israel to bear the Messiah.

The Lord: Grk. ho kurios. See verse 6 above. Speaking to her in Hebrew the angel probably used the Hebrew title Adonai. is with: Grk. meta, prep. See verse 24 above. Here the preposition is a marker of association. you: Grk. su, second person singular pronoun. The declaration "The Lord is with you" could allude to one of the Messianic names, Immanuel, "God with us." However, it is because the Lord is with her that she is endued with grace (Plummer).

Textual Note

Many manuscripts followed by the Textus Receptus add the clause "Blessed are you among women," which is reproduced in several versions (BRG, DARBY, DRA, EHV, JUB, KJV, MEV, NMB, WEB). Metzger comments that if the clause had been original in the present verse, there is no adequate reason why it should have been omitted from a wide diversity of early witnesses, including Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, the Syriac and the Coptic. Copyists inserted the clause from verse 42 where it is firmly attested.

29 But at the statement, she was troubled and was pondering what kind of greeting this might be.

But: Grk. de, conj. at: Grk. epi, prep., lit. "upon." the statement: Grk. ho logos, lit. "the word." See verse 2 above. The noun refers to the words spoken by the angel in the previous verse. she was troubled: Grk. diatarassō, aor. pass., to put into disarray, agitate greatly, disturb, trouble. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. and: Grk. kai, conj. was pondering: Grk. dialogizomai, impf., to engage in a mental process involving back and forth movement of ideas; consider, ponder. The verb depicts mental process that typically leads to confused conclusion (HELPS).

what kind: Grk. potapos, adj., of what kind or sort, of what manner, with the focus on a strong impression made by something. of greeting: Grk. ho aspasmos, salutation, greeting. The noun refers to the address of "favored one." this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. might be: Grk. eimi, pres. opt. See verse 6 above. The optative mood is the mood of possibility.

Miriam being troubled would be the consequence of a strange man coming into her house and speaking as if he had a right to be there. It's important to note that during the entire conversation Gabriel never identifies himself to her by name and no indication is given that Miriam recognized him as an angel, as occurred in the story of the angel appearing to Samson's mother (Jdg 13:3-6). The stranger could have been an itinerant rabbi or prophet for all she knew. Miriam naturally wondered what the man's purpose was for his greeting, because in Israelite culture men did not normally address women unknown to them (cf. John 4:27).

30 And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Miriam, for you have found favor with God.

And: Grk. kai, conj. the angel: Grk. ho aggelos. See verse 11 above. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 13 above. to her: fem. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Do not: Grk. , adv. See verse 13 above. The negative particle appeals to the will. be afraid: Grk. phobeō, pres. mid. imp. See verse 13. The angel delivers the same exhortation he gave to Zechariah. Miriam: Grk. Mariam. See verse 27 above. Gabriel first spoke to Miriam's natural concern for her safety. She has nothing to fear from this stranger.

for: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 15 above. The conjunction introduces a reason for not being afraid. you have found: Grk. heuriskō, aor., to acquire or obtain something, especially after seeking. His greeting of "favored one" is a statement of fact. The verb might imply that Miriam had been seeking something from God as Zechariah (verse 13 above). Like Zechariah she may have carried a burden for the redemption of Israel.

favor: Grk. charis, disposition marked by inclination to generosity, frequently unmotivated by the worth of the recipient; thus favor, grace or kindness. In Scripture the concept of "grace" especially denotes God's unilateral covenantal favor directed to chosen individuals and the nation of Israel. In the LXX charis occurs about 190 times of which only about 75 have a Hebrew equivalent, of which 61 are for Heb. hēn, favor or grace, first in Genesis 6:8 in regards to Noah receiving the favor of God (DNTT 2:116).

The term "favor" has the connotation of providing some benefit or blessing. Sometimes the biblical term denotes favor extended by one person to another by acts of friendship, generosity, good will or honor (e.g. Gen 33:8, 10; 39:4; 47:29; 50:4), but often the favor or grace is extended by God, freely reaching to people because He is disposed to bless them. God's grace is especially directed to Israel (Ezra 9:8; Jer 31:2; Zech 12:10).

with: Grk. para, prep. with the root meaning of beside (DM 108), conveys association between persons, things, or circumstances, which may denote (1) a point of origin, from; or (2) a close association or proximity, with, beside, in the presence of. The second usage applies here. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 6 above. Gabriel speaks of a decision that had already been made in Heaven. Thus, the meeting with Gabriel is a divine appointment to carry out the will of God. Miriam was included into a select group of individuals, the Messianic line, that would advance God's great plan of salvation and in her case bring it to completion.

31 And behold, you will conceive in the womb and will bring forth a son, and you shall call his name Yeshua.

Reference: Judges 13:3, 5, 7; Isaiah 7:14.

And: Grk. kai, conj. behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. See verse 20 above. you will conceive: Grk. sullambanō, fut. mid. See verse 24 above. in: Grk. en, prep. the womb: Grk. gastēr, the abdominal region of the body and in a woman the uterus. and: Grk. kai. will bring forth: Grk. tiktō, fut. mid., to cause to come into being, give birth to, bear. The verb denotes the natural process of a nine-month pregnancy. a son: Grk. huios. See verse 13 above. Scripture affirms reality, that gender is determined physically in the womb, not by personal choice.

and: Grk. kai. you shall call: Grk. kaleō, fut. See verse 13 above. The future tense has an imperative function here. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. name: Grk. ho onoma. See verse 13 above. While the action verb "call" is directed to Miriam the command does not mean that naming is her sole responsibility, because the same message will be given to Joseph. The angel informs her that regardless of any naming convention followed in their family the son's name had already been determined. In the Tanakh the only divine direction for naming someone was in regard to change of a name, Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah and Jacob to Israel.

Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, perhaps "yay-soos," is an attempt to transliterate the Hebrew name Yeshua. The Greek spelling ends with a sigma ("ς") because an ending with alpha ("α") would make the name feminine. Luke does not explain the name's meaning as Matthew does (Matt 1:21). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH is salvation" (BDB 221). Yeshua has the same Hebrew root as the verb yoshia ("He will save") and is also the masculine form of the Hebrew noun yeshu‘ah, ("salvation") (Stern 4).

In the LXX both Yeshua ("Jeshua") and Y’hoshua ("Joshua") were common names and rendered as Iēsous. The name of Yeshua was given to six men in the Tanakh and spelled "Jeshua" in English versions, four of whom were of the tribe of Levi (1Chr 24:11; 31:15; Ezra 2:6; 3:2; Neh 3:19; 8:7). Thus, the chosen name could be appropriate considering Miriam's familial connection to the tribe of Levi (verse 36 below). Messianic versions (CJB, DHE, MJLT, MW, OJB, TLV) render the name as "Yeshua" but Christian Bibles have "Jesus."

The English spelling convention of "Jesus" was introduced by the Mace New Testament in 1729, and thereafter became standard in Christian versions and the Christian vernacular. For many Jews the name "Jesus" is a distinctly Christian word. Sadly, for many Christians the name "Jesus," while precious, does not evoke the reality of his Jewish identity. By virtue of His incarnation and Jewish mother, Yeshua must still be a Jew. For more information on the meaning our Lord's name and his identity see my article Who is Yeshua?

Relevant to the syntax of this declaration is that twice in the Tanakh the promise and prophecy is given of future conception in the womb and bringing forth a son. The promise was first given to the wife of Manoah (Jdg 13:3) and the son whom she would birth would deliver (LXX sōzō) Israel from their enemies (Jdg 13:5). The second prophecy was given to Isaiah regarding the virgin that would conceive and birth a son who would be called Immanuel (Isa 7:14).

32 He will be great and he will be called Son of the Most High and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.

Reference: Micah 5:4; Genesis 49:10; 2Samuel 7:12-14; Isaiah 9:6.

Gabriel's message continues with three more points of identification for Miriam's son. He: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun, lit. "this one." will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. See verse 6 above. great: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 15 above. The adjective is used here to denote importance. Gabriel makes the same announcement of Yeshua's stature as given for Yochanan, but Yeshua's greatness will be for an entirely different reason. Given that the adjective is used in the title of the high priest, this declaration could hint at the role of high priest Yeshua will eventually assume, and that according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb 2:17; 5:10; 6:20; 7:17).

The adjective not only points to an office but also impact on the world as described in the Messianic prophecy of Micah concerning the promised ruler to be born in Bethlehem:

"And He shall stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of ADONAI, in the majesty of the name of ADONAI his God; and they shall dwell secure, for now He shall become great to the ends of the earth." (Mic 5:2, 4 BR)

and: Grk. kai, conj. he will be called: Grk. kaleō, fut. pass. The same verb is used in verse 13 of the naming of Yochanan and in the previous verse of Miriam giving her son the name Yeshua. Gabriel asserts that besides a birth name, Miriam's son will be considered by others to bear another name, a more important name. Son: Grk. huios. See verse 13 above and the previous verse. Here "son" could have the meaning of "having the characteristics of." of the Most High: Grk. hupsistos, a superlative that means being positioned at the uttermost upward point in status, generally translated as "Most High" as a name for God.

In the LXX hupsistos translates Heb. Elyon, Highest, Most High, first in Genesis 14:18, where Melchizedek is identified as the priest of El Elyon. Elyon occurs some 30 times in the Tanakh as a synonym of Elohim and YHVH (e.g. Num 24:16; Deut 32:16). The angelic revelation to Miriam is the first occurrence in the apostolic narratives of the title being used in reference to Yeshua. The title "Son of the Most High" is also used of Yeshua at Mark 5:7, Luke 8:28, Acts 16:17, and Hebrews 7:1; the first three of these being spoken by demoniacs.

Lightfoot comments that saying Yeshua would be called "Son of the Most High" is tantamount to saying "He shall be called the Messiah," for Messiah and Son of God are interchangeable terms. Ben-Elyon means "Son of God," as is clear from verse 35. Unbelieving Jews typically object to the concept of God having a divine son. Yet, there are verses in the Tanakh that mention God having a unique Son in a very personal sense:

"Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name and what is his son's name? Surely you know!" (Prov 30:4 ESV)

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; … and his name shall be called … Mighty God." (Isa 9:6 ESV)

and: Grk. kai. the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 6 above. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 6 above. will give: Grk. didōmi, fut., generally to give something to someone, often with the focus on generosity, but may be used to mean bestow, hand over, impart, entrust, yield, put, or sacrifice (BAG). In the LXX didōmi generally translates Heb. natan, to give (first in Gen 1:29), which is used in one of three settings: (1) by men one to another; (2) by men to God; and (3) by God to men (DNTT 2:41). him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., Yeshua. Gabriel is clear that the God of Israel is the one who will make the promise come true.

the throne: Grk. ho thronos, refers to a throne or chair upon which a king sits. Ancient thrones typically had a high back-rest and arm-rests and sometimes with a foot-stool. The throne was the official place from which the king exercised his power, authority and judgment. The term is often used figuratively in Scripture of sovereignty or dominion (DNTT 2:611-615). of his: Grk. autos. father: Grk. patēr. See verse 17 above. The noun is used here in the sense of an ancestor.

David: Grk. David. See verse 27 above. Gabriel alludes to an important covenantal promise. This proclamation was news that any Jew would have welcomed. The promise of the Messiah coming from the house of David is predicted first by Jacob when he gathered his twelve sons before his death and prophesied what would happen to his descendants in the acharit hayamim ("latter days") (Gen 49:1). This temporal expression denoting the distant future occurs a dozen times in the Tanakh (cf. Isa 2:2; Ezek 38:16; Mic 4:1).

Some versions do translate the temporal reference as "the last days" (AMPC, DRA, ISV, JUB, KJV, LSB, MEV, NKJV, OJB, TLV). Rabbi David Qimhi, the Medieval Jewish commentator, said that "Everywhere that there is mention made of the last days, the days of the Messiah are intended" (Santala-OT 48). In that context Jacob then said to his son Judah,

"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples" (Gen 49:10 NASB). The LXX reads, "A ruler shall not fail to Judah and one leading from his thighs until whenever the things reserved to him should come. And he is the expectation of nations." (ABP)

Jacob's prophecy affirms that the Messianic line would go through the tribe of Judah. The Hebrew word shiloh is translated in some English versions with the proper name "Shiloh" (ASV, AMP, GW, KJV, TLB, LSB, NASB, NASU, NCV, NKJV, OJB). The meaning of the word is a matter of some scholarly debate but apparently the clause in which it is found intends "until he comes to whom it rightfully belongs" (Kaiser-Messiah 51).

Jewish scholarship, beginning with the Aramaic Targums, recognized in "Shiloh" a cryptic but shorthand form of a personal name for the Messiah:

"The rod [of the ruler] will not depart from [the house of] Yehudah, nor a law-enforcer from between his feet [nor a scribe from his children’s children forever], until Shiloh Comes [the Moshiach will come, for his is the kingship], and to him shall be an assembly of nations [nations will listen]." (Targum Onkelos)

"Kings shall not cease, nor rulers, from the house of Jehuda, nor sapherim teaching the law from his seed, till the time that the King the Meshiha, shall come, the youngest of his sons; and on account of him shall the peoples flow together." (Targum Jonathan)

Indeed Rashi, the Medieval Jewish commentator, declared concerning this passage: "Until Shiloh comes: This refers to the King Messiah, to whom the kingdom belongs, and so did [Targum] Onkelos render it: "until the Messiah comes, to whom the kingdom belongs."

The definitive prophecy of Messiah's descent from David was declared by the prophet Nathan and then reinforced by Isaiah:

"12 When your days are done and you sleep with your fathers, I will raise up your seed, who will come forth from you after you, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He will build a house for My Name, and I will establish his royal throne forever. 14 I will be a father to him, and he will be a son to Me." (2Sam 7:12-14 TLV)

"6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; and the government will be upon his shoulder, … 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and sustain it with justice and righteousness from that time forward and even forever. The zeal of YHVH-Tzva’ot will do this." (Isa 9:6-7 BR)

God made a personal and everlasting covenant with David and promised that He would establish the throne of David forever, build a house for Himself and send forth a king from the loins of David to rule over his people Israel. This promise is echoed in other passages of the Tanakh (Ps 2:6-7, 11-12; 23:5; 89:3-4; 132:11; Isa 11:1; 16:5; 55:3; Jer 23:5-6; 33:21; Ezek 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Hos 3:5). Many passages in the Besekh reinforce the assertion that Yeshua is a descendant of David (Matt 1:1; 9:27; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9; 22:42; Luke 3:31; 18:38; Acts 13:34; 2Tim 2:8). God's promise that He would bring His Anointed from the line of David explains the presence of the genealogies in the apostolic narratives.

33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob into the ages, and of His kingdom there will not be an end.

Reference: Isaiah 9:7; Ezekiel 37:24-27; Daniel 2:44; 7:14; Mic 4:7.

And: Grk. kai, conj. He will reign: Grk. basileuō, fut., to reign as king, i.e. exercise dominion (HELPS). Gabriel amplifies the promise in the previous verse of occupying the throne of David and informs Miriam that her son will be elevated to royal rule. over: Grk. epi, prep. The preposition signifies oversight. the house: Grk. oikos. See verse 23 above. Here the noun is used fig. of descendants in a corporate sense. of Jacob: Grk. Iakōb transliterates Heb. Ya'akov ("Jacob"), the son of the patriarch Isaac.

The story of Jacob is narrated in Genesis 25—50. He was the second born of the fraternal twin sons of Isaac by Rebekah (cf. Gen 24:62; 25:11, 20, 26). Before Jacob's birth God informed Rebekah that Jacob, even though born second, would have all the rights of the firstborn (Gen 25:23): (1) superior rank in his family (Gen 49:3); (2) a double portion of the paternal inheritance (Deut 21:17); (3) the priestly office in the family (Num 8:17-19); and (4) the promise of the Seed in which all nations of the earth were to be blessed (Gen 22:18).

From the time of his birth Jacob was a good man who lived as a shepherd, whereas his brother Esau became a big-game hunter. Jacob is described in Genesis 25:27 with the adjective tam, which means "perfect, complete, blameless, morally innocent, having integrity" (BDB 1070). This is the same word used to describe Job (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3) and Noah (Gen 6:9) and prescribed as God's expectation of Abraham (Gen 17:1). However, Bible scholars do not want to accord Jacob the same status as Noah and Job and inexplicably render tam in his case as "quiet," "peaceful," "plain," or "mild." (Check your own version.)

Esau, on the other hand, eventually became an immoral and godless man (cf. Gen 28:8-9; Heb 12:16). Unfortunately common Christian interpretation of Jacob's story has conveniently ignored God's will and twisted the facts of the story in order to take up an offense for Esau. Christian commentators generally allege that Jacob and his mother conspired to deceive the aged patriarch with the view of stealing the birthright for Jacob. Bible publishers even title the relevant section as "The Stolen Blessing," which represents ignorance at best and defamation at worst.

Indeed, many Christians have loved Esau and hated Jacob and his descendants, directly contrary to God's attitude (cf. Mal 1:2-3; Rom 9:13). Even in this modern time Palestinian terrorists gain more sympathy from some Christian leaders than Israeli victims. The truth is that Jacob couldn't steal what already belonged to him, but in fact his deceit prevented Isaac from committing rebellion against God's covenantal will. Isaac realized his error and gave a second blessing to Jacob that left no doubt as to his rights. (See my article Our Father Jacob in which I set the record straight.)

The phrase "house of Jacob" refers to the biological descendants of Jacob for whom God promises covenantal faithfulness. The descriptive reference occurs 21 times in the Tanakh (first in Gen 46:27) and its synonym "house of Israel" occurs 144 times in the Bible. Jacob was well esteemed by God and the nation of Israel. The mention of the "house of Jacob" is purposeful. Gabriel does not say "house of Judah" or simply "the Jews." At this time the descendants of Jacob were fractured into several groups: Essenes, Galilean Jews, Hellenistic Jews, Hellenized Jews, Herodians, Pharisees, Sadducees, Samaritans and Zealots. The good news is that Messiah would reign over ALL the descendants of Jacob, not just some of them.

Then, considering Paul's doctrine of Israelology set forth in Romans 9−11 and Ephesians 2 the "house of Jacob" would also include Gentiles grafted into the Olive Tree of Israel and incorporated into the Commonwealth of Israel. What should not be missed is the assertion that Yeshua's reign will be over His own people. The prophecy is not "He shall reign over the Church" or "He shall reign over Christianity." The eternal association with the "house of Jacob" is even manifest in the description of the New Jerusalem in which the twelve gates bear the names of the twelve sons of Jacob (Rev 21:12). There is no people of God apart from Israel.

into: Grk. eis, prep. with the root meaning of "in, within," indicating the point reached or entered ("into"), and may express direction, position, relation, cause or purpose (DM 114), here direction with a futuristic temporal focus. the ages: pl. of Grk. ho aiōn, properly, a continued or unbroken duration of time; age or era (Zodhiates). In the LXX aiōn translates Heb. ōlam, "long duration, antiquity or futurity" (BDB 761), first in Genesis 3:22. Olam is also used adverbially to mean "forever, for all time" (Gen 9:12), as well as ancient time (Gen 6:4; 49:26), and indefinite futurity (Deut 15:17).

In the Besekh Yeshua and the apostles generally speak of two specific ages, the present age (Heb. olam hazeh; Matt 28:20) and the age to come (Heb. olam haba; Matt 12:32) in which the Messiah reigns. In Hebrew thought historical time was divided into ages, perhaps coinciding with the great covenants that God made with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Israel and David (Eccl 1:10; Rom 16:25; 1Cor 2:7; 10:11; Eph 3:9; Col 1:26; Titus 1:2; Heb 9:26). The plural aiōn extends future time indefinitely, into the Messianic Age or millennium, and beyond that time into eternity. Thus, the common translation is "forever."

and: Grk. kai. of His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. kingdom: Grk. basileia, kingship, royal power, or territory ruled over by a king. The word occurs some 40 times in Luke, but only eight times without the addition "of God." The concept of the Kingdom of God is crucial to understanding the Bible. It refers primarily to a condition in which the rulership of God is acknowledged by humans, a condition in which God's promises of a world free from sin and death are, or begin to be, fulfilled. "Kingdom" is most likely used here in its Tanakh sense of the promise of Messiah actually ruling over the earth from David's throne in Jerusalem.

there will not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 7 above. The negation is absolute. be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. See verse 6 above. an end: Grk. telos may refer to (1) the termination or cessation of something; (2) the last part or conclusion of something; or (3) the goal toward which a movement is directed (BAG). The first meaning applies here. In the LXX telos is often used to translate the Heb. qets, "end" (DNTT 2:60). The Hebrew word qets is most often used of time, especially in phrases that speak of the end of a definite time period (e.g., Gen 8:6; 2Sam 15:7; 2Kgs 18:3) (BDB 893).

The kingdom upon the arrival of the Messiah continues forever from that point as asserted by the Hebrew prophets (Isa 9:7; Ezek 37:24-27; Dan 2:44; 7:14; Mic 4:7). The Kingdom is not waiting for the Second Coming to begin.

Miriam's Response, 1:34-38

34 Now Miriam said to the angel, "How will this be, since I know not a man?"

Now: Grk. de, conj. Miriam: Grk. Mariam. See verse 27 above. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 13 above. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 18 above. the angel: Grk. ho aggelos. See verse 11 above. Gabriel never informed Miriam of his name. How: Grk. pōs, adv. introducing a query concerning manner, way, or reason in respect to a matter; how? in what manner/way? will this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. The pronoun refers back to the angelic announcement in verse 31 that Miriam would conceive a son, but considering her response the pronoun could include the entire seven-fold promise regarding her son. be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. See verse 6 above.

since: Grk. epei (from epi, "upon" and ei, "if"), conj. used in a causal sense; since, inasmuch, because. The conjunction assumes the premise is factual (HELPS). I know: Grk. ginōskō, pres. See verse 18 above. The verb is used here in the Hebraic sense of sexual intimacy (e.g. Gen 4:1, 17, 25; 19:8; 24:16; 38:26). not: Grk. ou, adv. a man: Grk. anēr. See verse 27 above. See also the note on "betrothed" in verse 27 above. Miriam categorically affirms her physical and moral chastity. She had not even been intimate with Joseph to whom she belonged.

Unlike Zechariah who challenged Gabriel with unbelief, Miriam is simply curious about the mechanics of accomplishing the sovereign will of God. She may have assumed that her son would be conceived from normal marriage relations, since the Messiah would be a biological descendant of King David. Yet, the visitor's announcement sounded like she would be pregnant without Joseph being involved. Miriam confirms her chaste state as meant by the term virgin in verse 27. Both secular men and unbelieving Jews scoff at the virgin birth of Yeshua. After all, in human experience a baby simply cannot be made without a father. Miriam knows human biology and wonders how God will accomplish this conception.

35 And having answered the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore also, the Holy One being born will be called 'Son of God.'

And: Grk. kai, conj. having answered: Grk. apokrinomai, aor. pass. part. See verse 19 above. the angel: Grk. ho aggelos. See verse 11 above. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 13 above. to her: fem. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The double emphasis on speaking is a Hebraic way of introducing the quoted material and effectively serves as quotation marks. Gabriel then explains in simple terms how God will perform the miracle. The Holy Spirit: Grk. hagios pneuma. See verse 15 above. will come: Grk. eperchomai, fut. mid., to come on or upon, in the sense of moving over a space. upon: Grk. epi, prep. you: Grk. su, second person pronoun.

and: Grk. kai. the power: Grk. dunamis. See verse 17 above. of the Most High: Grk. hupsistos (for Heb. Elyon). See verse 32 above. will overshadow: Grk. episkiazō, fut., to overshadow, to envelope or surround. you: Grk. su. Risto Santala comments that the idea of conception by the Holy Spirit is not something totally foreign to the Jew (Santala-NT 94f). Targum Jonathan, quoting Deuteronomy 18:15 says that God will one day raise up a second Moses "through the Holy Spirit."

Luke's expression "the power of the Most High" is also not unknown in the Jewish literature. Rabbi David Qimhi, active at the beginning of the 13th century, says of the Messiah that his contemporaries will call him by the name El, meaning 'God,' "because his origins are from of old, from ancient times." Maimonides (Moses Ben Nahman, 1138-1204), in his commentary on Genesis 38:29 says in connection with Perez that this is the Messiah: "And he is the firstborn through the power of the Most High, as it is said … and those with understanding shall understand."

therefore: Grk. dio (from dia, "through," and hos, "which"), inferential conj., therefore, for this reason, on account of which, wherefore. The conjunction introduces a logical deduction. also: Grk. kai. the Holy One: Grk. ha hagios, adj. The superlative title is used in the Tanakh 31 times for the "Holy One of Israel," 25 of which are in Isaiah and six of those stress that the Holy One of Israel is the Redeemer of Israel (Isa 41:14; 43:14; 47:4; 48:17; 49:7; 54:5). being born: Grk. gennaō, pres. pass. part. See verse 13 above. The verb implies successful completion of nine months of pregnancy and a safe delivery.

will be called: Grk. kaleō, fut. See verse 13 above. Son: Grk. huios. See verse 13 above. of God: Grk. theos. See verse 6 above. The title is presented here as a synonym of "Son of the Most High" in verse 32 above. Christianity has traditionally restricted the meaning of the title "Son of God" to deity. In the first century Jews also had a restrictive definition of "Son of God," that of a human. "Son of God" was used as a title for a male descendant of King David, the Messiah, who would establish the promised Kingdom.

"Son of God" was a title of the Davidic king inasmuch as the king functioned as God's regent on earth and was vested with God's authority (Boyarin 30; Leman 95). Robert Alter in his commentary The Book of Psalms (W.W. Norton & Co., 2007) says that it was commonplace in the ancient Near East to consider the king as God's son (6). So when Yochanan the Immerser introduces Yeshua as "Son of God" (John 1:34), he means the title as the Davidic and Messianic king, just as Nathanael (John 1:49) and Martha (John 11:27) intended when they called Yeshua "Son of God." However, in this context the title clearly has an incarnational meaning, i.e., fully man, the son of Miriam, and fully God, conceived by the Holy Spirit.

36 And behold, Elizabeth your relative, also she has conceived a son in her old age; and this is her sixth month, the one being called barren.

And: Grk. kai, conj. behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. See verse 20 above. Gabriel now gives Miriam some news she apparently had not heard. Elizabeth: Grk. Elisabet. See verse 5 above. your: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. relative: Grk. suggenēs, adj. (from sun, "identified with" and genos, "offspring"), akin to, connected by lineage, relative, either (1) a near relation by blood or marriage; or (2) shared tribal or national ancestry. The first meaning is intended here. The nature of the relation is difficult to determine.

The natural question is how would a woman in the tribe of Judah and in the lineage of David be related to a woman in the tribe of Levi in the lineage of Aaron? The simple solution would be that a man in Miriam's lineage married a woman in the tribe of Levi. In fact, members of Judah intermarried with members of Levi as early as the wilderness generation (Amminadab and Nahshon, Matt 1:4). Given the age difference Miriam and Elizabeth may have been cousins two or three times removed. The fact of the familial connection hints at the future dual offices of the Messiah, both King and High Priest.

also: Grk. kai. she has conceived: Grk. sullambanō, perf. See verse 24 above. a son: Grk. huios. See verse 13 above. in: Grk. en, prep. her: Grk. autē (fem. of autos), personal pronoun. old age: Grk. gēras, old/advanced age. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. In the LXX gēras translates Heb. sebah, hoary head, old age (Gen 15:15; 25:8) and Heb. zaqun, old age (Gen 21:2, 7). The word "hoary" means having gray or white hair. In the Jewish summary of age development the age of 70 was represented as having the hoary head (Avot 5:21).

and: Grk. kai. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 6 above. her: Grk. autē. sixth: Grk. hektos. month: Grk. mēn. See verse 26 above. In other words she has completed five months of pregnancy and is into her sixth month. This is a typical Hebraic manner of expressing time. the one: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. being called: Grk. kaleō, pres. pass. part. See verse 13 above. The verb may imply pejorative name-calling. barren: Grk. steira. See verse 7 above. Gabriel makes reference to her reputation in the community.

The news that Elizabeth had conceived and was carrying a child no doubt bolstered Miriam's confidence in the stranger's prophecy. If God could do one miraculous birth, He could do another. Elizabeth's barrenness would have been widely known among her relations, so the good news would motivate Miriam to learn more about it.

37 For not any thing will be impossible with God.

Reference: Genesis 18:14.

For: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 22 above. Here the conjunction indicates causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. not: Grk. ou, adv. any: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 3 above. thing: Grk. rhēma may mean (1) a communication consisting of words, often with the implication of importance or special significance; or (2) in Hebrew usage something that arouses talk because it is remarkable or noteworthy; matter, thing, even. The second meaning applies here. Bible versions translate the construction "not any thing" as "nothing."

will be impossible: Grk. adunateō, fut., be incapable of doing, be impossible. with: Grk. para, prep., lit. "in the presence of." See verse 30 above. God: Grk. ho theos, the God of Israel. See verse 6 above. This axiomatic statement almost seems unnecessary, but humans at times need this reassurance. The very definition of God precludes the impossible, especially when He has made a sovereign decree. Gabriel probably alludes to what the angel of the Lord said to Abraham when Sarah laughed at the news that she would become pregnant.

"Is anything too hard for ADONAI? At the time set for it, at this season next year, I will return to you; and Sarah will have a son." (Gen 18:14 CJB)

The prophetic word of God is inherently self-fulfilling as Isaiah says,

"So My word will be that goes out from My mouth. It will not return to Me in vain, but will accomplish what I intend, and will succeed in what I sent it for." (Isa 55:11 TLV)

Those who deny the virgin birth imply that God can't perform miracles and if He can't do it then not only is the case for Christianity undermined, but also for Judaism and any other kind of theism. If God can't perform miracles, and the foundational documents of our religion say that He did perform miracles, then the documents must be wrong. The Hebrew Scriptures record that God brought about miraculous pregnancies with Sarah, Rebecca, Hannah and Elizabeth. So, it is not impossible that God, who can do far more than we can imagine, could take on human flesh with the power of the Holy Spirit.

38 So Miriam said, "Behold, the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

So: Grk. de, conj. Miriam: Grk. Mariam. See verse 27 above. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 13 above. Behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. See verse 20 above. The interjection has the force of Isaiah's response, "Here am I" (Isa 6:8). the maidservant: Grk. doulē, a female slave or servant. In the LXX doulē translates Heb. amah, handmaid or maidservant (Ex 21:7; Lev 25:44; Ruth 3:9; 1Sam 1:11, 16), as well as Heb. shiphchah, maid, maidservant (Ruth 2:13; 1Sam 1:18).

of the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 6 above. In this direct address Miriam probably used the title Adonai, which signals submission to the authority of God. Miriam emulates the self-description of Hannah who when petitioning God for a son called herself "your maidservant" three times (1Sam 1:11). For Miriam to call herself the "servant of Adonai" indicated humility of character, as well as courage. Let it be: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. opt. See verse 2 above. The optative mood is generally used to express a wish, but here is an expression of submission (Plummer). to me: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person.

according to: Grk. kata, prep. See verse 9 above. The preposition stresses conformity to an agreement. your: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. word: Grk. ho rhēma. See the previous verse. The noun alludes to the text of the prophecy in verses 31-33. Miriam's assertive affirmation expressed a courageous willingness to follow divine instruction. She would have known the potential scandal to the family and the confusion and hurt that Joseph might experience. No one would likely believe her report of a prophetic visitation. But, submitting to God's will was more important than any social consideration.

And: Grk. kai, conj. the angel: Grk. ho aggelos. See verse 11 above. departed: Grk. aperchomai, aor. See verse 23 above. from: Grk. apo, prep. her: Grk. autē, fem. of autos, personal pronoun. Unlike Zechariah the angel left without providing any instructions for Miriam to follow.

Luke portrays Miriam as a humble, godly Jewish woman, contrary to the unbiblical and heretical viewpoint of Roman Catholicism that Miriam ("Mary") herself was born without sin ("Immaculate Conception"), remained in a virginal state, became the beatific and revered model portrayed in Christian statues and paintings, and presently serves in heaven as a co-mediator with Yeshua and dispenser of divine favors.

Miriam's Visit with Elizabeth, 1:39-45

39 Now in those days Miriam, having arisen, traveled with haste into the hill country, into a town of Judah.

Now: Grk. de, conj. in: Grk. en, prep. those: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. days: pl. of Grk. ho hēmera. See verse 5 above. The plural noun is used here of an imprecise period of time. The temporal reference implies that Miriam did not leave the same day that Gabriel visited her. There were likely preparations to make and people to inform of her travel plans, including Joseph. At this point in their relationship Joseph knew Miriam's spiritual character and commitment to him, so there would have been no reason for him to object to her trip.

Miriam: Grk. Mariam. See verse 27 above. having arisen: Grk. anistēmi, aor. act. part., to arise from a recumbent position. The verb no doubt depicts her getting up after a night of sleep. traveled: Grk. poreuō, aor. pass., to move from one part of an area to another; journey, travel. with: Grk. meta, prep. haste: Grk. spoudē, swiftness to show zealous diligence (HELPS), probably with enthusiasm to see her relative. into: Grk. eis, prep. the hill country: Grk. ho oreinos, adj. (from oros, mountain, hill, hill country), mountainous or terrain dominated by hills. The term refers to the topography of land that lay between the coastal Plain of Sharon to the west and the Jordan Valley to the east.

into: Grk. eis. a town: Grk. polis. See verse 26 above. of Judah: Grk. Iouda (Heb. Y'hudah), the biblical location name for the area assigned to the tribe of Judah. See the map here. In the first century this territory was part of Judea, which lay between Idumea and Samaria. Christian tradition suggests the town mentioned here is Hebron (Thayer), which had been originally set aside for priests in the distribution of the land among the tribes of Israel (Josh 21:11). Thus, after the exile priests returned and settled there. Hebron is the principal city of the region about 20 miles south of Jerusalem, situated at 3,050 feet above sea level.

The distance from Nazareth to Hebron is at least 70 miles as the crow flies. In the first century orthodox Jews like the Pharisees avoided Samaria in traveling between Galilee and Judea (cf. John 4:9), making the distance closer to 90 miles. However, Josephus said that Galileans did not typically avoid Samaria in traveling between their home and Jerusalem (Ant. XX, 6:1). Also, according to Josephus' autobiography the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem took three days (Life §52).

Miriam's travel could have taken four to five days. She probably joined a caravan since travel in ancient times was conducted in groups for the sake of safety. Luke does not mention a festival, but in December of 4 B.C. the observance of Hanukkah (25 Kislev-3 Tebet) occurred in December 14-21. This observance would have offered the opportunity for traveling with a group of pilgrims for company.

The mention of Miriam traveling casts doubt on the assumption by many interpreters that her parents were living. In ordinary circumstances a betrothed woman who had not consummated with her husband would still be under the authority of her father. If he were living Miriam would not make such a long trip without his permission. There is not even a hint of parental authority over Miriam anywhere in the narrative. When she finally arrives at her destination she is unaccompanied.

40 And she entered into the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

and: Grk. kai, conj. she entered: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. See verse 9 above. into: Grk. eis, prep. the house: Grk. ho oikos. See verse 23 above. of Zechariah: Grk. Zacharias. See verse 5 above. The designation signifies property ownership. and: Grk. kai. greeted: Grk. aspazomai, aor., to address with some form of special recognition or expression of affection; to welcome or greet. Elizabeth: Grk. ho Elisabet. See verse 5 above. The customary greeting would be shalom. Elizabeth had no forewarning of Miriam's visit. Zechariah is not mentioned in this short narrative, and upon Miriam's arrival he could have been attending a service in the local synagogue.

41 And it came to pass as Elizabeth heard the greeting of Miriam, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Reference: LXX Genesis 25:22.

And: Grk. kai, conj. it came to pass: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verses 2 and 8 above. The first clause is a familiar Hebraic expression of Luke. as: Grk. hōs, adv., used here with a temporal sense. Elizabeth: Grk. hē Elisabet. See verse 5 above. heard: Grk. akouō, aor., to hear aurally or listen, with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). the greeting: Grk. ho aspazomos. See verse 29 above.

of Miriam: Grk. hē Mariam. See verse 27 above. Miriam's greeting sparked an amazing occurrence. the baby: Grk. ho brephos may refer to an unborn offspring ('fetus' or 'baby') or to a newborn or very young child ('infant' or 'baby'), here the former. leaped: Grk. skirtaō, aor., to move about in a lively manner, to bounce, jump or leap. in: Grk. en, prep. her: Grk. autē (fem. of autos), personal pronoun. womb: Grk. koilia. See verse 15 above. This anatomical reference confirms the meaning of brephos. The syntax of "leaped in her womb" is found in the LXX of Genesis 25:22 regarding Rebekah.

In the sixth month of pregnancy the baby is over a foot long, weighs almost two pounds. He is already practicing walking by pedaling his feet and kicking, sometimes right in the cervix. The baby has developed a strong grip and he can open and close his eyes in reaction to light. His vocal cords are fully functional, although he won’t be truly practicing until he sees his first glimpse of daylight. Hiccups are common for him as the baby practices swallowing, and the mother may feel these throughout the day. So, the fact that the baby "leaped" in her womb is not an unusual occurrence in itself. See the note on verse 44.

and: Grk. kai. The conjunction emphasizes coincidental actions rather than merely sequential actions. Elizabeth was filled: Grk. pimplēmi, aor. pass. See verse 15 above. with the Holy: Grk. hagios, adj. Spirit: Grk. pneuma. For "Holy Spirit" see verse 15 above. It is fitting that in Luke's narrative, which introduces many women, the first person to be filled with the Holy Spirit is a woman. The declaration here might allude to the prophecy that her son Yochanan would be filled with the Holy Spirit "from the womb." The fact that the baby "leaped" may suggest sharing the mother's experience of the Holy Spirit.

Some Christians assume the filling of the Holy Spirit began at Pentecost, but this is a mistake. In the Tanakh there were a number of people filled with the Spirit. The first mention is of Bezalel (Ex 31:3) and Oholiab (Ex 35:31, 35) who were given special revelation in construction of the tabernacle. Later Balaam would be given a revelation of Israel and its future Messiah (Num 24:2). King Saul would also be filled with the Spirit and prophesy (1Sam 10:10). The mention of Joshua being filled with the spirit of wisdom (Deut 34:9) is probably an allusion to the Holy Spirit.

In Scripture the description of being "filled with the Holy Spirit" is really an idiomatic expression that refers to a divine enablement for spiritual insight or activity. The euphemism of "filled" in this context is tantamount to one's soul or spirit being taken possession of. The spiritual activity takes a variety of forms in Scripture and the person performs the activity with passion. Here Elizabeth is given spiritual insight that she could not have known without divine aid and is inspired to give praise to God for His blessing of Miriam.

42 And she cried out in a loud shout, and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

Reference: Judges 5:24.

And: Grk. kai, conj. she cried out: Grk. anphoneō, aor., to call out or cry out. in a loud: Grk. megas, adj. See verse 15 above. The adjective here depicts volume of sound. shout: Grk. kraugē, an outcry or shout done with great emotion. The double emphasis on Elizabeth's voice suggests she raised her volume considerably. and: Grk. kai. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 13 above. Blessed are: Grk. eulogeō, perf. pass. part., may mean either (1) to invoke divine favor on or for someone or thing or (2) to express high praise with a connotation of appreciation for divine beneficence. The second meaning applies here. The perfect tense refers to action completed in past time with continuing results to the present.

you: Grk. su, second person pronoun. The favor of God had rested on Miriam long before Gabriel brought news of it. The Holy Spirit gave Elizabeth significant revelation without the aid of an angel. among: Grk. en. women: pl. of Grk. gunē. See verse 5 above. The syntax of this accolade echoes the saying of Deborah concerning Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, who slew Sisera (Jdg 5:24). Here the phrase recognizes that the hope among all Jewish women who had ever lived was to be the mother of the Messiah. This is an incredible honor and it came to a relative of Elizabeth. Is God good or what? This reflects a Hebrew idiom, indicating "you are the happiest of all the women that ever lived" (Benson).

and: Grk. kai. blessed is: Grk. eulogeō, perf. pass. part. The same verb with the same tense is repeated. the fruit: Grk. ho karpos, generally means the edible product of a plant grown for agricultural purposes, fruit, crop; but in the LXX the term is sometimes used to denote the result of conception (Gen 30:2; Ps 127:3; 132:11; Lam 2:20; Mic 6:7), as here. of your: Grk. su. womb: Grk. koilia. See verse 15 above. The child to be born shares the favor of God with his mother. Elizabeth could only know these things by the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

43 "And how is it that this happened to me, so that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

And: Grk. kai, conj. how is it that: Grk. pothen, interrogative adv., whence, from what place, here expressing causation, "how is it that? how can it be that?" (Thayer). this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. The pronoun refers back to the filling with the Holy Spirit and the accompanying revelation. happened to me: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. The question format does not mean that Elizabeth was establishing facts but rather expressing wonder and humility, implying a sense of unworthiness. so that: Grk. hina, conj. See verse 4 above. the mother: Grk. hē mētēr. See verse 15 above.

of my: Grk. egō. Lord: Grk. ho kurios. See verse 6 above. The Greek title is probably used for Heb. adōn, lord, master, which reflects the promise of Malachi 3:1, "the Lord [Heb. ha-adōn] whom you seek." should come: Grk. erchomai, aor. subj., 'to come or arrive' with focus on a position from which action or movement takes place. to: Grk. pros, prep. me: Grk. egō. Elizabeth knew where Miriam lived and the distance she had to travel to make this visit. This rhetorical question implies that the filling by the Spirit had given Elizabeth a revelation of the significance of Miriam's conception and pregnancy. In that moment Elizabeth realized that Miriam was pregnant with the Messiah.

The use of kurios, standing for Heb. adōn, on the lips of Elizabeth is consistent with the later usage in the apostolic narratives. Kurios is the principal title by which disciples addressed Yeshua during his earthly ministry, over twice as many times as any other title (e.g., Rabbi, Teacher) in order to affirm his authority. Addressing Yeshua as "Lord" in the flesh would not have considered deity. Elizabeth could call the one to be born of Miriam adōn because the Messiah will sit on the throne of David and rule over Israel.

44 "For, behold, as the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for gladness.

For: Grk. gar, conj. behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. See verse 20 above. as: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 41 above. the sound: Grk. hē phōnē can mean (1) an auditory impression, sound, noise defined in the context; (2) the faculty of producing speech, voice; or (3) a system of communication, language. The first meaning applies here. In the LXX phōnē generally translates Heb. qôl (sound, voice, BDB 876), the first usage of which is God's voice (Gen 3:8), and second the human voice (Gen 3:17), and these usages occur frequently in the Tanakh with various kinds of expression (DNTT 3:113).

of your: Grk. su, second person pronoun. greeting: Grk. aspasmos. See verse 29 above. came: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 2 above. to: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." my: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. ears: pl. of Grk. ous, the organ of hearing, the ear, as well as the faculty of understanding or perception. the baby: Grk. ho brephos. See verse 41 above. in: Grk. en, prep. my: Grk. egō. womb: Grk. koilia. See verse 15 above. leaped: Grk. skirtaō, aor. See verse 41 above. for: Grk. en. The preposition expresses cause here, "because of." gladness: Grk. agalliasis. See verse 14 above.

Elizabeth tells Miriam that coincidental with Miriam's offering her greeting, the sixth month old baby in her womb moved suddenly expressing exuberant joy. The Scripture text declares (what modern science has discovered) that a baby in the womb experiences emotions, including those of the mother. Emotions characterize a person created in the image of God. So, when Elizabeth's heart filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, the baby joined in the celebration. He began to dance as only Jews can do.

45 "And blessed is she having believed that there will be a fulfillment of the things spoken to her from the Lord."

And: Grk. kai, conj. blessed: Grk. makarios, adj., enjoying special advantage, blessed, privileged, fortunate or happy. In the LXX makarios translates Heb. esher, happiness, joyfulness, blessedness and fortunate all at the same time (Deut 33:29) (DNTT 1:215). The term represents a Hebraic idiom that conveys the viewpoint of "blessing" as a purposeful endowment (cf. Gen 1:28), ordinarily transmitted from the greater to the lesser. Blessedness can never be self-imposed nor come by accident. The only source of blessing is from God.

is she: fem. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having believed: Grk. pisteuō, aor. part. See verse 20 above. that: Grk. hoti, conj. there will be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. See verse 6 above. a fulfillment: Grk. teleiōsis, bringing to full realization or effectiveness; a brand of completion which focuses on the final stage of the consummation process (HELPS); completion, fulfillment, perfection. of the things: neut. pl. of Grk. ho. spoken: Grk. laleō, pl. perf. pass. part. See verse 19 above. to her: Grk. autē, fem. of autos, personal pronoun.

from: Grk. para, prep. See verse 30 above. The preposition here stresses origin, not agency. Some versions incorrectly translate the preposition as "by" (LSB, NABRE, NASB, NET, NRSV, TLV), which would require Grk. apo, dia or hupo. the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 6 above. Speaking in Hebrew Elizabeth probably said Adonai, not the sacred name (Heb. YHVH) as implied by the use of ADONAI (small caps) in Messianic Jewish versions (CJB, MJLT, TLV). The last clause of the verse emphasizes two facts: (1) the "things spoken" refers to the message announced by the archangel Gabriel, not a voice out of heaven as happens later (Luke 3:22); and (2) God was the originator of the prophetic message to Miriam. Gabriel faithfully transmitted what he was told.

Miriam was blessed not so much because she bore the Messiah, but because she believed in him. Elizabeth affirmed that Miriam not only believed the revelation of divine pregnancy, but that everything the angel told her would come to pass. It may well be that Elizabeth went on to recount the experience of Zechariah at the temple, including his unbelief that brought judgment, and informed Miriam of the angel's name. Zechariah may not have been able to speak, but he was still able to write and no doubt related his entire experience to his wife. Miriam would then have realized that it was the same angel who had brought the message to her.

Miriam's Song of Praise, 1:46-56

Verses 46-55 are known in the western world as the Magnificat ("my soul"), which is the first word in Miriam's message in the Latin Vulgate. Because of its poetic structure and theme of praise the message has been considered a hymn in Christianity since the 6th century and incorporated into Christian worship liturgy. The song is thoroughly Jewish with every verse grounded in the Tanakh. In structure, the song reflects the compositions of Hebraic hymnology and poetry, especially in its use of synonymous parallelism. At least in tone if not in some particulars Miriam's song resembles Hannah's song of praise to God at the dedication of her son Samuel (1Samuel 2:1–10).

Miriam essentially provides a conflation of Tanakh passages and Hebraic idioms in order to express joyful praise. In terms of narrative, the themes in Miriam's song manifest the theology of promise-fulfillment prevalent throughout the infancy narratives and anticipate the beatitudes reported in Yeshua's early sermon (Matt 5:2-11; Luke 6:20-28). In context Miriam expresses her personal joy as well as affirms the basis for the Jewish message of the good news. Such knowledge of Scripture and skill at crafting the song suggests an education that went beyond the normal training of young girls. Perhaps her father had been a rabbi.

46 And Miriam said, "My soul magnifies the Lord,

Reference: Psalm 34:2-3.

And: Grk. kai, conj. Miriam: Grk. Mariam. See verse 27 above. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 13 above. My: Grk. egō, first person pronoun. soul: Grk. hē psuchē may mean (1) the breath of life; (2) the human soul; (3) the seat of feelings, desires, affections; (4) the self; or (5) the human person. The second meaning is intended here. In the LXX psuchē translates Heb. nephesh (SH-5315), which may mean a soul, living being; first in Genesis 1:20. Saying "my soul" is a humble Hebraic substitution for saying "I," found especially in the psalms (e.g. Ps 34:2; 35:9; 42:2, 5; 43:5; 62:5; 103:1-2, 22; 104:1, 35; 146:1).

magnifies: Grk. megalunō, pres., may mean (1) enlarge, either in size or amount; or (2) cause to gain recognition, aggrandize, celebrate, glorify, magnify. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX megalunō translates Heb. gadal, become great, and is used of boasting about or declaring the greatness of God (e.g. 2Sam 7:22, 26; Ps 35:27; 40:17; 69:30; 70:4; 92:5; 104:1).

the Lord: Grk. ho kurios. See verse 6 above. The Greek title probably represents Heb. Adonai rather than the sacred name implied by the use of ADONAI (small caps) in Messianic Jewish versions (CJB, MJLT, TLV). Although not an exact quotation Miriam's declaration could be inspired by a psalm of David:

"My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. 3 Oh, magnify [Heb. gadal] the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!" (Ps 34:2-3 ESV)

47 and my spirit rejoices on account of God, my Savior.

Reference: Psalm 35:9; Habakkuk 3:18.

Miriam's next declaration forms a parallelism with the preceding verse and reflects two passages:

"Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD, exulting in his salvation." (Ps 35:9 ESV)

"Yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation." (Hab 3:18 ESV)

and: Grk. kai, conj. my spirit: Grk. pneuma (for Heb. ruach). See verse 15 above. Here the term means the personal inner and expressive identity. The human spirit is that which a person has in common with God who is Spirit (Gen 1:2; John 4:24) and in this context is synonymous with "soul" in the preceding verse. The personal reference is a typical Hebraic circumlocution for saying "I." Bible characters often speak of themselves in the third person (cf. Ps 103:1). rejoices: Grk. agalliaō, to be exuberantly joyful, to rejoice, to exult. The verb is synonymous with "magnifies" in the previous verse.

In the LXX agalliaō translates several Hebrew verbs that occur in religious contexts to express festive joy (DNTT 2:353), and in this context Heb. gil, rejoice, rejoicing (Ps 35:9); and alats, to rejoice, exult (Hab 3:18). on account of: Grk. epi, prep. See verse 12 above. The great majority of versions translate the preposition as "in," but here the preposition seems to stress causation (DM 114) or the reason for rejoicing. A few versions have "because of" (CEV, ERV, GNB, MRINT, WE).

God: Grk. ho theos (for Heb. Elohim). See verse 6 above. The definite article emphasizes "the only God there is." In the parallelism theos for the Heb. Elohim adds emphasis to the personality and nature of the God of Israel. my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. Savior: Grk. sōtēr, one who liberates from real or threatening harm or loss, savior, deliverer, or benefactor. In the LXX sōtēr first translates Heb. yeshu'ah, salvation or one who brings deliverance (Deut 32:15). Then sōtēr appears as a technical term for the judge-deliverers, Heb. moshia, a participle of the verb yasha, to save" (Jdg 3:9, 15).

Above all sōtēr is applied to the God of Israel, though not as a technical term (DNTT 3:217). Often Scripture contrasts the power of God's working with the impotence of the idols (Isa 45:20; Jer 11:12). God, as Savior, delivers from things outward, such as enemies (Ex 14:30; 1Sam 4:3; 2Sam 3:18), and things inward, such as sin (Ezek 36:29). He delivers people who are contrite and humble (Job 22:29; Ps 34:19).

Miriam identifies God as her Savior and makes the promise to the nation personal. She admits that even though she will birth the Savior, she herself needs a Savior. Miriam will never have the power to save anyone as later claimed in Roman Catholicism. Salvation, which includes forgiveness of sins and deliverance from God's wrath, can never been accomplished by a mere human being. The promise of a Savior began in the Garden after the first couple sinned.

"ADONAI-Elohim said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all livestock, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you will go, and you will eat dust all the days of your life; 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel." (Gen 3:14-15 BR)

Though Miriam was the woman blessed with the stewardship of bearing the Seed-Savior, she is really a surrogate for Eve, the mother of all the living (see my commentary on Rev 12:1-5).

48 For He has looked upon the lowliness of His maidservant, for behold, from now on all the generations will call me blessed.

Reference: 1Samuel 1:11; Genesis 30:13; Song 6:9.

For: Grk. hoti, conj., used here to indicate causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. He has looked: Grk. epiblepō, aor., to pay special attention to, to look at with favor, to be impressed by. This compound verb is common in medical writers for carefully examining the patient (HELPS). The verb reflects a common Hebrew idiom of "look upon" in regard to divine favor (Ex 14:24; Lev 26:9; 1Sam 9:16; Ps 11:4; 33:13-14; 102:17, 19). upon: Grk. epi, prep. the lowliness: Grk. ho tapeinōsis may mean (1) experience of reversal from higher to lower level, humiliation; or (2) a condition of being little of no account, low status, lowliness. The second meaning applies here.

of His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. maidservant: Grk. hē doulē. See verse 38 above. In the first half of the verse Miriam identifies herself with Hannah by alluding to her words in 1Samuel 1:11, "ADONAI-Tzva’ot, if You will indeed look on the affliction [LXX tapeinōsis] of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant" (BR). In the case of Hannah her humiliation was associated with her barrenness and the harassment of her co-wife Peninnah. Miriam also faced the possibility of humiliation of being found pregnant during her betrothal (Matt 1:18). Both Hannah and Miriam were devoted to doing God's will regardless of their circumstances.

for: Grk. gar, conj. behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. See verse 20 above. from: Grk. apo, prep. now on: Grk. nun, adv., marker of time in the present; now or just now. The adverb points to the future from the reference point of the present. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 3 above. the generations: pl. of Grk. ho genea, family or generation, and can refer to men of the same stock or the successive members of a genealogy. In the LXX genea translates Heb. dor, period, generation (Gen 6:9). The noun can refer to an age, a span of generations, or a multitude of persons alive at the same time in the past or in the present.

will call me: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. blessed: Grk. makarizō, fut., 3p-pl., to call or consider blessed or favored; bless, pronounce fortunate. Miriam then prophesies that future generations will acknowledge her as blessed of God and give her honor as the mother of the Messiah and Davidic King. The prophecy would certainly be true of the respect given by disciples of Yeshua throughout her life. After the ascension Miriam was a vital member of the early Messianic community (Acts 1:14).

The history of Miriam's life afterward is a matter of legend, but eventually the Catholic Church would make her so blessed as to be a co-mediator with her son. Catholics blaspheme Miriam's name by praying the "Hail Mary." As a righteous Jewish woman she would have been horrified at such idolatry. Miriam at this point probably could not have imagined that unbelieving Jews would later slander her as having become pregnant by a Roman soldier (See Sanh. 67b, fn 12). The main point of the prophecy is that those who believe Luke's story will call her uniquely blessed and so she was and still is.

49 For the Mighty One has done great things to me; and holy is His name.

Reference: Psalms 24:8; 111:9.

For: Grk. hoti, conj. See the previous verse. the Mighty One: Grk. ho dunatos, adj., having power or competence; able, mighty, powerful, strong. With the definite article the adjective is rendered as "the Mighty One." In the LXX dunatos is used generally of male warriors, but in some passages it is used as a title of God: for Heb. gibbor, "strong, mighty" (Ps 24:8; 45:3; Zeph 3:15); for Heb. chasin, "strong, mighty" (Ps 89:8); and for Heb. rab, "much, great" (Jer 32:19).

A related noun dunatēs is also used of "the Mighty One of Jacob," for Heb. abir, "strong" (Gen 49:24). The Hebrew idiom also occurs in a few other verses (Ps 132:2, 5; Isa 1:24; 49:25; 60:16). The Hebraic title employed by Miriam emphasizes that God is mighty in all His works and He has all the power He needs to accomplish whatever He desires.

has done: Grk. poieō, aor. See verse 25 above. great things: neut. pl. of Grk. megas, adj. See verse 15 above. to me: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. Miriam alludes to the promises contained in the angel's message, verses 31-33. The Tanakh speaks of many great things God accomplished for the nation of Israel, but Miriam rejoices in the very personal nature of the sovereign plan for her life. She does not lament over possible negative social consequences.

She worries not about her reputation. She's not even concerned about her pregnancy. Right now her only thought is how much the Mighty God has favored her and suddenly made her life rich and full. However, the joy is not simply that she will gain what Elizabeth spent decades without. The truly great thing that will result from this pregnancy is her own redemption and salvation as indicated is the closing phrase of her praise.

and: Grk. kai, conj. holy: Grk. hagios, adj. See verse 15 above. is His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. name: Grk. onoma. See verse 5 above. The noun probably alludes to the personal name YHVH-Tzva'ot (Isa 47:4; 48:2; 54:5). The description of "holy name" occurs frequently in the LXX in reference to God (e.g. Lev 18:21; 19:12; 22:2, 32; 1Chr 16:10; 29:16; 2Chr 6:2; Ps 33:21; 103:1; 105:3; 106:47; 138:2; 145:21; Ezek 20:39; 36:20; 39:7, 25; 43:7). Of interest is that the words "holy name" in these verses is voiced by a member of the tribe of Levi or by David.

The Greek phrase "holy is His name" is found in one verse of the LXX:

"He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever. Holy and awesome is His name." (Ps 111:9 ESV).

Miriam knows that she is but a vessel chosen to bring redemption to all of Israel. She thus demonstrated deep reverence for her God, the Holy One of Israel.

50 And His mercy is to generations and generations, to those fearing Him.

Reference: Psalms 100:5; 103:13, 17.

And: Grk. kai, conj. His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. The pronoun alludes to "God my Savior" in verse 47 above. mercy: Grk. eleos, kindness expressed for one in need, compassion, mercy or pity. In the LXX eleos normally represents Heb. chesed, which means proper covenant behavior, the solidarity which the partners in the covenant owe one another. Chesed results in one giving help to the covenant partner in his need and thus represents covenant faithfulness.

So the connotation of eleos meaning chesed may stretch from loyalty to kindliness, mercy, and pity (DNTT 2:594). BDB defines chesed as essentially goodness or kindness and often occurs in passages with the sense of kindness of men towards men, in doing favors and benefits, but also kindness extended by God to the lowly and needy (338). In the Besekh eleos often carries the meaning of goodness expressed in compassion, whether by men toward men (Matt 9:13; Luke 10:37; Jas 2:13) or God toward men (Rom 9:23; 15:9; Titus 3:5).

This view of the nature of God is an important corrective to the heretical doctrine that the God of the Old Testament is only a God of hatred and judgment. God's nature did not change with the arrival of the Messiah. The God of Israel has always been loving, compassionate and merciful. To express His mercy God sends the agent of His mercy.

is to: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." The preposition stresses movement and progress. generations: pl. of Grk. genea. See verse 48 above. and: Grk. kai. generations: pl. of Grk. genea. The doubling of "generations" refers to both past ages and future ages, a perpetual condition that never ends. This syntax is not found in the LXX, but Miriam imitates the Hebrew idiom of "dor v'dor" ("generation to generation" = "all generations") (Deut 32:7; Esth 9:28; Ps 33:11; 45:17; 61:6; 100:5; Isa 13:20; 34:17; 60:15; Jer 50:39; Joel 2:2; 3:20). Her declaration appears to allude to a specific Psalm:

"For ADONAI is good; His mercy [Heb. chesed] is everlasting; and His faithfulness generation to generation [Heb. dor v'dor]" (Ps 100:5 BR)

to those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. fearing: Grk. phobeō (for Heb. yare), pres. part. See verse 13 above. Here the verb denotes a deep reverence or respect. Him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., the God of Israel and Miriam's Savior. Plummer comments that "fearing God" is the Tanakh description of piety. In the Torah the phrase "those fearing Him" refers to Israelites who obey God's commandments out of love and respect for His holy name (Deut 6:2, 24; 8:6; 13:4). The positive retribution principle was declared by David,

"But the mercy [Heb. chesed; LXX eleos] of ADONAI is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear [Heb. yare; LXX phobeō] Him" (Ps 103:17 BR)

Foundational to the declaration of this verse is that divine mercy is the sole unilateral initiative of God, whether manifested as practical help, forgiveness, or deliverance. God declared to Moses, "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy" (Ex 33:19 ESV; cf. Rom 9:15). As a historical record the Tanakh demonstrates God's loving, compassionate and merciful nature, both to individuals and to the nation of Israel. God showed mercy to Noah because of his righteousness and delivered him and his family from the global flood (Gen 6:8-9; 2Pet 2:5).

At Sinai God reiterated that while mercy is His choice, the application of it is according to an important qualification.

"I, ADONAI your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the sons, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy [Heb. chesed; LXX eleos] to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." (Ex 20:5-6 BR)

"Therefore know that ADONAI your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps covenant and mercy [Heb. chesed; LXX eleos] with those who love Him and keep His commandments for a thousand generations." (Deut 7:9 BR)

This principle is also set forth in the Besekh. The man whom Yeshua healed of blindness declared, "We know that God does not hear sinners, but if anyone is devout, and does His will, this one He hears" (John 9:31). Peter will later declare to Cornelius, "in every nation the one fearing Him and working righteousness is accepted by Him" (Acts 10:35).

Miriam affirms that the blessing bestowed on her is consistent with God's mercy and compassion demonstrated in the past to Israelites who lived by God's values, including godly women (cf. Ex 1:21; 1Sam 2:5; Ruth 2:20; Ps 113:9). Moreover, in humility she identifies with those who feared ADONAI, and like Zechariah and Elizabeth walked blamelessly in obedience to God's commandments.

51 He has demonstrated strength in His arm, He has scattered the proud in the thought of their heart.

Reference: Psalms 89:10; 98:1; 118:15.

Miriam transitions from personal praise to prophesying in the remainder of the song, declaring the virtues of God and His accomplishments in the history of Israel, while projecting His faithfulness into the future. Miriam recognizes that a great war has been waged against God since creation and in spite of all adversity God will remember His covenantal promises and bring Israel through to victory.

He has demonstrated: Grk. poieō, aor. See verse 25 above. The verb denotes "doing something." strength: Grk. kratos, quality of being strong, strength or might. in: Grk. en, prep. His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. arm: Grk. brachiōn, the anatomical limb of the arm, but used here to attribute a human characteristic to God (called 'anthropomorphism'). This Hebraic idiom emphasizes God's almighty power (Job 40:9; Isa 40:10). The noun in reference to God is sometimes coupled with the "right hand" (Ps 44:3; 89:13; 98:1; Isa 62:8).

The "arm" of God accomplished the great work of creating the heavens and the earth and everything in them (Jer 27:5; 32:17). Then God delivered Israel from Egypt and parted the Red Sea by His outstretched "arm" (Ex 6:6; Deut 4:34; 5:15; 7:19; 9:29; 26:8; 2Kgs 17:36; Isa 63:12; Jer 32:21). In later times Israel could attribute their victory over enemies to the "arm" of God (Ps 44:3; 89:10; 2Chr 32:8).

He has scattered: Grk. diaskorpizō, to scatter or disperse. The idiom of scattering can be found in various references of God scattering the enemies of Israel (Num 10:35; 2Sam 22:15; Ps 68:30; 89:10). the proud: Grk. huperēphanos, adj., a term that has the bad sense of arrogant or haughty. "The proud" is the opposite of the humble ones mentioned in the next verse (Jas 4:6; 1Pet 5:5). in the thought: Grk. dianoia, mental process relating to options for behavior, with focus on intention or purpose; mind, disposition or understanding.

of their: pl. of Grk. autos. heart: Grk. kardia. See verse 17 above. This idiomatic expression amplifies the nature of the arrogance. Miriam alludes to the fact that God knows the thoughts of men (1Chr 28:9; Ps 94:11; Isa 66:18) and in the past when evil thoughts conspired against the Hebrew people God came to their defense, as said in Psalm 89:10, "You Yourself crushed Rahab like one who is slain; You scattered Your enemies with Your mighty arm."

52 He has brought down rulers from thrones and exalted the humble ones.

Reference: 1Samuel 2:4, 7-8.

He has brought down: Grk. kathaireō, to take down or pull down from a position. HELPS explains its meaning as "forcibly yank down; destroy, leaving nothing standing or even in good working order." rulers: pl. of Grk. dunastēs, one who has authority to command, or someone mighty in power; court or royal official, ruler. from: Grk. apo, prep. thrones: pl. of Grk. thronos (for Heb. kisse, "seat of honor, throne") refers to a throne or chair upon which a king sits. Ancient thrones typically had a high back-rest and arm-rests and sometimes with a foot-stool.

The throne was the official place from which the king exercised his power, authority and judgment. The term is often used figuratively in Scripture of sovereignty or dominion (DNTT 2:611-615). and: Grk. kai, conj. exalted: Grk. hupsoō, aor., may mean (1) to cause to move from a position to one that is higher, "lift upward," or (2) to cause to be higher in status, "elevate" or "exalt." The second meaning applies here. the humble ones: pl. of Grk. tapeinos, adj., may mean modest in one's manner or expression or at a relatively low level in circumstance or status. The latter meaning, especially with regard to social status, suits here.

Miriam's statement seems parallel to that expressed by Hannah:

"4 The bows of the mighty are broken, but the stumbling are girded with strength. ... ADONAI makes poor and makes rich, He brings low and also lifts up. 8 He raises the helpless from the dust. He lifts the needy from the dunghill, to make them sit with nobles, granting them a seat of honor. For the earth’s pillars are ADONAI's, and He has set the world on them." (1Sam 2:4, 7-8 TLV)

Miriam's declaration can be easily validated from Israel's history. God brought down pagan kings, such as Pharaoh in Egypt, Sisera of the Canaanites, and many others. The "humble ones" promoted from lesser circumstances to leadership of Israel include Joshua and the deliverers in the book of Judges. However, God also brought down unworthy rulers of Israel and replaced them with godly men, such as David, Hezekiah and Josiah. In the last days God will finally replace the godless rule of men with the righteous rule of His Son (Psalm 2). Miriam knew that her son, born of humble stock, would take the throne of David and rid Israel of unworthy rulers.

53 He has filled those hungering with good things, and sent away empty those being rich.

Reference: 1Samuel 2:5; Psalm 107:9.

Miriam now references two totally opposite positions in the culture, the extremities of the social-economic ladder. He has filled: Grk. empiplēmi, aor., to fill, always of something that provides complete satisfaction. The verb implies the provision of food. those hungering: Grk. peinaō, pl. pres. part., hungry in the physical sense, or to have a strong desire for something due to poverty. In the LXX peinaō translates Heb. raeb, hungry, which has both literal and figurative uses, first in 1Samuel 2:5.

with good things: neut. pl. of Grk. agathos, adj., achieving a high standard of excellence in meeting a need or interest, beneficial, useful, helpful or good. In the LXX agathos translates Heb. tob, pleasant, agreeable, good; first in Deuteronomy 1:25 (DNTT 2:99). Agathos is used frequently in Scripture to describe the good things of life provided by God. The first half of the verse appears to allude to the praise of Hannah who likened "hunger" to the desire for a child,

"Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn." (1Sam 2:5 ESV)

Elizabeth "hungered" for a child and was now blessed with the goodness of pregnancy. Yet, Miriam may also have intended a spiritual application. The promise is not just for the hungering body, but the hungering soul. The wording of her declaration may borrow specifically from Psalm 107:9, "For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things" (ESV). Miriam praises God since those hungering for or seeking after God will surely experience His goodness and presence (Ps 34:10; 103:5; cf. Matt 5:6; Luke 6:21).

and: Grk. kai, conj. sent away: Grk. exapostellō, aor., to send out, which may focus on (1) moving persons from one place to another, send out/away/forth; or (2) dismissal, send away. The second usage is intended here. empty: pl. of Grk. kenos, adj., devoid of contents, without result, in vain, for nothing, fruitless. those being rich: Grk. plouteō, pl. pres. part., to possess material assets in abundance, to be rich or wealthy or have many resources. In context the participle may describe those who control the wealth of the nation.

The second clause of the verse echoes the axiom expressed by Hannah that "ADONAI makes poor and makes rich, He brings low and also lifts up" (1Sam 2:7 TLV). As a spiritual principle the good things the rich fail to receive are the blessings of the Kingdom, especially the mercy of God (cf. Luke 18:25). Yeshua's story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-25) exemplifies Miriam's point. The rich man couldn't take his wealth with him into the next life and found himself in Hades, whereas Lazarus who well knew poverty and hunger gained the riches of Heaven upon his death.

54 He has helped His servant Israel, remembering mercy,

Reference: Psalm 98:3; Isaiah 41:8-9.

He has helped: Grk. antilambanō, aor. mid., to lay hold of in order to support or to succor (Plummer). The verb denotes active aid or assistance. His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. servant: Grk. pais, one in a dependent capacity. The term may be used of a child or someone engaged in special service to a superior, such as a royal attendant. In the LXX pais occurs some 500 times and stands for 10 different Hebrew words, particularly often for ebed, slave, servant or subordinate, first in Genesis 9:25 (DNTT 1:283). It is noteworthy that Miriam does not use the term doulos (slave or servant), as often used to describe various individual godly leaders and spokesmen for God.

Israel: Grk. Israēl. See verse 16 above. See also the note on "Jacob" in verse 33 above. The noun refers to both the covenant name of the chosen people and a corporate reference to the biological descendants of Jacob through the twelve tribes (Gen 32:28). Israel, formerly Jacob, is an honored name throughout Scripture. The descendants of Jacob were called into being as a nation by God and thereafter sustained by God throughout history to maintain their existence when many other ancient nations ceased to exist.

Miriam's declaration recalls the Servant sayings prominent in the latter chapters of Isaiah in which Israel is portrayed as "the servant" of ADONAI. The title emphasizes the special relationship God has with the covenant nation and their dependency on Him:

"But you, Israel, my servant [LXX pais], Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; 9 you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, "You are my servant [LXX pais], I have chosen you and not cast you off." (Isa 41:8-9 ESV)

Other passages repeat the same theme of being chosen, identifying Israel as God's servant (LXX pais) and encouraging the nation not to fear (Isa 43:10; 44:1-2, 21; 45:4; 49:6).

remembering: Grk. mimnēskō, aor. inf., to call something to mind that one has noted or thought about in the past, to recollect or remember. The infinitive is used here to express purpose. In the LXX mimnēskō generally translates Heb. zakar with the same meaning (DNTT 3:232). The verb does not imply that God ever has amnesia. In the Tanakh the concept of remembering is applied to both man and God. For man remembering meant to observe or obey God's commandments. For God remembering means being faithful to keep His covenantal promises (e.g. Gen 9:14; Ex 2:24; Lev 26:42).

mercy: Grk. eleos. See verse 50 above. The phrase "to remember mercy" adds definition to the verb "helped." Miriam's declaration of God remembering His mercy may allude to Psalm 98:3,

"He has remembered [Heb. zakar; LXX mimnēskō] His mercy [Heb. chesed; LXX eleos] and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation [Heb. yeshu'ah; LXX sōtēria] of our God." (BR)

55 just as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed into the age."

Reference: Genesis 12:4; 22:17; Mic 7:20.

just as: Grk. kathōs, adv. See verse 2 above. The adverb serves as a link to the last phrase of the previous verse. He spoke: Grk. laleō, aor. See verse 19 above. to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 18 above. The preposition again stresses a "face-to-face" encounter. our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The pronoun affirms identification with the descendants of Jacob and the nation of Israel. fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr. See verse 17 above. Miriam likely used the term in a broad sense, including the patriarchs and the great men of Israelite history of whom the Tanakh records verbal encounters with God. Of interest is that the first occurrence of the verb laleō in the LXX regarding God speaking is in Genesis 12:4.

to Abraham: Grk. Abraam, which transliterates the Heb. Avraham. The first Hebrew patriarch, he became the prime example of faith. He was the son of Terah, a descendant of Noah's son, Shem (Gen 11:27). He grew up in Ur of the Chaldees, a prominent Sumerian city. See the map here. He was known at the beginning as Abram ("father is exalted"), but his name was changed subsequently to Abraham ("father of a multitude") (Gen 17:5). God first spoke to Abraham when he was living in Ur (Acts 7:2-3; cf. Gen 15:7; Neh 9:7) and directed him to go to a land to be revealed later.

Abraham must have related this divine instruction to his father since Genesis records that Terah took his entire family from Ur, intending to go to Canaan (Gen 11:31). However, Terah stopped in Haran and settled there. Then God spoke to Abraham a second time and called him to leave Haran and migrate to Canaan, a land promised to Abraham's descendants (Gen 12:1-7). Suring his sojourn there God spoke to him several times, making important covenantal promises and giving lifestyle instructions for Abraham and his descendants (Gen 13:14; 15:1, 5, 18; 17:1-21; 18:13, 16, 20, 26-32; 22:1). For more information on the great patriarch see my article The Story of Abraham.

and: Grk. kai, conj. to his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. seed: Grk. sperma may refer either to the source (e.g. seed, semen) or product of propagation (descendant, offspring). In the LXX sperma translates Heb. zera, sowing, seed, semen or offspring (BDB 282); first in Genesis 1:11. The term is singular, but can have a collective application. Many versions give the noun a generic meaning with the translation of "descendants." The use of "his seed" denotes those of Abraham's descendants to whom God spoke, the encounters of which are recorded in the Tanakh.

In a literal sense the noun could refer to Isaac (Gen 26:24) and Jacob (Gen 28:13; 31:3) to whom God spoke. A broad application would include the Hebrew prophets and a few kings. More specifically "his seed" could refer to those in the Messianic line and of those only a few after Jacob are mentioned as having received a word from God (David, Solomon and Hezekiah). I have translated sperma as "seed" to preserve the dual meaning of the term as referring both to Abraham's immediate offspring and later notable Israelite leaders.

into: Grk. eis, prep. The preposition marks progress. the age: Grk. ha aiōn. See verse 33 above. The closing phrase "into the age" refers to the present age. In other words just as God spoke to Abraham, so God spoke to his descendants, and the covenant promises were passed down through the Messianic line to the present time.

56 Now Miriam stayed with her about three months and returned to her home.

Now: Grk. de, conj. Miriam: Grk. Mariam. See verse 27 above. stayed: Grk. menō, aor., to remain in a situation for a length of time. with: Grk. sun ("soon"), prep., used to denote association or close identification. her: Grk. autē, fem. personal pronoun. Elizabeth and her husband provided hospitality. The preposition "with" indicates a close association, so Miriam being a relative shared fully in the life of the household, not doubt including chores. about: Grk. hōs, adv., used here to denote a numerical estimate; about, nearly, close to.

three: Grk. treis, adj., the number three. months: Grk. mēn. See verse 24 above. The calendar was lunar so "about" could mean anywhere between 60 to 90 days, which explains why Miriam wasn't present for the birth of Yochanan. and: Grk. kai, conj. returned: Grk. hupostrephō, aor., to go back to a position, to return. Miriam made the long trip back to Nazareth. to her: Grk. autē. home: Grk. ho oikos, lit. "house." See verse 23 above. This phrase implies that the house in Nazareth was Miriam's property and that she was not living with her parents. Go to Matthew 1:18-25 to see what happened after Miriam returned home.

Birth of the Messenger, 1:57-66

57 Now for Elizabeth, the time to give birth was fulfilled for her, and she bore a son.

Now: Grk. de, conj. The conjunction switches the scene back to Hebron. for Elizabeth: Grk. Elisabet. See verse 5 above. the time: Grk. ho chronos may mean (1) a span or period of time, or (2) a point or definite moment in time. The first meaning applies here. to give birth: Grk tiktō, aor. inf. See verse 31 above. was fulfilled: Grk. pimplēmi, aor. pass. See verse 15 above. for her: Grk. autē, fem. personal pronoun. and: Grk. kai, conj. she bore: Grk. gennaō, aor. See verse 13 above. a son: Grk. huios. See verse 13 above.

As Gabriel had promised so Zechariah's wife carried her baby full term, that is 40 weeks, and then delivered her baby in the normal way without harm to either mother or baby. In the modern age women are accustomed to having their babies delivered in a hospital, although some women do employ natural child birth at home. In ancient times delivery was normally accomplished at home with the aid of a midwife (e.g. Ex 1:15-21). Women delivered their babies while kneeling or squatting, usually on a birthing stool or birthing bricks (Ex 1:16). To give birth to a son was the hope of every Jewish mother and the cause of much joy in the family. To have a son meant that the family name would continue within Israel (cf. Deut 25:6).

58 And the neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had magnified His mercy with her, and they were rejoicing with her.

And: Grk. kai, conj. the neighbors: pl. of Grk. ho perioikos, 'dwelling around,' a neighbor. and: Grk. kai. her: fem. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. relatives: pl. of Grk. ho suggenēs, adj. See verse 36 above. heard: Grk. akouō, aor., 3p-pl. See verse 41 above. that: Grk. hoti, conj. the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 6 above. The Greek term is probably used for the Hebrew title Adonai, not the sacred name as implied by the use of ADONAI (small caps) in Messianic Jewish versions (CJB, MJLT, TLV). had magnified: Grk. megalunō, aor. See verse 46 above. The verb emphasizes "having greatly increased."

His: Grk. autos. mercy: Grk. eleos. See verse 50 above. Divine mercy is here viewed as greater than normal, entering the realm of miraculous. with: Grk. meta, prep. See verse 24 above. The preposition is used here as a marker of association. her: fem. of Grk. autos. Having a safe pregnancy and delivery reflects the goodness of God, but for the barren elderly woman God's mercy abounded even more. and: Grk. kai. they were rejoicing with: Grk. sugchairō, impf., 3p-pl., to take part in another's joy; congratulate, rejoice with. her: fem. of Grk. autos.

The birth of a child in ancient Israelite culture was always an occasion for great celebration, but much more so in the case of Elizabeth. God had wiped away Elizabeth's shame and fill her heart with joy.

59 And it came to pass on the eighth day they came to circumcise the infant, and they were calling him by the name of his father, Zechariah.

Reference: Leviticus 12:3.

And: Grk. kai, conj. it came to pass: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verses 2 and 8 above. on: Grk. en, prep. the eighth: Grk ogdoos (from oktō, "eight"), one of eight, the eighth in sequence. day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 5 above. The temporal reference indicates the eighth day from birth with the day of birth counted as day 1. they came: Grk. erchomai, aor., 3p-pl. See verse 43 above. The group included the persons mentioned in verse 58 and perhaps other priests who lived in the city. Everyone in their local synagogue and of their acquaintance knew the importance of this day. While birthing was a private event, fulfilling the covenantal requirement was a public event.

to circumcise: Grk. peritemnō, aor. inf., the act of surgically removing the male foreskin by a knife. the infant: Grk. ho paidion (the diminutive form of pais, "child"); little one, whether boy or girl. The term implies a child perhaps seven years old or younger (HELPS). The term is used here of an infant recently born. God commanded circumcision to be performed on the eighth day after birth (Gen 17:12; 21:4; Lev 12:3). Circumcision was the sign of belonging to the seed of Abraham and the chosen people (Gen 17:10-14). Failure to perform circumcision would result in being "cut off" from the covenant people (Gen 17:14; cf. Ex 4:24-26).

The significance of the time is not stated in Scripture but modern medical researchers discovered that the two main blood clotting factors, Vitamin K and Prothrombim, reach their highest level in life, about 110% of normal, on the 8th day after birth. These blood clotting agents facilitate rapid healing and greatly reduce the chance of infection. Responsibility for circumcision rests with the infant's father (Gen 17:23; 21:4). However, due to the natural reticence of fathers to carry out this duty the office of mohel (circumciser) developed. The mohel was (and is) specially trained in circumcision and the rituals surrounding the procedure.

Although the requirement for circumcision was given to Abraham (Gen 17:11; Acts 7:28), the mention of circumcision (B'rit Milah) in the Besekh refers to a religious service attributed to Moses (Acts 15:1; 21:21), although there is no evidence of this tradition (cf. John 7:22). The apparent purpose of turning a simple surgery into a religious rite with theological meaning was probably to emphasize its importance in becoming a member of the covenant people. While the surgery itself was normally performed privately, the celebratory service with family and friends included certain b'rakhot (blessings) and the naming of the child.

and: Grk. kai. they were calling: Grk. kaleō, impf., 3p-pl. See verse 13 above. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Stern points out that anyone acquainted with Jewish religious practice knows that a Jewish boy is named at his b'rit milah. But whence do we know of this custom? In a series of lectures over Israel Army Radio Professor David Flusser said:

"From early Christian literature we can learn about Jewish customs not recorded in early Jewish sources. Take an example: the Jewish custom of giving a boy his name during his circumcision ceremony is not known in our Talmudic literature, but in one of the Gospels (Luke 1:59–64)." (Jewish Sources in Early Christianity, MOD Books, 1989, p. 10, condensed)

by: Grk. epi, prep. the name: Grk. ho onoma. See verse 5 above. of his: Grk. autos. father: Grk. patēr. See verse 17 above. Zechariah: Grk. Zacharias. See verse 5 above. The syntax of this clause might give the impression that people expected the baby to be named after his father Zechariah. However, the Greek is literally, "the name of the father of him Zechariah." So, the last phrase more likely means "the father of Zechariah," as implied in verse 61. There was likely a custom to name a baby after a grandparent. For example, Gamaliel II (c. A.D. 80-118) was the grandson of Gamaliel the Elder, the mentor of Paul.

Stern notes that among Ashkenazi Jews today it is not customary to name a child after a living relative, but Sephardic Jews often name their children after the children's grandparents, even if they are still alive. The first son and daughter are traditionally named after the paternal grandparents, and then the maternal parent's names are next up in line for the remaining children. After that, additional children's names are chosen without any more "naming obligations." (For more information see the article on Jewish Naming Conventions.)

60 And answering his mother said, "By no means, but he will be called Yochanan."

And: Grk. kai, conj. answering: Grk. apokrinomai, aor. pass. part. See verse 19 above. The verb indicates the response of Elizabeth to what her friends had been saying in the previous verse. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. mother: Grk. mētēr. See verse 15 above. Zechariah was yet unable to speak. said: Grk. legō, aor. See verse 13 above. By no means: Grk. ouchi, adv., an emphatic negative particle; by no means, not at all, not. but: Grk. alla, conj., adversative particle used adverbially to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, on the other hand. he will be called: Grk. kaleō, fut. pass. See verse 13 above.

Yochanan: Grk. Iōannēs (for Heb. Yochanan). See verse 13 above. Elizabeth interrupted the ceremony and announced the baby's name. She knew the will of God expressed by the angel and sought to comply. No doubt the silent Zechariah had informed his wife by writing of what the angel said.

61 And they said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name."

And: Grk. kai, conj. they said: Grk. legō, aor. 3p-pl. See verse 13 above. to: Grk. pros, prep. her: fem. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. There is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 6 above. no one: Grk. oudeis, adj. used to indicate negation of a person or thing as actually existing at a given place or moment; no one, none, nothing. among: Grk. ek, prep., lit. "from." your: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. relatives: pl. of Grk. ho suggenēs, adj. See verse 36 above. who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. is called: Grk. kaleō, pres. mid. See verse 13 above. by this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 18 above. name: Grk. onoma. See verse 5 above.

The objection that there were no relatives of Zechariah and Elizabeth named Yochanan probably only considered near relations, either the present or preceding generation. However, Zechariah could have pointed out that there were four distant relatives in the tribe of Levi with the name Yochanan (Barker 193f). Scripture mentions three priests named Yochanan: a Levite who served as high priest in the reign of King Rehoboam (1Chr 6:9-10), one who was high priest when Ezra returned from exile (Ezra 10:6; Neh 12:11, 22-23) and another post-exilic priest (Neh 12:13, 42). There was also the famous Hasmonean high priest and prince John Hyrcanus (175–104 B.C.) (2Macc 3:11).

62 Now they began making signs to his father, as to what would he wish to call him.

Now: Grk. de, conj. they began making signs: Grk. enneuō, impf., 3p-pl., to nod to or to make a sign to. to his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. father: Grk. patēr. See verse 17 above; i.e., Zechariah. The people who heard the pronouncement of Elizabeth immediately sought Zechariah's attention, probably pointing at the baby and asking the question. Some commentators assume that Zechariah was deaf as well as dumb, but merely making signs is not proof of deafness. Gabriel's punishment only affected Zechariah's ability to communicate. The appeal to Zechariah might imply a custom of the father being responsible for naming the child.

as to what: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. See verse 18 above. The pronoun introduces the question being posed to Zechariah. would: Grk. an, a disjunctive particle that nuances a verb with contingency or generalization; would, ever, might, in that case, anyhow. The particle indicates what could occur under certain conditions, and the context determines the limits of those conditions (HELPS). The particle is often not translated.

he wish: Grk. thelō, pres. opt., to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something; will, wish, desire. to call: Grk. kaleō, pres. mid. inf. See verse 13 above. The infinitive expresses purpose. him: Grk. autos. In first century Jewish culture a woman's testimony did not carry authority (cf. Josephus, Ant. IV, 8:15; Shebuoth 4:1; 30a). The group expected Zechariah to correct his wife.

63 And having asked for a writing-tablet, he wrote, saying, "Yochanan is his name." And they all marveled!

And: Grk. kai, conj. having asked for: Grk. aiteō, aor. part., to ask in expectation of a response; ask, ask for, request. a writing-tablet: Grk. pinakidion, a little writing tablet. BAG says it was made of wood. The writing may have been accomplished with a reed pen (3Jn 1:13), a metal pen, or a brush-like tool (Jer 17:1) with black ink. Usually the ink was made of soot, mixed with oil and gum of balsam, which permitted erasure by a water-bearing sponge. Inkhorns were carried by scribes (NIBD 1110).

he wrote: Grk. graphō, aor. See verse 3 above. saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 13 above. This verse shows that Zechariah was still unable to speak, therefore the verb 'saying' does not mean oral words, but is simply used to introduce the following quotation. Accepting the tablet and pen Zechariah wrote plainly his son's name. Yochanan: Grk. Iōannēs. See verse 13 above. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 6 above. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. name: Grk. onoma. See verse 5 above.

And: Grk. kai. they all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 3 above. marveled: Grk. thaumazō, aor. See verse 21 above. Bengel comments that the wonder experienced by friends and relatives was at the newness of the name, without precedent in the family, and at the unanimity of Zechariah and Elisabeth on the question of the name, having presumed that there had been no consultation between them. Thus, the naming must have been the result of a revelation, which had been given to each of the two.

64 And immediately his mouth was opened, also his tongue, and he began to speak, blessing God.

And: Grk. de, conj. immediately: Grk. parachrēma, adv., instantly, immediately, on the spot. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. mouth: Grk. stoma, the anatomical organ of the mouth. In the LXX stoma translates Heb. peh (SH-6310), mouth, used of humans, animals and inanimate things (BDB 804). was opened: Grk. anoigō, aor. pass., to open, generally used of doors and objects or fig. of furnishing an opportunity. In the LXX anoigō translates Heb. pathach, to open, with the same range of meaning (Gen 7:11; 8:6), and first in relation to a human speaking in Job 3:1.

Here the verb depicts the reversal of the judgment pronounced by Gabriel (verse 20 above) and the enabling of the vocal cords to produce sound. The incorrect translation of the TLV ("unlocked") implies that that Zechariah had lockjaw or something similar, but Gabriel's judgment was targeted to prevent oral communication, not eating. also: Grk. kai, conj. his: Grk. autos. tongue: Grk. glōssa, the anatomical organ of the tongue. The formation of words requires the ability to manipulate sound from the vocal cords with the mouth and tongue. So, at the very moment that Zechariah wrote his son's name on the tablet, his vocal apparatus was freed to engage in speech.

and: Grk. kai. he began to speak: Grk. laleō, impf. See verse 19 above. The imperfect tense normally denotes continuous action in past time, but here is an example of the inceptive imperfect (Rienecker), which signifies the beginning of the action. blessing: Grk. eulogeō, pres. part. See verse 42 above. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 6 above. The verbal clause indicates that his first words were a b’rakhah (blessing) to God. The description of "blessing God" refers to the content of the song recorded in verses 68 to 75. The experience of Zechariah was that of a righteous man (v. 5) with deficient faith (v. 18), whom God chastised (vv. 19–20) in order to deepen his faith. Zechariah was not critical of God's treatment, but thankful for His favor.

65 And fear came upon all those dwelling around them; and all these matters were being talked about in the entire hill country of Judea.

And: Grk. kai, conj. fear: Grk. phobos. See verse 12 above. The noun is used here in the sense of reverential awe. came: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. See verse 2 above. upon: Grk. epi, prep. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. dwelling around: Grk. perioikeō, pl. pres. part., dwelling around, be in the vicinity, to be one's neighbor. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., Zechariah and Elizabeth.

and: Grk. kai. all: pl. of Grk. pas. these: pl. of Grk. ho. matters: pl. of Grk. rhēma. See verse 37 above. The plural noun alludes to the narrative in verses 57 to 64, the story of Elizabeth's pregnancy, delivery and the naming of the baby. were being talked about: Grk. dialaleō, impf. mid., to converse together, used of conversation passing from mouth to mouth; discuss, talk about. in: Grk. en, prep. the entire: Grk. ho holos, adj., signifier of a thing understood as a complete unit and not necessarily every individual part; all, whole, entire. hill country: Grk. oreinos. See verse 39 above. of Judea: Grk. Ioudaia. See verse 5 above. Here the geographical term is used in the narrow sense of the territory between Samaria and Idumea.

News of the events in Hebron spread through the neighboring villages. The people were amazed at the marvelous miracle of an older barren woman having a child. Up to this point Zechariah and Elizabeth had lived a normal existence according to the Torah calendar and Torah standards. They lived with the constant reminder of the Roman Empire and their limited freedoms. Now they were witnesses to a movement of God, such as had not occurred in hundreds of years. The witness of Zechariah would have definitely sparked conversation and even expectation.

66 And all those having heard pondered in their hearts, saying, "What then will this child be?" For indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.

And: Grk. kai, conj. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having heard: Grk. akouō, pl. aor. part. See verse 41 above. pondered: Grk. tithēmi, aor. mid., 3p-pl., to arrange for association with a site, to put or place; here with the focus on the internal aspect of a person. A number of versions have "laid them up," but "pondered" seems best in the context (NRSV, OJB, TLV). in: Grk. en, prep. their: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun. hearts: Grk. kardia. See verse 17 above. The singular noun has a collective meaning here. saying: Grk. legō, pl. pres. part. See verse 13 above.

The awe-inspiring event of miraculous pregnancy, Zechariah's silence and then the loosing of his tongue naturally provoked speculation as to what this event portended. Normally, the son of a priest became a serving priest, but the people seemed to realize that God might have something else planned for this child. Luke presents the following question as a matter of internal meditation, but someone must have spoken it aloud for the question to be remembered and then included in this narrative.

What: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. See verse 18 above. then: Grk. ara, conj., a marker of inference based on a preceding matter or statement; so, then. will this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. child: Grk. paidion. See verse 59 above. be: Grk. eimi, fut. mid. See verse 6 above. In other words, "what will this child's life be like?" The question may well have been asked in response to the portion of Zechariah's song that addressed the baby (verses 76-79).

For: Grk. gar, conj. indeed: Grk. kai. the hand: Grk. cheir, the anatomical limb of the hand, but used here figuratively as an anthropomorphism depicting favor and protection (Barnes). of the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 6 above. The Greek title probably represents Heb. Adonai rather than the sacred name (Heb. YHVH) as implied by the use of ADONAI (small caps) in Messianic Jewish versions (CJB, MJLT, TLV). was: Grk. eimi, impf. with: Grk. meta, prep. him: Grk. autos; i.e., Yochanan. The declaration of the "hand of the Lord" being with him is Hebraistic and used in the Tanakh of Joseph (Gen 39:3, 21), Samuel (1Sam 3:19) and David (1Sam 18:12; 2Sam 5:10). The last sentence serves to explain the significance of the question.

The declaration that the Lord was with Yochanan summarizes what the friends and relatives in Hebron observed concerning John's development. The Lord not only brought Yochanan into existence by extraordinary means, but ensured that he developed mentally, physically and spiritually to be ready to assume his great mission as an adult.

Prophetic Song of Zechariah, 1:67-79

The following verses (67-79) are known in the West as the Benedictus ("Blessed"), which is the first word in Zechariah's message in the Latin Vulgate. Because of its poetic structure the message has been considered a hymn in Christianity and incorporated into Christian worship liturgy since the 6th century. However, Luke does not say that Zechariah "sang," but that he "prophesied." The poetic structure imitates the great works of the literary Hebrew prophets. As with the praise offered by Miriam there are many references to the Tanakh. Commentators have detected some thirty-three allusions to or quotations from the Tanakh (Kaiser-Promise 241).

67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying,

And: Grk. kai, conj. The scene now shifts back to the present. his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., Yochanan. father: Grk. patēr. See verse 17 above. Zechariah: Grk. Zacharias. See verse 5 above. was filled: Grk. pimplēmi, aor. pass. See verse 15 above. with the Holy Spirit: See verse 15 and 41 above. Zechariah being filled with the Holy Spirit is a testament to the divine empowerment of select individuals long before Pentecost. and: Grk. kai. prophesied: Grk. prophēteuō, aor., may mean (1) to proclaim a divine revelation; (2) prophetically reveal what is hidden; or (3) foretell the future, prophesy (BAG).

In the LXX prophēteuō generally translates Heb. nava, which means to show, present or express oneself, to speak as a prophet (DNTT 3:77). The Hebrew verb primarily means to speak prophetically, that is "forth-telling," with occasional predictions (foretelling). Forth-telling predominates in the Tanakh and messages might consist of warning against sinning, announcing divine judgments, encouraging repentance and giving hope of restoration. True prophesying is inspired by the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21).

saying: Grk. legō, pres. part. See verse 13 above. The verb introduces the following quotation of the text of the message spoken by Zechariah. It's possible the message was revealed to Luke by divine revelation (cf. John 14:26), but the public message could have been recorded by a scribe and kept in the family records. Zechariah's message summarizes the great plan of God, which had been prophesied in the Tanakh. Throughout the message Zechariah uses the prophetic past tense to indicate that for him the promise of God was already accomplished. Zechariah's message contains two thematic sections:

● God's Covenant Faithfulness to Israel, verses 68-75, and

● God's Commission for Yochanan, verses 76-79.

God's Covenant Faithfulness to Israel

68 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited His people and brought redemption.

Reference: Psalms 41:13; 72:18; 106:48; 111:9.

Grammatically verse 68 to 75 is one sentence, but most versions treat the verses as separate thought units. This long sentence lauds God's covenant faithfulness.

Blessed be: Grk. eulogētos, adj. (for Heb. barukh), well spoken of, worthy of praise or blessing; blessed. the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 6 above. Zechariah, being a priest, could well have pronounced the sacred name (Heb. YHVH) as implied by the use of ADONAI (small caps) in Messianic Jewish versions (CJB, MJLT, TLV). the God: Grk. ho theos (for Heb. Elohim). See verse 6 above. The formula eulogētos kurios ho theos, which translates barukh YHVH Elohim, was first spoken by Noah (Gen 9:26), where kurios does stand for the sacred name.

of Israel: Grk. Israēl. See verse 16 above. The complete formula eulogētos kurios ho theos Israēl first occurs in a speech by Samuel to King Saul (1Sam 25:32). Thereafter the formula is spoken by David (1Kgs 1:48; Ps 41:13), by Solomon (1Kgs 8:15; 2Chr 6:4; Ps 72:18), by Hiram (2Chr 2:12) and then by an unknown psalmist (Ps 106:48). The rabbinic formula for blessings set forth in the Mishnah consists of two parts, first the standard invocation, Barukh attah Adonai, ("Blessed are You, O LORD," quoting Psalm 119:12) (Ber. 1:4), followed by the reason for the invocation, "who [action verb]." Zechariah follows this form and then adds the action verb.

because: Grk. hoti, conj., here indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, inasmuch as. He has visited: Grk. episkeptomai, aor. mid., to pay attention to, look in on, visit, and here alludes to God's personal intervention. In the LXX episkeptomai translates Heb. paqad, "to attend to, visit," which first occurs in passages in which God "visited" an individual with favor, first Sarah (Gen 21:1) and then Hannah (1Sam 2:21), regarding the birth of a prophesied child. His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. people: Grk. ho laos. See verse 10 above. The phrase "His people" refers to Israel, and various passages affirm God "visiting" Israel with favor (Ex 3:16; 4:31; Ruth 1:6; Zech 10:3).

and: Grk. kai, conj. brought: Grk. poieō, aor. See verse 25 above. redemption: Grk lutrōsis (from lutroō, "to release on receipt of a ransom"), the act of freeing or releasing, deliverance (Zodhiates). In the LXX lutrōsis translates Heb. geullah, redemption, used in the context of a kinsman redeeming property (Lev 25:48); and Heb. peduth, ransom, used in the context of redemption from iniquity (Ps 111:9; 130:7). The Greek term is used here of release from the punishment for sin as declared in Psalm 111:9, "He has sent redemption to His people" (TLV).

69 and He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant,

Reference: 2Samuel 22:3; Psalms 18:2.

and: Grk. kai, conj. The conjunction continues the thought of the previous verse. He has raised up: Grk. egeirō, aor., to rise or raise, often used in the sense of movement from a position that is down to one that is up. Here the verb denotes causing to appear before the public. In the LXX egeirō is used to translate Heb. qum, to arise, stand up, or stand, especially in reference to God causing a deliverer to appear on the scene in Israel (e.g., Jdg 2:16, 18; 3:9, 15). The aorist tense of egeirō also hints at a future resurrection (cf. Acts 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30).

a horn: Grk. keras, a bony projection from an animal's head, also used idiomatically in Israelite culture as a symbol of power, strength and courage. When a strong animal as a buffalo or an ox tosses or lifts up its horns it is ready to begin its deadly charge (cf. Deut 33:17; Ps 148:14) (Kaiser-Promise 242). Thus, God has the strength or ability to accomplish His will. In the LXX keras translates Heb. qeren, which had two uses. First, qeren was used for an animal horn and specifically the horn of a ram in Genesis 22:13, in which God showed Abraham a ram to offer as a substitute sacrifice for his son Isaac.

Second, qeren was used for the horn-like projection on the altar of burnt offering (Ex 27:2) and the altar of incense (Ex 30:2-3). The blood of sin offerings was smeared on the horns of both altars (Ex 29:12; Lev 4:7, 25). Keras also translates Heb. yobel, the horn of a ram, first used to make a shofar (Josh 6:4), an instrument for blowing. The shofar had both religious and military uses.

of salvation: Grk. sōtēria, rescue, deliverance or salvation from physical harm, but often from God's wrath (Rom 5:9; 1Cor 5:5). The noun depicts the result of being transferred from danger to safety. In the LXX sōtēria translates six different Hebrew formations derived from the root verb yasha, to deliver (DNTT 3:206). In the religious sense sōtēria is deliverance from both the curse and consequences of sin.

The "horn of salvation" is a metaphor coined by David to denote deliverance from enemies (2Sam 22:1-3; Ps 18:2). The metaphor with its varied usage in the Torah is rich in meaning. The "horn" can refer to the shofar, which was often used in a military context to sound an attack in order to defeat an enemy of Israel (e.g. Josh 6:16-20; Jdg 3:26-28; 7:18-20) or to announce victory over an enemy of Israel (1Sam 13:3). Thus, the "horn of salvation" represents the power that brings about the salvation of men and preserves it against hostile attacks (DNTT 3:715).

for us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. first person pronoun. See verse 1 above. "Us" is the people of Israel. Zechariah's focus here is not on the world or the nations, but the covenant people for whom God promised salvation. Moreover, the "us" would be those who anticipated the Messiah and then believed in him when he came into the world. in: Grk. en, prep. the house: Grk. oikos. See verse 23 above. of David: Grk. David. See verse 27 above. The "horn of salvation" had been promised through the dynasty of David (2Sam 7:11-19; Isa 9:6-7). His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. servant: Grk. pais (for Heb. ebed). See verse 54 above.

David is referred to as God's servant (Grk. pais) six times (1Chr 17:23; 2Chr 6:14, 16; Ps 18-title; 36-title; Isa 37:35), although the Hebrew term ebed is used of David another seven times (1Chr 17:4; Ps 89:3, 20; Jer 33:21, 22, 26; Ezek 37:25). So, not only is salvation from the Jews as Yeshua will later tell the woman of Samaria (John 4:22), but through the tribe of Judah and even more specifically through the house or lineage of David.

70 just as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old,

just as: Grk. kathōs, adv. See verse 2 above. He spoke: Grk. laleō, aor. See verse 19 above. by: Grk. dia, prep. used as a prefix to a statement, which may express (1) instrumentality; through, by means of; or (2) causality; on account of, because of. The first usage applies here. the mouth: Grk. stoma. See verse 64 above. of His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. holy: Grk. hagios. See verse 15 above. prophets: masc. pl. of Grk. prophētēs, one who is gifted with the ability for interpretation or revelation transcending normal insight or awareness, i.e., a prophet.

In the LXX prophētēs translates Heb. nabi, spokesman, speaker, or prophet; first in Genesis 20:7 where it is used of Abraham. In Scripture the term "prophet" primarily refers to a man appointed by God to serve as His messenger, whether in foretelling (predicting or telling beforehand) or forth-telling (declaring a message to be heeded). According to Samuel a prophet was also called a seer (Heb. ro'eh, 1Sam 9:9; or Heb. chozeh, 2Sam 24:11), because he received God's revelation through a vision. Bible scholars classify the Hebrew prophets as either non-canonical (no Bible books named after them) or canonical (left literary works later approved as Scripture).

The record of the Tanakh indicates considerable variance in the activity and ministry of the Hebrew prophets. They were a diverse group with different personalities, vocations and manner of ministry. Some left literary works that later became Scripture. Others left no writings. Some gave advice to kings. Some prophesied in worship settings. Some saw visions. Some proclaimed a message in startling symbolic actions. Some were gentle, some were fiery, some were confrontational, some worshipful, some full of joy, others full of sadness. But, they all spoke for God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21).

The Hebrew prophets generally offered four types of messages: (1) allegation, naming sins and warning Israel and Judah of the sins that will lead to judgment; (2) judgment, announcing consequences in the form of disasters and foreign oppression; (3) instruction, teaching how to avoid wrath and turn back to God; and (4) future hope, promises of deliverance or restoration and revival, including promises of Messiah. The fourth type of message is in view here. The apostolic writings assert the continuing authority and inspiration of the Hebrew prophets, which would eventually be replaced in Rabbinic Judaism by the authority of the Sages (Baba Bathra 12a; cf. John 8:53).

from: Grk. apo, prep. of old: Grk. aiōn. See verse 33 above. The noun again serves as a reminder that in Hebraic thought time is divided into ages, generally the present age or the age to come. However, here the noun refers to the former age of the Hebrew prophets. The opening phrase "spoke by the mouth" is a Hebraic description of inspiration. God spoke and men orally repeated His words and then wrote His words. Thus, according to Jews the Tanakh is verbally inspired, and the words of the prophets especially by direct dictation. The mention of the "holy prophets" is a reference to all the prophets who promised a deliverer, including Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Micah and Zechariah.

71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all those hating us;

Reference: Psalms 106:10.

salvation: Grk. sōtēria. See verse 69 above. Zechariah stresses the fourth category of prophetic message. from: Grk. ek, prep. our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The pronoun again denotes the descendants of Jacob and the nation of Israel. enemies: pl. of Grk. echthros, adj. (for Heb. oyeb, an enemy or foe), someone openly hostile or inimical toward another, properly an enemy. The term implies irreconcilable hostility, proceeding out of a "personal" hatred bent on inflicting harm (HELPS). In normal usage the term may refer to opponents in military conflict or to personal enemies. The phrase "our enemies" denotes nations opposed to Israel, either by national policy or overt military attack.

and: Grk. kai, conj. from: Grk. ek. the hand: Grk. cheir. See verse 66 above. The noun is used figuratively to emphasize human action as an expression of attitude. of all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. hating: Grk. miseō, pres. part., to detest, abhor or reject. In the LXX miseō translates Heb. sane ("saw–nay"), which has the same meaning (first in Gen 26:27). The biblical terms can represent a range of emotional response. Hatred in Scripture often refers to the hostility shown by an enemy (Gen 24:60; Ex 1:10; Num 10:35; Deut 30:7; Matt 24:9).

"Hatred" may become a very personal emotional impulse that can result in an action to turn against (e.g., Joseph's brothers, Gen 37:2-8). However, miseō may simply mean to love less (e.g., Jacob loved Leah less than Rachel, Gen 29:30; cf. Deut 21:15-17). Yeshua applied the same idiomatic usage of "hating" to one's parents (Matt 10:37). us: Grk. hēmeis. The phrase "those hating us" is much broader in scope than national or military enemies. Zechariah's declaration seems inspired by Psalm 106 and he reverses the parallelism of verse 10, "And He saved them from the hand of him who hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy."

Psalm 106 rehearses the early history of Israel from the Exodus through the time of the Judges and contrasts the failures of Israel with the saving acts of God. Looking back on the Red Sea victory (Ps 106:7-9), the "one who hated" was the king, or Pharaoh. The Egyptians had a general contempt for foreigners (Gen 43:32; Ex 23:9), but Pharaoh's hatred was based on fear that the Israelites might align themselves with a foreign enemy (Ex 1:10). Thus Pharaoh chose to regard the Israelites as a national security threat and to enslave them for labor in government public works (Ex 1:11-14). Zechariah changed the past tense of the verb "hate" to present tense in order to emphasize the continuing reality of hatred for the chosen people.

Zechariah's description provides a succinct definition of antisemitism ("Jew-hatred"). Why was there such hostility against the Jews? An early justification for antisemitism was given by Haman of Persia who excused his plan for extermination of Jews because they were "different" and refused to comply with pagan religious practices (Esth 3:8). Similar treatment was meted out against the Jewish people by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus because they refused to abandon the laws of God and adopt Greek customs (2Macc 6:1-9).

Antisemitism is unique amongst the hatreds against people groups in four ways: (1) longevity, it has existed since ancient times; (2) universality, it is virtually everywhere in the world; (3) intensity, it is expressed in a particularly dangerous and violent manner; and (4) scope, it is expressed in many different forms, such as economic, legal, political, racial, religious and social. For a historical survey of significant actions taken against the Jewish people see A Brief Chronology of Antisemitism, The Jewish Agency for Israel, 2015.

In the context of "enemies" and "those hating," salvation could be viewed as distinctly deliverance from foreign threat. As the apostles will later express their desire for a free and independent Israel (Acts 1:6), so salvation to Zechariah must include freedom from Roman oppression. Relevant to the future hope expressed in this verse, the prophet Zechariah noted the suffering of the chosen people at the hands of their enemies and declared that he who touches Israel "touches the apple of His eye" (Zech 2:8 ESV). The prophet Zechariah promised that God will provide deliverance from the oppression of the nations (Zech 12:3-4; 14:3).

The present tense of "hating" can be projected into the future from the time of Zechariah. Antisemitism has been manifested historically by discrimination and persecution of Jews, and currently by boycotts and terrorism against Israel and violence against Jewish organizations and synagogues in Western countries. See A Brief History of Antisemitism in the United States and Canada, Chosen People Ministries, March 2023.

Additional Note: Anti-Messianic Hatred

One final aspect of "those hating us" needs to be considered. The "us" would include those Jews who anticipated the Messiah, like Zechariah, and then accepted him on his arrival in the world, like the shepherds, Simeon and Anna in the next chapter. Yeshua was hated by the orthodox leaders of Judea and he warned his disciples that they too could expect to be hated and treated with hostility by their own countrymen for proclaiming the message of the Messiah (Matt 10:17; Mark 13:9; Luke 12:11; 21:12; John 15:18-19; 16:2).

Such opposition was immediately experienced by Jews who responded positively to Yeshua (cf. John 7:45-48; 9:22; 12:42). Within a few years after Pentecost persecution of Yeshua followers increased exponentially (Acts 6:9-12; 8:1). After Paul gave himself to the Lord's service persecution followed him in every city where he proclaimed the good news (Acts 9:23-24, 29; 13:45, 50; 14:4-5, 19; 17:5-8, 13; 18:6, 12-13; 19:19).

Messianic Jews would eventually find themselves persona non grata within Rabbinic Judaism as evidenced by the addition sometime after A.D. 70 of the Birkat HaMinim ("the sectarians, heretics") as the twelfth benediction to the Shemoneh Esreh, the daily Jewish prayer. The benediction asks God to destroy those in heretical sects, especially the Essenes and Messianic Jews.

Messianic Jews didn't fare any better within Christianity. Since the believing Jews, or "Nazarenes" as they were called (Acts 24:2), practiced infant circumcision the Christian Church in the 4th century refused to consider them part of the Body of Christ (Augustine, Anti-Donatist Writings, Book VII.1). Then the Council of Nicea II (787), officially banned all Jewish life in Yeshua. For a historical perspective see Dan Juster, Anti-Messianic Judaism - A Brief Summary.

72 to show mercy toward our fathers and to remember His holy covenant,

Reference: Deuteronomy 7:12; Psalms 105:8-9; 106:45-46.

to show: Grk. poieō, aor. inf., lit. "to do." See verse 25 above. mercy: Grk. eleos. See verse 50 above. Although not in the Greek text a number of versions insert the word "promised" to emphasize mercy as an action assured in the future and not mercy immediately received (AMP, CEB, CJB, ESV, KJV, NCB, NKJV, NRSV, RSV). to: Grk. meta, prep., lit. "with." See verse 24 above. our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person.

fathers: pl. of Grk. patēr. See verse 17 above. The mention of fathers no doubt refers to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but could also include David (verse 69 above). Zechariah alludes to a repeated theme in the Tanakh of God showing mercy to Israel for the sake of promises made to the patriarchs (Deut 4:31; 13:17), but also David (1Kgs 11:12-13; 2Kgs 8:19).

and: Grk. kai, conj. to remember: Grk. mimnēskomai, aor. inf., to call something to mind that one has noted or thought about in the past; recollect, remember. In the LXX mimnēskomai translates Heb. zakar, remember, recall, call to mind, first in Genesis 9:15 (BDB 269). His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. holy: Grk. hagios, adj. See verse 15 above. covenant: Grk. diathēkē (from diatithēmi, "to set out in order"), a formal compact or covenant having complete terms determined by the initiating party, which also are fully affirmed by the one entering the covenant. In the LXX diathēkē translates Heb. b'rit (SH-1285), pact, compact, or covenant (BDB 136).

In ancient Semitic culture the term b'rit was used in regard to human agreements (Gen 14:13; 1Sam 3:12; 18:3), but the regular use of b'rit is in regard to eight covenants unilaterally initiated by God. See my article The Everlasting Covenants. Each of the divine covenants set forth specific promises, expectations, duration and a sign or perpetual reminder of the covenant. The term diathēkē translating b'rit refers to a declaration of God's will, an irrevocable disposition made by God of His own gracious choice to secure an inheritance to those He favored (Zodhiates). These covenants according to Romans 9:4 are still in force.

The singular form of "covenant" used here is explained in the next verse. However, the declaration of Zechariah affirms the word of Moses to Israel:

"11 Therefore you are to keep the commandment—both the statutes and the ordinances—that I am commanding you today, to do them. 12 Then it will happen, as a result of your listening to these ordinances, when you keep and do them, that ADONAI your God will keep with you the covenant kindness [Heb. chesed; Grk. eleos] that He swore to your fathers" (Deut 7:12 TLV).

The promise to "remember His holy covenant" offers a rebuttal to Christian Replacement Theology, which purports that God canceled His covenant with Israel. The covenant is called "holy," which means it is considered sacred to God. In addition, God promised to "remember" or enforce the terms of the covenant. The covenant represents God's continual faithfulness to His chosen people. Yeshua did not abrogate the promises made to the patriarchs and to Israel since he did not come to abolish the Torah (Matt 5:17). Thus, all the covenantal promises God made are "YES" in Yeshua (2Cor 1:20).

73 the oath that He swore to Abraham our father, to grant us

Reference: Genesis 22:16-18.

the oath: Grk. horkos, a formally approved statement or promise; an oath. In the LXX horkos corresponds to the Heb. shevuah, oath (Ex 22:10) and occasionally to alah, curse, act of cursing (Prov 29:24) (DNTT 3:739). that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. He swore: Grk. omnuō, aor., to take an oath affirming the veracity of what one says; swear. In the LXX of this verse omnuō translates Heb. shaba (SH-7650), to take an oath, swear, first in Genesis 21:31 (BDB 989). The Hebrew word for swear is derived from the feminine form of the word for "seven" (Heb. sheba).

There is evidence in ancient literature that it was not uncommon to seal an agreement by the number "seven." A relationship between the two words is suggested in the narrative of Genesis 21. Abraham sealed an oath to Abimelech by giving seven ewe lambs as a witness (Gen 21:22-34), and Abraham named the well where he and Abimelech met "Beersheba" or "Well-of-the-seven-oath" (Gen 21:31). Thus, the literal meaning of the Hebrew word "swear" is to "seven oneself, or bind oneself by seven things" (BDB 989).

to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 18 above. Abraham: Grk. Abraam. See verse 55 above. our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. father: Grk. patēr. See verse 17 above. Zechariah alludes to an oath that God swore to Abraham:

"By Myself I have sworn ─ it is a declaration of ADONAI ─ that because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 that blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the shore of the sea; and your Seed shall possess the gate of his enemies. 18 And in your Seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because that you have obeyed My voice." (Gen 22:16-18 BR)

There is no one is heaven and earth greater than God, thus the text reads "By myself I have sworn" (cf. Heb 6:13). The act of ADONAI swearing "by Himself" in Genesis 22 contrasts with Abraham entering a covenant with Abimelech in Genesis 21 and giving seven lambs as testimony of the truthfulness of his oath. ADONAI did not need to give Abraham anything tangible since the word of ADONAI is His bond. The covenant with Abraham promised him a great name, that all nations would be blessed through him, that a direct heir would come from his body and Sarah, that he would be the father of many people and nations, that his descendants would be delivered from bondage, and that his descendants through Isaac would inherit the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession (Gen 17:8; 26:3).

The covenant was unconditional and everlasting and circumcision was the sign of this covenant (Gen 12:1-3; 15:1-21; 17:1-22). God reiterated this covenant with Abraham's son Isaac (Gen 26:2-5, 23-24), which specifies that the Messianic line would not go through Ishmael. God continued the Abrahamic covenant with Isaac's son Jacob (Gen 28:10-22; 35:9-12), affirming the same promises and specifying that the Messianic line would not go through Esau. The covenant with Jacob introduced something new: Jacob's name was changed to Israel and God promised that from him would come a nation and an assembly of nations.

to grant: Grk. didōmi, aor. inf., lit. "to give." See verse 32 above. us: Grk. hēmeis. Zechariah does not repeat the terms of the covenant, but the verbal phrase "to grant us" introduces the purpose of God's oath (Plummer).

Textual Note: Verse Division

The great majority of Bible versions place the verbal phrase "to grant us" at the beginning of the next verse, which conforms to the Textus Receptus (1516). However, the Westcott-Hort (1881), Nestle (2012) and UBS (2014) Greek texts have the phrase in this position. We should remember that while the words of Scripture are inspired, verse and chapter divisions are not. Chapter and verse divisions are purely arbitrary, since the original Greek manuscripts had neither.

74 that we being rescued from the hand of our enemies might serve Him fearlessly

that we being rescued: Grk. rhuomai, aor. pass. part., to protect or save in the sense of providing a refuge, and in the Besekh occurs only 18 times. In the apostolic narratives the verb occurs three times, twice in the Lord's Prayer of being delivered from evil (Matt 6:3; Luke 11:4). In his letters Paul uses the verb to speak of rescue from threats to his life (Rom 15:31; 2Cor 1:10; 2Th 3:2; 2Tim 3:11; 4:17). In the LXX rhuomai occurs 163 times and translates several Hebrew words (DNTT 3:201), but primarily natsal, to deliver or snatch away, first in Exodus 2:19 of Moses rescuing the daughters of Jethro from adversarial shepherds.

The use of rhuomai to denote rescue from enemies is a familiar theme in the psalms of David (e.g. Ps 7:1; 17:13; 18:17, 19, 43, 48; 22:5, 21; 25:20; 31:1, 15; 34:4, 7, 17, 19; 35:10; 40:13; 41:1; 51:14; 54:7; 56:13; 57:4; 59:2; 60:5; 69:14, 18). The Tanakh provides many examples of both individual Israelite heroes and the nation being delivered from their enemies. Perhaps the nearest in time to Zechariah would have been the Maccabean revolt against the Syrians (1Macc 16:2). The irony is that in Zechariah's time Israel existed as a client state of the Roman Empire.

from: Grk. ek, prep. the hand: Grk. cheir. See verse 66 above. of our enemies: pl. of Grk. echthros. See verse 71 above. might serve: Grk. latreuō, pres. inf., to minister or serve, whether of God or man, often in the context of engaging in worship. In the LXX latreuō translates Heb. avad (SH-5647), to work or serve, first in Exodus 3:12 where God informs Moses of the mission to bring the Israelites to Mt. Sinai to "serve Him." The verb latreuō occurs especially in the Torah, Joshua and Judges, mostly where avad has a religious reference (DNTT 3:549f).

Him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., the God of Israel. For God the focus of avad-latreuō is not primarily performing religious rites, but serving Him and obeying His voice (cf. Ex 23:25; Deut 10:12f; Josh 24:14-15). Zechariah was well acquainted with rituals in the Holy Place, but those rituals did not necessarily reflect consecrated hearts. Zechariah knows that with divine rescue from death an obligation far deeper than Temple ceremonies was intended by God. Moreover the verb is a present tense infinitive, so God desires that such service continues indefinitely. fearlessly: Grk. aphobōs, adv. (from alpha, as a neg. prefix, and phobos, "fear"), without fear, boldly, fearlessly.

75 in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.

Zechariah now completes the purpose statement of service to God. in: Grk. en, prep. holiness: Grk. hosiotēs, devoutness or personal piety which arises out of respect for the eternal laws of God (Rienecker). This special word occurs only two times in the Besekh. The apostle Paul includes the same appeal to hosiotēs when he says "put on the new self - created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (Eph 4:24). Hosiotēs is derived from hosios, which means undefiled by sin, free from wickedness, pure, holy (Rienecker II, 500).

Hosios occurs only nine times in the Besekh (Acts 2:27; 13:34, 35; 1Th 2:10; 1Tim 2:8; Titus 1:8; Heb 7:26; Rev 15:4; 16:5) and only three times is it not used to refer to God or the Messiah. In the LXX hosios translates two words used to describe God – yashar, meaning "upright" (Deut 32:4) and hasid, meaning "kind" (Ps 145:17) (DNTT 2:237). In the Besekh the usual word for "holy" to which the disciples aspire is hagios, which means to be set apart. It's one thing to be set apart and quite another to be blameless concerning sin. Nevertheless, in this respect God wants His people to be like Him.

and: Grk. kai, conj. righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē, a state that is in accord with standards for acceptable or anticipated behavior, uprightness, righteousness, justice. The Hebrew concept of tzedakah, "righteousness" refers to right or ethical character and behavior. It is based on the character of God and His revealed standards. In the Tanakh tzedakah also carries the sense of salvation (deliverance) and judgment (justice). Righteousness primarily has human relationships as its focus and therefore righteousness strengthens the community. In contrast the holiness described above directly impacts our relationship with God.

before: Grk. enōpion, prep. See verse 10 above. Him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun; i.e., God. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 3 above. our: Grk. hēmeis. pl. pronoun of the first person. days: pl. of Grk. hēmera. See verse 5 above. The phrase "all our days" is a Hebraic idiom for our complete lifespan until we die. These godly character traits are so important that God intends them to be manifest in our daily lives. However, As Plummer said, "the tyranny of heathen conquerors was a hindrance to holiness." This is why Paul counsels Timothy that prayer be offered for rulers that they will not interfere with the peaceful pursuit of our faith (1Tim 2:1-2).

God's Commission for Yochanan.

76 And indeed you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways,

Reference: Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1.

Like the previous section verses 76 through 79 are one sentence in Greek, but most versions treat the verses as separate thought units. And: Grk. kai, conj. indeed: Grk. de, conj. you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. child: Grk. paidion. See verse 59 above. will be called: Grk. kaleō, fut. pass. See verse 13 above. a prophet: Grk. prophētēs. See verse 70 above. of the Most High: Grk. hupsistos (for Heb. Elyon). See verse 32 above.

Zechariah's action is very significant here as he pronounces a prophetic revelation over his baby son. Zechariah demonstrates no disappointment that his son won't follow in his footsteps as a priest. Instead this prophecy reveals Zechariah's pride in the future ministry of his son, which will in reality be far more significant than the ministry of any priest. Yochanan will join the illustrious company of the great Hebrew prophets of Israel who spoke for God.

For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 15 above. you will go: Grk. proporeuomai, fut. mid., to precede, go in advance of, pass on before, particularly as a leader or guide. The verb occurs only two times in the Besekh (also Acts 7:40). In the LXX proporeuomai occurs 41 times and generally translates a Hebrew construction that depicts a going before, whether as a protective measure (Ex 14:19; 32:34; Deut 1:30), acting in a leadership role (Ex 17:5), or providing guidance and direction (Deut 1:33).

before: Grk. enōpion, prep. See verse 10 above. the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 6 above. Like Elizabeth in verse 43 above Zechariah intended the title as an allusion to the Messiah. to prepare: Grk. hetoimazō, aor. inf. See verse 17 above. His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. ways: pl. of Grk. hodos, with the focus on the concept of going the word typically has the sense of a route for traveling, hence a way, a road or a highway. Then, hodos is used fig. of the way or expectation of God defining manner of life or how something is to be done (Matt 22:16; Acts 13:10; 18:25). In the LXX hodos occurs frequently and is used to translate 18 different Hebrew words, but mostly Heb. derek, a way, road, or journey (Ps 1:6) (DNTT 3:937).

Zechariah alludes to the prophecy of Malachi that Elijah precedes the Messiah, as Gabriel said in verse 17 above. The last part of the verse may be a drash that conflates two key Tanakh passages that employ the verb "to prepare."

"A voice cries out in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way of ADONAI, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'" (Isa 40:3 TLV)

"Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me; and suddenly the Lord, whom you seek, will come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says ADONAI-Tzva’ot." (Mal 3:1 BR)

The fact that he says that Yochanan will go before the Messiah complements the prophecy given to Miriam of Yeshua being given the throne of his father David (verses 32-33 above). Zechariah's prophecy perhaps envisions Yochanan traveling the same dusty roads of Israel that Yeshua would later walk, calling the people to prepare themselves for the Messiah.

77 to give knowledge of salvation to His people in forgiveness of their sins,

to give: Grk. didōmi, aor. inf. See verse 32 above. knowledge: Grk. gnōsis, knowledge with special reference to insight relating to matters involving God and spiritual perception. Such understanding is personal and experiential. In the LXX gnōsis translates Hebrew words formed from the root yada, to know (e.g. Josh 23:13) (DNTT 2:395). Gnōsis especially stands for Heb. daath, knowledge, which is used for knowledge possessed by God (Ps 119:66; Prov 2:6), knowledge God provides to man (Ps 19:2; Prov 2:7), discernment and understanding (Prov 8:9), and in highest sense, knowledge of God that includes obedience (Isa 11:2; Hos 4:6).

of salvation: Grk. sōtēria. See verse 69 above. As the later sermons of Yochanan the Immerser indicate salvation especially involves deliverance from the future wrath of God (Luke 3:6-7, 9). to His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. people: Grk. ho laos. See verse 10 above. "His people" are the people of Israel, the blood descendants of Jacob. in: Grk. en, prep. forgiveness: Grk. aphesis (from aphiēmi, "send away, forgive"), a letting go, release, pardon, forgiveness. Here the noun is used of the remission of the penalty for sin upon repentance. In the LXX aphesis occurs 61 times and translates several different words (DNTT 1:698). Most significant are the following:

● Heb. yobel, year of jubilee (Lev 25:10-13, 28-33, 50-54; Num 36:4).

● Heb. shemittah, release from debts in the year of jubilee (Deut 15:1-3, 9; 31:10).

● Heb. deror, liberty, used of releasing prisoners (Isa 61:1) and releasing slaves in the seventh year (Jer 34:8, 15, 17; Ezek 46:17).

God instructed that in the Sabbatical year all debts were to be canceled and in the fiftieth year all lands were to be restored to the original owners, and men were to return to their families and clans. The latter provision included giving Hebrew slaves their freedom. The Greek noun aphesis occurs once in the LXX without Hebrew equivalent in Leviticus 16:26 to clarify the purpose for the releasing of the scapegoat into the wilderness on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), an acted out parable of sins being carried away from the people.

of their: pl. of Grk. autos. of sins: pl. of Grk. hamartia may refer to (1) a behavioral action, a misdeed that creates liability, every departure from the way of righteousness; (2) the result of sinning or the condition of being sinful; or (3) an invasive evil power. The first meaning is intended here. Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the Besekh. In Greek culture hamartia meant to miss the mark, to fail, be mistaken. A mistake is the result of ignorance (DNTT 3:577). However, God does not define "sin" according to Greek culture or man's opinion.

In the LXX hamartia translates a range of Hebrew words for guilt and sin, particularly Heb. avon, iniquity, guilt, punishment for iniquity (Gen 15:16); and chatta'ah, sinful thing, sin (Gen 18:20) (DNTT 3:577). In Scripture sin is a conscious deviation from the right way and as a behavior is a violation of commandments given by God and recorded in the Torah by Moses (Rom 3:20; 4:15; 7:7; Jas 2:9; 1Jn 3:4). The earliest mentions of sin depict behavior that merits the judgment of God (cf. Gen 15:16; 18:20; 20:9; 42:21; Ex 10:17; 20:5).

Behavioral sin may be one of commission, i.e., doing what is prohibited, or one of omission, i.e., failing to do what is commanded, and in both cases implies knowledge of God's will (Jas 4:17). The degree of intentionality is not a factor in defining sinful behavior. Indeed, the Torah recognizes that a transgression could be unintentional, a sin of error, inadvertence or negligence (Lev 4:1-3, 27-28; 5:18; Num 15:22-29; Deut 19:4-6). Nevertheless, atonement by a sin offering was still required (Lev 4:2-3). In Scripture hamartia does not include mistakes, the imperfections that separate humanity from divinity, "falling short of the glory" (Rom 3:23).

Thus, ultimate salvation depends on receiving the mercy of God before the day of wrath comes. God will offer forgiveness of sins to His people, but only on condition of repentance (Luke 3:3), a conscious confession of wrongdoing and a commitment to turn away from sinning. The phrase "knowledge of salvation … in forgiveness" alludes to personal assurance that one is saved. Indeed Scripture affirms that God provides assurance of pardon (Prov 28:13; Isa 55:7; 1Jn 1:9), assurance of acceptance (Matt 11:28; John 6:37; Rom 8:1), assurance of salvation (Rom 10:9-11, 13), assurance of eternal life (John 5:24; 1Jn 5:9-13) and assurance of God's continued favor (Col 1:21-23; 2:6; 1Jn 1:7) (Purkiser 299-301).

78 through the affections of compassion of our God, in which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,

Reference: Zechariah 3:8; 6:12; Malachi 4:2.

through: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 70 above. the affections: pl. of Grk. splagchnon, the inner organs of the body (e.g. the heart, kidneys, intestines, lungs, etc.), and fig. the affections, emotions or seat of the feelings. This is an anthropomorphism (attributing a human trait to God), which occurs frequently in the Tanakh, especially the Psalms. of compassion: Grk. eleos. See verse 50 above. The noun is used here of kindness expressed for one in need, compassion or pity.

of our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. God: Grk. theos. See verse 6 above. The phrase "our God" translates Heb. Eloheinu, which is the first person plural construct of Elohim, occurring first in Exodus 3:18. Eloheinu occurs frequently in the Tanakh and almost always is connected to the mention of YHVH ("ADONAI our God"). YHVH is the God of the Hebrews (Ex 3:18; 5:3). The divine reference contrasts with the non-existence of deities worshiped by other people groups (cf. 1Sam 2:2; 2Sam 22:32; Ps 18:31).

The first clause of this verse conveys that God really understands the human condition at its deepest level and feels for the needs of humans. God may be infallible, but in love He created lesser fallible persons for relationship. While God may love the whole world He bears heartfelt compassion especially toward His covenant people. In contrast pagan cultures never attributed compassion and mercy to the deities they worshipped. It is out of the great compassion of God that the promise of Messianic deliverance will be fulfilled.

the Sunrise: Grk. anatolē (from anatellō, "cause to rise"), rising, an astronomical term used of a heavenly body rising, such as the sun, and as a compass direction may mean east (BAG). Translation of the noun varies, but "Sunrise" seems best (AMP, CJB, ESV, LSB, MSG, NASB, NASU, TLV, VOICE). In the LXX anatolē occurs 182 times and translates three different terms: primarily Heb. qedem, east as a direction (Gen 2:8); but also mizrach, eastward, place of sunrise, rising (Deut 4:47); and tzemach, branch, growth, sprout (Zech 3:8; 6:12). The term is used here in a figurative sense of the Messiah.

from: Grk. ek, prep. on high: Grk. hupsos, extent or distance that is upward, height. In Tanakh imagery this is a term that depicts where God dwells or some part of Heaven (e.g. Job 22:12; Ps 102:19; 148:1; Isa 14:14). will visit: Grk. episkeptomai, fut. mid., to take an interest in, to look in on, to visit. us: Grk. hēmeis. The saying probably alludes to the prophecy of the Messiah in Malachi:

"'For from the rising [Heb. mizrach; LXX anatolē] of the sun even to its going down, My name shall be great among the nations, and in every place incense and a pure sacrifice shall be offered to My name; for My name shall be great among the nations,' says ADONAI-Tzva’ot." (Mal 1:11 BR)

"And to you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise [Heb. zarach; LXX anatellō] with healing in his wings; and you will go forth and leap like calves from the stall." (Mal 4:2 BR)

The figurative description "Sun of Righteousness" is unique in Scripture and functions as a Messianic title. In the beginning the heavenly lights were created not just to serve as aids to navigation, but to function as "signs" (Heb. mo‘adim, Gen 1:14) and portents with religious significance. In Psalm 19:4 the sun represents the light of God revealed in the Torah. Moreover, the sun is used fig. of the God of Israel. Psalm 84:11 says, "ADONAI Elohim is a sun and shield." Also, Isaiah 60:19 says, "No more will the sun be your light by day, nor the glow of the moon be your light, but ADONAI will be your everlasting light, and your God for your glory" (TLV).

Being the "Sun of Righteousness" identifies the sinless character of the Messiah, but also the focus of his actions and the content of his teaching. In context Malachi's mention of "wings" stands for the beams or rays of the sun (cf. "wings of the dawn," Ps 139:9). The phrase "healing in his wings" depicts a literal scientific truth revealed long before modern medical research. While too much exposure to the sun can be hazardous sunlight actually provides many health benefits to the human body (cf. Eccl 11:7). Thus, the Messiah will provide physical healing, but more importantly spiritual healing.

In Jewish literature the Midrash speaks of the "rising of the sun when the Messiah comes, as it is written: 'To you who revere my name will dawn the sun of righteousness and healing" (Midrash Shemoth Rabbah par. 31, cited in Santala-OT 189). A Jewish interpretation was that through the Messiah a kind of "golden age" would dawn upon humanity, an age in which mankind would find healing of society's problems.

The prophecy of Malachi properly has its origin in the early prophecy of Balaam that a star would arise (Heb. qum; LXX anatellō) out of Jacob (Num 24:17). The complete clause "the anatolē will visit us" could anticipate the narrative of Matthew in which the Magi report having seen the prophetic star in its rising (Matt 2:2, anatolē), and later followed the star to the house of the Messiah in Bethlehem (Matt 2:9).

Geldenhuys suggests that Zechariah may have been inspired by the prophet Zechariah (97). In two verses anatolē is used in the LXX to translate Heb. tzemach, "branch," a Messianic title.

"Hear indeed, O Joshua [Grk. Iēsou for Heb. Y'hoshua] the great priest, you, and your neighbors, the ones sitting before in front of you: for they are men, that are observers of signs. For, behold, I will bring my servant the Branch [Grk. anatolē for Heb. tzemach]." (LXX Zech 3:8 BR)

"And you shall say to him, Thus says the ADONAI Almighty, 'Behold, a male, Branch [Grk. anatolē for Heb. tzemach] is his name, and from beneath him he shall rise and build the house of ADONAI.'" (LXX Zech 6:12 BR)

The Hebrew term tzemach occurs in Messianic prophecies of the descendant of David who will reign over Israel (Isa 4:2; Jer 23:5; 33:15; cf. Isa 11:1). The botanical metaphor probably had its origin in David's last words:

"Is it not true that my house is with God? For He made an everlasting covenant with me, ordered and secured in all things. Will He not make all my salvation and every desire come to fruition? [Heb. tzemach)" (2Sam 23:5 TLV).

The suggestion of Geldenhuys has relevance to understanding the use of anatolē in Scripture, and the prophecy of Zechariah does complement the prophecy of Malachi. Other commentators note the use of anatolē to translate "Branch," but Nicoll insists anatolē is undoubtedly a reference to a light, star, or sun. Stern also affirms that anatolē alludes to the prophecy of Malachi. Thus, no Bible version translates the noun in this verse as "Branch."

79 to shine upon those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Reference: Psalm 107:10, 14; Isaiah 9:2; 59:7-8.

to shine upon: Grk. epiphainō, aor. inf., to make an appearance, to show forth, used of heavenly luminaries and by extension divine appearance and revelation. The verb defines the mission of the one identified in the previous verse as "the Sunrise." those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. sitting: Grk. kathēmai, pl. pres. mid. part., be at rest on the haunches, to sit down or to take a seat. In the LXX kathēmai translates Heb. yashab, to sit, remain or dwell, first in Genesis 18:1 (DNTT 3:588). The present tense of "sitting" implies remaining in the stated condition.

in: Grk. en, prep. darkness: Grk. skotos, absence of light or darkness, but used here as a moral and spiritual condition. and: Grk. kai, conj. the shadow: Grk. skia, shadow, used of an outline or suggestion of itself projected by the real thing. The noun is used here figuratively of a looming presence and spiritual reality (HELPS). In the LXX skia occurs 65 times and primarily translates Heb. tsel, a shadow or shade (Jdg 9:36; 2Kgs 20:9; 1Chr 29:15). In Hebrew thought the idea of "shadow" represents the transitory nature of life (e.g., Job 8:9; 14:2; Ps 102:11; 109:23; 144:4; Eccl 6:12; 8:13).

of death: Grk. thanatos, death, which has various literal applications, and also used figuratively for spiritual death. In the LXX thanatos translates Heb. maveth, death, which has the same range of meaning (first in Gen 21:16). The Hebraic expression "shadow of death" represents distress and extreme danger and characterizes the world of the dead (Job 10:21; 38:17; Ps 23:4; 44:19; 107:10, 14). Paul will later describe "death" as the last enemy (1Cor 15:26). The complete description of "sitting in darkness and shadow of death" could have two sources of inspiration:

"10 There are those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners of affliction and irons, 11 because they rebelled against the words of God and spurned the counsel of the Most High. 12 Therefore He humbled their heart with labor; they stumbled and there was none to help; 13 and they cried out to ADONAI in their trouble; and He saved them out of their distresses. 14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death and tore apart their bonds." (Ps 107:10-14 BR)

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. Those sitting in the land of the shadow of death, the light has shined upon them." (Isa 9:2 BR)

Taken together the dual metaphors depict the result of the curse of death imposed on mankind because of Adam's sin (Gen 2:17; 3:19; 1Cor 15:22). Since that time no one has escaped the penalty of death and all die (Job 14:10; Eccl 3:19; Heb 9:27). The curse of death also had a spiritual impact because the descendants of Adam would be dominated by self-interest rather than serving the interests of God (cf. Rom 1:20-21), and thereby are under the judgment of God's wrath (Rom 6:23).

to guide: Grk. kateuthunō, aor. inf., direct, used of guidance for correct behavior or appropriate choices. our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. feet: pl. of Grk. pous, the anatomical limb of the foot. into: Grk. eis, prep. the way: Grk. hodos. See verse 76 above. of peace: Grk. eirēnē, peace, which may denote a state of harmony or a state of well-being. In the LXX eirēnē translates Heb. shalom, peace and friendship in human relations, first in Genesis 15:15. Shalom has a broad range of meaning, including (1) personal welfare, health and prosperity; (2) security and tranquility in the community; (3) peace from war; and (4) peace with God especially in covenant relation.

The second clause of the verse is likely inspired by the criticism of Judah proclaimed by Isaiah:

"7 And their feet run to evil, quick to shed blood; their thoughts are thoughts of murder; destruction and misery are in their ways. 8 And the way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their ways, for the roads which they travel are corrupt, and they do not know peace." (LXX Isa 59:7-8 BR)

The mission of the Sunrise is to bring light into the spiritual darkness and transform relationships, both human relationships in the family and community and the relationship of the covenant people with God. John's ministry will facilitate the introduction to the Messianic mission.

80 And the child kept growing and was strengthened in spirit; and he was in wilderness places until the day of his appearance to Israel.

Luke notes the normal development of Yochanan in growing up as he does in reference to Yeshua (Luke 2:52). And: Grk. kai, conj. the child: Grk. ho paidion. See verse 59 above. kept growing: Grk. auxanō, impf., cause to grow or increase, used here of physical development related to age. and: Grk. kai. was strengthened: Grk. krataioō, impf. pass., acquire strength, become strong. in: Grk. en, prep. spirit: Grk. pneuma. See verse 15 above. The noun is used here of the human spirit. The expression of being strengthened in spirit probably describes John's personal resolve to prepare for the divine mission determined for him.

and: Grk. kai. he was: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 6 above. in: Grk. en. wilderness places: pl. of Grk. ho erēmos, unpopulated region, desert or lonely place. In the LXX erēmos often translates Heb. midbar (SH-4057), which refers to tracts of land used for pasturage or uninhabited land (BDB 484), first in Genesis 14:6. The translation of "desert places" in many versions may be misleading. By modern definition a desert is an arid place that receives less than 10 inches of annual rainfall. The biblical term does not necessarily denote an arid region.

The location is not precise, but a reasonable walking distance from Jerusalem could be assumed. Matthew 3:1 identifies the location as the "wilderness of Judea," but here the term is plural indicating various locations and implying that he moved around. The point is that he stayed away from population centers.

until: Grk. heōs, adv., a marker of limit, here of time; till, until. the day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 5 above. The noun could intend a specific date on the calendar, but more likely refers to the divinely appointed day. of his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. appearance: Grk. anadeixis, a showing forth, here denoting public entrance upon the duty or office to which one is consecrated (Mounce). to: Grk. pros, prep. See verse 18 above. Israel: Grk. Israēl. See verse 16 above.

Some scholars believe that Yochanan lived among the Essenes during the years prior to commencement of his public ministry. If that was the case, such an association does not indicate sympathy with their views, since his later message rejects the exclusiveness and anti-biblical philosophy of that group. Rather, his moving around enabled Yochanan to take the spiritual pulse of the people and gain an appreciation of their need for his message.

Works Cited

ABP: The Apostolic Bible Polyglot, trans. Charles Van Der Pool. The Apostolic Press, 2006. LXX-English Interlinear.

Atlas: Oxford Bible Atlas, Second Edition. ed. Herbert G. May. Oxford University Press, 1974.

BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 4th ed. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.

Barker: William P. Barker, Everyone In the Bible. Fleming H. Revell Co., 1966.

Barton: George A. Barton, Temple of Herod. Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906. The Kopelman Foundation, HTML 2002-2021. Online.

Bengel: Johann Albrecht Bengel (1687-1752), Gnomon of the New Testament (1742). 5 vols. Trans. by Marvin Vincent. T&T Clark, 1860. Online.

Benson: Joseph Benson (1748-1821), Commentary of the Old and New Testaments. T. Carlton & J. Porter, 1857. Online.

BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online at BibleHub.com.

Bolt: Peter G. Bolt, Commentary on Luke. The Gospel Coalition, 2022. Online.

Boyarin: Daniel Boyarin, The Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ. The New Press, 2012.

Brown: David Brown (1803-1897), The Gospel According to Luke, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871), Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown. Online.

Cassirer: Heinz W. Cassirer (1903-1979), God's New Covenant: A New Testament Translation. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1989. [Cassirer was a German Jew who converted to the Christian faith in 1955.]

CJSB: The Complete Jewish Study Bible. Hendrickson Publishers, 2016. [Annotations by various contributors.]

Clarke: Adam Clarke (1762-1832), Commentary on the Holy Bible: Luke (1826). Online.

Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.

DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Colin Brown, ed. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.

Edersheim: Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883). New Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1993. Online.

Edmundson: Charles Edmundson, The Church in Rome in the First Century. Longmans, Green and Co., 1913. Online.

Exell: Joseph S. Exell, ed. (1849–1910), Luke, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 16. Hendrickson Pub., 1985. Online.

Finegan: Jack Finegan, Handbook of Biblical Chronology: Principles of Time Reckoning in the Ancient World and Problems of Chronology in the Bible. Rev. ed. Hendrickson Publishers, 1998.

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HBD: Trent C. Butler, ed., Holman Bible Dictionary. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1991. Online.

HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)

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Jeremias: Joichim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Fortress Press, 1975.

Kaiser-Messiah: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. The Messiah in the Old Testament. Zondervan Pub. House, 1995.

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Leman: Derek Leman, A New Look at the Old Testament. Mt. Olive Press, 2006.

Liefeld: Walter L. Liefeld, Luke, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 8. Zondervan Pub. Co., 1984. Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.

Lightfoot: John Lightfoot (1602-1675), Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations upon Luke, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica (1859 ed.), Vol. 3. Hendrickson Pub., 1989.

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LSJ: Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (1889). rev. by Sir Henry Stuart Jones. Clarendon Press, 1940. Online

Lumby: J. Rawson Lumby (1831–1895), Acts, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Cambridge University Press, 1891. Online.

Merrill: Selah Merrill (1837-1909), Galilee in the Time of Christ. Religious Tract Society, 1891. Online.

Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.

Neale: David Neale, "The Gospel According to Luke," Chapter 8, Discovering the New Testament: Community and Faith. ed. Alex Varughese. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2005.

NIBD: Nelson's Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible. Herbert Lockyer, ed. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986.

Nicoll: W. Robertson Nicoll (1851–1923), The Expositor's Greek Testament (1897), 5 vols. Online.

Plummer: Alfred Plummer (1841-1926), A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Luke. 5th edition. T&T Clark, 1922. Online.

Purkiser: W.T. Purkiser (1910-1992), ed. Exploring Our Christian Faith. Beacon Hill Press, 1960.

Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker (1897-1965), A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. 2 vol. Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.

Robinson: John A.T. Robinson (1919-1983), Redating the New Testament. SCM Press, 1976. Online.

Santala-NT: Risto Santala, The Messiah in the New Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings. Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 1984, 1992. Online.

Santala-OT: Risto Santala, The Messiah in the Old Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings. Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 1980, 1992. Online.

SBD: Sir William Smith (1813-1893), A Dictionary of the Bible. John Murray, 1893. Online. aka "Smith's Bible Dictionary."

Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.

Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer (1828-1901), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (1889). Hendrickson Publishers, 2003. Online.

TWOT: R. Laird Harris, ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 vols. Moody Press, 1980.

Zodhiates: Spiros Zodhiates (1922-2009), ed. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. AMG Publishers, 1992, 1993.

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