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B.W. Johnson Commentary on Luke 1:5-25

From The People's New Testament, B.W. Johnson, 1891

5. There was in the days of Herod. For Herod, see notes on Matt. 2:1. A priest. Not a chief priest, but one belonging to the courses. Course of Abijah. All the priests were divided into twenty-four courses, or classes. That of Abijah was the eighth course (1 Chron. 24:10); each course took charge of the temple worship in succession, for a week at the time, beginning on a Sabbath. The heads of these twenty-four courses are "the chief priests" so often spoken of in the New Testament. Had a wife of the daughters of Aaron. Elisabeth also was of priestly family.

6. They were both righteous. Almost invariably great men of God are born of parents eminently pious. Augustine, Luther, Wesley, and Campbell are examples. [222]

8. While he executed the priest's office. His course came on duty once in twenty-four weeks, and then he repaired to Jerusalem to remain his week.

9. His lot was to enter into the temple. In the service of the sanctuary nothing was left to accident or to human arrangement. The lot determined who was to perform each separate portion of the sacred service, and especially who was each morning and evening to burn incense before the Lord. To burn incense. Burned on the altar of incense in the Holy Place morning and evening. To burn the incense was an office held so honorable that no one was allowed to perform it twice, since it brought the offering priest nearer the divine presence in the Holy of Holies than any other priestly act, and carried with it the richest blessing from on high, which all ought to have a chance of thus obtaining.

10. Praying without. The incense itself was a symbol of prayer (Psa. 141:2; Rev. 5:8), and when offered by the priest a bell was rung as a signal to the people in the courts without, who all engaged in prayer in deep silence.

11. An angel. His name was Gabriel (verse 19). This is the first messenger of the New Dispensation. The altar of incense. It was of cedar, overlaid with gold (1 Kings 6:20; 1 Chron. 28:18), was a cubit (about two feet) in length and breadth, and two cubits high; it stood in the Holy Place before the veil which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.

13. Fear not. This first celestial message at the dawning of the New Testament dispensation is one of cheer. Thy prayer is heard. The childless old priest had prayed for offspring. Shalt call his name John. That is, "the God-given."

15. Shall drink . . . nor strong drink. No kind of intoxicant. Like the Nazarites (Numbers 6).

17. In the spirit and power of Elijah. The likeness of John the Baptist to Elijah strikes us not [223] only in his outward appearance, his clothing and way of living, but in his spirit and character as a preacher of repentance. Turn the hearts of the fathers. These are the last words of the Old Testament, there uttered by a prophet, here expounded by an angel; there concluding the law, and here beginning the gospel (Mal. 4:6). To make ready a people prepared for the Lord. This was his mission, but it was only partially successful. The common people, who heard him gladly, received with gladness the Messiah; the scribes and Pharisees, who rejected the forerunner, rejected also the King.

18. Whereby shall I know this? He wanted a sign.

19. I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God. The word of such a messenger was sign enough. He is named also in Dan. 8:15-18. Seven angels "stand before God" (Rev. 8:2).

20. Thou shalt be dumb. His power of speech taken away shall be a sign.

21. The people waited for Zacharias. Those who were praying without waited until the incense offering priest came out and dismissed them with a benediction.

23. To his own house. To his own city and home.

24. Hid herself. Did not go into society, both from delicacy and that she might have more time for devotion.

25. Take away my reproach. To be childless was regarded a great calamity in Israel. Compare Gen. 16:1-3 and 30:1.

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