From the Commentary on the Whole Bible (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, 1871).
Lu 1:57-80. Birth and Circumcision of John—Song of Zacharias and Progress of the Child.
59. eighth day—The law (Ge 17:12) was observed, even though the eighth day after birth should be a sabbath (Joh 7:23; and see Php 3:5).
called him—literally, "were calling"—that is, (as we should say) "were for calling." The naming of children at baptism has its origin in the Jewish custom at circumcision (Ge 21:3, 4); and the names of Abram and Sarai were changed at its first performance (Ge 17:5, 15).
62. made signs—showing he was deaf, as well as dumb.
63. marvelled all—at his giving the same name, not knowing of any communication between them on the subject.
64. mouth opened immediately—on thus palpably showing his full faith in the vision, for disbelieving which he had been struck dumb (Lu 1:13, 20).
65. fear—religious awe; under the impression that God's hand was specially in these events (compare Lu 5:26; 7:16; 8:37).
66. hand of the Lord was with him—by special tokens marking him out as one destined to some great work (1Ki 18:46; 2Ki 3:15; Ac 11:21).
68-79. There is not a word in this noble burst of divine song about his own child; like Elisabeth losing sight entirely of self, in the glory of a Greater than both.
Lord God of Israel—the ancient covenant God of the peculiar people.
visited and redeemed—that is, in order to redeem: returned after long absence, and broken His long silence (see Mt 15:31). In the Old Testament, God is said to "visit" chiefly for judgment, in the New Testament for mercy. Zacharias would, as yet, have but imperfect views of such "visiting and redeeming," "saving from and delivering out of the hand of enemies" (Lu 1:71, 74). But this Old Testament phraseology, used at first with a lower reference, is, when viewed in the light of a loftier and more comprehensive kingdom of God, equally adapted to express the most spiritual conceptions of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
69. horn of salvation—that is "strength of salvation," or "mighty Salvation," meaning the Saviour Himself, whom Simeon calls "Thy Salvation" (Lu 2:30). The metaphor is taken from those animals whose strength is in their horns (Ps 18:2; 75:10; 132:17).
house of … David—This shows that Mary must have been known to be of the royal line, independent of Joseph; of whom Zacharias, if he knew anything, could not know that after this he would recognize Mary.
70. since the world began—or, "from the earliest period."
72. the mercy promised … his holy covenant …
73. the oath … to … Abraham—The whole work and kingdom of Messiah is represented as a mercy pledged on oath to Abraham and his seed, to be realized at an appointed period; and at length, in "the fulness of the time," gloriously made good. Hence, not only "grace," or the thing promised; but "truth," or fidelity to the promise, are said to "come by Jesus Christ" (Joh 1:17).
74, 75. That he would grant us, &c.—How comprehensive is the view here given! (1) The purpose of all redemption—"that we should serve Him"—that is, "the Lord God of Israel" (Lu 1:68). The word signifies religious service distinctively—"the priesthood of the New Testament" [Bengel]. (2) The nature of this service—"in holiness and righteousness before Him" (Lu 1:75)—or, as in His presence (compare Ps 56:13). (3) Its freedom—"being delivered out of the hand of our enemies." (4) Its fearlessness—"might serve Him without fear." (5) Its duration—"all the days of our life."
76-79. Here are the dying echoes of this song; and very beautiful are these closing notes—like the setting sun, shorn indeed of its noontide radiance, but skirting the horizon with a wavy and quivering light—as of molten gold—on which the eye delights to gaze, till it disappears from the view. The song passes not here from Christ to John, but only from Christ direct to Christ as heralded by His forerunner.
thou child—not "my son"—this child's relation to himself being lost in his relation to a Greater than either.
prophet of the Highest; for thou shalt go before him—that is, "the Highest." As "the Most High" is an epithet in Scripture only of the supreme God, it is inconceivable that inspiration should apply this term, as here undeniably, to Christ, unless He were "God over all blessed for ever" (Ro 9:5).
77. to give knowledge of salvation—To sound the note of a needed and provided "salvation" was the noble office of John, above all that preceded him; as it is that of all subsequent ministers of Christ; but infinitely loftier was it to be the "Salvation" itself (Lu 1:69 and Lu 2:30).
by the remission of … sins—This stamps at once the spiritual nature of the salvation here intended, and explains Lu 1:71, 74.
78. Through the tender mercy of our God—the sole spring, necessarily, of all salvation for sinners.
dayspring from on high—either Christ Himself, as the "Sun of righteousness" (Mal 4:2), arising on a dark world [Beza, Grotius, Calvin, De Wette, Olshausen, &c.], or the light which He sheds. The sense, of course, is one.
79. (Compare Isa 9:2; Mt 4:13-17). "That St. Luke, of all the Evangelists, should have obtained and recorded these inspired utterances of Zacharias and Mary—is in accordance with his character and habits, as indicated in Lu 1:1-4" [Webster and Wilkinson].
80. And the child, &c.—"a concluding paragraph, indicating, in strokes full of grandeur, the bodily and mental development of the Baptist; and bringing his life up to the period of his public appearance" [Olshausen].
in the deserts—probably "the wilderness of Judea" (Mt 3:1), whither he had retired early in life, in the Nazarite spirit, and where, free from rabbinical influences and alone with God, his spirit would be educated, like Moses in the desert, for his future high vocation.
his showing unto Israel—the presentation of himself before his nation, as Messiah's forerunner.
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