Mayaltho (Maa'ltho - Entry of our Lord into the temple)
From the Commentary on the Whole Bible (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, 1871)
Lu 2:22-40. Purification of the Virgin—Presentation of the Babe in the Temple-Scene There with Simeon and Anna.
22, 24. her purification—Though the most and best copies read "their," it was the mother only who needed purifying from the legal uncleanness of childbearing. "The days" of this purification for a male child were forty in all (Le 12:2, 4), on the expiry of which the mother was required to offer a lamb for a burnt offering, and a turtle dove or a young pigeon for a sin offering. If she could not afford a lamb, the mother had to bring another turtle dove or young pigeon; and, if even this was beyond her means, then a portion of fine flour, but without the usual fragrant accompaniments of oil and frankincense, as it represented a sin offering (Le 12:6-8; 5:7-11). From the intermediate offering of "a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons," we gather that Joseph and the Virgin were in poor circumstances (2Co 8:9), though not in abject poverty. Being a first-born male, they "bring him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord." All such had been claimed as "holy to the Lord," or set apart to sacred uses, in memory of the deliverance of the first-born of Israel from destruction in Egypt, through the sprinkling of blood (Ex 13:2). In lieu of these, however, one whole tribe, that of Levi, was accepted, and set apart to occupations exclusively sacred (Nu 3:11-38); and whereas there were two hundred seventy-three fewer Levites than first-born of all Israel on the first reckoning, each of these first-born was to be redeemed by the payment of five shekels, yet not without being "presented (or brought) unto the Lord," in token of His rightful claim to them and their service (Nu 3:44-47; 18:15, 16). It was in obedience to this "law of Moses," that the Virgin presented her babe unto the Lord, "in the east gate of the court called Nicanor's Gate, where she herself would be sprinkled by the priest with the blood of her sacrifice" [Lightfoot]. By that Babe, in due time, we were to be redeemed, "not with corruptible things as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ" (1Pe 1:18, 19), and the consuming of the mother's burnt offering, and the sprinkling of her with the blood of her sin offering, were to find their abiding realization in the "living sacrifice" of the Christian mother herself, in the fulness of a "heart sprinkled from an evil conscience," by "the blood which cleanseth from all sin."
25. just—upright in his moral character.
devout—of a religious frame of spirit.
waiting for the consolation of Israel—a beautiful title of the coming Messiah, here intended.
the Holy Ghost was—supernaturally.
upon him—Thus was the Spirit, after a dreary absence of nearly four hundred years, returning to the Church, to quicken expectation, and prepare for coming events.
26. revealed by the Holy Ghost—implying, beyond all doubt, the personality of the Spirit.
should see not death till he had seen—"sweet antithesis!" [Bengel]. How would the one sight gild the gloom of the other! He was, probably, by this time, advanced in years.
27, 28. The Spirit guided him to the temple at the very moment when the Virgin was about to present Him to the Lord.
28. took him up in his arms—immediately recognizing in the child, with unhesitating certainty, the promised Messiah, without needing Mary to inform him of what had happened to her. [Olshausen]. The remarkable act of taking the babe in his arms must not be overlooked. It was as if he said, "This is all my salvation and all my desire" (2Sa 23:5).
29. Lord—"Master," a word rarely used in the New Testament, and selected here with peculiar propriety, when the aged saint, feeling that his last object in wishing to live had now been attained, only awaited his Master's word of command to "depart."
now lettest, &c.—more clearly, "now Thou art releasing Thy servant"; a patient yet reverential mode of expressing a desire to depart.
30. seen thy salvation—Many saw this child, nay, the full-grown "man, Christ Jesus," who never saw in Him "God's Salvation." This estimate of an object of sight, an unconscious, helpless babe, was pure faith. He "beheld His glory" (Joh 1:14). In another view it was prior faith rewarded by present sight.
31, 32. all people—all the peoples, mankind at large.
a light to the Gentiles—then in thick darkness.
glory of thy people Israel—already Thine, and now, in the believing portion of it, to be so more gloriously than ever. It will be observed that this "swan-like song, bidding an eternal farewell to this terrestrial life" [Olshausen], takes a more comprehensive view of the kingdom of Christ than that of Zacharias, though the kingdom they sing of is one.
34, 35. set—appointed.
fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign spoken against—Perhaps the former of these phrases expresses the two stages of temporary "fall of many in Israel" through unbelief, during our Lord's earthly career, and the subsequent "rising again" of the same persons after the effusion of the Spirit at pentecost threw a new light to them on the whole subject; while the latter clause describes the determined enemies of the Lord Jesus. Such opposite views of Christ are taken from age to age.
35. Yea, &c.—"Blessed as thou art among women, thou shalt have thine own deep share of the struggles and sufferings which this Babe is to occasion"—pointing not only to the continued obloquy and rejection of this Child of hers, those agonies of His which she was to witness at the cross, and her desolate condition thereafter, but to dreadful alternations of faith and unbelief, of hope and fear regarding Him, which she would have to pass through.
that the thoughts, &c.—Men's views and decisions regarding Christ are a mirror in which the very "thoughts of their hearts" are seen.
36. Anna—or, Hannah.
a prophetess—another evidence that "the last times" in which God was to "pour out His Spirit upon all flesh" were at hand.
of the tribe of Aser—one of the ten tribes, of whom many were not carried captive, and not a few reunited themselves to Judah after the return from Babylon. The distinction of tribes, though practically destroyed by the captivity, was well enough known up to their final dispersion (Ro 11:1; Heb 7:14); nor is it now entirely lost.
lived, &c.—she had lived seven years with her husband (Lu 2:36), and been a widow eighty-four years; so that if she married at the earliest marriageable age, twelve years, she could not at this time be less than a hundred three years old.
37. departed not from the temple—was found there at all stated hours of the day, and even during the night services of the temple watchmen (Ps 134:1, 2), "serving God with fastings and prayer." (See 1Ti 5:5, suggested by this.)
38. coming in—"presenting herself." She had been there already but now is found "standing by," as Simeon's testimony to the blessed Babe died away, ready to take it up "in turn" (as the word rendered "likewise" here means).
to all them, &c.—the sense is, "to all them in Jerusalem that were looking for redemption"—saying in effect, In that Babe are wrapt up all your expectations. If this was at the hour of prayer, when numbers flocked to the temple, it would account for her having such an audience as the words imply [Alford].
39. Nothing is more difficult than to fix the precise order in which the visit of the Magi, with the flight into and return from Egypt (Mt 2:13-23), are to be taken, in relation to the circumcision and presentation of Christ in the temple, here recorded. It is perhaps best to leave this in the obscurity in which we find it, as the result of two independent, though if we knew all, easily reconcilable narratives.
40. His mental development kept pace with His bodily, and "the grace of God," the divine favor, rested manifestly and increasingly upon Him. See Lu 2:52.
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