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In those days Mary got up and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, Bible other translations

“Mary got up and went.” Mary would not have gone alone, but the Bible never says who escorted her. Nevertheless, a young teenage girl would never go alone on a multi-day journey from Galilee to Judea, and she would not have traveled with only other women. She would have had at least one male escort. This was normal in the biblical world so the Bible does not mention it, nor does the Bible say what the escort did after they arrived at Zechariah’s house; we may be curious about it, but it is not important to the record so it is not mentioned.

“with haste.” The Greek can also mean “went eagerly,” with earnestness and zeal. Mary did not just hurry to Elizabeth’s house, she was eager and excited. She knew how old Elizabeth was and would have known that God had not only done a miracle in her, but in Elizabeth too.

“to a city of Judah.” It is interesting that the Bible does not name the city of Judah, because it certainly could have. Perhaps this is to not shift the focus from Bethlehem where Jesus was born to the city where John was born. After all, the material about John is background and context for the birth of the Messiah. It is very likely, however, that the city was one of the nine cities in the tribal area of Judah assigned as cities of priests by Joshua: Hebron, Libnah, Jattir, Eshtemoa, Holon, Debir, Ain, Juttah, and Beth-shemesh (Josh. 21:13-16). However, there is a possibility, given the destructions and deportations that occurred in the Old Testament, such as the Babylonian Captivity, that some priests from Judah settled in another town in Judah from the ones Joshua assigned. In the final analysis, we do not know what city Zechariah lived in and John was born in. However, Christian tradition dating from at least the fourth century AD places the birth of John in the ancient village of Beth-hakerem (“House of the Vineyard) now called Ein Karem (“Spring of the Vineyard), however, that is only tradition.

It is noteworthy that Mary knew the town of her relatives Zechariah and Elizabeth. Family ties were very strong in the biblical world.

The Greek word translated Judah comes from Iouda (#2448 Ἰουδά). A number of versions have “Judah” (NASB; ESV; HCSB; ASV; NET; NAB), and a few versions say “Judea” (NIV; YLT). But Judea is incorrect from the Greek, as Lenski writes, “When Luke refers to the province he writes Ἱουδαία [not Ἰουδα] (10 times in the Gospel, 12 times in the Acts).” “Judea” is the territory ruled over by Herod, while “Judah” refers to the ancient area of the tribe of Judah. Lenski also makes the point there may have been a city we know nothing about called “Judea,” which could be the case but is less likely.


Commentary for: Luke 1:39