“broadsword.” An unusual word for “sword,” occurring only here and in the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:16; 2:12, 16; 6:8; 19:15, 21). The Greek is rhomphaia (#4501 ῥομφαία). It has several meanings. It was a large sword, usually two-edged, which was used by non-Greek-speaking peoples, especially the Thracians. We can rightly refer to it as a “broadsword.” Also, rhomphaia was used of a long Thracian javelin, and also a kind of long sword usually worn on the right shoulder. The word appears very often in the Septuagint, and was the word used for the sword of Goliath. This long, broad, two-edged sword would pass through Mary’s soul as the life of her son developed. The fact that it can refer to a Thracian spear also points to one of the final acts of violence toward her son when the Roman soldier pierced Christ’s side with a spear.a
“will pierce through your own soul.” The reason that Simeon was led to say this to Mary and not to Joseph as well is not stated but can be figured out. By the time Jesus started his ministry Joseph had died, so he never lived to experience the torment and anguish that Mary experienced with Jesus: his rejection by his own brothers, the confusion over his ministry, and why he did not deliver Israel from their oppressors, and his horrific suffering and death. Like the apostles and close disciples, it was after Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples that she came to realize the work that Jesus had to accomplish, but while he was going through it, it was confusing and emotionally devastating.
“soul.” The Greek word often translated “soul” is psuchē (#5590 ψυχή; pronounced psoo-'kay), and it has a large number of meanings, including the physical life of a person or animal; an individual person; or attitudes, emotions, feelings, and thoughts. Here it refers to the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of Mary. With all that happened to Jesus in his life, she would feel as if she had been pierced by a sword.
[For a more complete explanation of “soul,” see Appendix 7: “Usages of ‘Soul.’”]
“so that the reasoning of many hearts will be revealed.” There are many things in life that reveal what is in the heart. Here in Luke 2:34-35, the life of Jesus Christ is said to be one of those things. Wise and humble people accept Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins and follow and obey him, while proud and self-willed people reject him. There will be a day of judgment for all people, and at that time people will be held accountable for ignoring and defying God, their Creator. When believers tell unbelievers about Christ, whether with words or by the way they live, they are doing two things. They are giving them a genuine choice and chance to live or die, and they are making the judgment they will receive on Judgment Day very clear: unbelievers had a chance to believe and repent and rejected it. Those two reasons explain why God asks people to speak to others even when He, who knows the hearts, knows they will not believe (e.g. Exod. 4:21; Jer. 7:27).