|The Good News According to Luke|
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Go to Bible: Luke 1
“compile an orderly account.” For why there are four Gospels, see commentary on Mark 1:1, “gospel.”(top)
|Luk 1:2||- (top)|
|Luk 1:3||- (top)|
|Luk 1:4||- (top)|
“priestly division of Abijah.” 1 Chronicles 24:1-19 recounts how King David organized the priests, the sons of Aaron, into 24 divisions. The eighth division was the division or “course” of Abijah (1 Chron. 24:10). Each division was on duty twice a year for a one-week period, and also served at the three major feasts of the year: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. After the Babylonian captivity only four divisions returned (Ezra 2:36-39), but these four were divided into twenty-four divisions, given the names of the original twenty-four, and then continued on with their duties according to the traditional timing (Hendriksen). The eighth division of Abijah that Zechariah was serving would have been the last week of May, 4 B.C.(top)
“before God.” This phrase is an idiom where doing something “before the Lord” means to do something in service to him, to act as his servant. This can be seen when Elijah says, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word” (1 Kings 17:1; cp. 18:15; 2 Kings 3:14; 5:16). Elijah is saying he stands in service to God. (For more examples see: Gen. 7:1; 17:1; 24:40; 37:10; Luke 1:6, 8, 15, 75; Acts 4:19; 8:21; 1 Tim. 5:4; Heb. 13:21).(top)
“they both were advanced in their days.” The Levites could only work from 20 to 50, but the priests could work as long as they were able. There is a very good chance that both Elizabeth and Zechariah were over 60. It is almost certain that they both died before John started his ministry.
The times of service differed for the priests and Levites. When the Levites first started their service under Moses, they were counted for their duty from age 30 to 50, a period of 20 years (Numbers 4:3, 23, 30, 35, 39, 43 and 4:47). However, Numbers 8:24-26, also written during the wilderness wanderings, says the Levites served from age 25-50. Although it is possible that the number 20 was very temporary and revised up to 25, it is more likely that the Levites started an apprenticeship before they took over the full responsibility of their duties. King David revised the ages, and the Levites started ministering at age 20 (1 Chron. 23:24-26; cp. 2 Chron. 32:17; Ezra 3:8).
When it came to the priests, “There was not any fixed age for entering on the office of the high-priest, any more than on that of an ordinary priest” (Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: It’s Ministry and Services as They Were at the Time of Christ, Wm. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, reprinted 1978; p. 94). The High Priest, for example, started when the High Priest before him died, no matter how old he was, and ministered as High Priest until he died. The Law never specified when the priests started their office, but when the Talmud was written, it said age 20.
“barren.” In a culture in which children were considered the blessing of the Lord, and the death rate was so high that each couple had to have 5 children to keep the population number stable, being barren was considered a curse. In fact, the situation highlights the character of Zechariah, who was no doubt under pressure to divorce her. There were people who considered it a religious duty to divorce a barren wife (Edersheim, Life and Times, book II, p. 137). No wonder Elizabeth said she had “disgrace among people” (Luke 1:25).(top)
“in his division’s turn.” See commentary on Luke 1:5; “priestly division of Abijah.”
“before God.” See commentary on Luke 1:6.(top)
“he went into the sanctuary of the Lord.” In this case, the context lets us know that the “sanctuary” was the holy place, the first room of the Temple, which had the menorah, the table with the bread of the presence, and the altar of incense. As the verse says, he went in to burn the incense on the golden altar of incense.
“lot.” The priest who got the privilege of burning incense on the golden altar in the Temple was chosen by the casting of lots. The honor was so great that a person was only allowed to do it one time in his life, and after that he was called “rich” (Edersheim, Life and Times, book II, p. 134).(top)
“of the People.” No Gentiles were allowed just outside the sanctuary, in what was called the court of men and women. The use of the Greek word laos for “people” here in Luke 1:10 refers specifically to the Jews. See commentary on Luke 2:10; “the people.”(top)
“on the right side of the altar of incense.” The right side (or right hand) was the side of blessing, something that shows up a number of times in Scripture (cp. Matt. 25:33; Prov. 3:16). In this case, the Temple faced east, so the right side of the altar of incense was the south side.(top)
“was startled when he saw him.” Zechariah was startled and frightened when he saw him because he would have been alone in the holy place in the Temple—no one else would have been there at that time, yet this “man” appeared, which frightened Zechariah.(top)
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah.” This is a consistent message from God to people, and often when angels appear people are frightened and the angel then says not to be afraid (cp. Judg. 6:23; Luke 1:30). Fear is self-centered and keeps people from being all they can be for the Lord.
“your prayer.” What the angel said borders on the ironic. “Prayer” is singular in the Greek, but certainly Zechariah and Elizabeth had prayed many prayers for Elizabeth to have a child, in fact it is quite certain that prayer to have a baby would have been a high priority for them in the years past. But the angel lumps all those prayers together and refers to them as a “prayer,” focusing on the singularity of their desire and request.
The irony is that by this time, because of their old age, it is quite certain that Elizabeth and Zechariah had stopped praying for a child. In fact, it was due to their old age that Zechariah asked the angel for a sign that they would even have a child (Luke 1:7, 18). Zechariah would not have asked for such a sign if Elizabeth was of childbearing age. Thus, as Sarah at age 90 continued the genealogy to Christ by the miracle birth of Isaac, now Elizabeth would bear the forerunner of the Messiah by a miracle birth.
This record in Luke shows us that there are righteous prayers that remain alive in the mind of God and have an effect years after they are spoken. So it was that years after Elizabeth and Zechariah fervently prayed for a child, those prayers were answered. This record about Zechariah and Elizabeth is one of many miracles associated with the birth of the Messiah, and one of the many records that speak of the importance and effectiveness of prayer.
“John.” The name means, “Yahweh is gracious.”(top)
|Luk 1:14||- (top)|
“in the sight of the Lord.” Biblical custom. The literal is “before the Lord” (ESV). This is an idiom where “before me” means “in my sight.” Just like “thou shalt have no other gods before me,” meaning I do not want to see any other gods in your life (Deut. 5:7, literally, “before my face”). For a sampling of OT examples of this custom see: Genesis 19:27; Exodus 34:23; Deuteronomy 16:16; 25:2; 1 Samuel 2:17; 3:1; Psalm 21:6; 42:2; Lamentations 1:22. For other New Testament examples see: Luke 1:75; Ephesians 1:4.
There is so much in this little phrase: “great in the sight of the Lord.” John’s life is mostly unknown, and his ministry was short. He died in prison as a result of having made enemies because he dared to speak the truth. So many people take pride in being great in the eyes of the world, but in the end that greatness will mean nothing. John’s light is still burning, although his life ended 2,000 years ago. Every Christian should strive to be great in the sight of the Lord.
“he must not ever drink wine or beer.” The prohibition not to drink alcoholic drinks was part of the Nazarite vow of Numbers 6:1-21. It therefore seems that John the Baptist was a Nazarite from birth, although the Scripture never explicitly says so, or says anything about his hair never being cut. But the angel’s warning about not drinking wine or beer is stringent enough to be good evidence that John was a Nazarite. An angel gave the same warning to Samson’s parents (Judg. 13:3, 14) and Samson was a Nazarite (Judg. 3:4).
The Greek word translated “beer” is sikera (#4608 σίκερα). It was not a distilled beverage, like our whisky, rum, vodka, etc., today. Distilled liquor was unknown in the ancient world. It was a fermented drink, hence our translation as “beer.” The Akkadian word was sikaru, barley beer, from whence the Hebrew word shekhar almost certainly came, and the Greek word is obviously related.
Because “beer” does not occur in most translations of the Bible (although that is changing in some of the more modern versions; cp. HCSB, NET), it is worth saying something about it. Biblical Archaeological Review (Sept./Oct. 2010, Vo. 36, no. 5), has a very informative article by Michael Homan, titled, “Did the Ancient Israelites Drink Beer?” Homan writes:
The article goes on to discuss how beer was not made like we do it today with hops or carbonation, and that it was often made from a mixture of things, including mixed grains instead of just one grain, and it could be sweetened with many different things, such as grapes, figs, honey, and fruit, and also spices were sometimes added.
The Greek word refers to a fermented drink that was almost certainly some kind of beer, whether barley beer, date beer, mixed-ingredients beer, etc. In contrast, it does not refer to distilled liquor, which is what the English “strong drink” implies, so we did not use that term in the REV.
“filled with holy spirit.” This holy spirit was the gift of God that He gave to some believers before Pentecost. For example, God put spirit upon elders who served with Moses so they could help him (Num. 11:17, 25-30). [For more information on the holy spirit and uses of “holy spirit,” see Appendix 11, “What is the Holy Spirit,” and also Appendix 6, “Usages of ‘Spirit’”].(top)
|Luk 1:16||- (top)|
“to turn the hearts of fathers to their children.” This is quoted from Malachi 4:6. When the angel appeared to Zechariah and said that the boy would be “great in the sight of the Lord” (Luke 1:15), that was wonderful but not overly revealing as to who the child would really be. But all that changed in Luke 1:16-17. The angel started describing John’s calling and ministry in Old Testament terms that Zechariah, a well-educated and knowledgeable priest, would have known. The angel started using vocabulary and phrases from the Old Testament that revealed that John would be the forerunner to the Messiah.
The prophecies of the coming Messiah had been given for 4,000 years, starting with Genesis 3:15. Much later in the Old Testament, Scripture foretold there would be a messenger before the Messiah who would prepare the way for him (cp. Isa. 40:3-5; Mal. 3:1). In order to appreciate how important this forerunner was, we must remember that at that time no one knew there would be two “comings” of the Messiah: one when he died and one when he conquered. Everyone thought that when the Messiah came he would conquer the earth and set up his kingdom. This was why when Jesus told the Apostles that he would die that Peter said that would not happen to him (Matt. 16:22), and why the people said the Christ would live forever (John 12:34). Thus, for the angel to indicate that John would be the forerunner to the Messiah meant to Zechariah that the Messiah, and the wonderful kingdom he would set up on earth, were coming very soon.
The angel’s reference to the “spirit and power of Elijah” was a reference to Malachi 4:5, and thus was more evidence that John would come right before the Messiah. The Jews knew that Elijah was to come before the Messiah (Matt. 17:10), so they asked John if he were Elijah, to which he answered “No” (John 1:21). While that seems surprising at first, the reason that John said “no” was not because he was not the Elijah of Malachi 4:5, but because the people of the time so badly misunderstood Malachi’s prophecy about Elijah that John did not fulfill their incorrect expectations.
The rabbis believed there would be “a return of Elijah in person to prepare the Messianic kingdom” and they thought that perhaps in John “this rabbinic expectation was fulfilled and that the Baptist actually was Elijah returned to life. In this sense the Baptist utters his denial…‘I am not’” (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John). So the Jews were looking for the real Elijah to be raised from the dead, and John was not that Elijah; he was not Elijah raised from the dead. However, John was the person meant in Malachi 4:5 and represented as “Elijah” by the figure of speech antonomasia (“name change,” see commentary on John 1:21). Furthermore, Jesus understood that John was “Elijah” (Matt. 11:14; 17:10-13), and Zechariah would have understood that too at some level, and understood, and no doubt was astounded to learn, that his son would be the “Elijah” of Malachi and the forerunner to the Messiah.
It is likely that this powerful and unexpected revelation, that John would be the promised forerunner to the Messiah, was at least in part why Zechariah asked the angel for a sign that these things would happen (Luke 1:18).
“their children.” Cp. NIV. In the text there is no word for “their,” however, the possessive is implied.
“good sense.” The Greek is phronesis (#5428 φρόνησις). This is not the Greek, sophia, wisdom, but rather “a word for practical intelligence” (Robertson, Word Studies).(top)
“sign.” Literally, Zechariah says, “according to what will I know it?” This is to be understood as asking for a sign. As Lenski writes, “it asks for a norm or sign in accord with which the promise will be fulfilled.” This is the same phrasing that Abraham uses in Genesis 15:8. Interestingly, scripture says that “Jews ask for signs” (1 Cor. 1:22), as was the case with Abraham, Gideon, and Hezekiah when they were promised things from the Lord. The difference with Zechariah was that he asked out of some measure of unbelief—as verse 20 makes clear—while these others asked from a desire to strengthen the faith they had (See Hendriksen). However, Zechariah’s unbelief can certainly be understood to some extent. The angel told him in terms that were clear to him that the Messiah that believers had been awaiting for some 4,000 years was about to come and his son would be the messenger and forerunner of the Messiah who had been prophesied about in the Old Testament. That could be hard to believe, even if the message did come from an angel. After all, the Bible had said the Messiah was coming soon in other places but it had been hundreds of years (cp. Joel 1:15; 2:1; 3:14; Isa. 13:6; 29:17-18; Zeph. 1:7, 14; Ezek. 30:3). Zechariah would no doubt have known those prophecies and realized that just because the Bible said the Day of Yahweh was near did not mean “near” in the sense of going to happen right away. So he asked for a sign.(top)
“Gabriel.” Means, “God is my strength.” The first occurrence is Daniel 8:16.(top)
“Look!” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20 (“Look!).
“proper time.”Kairos (#2540 καιρός) can mean time in the sense of “proper, right, or appropriate time” (BDAG). Much like a parent might say to a fifteen year old, “you’ll be ready to date when it is time,” or “when it’s time, we’ll know.” In these cases “time” means, the right time, the appropriate time. The Greek word for “time” was also used in this sense.(top)
|Luk 1:21||- (top)|
|Luk 1:22||- (top)|
|Luk 1:23||- (top)|
|Luk 1:24||- (top)|
“my disgrace among people.” See commentary on “barren” in Luke 1:7.(top)
“a city of Galilee named Nazareth.” The reason Luke says “a city named” Nazareth, is because the town was such that few people would have heard of it. No other extra-biblical work such as the Talmud or the writings of Josephus mention Nazareth. When Luke mentions well-known cities he just says the name, for example, “Damascus” (Acts 9:19), or “Iconium” (Acts 14:1). Here he much more fully describes Nazareth so people will understand more about it, and he calls it “a city of Galilee named Nazareth.” Modern excavations continue in Nazareth, but at this time the evidence seems to show that it was a very small village indeed, “scarcely more than 100 or 150 inhabitants” (Bargel Pixner, Paths of the Messiah, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2010, p. 28). The small size of the village would contribute to Mary’s being “troubled” when the angel greeted her. She would have almost certainly known every person in the village, and so the greeting of this stranger caught her off guard and troubled her.(top)
|Luk 1:27||- (top)|
“Greetings.” The Greek is chairō (#5463 χαίρω) and in this context was a standard greeting of the Greeks just as we today say “Hi!” “Hail” persists in some versions, but is outdated, not being used as a greeting today, so “Greetings” as we have makes the meaning clear.
The KJV adds to this verse, “blessed art thou among women.” However, this phrase was not in the original text (Metzger, Textual Commentary).(top)
|Luk 1:29||- (top)|
|Luk 1:30||- (top)|
“Look!” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20 (“Look!).
“conceive in your womb.” The translation is correct, even though the Greek phrase sullēmpsē en gastri (συλλήμψῃ ἐν γαστρὶ) can also be understood as an idiom and translated “become pregnant in your womb.” Genuine conception did occur in Mary. We know from many verses of Scripture that Mary had to contribute the egg and God fertilized the egg. There is no indication in Scripture that when Jesus was said to be of the line of David, that that just meant he was adopted into that line. To fulfill the propheices he had to be born as a true descendant of David. Mary was not a surrogate mother, she was a real mother who made a real genetic contribution to Jesus Christ.
The prophecies were that Jesus was going to be a true lineal descendant of David. He was known as the “Son of David,” a title he recognized of himself, because he was a true descendant of David. Also, Psalm 132:11 says, “Yahweh swore an oath to David, a sure oath he will not revoke: “One of the fruit of your body I will place on your throne.” To fulfill that prophecy Jesus Christ had to be a genuine descendant of David, and he was not David’s descendant if he was God. Jesus Christ is the Son of his father, God, and his mother, Mary. Romans 1:3 is one of the many New Testament verses that speaks of Jesus being of the line of David. Most commentators ignore this clear truth in the Bible in order to maintain the tradition of the Trinity.(top)
“will be called the Son of the Most High.” In the Bible, the Messiah was called the Son of God (although he was not the only one) (cp. Ps. 2:7).(top)
“he will reign over the house of Jacob forever,” This verse is a good example that just because something in scripture is said to last forever, doesn’t mean it starts immediately. Likewise, even though we have eternal life (John 3:15-16, 36), it does not mean it comes into effect immediately; because if the Lord tarries we will still die and need to be resurrected into that eternal life: “Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40, NIV).(top)
“I am not knowing a man.” Mary believed from the Old Testament text that the Messiah would be a man who was born of a woman, and now the angel said that woman would be her. Since the virgin birth was not set forth clearly in the Old Testament (see commentary on Isa. 7:14), Mary assumed that she would have to be married and having sex with a man in order to conceive the Messiah, thus her statement, “I am not knowing [sexually] a man.” As it turned out, the angel revealed that God would contribute the sperm (via creation) that impregnated Mary. Although many Christians believe that Jesus Christ was “incarnated” into the flesh, in other words, placed in Mary as a complete baby at some form of development, the Bible never says that and that is not what happened. The Bible makes the case that Mary was the true mother of Jesus Christ, not just a surrogate mother for God. Jesus could not have been a true descendant of David if there were no actual genetic link to the line of David. Furthermore, what would be the point of the genealogy in Matthew? The link between Mary and Jesus in Matthew 1:16 would not be a genetic link at all. If God simply had Mary “carry” Jesus, then his only genealogy is 100% from God, not at all from David.(top)
“The Holy Spirit.” “The Holy Spirit” (capital “H,” capital “S”) is a name used for God when His power is in operation. In a very Hebraic way, this verse equates the Holy Spirit with “the power of the Most High.” The angel was speaking to Mary, a young Hebrew woman, in terms she could understand. It was common in the Hebrew language to say something and then repeat it in different words so the meaning would be clear. This occurs throughout the Hebrew Old Testament, and can especially be seen in books such as Proverbs in which something is stated and then restated using different words.
Since Mary told the angel she was not having sexual relations with a man, and knew she would then have to be impregnated by God, she would naturally understand “the Holy Spirit” to be the name of God which emphasized His invisible power in operation. God has many names in the Bible, and “the Holy Spirit” is one of them. It is easy to tell that in this case “the Holy Spirit” is a name of God because Jesus is called “the Son of God” and “the Son of the Father” (2 John 1:3), but he is never called “the Son of the Holy Spirit.” Mary understood that “the Holy Spirit” was another name for God, and thus she told her cousin Elizabeth that she rejoiced in God, and that “the Mighty One” (another name for God) had done great things for her (Luke 1:47-49). [For more information on “the Holy Spirit,” see Appendix 11: “What is the Holy Spirit”].(top)
“Look!” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20 (“Look!).(top)
“For nothing will be impossible with God.” Zechariah and Elizabeth are being paralleled with Abraham and Sarah. Here we have a direct allusion to Genesis 18:14, “Is anything impossible for the LORD? At the appointed time I will come back to you, and in about a year she [Sarah] will have a son” (HCSB). Earlier in the chapter we saw how Zechariah employed the same question as Abraham (see commentary on Luke 1:18; “sign”), and now this phrase originally regarding Sarah is applied to Elizabeth, who is barren and past fertile years. Like Sarah, she too will miraculously have a child. In Genesis the phrase was put as a question (expecting a negative answer), “Is anything impossible with the LORD?” (μὴ ἀδυνατεῖ παρὰ τῷ θεῷ ῥῆμα). Here in Luke it is as though the angel replies, answering in the future tense, “Nothing will be impossible with God” (οὐκ ἀδυνατήσει παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ πᾶν ῥῆμα). This allusion would have been a great faith booster for Mary, who was about to have a child without sexual intercourse with a man.
Only the ASV prefers the translation, “For no word from God shall be void of power.” This is grammatically possible, and perhaps implied as a double meaning. Rather than simply “word,” the Greek word rhema (#4487 ῥῆμα) also means “thing, object, matter, event” (BDAG). Luke uses rhema to mean “thing” elsewhere: Luke 1:65; 2:15; 2:19; 2:51; Acts 5:32; 10:36.(top)
“Lo!” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20 (“Look!). Although most usually translated “Look!” in the REV, in this context that made it seem like Mary may have been rude to the angel, which was certainly not the case. We went with “Lo,” like Rotherham and Young’s Literal Translation.(top)
“a city of Judah.” 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.(top)
|Luk 1:40||- (top)|
“filled with holy spirit.” There is no definite article. This holy spirit is the gift of God. [For more information on the holy spirit and uses of “holy spirit”, see Appendix 11, “What is the Holy Spirit,” and also see Appendix 6: “Usages of ‘Spirit’.”](top)
|Luk 1:42||- (top)|
|Luk 1:43||- (top)|
“from the Lord.” The phrase “from the Lord” could also be translated “by the Lord.” In either case the preposition para (#3844 παρά) is to be understood in the sense of expressing the source. These were words that originated in and were spoken from the Lord.(top)
“My soul magnifies the Lord.” Similar to Psalm 34:2a. The “soul” here refers to the emotions, feelings, attitudes, and even thoughts. Mary is magnifying the Lord with all that is within her. [See Appendix 7: “Usages of ‘Soul’”.](top)
“my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” This is a powerful verse because it shows Mary’s deep trust in God. On the surface she seemed to have many problems at this time, chief among them being that she was pregnant before having sex with her husband in a culture that was scandalized by that. Even Joseph had thought about divorcing her. Only a few people knew of her divine conception, and since no one was expecting a virgin birth she could not have convinced them of it anyway. In spite of her difficult circumstances she rejoiced in God, and thus has set a wonderful example for us and how we should rejoice even in our difficult circumstances.
There are Trinitarians who believe that, because this verse calls God “Savior,” and Jesus is also called “Savior,” that Jesus must be God in the flesh. However, that belief is not correct. There are many references to God the Father being called “Savior.” That makes perfect sense because He is the author of the plan of salvation and is also very active in our salvation. For example, God, the Father, is called “Savior” in Isaiah 43:11; 1 Timothy 1:1; 2:3; 4:10; Titus 3:4; Jude 25. In contrast, Jesus Christ is called “Savior” because he is the agent who carried out God’s plan, and without whom it could not have come to pass.
The term “savior” is used of many people in the Bible. This is hard to see in the English versions because, when the word “savior” is used of people, the translators almost always translated it as “deliverer.” This in and of itself shows that modern translators have a Trinitarian bias. The only reason to translate a word as “Savior” when it applies to God or Christ, but as “deliverer” when it applies to men, is to make the term seem unique to God and Jesus when in fact it is not. This is a good example of how the actual meaning of Scripture can be obscured if the translators are not careful when they translate the text.
God’s gracious provision of “saviors” who help God’s people is not recognized when the same word is translated “Savior” for God and Christ but “deliverer” for others. Also lost is the testimony in Scripture that God works through people to bring His power to bear. Of course, the fact that there are other “saviors” does not take away from Jesus Christ, who is the only one who could and did save us from our sins and eternal death.
If all the great men and women who were “saviors” were openly portrayed as such in the English versions, the grace and mercy God demonstrates in saving His people by “saviors” He has raised up would be openly displayed. Furthermore, we believe no reader would confuse the true God with the people He was working through. A good example that shows God raising up “saviors” to rescue Israel through history occurs in Nehemiah in a prayer of confession and thanksgiving to God. The Israelites prayed, “But when they [Israel] were oppressed they cried out to you. From heaven you heard them, and in your great compassion you gave them deliverers [saviors], who rescued them from the hand of their enemies” (Neh. 9:27 NIV84). Some other examples of men designated as “savior” are in 2 Kings 13:5; Isaiah 19:20 and Obadiah 21. It is incorrect to say that because Christ and God are both called “Savior,” they are one and the same, just as it would be incorrect to say that the “saviors” God raised up throughout history were also God in the flesh or even the same individual as Jesus Christ.
[For more information on Jesus being the fully human Son of God and not being “God the Son,” see Appendix 10, “Jesus is the Son of God, Not God the Son.” For more on “the Holy Spirit” being one of the designations for God the Father and “the holy spirit” being the gift of God’s nature, see Appendix 11, “What is the Holy Spirit?” For more specific information about the designation “savior,” see Andrews Norton, A Statement of Reasons for Not Believing the Doctrines of Trinitarians, pp. 304, 305. Also, Don Snedeker, Our Heavenly Father Has No Equals, pp. 378-380.](top)
“because he has looked upon the low estate of his servant.” God does look upon the lowly and humble (Ps. 138:6). In this sentence, “looked upon” is used in an idiomatic or “pregnant” sense, because it means much more than just “look at,” it means to see and do something about it.
The words for “look at” or “see” (a common Hebrew word for “see” is ra’ah (#07200 רָאָה)) are sometimes used in an idiomatic or “pregnant” sense that means “to look with favor upon,” “to accept,” “to notice and do something about.” Example of this idiom occur in both the Old and New Testaments, and include: Genesis 29:32, Exodus 4:31; 1 Samuel 1:11; 9:16; 2 Samuel 16:12; Job 40:12; Psalm 9:14; 10:11; 31:7; Habakkuk 1:13; and Luke 1:48. In contrast, to “not see” something was to ignore it, to not pay attention to it, to not care about it or look at it with any favor. Thus when Joseph ran the prison in Egypt, the jailer did “not see” anything under Joseph’s authority; he paid no attention to it (Gen. 39:23).
Sometimes the idiom of “see” goes a step beyond just “look upon with favor” or “accept,” and means, “to choose for oneself” “to provide for oneself,” or “to choose” (cp. Gen. 22:8 (God will ‘see’ a lamb for Himself); Gen. 41:33; Deut. 33:21; 1 Sam. 16:1; 2 Kings 10:3; Esther 2:9 (the girls were “chosen” or “selected” to be with Esther).
The word “see” is also used the way we use it in English as “to visit” someone, to “go see them” (cp. 2 Sam. 13:5; 2 Kings 8:29; 9:16; Ps. 41:6; 2 Chron. 22:6).
It is also used as “to know” or “to understand,” and can be just a mental knowing or a knowing through experience, if the emphasis is on experience, it might even be translated “experience.” This is similar to the way we use it in English when we say, “I see what you mean,” or “I am going to see for myself,” which often means experience it myself (cp. Ps. 16:10; 27:13; 34:13; 60:5; 71:20; 89:48 (Heb. 11:5); Ps. 90:15; Jer. 5:12; 20:12; Lam. 3:1). [For more information on the idiomatic uses of “see,” see commentary on John 1:18 and Romans 8:29, “foreknew”].
“because the Mighty One has done great things for me…” Almost 1000 years earlier, King David had noted the same thing, that God has done great things (Ps. 71:19).
“holy is his name.” The Psalmist says, “holy and awesome is his name” (Ps. 111:9).(top)
“his mercy is on those who fear him.” God refers to his love and mercy extending for generations in Exodus 20:6 and Psalm 103:17.(top)
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“mighty.” The word for “mighty” is dunastes (#1413 δυνάστης). It denotes “rulers, officials, or potentates” (cp. Acts 8:27; 1 Tim. 6:15).(top)
“the hungry.” Similar to Psalm 107:9.(top)
“He helped his servant Israel.” “The middle voice of antilambano means to take hold of something or somebody and in that way to help, and, like the verbs of touch, it is constructed in the genitive.” (Lenski).
“remembering his mercy.” Figure of speech, Metonymy (cp. Bullinger, Figures of Speech). “Mercy” is put for the act of mercy, being merciful. God “took hold of Israel his servant to help them,” in order to remember to be merciful to Abraham and his seed. In other words, God helped Israel in order to fulfill the promise He made to Abraham and his seed, a promise that they did not deserve, which is the point of saying that God remembered “mercy.”(top)
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“filled with holy spirit.” The Greek text has no article “the.” This holy spirit was the gift of God that He gave to some believers before Pentecost. [For more information on the holy spirit and uses of “holy spirit,” see Appendix 11, “What is the Holy Spirit,” and also see Appendix 6, “Usages of ‘Spirit’”].(top)
“Praise the Lord.” This phrase is often translated as “blessed be the Lord.” However, the sense is best captured by “praise the Lord.” It is a verbal adjective; as Lenski writes, “Thus ‘blessed’ means: ‘let all men bless God,’ i.e., speak well of him.” Translating it “praise the Lord” carries this sense of the command: “let all men bless God.” On the other hand, to say “blessed be the Lord,” just states the simple fact that the Lord is well spoken of.
“visited.”Episkeptomai (#1980 ἐπισκέπτομαι) has the sense of “looking favorably upon with an intent to help.” Cp. NET translation, “he has come to help.” The rest of the verse explains the help provided by the Lord, He has “brought about redemption for his people.”(top)
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“from ancient times.” For this translation compare NJB and HCSB. The literal reading is “from of ages.” Hence, “from of old” would be a good alternative translation.(top)
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“our fathers.” These are the “fathers” of Israel, namely, the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—who worked so hard but did not see the promises fulfilled. It is not speaking of the immediate biological fathers, as the next verse makes clear by referring to “Abraham.”(top)
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“before him.” Biblical custom. See commentary on Luke 1:15, “in the sight of the Lord.”(top)
“prepare the way for him.” The Greek word that is translated “way” is hodos (#3598 ὁδός) in the plural, and the Greek is etoimazo hodous outou (ἑτοιμάζω ὁδοὺς αὐτοῦ), which would be more literally translated as, “prepare his roads.” Hodos refers to a road, a path, or a way something is done. In this context, the phrase “prepare his roads,” refers to a well-known biblical custom. Inside the city of Rome, or other large cities, and on some major thoroughfares such as the “Appian Way” (Appian Road), the road was paved and maintained by slaves, road crews, and the army. However, for most of the Roman Empire, and certainly for most of the ancient Middle East, roads were just dirt roads, and frankly, most often, not even what we would classify as a “dirt road” today—they were actually just dirt paths. These dirt roads and paths did not specifically belong to anyone unless they were main roads and government maintained or unless they belonged to a landowner if the path went through his specific piece of property. No one really was considered to “own” the roads through wilderness and woods except the kingdom in general, and thus no one kept them repaired or travelable. Over time they became filled with ruts and holes (that were often just mud holes), washed out, overgrown by brush and overhung by any nearby trees.
Furthermore, since no one really owned the path, nearby farmers would throw stones from their fields onto them, so a road with lots of stones was not uncommon. After a while, the “roads” of the Middle East became very difficult to travel. When royalty or a powerful dignitary was going to travel to a certain place, the call would go out to “prepare the roads.” The ruler would usually send someone out to make sure that work was being done. This is the custom that is referred to in this verse. John the Baptist was sent to “prepare the roads” that Jesus Christ would travel on spiritually. He preached the Good News, confronted sinners, offered baptism for repentance, and raised everyone’s expectation for the Messiah, the laces of whose sandals he was unworthy to unloose.(top)
“by the forgiveness….” The versions differ, some having “by” (KJV, NASB, RSV, Rotherham, etc.) some “through,” some “in,” and Lenski has “in connection with.” The point is that, in having their sins forgiven, people really have a sense of their salvation, especially before the Church Age. Christ knew this, and often told people their sins were forgiven.(top)
“Rising Sun.” This is a title of the Lord Jesus Christ. It comes from the word anatole (#395 ἀνατολή), which is used to describe the dawn, “a change in darkness to light” (BDAG). This leads naturally into verse 79, where Christ is said to “give light to those who sit in darkness.” The verb form of anatole occurs in the LXX translation of Malachi 4:2, describing the rise of the Sun of Righteousness. Here, the Rising Sun is said to visit us “from on high,” the same Greek phrase found in 1 Samuel 22:17; Psalm 18:16; 102:19; 144:7 and Luke 24:49. These passages in 1 Samuel and Psalms show that rescue from one’s enemies is said to come “from on high”—this theme comes up in Zechariah’s prophecy, especially verses 71 and 74.
“visit.” See commentary on Luke 1:68; “visited”.(top)
“into.” Rather than solely expressing motion “into,” the preposition eis (#1519 εἰς) can also have the sense of “in.” Here it includes both the meanings of guiding us “into” the way of peace and also the notion of guiding along, “in,” the road while actually on the path. Christ leads us both ‘into’ and ‘in’ the road of peace.(top)
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