Luk 1:26 And in the sixth month,…. After Elisabeth’s conception; for so long was John the Baptist conceived before Christ, and so long he was born before him; and it seems as if there was the same distance between the public ministry of the one, and the other: John was before Christ, as man, being his forerunner; but Christ was preferred unto him as mediator, and existed before him, as the eternal Son of God:
the angel Gabriel was sent from God; the same angel, that near five hundred years before gave Daniel an exact account of the time of the Messiah’s coming, and six months ago acquainted Zacharias with the conception, birth, character, and office of his forerunner:
unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth; the whole country of Galilee was mean and contemptible with the Jews: they observe, though through mistake, that no prophet arose out of it, Joh_7:52 and Nazareth particularly was exceeding despicable in their eye: hence those words of Nathanael, “can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Joh_1:46 and yet hither an angel was sent by God; and here dwelt the mother of our Lord. See Gill on Mat_1:23
THEOPHYL; Because either the Incarnation of Christ was to be in the sixth age of the world, or because it was to serve to the fulfilling of the law, rightly in the sixth month of John’s conception was an angel sent to Mary, to tell her that a Savior should be born. Hence it is said, And in the sixth month, &c. We must understand the sixth month to be March, on the twenty-fifth day of which our Lord is reported to have been conceived, and to have suffered, as also to have been born on the twenty-fifth day of December. But if either the one day we believe to be the vernal equinox, or the other the winter solstice, it happens that with the increase of light He was conceived or born Who lightens every man that comes into the world. But if any one shall prove, that before the time of our Lord’s nativity or conception, light began either to increase, or supersede the darkness, we then say, that it was because John, before the appearance of His coming, began to preach the kingdom of heaven.
THEOPHYL; It was as a fit beginning for man’s restoration, that an angel should be sent down from God to consecrate a virgin by a divine birth, for the first cause of man’s perdition was the Devil sending a serpent to deceive a woman by the spirit of pride.
CHRYS. The angel announces the birth to the virgin not after the conception, lest she should be thereby too much troubled, but before the conception he addresses her, not in a dream, but standing by her in visible shape. For as great indeed were the tidings she receives, she needed before the issue of the event an extraordinary visible manifestation.
Betrothed (emnēsteumenēn). Perfect passive participle. Betrothal usually lasted a year and unfaithfulness on the part of the bride was punished with death (Deu_23:24.).
Luk 1:27 To a virgin,…. A pure virgin, that never knew man; see Gill on Luk_1:34 and yet
espoused to a man whose name was Joseph; but they were not come together, nor had he taken her for his wife, and home to his house, nor had they cohabited:
of the house of David; which, according to the grammatical construction of the words, may be connected either with the virgin, or with Joseph, to whom she was espoused; and is true of both; for they both were of the house and lineage of David: and this shows what a low condition David’s family was in, that the persons that were the nearest allied to it were a carpenter, and a poor virgin; and both residing in so despicable a place as Nazareth in Galilee:
and the virgin’s name was Mary; a name frequent among the Jews, and the same with Miriam; of which name was the sister of Moses and Aaron.
A.T. Robertson Luk 1:28
Highly favoured (kecharitōmenē). Perfect passive participle of charitoō and means endowed with grace (charis), enriched with grace as in Eph_1:6, non ut mater gratiae, sed ut filia gratiae (Bengel). The Vulgate gratiae plena “is right, if it means ‘full of grace which thou hast received’; wrong, if it means ‘full of grace which thou hast to bestow’” (Plummer). The oldest MSS. do not have “Blessed art thou among women” here, but in Luk_1:42.
GREEK EX. But as she might be accustomed to these visions, the Evangelist ascribes her agitation not to the vision, but to the things told her, saying, she was troubled at his words. Now observe both the modesty and wisdom of the Virgin; the soul, and at the same time the voice. When she heard the joyful words, she pondered them in her mind, and neither openly resisted through unbelief, nor forthwith lightly complied; avoiding equally the inconstancy of Eve, and the insensibility of Zacharias. Hence it is said, And she cast in her mind what manner of salutation this was, it is not said conception for as yet she knew not the vastness of the mystery. But the salutation, was there aught of passion in it as from a man to a virgin? or was it not of God, seeing that he makes mention of God, saying, The Lord is with you.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
highly favoured — a word only once used elsewhere (Eph_1:6, “made accepted”): compare Luk_1:30, “Thou hast found favor with God.” The mistake of the Vulgate’s rendering, “full of grace,” has been taken abundant advantage of by the Romish Church. As the mother of our Lord, she was the most “blessed among women” in external distinction; but let them listen to the Lord’s own words. “Nay, rather blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it.” (See on Luk_11:27).
Hail – This word of salutation is equivalent to “Peace be with thee,” or “Joy be with thee;” a form of speech implying that she was signally favored, and expressing joy at meeting her.
Highly favoured – By being the mother of the long-expected Messiah – the mother of the Redeemer of mankind. Long had he been predicted; long had the eyes of the nation been turned to him, and long had his coming been an object of intense desire. To be reckoned among his “ancestors” was accounted sufficient honor for even Abraham and David. But now the happy “individual” was designated who was to be his mother; and on Mary, a poor virgin of Nazareth, was to come this honor, which would have rendered infinitely illustrious any of the daughters of Adam the honor of giving birth to the world’s Redeemer and the Son of God.
The Lord is with thee – The word “is” is not in the original, and the passage may be rendered either “the Lord “is” with thee,” or “the Lord be” with thee,” implying the prayer of the angel that all blessings from God might descend and rest upon her.
Blessed art thou among women – This passage is equivalent to saying “thou art the most happy of women.”
Luk 1:29 And when she saw him,…. The Persic version renders it, “when Mary saw the angel”; which expresses the true sense of the words, The Vulgate Latin reads, “when she heard”; i.e. the salutation:
she was troubled at his saying; at his speaking to her; she was surprised at the sight of him, and more at what he said to her,
and cast in her mind, or thought and reasoned within herself,
what manner of salutation this should be; for it was not usual with the Jews for a man to use any salutation to a woman; with them it was not lawful to be done in any shape or form; not by a messenger, nor even by her own husband (u); so that Mary might well be thrown into a concern what should be the meaning of this; and especially, that she should be addressed in such language, and saluted as a peculiar favourite of God, and blessed among women,
(u) T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 70. 1, 2. Maimon. Hilch. Issure Biah, c. 21.
Favour (charin). Grace. Same root as chairō (rejoice) and charitoō in Luk_1:28. To find favour is a common O.T. phrase. Charis is a very ancient and common word with a variety of applied meanings. They all come from the notion of sweetness, charm, loveliness, joy, delight, like words of grace, Luk_4:22, growing grace, Eph_4:29, with grace, Col_4:6. The notion of kindness is in it also, especially of God towards men as here. It is a favourite word for Christianity, the Gospel of the grace of God (Act_20:24) in contrast with law or works (Joh_1:16). Gratitude is expressed also (Luk_6:32), especially to God (Rom_6:17).
With God (para tōi theōi). Beside God.
Luk 1:32 He shall be great,…. In his person, as God-man; this child born, and Son given, being the angel of the great counsel, the mighty God, and everlasting Father; Isa_9:6 which is here referred to; and in his offices, in his prophetic office, being that great and famous prophet Moses spoke of, mighty in word and deed, in his doctrine and miracles; in his priestly office, being a great high priest, both in the oblation of himself, and in his prevalent intercession; and in his kingly office, being the King of kings, and Lord of Lords; and in the whole of his office, as Mediator, being a great Saviour, the author of a great salvation for great sinners; in which is greatly displayed the glory of all the divine perfections: great also in his works, the miracles that he wrought, as proofs of his Deity and Messiahship, the work of redemption, the resurrection of himself from the dead, and of all men at the last day; and in the glory he is now possessed of in human nature, at the Father’s right hand, where he is highly exalted above all principality and power:
and shall be called the Son of the Highest; that is, of God, of whose names is עליון, “the Most High”; see Gen_14:18 not by creation, as angels and men, nor by adoption, as saints, nor by office, as magistrates, are called “the children of the Most High”, Psa_82:6 but by nature, being the eternal Son of God; of the same nature with him, and equal to him: for he was not now to begin to be the Son of God, he was so before, even from all eternity; but the sense is, that he should now be known, owned, and acknowledged to be the Son of God, being as such manifested in human nature, and should be proved to be so by the works he wrought, and declared to be the Son of God with power by his resurrection from the dead:
and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David. Christ, as God, is the Son of God, as man, the son of David; a name often given to the Messiah, and by which he was well known among the Jews; and as Christ descended from him as man, in a literal sense, he had a right to the throne of his father David; and the Jews themselves say, that he was קרוב למלכות, “nearly allied to the kingdom” (w): but here it intends not his throne, in a literal, but in a figurative sense; for as David was a type of the Messiah in his kingly office, hence the Messiah is called “David their king”, Hos_3:5 so his throne was typical of the Messiah’s throne and kingdom; which is not of this world, but is in his church, and is set up in the hearts of his people, where he reigns by his Spirit and grace; and this is a throne and kingdom “given” by the Lord God. The kingdom of nature and providence he has by right of nature, as the Son of the Highest; the kingdom of grace, or the mediatorial kingdom, the kingdom of priests, or royal priesthood, is a delegated one; his Father has set him as king over his holy hill of Zion; and he is accountable for his government to him, and will one day deliver it up complete and perfect,
T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 43. 1.
The Son of the Most High (huios Hupsistou). There is no article in the Greek, but the use of Most High in Luk_1:35 clearly of God as here. In Luk_6:35 we find “sons of the Most High” (huioi Hupsistou) so that we cannot insist on deity here, though that is possible. The language of 2Sa_7:14; Isa_9:7 is combined here.
He shall be great – Behold the greatness of the man Christ Jesus:
1st. Because that human nature that should be born of the virgin was to be united with the Divine nature.
2dly. In consequence of this, that human nature should be called in a peculiar sense the Son of the most high God; because God would produce it in her womb without the intervention of man.
3rdly. He shall be the everlasting Head and Sovereign of his Church.
4thly. His government and kingdom shall be eternal.
Revolutions may destroy the kingdoms of the earth, but the powers and gates of hell and death shall never be able to destroy or injure the kingdom of Christ. His is the only dominion that shall never have an end. The angel seems here to refer to Isa_9:7; Isa_16:5; Jer_23:5; Dan_2:44; Dan_7:14. All which prophecies speak of the glory, extent, and perpetuity of the evangelical kingdom. The kingdom of grace and the kingdom of glory form the endless government of Christ.
GREEK EX. And to make the Virgin mindful of the prophets, he adds, And the Lord God shall give to him the seat of David, that she might know clearly, that He Who is to be born of her is that very Christ, Whom the prophets promised should be born of the seed of David.
CYRIL; Not however from Joseph proceeded the most pure descent of Christ. For from one and the same line of connection had sprung both Joseph and the Virgin, and from this the only-begotten had taken the form of man. BASIL; Our Lord sat not on the earthly throne of David, the Jewish kingdom having been transferred to Herod. The seat of David is that on which our Lord reestablished His spiritual kingdom which should never be destroyed. Hence it follows, And he shall reign over the house of Jacob.
CHRYS. Now He assigns to the present house of Jacob all those who were of the number of the Jews that believed on Him. For as Paul says, They are not all Israel which are of Israel, but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
THEOPHYL; Or by the house of Jacob he means the whole Church which either sprang from a good root, or though formerly a wild olive branch, has yet been for a reward of its faith grafted into the good olive tree.
GREEK EX. But to reign for ever is of none save God alone; and hence though because of the incarnation- t nation Christ is said to receive the seat of David, yet as being Himself God He is acknowledged to be the eternal King. It follows, And his kingdom shall have no end, not in that He is God, but in that He is man also. Now indeed He has the kingdom of many nations, but finally he shall reign over all, when all things shall be put under Him.
THEOPHYL; Let Nestorius then cease to say that the Virgin’s Son is only man, and to deny that He is taken up by the Word of God into the unity of the Person. For the Angel when he says that the very same has David for His father whom he declares is called the Son of the Highest, demonstrates the one Person of Christ in two natures. The Angel uses the future tense not because, as the Heretics say, Christ was not before Mary, but because in the same person, man with God shares the same name of Son.
Luk 1:33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob,…. Not over the Jews, the posterity of Jacob, in a literal sense; but over the whole Israel of God, consisting of Jews and Gentiles. For as his father David reigned over the Idumeans, Syrians, and others, as well as over the house of Judah and Israel, so this his son shall reign over both Jews and Gentiles: his kingdom shall be from one end of the earth to the other, even over all the elect of God; who in successive generations call themselves by the name of Jacob, and surname themselves by the name of Israel, of whatsoever nation they be; and this reign of his shall be
for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end; referring to Isa_9:7 see also Dan_2:44 Dan_7:14 he shall reign in the hearts of his people here unto the end of the world; and with his saints a thousand years in the new heavens and new earth; and with them to all eternity, in the ultimate glory.
AMBROSE; It was Mary’s part neither to refuse belief in the Angel, nor too hastily take to herself the divine message. How subdued her answer is, compared with the words of the Priest. Then said Mary to the Angel, How shall this be? She says, How shall this be? He answers, Whereby shall I know this? He refuses to believe that which he says he does not know, and seeks as it were still further authority for belief. She avows herself willing to do that which she doubts not will be done, but how, she is anxious to know. Mary had read, Behold, she shall conceive and bear a son. She believed therefore that it should be but how it was to take place she had never read, for even to so great a prophet this had not been revealed. So great a mystery was not to be divulged by the mouth of man, but of an Angel.
34.How shall this be? The holy virgin appears to confine the power of God within as narrow limits as Zacharias had formerly done; for what is beyond the common order of nature, she concludes to be impossible. She reasons in this manner. I know not a man: how then can I believe that what you tell me will happen? We ought not to give ourselves very much trouble, to acquit her of all blame. She ought immediately to have risen by faith to the boundless power of God, which is not at all lettered to natural means, but sways the whole world. Instead of this, she stops at the ordinary way of generation. Still, it must be admitted that she does not hesitate or inquire in such a manner as to lower the power of God to the level of her senses; but is only carried away by a sudden impulse of astonishment to put this question. That she readily embraced the promise may be concluded from this, that, though many things presented themselves on the opposite side, she has no doubt but on one point.
She might instantly have objected, where was that throne of David? for all the rank of kingly power had been long ago set aside, and all the luster of royal descent had been extinguished. Unquestionably, if she had formed her opinion of the matter according to the judgment of the flesh, she would have treated as a fable what the angel had told her. There can be no doubt that she was fully convinced of the restoration of the church, and easily gave way to what the flesh would have pronounced to be incredible. And then it is probable that the attention of the public was everywhere directed at that time to the prediction of Isaiah, in which God promises that he would raise up a rod out of the despised stem of Jesse, (Isa_11:1.) That persuasion of the kindness of God, which had been formed in the mind of the virgin, led her to admit, in the fullest manner, that she had received a message as to raising up anew the throne of David. If it be objected that there was also another prediction, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, (Isa_7:14,) I reply, that this mystery was then very imperfectly understood. True, the Fathers expected the birth of a King, under whose reign the people of God would be happy and prosperous; but the manner of its accomplishment lay concealed, as if it had been hidden by a veil. There is no wonder, therefore, if the holy virgin puts a question on a subject hitherto unknown to her.
The conjecture which some have drawn from these words, that she had formed a vow of perpetual virginity, is unfounded and altogether absurd. She would, in that case, have committed treachery by allowing herself to be united to a husband, and would have poured contempt on the holy covenant of marriage; which could not have been done without mockery of God. Although the Papists have exercised barbarous tyranny on this subject, yet they have never proceeded so far as to allow the wife to form a vow of continence at her own pleasure. Besides, it is an idle and unfounded supposition that a monastic life existed among the Jews.
We must reply, however, to another objection, that the virgin refers to the future, and so declares that she will have no intercourse with a man. The probable and simple explanation is, that the greatness or rather majesty of the subject made so powerful an impression on the virgin, that all her senses were bound and locked up in astonishment. When she is informed that the Son of God will be born, she imagines something unusual, and for that reason leaves conjugal intercourse out of view. Hence she breaks out in amazement, How shall this be? And so God graciously forgives her, and replies kindly and gently by the angel, because, in a devout and serious manner, and with admiration of a divine work, she had inquired how that would be, which, she was convinced, went beyond the common and ordinary course of nature. In a word, this question was not so contrary to faith, because it arose rather from admiration than from distrust.
Luk 1:34 Then said Mary to the angel, how shall this be,…. This she said not as doubting the truth of what was said; for she required no sign, as Zacharias did; nor is she charged with, and blamed for unbelief, as he was; yea, it is expressly said, Luk_1:45 that she believed: nor was this a curious question, as whether she should have this son by a man in a married state, or in her present virgin state; for she clearly understood the angel to mean the latter; and therefore her words express her admiration at it, and also her desire to be informed of the manner how it should be: as to the matter of fact, she did not dispute it, but wanted to be resolved by what means it would be brought about: she knew, by prophecy, that the Messiah was to be born of a virgin, and she perceived, by the angel’s declaration, that she was that virgin, but could not imagine in what way this amazing thing should be effected; and therefore proposes this question for the following reason,
seeing I know not a man? “A husband”, as the Arabic version renders it; not Joseph, nor any other man; for though she was espoused to Joseph, yet he had not taken her to wife; nor were they, as yet; come together; and before they did, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost, Mat_1:18 she was a pure virgin, untouched by man. The words are an “euphemism”, or a modest way of expressing carnal copulation; see Gen_4:1.
GREG. NYSS. These words of Mary are a token of what she was pondering in the secrets of her heart; for if for the sake of the marriage union she had wished to be espoused to Joseph, why was she seized with astonishment when the conception was made known to her? seeing in truth she might herself be expecting at the time to become a mother according to the law of nature. But because it was meet that her body being presented to God as an holy offering should be kept inviolate, therefore she says, Seeing that I know not a man. As if she said, Notwithstanding that you who speak are an Angel, yet that I should know a man is plainly an impossible thing. How then can I be a mother, having no husband? For Joseph I have acknowledged as my betrothed.
CHRYS. As if he said, Look not for the order of nature in things which transcend and overpower nature. Do you say, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? Nay rather, shall it happen to you for this very reason, that you have never known a husband. For if you had, you would not have been thought worthy of the mystery, not that marriage is unholy, but virginity more excellent. It became the common Lord of all both to take part with us, and to differ with us in His nativity; for the being born from the womb, He shared in common with us, but in that He was born without cohabitation, He was exalted far above us.
Shall overshadow thee (episkiasei). A figure of a cloud coming upon her. Common in ancient Greek in the sense of obscuring and with accusative as of Peter’s shadow in Act_5:15. But we have seen it used of the shining bright cloud at the Transfiguration of Jesus (Mat_17:5; Mar_9:7; Luk_9:34). Here it is like the Shekinah glory which suggests it (Exo_40:38) where the cloud of glory represents the presence and power of God.
Holy, the Son of God (Hagion huios theou). Here again the absence of the article makes it possible for it to mean “Son of God.” See Mat_5:9. But this title, like the Son of Man (Ho huios tou anthrōpou) was a recognized designation of the Messiah. Jesus did not often call himself Son of God (Mat_27:43), but it is assumed in his frequent use of the Father, the Son (Mat_11:27; Luk_10:21; Joh_5:19.). It is the title used by the Father at the baptism (Luk_3:22) and on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luk_9:35). The wonder of Mary would increase at these words. The Miraculous Conception or Virgin Birth of Jesus is thus plainly set forth in Luke as in Matthew. The fact that Luke was a physician gives added interest to his report.
35.The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee
The angel does not explain the manner, so as to satisfy curiosity, which there was no necessity for doing. He only leads the virgin to contemplate the power of the Holy Spirit, and to surrender herself silently and calmly to his guidance. The word ἐπελεύσεται, shall come upon, denotes that this would be an extraordinary work, in which natural means have no place. The next clause is added by way of exposition, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: for the Spirit may be regarded as the essential power of God, whose energy is manifested and exerted in the entire government of the world, as well as in miraculous events. There is an elegant metaphor in the word ἐπισκιάσει, overshadow. The power of God, by which he guards and protects his own people, is frequently compared in Scripture to a shadow, (Psa_17:8; Psa_57:1; Psa_91:1.) But it appears to have another and peculiar meaning in this passage. The operation of the Spirit would be secret, as if an intervening cloud did not permit it to be beheld by the eyes of men. Now, as God, in performing miracles, withholds from us the manner of his proceedings, so what he chooses to conceal from us ought to be viewed, on our part, with seriousness and adoration.
Therefore also the holy thing which shall be born This is a confirmation of the preceding clause: for the angel shows that Christ must not be born by ordinary generation, that he may be holy, and that he may be the Son of God; that is, that in holiness and glory he may be high above all creatures, and may not hold an ordinary rank among men. Heretics, who imagine that he became the Son of God after his human generation, seize on the particle therefore as meaning that he would be called the Son of God, because he was conceived in a remarkable manner by the power of the Holy Spirit. But this is a false conclusion: for, though he was manifested to be the Son of God in the flesh, it does not follow that he was not the Word begotten of the Father before the ages. On the contrary, he who had been the Son of God in his eternal Godhead, appeared also as the Son of God in human flesh. This passage not only expresses a unity of person in Christ, but at the same time points out that, in clothing himself with human flesh, Christ is the Son of God. As the name, Son of God, belonged to the divine essence of Christ from the beginning, so now it is applied unitedly to both natures, because the secret and heavenly manner of generation has separated him from the ordinary rank of men. In other passages, indeed, with the view of asserting that he is truly man, he calls himself the Son of man, (Joh_5:27;) but the truth of his human nature is not inconsistent with his deriving peculiar honor above all others from his divine generation, having been conceived out of the ordinary way of nature by the Holy Spirit. This gives us good reason for growing confidence, that we may venture more freely to call God our Father, because his only Son, in order that we might have a Father in common with him, chose to be our brother.
It ought to be observed also that Christ, because he was conceived by a spiritual power, is called the holy seed For, as it was necessary that he should be a real man, in order that he might expiate our sins, and vanquish death and Satan in our flesh; so was it necessary, in order to his cleansing others, that he should be free from every spot and blemish, (1Pe_1:19.) Though Christ was formed of the seed of Abraham, yet he contracted no defilement from a sinful nature; for the Spirit of God kept him pure from the very commencement: and this was done not merely that he might abound in personal holiness, but chiefly that he might sanctify his own people. The manner of conception, therefore, assures us that we have a Mediator separate from sinners, (Heb_7:26.)
Luk 1:36 And behold thy cousin Elisabeth,…. For though Elisabeth was of the daughters of Aaron, or of the tribe of Levi by her father’s side, yet might be of the tribe of Judah by her mother’s side, and so akin to Mary. The Persic version calls her “aunt by the mother’s side”: intermarriages between the two tribes of Levi and Judah were frequent; nor were they at all contrary to the intention of that law, that forbid the tribes to intermarry, which was to preserve the inheritance in each tribe, since the tribe of Levi had none at all. Though she might be called her cousin in a more general sense; it being usual with the Jews to call all of their own nation their kinsmen and kinswomen, according to the flesh: but the former sense seems more agreeable; and so Mary is directed to her own family, and to her own relations, and known friends, for a sign, by which her faith might be confirmed, in what the angel had said unto her; for if she found the one to be true, she might conclude the other was also; which is as follows:
she hath also conceived a son in her old age: though Mary asked no sign, yet one is given her, whereby she might know the truth of what was spoken: for if it should appear that Elisabeth had received strength to conceive, as was declared by the angel; and that a son, too, which he could not have known without a divine revelation; and that in her old age, which, was extraordinary and supernatural, she might assure herself, that the message brought to her was from God; and that she likewise, though a virgin, might conceive, and bear a son: the angel adds, as a further testimony of the truth of things,
and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. Elisabeth, was generally known to be barren, and was, by way of reproach, usually called so, but was now six months gone with child; so that it was a plain case, and out of question; the signs of her pregnancy were very apparent.
Luk 1:36 We find that Aaron, who was of the tribe of Levi, took a wife of the tribe of Juda, viz. Elizabeth, the sister of Naasson. In the successors of David we find that Joiada, the chief priest, took a wife of the family of David, viz. the daughter of Joram; from which it appears that both the royal and sacerdotal tribes were united, and that Mary and Elizabeth were relatives. It was certainly proper that Christ should be born of both these tribes, because he was in himself both king and priest. (Ven. Bede)
36.And, behold, Elisabeth thy cousin By an instance taken from her own relatives, the angel encourages the faith of Mary to expect a miracle. If neither the barrenness nor the old age of Elisabeth could prevent God from making her a mother, there was no better reason why Mary should confine her view within the ordinary limits of nature, when she beheld such a demonstration of divine power in her cousin He mentions expressly the sixth month; because in the fifth month a woman usually feels the child quicken in the womb, so that the sixth month removes all doubt. True, Mary ought to have placed such a reliance on the bare word of God as to require no support to her faith from any other quarter; but, to prevent farther hesitation, the Lord condescends to strengthen his promise by this new aid. With equal indulgence does he cheer and support us every day; nay, with greater indulgence, because our faith is weaker. That we may not doubt his truth, testimonies to confirm it are brought by him from every direction.
A question arises, how Elisabeth, who was of the daughters of Aaron, (Luk_1:5,) and Mary, who was descended from the stock of David, could be cousins This appears to be at variance with the law, which prohibited women from marrying into a different tribe from their own, (Num_36:6.) With respect to the law, if we look at its object, it forbade those intermarriages only which might “remove inheritances from tribe to tribe,” (Num_36:7.) No such danger existed, if any woman of the tribe of Judah married a priest, to whom an inheritance could not be conveyed. The same argument would hold if a woman of the tribe of Levi passed into another tribe. It is possible that the mother of the holy virgin might be descended from the family of Aaron, and so her daughter might be cousin to Elisabeth.
For with God nothing shall be impossible – Words of the very same import with those spoken by the Lord to Sarah, when he foretold the birth of Isaac, Gen_18:14, Is any thing too hard for the Lord? As there can be no doubt that Mary perceived this allusion to the promise and birth of Isaac, so she must have had her faith considerably strengthened by reflecting on the intervention of God in that case.
38.Behold the handmaid of the Lord The holy virgin does not allow herself to dispute any farther: and yet many things might unquestionably have obtruded themselves, to repress that faith, and even to draw off her attention from what was said to her by the angel. But she stops the entrance of opposing arguments, and compels herself to obey. This is the real proof of faith, when we restrain our minds, and, as it were, hold them captive, so that they dare not reply this or that to God: for boldness in disputing, on the other hand, is the mother of unbelief. These are weighty expressions, Behold the handmaid of the Lord: for she gives and devotes herself unreservedly to God, that he may freely dispose of her according to his pleasure. Unbelievers withdraw from his hand, and, as far as lies in their power, obstruct his work: but faith presents us before God, that we may be ready to yield obedience. But if the holy virgin was the handmaid of the Lord, because she yielded herself submissively to his authority, there cannot be worse obstinacy than to fly from him, and to refuse that obedience which he deserves and requires. In a word, as faith alone makes us obedient servants to God, and gives us up to his power, so unbelief makes us rebels and deserters. Be it unto me This clause may be interpreted in two ways. Either the holy virgin, leaving her former subject, betakes herself suddenly to prayers and supplications; or, she proceeds in the same strain to yield and surrender herself to God. I interpret it simply that she is convinced of the power of God, follows cheerfully where he calls, trusts also to his promise, and not only expects, but eagerly desires, its accomplishment. [We must also observe that she is convinced on the word of the angel, because she knows that it proceeded from God: valuing its credit, not with reference to him who was its messenger, but with reference to him who was its author.]
Luk 1:39 And Mary arose in those days,…. The Ethiopic version renders it, “in that day”; directly, immediately, as soon as the angel was gone from her; partly to know the truth of things, and to make use of the sign which had been given her, for the further confirmation of her faith, which was very right and proper for her to do; and partly to converse with Elisabeth about the great things which God had done for each of them, and to praise his name together: “and went into the hill country with haste”; the same which is called the country of the hills, and the hills, and the mountains, in Jos_10:40 where the Septuagint use the same word as here: the land of Judea was divided into three parts, ההר, “the mountain”, or hill country, the champaign country, and the valley (b): from Betboron to Emmaus is הר, “the hill country”; from Emmaus to Lud, or Lydda, is the champaign country; and from Lydda to the sea, the valley (c). This place is frequently called, in the Jewish writings (d), the king’s mountain, or the royal mountain, and is said to be very full of cities: ten thousand cities, they say (e), were in the king’s mountain, and a thousand of them belonged to R. Eleazer ben Harsum: yea, they say (f), that king Jannai had sixty myriads of cities in the mountain of the king. The Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions render it, “went to the mountain”, to this mountain, and which is called the mountain, or, as we read it, the hill country of Judah, Jos_21:11 on which Hebron was situated; and seems to be the city next mentioned: into a city of Judah; for that was given to the children of Aaron and so may reasonably be thought to be the city where Zacharias dwelt, and not Jerusalem, which was in the tribe of Benjamin. Hebron was a city peculiar to the priests; whereas Jerusalem was not; and it was in the hill country of Judea; it was remarkable for the goodness of its stones. It is said (g).
“you have no stones in all the land of Israel harder than at Hebron; hence they buried the dead there.
(b) Misn. Sheviith, c. 9. sect. 2. Maimon & Bartenora in ib. (c) T. Hieros. Sheviith, fol. 38. 4. (d) Targum in Jud. iv. 5. T. Hieros. Avoda Zara, fol. 44. 4. (e) T. Hieros. Taanioth, fol. 69. 1. (f) T. Bab. Gittin, fol. 57. 1. (g) T. Bab. Sota, fol. 34. 2. & Cetnbot, fol. 112. 1.
39.And Mary arising This departure mentioned by Luke proves that Mary’s faith was not of a transitory nature: for the promise of God does not fade away with the presence of the angel, but is impressed upon her mind. The haste indicates a sincere and strong affection. We may infer from it that the Virgin disregarded every thing else and formed a just estimate of this grace of God. But it may be inquired, what was her object in undertaking this journey? It certainly was not made for the mere purpose of inquiry: for she cherished in her heart by faith the Son of God as already conceived in her womb. Nor do I agree with those who think that she came for the purpose of congratulating Elisabeth. I think it more probable that her object was, partly to increase and strengthen her faith, and partly to celebrate the grace of God which both had received.
There is no absurdity in supposing, that she sought to confirm her faith by a view of the miracle, which had been adduced to her with no small effect by the angel. For, though believers are satisfied with the bare word of God, yet they do not disregard any of his works which they find to be conducive to strengthen their faith. Mary was particularly bound to receive the assistance which had been offered, unless she chose to reject what the Lord had freely given to her. Besides, the mutual interview might arouse both Elisabeth and herself to higher gratitude, as is evident from what follows. The power of God became more remarkable and striking by taking in at one view both favors, the very comparison of which gave no small additional luster. Luke does not name the city in which Zacharias dwelt, but only mentions that it belonged to the tribe of Judah, and that it was situated in a hilly district. Hence we infer that it was farther distant than Jerusalem was from the town of Nazareth.
Leaped (eskirtēsen). A common enough incident with unborn children (Gen_25:22), but Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit to understand what had happened to Mary.
Luk 1:41 And it came to pass that when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary,…. Which might be before she saw her, and at some little distance from her:
the babe leaped in her womb: which motion was not natural, but supernatural; being made at hearing the voice of Mary, who had now conceived the Messiah, whose forerunner this babe, John the Baptist, was to be; and who, by this motion, gave the first notice of his conception, which his mother Elisabeth took from hence; as he afterwards pointed him out by his finger, and by his baptism made him manifest to Israel:
and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost not with the ordinary graces of the Spirit, for these she had been filled with before, but with extraordinary gifts, with a spirit of prophecy; by which she knew that the Messiah was conceived, and that Mary was the mother of her Lord; that many things had been told her; that she had believed them; and there would be a performance of them; and perhaps it was at this time that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost also; see Luk_1:15.
Luk 1:42 And she spake out with a loud voice,…. So as that all in the house might hear; she spake with great vehemency of soul, and strength of affection, being under a very powerful impression of the Spirit of God: and said,
blessed art thou among women; the same words that the angel had said to her before, Luk_1:28.
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb: this is a reason why she is called blessed, because her child was blessed; being in union with a divine person, who is God over all, blessed for ever; and who has all spiritual blessings in him, and is that seed, in which all nations of the earth were to be blessed; and so is both blessed in himself, and the source of all blessedness to others. The Jews say (h), that the six measures of barley, Boaz gave to Ruth, Rth_3:15 signified, that six righteous men should spring from her, and among, them the Messiah; who should be blessed with six blessings, and they are these; the spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and of might, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord; see Isa_11:2.
(h) Targum & R. Sol. Jarchi in loc.
Luk 1:45 And blessed is she that believed….. Meaning Mary, a woman, a very young woman, and who had had things very incredible to nature and reason told her; and yet she believed, without objecting thereto, or requiring a sign; tacitly referring to the unbelief of Zacharias, who was a man, a man in years, a priest by office; and yet had been very incredulous, in a thing that was much more possible; because there had been instances of it before, in Sarah, Hannah, and Manoah’s wife; than what was related to the virgin, of which there had been none; and which to reason, and with men, was impossible: and happy indeed is every one, that has true faith in any degree; for faith is the faith of God’s elect, and is both a fruit and evidence of electing grace, which is the source of all blessings; it is the gift of God, and the operation of his Spirit, and can never be lost: many are the blessings such as believe are in the possession of, and openly entitled to; as the justification of their persons, the remission of their sins, their adoption into the household of God, liberty at the throne of grace, and a right to the eternal inheritance; they enjoy much solid peace, joy, and comfort in their own souls; bring much glory to God, and shall be saved in the Lord, with an everlasting salvation:
for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord: these words may be considered, either as the subject matter of her faith, and be rendered in connection with the former, thus, “blessed is she that believed, that there shall be a performance, &c”, being fully persuaded, that what the angel had told her, concerning the conception and birth of a son, concerning his name, and the greatness of his person, and the nature, extent, and duration of his kingdom, should be certainly and punctually fulfilled; or as a reason of her happiness, because there should be a sure accomplishment of them. Whatever God has spoken to any of his people, whether it be with respect to things temporal, spiritual, or eternal, shall be performed; as may be strongly concluded from the veracity of God, who cannot lie; and from his power, who is able to do all things; and from his faithfulness, which he will never suffer to fail; and from instances, and matters of fact; from the experience of the saints in all ages, who know, and are conscious to themselves, that not one of the good things the Lord God has spoken to them, has ever failed, but that all have come to pass; see Jos_23:14.
And Mary said – Two copies of the Itala, and some books mentioned by Origen, give this song to Elisabeth. It is a counterpart of the song of Hannah, as related in 1Sa_2:1-10.
This is allowed by many to be the first piece of poetry in the New Testament; but the address of the angel to Zacharias, Luk_1:13-17, is delivered in the same way; so is that to the virgin, Luk_1:30-33, and so also is Elisabeth’s answer to Mary, Luk_1:42-45. All these portions are easily reducible to the hemistich form in which the Hebrew poetry of the Old Testament is found in many MSS., and in which Dr. Kennicott has arranged the Psalms, and other poetical parts of the Sacred Writings. See his Hebrew Bible.
My soul doth magnify the Lord – The verb μεγαλυνειν, Kypke has proved, signifies to celebrate with words, to extol with praises. This is the only way in which God can be magnified, or made great; for, strictly speaking, nothing can be added to God, for he is infinite and eternal; therefore the way to magnify him is to show forth and celebrate those acts in which he has manifested his greatness.
AMBROSE; As evil came into the world by a woman, so also is good introduced by women; and so it seems not without meaning, that both Elisabeth prophesies before John, and Mary before the birth of the Lord. But it follows, that as Mary was the greater person, so she uttered the fuller prophecy.
Hath rejoiced (ēgalliasen). This is aorist active indicative. Greek tenses do not correspond to those in English. The verb agalliaō is a Hellenistic word from the old Greek agallō. It means to exult. See the substantive agalliasis in Luk_1:14, Luk_1:44. Mary is not excited like Elisabeth, but breathes a spirit of composed rapture.
My spirit (to pneuma mou). One need not press unduly the difference between “soul” (psuchē) in Luk_1:46 and “spirit” here. Bruce calls them synonyms in parallel clauses. Vincent argues that the soul is the principle of individuality while the spirit is the point of contact between God and man. It is doubtful, however, if the trichotomous theory of man (body, soul, and spirit) is to be insisted on. It is certain that we have an inner spiritual nature for which various words are used in Mar_12:30. Even the distinction between intellect, emotions, and will is challenged by some psychologists.
God my Saviour (tōi theōi tōi sotēri mou). Article with each substantive. God is called Saviour in the O.T. (Deu_32:15, Psa_24:5; Psa_95:1).
BASIL; The first-fruit of the Spirit is peace and joy. Because then the holy Virgin had drunk in all the graces of the Spirit, she rightly adds, And my spirit has leaped for joy. She means the same thing, soul and spirit. But the frequent mention of leaping for joy in the Scriptures implies a certain bright and cheerful state of mind in those who are worthy. Hence the Virgin exults in the Lord with an unspeakable springing (and bounding) of the heart for joy, and in the breaking forth into utterance of a noble affection It follows, in God my Savior.
THEOPHYL; Because the spirit of the Virgin rejoices in the eternal Godhead of the same Jesus (i.e. the Savior,) whose flesh is formed in the womb by a temporal conception.
AMBROSE; The soul of Mary therefore magnifies the Lord, and her spirit rejoiced in God, because with soul and spirit devoted to the Father and the Son, she worships with a pious affection the one God from whom are all things. But let every one have the spirit of Mary, so that he may rejoice in the Lord. If according to the flesh there is one mother of Christ, yet, according to faith, Christ is the fruit of all. For every soul receives the word of God if only he be unspotted and free from sin, and preserves it with unsullied purity.
THEOPHYL. But he magnifies God who worthily follows Christ, and now that he is called Christian, lessens not the glory of Christ by acting unworthily, but does great and heavenly things; and then the Spirit (that is, the anointing of the Spirit) shall rejoice, (i.e. make him to prosper,) and shall not be withdrawn, so to say, and put to death.
48. Because he hath lookedShe explains the reason why the joy of her heart was founded in God to be, that out of free grace he had looked upon her. By calling herself lowshe disclaims all merit, and ascribes to the undeserved goodness of God every occasion of boasting. For ταπείνωσις, lowness, does not here denote — as ignorant and uneducated men have foolishly imagined — “submission, or modesty, or a quality of the mind,” but signifies “a mean and despicable condition.” The meaning is, “I was unknown and despised, but that did not prevent God from deigning to cast his eyes upon me.”
But if Mary’s lownessis contrasted with excellence — as the matter itself and the Greek word make abundantly plain — we see how Mary makes herself nothing, and praises God alone. And this was not the loud cry of a pretended humility, but the plain and honest statement of that conviction which was engraven on her mind; for she was of no account in the eyes of the world, and her estimation of herself was nothing more.
From this time She announces that this kindness of God will be kept in remembrance throughout all generations But if it is so remarkable, that it ought to be proclaimed every where by the lips of all men, silence regarding it would have been highly improper in Mary, on whom it was bestowed. Now observe, that Mary makes her happiness to consist in nothing else, but in what she acknowledges to have been bestowed upon her by God, and mentions as the gift of his grace. “I shall be reckoned blessed,” she says, “through all ages.” Was it because she sought this praise by her own power or exertion? On the contrary, she makes mention of nothing but of the work of God.
Luk 1:48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden,…. Meaning, either her outward temporal estate, which was very low and mean: David’s family was now very much reduced, it had its seat not at Jerusalem, but at Nazareth, in Galilee: Mary, of that house, was a poor virgin, and Joseph, of the same, to whom she was betrothed, was a poor carpenter; and yet God passed by the rich and noble families of Jewish people, and pitched upon this poor virgin to be the mother of the Messiah: or her estate, in a spiritual sense, which, as that of every son and daughter of Adam, was very low by the fall; for sin has run all mankind into debt, and they have nothing to pay: it has stripped them of original righteousness, and clothed them with rags; it has filled them with diseases, from the crown of the head to the sole of the feet; it has exposed them to a prison, into which being cast, they must lie, till they have paid the uttermost farthing; and has left them hopeless and helpless, poor and miserable, and blind and naked: but God has remembered his elect, in this their low estate, and has provided a Saviour for them, and sent him to deliver them out of it; because his mercy endures forever; and this Mary was sensible, and there rejoiced in God her Saviour:
for behold, from henceforth all generations; not Jews only, but Gentiles also,
shall call me blessed; both on account of her son she had now conceived, and was bearing; because she was the mother of our Lord, who had reason so to conclude, from the nature of the thing, and from the words of the angel, and of Elisabeth, Luk_1:28 and much more than Leah had, who said something like this, at the birth of her second son, Gen_30:13 and also on account of her interest in Christ, as God her Saviour: in whom she was blessed, with all spiritual blessings; so that she was truly blessed, and might well be called so.
He hath regarded the low estate of his handmaid – Literally, he has looked upon the low or humble condition of his handmaid. That is, notwithstanding her humble rank and poverty, he has shown her favor. And this example abundantly teaches what is elsewhere fully taught in the Bible, that God is not a respecter of persons; that he is not influenced, in conferring favors, by wealth, honor, or office, Rom_2:11; Rom_10:11-12. He seeks the humble and the contrite; he imparts his rich blessings to those who feel that they need them, and who will bless him for them, Psa_138:6; Isa_57:15.
From henceforth – Hereafter, or in consequence of this.
All generations – All people. All posterity.
Call me blessed – Pronounce me highly favored or happy in being the mother of the Messiah. It is therefore right to consider her as highly favored or happy; but this certainly does not warrant us to worship her or to pray to her. Abraham was blessed in being the father of the faithful; Paul in being the apostle to the Gentiles; Peter in first preaching the gospel to them; but who would think of worshipping or praying to Abraham, Paul, or Peter?
THEOPHYL. The Virgin shows that not for her own virtue is she to be pronounced blessed, but she assigns the cause saying, For he that is mighty has magnified me.
AUG. What great things has He done to you; I believe that a creature you gave birth to the Creator, servant you brought forth the Lord, that through you God redeemed the world, through you He restored it to life.
TITUS BOS. But where are the great things, if they be not that I still a virgin conceive (by the will of God) overcoming nature. I have been accounted worthy, without being joined to a husband, to be made a mother, not a mother of any one, but of the only-begotten Savior.
THEOPHYL; But this has reference to the beginning of the hymn, where it is said, My soul doth magnify the Lord. For that soul can alone magnify the Lord with due praise, for whom he deigns to do mighty things.
He that is mighty hath done to me great things – Or, miracles, μεγαλεια. As God fills her with his goodness, she empties herself to him in praises; and, sinking into her own nothingness, she ever confesses that God alone is all in all.
Holy is his name – Probably the word which Mary used was חסד chesed, which though we sometimes translate holy, see Psa_86:2; Psa_145:17, yet the proper meaning is abundant goodness, exuberant kindness; and this well agrees with the following clause.
His mercy – Favor shown to the miserable and the guilty.
Is on them – Is shown or manifested to them.
That fear him – That “reverence” or honor Him. One kind of fear is that which a servant has of a cruel master, or which a man has of a precipice, the plague, or death. This is not the “fear” which we ought to have toward God. It is the fear which a dutiful child has of a kind and virtuous father a fear of injuring his feelings; of dishonoring him by our life; of doing anything which he would disapprove. It is on those who have such fear of God that his mercy descends. This is the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom, Psa_111:10; Job_28:28.From generation to generation – From one age to another – that is, it is unceasing; it continues and abounds. But it means also more than this. It means that God’s mercy will descend on the children and children’s children of those that fear him and keep his commandments, Exo_20:6. In this respect it is an unspeakable privilege to be descended from pious parents; to have been the subject of their prayers, and to have received their blessing. It is also a matter of vast guilt not to copy their example and to walk in their steps. If God is “disposed” to show mercy to thousands of generations, how heavy will be the condemnation if the children of pious parents do not avail themselves of it and early seek his favor!
THEOPHYL; Turning from God’s special gifts to His general dealings, she describes the condition of the whole hole human race, And his mercy is from generation to generation on them that fear him. As if she said, Not only for me has He that is mighty done great things, but in every nation he that fears God is accepted by Him.
ORIGEN; For the mercy of God is not upon one generation, but extends to eternity from generation to generation.
GREEK EX. According to the mercy which He has upon generations of generations, I conceive, and He Himself is united to a living body, out of mercy alone undertaking our salvation. Nor is His mercy shown indiscriminately, but upon those who are constrained by the fear of Him in every nation; as it is said, upon those who fear him, that is, upon those who being brought by repentance are turned to faith and renewal for the obstinate unbelievers have by their sin shut against themselves the gate of mercy.
THEOPHYL. Or by this she means that they who fear shall obtain mercy, both in that generation, (that is, the present world,) and the generation which is to come, (i.e. the life everlasting.) For now they receive a hundred-fold, but hereafter far more.
He hath showed strength – Or, He hath gained the victory, εποιησε κρατος. The word κρατος is used for victory, by Homer, Hesiod, Sophocles, Euripides, and others.
With his arm – Grotius has well observed, that God’s efficacy is represented by his finger, his great power by his hand, and his omnipotence by his arm. The plague of lice was the finger of God, Exo_7:18. The plagues in general were wrought by his hand, Exo_3:20, And the destruction of Pharaoh’s host in the Red Sea, which was effected by the omnipotence of God, is called the act of his arm, Exo_15:16.
He hath scattered – Διεσκορπισεν, hath scattered abroad; as a whirlwind scatters dust and chaff.
The proud – Or haughty, ὑπερηφανους; from ὑπερ above, and φαινω I show – the haughty men, who wish to be noticed in preference to all others, and feel sovereign contempt for all but themselves.
These God scatters abroad – instead of being in his sight, as in their own, the most excellent of the earth, he treats them as straw, stubble, chaff, and dust.
In the imagination of their hearts – While they are forming their insolent, proud, and oppressive projects – laying their plans, and imagining that accomplishment and success are waiting at their right hand, the whirlwind of God’s displeasure blows, and they and their machinations are dissipated together.
THEOPHYL; In describing the state of mankind, she shows what the proud deserve, and what the humble; saying, He has shown strength with his arm, &c. i.e. with the very Son of God. For as your arm is that whereby you work, so the arm of God is said to be His word by whom He made the world
ORIGEN; But to those that fear Him, He has done mighty things with His arm; though you come weak to God if you have feared Him you shall obtain the promised strength.
THEOPHYL. For in His arm, that is, His incarnate Son, He has shown strength, seeing that nature was vanquished, a virgin bringing forth, and God becoming man.
Luk 1:52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats,…. As mighty kings and emperors from their thrones, as he often does, in the course of his providence; setting up one, and putting down another: or the mighty angels, from their seats of bliss and happiness in heaven; who rebelling against God, opposing the incarnation of Christ, taking it ill, that the human nature should be advanced above theirs, were cast down to hell; and are reserved in chains of darkness, to the judgment of the great day: or this may have respect to the putting down the monarchies and kingdoms of this world, by the kingdom of the Messiah to be set up; which, though at first was mean and despicable, like a stone cut out of a mountain, will increase, spread, and break in pieces, and destroy all other kingdoms:
and exalted them of low degree; as David to the throne of Israel, from the sheepfold, and following the ewes great with young; and now his house and family, which were sunk very low, by raising of his seed, of a poor virgin in his family, unto Israel, a Saviour Jesus; in whose days the poor had the Gospel preached, and received it: these were chosen and called: the great things of the Gospel were revealed to babes, and hid from the wise and prudent; and beggars were raised from the dunghill, to sit among princes, and to inherit the throne of glory: a method, which God in his infinite wisdom and grace has been pleased to take, more or less, in all ages of time; for not many mighty and noble are called by grace; but usually the foolish, the weak, and the base things of the world.
THEOPHYL; The words, He has showed strength with his arm, and those which went before, And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation, must be joined to this verse by a comma only. For truly through all generations of the world, by a merciful and just administration of Divine power, the proud do not cease to fall, and the humble to be exalted. As it is said, He has put down the mighty from their seat, he has exalted the humble and meek.
CYRIL; The mighty in knowledge were the evil spirits, the Devil, the wise ones of the Gentiles, the Scribes and Pharisees; yet these He has put down, and raised up those who humbled themselves under the mighty hand of God; giving them the power of treading upon serpents and scorpions and every power of the enemy.
Filled the hungry – the rich he hath sent empty away – God is here represented under the notion of a person of unbounded benevolence, who is daily feeding multitudes at his gates. The poor and the rich are equally dependent upon him; to the one he gives his affluence for a season, and to the other his daily bread. The poor man comes through a sense of his want to get his daily support, and God feeds him; the rich man comes through the lust of gain, to get more added to his abundance, and, God sends him empty away – not only gives him nothing more, but often deprives him of that which he has, because he has not improved it to the honor of the giver. There is an allusion here, as in several other parts of this song, to the case of Hannah and Peninah, as related 1Sa_1:2, etc.; 1Sa_2:1-10.
Luk 1:53 He hath filled the hungry with good things,…. Such as earnestly desired and longed after the coming of the Messiah, as good old Simeon, and Anna the prophetess; and those that looked for redemption in Israel, to whom she spake: and all such persons as heartily desire salvation by Christ, and breathe after the forgiveness of their sins through his blood, and thirst after his righteousness, and long for communion with him, and a greater knowledge of him, and more conformity to him, and pant after his word and ordinances; these are filled, sooner or later, with a sense of their interest in Christ, and his salvation; with a view of the full and free forgiveness of their sins, and with his righteousness they hunger after; and with every good thing they stand in need of, with joy and peace, with food and gladness, even to satisfaction; so that they can say with Jacob, they have enough, yea, all things; seeing Christ is theirs, and all things with him:
and the rich he hath sent empty away: not the rich in this world’s goods, though such who trust in their wealth, and boast of their riches, or do not make a proper use of them, God, in his providence, sometimes strips them of all, and turns them into the world naked and empty; much less the rich in grace, who are often the poor of the world; and who, though they seem to have nothing, yet possess all things, and are full: but such who are rich in their opinion, and in their own works; and trust in their righteousness, and despise others; these, as they come full of themselves to the throne of grace, as the Pharisee, are sent empty away; without any token of the love and favour of God, or any blessing from him: and as they come to ordinances in their own strength, and trust in the performance of them, they go away empty, as they came; these are dry breasts unto them, whilst they are full breasts of consolation to the poor in spirit, and to all meek and humble souls: and what is still worst of all, notwithstanding all their good works they boast of, and trust in, they will be sent away at the last judgment from the presence of Christ, as not known by him, and as workers of iniquity.
Luk 1:54 He hath holpen his servant Israel,…. Meaning, not the natural posterity of Jacob, or Israel in general, but the elect of God among them; for all were not Israel, who were of Israel; and not them only, but also the chosen ones among the Gentiles; who, with the former, make up the whole Israel of God, in a spiritual and mystical sense: these are the Israel, God has chosen, redeemed, and calls by his grace, and are here styled his “servant”, as Israel is frequently called, Isa_41:8. The word signifies a “child”, as well as a “servant”: and may design, either the weak and helpless condition God’s elect are in by nature, which calls for, and requires divine help and assistance; or the relation they stand in to him, being his adopted children, and which is the reason of his helping them: and which signifies to take them by the hand, and lift them up, and support and uphold them; and supposes them to have been fallen down, and unable to raise themselves up; but God having laid help for them on one that is mighty, sent him to take upon him their nature; and by obeying, suffering, and dying for them, to help them out of their state of sin and misery; and to uphold them with the right hand of his righteousness, and bring them safe to glory; and all this,
in remembrance of his mercy; which he had in his heart towards them, and had promised in his covenant to them: the mercy of God, is the spring and source of redemption; mercy provided a Redeemer, and a ransom; and it is owing to it, that the Redeemer came; and he, in his love and pity, performed the work: and therefore salvation is to be ascribed, not to works of righteousness done by men, but to the abundant mercy of God our Saviour.
He hath holpen [supported, αντελαβετο] his servant Israel – Israel is here represented as falling, and the Lord comes speedily in and props him up. The house of David was now ready to fall and rise no more; Jesus, being born of the very last branch of the regal line, revived the family, and restored the dominion.
In remembrance of his mercy – By mercy, the covenant which God made with Abraham, Gen_15:18, is intended; which covenant proceeded from God’s eternal mercy, as in it salvation was promised to all the nations of the earth. See Gen_17:19, and Gen_22:18, and this promise was, in one form or other, given to all the fathers, Luk_1:55.
This song properly consists of three parts.
1. In the first part Mary praises God for what he had done for herself, Luk_1:46-50.
2. In the second, she praises him for what he had done, and would do, against the oppressors of his people, Luk_1:51-53.
3. In the third, she praises him for what he had done, and would do, for his Church, Luk_1:53-56.
THEOPHYL; That is, obedient and humble; for he who disdains to be made humble, cannot be saved.
BASIL; For by Israel she means not Israel after the flesh, whom their own title made noble, but the spiritual Israel, which retained the name of faith, straining their eyes to see God by faith.
THEOPHYL. It might also be applied to Israel after the flesh, seeing that out of that body multitudes believed. But this he did remembering His mercy, for He has fulfilled what he promised to Abraham, saying, For in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. This promise then the mother of God called to mind, saying, As he spoke to out father Abraham; for it was said to Abraham, I will place my covenant, that I shall be your God, and the God of your seed after you.
THEOPHYL; But by seed he means not so much those who are begotten in the flesh, as those who have followed the steps of Abraham’s faith, to whom the Savior’s coming was promised for evermore.
Luk 1:56 And Mary abode with her about three months,…. That is, she continued with Elisabeth, as the Syriac and Persic versions express, about the space of three months; in which time, she had full satisfaction of the truth of the sign the angel had given her; namely, of Elisabeth’s conception and pregnancy, for by this time she was ready to give birth; and she must now be fully assured, that she was with child herself: this space of three months is a term of time fixed by the Jewish doctors, to know whether a woman is with child or not, as in case of divorce or death: the rule runs thus (k),
“every woman that is divorced, or becomes a widow, lo! she may not marry, nor be betrothed, until she waits, תשעים יום, ninety days (i.e. three months), exclusive of the day in which she is divorced, or her husband dies, and of the day in which she is betrothed; that so it may be known whether she is with child or not, in order to distinguish between the seed of the former, and the seed of the second husband.
And so in the case of marrying the wife of a brother, that died without issue (l), and of newly married couples mistaking their spouses (m):
and returned to her own house; at Nazareth, in Galilee; and now it was, that Joseph, to whom she was betrothed, perceived she was with child; and suspecting evil, had a mind to put her away privately; but was informed by an angel of God, in a dream, of the whole matter; and was advised and encouraged to take her to wife, which he accordingly did; see Mat_1:18.
(k) Maimon. Hilch. Gerushin, c. 11. sect. 18. Vid. T. Bab. Becorot, fol. 47. 1. (l) Misn. Yebamot, c. 4. sect. 10. T. Hieros, Yebamot, fol. 6. 1. T. Bab. ib. fol. 34. 2. & 35. 1. Maimon. Hilch. Yebum, c. 1. sect 19. T. Bab. Erubin, fol. 47. 1. (m) Misn. Yebamot, c. 3. sect. 10.
And Mary abode with her about three months – According to some, the departure of Mary from Hebron must have been but a few days before the birth of John; as nine months had now elapsed since Elisabeth’s conception; see Luk_1:36.
THEOPHYL. But when Elisabeth was going to bring forth, the Virgin departed, as it follows, And she returned; or, probably because of the multitude, who were about to assemble at the birth. But it became not a virgin to be present on such an occasion.
GREEK EX. For it is the custom for virgins to go away when the pregnant woman brings forth. But when she reached her own home, she went to no other place, but abode there until she knew the time of her delivery was at hand. And Joseph doubting, is instructed by an Angel.