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Songs of Christmas: The Song of Elizabeth

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song \ˈsȯŋ\ noun
The Song Of Elizabeth
song \ˈsȯŋ\ noun
[Middle English, from Old English sang; akin to Old English singan to singular] before 12th century
1 : the act or art of singing
2 : poetical composition
3 a : a short musical composition of words and music
b : a collection of such compositions
4 : a distinctive or characteristic sound or series of sounds (as of a bird, insect, or whale)
5 a : a melody for a lyric poem or ballad
b : a poem easily set to music
6 a : a habitual or characteristic manner
b : a violent, abusive, or noisy reaction 〈put up quite a song
7 : a small amount 〈sold for a song〉 — song•like \-ˌlīk\ adjective[1]
Sang/said: ; ; Sam. 18:7; ; ;
These are inspired poems or songs about the birth of Yeshua our Savior.

I. The Occasion for Her Song (39-41)

Luke 1:39 NASB95
39 Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah,
39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah,
a city of Juda—probably Hebron where the priests lived (see ; )
a city of Juda—probably Hebron where the priests lived (see ; )
In Hebron the promise was given to Isaac, circumcision was instituted, Abraham had his first land, and David was crowned king
Mary travelled seventy or eighty miles south to the city of Judah where Elizabeth lived and it would have taken her 4-5 days from Nazareth
Luke 1:40 NASB95
40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.
luke 1:
It is doubtful that Mary spoke about the angels message with her fellow towns people in Nazareth, yet I’m sure she longed to talk about the thing that she must have replayed a thousand times in her mind. She knew no person in the world with whom she could freely converse concerning it but her cousin Elisabeth. Elizabeth was not only mentioned by the angel but was in a similar circumstance as she was. Therefore Mary went to her in haste.
It is doubtful that Mary spoke about the angels message with her fellow towns people in Nazareth, yet I’m sure she longed to talk about the thing that she must have replayed a thousand times in her mind. She knew no person in the world with whom she could freely converse concerning it but her cousin Elisabeth. Elizabeth was not only mentioned by the angel but was in a similar circumstance as she was. Therefore Mary went to her in haste.
Application: How important it is for people in whom God is working His grace to talk with someone who is in the same condition
41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Luke 1:41 NASB95
41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
How exciting it is, especially with a first child, for mom and dad to huddle around mom’s growing belly and feel the baby move. Sometimes it seems that the baby moves in conjunction with a sudden sound or even a voice.
How exciting it is, especially with a first child, for mom and dad to huddle around mom’s growing belly and feel the baby move. Sometimes it seems that the baby moves in conjunction with a sudden sound or even a voice.
Elizabeth was six months pregnant. She would be entering what we call the 3rd trimester.
A baby is over a foot long and weighs close to 2 pounds, very active, pedaling its feet and pushing them against mommy’s tummy, developed a strong grip, can open its eyes and react to light, vocal chords are functioning, hiccups, hearing is well developed, and could survive outside the womb with intensive care.
“Research shows that a fetus’s heart rate slows in response to its mother’s voice, suggesting that babies are soothed by their mom’s even before birth.” – What to Expect When Your Expecting
[prenatal pictures?]
How much more exciting for Elizabeth to feel her baby, John, jump in her womb at the sound of Mary’s voice and that moment of joy led to Elizabeth surrendering and submitting to the Holy Spirit with all of her body, soul, and mind. That is what we call the filling of the Holy Spirit.
Often in Scripture, the filling of the Spirit came at the same time as a special event like this.
(NASB95) 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
One of the marks of a Spirit-filled life is speaking in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.
Matthew Henry, “Those that are filled with the Holy Ghost have low thoughts of their own merits, and high thoughts of God’s favours.”
Application: When was the last time you were filled with Holy Spirit? We can be continuously. Every moment can be a special moment for those who are in Christ Jesus.

II. The Lyrics of Her Song (42-45)

Luke 1:42 NASB95
42 And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
How would the meeting of two women who hadn’t seen each other for a long time go today?
How would the meeting of two women who hadn’t seen each other for a long time go today?
Matthew Henry “How delightful a balm this would be to Mary’s anxious hearts! Instead of suspicion, there is a salutation such as a princess might thankfully receive”
“The saying ‘a joy shared is a joy doubled’ was certainly true for Mary and Elizabeth.”
Notice how direct Elizabeth’s inspired address is. No lengthened introduction, no small talk about health, or weather, news, or even morning sickness, but an immediate mention of the all-important matter which concerned the teen aged Virgin.
Mary was blessed among women not above women. She was a woman just like every other woman, she was made in God’s image (as all women are), she was born as other women are born (not immaculately conceived like all women are), she had a sin nature (like all women are), she was in need of a Savior (like all women are), she was a godly young lady who loved God and was willing to do His will no matter what it was (as many women mentioned in the Scriptures were). But, she was blessed in a special way, not because of her own purity or merit but because God chose her to give her an unprecedented privilege.
Matthew Henry, “What beautiful superiority to envy have we here!” Elizabeth was greatly blessed by God to have miracle child in her old age, but she let’s that go completely when in the presence of one who has been blessed even more than she was.
Application: We need to recognize that not only are we more favored than we deserve, but that we should not be upset that others are more highly favored than we are.
Luke 1:43 NASB95
43 “And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me?
43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
Elizabeth called Mary’s unborn child “Lord.” He was Lord because of His current nature (diety), and because of who He would become (Messiah).
Elizabeth called Mary’s unborn child “Lord.” He was Lord because of His current nature (diety), and because of who He would become (Messiah).
The Bible never speaks of Mary as “the mother of God.” Yes, Mary was the mother of Jesus in His humanity, and yes Jesus is God, yet God is more than the humanity of Jesus. The deity of Jesus existed from all eternity. Mary was a finite creature with a definite date when she began to exist. She was not the mother of the Father, nor of the Holy Spirit and therefore cannot be the mother of God. She was the mother of second person of the triune God only in His Incarnation.
44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
Luke 1:44 NASB95
44 “For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.
She had often felt the baby move, but this was a more than ordinary motion which alerted her to expect something very extraordinary
She had often felt the baby move, but this was a more than ordinary motion which alerted her to expect something very extraordinary
This prenatal cognition gave confirmation of the truth and fulfillment of Gabriel’s prophecy in (NASB95) 31 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
(NASB95) 35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.
Did John sense the presence of Jesus (who was only days into His incarnation)? Did John somehow know that because Jesus’ mother was nearby, that Jesus must be also?
45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
Luke 1:45 NASB95
45 “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”
The OT pattern in which the second blessing gives the cause of the first (cf. ; ; ).
The OT pattern in which the second blessing gives the cause of the first (cf. ; ; ).
The thing that Elizabeth emphasized was Mary’s faith
Matthew Henry, “Believing souls are blessed souls”
Psalm 32:1–2 NASB95
1 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! 2 How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!
Psalm 34:8 NASB95
8 O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
(NASB95) 8 O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
(NASB95) 8 O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
(NASB95) 4 How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.
Psalm 40:4 NASB95
4 How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.
(NASB95) 4 How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.
Psalm 65:4 NASB95
4 How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You To dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple.
Psalm 84:5 NASB95
5 How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, In whose heart are the highways to Zion!
(NASB95) 4 How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You To dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple.
Psalm 84:5 NASB95
5 How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, In whose heart are the highways to Zion!
Psalm 84:12 NASB95
12 O Lord of hosts, How blessed is the man who trusts in You!
(NASB95) 5 How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, In whose heart are the highways to Zion!
(NASB95) 12 O Lord of hosts, How blessed is the man who trusts in You!
Psalm 144:15 NASB95
15 How blessed are the people who are so situated; How blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!
Revelation 22:14 NASB95
14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.
(NASB95) 15 How blessed are the people who are so situated; How blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!
(NKJV) 14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.
John 6:28–29 NASB95
28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
(NKJV) 28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
Are you Blessed? Do you believe in Him whom God has sent?
Are you Blessed? Do you believe in Him whom God has sent?
Mary was assured of receiving the promise given to her by the angel Gabriel because she believed.
When we believe, we are assured of the promises given to us in Bible
(NKJV) 14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.
Joy ()
Now that Mary knew she was to become a mother, and that her kinswoman Elizabeth would give birth in three months, she wanted to see Elizabeth so they could rejoice together. “Joy” is the major theme of this section as you see three persons rejoicing in the Lord.
The joy of Elizabeth (vv. 39–45). As Mary entered the house, Elizabeth heard her greeting, was filled with the Spirit, and was told by the Lord why Mary was there. The one word that filled her lips was “blessed.” Note that she did not say that Mary was blessed above women but among women, and certainly this is true. While we don’t want to ascribe to Mary that which only belongs to God, neither do we want to minimize her place in the plan of God.
The thing that Elizabeth emphasized was Mary’s faith: “Blessed is she that believed” (). We are saved “by grace … through faith” (). Because Mary believed the Word of God, she experienced the power of God.
The joy of the unborn son, John (vv. 41, 44). This was probably the time when he was filled with the Spirit as the angel had promised (). Even before his birth, John rejoiced in Jesus Christ, just as he did during his earthly ministry (). As John the Baptist, he would have the great privilege of introducing the Messiah to the Jewish nation.[2]
39. hill country—the mountainous tract running along the middle of Judea, from north to south [Webster and Wilkinson].
with haste—transported with the announcement to herself and with the tidings, now first made known to her, of Elisabeth’s condition.
a city of Juda—probably Hebron (see ; ).
40. saluted Elisabeth—now returned from her seclusion ().
41. babe leaped—From it is plain that this maternal sensation was something extraordinary—a sympathetic emotion of the unconscious babe, at the presence of the mother of his Lord.
42. What beautiful superiority to envy have we here! High as was the distinction conferred upon herself, Elisabeth loses sight of it altogether, in presence of one more honored still; upon whom, with her unborn Babe, in an ecstasy of inspiration, she pronounces a benediction, feeling it to be a wonder unaccountable that “the mother of her Lord should come to her.” “Turn this as we will, we shall never be able to see the propriety of calling an unborn child “Lord,” but by supposing Elisabeth, like the prophets of old, enlightened to perceive the Messiah’s Divine nature” [Olshausen].
43. “The mother of my Lord”—but not “My Lady” (compare ; )” [Bengel].
45. An additional benediction on the Virgin for her implicit faith, in tacit and delicate contrast with her own husband.
for—rather, as in the Margin, “that.”[3]
C. Mary Visits Elizabeth (1:39–45)
1:39, 40 We are not told why Mary went to visit Elizabeth at this time. It may have been to avoid the scandal which would inevitably arise in Nazareth when her condition became known. If this is so, then the welcome given by Elizabeth and the kindness shown would have been doubly sweet.
1:41 As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, the babe leaped in her womb—a mysterious, involuntary response of the unborn forerunner to the arrival of the unborn Messiah. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, that is, He took control of her, guiding her speech and actions.
Three persons in chapter 1 are said to be filled with the Holy Spirit: John the Baptist (v. 15); Elizabeth (v. 41); and Zacharias (v. 67).
One of the marks of a Spirit-filled life is speaking in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (, ). We are not surprised therefore to find three songs in this chapter, as well as two in the next. Four of these songs are generally known by Latin titles, which are taken from the first lines: (1) Elizabeth’s Salutation [1:42–45]; (2) The Magnificat (it magnifies) [1:46–55]; (3) Benedictus (blessed) [1:68–79]; (4) Gloria in Excelsis Deo (glory to God in the highest) [2:14]; and (5) Nunc Dimittis (now You let depart) [2:29–32].
1:42–45 Speaking by special inspiration, Elizabeth saluted Mary as “the mother of my Lord.” There was not a trace of jealousy in her heart; only joy and delight that the unborn baby would be her Lord. Mary was blessed among women in that she was given the privilege of bearing the Messiah. The fruit of her womb is blessed in that He is Lord and Savior. The Bible never speaks of Mary as “the mother of God.” While it is true that she was the mother of Jesus, and that Jesus is God, it is nevertheless a doctrinal absurdity to speak of God as having a mother. Jesus existed from all eternity whereas Mary was a finite creature with a definite date when she began to exist. She was the mother of Jesus only in His Incarnation.
Elizabeth recounted the seemingly intuitive excitement of her unborn child when Mary first spoke. Then she assured Mary that her faith would be abundantly rewarded. Her expectation would be fulfilled. She had not believed in vain. Her Baby would be born as promised.[4]
1:39-45. After learning of the sign, Mary … hurried to see Elizabeth. Elizabeth and Zechariah lived in a town in the hill country, which probably referred to the hilly region surrounding Jerusalem. As Mary arrived, Elizabeth’s baby leaped in her womb for joy, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Zechariah also was later filled with the Holy Spirit (v. 67). Prior to the day of Pentecost, believers were filled with the Holy Spirit for specific tasks.
Elizabeth’s loudly spoken words, Blessed (eulogēmenē, lit., “well spoken of”) are you among women, carry the idea that Mary is the most honored of all women. Elizabeth called her the mother of my Lord. In Luke the term “Lord” (kyrios) often describes Jesus. It has a double meaning. “Lord” would be more important for a Greek reader than would the term “Christ” (meaning “Messiah”), for the Gentiles had not been anxiously awaiting the Messiah. On the other hand the Septuagint often used the word “Lord” (kyrios) to translate Yahweh. Again (v. 45) Elizabeth said Mary was blessed (makaria, “happy”) because she believed what God had told her. This suggests that Mary visited Elizabeth not with a skeptical attitude but rather joyously, to confirm what had been announced to her.[5]
Verses 39–56
We have here an interview between the two happy mothers, Elisabeth and Mary: the angel, by intimating to Mary the favour bestowed on her cousin Elisabeth (v. 36), gave occasion for it; and sometimes it may prove a better piece of service that we think to bring good people together, to compare notes. Here is,
I. The visit which Mary made to Elisabeth. Mary was the younger, and younger with child; and therefore, if they must come together, it was fittest that Mary should take the journey, not insisting on the preference which the greater dignity of her conception gave her, v. 39. She arose, and left her affairs, to attend this greater matter: in those days, at that time (as it is commonly explained, ; ), in a day or two after the angel had visited her, taking some time first, as it is supposed, for her devotion, or rather hastening away to her cousin’s, where she would have more leisure, and better help, in the family of a priest. She went, meta spoudeµswith care, diligence, and expedition; not as young people commonly go abroad and visit their friends, to divert herself, but to inform herself: she went to a city of Judah in the hill-country; it is not named, but by comparing the description of it here with , , it appears to be Hebron, for that is there said to be in the hill-country of Judah, and to belong to the priests, the sons of Aaron; thither Mary hastened, though it was a long journey, some scores of miles.
1. Dr. Lightfoot offers a conjecture that she was to conceive our Saviour there at Hebron, and perhaps had so much intimated to her by the angel, or some other way; and therefore she made such haste thither. He thinks it probable that Shiloh, of the tribe of Judah, and the seed of David, should be conceived in a city of Judah and of David, as he was to be born in Bethlehem, another city which belonged to them both. In Hebron the promise was given to Isaac, circumcision was instituted. Here (saith he) Abraham had his first land, and David his first crown: here lay interred the three couples, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah, and, as antiquity has held, Adam and Eve. He therefore thinks that it suits singularly with the harmony and consent which God uses in his works that the promise should begin to take place by the conception of the Messias, even among those patriarchs to whom it was given. I see no improbability in the conjecture, but add this for the support of it, that Elisabeth said (v. 45), There shall be a performance; as if it were not performed yet, but was to be performed there.
2. It is generally supposed that she went thither for the confirming of her faith by the sign which the angel had given her, her cousin’s being with child, and to rejoice with her sister-favourite. And, besides, she went thither, perhaps, that she might be more retired from company, or else might have more agreeable company than she could have in Nazareth. We may suppose that she did not acquaint any of her neighbours at Nazareth with the message she had received from heaven, yet longed to talk over a thing she had a thousand time thought over, and knew no person in the world with whom she could freely converse concerning it but her cousin Elisabeth, and therefore she hastened to her. Note, it is very beneficial and comfortable for those that have a good work of grace begun in their souls, and Christ in the forming there, to consult those who are in the same case, that they may communicate experiences one to another; and they will find that, as in water face answers to face, so doth the heart of man to man, of Christian to Christian.
II. The meeting between Mary and Elisabeth. Mary entered into the house of Zacharias; but he, being dumb and deaf, kept his chamber, it is probable, and saw no company; and therefore she saluted Elisabeth (v. 40), told her she was come to make her a visit, to know her state, and rejoice with her in her joy.
Now, at their first coming together, for the confirmation of the faith of both of them, there was something very extraordinary. Mary knew that Elisabeth was with child, but it does not appear that Elisabeth had been told any thing of her cousin Mary’s being designed for the mother of the Messiah; and therefore what knowledge she appears to have had of it must have come by a revelation, which would be a great encouragement to Mary.
1. The babe leaped in her womb, v. 41. It is very probable that she had been several weeks quick (for she was six months gone), and that she had often felt the child stir; but this was a more than ordinary motion of the child, which alarmed her to expect something very extraordinary, eskirteµse. It is the same word that is used by the Septuagint () for the struggling of Jacob and Esau in Rebecca’s womb, and the mountains skipping, . The babe leaped as it were to give a signal to his mother that he was now at had whose forerunner he was to be, about six months in ministry, as he was in being; or, it was the effect of some strong impression made upon the mother. Now began to be fulfilled what the angel said to his father (v. 15), that he should be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb; and perhaps he himself had some reference to this, when he said (), The friend of the Bridegroom rejoiceth greatly, because of the Bridegroom’s voice, heard, though not by him, yet by his mother.
2. Elisabeth was herself filled with the Holy Ghost, or a Spirit of prophecy, by which, as well as by the particular suggestions of the Holy Ghost she was filled with, she was given to understand that the Messiah was at hand, in whom prophecy should revive, and by whom the Holy Ghost should be more plentifully poured out than ever, according to the expectations of those who waited for the consolation of Israel. The uncommon motion of the babe in her womb was a token of extraordinary emotion of her spirit under a divine impulse. Note, Those whom Christ graciously visits may know it by their being filled with the Holy Ghost; for, if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
III. The welcome which Elisabeth, by the Spirit of prophecy, gave to Mary, the mother of our Lord; not as to a common friend making a common visit, but as to one of whom the Messiah was to be born.
1. She congratulates her on her honour, and, though perhaps she knew not of it till just now, she acknowledges it with the greatest assurance and satisfaction. She spoke with a loud voice, which does not at all intimate (as some think) that there was a floor or a wall between them, but that she was in a transport or exultation of joy, and said what she cared not who knew. She said, Blessed art thou among women, the same word that the angels had said (v. 28); for thus this will of God, concerning honouring the Son, should be done on earth as it is done in heaven. But Elisabeth adds a reason, Therefore blessed art thou because blessed is the fruit of thy womb; thence it was that she derived this excelling dignity. Elisabeth was the wife of a priest, and in years, yet she grudges not that her kinswoman, who was many years younger than she, and every way her inferior, should have the honour of conceiving in her virginity, and being the mother of the Messiah, whereas the honour put upon her was much less; she rejoices in it, and is well pleased, as her son was afterwards, that she who cometh after her is preferred before her, . Note, While we cannot but own that we are more favoured of God than we deserve, let us by no means envy that others are more highly favoured than we are.
2. She acknowledges her condescension, in making her this visit (v. 43): Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Observe, (1.) She calls the virgin Mary the mother of her Lord (as David in spirit, called the Messiah Lord, his Lord), for she knew he was to be Lord of all. (2.) She not only bids her welcome to her house, though perhaps she came in mean circumstances, but reckons this visit a great favour, which she thought herself unworthy of. Whence is this to me? It is in reality, and not in compliment, that she saith, “This was a greater favour than I could have expected.’ ’ Note, Those that are filled with the Holy Ghost have low thoughts of their own merits, and high thoughts of God’s favours. Her son the Baptist spoke to the same purport with this, when he said, Comest thou to me? .
3. She acquaints her with the concurrence of the babe in her womb, in this welcome to her (v. 44): “Thou certainly bringest some extraordinary tidings, some extraordinary blessing, with thee; for as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, not only my heart leaped for joy, though I knew not immediately why or wherefore, but the babe in my womb, who was not capable of knowing, did so too.’ ’ He leaped as it were for joy that the Messiah, whose harbinger he was to be, would himself come soon after him. This would serve very much to strengthen the faith of the virgin, that there were such assurances as these given to others; and it would be in part the accomplishment of what had been so often foretold, that there should be universal joy before the Lord, when he cometh, , .
4. She commends her faith, and encourages it (v. 45): Blessed is she that believed. Believing souls are blessed souls, and will be found so at last; this blessedness cometh through faith, even the blessedness of being related to Christ, and having him formed in the soul. They are blessed who believe the word of God, for that Word will not fail them; there shall, without doubt, be a performance of those things which are told her from the Lord. Note, The inviolable certainty of the promise is the undoubted felicity of those that build upon it and expect their all from it. The faithfulness of God is the blessedness of the faith of the saints. Those that have experienced the performance of God’s promises themselves should encourage others to hope that he will be as good as his word to them also: I will tell you what God has done for my soul.[6]
1:39 At that time. The time notice (literally In these days) serves primarily as a literary link tying what follows to the previous account (cf. 6:12; ).
Got ready and hurried. This should not be interpreted as an attempt to prevent Mary’s neighbors in Nazareth from knowing that she was pregnant. Rather Luke here described Mary as a model believer eagerly responding in obedience to the heavenly message of .
A town in the hill country of Judea. Compare 1:23. Judea refers here to the Roman province in contrast to 1:5, where it refers to Palestine. The name of the city is not given. Perhaps Luke did not know it or thought it unimportant. Or he may have sought to use terminology that would be parallel to Samuel’s miraculous birth. Compare , where Samuel’s parents are described as being from the “hill country” of Ephraim.
1:40 Greeted Elizabeth. Nothing is said concerning the content of this greeting, for this is not important. Luke reported only what is theologically significant.
1:41 Leaped in her womb. Just as John the Baptist in his ministry was to be Jesus’ precursor and prepare his way (1:17, 76), so even here he prepared the way, i.e., he announced the Messiah’s presence by leaping in his mother’s womb. Compare for an OT parallel. (For leaping for joy, see ; .) Attempts to see this as a technical medical term and thus identify Luke as a physician are unconvincing due to the appearance of this expression in . This prenatal cognition is meant to attest to the truth and fulfillment of Gabriel’s prophecy in , . In 1:44 Elizabeth would explain the significance of her child’s action.
Filled with the Holy Spirit. What was promised to Zechariah (1:15) was now fulfilled. John and Elizabeth were filled with the Holy Spirit even before John’s birth. Thus they were the first persons to realize that Mary’s child is the Messiah. That the hymn that follows conveys a correct Christological understanding is evident from the character description of Elizabeth in 1:6 and from the fact that she was filled with the Holy Spirit as she spoke.
1:42 In a loud voice. This expression is frequently used to describe an inspired utterance (cf. ; ; , ; ; ; ). The first two lines of Elizabeth’s blessing found in this verse possess poetic parallelism, but the rest do not.
Blessed are you among women. Compare ; . This is a Semitic way of saying “most blessed.” “Since according to contemporary Jewish ideas a woman’s greatness was measured by the greatness of the children that she bore,” Fitzmyer notes, “the mother of the Kyrios (1:43) would naturally be said to surpass all others.” (Note, however, that Jael’s and Judith’s blessedness was not due to their children.) What God had done in Mary outshone even what God had done in Elizabeth. Mary was blessed here not because of her faith, as in ; rather her blessedness depended entirely on her son and his greatness. A similar beatitude is repeated in 11:27. This blessing is not to be interpreted as a call to praise/ bless Mary but as an affirmation that Mary stood in a state of blessedness.
Blessed is the child you will bear. “The child you will bear” is literally the fruit of your womb (cf. ; ; cf. also ; ). The Lord had already been conceived.
Although the two blessings stand essentially parallel, i.e., they are in parataxis, the first stands logically in subordination to the second. Mary’s blessedness was based on the blessedness of the child she would bear. This fits an OT pattern in which the second blessing gives the cause of the first (cf. ; ; ; cf. also ).
1:43 My Lord. This indicates that the focus in this account is upon Mary’s child more than Mary herself. Here “Lord” is clearly a Christological title and refers to Jesus. The title is used in our account (and in in general) both for God (1:46) and Jesus (1:43; cf. ), and it reveals the greatness of Mary’s child already before his birth. Whereas the title “Lord” is used for Jesus only six times in Mark, it is used over twenty times in Luke.61 To these can be added the nineteen times Jesus is addressed in the vocative as Lord. It is above all by the resurrection that Mary’s child is recognized as Lord (), although this verse indicates that from his conception he was already Lord. The use of the title “Lord” indicates that Luke understood Jesus as standing on a different level from others. He, like God, is deserving of the title “Lord.”
1:44 For joy. This is a partial fulfillment of . For a similar expression of joy on Mary’s part, cf. 1:47. Even as Elizabeth rejoiced in her subservient role to Mary, so later John would also rejoice in his subservient role in preparing for Jesus ().
1:45 Blessed. Although the word used here is different (makaria) from that used in (eulogēmenē/os), no theological significance should be read into this since the words have essentially the same meaning.
Blessed is she who has believed. Elizabeth’s praise both begins and now ends with a reference to Mary’s blessedness. The blessedness of Mary’s faith stands in contrast to Zechariah’s lack of faith in 1:20. Her blessedness is a present state (cf. 6:20–22). Again Mary serves as an example for the believer. Indeed Luke sought to maximize Mary’s role as a model believer. For example, in 8:19 he omitted the “outside” (heksō) of ; in 4:24 Luke omitted “in his own house” (cf. ); and in he mentioned that Mary and her other children were among the inner core of disciples. Mary is “blessed” here for her faith but is “most blessed” in for the privilege of being the mother of God’s Son.
That. “That” (hoti) could be causal (cf. 6:20–21; 14:14) and would refer to Mary’s being blessed “because” of believing that what God had promised would come true. On the other hand it could refer to the content, i.e., the “that” which Mary believed as in the parallel construction in .[7]
Vs. 39. Into a city of Juda.—It does not seem probable that these enigmatical words denote so much as a city of the tribe of Judah, much less that they point out Jerusalem or Hebron. The supposition, that Ἰούδα has been substituted for Ἰούτα (mentioned Josh. 15:65), is far more credible; nor is it unlikely that this less strictly correct orthography is derived from Luke himself. Juta is to this day a considerable village, inhabited by Mohammedans. See Röhr’s Palestine, p. 187.
Vss. 39, 40. Mary arose—and entered.—According to Jewish customs, it was improper, or at least unusual, for single or betrothed females to travel alone. Mary, however, may have undertaken this journey with Joseph’s consent, and, perhaps, partly in the company of others. Extraordinary circumstances justify extraordinary measures, and Lange correctly remarks: “the obedience of the cross makes truly free.”—The supposition, that Joseph had taken his betrothed bride to his home, after a public solemnization of their nuptials, before this journey (Hug, Ebrard), seems improbable; but still more so, that Mary had already apprised him of the fact of the angelic visitation. Her part throughout was to announce nothing, but simply to wait till He, who had destined her to the highest honor ever bestowed, should, in His own good time, also make clear her innocence to the eyes of her husband and the world. By this state of affairs only, can Luke’s account be reconciled with Matthew’s, who, after the wordsεὑρέθη ἐν γ. ἔχ., describes the discovery of Mary’s state as an unexpected, and hence a disquieting, discovery to Joseph. Mary leaves it simply to God to enlighten Joseph, as He had enlightened her. Nor does she undertake a journey to Elisabeth to consult with her, or to avoid her husband, but to seek that confirmation of her faith pointed out to her by the angel.
Vs. 41. And it came to pass.—The salutation of Mary, the ecstasy of Elisabeth, and the leaping of the babe in her womb, are three circumstances occurring at the same moment. At Mary’s arrival, Elisabeth is filled with joy, and her babe moves. Luke mentions the latter circumstance first, as being the most extraordinary, although, in itself, it was rather the consequence than the cause of the emotion felt by Elisabeth at Mary’s salutation. The aged woman, filled with the Holy Spirit, recognizes, by the extraordinary movement of the child, the presence of the future mother of her Lord; and thus the yet unborn John already offers involuntary homage to the καρπὸς τῆς κοιλίας of Mary.
Vs. 42. Blessed art thou—and blessed is the fruit, etc.—The first beatitude of the New Testament, and, in a certain sense, the root of all the rest. Elisabeth, while extolling the blessedness of Mary on account of her faith and obedience, was undoubtedly reflecting with compassion on the condition of Zachariah, whose unbelief had been reproved with loss of speech, while the believing Mary was entering her house with joyful salutations.
Vs. 45. For there shall he a fulfilment, etc.—It is grammatically possible, yet not logically necessary, to refer the ὅτι to the object of Mary’s faith (“which believed that there,” marg.). The assurance, that verily the things promised should be fulfilled without exception, though not indispensable in Mary’s case, must yet have been a confirmation of her faith, which she would most gladly welcome. It is self-evident how much the abruptness of the sentences in which Elisabeth pours out the fulness of her heart, enhances the beauty of this passage. A psalm-like tone, better felt than expressed, seems to resound in her words, forming a prelude to Mary’s “Magnificat.”[8]
Mary visits Elizabeth (1:39–45)
The saying ‘a joy shared is a joy doubled’ was certainly true for Mary and Elizabeth. They were first cousins, and therefore John the Baptist and Jesus Christ would be related as second cousins. Mary travelled seventy or eighty miles south to the city of Judah where Elizabeth lived. On arriving, sensing the proximity of the unborn Christ in Mary’s womb, Elizabeth’s son leaped within her. At that point Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (vv. 41, 44). There is no sense of competition between the women as to whose son was the greatest. Instead, Elizabeth bursts forth in spontaneous praise of the Lord Jesus, her Messiah (vv. 42, 43).
For further study
1. Suggest why Mary, a young woman, was less doubting than Zacharias, an elderly and well-established priest.
2. Mary is called ‘blessed among women’ (v. 42). Is this because of her own purity or because of the blessings granted to her?
3. The Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth as Mary arrived. Look up the following two occasions when the Holy Spirit came in power and consider how often in the Bible he seems to come at an unexpected moment: ; , .
To think about and discuss
1. Would we feel ‘highly favoured’ (1:28) or ‘highly fearful’ if God had some special task for us? Are we willing to do whatever he asks?
2. John the Baptist and Jesus were related. Of the twelve disciples of the Lord, six were brothers. What does this tell us about God’s view of family ties?
3. Mary had learned the lesson of obedience (v. 38). Later, she told servants at the wedding in Cana, ‘Whatever he says to you, do it’ (). Have we learned this lesson?[9]
Vers. 39–56.—Inspirations amid the hills of Judæa. We already have seen the angel suggesting to Mary the propriety of visiting Elisabeth. We may reasonably believe that she had no mother at this time to whom she could communicate her mighty secret, and that Elisabeth is the most likely person from whom to get the sympathy she now required. For the four days’ journey from Nazareth to the priest’s city in the south she would need some preparation; but she made her arrangements promptly, going “with haste,” and reached the home of the dumb priest without delay. If she had any fear and trembling on the way as to how she would be received, it was instantly dissipated through timely inspirations. And here let us notice—
I. The inspiration granted to Elisabeth. (Vers. 42–45.) And here we may mark the directness of the inspired address. There was no lengthened introduction, no conversation about health, or weather, or news, but an immediate mention of the all important matter which concerned the Virgin. 1. Elisabeth assures Mary of her signal blessedness in being selected to be the mother of Messiah. She was to be the blessed mother of a blessed Son. How delightful a balm this would be to Mary’s anxious hearts! Instead of suspicion, there is a salutation such as a princess might thankfully receive. 2. Elisabeth beautifully depreciates herself. It is the way the Spirit takes with those he indeed inspires. It is not boastfulness, but self-depreciation he implants within them. Elisabeth feels herself so unworthy, that she wonders the mother of Messiah deigns to visit her! A royal visit would not have been to the priest’s wife such an honour. She is Mary’s humble servant, because Mary is to be the mother of her Lord. In fact, had Mary been a queen, she could not have been more lovingly and reverentially treated. 3. A holy joy thrills through her from Mary’s advent. It was the “chief joy” of human hearts asserting his marvellous power. The Holy Ghost conducts the humble woman to the most entrancing joy. 4. Mary’s faith is recognized and encouraged. The contrast between Mary’s faith and Zacharias’s doubt must have been very marked. The poor priest is stealing about the house dumb, while Mary is in the enjoyment of all her faculties and powers. Elisabeth would rejoice that Mary, through unhesitating faith, had escaped such a judgment as her husband was enduring. The blessedness of faith in God cannot be too emphatically asserted. It is the secret of real happiness just to take him at his word. As the “faithful Promiser” he never disappoints any who put their faith in his promised aid. Not only do we who believe enter into rest (), but we also enter into blessedness (cf. μακαρία of ver. 45).[10]
The Paradox of Blessedness
In those days Mary arose and went eagerly to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and went into the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting the babe leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she lifted up her voice with a great cry and said, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why has this been granted to me—that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For—look you—when the voice of your greeting came to my ears the babe in my womb leaped with exultation. Blessed is she who believed that the things spoken to her from the Lord would find their fulfilment.”
This is a kind of lyrical song on the blessedness of Mary. Nowhere can we better see the paradox of blessedness than in her life. To Mary was granted the blessedness of being the mother of the Son of God. Well might her heart be filled with a wondering, tremulous joy at so great a privilege. Yet that very blessedness was to be a sword to pierce her heart. It meant that some day she would see her son hanging on a cross.
To be chosen by God so often means at one and the same time a crown of joy and cross of sorrow. The piercing truth is that God does not choose a person for ease and comfort and selfish joy but for a task that will take all that head and heart and hand can bring to it. God chooses a man in order to use him. When Joan of Arc knew that her time was short she prayed, “I shall only last a year; use me as you can.” When that is realized, the sorrows and hardships that serving God may bring are not matters for lamentation; they are our glory, for all is suffered for God.
When Richard Cameron, the Covenanter, was caught by the dragoons they killed him. He had very beautiful hands and they cut them off and sent them to his father with a message asking if he recognized them. “They are my son’s,” he said, “my own dear son’s. Good is the will of the Lord who can never wrong me or mine.” The shadows of life were lit by the sense that they, too, were in the plan of God. A great Spanish saint prayed for his people, “May God deny you peace and give you glory.” A great modern preacher said, “Jesus Christ came not to make life easy but to make men great.”
It is the paradox of blessedness that it confers on a person at one and the same time the greatest joy and the greatest task in all the world.[11]
1:39–56
Miracle Mothers Meet
1:39–40. The journey from Nazareth to the hill country of Judea may have taken three to five days, depending on the precise location of Elizabeth’s home. In view of bandits on the roads, young Mary’s journey was courageous, although she may have found a caravan with which to travel; otherwise her family may not have allowed her to go. Greetings were normally blessings meant to bestow peace, hence the response of verse 41.
1:41. Like dancing, leaping was an expression of joy (e.g., ). Jewish people recognized that the fetus was able to sense and respond to stimuli; while occasionally suggesting that the fetus’s gender could be changed by prayer up until birth, some rabbinic tradition also believed that infants could sin, sing and so forth in the womb. Some pagan stories also told of babies dancing in their mother’s wombs or speaking in infancy, but pagans generally regarded these events as evil omens; here John’s activity is instead a result of his prenatal sensitivity to the prophetic Spirit. On the Holy Spirit see 1:15.
1:42–44. For praising another indirectly through a secondary blessing, see comment on (cf. also, e.g., the pseudepigraphic 2 Baruch 54:10–11).
1:45. Abraham also believed the promise of a son ().[12]
[1] Merriam-Webster, I. (2003). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
[2] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
[3] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (A. Farstad, Ed.) (). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
[5] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
[6] Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: Complete and unabridged in one volume (). Peabody: Hendrickson.
[7] Stein, R. H. (1992). Vol. 24: Luke. The New American Commentary (89–91). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[8] Lange, J. P., & van Oosterzee, J. J. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Luke (P. Schaff & C. C. Starbuck, Trans.) (25). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[9] Childress, G. (2006). Opening up Luke's Gospel. Opening Up Commentary (16–17). Leominster: Day One Publications.
[10] St. Luke Vol. I. 1909 (H. D. M. Spence-Jones, Ed.). The Pulpit Commentary (33–34). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
[11] The Gospel of Luke. 1975 (W. Barclay, Ed.). The Daily Study Bible Series (13–14). Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press.
[12] Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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