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19 signs to his father, how he would have him called. 63. And he asked (namely by signs, being dumb) for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. Zacharias had no sooner done writing, than he recovered his speech; the angel's prediction being then fully accomplished. Accordingly, with an audible articulate voice, he praised God in holy raptures, to the astonishment of all presant. 64. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake and praised God; probably by acknowledging the justice of the punishment that had been inflicted upon him, and the greatness of the sin which had procured it. By this open affectionate confession, he impressed all his neighbours and acquaintance with a reverence for God, and a fear of offending him. 65. And fear, that is religious awe, came on all that dwelt round about them, and all these sayings, or rather things, (so gara signifies, even according to our translation, ver. 37. and Luke ii. 15.) were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judea. Being very extraordinary events, they were much talked of in that country, and people formed many conjectures concerning the child. 66. And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be?—And the hand of the Lord was with him, i. e. as it is explained, verse 80. he was remarkable, even from his infancy, for the qualities both of his body and mind; he had an eminent degree of the protection, blessing, and assistance of God, visibly bestowed upon him.
On this occasion Zacharias prophesied concerning the future greatness of his son; the power that loosed his tongue inspiring him with the knowledge of his character and office. 67. And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and † pro
*These extraordinary circumstances, I mean the appearing of the angel to Zacharias in the temple; Zacharias's dumbness; Elisabeth's pregnancy, when past the age of child-bearing; and the restoration of Zacharias's speech on the day of his son's circumcision, were all wisely ordered by Providence, to accompany the conception and birth of John, that he who was the Messiah's fore-runner, might not seem an obscure and ordinary man, but one that was the peculiar object of the decrees and counsels of Heaven. He was introduced into the world in this magnificent manner, that the attention of his countrymen being awakened, and high expectations of him raised, he might execute the duties of his ministry with greater advantage, and effectually prepare the people for receiving the Messiah himself, who was soon to appear in person.
+ Ver. 67. Prophesied.] Some imagine, that by Zacharias prophesying, Luke means only that he celebrated the praises of God with great elevation and affection of soul. And it must be acknowledged, that this sense the word hath in other passages of Scripture, particularly 1 Chron. xxv. 1. where Asaph and Jeduthan are said to prophecy with the harp and cymbal, which, ver. 3. is explained by their giving praise and thanks to God. See likewise, Chron. x. 5. 2 Cor. xi. 5. However, as Zacharias is said on this occasion to have been filled with the Holy Ghost, and to have uttered a prophecy concerning his son, the ordinary sense of the word may very well be admitted here.
phesied, saying: with an holy enthusiasm, which was the effect of inspiration, he spake as follows. 68. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and redeemed his people. Let all honour and glory be ascribed to the possessor and governor of the world, the God of the people of Israel, because he hath visited and redeemed his people. For God to visit his people, is a metaphorical expression, signifying to shew them great favour. It is taken from the custom of princes, who commonly visit the provinces of their kingdom, in order to redress grievances and to confer benefits. The great benefit accruing to the people of God from the visitation which this holy man speaks of here, is their redemption or deliverance from all their spiritual enemies, by the coming of Messiah. 69. And he hath raised up an horn of salvation for us, in the house of his servant David. In the prophetic language, a Horn signifies power, dignity, dominion; be cause the strength and beauty of several animals lie in their horns. A Horn of Salvation, therefore, is a power which works or brings salvation. Here it signifies Messiah, who was soon to appear to save his people: the knowledge of which grand event had been communicated to Zacharias by the angel who foretold the birth of his son, ver. 17. 70. As he spake (promised) by the mouth of his holy prophets * which have been since the world began, 71. That we should be delivered from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate He hath raised up a mighty deliverer,
* Ver. 70. Which have been since the world began.] an' was, from the beginning of the world. By the world in this passage, some understand the Jewish dispensation, because before the giving of the law, no prophet spake either of God's raising up a horn of salvation in the house of David, or of his performing his covenant with Abraham. Whereas Moses, in the very beginning of that dispensation, often spake of the Israelites conquering their enemies, if they kept the law. And to these promises they suppose Zacharias now alluded, because the general strain of his discourse seems to respect the temporal deliverance, which the Jews imagined Messiah would accomplish for the Israelites. Nevertheless, if we carefully attend to the text, we will be sensible that this 70th verse is connected, not with the verse which precedes it, but with that which follows it, in this manner. He hath raised up un horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spake by the mouth of boly prophets, &c. as the accomplishment of a promise which he made by the prophets from the beginning of the world, which promise was, that we, the spiritual Israel, should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that bate us. Accordingly, we find that 2 promise of this kind was made to the parents of mankind immediately af ter the fall, and by them handed down to their posterity, that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent. This sense renders Zacharias's words more consistent than the other, which can never shew how a horn of salvation in the house of David, was promised by the prophets from the beginning of the Jewish dispensation. And though it should be granted, that Zacharias had not now in his eye the general spiritual deli verance of the people of God, yet as he spake by inspiration, the meaning of the Holy Ghost here, as in many other prophecies, might be much more extensive than the ideas of the prophet by whom he spake, and who often did not understand what he uttered, as Peter informs us, 1 Epist. i. 10, 11.
deliverer, according to the promise which he was graciously pleased to make unto mankind, from the very beginning of the world; namely, that all virtuous and good men should be fully and finally rescued from their spiritual enemies, and secured for ever from falling under the power of those who hate them.72. To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant. 73. The oath which he sware to our father Abraham. God hath raised up a mighty deliverer in the house of David, to perform the great spiritual mercy which he promised to our fathers, and to fulfil that most gracious covenant, which he was pleased to confirm by oath to our father Abraham, Gen. xxii. 16.-The tenor of which covenant was, that Abraham's spiritual seed being delivered from their enemies by Messiah, should, under his government, worship God cheerfully without slavish fear, and serve him by purity of heart and integrity of life, through all generations. 74. That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might_serve him * without fear, 75. In holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.Having thus described the great blessing which Messiah, whose coming he had so near a prospect of, was about to confer upon men, Zacharias proceeded to speak concerning his own son, who, as the angel had told him, was to be Messiah's fore-runner. 76. And thou child (pointing towards John, or perhaps taking him in his arms) shalt be called the prophet of the Highest, thou shalt be the messenger of God most high; for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his way: thou shalt go before the Lord Messiah, to dispose mankind to reverence him, and to receive his doctrine. And this thou shalt do, by preaching to his people the glad tidings that there is salvation to be obtained; and by declaring to them in what way it is to be obtained, even by repentance: God having determined to pardon the sins of the penitent. 77. To give the knowledge of salvation unto his people, by the remission of their sins. 78. Through the tender mercy of our God. Though thou shalt give men the glad tidings of the pardon of their sins upon
Ver. 14. Without fear.] Qows, without a slavish fear, or that spirit of bondage mentioned Rom. viii. 15. For the whole of this promise, both as it was originally made to Abraham, and as it is here applied to the coming of Messiah, respected a spiritual deliverance; though the Jews generally understood it of a deliverance from their enemies on earth, as perhaps Zacharias also did.
+ Ver. 78. The tender mercy] ozλajva shss, the bowels of mercy. These two words are often used in Scripture, both jointly and separately. They signify pity, because that passion is commonly attended with a motion in the bowels, especially when the object of it is one we have an interest in., See Isa. Ixiii. 15. Philip. ii. 1. Col. ii. 12. Where the bowels of mercy sig nifies the most tender mercy. The word, used by itself, signifies any strong affection whatever. Thus Philem. ver. 7. The bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.
upon their repentance, thou shalt teach them that their pardon is the pure effect of the most tender mercy of God. Of which mercy this indeed is the highest expression, that he is about to make Messiah, the sun of righteousness foretold by the prophets, to arise upon the world, whereby the day spring from on high hath visited us. 79. To give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. At his coming Messiah shall enlighten with the knowledge of salvation the Gentile nations, who had long lived in ignorance and wickedness, which are the cause of death. Nay, he shall guide the feet even of us Jews into the way of happiness, by shewing us more perfectly the will of God and the method of salvation. In these elevated strains did this pious man describe the great blessings which mankind were to enjoy by the coming of the seed promised to Adam, to Abraham, and to David.
The years of John's infancy expiring, he grew daily in wisdom and stature. 80. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit; and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel: during the whole course of his private life, he continued in the deserts or hill country of Judea, (ver. 39.) till his ministry commenced, about the thirtieth year of his age.
• Ver. 78. The day spring from on high.] avaroλn vles. As «vatora anvas, the rising of the moon, Isaiah Ix. 19. signifies the moon herself, `so ανατολή, the elliptical expression here used for ανατολη ηλια, may signify the sun. For Zacharias is alluding to the passages in the prophetic writ ings, which describe Messiah by the metaphors of the light and the sun, particularly Malachi iv. 2. where he is called the Sun of righteousness, both on account of the light of his doctrine, and the joy produced by his appearing. See also Isaiah lx. 1, 2, 19. Indeed no figure was ever more. happily imagined, or more naturally applied, than this which represents the promised seed under the notion of the sun. For most aptly may Jesus be likened to the rising sun; his doctrine being to the souls of men, what light is to their bodies. It is altogether necessary for directing our steps in the paths of truth and righteousness; it is exceedingly sweet to the spi ritual taste, by discovering the most important and delightful truths; nay, like the light, it throws a beauty and pleasantness upon every thing in this lower world, which, without the assurance of God's reconcileableness, would be but a dark and dreary scene to sinners, however noble and beautiful in itself.
§ VI. Our Lord's genealogy by his supposed father. Matt. i. 1,-17.
THE evangelist Matthew opens his history with our Lord's genealogy by Joseph his supposed father. Luke gives another genealogy of him, thought by many to be Joseph's also, but without foundation; for the two genealogies are entirely different from David and downward. It is true, some have attempted to reconcile them by alledging, that they exhibit Joseph's pedigree, the one by his natural, the other by his legal father. But had that been the case, the natural and legal fathers would have been brothers, which it is plain they were not, Jacob, Joseph's
father, in Matthew, being the son of Matthan, the son of Eleazar; whereas Eli, the father supposed to be assigned him by Luke, was the son of Matthat, a different person from Matthan, because the son of Levi. The right of redemption, as it was called, cannot be pleaded here from the example of Boaz and Ruth. For though Boaz married Ruth by virtue of his being the nearest relation to Mahlon her former husband, Obed, the issue of the marriage, was never called the son of Mahlon his legal father, but always of Boaz. Nay, it may be doubted whether, even in the case of a man's taking his brother's wife, the issue of the marriage was ascribed to the deceased brother. The law indeed says, that the first-born of such a marriage shall succeed in the name of the deceased brother, (Deut. xxv. 6.) and Mat. xxii. 24. we have the expression, raise up seed to his brother. But it does not follow, that the children of such marriages were ever called the children of the deceased. The examples found in Scripture, if I mistake not, are contrary to this interpretation. For it cannot be proved of Zorobabel the son of Pedajah, who is given as an instance, (1 Chron. iii. 19.) that he was the Zorobabel called in Matthew's genealogy and elsewhere, the son of Salathiel. Pedajah was indeed Salathiel's brother, and had a son named Zorobabel; but that son was different from Zorobabel the son of Salathiel, because his children were different. Com pare 1 Chron. iii. 19. with Matt. i. 13. As for the expression, Matt. xxii. 24. raise up seed to his brother, it means no more but that an heir should be begotten, to succeed the deceased in his inheritance; and that the families should be kept distinct, as is plain from the words of the law itself, Deut. xxv. 6, 7. To affirm with Julius Africanus, quoted by Eusebius, lib. i. c. 7. that Jacob and Levi, the persons who immediately precede Joseph in the genealogies, were brothers, the sons of one mother, whom he calls Estha, will not mend the matter. Because though it should be granted that Joseph had a legal as well as natural father, who were brothers by their mother, it must be proved that among the Jews children were named by their legal fathers, before it can serve the turn to allege that Joseph is called the son of his legal father. Besides, Africanus's notions is contradicted by the Jewish doctors, particularly Maimonides, whose words are these: Fratres uterini nequaquam reputantur fratres, sive in causa hereditatis cernendæ, sive in causa ducenda fratriæ, aut exeundi calcai. Lamy Harm. p. 3.
But to shew this opinion all the favour possible, let us allow that Joseph had a legal father, whose pedigree is likewise given; and that by the custom of the Jews, he might be called the son of his legal father. It will necessarily follow, on these suppositions, that we are altogether uncertain whether our Lord's mother, from whom alone he sprang, was a daughter of David, and consequently