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juice of the palm, or the lees of wine, mingled with sugar, and having the property of producing intoxication. Shall be filled with the Holy Ghost,*&c. Shall be divinely designated or appointed to this office, and qualified for it by all needful communications of the Holy Spirit. To be filled with the Holy Spirit, is to be illuminated, sanctified, and guided by his influence. In this place it refers to an actual fitting for his work from the birth, by the influence of the Holy Spirit, as was the case with Jeremiah, Jer. i. 5.
16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
Children of Israel.' Jews. Descendants of Israel, or Jacob. Shall he turn,' By repentance. He shall persuade them to forsake their sins, and to seek the Lord their God.
17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Shall go before him. The connexion here leads us to suppose that the word 'him' refers to the Lord their God,' in the previous verse.
If so, then it will follow that the Messiah was the Lord God of Israel : a character abundantly given him in other parts of the New Testament. “In the spirit and power of Elias.' See note, Matt. xi. 14. "To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children. In the time of John the Jews were divided into a number of different sects. They were opposed violently to each other, and pursued their opposition with great animosity. John came that he might allay these animosities, and produce better feeling. By directing them all to one master, the Messiah, he would divert the attention from the causes of their difference, and bring them to union. He would restore peace to their families, and reconcile parents and children. 'And the disobedient to the wisdom of the just.' The disobedient are the unbelieving, and hence the impious, the wicked. These he would turn to the wisdom of the just, that is, to true wisdom. "To make ready a people,' &c. To prepare them, by announcing that the Messiah was about to appear, and by calling them to repentance, that they might be prepared for his coming.
18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this ? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
"Whereby shall I know this ?" The thing was improbable, and he desired evidence that this would take place. The testimony of an angel, and in such a place, should have been proof enough, but men are slow to believe the testimony even of heavenly messengers.
19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings.
'I am Gabriel.' This angel is mentioned as having been deputed to inform Daniel that his prayers were heard, Dan. viii. 16; ix. 21. “That stand in the presence of God.' To stand before God, signifies that he was honoured or favoured by God : permitted to come near him, and to see much of his glory. Compare, 1 Kings X. 8; xii. 6; xvii. 1. Prov. xxii, 29. sent,' &c. The angels are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation, Heb. i. 7, 14. And there can be no doubt that it affords high pleasure to them to be permitted to aid those who are treading the dangerous and trying path which leads to eternity. Holy beings seek and love opportunities to do good to their fellow-creatures. In the eye of holy beings, all God's creatures are portions of one great family; and whenever they can do them good, they rejoice in the opportunity, at any sacrifice. These glad tidings.' This good news respecting the birth of a son.
20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
This was both a sign and a judgment: a sign that he had come from God, and that the thing would be fulfilled, and a judgment on Zacharias for not giving credit to what he had said. There is no sin in the sight of God more aggravated than unbelief. When God speaks, man should believe.
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.
“The people waited.' That is, beyond the usual time. “Marvelled.' The priest, it is said, was not accustomed to remain in the temple more than half an hour. Having remained on this occasion a longer time, the people wondered what had happened.
22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them : and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.
Had seen a vision.' The word 'vision' is commonly applied to spirits, or to beings of another world. When he came out of the temple, it is probable that they suspected that something of this nature had detained him there, and that on inquiry of him he signified that this was the case. For he beckoned unto them.' That is, by beckoning unto them, or by a sign, he informed them of what he had seen.
23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
*As soon as the days of his ministration,' &c. As soon as he had fulfilled the duties of the week. It might have been supposed that the extraordinary occurrence in the temple, together with his own calamity, might have induced him at once to leave his place, and return home. But his duty was in the temple. His piety prompted him to remain there in the service of God. He was not unfitted for burning incense by his dumbness, and it was not proper for him to leave his post.
24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
'Hid herself.' Did not go forth into public, and concealed her condition.
25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
*Thus.' In this merciful manner. “To take away my reproach.' Among the Jews, a family of children was counted a signal blessing; an evidence of the favour of God, Ps. cxiii. 9; cxxvii. 5; cxxviii
. 3. Lev. xxvi. 9. To be barren, therefore, or to be destitute of children was considered a reproach, or a disgrace, 1 Sam. i. 6.
26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
'In the sixth month.' The sixth month after Elisabeth's conception. 'A city of Galilee, named Nazareth. See Matt. ii. 22, 23.
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David ; and the virgin's name was Mary.
"To a virgin espoused,' &c. See Matt. i. 18, 19. 'House of David. Family of David, or descendants of David.
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
'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 favoured, and expressing joy at meeting her. Highly favoured.' By being the mother of the long
expected Messiah : the mother of the Redeemer of mankind. To be reckoned among his ancestors, was accounted sufficient honour 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 honour, which would have rendered infinitely illustrious any of the daughters of Adam. * The Lord is with thee. Or, the Lord be with thee,' implying the prayer of the angel, that all blessings froin God might descend and rest ipon her.
Blessed art thou among women.' This passage is equivalent to saying, “Thou art the most happy of women.'
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
'Troubled at his saying.' Disturbed or perplexed at what he said. It was so unexpected, so extraordinary, that she was filled with anxious thoughts, and did not know what to make of it.
Cast in her mind.' Thought, or revolved in her mind. manner of salutation. What this salutation could mean.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary : for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David :
“He shall be great. There is undoubted reference in this passage to Isa. ix. 6, 7. By his being great, is meant he shall be distinguished, or illustrious; great in power, in wisdom, in dominion, on earth and in heaven. Shall be called.' This is the same as to say, He shall be the Son, &c. The Hebrews often used this form of speech. See Matt. xxi. 13. «The Highest.' God, who is infinitely exalted, called the Highest, because he is exalted over all his creatures on earth and in heaven. See Mark v.7. “The throne. The kingdom. His father David. Jesus was lineally descended from him. See Matt. i. I. The promise to David was, that there should not fail a man to sit on his throne; that his throne should be perpetual; and the promise was fulfilled by exalting Jesus to be a prince and a Saviour, and the perpetual king of his people.
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Over the house of Jacob.' This was the name by which the ancient people of God were known, and it is the same as saying that he shall reign over his own church and people for ever. This
he does by giving them laws, by defending them, by guiding them, and this he will do for ever in the kingdom of his glory. 'Of his kingdom there shall be no end.' He shall reign among his people on earth until the end of time, and still be their King in heaven. His is the only kingdom that shall never have an end.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man ? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God.
The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee.' See Matt. i. 18, 20. “The power of the Highest,' &c. This evidently means that the body of Jesus should be created by the direct power of God. As the Messiah came to redeem sinners, to make atonement for others, and not for himself, it was necessary that his human nature should be pure, and free from the corruption of the fall, God, therefore, prepared him a body by direct creation, that should be pure and holy. See Heb. x. 5. That holy thing,' &c. That holy progeny or child. Shall be called the Son of God.' This is spoken in reference to the human nature of Christ. And this passage proves beyond controversy that one reason why Jesus was called the Son of God, was, because he was begotten in a supernatural manner. He is also called the Son of God on account of his resurrection, Rom. i. 4. Acts xiii. 33, compared with Ps. ii. 7.
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age : and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
The case of Elisabeth is mentioned to inspire Mary with confidence that what was now promised would be fulfilled. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid
the be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
This was an expression of resignation to the will of God, and of faith in the promise. It is the same as saying, 'I fully credit all that is said, and am perfectly ready to obey all the commands of the Lord.'
39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;
* The hill country. The region in the vicinity of Jerusalem, commonly called the hill country of Judea. "City of Judah.'