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6 And they were both righteous" | fice before God in the order of his before God, walking in all the com- course, mandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless.
9 According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without, at the time of incense.
8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's of
11 And there appeared unto him
c Ex.30.7,8. d Le.16.17.
a Ge.7.1. 1 Ki.9.4. 2 Ki.20.3. b 1 Cor.11. 2. Ph.3.6.
priests; our Saviour, being of the tribe of Judah, would not.
guished for a peculiarly pleasant smell when burnt, and was therefore used in ancient worship. It was burnt by the priest twice a day, (Ex. xxx. 7), and it seems to have been emblematic of prayer
6. Both righteous. Both just, or holy, This means here more than external conformity to the law. It is an honorable testimonial of their piety towards and praise, or of the grateful offerings of God. Walking in, &c. Keeping the the heart wafted toward heaven. The commandments. To walk in the way incense used in the temple was made of that God commands, is to obey. Ordi-stacte, onycha, and galbanum, (Ex. xxx. nances. Rites and customs which God 34), with pure frankincense, and it was had ordained, or appointed. These not lawful for this compound to be used words refer to all the duties of religion, elsewhere than in the house of God. which were made known to them. ¶ Into the temple. See Notes on Matt. Blameless. That is, no fault or defi- xxi. 12. The part of the temple where ciency could be found in them. They incense was burnt was the holy place. were strict, exact, punctual. Yet this, if it had been mere external observance, might have been no proof of piety. Paul, before his conversion, also kept the law externally blameless. Phil. iii. 6. But in the case of Zachariah and Elizabeth, it seems to have been real love to God, and sincere regard for his law.
10. The whole multitude. This wa the regular time of evening prayer, an multitudes came up to the temple to worship. ¶ Praying without. That is in the courts around the temple; par ticularly in the court of the women.
11. An angel. An angel is a mes senger sent from God. It had now been about four hundred years since the time of Malachi, and since there had been any divine revelation. Dur ing that time the nation was looking for the Messiah; but still with nothing more than the ancient prophecies to di rect them. Now that he was about to appear, God sent his messenger to an nounce his coming, to encourage the hearts of his people, and to prepare them to receive him. On the righ side, &c. The altar of incense stood close by the veil which divided the holy place from the most holy. On the north stood the table of shew-bread. On the south the golden candlestick. As Zacharias entered, therefore, with his face to the west, the angel would stand on the north, or near the table of shew-bread. It was eighteen inches square, and three feet high. The top, as well as the sides and horns, was
7. Well stricken in years. Old, or advanced in life, so as to render the prospect of having children hopeless.
8. Before God. In the temple where God dwelt by the symbols of his presence. The temple was regarded by the Jews as the house or dwelling of God; and in the first temple there was, in the most holy place, a cloud called the Shechinah, or a visible sign of the presence of God. It was thus before
God that Zachariah offered incense.
9. According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was. The Jewish writers inform us that it was customary for the priests to divide their daily task by lot. To burn incense. Incense is an aromatic, or white rosin, procured from trees chiefly in Arabia. It is obtained by making incisions in the tree, and the gum flows out. It was distin
13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name " John.
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
15 For he shall be great in the
a ver.60,63. b ver.58. c c.7.28.
12. He was troubled. This was an unusual appearance. He was alone, in the presence of God. The appearance was sudden, unexpected, and therefore fearful.
15. Shall be great. Shall be eminent, or distinguished as a preacher. ¶ In the sight of the Lord. Greek: before the Lord. That is, shall be really or truly great. God shall regard him as such. Shall drink neither wine. Wine was the juice of the grape. The kind of wine commonly used in Judea was a light wine, often not stronger than cider in this country. It was the comnon drink of all classes of the people. See Notes on John i. 11. The use of wine was forbidden only to the Nazarite. Num. vi. 3. It was because John sustained this character, that he abstained from the use of wine. Strong drink. It is not easy to ascertain pre cisely what is meant by this word, but we are certain that it does not mean strong drink in our sense of the term. Distilled spirits were not then known. The art of distilling was discovered by an Arabian chemist in the ninth or tenth century; but distilled liquors are not used by Arabians. They banished
sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
17 And he shall go before him d Nu.6.3. € Je.1.5. ƒ Jno. 1.34.
13. Thy prayer is heard. That is, thy prayer for offspring. This, among the Jews, was an object of intense desire. No prospect was more gloomy to them than that of dying childless, so that their name should perish. Special pains, therefore, had been taken in the law, to keep up the names of families by requiring a man to marry his brother's wife. Deut. xxv. 5.
14. At his birth. This does not refer so much to the time of his birth, as to the subsequent rejoicing. Such shall be his character, that he shall be an
them at once, as if sensible of their pernicious influence. Nor are they used in eastern nations at all. Europe and America have been the places where this poison has been most extensively used; and there it has beggared and ruined millions, and is yearly sweeping thousands unprepared into a wretched eternity. The strong drink among the Jews was probably nothing more than fermented liquors, or a drink obtained from fermented dates, figs, and the juice of the palm, or the lees of wine, mingled with sugar, and having the property of producing intoxication. Many of the Jewish writers say, that by the word here translated strong drink was meant nothing more than old wine, which probably had the power of prohonor to the family, and many shall re-ducing intoxication. See Notes on Isa. joice that he lived. Or, in other words, v. 11. Shall be filled with the Holy he shall be a blessing to mankind. Ghost, &c. Shall be divinely desig nated 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: 1st. To the divine intention that he should be set apart to this work, as God designed that Paul should be an apostle from his mother's womb. Gal. i. 15.2. It refers to an actual fitting for the work from the birth, by the influence of the Holy Spirit, as was the case with Jeremiah (Jer. i. 5), and with David. Ps. xxii. 9, 10.
16. Children of Israel. Jews. Descendants of Israel, or Jacob. ¶ Shall he turn. By repentance. He shall call them from their sins, and persuade them to forsake them, and to seek the Lord their God.
17. Shall go before him. Before the Messiah, or the Lord Jesus. The con nexion here leads us to suppose that the word him refers to the "Lord their
in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the to children, and the disobedient 1 the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
or, by. Ps.111.10. a Matt.11.14. Mar.9.12. Matt.19.26. Ro.4.21. b 1 Pe.2.9.
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. See Notes on Matt. ii. 7. They were oposed violently to each other, and pursued their opposition with great animosity. It was impossible but that this opposition should find its way into families, and divide parents and children from each other. 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 those parents and children who had chosen different sects, and suffered their attachment to sect to interrupt the harmony of their households. The effect of true religion on a family will always be to produce harmony. It attaches all the family to one great Master, and by attachment to him, all minor causes of difference are forgotten. And the disobedient to the wisdom of the just. The disobedient here are the unbelieving, and hence the impious, the wicked. These he would turn to the wisdom of the just, or to such wisdom as the just or pious manifested; 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. God has always required men to be pure in a special manner, when he was about to appear among them. Thus the Israelites were required to purify themselves for three days when he was about to come down on Mount Sinai. Ex. xix.
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.
19 And the angel answering, said unto him, I am Gabriel," that
d Da.8.16. ver.26.
14, 15. And so when God the Son was about to appear as the Redeemer, he required that men should prepare themselves for his coming. So in view of the future judgment-the second coming of the Son of man-he requires that men should repent, believe, and be pure. 1 Pet. iv. 7. 2 Pet. iii. 11, 12.
18. 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 of heavenly messengers. As a consequence of not believing, he was struck dumb.
19. I am Gabriel. The word Ga briel is made up of two Hebrew words, and signifies man of God. 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 in the presence of one, is a phrase denoting honor or favor. To be admitted to the presence of a king, or to be with him, was a token of favor. So to stand before God, signifies merely that he was honored or favored by God. He was permitted to come near him, and to see much of his glory. Compare i Kings x. 8; xii. 6: xvii. 1; Prov. xxii. 29.
And am sent, &c. The angels are ministering spirits sent forth to those who shall be heirs of salvation. Heb. i. 7, 14. They delight to do the will of God, and one way of doing that will, is by aiding his children here; by succoring the afflicted; and by defending those who are in danger. There is no more absurdity or impropriety in supposing that angels may aid them, than there is in supposing that good men may aid one another. And there can be no doubt that it affords high pleasure to the angels of God to be permitted to aid those who are treading the dangerous and trying path which leads to eternity. Holiness is the same as benevolence;
stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.
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.
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.
22 And when he came out, he
a He.1.14. b Eze.3.26.
and holy beings seek and love opportunities to do good to their fellow creatures. In the eye of holy beings, all God's creatures are parts of one great family; and whenever they can do them good, they rejoice in the opportunity, at any sacrifice. T These glad tidings. This good news respecting the birth of
20. Because thou believest not, &c. 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 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. Nor can he that will not believe escape punishment. God speaks only truth, and we should believe him. God speaks only what is for our good, and it is right that we should suffer if we do not credit what he says.
21. The people waited. That is, beyond the usual time. ¶ Marvelled. Wondered. The priest, it is said, was not accustomed to remain in the temple more than half an hour commonly. Having remained on this occasion a longer time, the people became apprehensive of his safety, and wondered what had happened to him.
22. Had seen a vision. The word vision means sight, appearance or spectre, and 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 hd detained him there, and that on inquiry of him he signified by a nod that this was the case. He was unable to speak, and they had no VOL. II.-2
way of "perceiving" it but by such a sign. On the word vision, see Notes on Isa. i. 1. For he beckoned unto them. That is, by beckoning unto them, or by a sign, he informed them of what he had seen.
23. 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, would have induced him at once to leave this 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. It is the duty of ministers of religion to remain at their work until they are entirely unfitted for it, and unable to serve God in their profession. Then they must retire. But until that time, he that for trifling causes forsakes his post, is guilty of unfaithfulness to his Master.
24. Hid herself. Did not go forth into public, and concealed her condition. This might have been done that she might spend her time more entirely in giving praise to God for his mercies; and that she might have the fullest proof of the accomplishment of the promise, before she appeared in public, or spoke of the mercies of God.
25. 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 favor of God. Ps. cxiii. 9; cxxviii. 3. Isa. iv. 1; xliv. 3, 4. Lev. xxvi 9. To be barren, therefore. or tc