The Birth and Early Life of John the Baptist.

1-8. THE BIRTH AND EARLY LIFE OF JOHN THE BAPTIST.
(Hill Country of Judæa, B. C. 5.)
c LUKE 1:57-80.

      c 57 Now Elisabeth's time was fulfilled that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.

  58 And her neighbors and her kinsfolk heard that the Lord had magnified his mercy towards her [mercy in granting a child; great mercy in granting so illustrious a child]; and they rejoiced with her.

  59 And it came to pass on the eighth day [See Genesis 17:12 ; Leviticus 12:3 ; Philippians 3:5 . Male children were named at their circumcision, probably because at that time the names of Abram and Sarai had been changed ( Genesis 17:5 Genesis 17:15 ). Females were named when they were weaned], they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.

  60 And his mother answered and said, Not so [Zacharias had evidently written, and thus communicated to his wife all that the angel had told him, and how the child was to be named John]; but he shall be called John.

  61 And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred [Family names were even more thought of, and honored, among the Jews than among us. They had no taste for romantic and eccentric names] that is called by this name.

  62 And they made signs [this seems to indicate that Zacharias was deaf as well as dumb] to his father, what he would have him called.

  63 And he asked for a writing tablet [tablets were sometimes made of lead, but were usually small wooden boards, either smeared with wax, or having sand sprinkled over them, on which words were written with an iron stylus or pencil], and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. [Being surprised that both parents should thus unite upon an unexpected name.]

  64 And his mouth was opened immediately [See verse 20. The angel's words were now completely fulfilled, therefore the punishment for disbelief was removed], and his tongue loosed, and he spake, blessing God. [Probably the words recorded in verses 68-79.]

  65 And fear came [The miraculous phenomena attending the birth of John made the people so conscious of the presence of God as to fill them with awe. The influence of this fear spread far and wide until the chills and tremors of expected changes and revolutions were felt even by the citizens of Rome, as their poets and historians testify] on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judæa.

  66 And all that heard them laid them up in their heart, saying, What then shall this child be? [We probably find an echo of this question thirty years later when John entered upon his ministry-- John 1:19 .] And the hand of the Lord was with him.

  67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied [This his prophecy is the last of the old dispensation, and the first of the new, or Christian, era. It also is poetry, and is a hymn of advent], saying,

  68 Blessed [the hymn gets its name from this word, and is called the Benedictus] be the Lord, the God of Israel; For he hath visited [Come back, in the person of his Spirit, to his people. After some four hundred years of absence the Holy Spirit, as the spirit of prophecy, had again returned to God's people. Malachi, the last of the prophets, had been dead about four centuries] and wrought redemption for his people,

  69 And hath raised up a horn [the horn is a symbol of power-- Daniel 7:7 Daniel 7:8 ; 8:21 ] of salvation for us In the house of his servant David [this also indicates that Mary was of the house of David]

  70 (As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets that have been from of old) [ Genesis 3:15 ; 22:18 ; 49:10 ; Numbers 24:17 ; 2 Peter 1:21 ; Hebrews 1:1 ],

  71 Salvation from our enemies [not only Rome, the enemy of Israelitish prosperity, but also those evil agencies which wage ceaseless warfare against the souls of men-- Ephesians 6:12 ], and from the hand of all that hate us;

  72 To show mercy towards our fathers, And to remember his holy covenant [contract or agreement];

  73 The oath which he sware unto Abraham our father [see Genesis 12:3 ; 17:4 ; Genesis 22:16 Genesis 22:17 ],

  74 To grant unto us that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies Should serve him without fear,

  75 In holiness and righteousness [holiness is good conduct toward God, righteousness is good conduct toward men] before him all our days.

  76 Yea and thou, child [the rest of the psalm is addressed to the infant John], shalt be called the prophet [see Matthew 11:9 ; Luke 20:6 ] of the Most High: For thou shalt go before the face of the Lord [the Lord Jesus Christ] to make ready his ways [ Isaiah 40:3 ; Matthew 3:3 ];

  77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people [Israel had a false idea that the Messiah's salvation would be from political evil. John was needed to tell them that it was from sin that God proposed to deliver them. Perdition does not consist in political wrongs, but in divine condemnation] In the remission of their sins [through Christ's work-- Acts 5:31 ],

  78 Because of the tender mercy of our God, Whereby the dayspring from on high [One of the many names for Jesus or his kingdom. The prophets loved to picture Messiah's advent as a sunrise ( Isaiah 9:2 ; 60:1-3 ; Malachi 4:2 ; Matthew 4:16 ; John 1:4 John 1:5 ). Christ's coming was the dawn of a new day for Israel and for mankind] shall visit us,

  79 To shine upon them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death; To guide our feet into the way of peace. [Travelers in the Judæan mountains often waited patiently for the morning light, lest they should lose their lives by a false step taken in the darkness-- Isaiah 59:8 .]

  80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit [ 1 Samuel 2:26 ; Luke 2:40 Luke 2:52 ] and was in the deserts [The thinly settled region west of the Dead Sea. In 1 Samuel 23:19 it is called Jeshimon, or "the Horror"] till the day of his showing unto Israel. [The day when he commenced his ministry and declared his commission as Messiah's forerunner.]