Luke 2:25

Luke 2:25

And behold there was a man in Jerusalem
Not in Nazareth, or Bethlehem, but in Jerusalem, the metropolis of the nation: one that lived there, was an inhabitant of that city, and a person of fame and note. So Joseph ben Jochanan is called F26 (Mlvwry vya) a man of Jerusalem, an inhabitant of that place:

whose name was Simeon;
not Simeon, (qyduh) "the just", the last of the men of the great synagogue, of whom the Jews often make mention {a}; though this Simeon bears the same character, yet could not be he; because he was not only an high priest, which, if this man had been, would doubtless have been mentioned; but also lived some years before this time. Many have thought, that this was Rabban Simeon, the son of Hillell, who was president of the sanhedrim forty years; and in which office this his son succeeded him; and which Simeon was the father of Gamaliel, the master of the Apostle Paul, of whom the Jewish chronologer thus writes F2:

``Rabban Simeon, the son of Hillell the old, received from his father, and was appointed president after his father; but the time of the beginning of his presidentship I do not find in any authors:''

and a little after,

``Rabban Simeon, the son of Hillell, is the first that is called by the name of Rabban.''

There are some things which seem to agree with, and favour this thought; for certain it is, that Christ was born in his time, whilst he was living: so the above writer says F3, after he had observed, that

``Jesus of Nazareth was born at Bethlehem Judah, a parsa and a half from Jerusalem, in the year 3761 of the creation, and in the 42nd year of Caesar Augustus; that, according to this computation, his birth was in the days of Rabban Simeon, the son of Hillell.''

And it is worthy of notice also, what another genealogical writer of theirs says F4, that

``Rabban Simeon, the son of old Hillell, the prince, or president of Israel, as his father was, as it is in Sabbat, c. 1. is not "mentioned in the Misna."''

Which looks as if he was not a favourer of the traditions of the elders, nor in great esteem with the Jews, that they ascribe none of them to him; yea, it may be observed, that he is entirely left out in the account of the succession of the fathers of tradition, in the tract called Pirke Abot; which is somewhat extraordinary, when he was the son of one, and the father of another of so much note among them. One would be tempted to think, that such a neglect of him, should spring from ill will to him, on account of his professing Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah. But there are other things which do not so well accord, as that this Simeon lived some years after the birth of Christ; whereas our Simeon seems to be in the decline of life, and just ready to depart: as also, that he was prince of Israel, or president of the sanhedrim, after this; which it is not likely he should, after such a confession of Jesus being the Messiah: likewise, seeing that his son Gamaliel was brought up a Pharisee: to which last Dr. Lightfoot replies, that holy fathers have some times wicked children; and that it was thirty years from Simeon's acknowledging Christ, to Gamaliel's education of Paul, or little less; and so much time might wear out the notice of his father's action, if he had taken any notice of it, especially his father dying shortly after he had made so glorious a confession; but his last observation is an objection to him. Upon the whole, it must be left uncertain and undetermined who he was:

and the same man was just and devout;
he was a holy good man in his life and conversation; he was one that feared God, and avoided evil; he was righteous before men, and devout towards God, and exercised a conscience void, of offence to both:

waiting for the consolation of Israel;
that is, the Messiah; for this was one of his names with the Jews, who sometimes style him, (Mxnm) , "the comforter": for so they report F5 that

``there are some that say his name is Menachen the comforter; as it is said, "because the comforter that should relieve my soul is far from me". ( Lamentations 1:16 ) ''

And again F6, It is observed, that

``the name of the Messiah is Menachem, the comforter; and Menachem, by "gematry", or numerically, is the same with Tzemach, the branch, ( Zechariah 3:8 ) .''

And so they often call him by the name of the "consolation": (hmxgb) (hara) , which Dr. Lightfoot renders, "so let me see the consolation", but should be rendered, "may I never see the consolation", was a common form of swearing among them; and used much by R. Simeon ben Shetach, who lived before the times of Christ, of which there are several instances F7:

``says R. Juda ben Tabai, (hmxnb hara) "may I never see the consolation", if I have not slain a false witness. Says R. Simeon ben Shetach, to him, "may I never see the consolation", if thou hast not shed innocent blood.''

The gloss F8 on it is,

``it is a light word, (the form) of an oath, in short language; as if it was said, may I never see the consolations of Zion, if he has not done this.''

Again F9,

``says R. Simeon Ben Shetach, (hmxnb hara) "may I never see the consolation", if I did not see one run after his companion, into a desolate place''
Now they might easily collect this name of the Messiah, from several passages of Scripture, which speak of God's comforting his people, at the time of redemption by the Messiah; and particularly, from its being part of his work and office, to comfort them that mourn, for which he was anointed by the Spirit of the Lord, ( Isaiah 61:1-3 ) . And when he is called here, "the consolation of Israel", it is not to be understood of the whole Jewish nation; for he was so far from being a comfort to them, as such, that through their corruption and wickedness, he came not to send peace, but a sword; and to set at variance the nearest relations and friends among themselves; and through their unbelief and rejection of him, wrath came upon them to the uttermost: but of the true and spiritual Israel of God, whom he has chosen, redeemed, and calls, whether of Jews or Gentiles; his own special and peculiar people, the heirs of promise; and who are often mourners in Zion, and being frequently disconsolate on account of sin, the temptations of Satan, and the hidings of God's face, stand in need of consolation from him: and in him there is what is always matter and ground of consolation; as in his person, he being the mighty God, and so able to save to the uttermost; in his blood, which speaks peace and pardon, and cleanses from all sin; in his righteousness, which is pure and perfect, and justifies from all iniquity, in his sacrifice, which expiates all the transgressions of his people; in his fulness, which is sufficient to supply all their wants; and in his power, by which he is able to keep them from falling, and to present them faultless before God. And he does often comfort them by his Spirit, by his word, and ordinances, by the promises of his Gospel, by the discoveries of pardoning grace, through his blood, and by his gracious presence: nor are his consolations small, but large and abundant, strong, solid, and everlasting. Now for the Messiah under this character, Simeon was waiting, hoping in a little time to see him; since he knew, both by the prophecies of the Old Testament, particularly by Daniel's weeks, and, by divine revelation, that the time was just at hand for his coming;

and the Holy Ghost was upon him;
not in a common and ordinary way, as he is upon all that are called by grace, as a Spirit of regeneration and sanctification: and as he was upon many others, who at this time were waiting and looking for the Messiah, as well as he; but in an extraordinary way, as a spirit of prophecy: for though prophecy had ceased among the Jews, from the times of Malachi, yet upon the conception and birth of Christ, it now returned; as to Zacharias, Elisabeth, and the virgin Mary, and here to Simeon, as is clear from what follows.


F26 Pirke Abot. sect 4. 5.
F1 Pirke Abot, sect. 2. T. Bab. Yoma, fol, 69. 1. T. Hieros. Yoma, 3. & 43. 3.
F2 Ganz. Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 25. 1.
F3 Ib. par. 2. fol. 14.
F4 Juchasin, fol. 66. 2.
F5 T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 98. 2. Echa Rabbati, fol. 50. 1. T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 5. 1.
F6 Kimchi in Zech. iii. 8.
F7 T. Bab. Chagiga, fol. 16. 2. & Maccot, fol. 5. 2.
F8 Tosaphot in Chagiga ib.
F9 T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 37. 2. & Shebout, fol. 34. 1. Vid. & Cetubot, fol. 67. 1. & Echa Rabbati, fol. 49. 2.