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Bible Commentaries
Luke 1

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

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Verses 1-2


Dear Theophilus. The name means “one who loves God.” Acts is also addressed to him. We know nothing more about him. Many have done their best. It is human nature to write down important things and share them with others. Alford (Greek Testament) says: “I believe the only probable interpretation of the words to be, that many persons, in charge of Churches, or otherwise induced, drew up, here and there, statements (narratives, DIEGESIN) of the testimony of eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, so far as they themselves had been able to collect them.” The “many” [which does not include the other Gospels] had done their best, but it is implied that their work was incomplete.

Verses 3-4


Because I have carefully studied. Luke had made a careful examination of all available material, and he had the assistance of the apostle Paul. So that you will know the full truth. Luke wants to make the full truth of the history of Christ available to Theophilus. Things put in writing are put in permanent form. Which you have been taught. Theophilus knew these facts about Jesus, but Luke’s Gospel would be valuable to show the accuracy of these things.

Verse 5


During the time when Herod was king. Herod the Great (see note on Matthew 2:1). A priest named Zechariah. Not a “chief priest,” one of the lower ranks. Order of Abijah. All the priests were grouped in twenty-four orders. The “Order of Abijah” was the eighth (1 Chronicles 24:10). Each Order took charge of the temple worship in sequence, for a week at a time beginning on the Sabbath. The “heads” of these twenty-four Orders are the “chief priests.” His wife’s name was Elizabeth. She is also from a priestly family, so John the Baptist is of “priestly descent” on both sides of his family.

Verse 6


They both lived good lives in God’s sight. Great men of God almost always come from parents who live holy lives. (Compare 2 Timothy 1:5).

Verse 8


Was doing his work as a priest. Zechariah came to Jerusalem once every twenty-four weeks, to serve his week in the temple with others of the Order of Abijah.

Verse 9


He was chosen by lot. In order to remove the “human element,” specially marked stones were used to determine who was to do each separate part of the worship to God (compare Proverbs 16:33; Acts 1:26). So he went into the temple of the Lord. Into the Holy Place. Philo mentions an Altar of Incense placed between the Seven-branched Lampstand and the [table which held] the Bread of the Presence. [Hebrews 9:4 speaks of a “gold altar for the burning of incense” in the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies) in the Tent (the portable temple originally used in the Wilderness).] Incense was burned on the altar in the Holy Place each morning and evening. This was such an honor, that no one was permitted to do this more than once. It brought the serving priest closer to the Divine Presence in the Most Holy Place than any other priestly service, and because of the special blessing connected with it, it was believed that all should have their time to share in it.

Verse 10


While the crowd of people outside prayed. People were in the Court of Israel and the Women’s Court. Incense was symbolic of prayer (Psalms 141:2; Revelation 5:8). At the time the priest began to burn the incense, a bell signaled the people, who joined in prayer in deep silence.

Verse 11


An angel of the Lord appeared. Gabriel (Luke 1:19).

Verse 13


Don’t be afraid, Zechariah. The angel brings a message of hope! God has heard your prayer. They felt it was a disgrace to be childless, and had prayed continually for a child. You are to name him John. John means “God-given.”

Verse 15


He must not drink any wine or strong drink. John was to be a Nazarite (see the law of Nazarites, Numbers 6:0). [Jesus was a Nazarene, something entirely different.]

Verse 16


He will bring back. See Mark 1:1-5.

Verse 17


Strong and mighty like the prophet Elijah. The way he looked, the way he dressed, and the way he lived, all reminds us of Elijah. See note on Matthew 16:14. He will bring fathers and children together again. The language of Malachi 4:5-6. The Law of Moses is about to be superseded by the Good News of Jesus Christ. He will get the Lord’s people ready for him. He was the “advance man,” getting things ready for Jesus to begin his teaching tour of Palestine, which could climax in the Cross. John began a “renewal movement” in Palestine. The common people loved both John and Jesus. The Jewish leaders rejected them both.

Verse 18


How shall I know? He wanted a miraculous sign.

Verse 19


I am Gabriel. The word of an angel was sign enough! I stand in the presence of God. See Revelation 8:2; Daniel 8:15-18; Hebrews 1:14.

Verse 20


You will remain silent. He would not be able to utter a sound.

Verse 21


The people were waiting for Zechariah. Those who were praying in the courts waited until the priest who burned incense came out to dismiss them with a benediction. They wondered why he did not come out.

Verse 22


He could not speak to them. This was the sign. They knew he had seen a vision. But Gabriel was not a vision, he had been there in person.

Verse 23


Zechariah went back home. After he had completed his week of serving in the temple, he returned to his home in the hill country (Luke 1:39). The town is not identified.

Verse 24


And did not leave the house for five months. Her age might be the reason for this, but more likely she stayed in the house to spend more time in worship to God.

Verse 25


He has taken away my public disgrace. To be childless in Israel was a public disgrace. Compare Genesis 16:1-3; Genesis 30:1-2.

Verse 26


To a town in Galilee named Nazareth. To the home of Mary. Matthew tells of a later visit of the angel to Joseph (Matthew 1:20-25), but does not tell the angel’s name.

Verse 27


He had a message for a girl. This girl was a VIRGIN – “The Virgin” of Isaiah 7:14 (see note on Matthew 1:23). Promised in marriage. Equivalent to being married. See note on Matthew 1:19. Who was a descendant of King David. Both Mary (the mother of Jesus) and Joseph (the LEGAL father of Jesus) were descendants of King David.

Verses 30-33


Don’t be afraid. In the angel’s words we have: (1) relief of anxiety, Don’t be afraid; (2) a promise, Give birth to a son; (3) a command, You will name him Jesus; (4) a prophecy, He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. His kingdom will never end! Compare Acts 15:15-18; Matthew 16:18-19.

Verses 34-38


Mary said to the angel. Compare what the angel told Joseph in Matthew 1:19-25 (see notes there), and see what Christ taught about divorce in Matthew 19:1-9 (see notes there).

Verse 39


Soon afterward. Because of what the angel said to her. Hurried off to the bill country. The central plateau of Judea. Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron were all on this plateau. We are not told which town Elizabeth lived in.

Verse 41


The baby moved within her. Luke intends to imply something more than the natural movements of an unborn child. Note Elizabeth is in the sixth month of her pregnancy (Luke 1:26).

Verses 42-45


Elizabeth speaks in the poetic imagery of the Middle East, and she speaks as a prophet. My Lord’s mother. Mary was to be the mother of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. [Note the pre-existence of Jesus (Colossians 1:15-17). Jesus was born of a human mother to take human form (Galatians 4:4; Hebrews 2:14).]

Verses 46-55


Mary said. Mary is also filled with the Holy Spirit. These two holy women are the first human prophets of the New Testament Age. Mary speaks the language of the Psalms. In Luke 1:46-49, she praises God for his unusual gift of grace to her. In Luke 1:50-53, she praises God because he brings down the proud, but lifts up the humble. In Luke 1:54-55, she praises God because the ancient promise to Abraham is now being made to come true, and humble Israel will be lifted up by this. God my Savior• Mary includes herself among the lost. She herself would receive salvation through God’s act in Jesus Christ (compare Hebrews 9:15). Will call me happy. It was a great honor to be the human mother of the Messiah. We see Abraham called “happy,” because he is the father of the faithful; Paul, because he is the apostle to the Gentiles; and Peter, because he was first to preach the Good News. To show mercy to Abraham. See Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 13:14-17; Genesis 15:5. And to all his descendants forever! Galatians 3:29 shows the promise fulfilled in Christ as The Descendant, and that everyone who is IN Christ is a “descendant of Abraham.”

Verse 59


When the baby was a week old. On the eighth day Jewish boy babies were circumcised and named (Genesis 17:12). [Circumcise: to cut off the foreskin of a Jewish baby boy as a sign of God’s covenant with the people of Israel (Genesis 17:9-14).] They were going to name him Zechariah. This was the custom.

Verse 63

63. Asked for a writing pad and wrote. He still could not make a sound. His name is John. See Luke 1:13.

Verse 65

65. The neighbors were all filled with fear. Because of the unusual things which had happened.

Verse 67


And he spoke God’s message. Prophecy is speaking by the inspiration of God. As soon as Zechariah can speak again, he immediately begins to praise God, and to predict the future work of John.

Verses 68-75

68–75. Let us praise the Lord. Zechariah’s prophecy is in Hebrew thought and idiom. This shows the influence that molded John’s character as he grew up as Zechariah’s son. A mighty savior for us. Compare Philippians 2:6-11. By means of his holy prophets. The symbolism and rituals of the Old Testament point to Jesus. He was the totality of all their predictions! Jesus was Abraham’s promised Descendant; Moses’ Prophet; Isaiah’s Emmanuel; Ezekiel’s Shepherd; Daniel’s Holy One: all these and others, pointing to his Coming. Vowed that he would rescue us. Zechariah no doubt thinks of the Roman Occupation Troops as he says this. [God’s vow is found in Genesis 22:16-17. See Hebrews 6:13-18. The promise was completely fulfilled in the First Coming of Jesus and the climax of the Cross and Resurrection.]

Verses 76-79


You, my child. Zechariah’s prophecy points to John’s future role. A prophet of the Most High God. John would be the greatest of the Old Testament prophets [not counting Jesus himself]. See what Jesus said about him in Luke 7:28. By having their sins forgiven. The next verses give a brief statement of the Good News. Our God is merciful and tender. Because he is merciful and tender, he is about to act in history to cause the bright dawn of salvation to rise on us. The Good News will tell that condemnation can be taken away, and men [and women] can be “put right with God.” See Romans 8:1-4; John 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:4-10.

Verse 80


He lived in the desert. The nature of John’s public life later, points to a childhood lived as a kind of “holy hermit.” This is similar to what the childhood of Elijah must have been, since that prophet grew up among the semi-nomadic people of the land of Gilead. 2 Kings 2:8.

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Luke 1". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ice/luke-1.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.
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