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Bible Commentaries

The Bible Study New Testament
Luke 2

 

 

Verse 1

At that time Emperor Augustus. Augustus Caesar, nephew and heir of Julius Caesar, was now the ruler of the civilized world. Herod was king of Judea, but Augustus Caesar was over him. To register themselves for the census. The word "tax" formerly meant "to register for the census," since in ancient times, the two things went together.


Verse 2

When this first census took place. This reference to Quirinius as the governor of Syria clearly identified the time this happened, and Theophilus would clearly understand it. Scholars pinpoint the birth of Jesus in 4 B.C. by our calendar [which is in error, since it is supposed to date from the birth of Christ].


Verse 3

Each to his own town. Jewish and Roman customs were mixed together. The Jews registered people by Tribes and Families. Joseph was of the Family of David, and would have to register in David's town.


Verse 4

Joseph went from the town of Nazareth. There is no record of how long he had been living in Galilee. To the town named Bethlehem. This was David's town, because he had been born there.


Verse 5

He went to register himself with Mary. Women had to be registered too, and Mary was also of the Family of David. She would also be assessed the tax.


Verse 6

The time came for her to have her baby. The order from Emperor Augustus fulfilled scripture by bringing Mary and Joseph here, so Jesus would be born in Bethlehem (see Micah 5:1-2).


Verse 7

She gave birth to her first son. PROTOTOKON. The language implies that Mary would be the mother of other children. See note on Matthew 1:25; John 2:12. Wrapped him in cloths. New-born children were wrapped tightly in a long, narrow cloth. And laid him in a manger. In the animal's feeding trough. Tradition places the birth in a cave behind the inn. Justin Martyr mentions a prophecy in Isaiah 33:16 [Septuagint] which reads: "He shall dwell in a high cave of a strong rock: bread shall be given him, and his water shall be sure. " Caves are used to house animals in most rocky countries. The number of people who came to Bethlehem to register for the census crowded the inn, so there was no room for Mary and Joseph to stay. Also, the more private cave would be better for the birth to take place, and, when Jesus came as a human being, he stooped to its most humble circumstances. [Inn: built on the plan of an Eastern house, but much larger. Four rows of rooms, enclosing a large yard with a well at the center. The outer wall is usually of brick on a stone foundation. The rooms are entered from the yard, and the rooms themselves are built two or three feet above the surface of the yard. Below and behind the row of rooms was the stable, which could be a cave, or a long room or row of rooms. The floor of the guest rooms was often extended into the stable to form a shelf to hold the food for the animals.]


Verse 8

There were some shepherds. David guarded his flocks of sheep here. Who were spending the night in the fields. At this time of the year, they stayed out in the open, guarding their sheep from wild animals and thieves. This argues against a winter date for the birth.


Verse 9

An angel of the Lord. An angel announced the coming birth of Jesus; an army of angels praise God at Jesus' birth; an angel strengthens Jesus at the temptation; an angel strengthens Jesus in the garden; at his raising from death, an angel rolls the stone away from the grave; as he was taken up to heaven, angels go along with him; when he comes to judge the world, his holy angels will come with him.


Verse 10

I am here with Good News for you. The bright dawn of salvation was about to shine on the whole human race. Which will bring great joy to all the people. The barrier between Jew and Gentile was about to be broken down. God's Truth was to be made available to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews.


Verse 11

In David's town. Seven hundred years before this, the prophet had told about this day (Micah 5:2). See note on Matthew 2:6. David was born here. Now David's Son begins his earthly career in this town. Christ the Lord. The Anointed Lord—the Messiah—which the Nation eagerly awaited.


Verse 12

What will prove it to you is this. The prediction of what they will find is the sign. The proof will be the baby, the cloths, and the manger.


Verse 13

Suddenly a great army of heaven's angels. Compare Revelation 5:11-12.


Verse 14

Glory to God. The life of Jesus upon the earth was the fulfillment of their song of praise. Every thought, word, and action of that life was the translation of God's Love into visible forms which humans could see. Jesus brought glory to God and peace on earth. See note on Philippians 4:7 for the true meaning of "peace on earth."


Verse 16

So they hurried off. Note how quickly they respond to the angel's message!


Verse 19

Mary remembered all these things. A mother remembers things connected with her children. Probably the reference here is to what the shepherds told that the angels had said.


Verse 21

When the time came for the baby to be circumcised. See note on Luke 1:59. Jesus lived under the Jewish Law (Galatians 4:4). He obeyed it perfectly. He was circumcised on the "eighth day" [a week after birth], because it was God's Law at that time and was to be obeyed as long as it was in force. [There is no link between circumcision and baptism. Note that: (1) Circumcised Jews were baptized into Christ; (2) Circumcision only applied to males, while both sexes are baptized; (3) There is no Bible basis for saying that one takes the place of the other. Compare notes on Colossians 2:11-12. He was named Jesus. According to Jewish custom, the baby was named at the time of circumcision. The angel had given the name. "Jesus" means Savior. The Hebrew form is "Joshua"—"Jehovah's Salvation."


Verse 22

The ceremony of purification. Thirty-three days after the birth of a male child (sixty-six days for a female child), he was to be presented at the temple with the proper ritual (see Leviticus 12).


Verse 23

Every firstborn male. Compare Numbers 3:13. All the first-born were to be presented to the Lord and redeemed with an offering (Numbers 18:15-16).


Verse 24

To offer a sacrifice. The fact that they offer two birds shows they were poor. The Law (Leviticus 12:6-8) required a lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon or a dove for a sin offering, but allowed two birds to be substituted by those who could not afford the lamb. Note the Magi had not yet brought their gifts. (see note on Matthew 2:11).


Verse 25

Whose name was Simeon. He was the first prophet to declare that Christ had come. Waiting for Israel to be saved. That Isaiah, the Coming of the Messiah. The Holy Spirit was with him. To give him supernormal knowledge.


Verse 26

And he had been assured by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had promised Simeon that he would live to see the Messiah in person.


Verse 27

Led by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit directed him. Compare Acts 8:29. What the Law required. The ritual of the Law was strictly obeyed, because Jesus lived under the Law.


Verse 28

And gave thanks to God. The "prophetic speeches" of Elizabeth, Mary and Simeon form a chain. Mary sings of the Messiah [who will come through her]; Zechariah praises the salvation of Israel; and Simeon announces a light to the Gentiles. Note Simeon announces Jesus as a suffering Messiah (Luke 2:34-35), who would both destroy and save.


Verse 32

A light to reveal your way. Simeon announces that God's plans include the Gentiles. James later quotes the prophet Amos in Acts 15:15-18. See also Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 49:6.


Verse 33

Were amazed. That Simeon should know the child, and the things which he was predicting.


Verse 34

For the destruction and salvation of many. Christ destroyed the hopes of those who looked for a political Messiah. Unbelievers would "fall on him" and be broken to pieces (see notes on Matthew 21:42-44). Christ brought a universal Kingdom, prepared for all nations. Many would reach out in faith to seize his act of sacrifice and make themselves part of it. See what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 2:16.


Verse 35

And sorrow, like a sharp sword. Happiness and sorrow will both fill her heart. He would be a king, but he must go by way of the Cross. The preaching of Christ produces either hate or love.


Verse 36

A prophetess named Anna. One who spoke by inspiration. Daughter of Phanuel. Who must have been well known at that time. Of the tribe of Asher. One of the Twelve Tribes, occupying land on the sea coast between Sidon and Carmel.


Verse 37

A widow for eighty-four years. It was not unusual for a girl to marry at twelve years of age, so Anna must have been at least 103 years old at this time. Unusual, but still very possible. She evidently lived inside the temple walls, and probably was given living space because of her holy life.


Verse 38

And spoke about the child. She announced to all that he was the promised child. She knew this by inspiration.


Verse 39

They returned to Galilee. Luke does not mention the visit of the Magi, the escape into Egypt, and the return from there. Matthew tells about this in chapter 2. To their home town of Nazareth. A mountain village in southern Galilee. This will be the home of Jesus until he Isaiah 30 years old.


Verse 40

The child grew and became strong. He experienced human life to its fullest, by growing up in a normal childhood. He was full of wisdom. "The divine nature revealed its own wisdom in proportion to the measure of the bodily growth."—Cyril. See 1 Timothy 3:16. One of the riddles of time, is that the God-man should become a baby, not only in body, but in mind and wisdom as well. (Compare Philippians 2:6-11.)


Verse 41

Went to Jerusalem. The Law required every male Jew to come to the temple at Jerusalem three times a year, for the Feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles [also called the Feast of Booths, and Succoth; similar to our Thanksgiving]. Women were not required to attend, but they often did, to worship God.


Verse 42

When Jesus was twelve years old. At age twelve, a Jewish boy became a legal adult. From this time on it would be Jesus' personal responsibility to obey the Law.


Verse 43

When the days of the feast were over. The seven days of the Passover week. Jesus stayed in Jerusalem. Because he was preoccupied in his talk with the Jewish teachers.


Verse 44

With the group. People traveled in large groups for protection against wild animals and bandits, as well as to have someone to talk to. Since Jesus had probably been there every year, it would be reasonable for them to think he was somewhere in the crowd of people. Therefore, they did not begin to search for him until the end of the first day's travel.


Verse 46

On the third day. That Isaiah, on the third day after they had last seen him. In the temple. There were porches and rooms in the Women's Court where the teachers of the Law taught classes regularly. Sitting with the Jewish teachers. Some of the greatest teachers in Jewish history lived about this time: Hillel, Simeon, and Gamaliel. Asking questions. This was the normal format for classes.


Verse 49

Why did you have to look for me? Didn't you know that I had to be in my Father's house? They should have come straight to the temple, These words first reveal his consciousness of his "supernormal" birth.


Verse 50

But they did not understand. They thought of him as "their Song of Solomon," and did not understand what he said about his Father's house,


Verse 51

So Jesus went back with them. His heart drew him to the Father's house, but duty called him back to Galilee. [Luke gives this isolated event from Jesus' childhood. There would have been more, if Luke had more to tell. Luke 2:41-52 are all we know of Jesus' early years.]


Verse 52

And Jesus grew. Jesus grew up in a remote province of the Roman Empire, a province conquered by occupation troops, in a little country village whose name was a "proverb" for futility, in poverty and manual labor in a carpenter shop. Perhaps this is God's "SENSE OF HUMOR" (compare 1 Corinthians 1:27-28). But Jesus had the supervision by Mary and Joseph, the Old Testament scriptures, the worship in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:16), the Feasts in the temple at Jerusalem (Luke 2:41), and the constant communion of his spirit with God, his heavenly Father. Gaining favor. Eighteen years of silence are covered in this verse. Some have questioned how Jesus could gain favor, if he was pure and sinless already. But since he shared our human nature (Romans 8:3), he would be expected to grow and gain favor as humans do. Note that one of Jesus' favorite names for himself was "SON OF MAN."

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Luke 2:4". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/luke-2.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, August 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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