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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Luke 2:8

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

Adam Clarke Commentary

There were - shepherds abiding in the field - There is no intimation here that these shepherds were exposed to the open air. They dwelt in the fields where they had their sheep penned up; but they undoubtedly had tents or booths under which they dwelt.

Keeping watch - by night - Or, as in the margin, keeping the watches of the night, i.e. each one keeping a watch (which ordinarily consisted of three hours) in his turn. The reason why they watched them in the field appears to have been, either to preserve the sheep from beasts of prey, such as wolves, foxes, etc., or from freebooting banditti, with which all the land of Judea was at that time much infested. It was a custom among the Jews to send out their sheep to the deserts, about the passover, and bring them home at the commencement of the first rain: during the time they were out, the shepherds watched them night and day. As the passover occurred in the spring, and the first rain began early in the month of Marchesvan, which answers to part of our October and November, we find that the sheep were kept out in the open country during the whole of the summer. And as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Lord was not born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could he have been born later than September, as the flocks were still in the fields by night. On this very ground the nativity in December should be given up. The feeding of the flocks by night in the fields is a chronological fact, which casts considerable light upon this disputed point. See the quotations from the Talmudists in Lightfoot.

The time in which Christ was born has been considered a subject of great importance among Christians. However, the matter has been considered of no moment by Him who inspired the evangelists; as not one hint is dropped on the subject, by which it might be possible even to guess nearly to the time, except the chronological fact mentioned above. A late writer makes the following remark: "The first Christians placed the baptism of Christ about the beginning of the fifteenth year of Tiberius; and thence reckoning back thirty years, they placed his birth in the forty-third year of the Julian period, the forty-second of Augustus, and the twenty-eighth after the victory at Actium. This opinion obtained till a.d. 527, when Dionysius Exiguus invented the vulgar account. Learned and pious men have trifled egregiously on this subject, making that of importance which the Holy Spirit, by his silence, has plainly informed them is of none. Fabricius gives a catalogue of no less than 136 different opinions concerning the Year of Christ's birth: and as to his birth Day, that has been placed by Christian sects and learned men in every month in the year. The Egyptians placed it in January - Wagenseil, in February - Bochart, in March - some, mentioned by Clemens Alexandrinus, in April - others, in May - Epiphanius speaks of some who placed it in June - and of others who supposed it to have been in July - Wagenseil, who was not sure of February, fixed it probably in August - Lightfoot, on the 15th of September - Scaliger, Casaubon, and Calvisius, in October - others, in November - but the Latin Church, supreme in power, and infallible in judgment, placed it on the 25th of December, the very day on which the ancient Romans celebrated the feast of their goddess Bruma." See more in Robinson's Notes on Claude's Essay, vol. i. p. 275, etc. Pope Julius I. was the person who made this alteration, and it appears to have been done for this reason: the sun now began his return towards the northern tropic, ending the winter, lengthening the short days, and introducing the spring. All this was probably deemed emblematical of the rising of the Sun of righteousness on the darkness of this world, and causing the day-spring from on high to visit mankind.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/luke-2.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The same country - Round about Bethlehem.

Shepherds - Men who tended flocks of sheep.

Abiding in the field - Remaining out of doors, under the open sky, with their flocks. This was commonly done. The climate was mild, and, to keep their flocks from straying, they spent the night with them. It is also a fact that the Jews sent out their flocks into the mountainous and desert regions during the summer months, and took them up in the latter part of October or the first of November, when the cold weather commenced. While away in these deserts and mountainous regions, it was proper that there should be someone to attend them to keep them from straying, and from the ravages of wolves and other wild beasts. It is probable from this that our Saviour was born before the 25th of December, or before what we call “Christmas.” At that time it is cold, and especially in the high and mountainous regions about Bethlehem. But the exact time of his birth is unknown; there is no way to ascertain it. By different learned men it has been fixed at each month in the year. Nor is it of consequence to “know” the time; if it were, God would have preserved the record of it. Matters of moment are clearly revealed; those which “he” regards as of no importance are concealed.

Keeping watch … - More literally, “tending their flocks “by turns” through the night watches.”


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/luke-2.html. 1870.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock.

ANNUNCIATION TO THE SHEPHERDS

And there were shepherds ... Their names are unknown, but they were appropriate representatives of Adam's race; and, as these words stand, they have a far more significant meaning than if personal names of these laborers had been supplied.

Abiding in the field ... The fact of the shepherd being outdoors suggests the temporal and transitory nature of the human family's status on earth. In the larger context of man's earthly tenure, the shepherds were better representatives of mankind than dwellers in strong houses might have been. In a sense, all men are "in the field," subject to all limitations of earth life, and remaining but a brief span of time.

By night ... Appropriately, Jesus was born at night; for there was a darker night symbolized by that event. The scepter had about departed from Judah; the savage Idumean was on the throne of David; pagan darkness engulfed the world; and the lord of the whole world was the first of the Caesars, Augustus, whose successors would drown the world in blood, debauch the government, and usher in the age of darkness. Beyond the confines of the ancient empire, the long and shameful gloom had settled over all the world; all nations sat in darkness.

O what a night was that which wrapped The heathen world in gloom! O what a Sun which rose this day Triumphant from the tomb.[17]

O what a night it was for all When Mary found no room To wrap her Babe but in a stall Encircled by the gloom.

- (second stanza by James Burton Coffman)

ENDNOTE:

[17] Anna L. Barbauld, hymn, "Again the Lord of Light and Life" Great Songs of the Church (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1937), No. 328.


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/luke-2.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And there were in the same country shepherds,.... For Bethlehem was a place of pasture: near to Ephrata, the same with Bethlehem, were the fields of the wood, Psalm 132:6 and the tower of Edar or the tower of the flock, Genesis 35:21 and here David kept his father's sheep, 1 Samuel 17:15 so that we need not wonder to hear of shepherds here,

abiding in the field, watching over their flock by night: from whence it appears, that Christ was born in the night; and theF15Tzeror Hamrnor, fol. 73. 3. Jews say, that the future redemption shall be in the night; and Jerom saysF16In Matt. xxv. 6. , it is a tradition of the Jews, that Christ will come in the middle of the night, as was the passover in Egypt: it is not likely that he was born, as is commonly received, at the latter end of December, in the depth of winter; since at this time, shepherds were out in the fields, where they lodged all night, watching their flocks: they were diligent men, that looked well to their flocks, and watched them by night, as well as by day, to preserve them from beasts of prey; they were, as it is in the Greek text, "keeping the watches of the night over their flock." The night was divided into four watches, the even, midnight, cock crowing, and morning; and these kept them, as the Arabic version adds, alternately, some kept the flock one watch, and some another, while the rest slept in the tent, or tower, that was built in the fields for that purpose. There were two sorts of cattle with the Jews; there was one sort which they called מדבריות, "the cattle of the wilderness", that lay in the fields; and another sort which they called בייתות, "the cattle of the house", that were brought up at home: concerning both which, they have this ruleF17Misn. Betza, c. 5. sect. 7. ,

"they do not water nor slay the cattle of the wilderness, but they water and slay the cattle of the house: these are the cattle of the house, that lie in the city; the cattle of the wilderness, are they that lie in the pastures.

On which, one of their commentatorsF18Maimon. in ib. observes,

"these lie in the pastures, which are in the villages, all the days of cold and heat, and do not go into the cities, until the rains descend.

The first rain is in the month Marchesvan, which answers to the latter part of our October, and the former part of November; and of this sort, seem to be the flocks those shepherds were keeping by night, the time not being yet come, of their being brought into the city: from whence it appears, that Christ must be born before the middle of October, since the first rain was not yet come; concerning this, the GemaraF19T. Bab. Betza, for. 40. 1. & Sabbat. fol. 45. 2. Vid Maimon Hilch. Yom Tob, c. 2. sect. 2. is more large,

"the Rabbins teach, that these are they of the wilderness, or fields, and these are they of the house; they of the field are they that go out on the passover, and feed in the pastures, and come in at the first rain; and these are they of the house, all that go out and feed without the border, and come and lie within the border (fixed for a sabbath day's journey): Rabbi says, those, and those are of the house; but these are they that are of the field, all they that go out and feed in the pastures, and do not come in to remain, neither in the days of the sun, nor in the days of the rains.

To the shepherds, the first notice of Christ's birth was given; not to the princes and chief priests, and learned men at Jerusalem, but to weak, mean, and illiterate men; whom God is pleased to choose and call, and reveal his secrets to; when he hides them from the wise and prudent, to their confusion, and the glory of his grace: and this was a presage of what the kingdom of Christ would be, and by, and to whom, the Gospel would be preached,


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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/luke-2.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

2 And there were in the same country shepherds d abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

(2) The angels themselves declare to poor shepherds (not at all regarding the pride of the mighty) the Godhead and office of the child lying in the crib.

(d) Living outside, and in the open air.


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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/luke-2.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Luke 2:8-20. Angelic annunciation to the shepherds - Their visit to the newborn Babe.

abiding in the fields — staying there, probably in huts or tents.

watch … by night — or, night watches, taking their turn of watching. From about passover time in April until autumn, the flocks pastured constantly in the open fields, the shepherds lodging there all that time. (From this it seems plain that the period of the year usually assigned to our Lord‘s birth is too late). Were these shepherds chosen to have the first sight of the blessed Babe without any respect of their own state of mind? That, at least, is not God‘s way. “No doubt, like Simeon (Luke 2:25), they were among the waiters for the Consolation of Israel” [Olshausen]; and, if the simplicity of their rustic minds, their quiet occupation, the stillness of the midnight hours, and the amplitude of the deep blue vault above them for the heavenly music which was to fill their ear, pointed them out as fit recipients for the first tidings of an Infant Savior, the congenial meditations and conversations by which, we may suppose, they would beguile the tedious hours would perfect their preparation for the unexpected visit. Thus was Nathanael engaged, all alone but not unseen, under the fig tree, in unconscious preparation for his first interview with Jesus. (See on John 1:48). So was the rapt seer on his lonely rock “in the spirit on the Lord‘s Day,” little thinking that this was his preparation for hearing behind him the trumpet voice of the Son of man (Revelation 1:10, etc.). But if the shepherds in His immediate neighborhood had the first, the sages from afar had the next sight of the new-born King. Even so still, simplicity first, science next, finds its way to Christ, whom
In quiet ever and in shade
Shepherds and Sage may find -

They, who have bowed untaught to Nature‘s sway,

And they, who follow Truth along her star-pav‘d way.
- Keble


Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/luke-2.html. 1871-8.

John Lightfoot's Commentary on the Gospels

8. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

[And there were shepherds keeping watch over their flock, &c.] These are the sheep of the wilderness; viz. those which go out to pasture about the time of the Passover, and are fed in the fields, and return home upon the first rain.

"Which is the first rain? It begins on the third of the month Marchesvan. The middle rain is on the seventh: the last on the seventeenth. So R. Meier: but R. Judah saith, On the seventh, seventeenth, and one-and-twentieth."

The spring coming on, they drove their beasts into wildernesses or champaign grounds, where they fed them the whole summer, keeping watch over them night and day, that they might not be impaired either by thieves or ravenous beasts. They had for this purpose their tower to watch in, or else certain small cottages erected for this very end, as we have observed elsewhere. Now in the month Marchesvan, which is part of our October and part of November, the winter coming on, they betook themselves home again with the flocks and the herds.


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Lightfoot, John. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "John Lightfoot Commentary on the Gospels". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jlc/luke-2.html. 1675.

People's New Testament

There were shepherds. The fields around Bethlehem have been for four thousand years the resort of shepherds. There David had cared for his flocks.

Keeping watch. To guard their flocks from robbers and wild beasts, and to keep them from straying.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.

Bibliography
Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "People's New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pnt/luke-2.html. 1891.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Abiding in the field (αγραυλουντεςagraulountes). From αγροςagros field and αυληaulē court. The shepherds were making the field their court. Plutarch and Strabo use the word.

Keeping watch (πυλασσοντες πυλακαςphulassontes phulakas). Cognate accusative. They were bivouacking by night and it was plainly mild weather. In these very pastures David had fought the lion and the bear to protect the sheep (1 Samuel 17:34.). The plural here probably means that they watched by turns. The flock may have been meant for the temple sacrifices. There is no way to tell.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/luke-2.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Shepherds

Luke's Gospel is the gospel of the poor and lowly. This revelation to the shepherds acquires additional meaning as we remember that shepherds, as a class, were under the Rabbinic ban, because of their necessary isolation from religious ordinances, and their manner of life, which rendered strict legal observance well-nigh impossible.

Keeping watch ( φυλάσσοντες φυλακὰς )

Φυλακή is sometimes used of a watch as a measure of time, as in Matthew 14:25; Mark 6:48; Luke 12:38. So possibly here. See Rev. in margin, night-watches. There is a play upon the words: watching watches. There was near Bethlehem, on the road to Jerusalem, a tower known as Migdal Eder, or the watch-tower of the flock. Here was the station where shepherds watched the flocks destined for sacrifice in the temple. Animals straying from Jerusalem on any side, as far as from Jerusalem to Migdal Eder, were offered in sacrifice. It was a settled conviction among the Jews that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, and equally that he was to be revealed from Migdal Eder. The beautiful significance of the revelation of the infant Christ to shepherds watching the flocks destined for sacrifice needs no comment.

Their flock ( τὴν ποίμνην )

May not the singular number fall in with what has just been said?- the flock, the temple-flock, specially devoted to sacrifice. The pronoun their would furnish no objection, since it is common to speak of the flock as belonging to the shepherd. Compare John 10:3, John 10:4.


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Bibliography
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/luke-2.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

The Fourfold Gospel

And there were shepherds in the same country1 abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock2.
    THE BIRTH OF JESUS PROCLAIMED BY ANGELS TO THE SHEPHERDS. (Near Bethlehem, B.C. 5.) Luke 2:8-20

  1. And there were shepherds in the same country. They were in the same fields from which David had been called to tend God's Israel, or flock.

  2. Abiding in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. When the flock is too far from the village to lead it to the fold at night, these shepherds still so abide with it in the field, even in the dead of winter.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.

Bibliography
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "The Fourfold Gospel". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/luke-2.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Flocks were kept in ancient times, not by means of fences or enclosures, but by shepherds, who watched them in open pasture grounds.


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Bibliography
Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/luke-2.html. 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

8.And there were shepherds It would have been to no purpose that Christ was born in Bethlehem, if it had not been made known to the world. But the method of doing so, which is described by Luke, appears to the view of men very unsuitable. First, Christ is revealed but to a few witnesses, and that too amidst the darkness of night. Again, though God had, at his command, many honorable and distinguished witnesses, he passed by them, and chose shepherds, persons of humble rank, and of no account among men. Here the reason and wisdom of the flesh must prove to be foolishness; and we must acknowledge, that “the foolishness of God” (1 Corinthians 1:25) excels all the wisdom that exists, or appears to exist, in the world. But this too was a part of the “emptying of himself,” (Philippians 2:6 :) not that any part of Christ’s glory should be taken away by it, but that it should lie in concealment for a time. Again, as Paul reminds us, that the gospel is mean according to the flesh, “that our faith should stand” in the power of the Spirit, not in the “lofty (142) words of human wisdom,” or in any worldly splendor, (143) (1 Corinthians 2:4;) so this inestimable “treasure” has been deposited by God, from the beginning, “in earthen vessels,” (2 Corinthians 4:7,) that he might more fully try the obedience of our faith. If then we desire to come to Christ, let us not be ashamed to follow those whom the Lord, in order to cast down the pride of the world, has taken, from among the dung (144) of cattle, to be our instructors.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/luke-2.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

Ver. 8. Keeping watch over their flock] At the tower of Edar, say some, between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where Jacob, returning from Mesopotamia, stayed with his flock, after he had buried Rachel, Genesis 35:21; Micah 4:8.

By night] Hence some gather that our Saviour was not born in the winter, because in winter they housed their cattle, and fed them not out doors, Proverbs 27:25.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/luke-2.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Luke 2:8. Keeping watch, &c.— Literally, Watching the watches of the night; which intimates their taking it by turns to watch, according to the usual divisions of the night; and as it is not probable that they exposed their flocks to the coldness of winter-nights in that climate, where, as Dr. Shaw has shewn, they were very unwholesome,—(see his Travels, p. 379.) it may be strongly argued from this circumstance, that those who have fixed upon December for the birth of Christ, have been mistaken in the time of it. But see more on this head in the note on Luke 2:1


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Bibliography
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/luke-2.html. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Here we have the promulgation and first publishing of our Saviour's birth to the world: The angel said unto the shepherds, I bring you glad tidings, a Saviour is born.

Where observe, 1. The messenger employed by God to publish the joyful news of a Saviour's birth; the holy angels, heavenly messengers employed about a heavenly work: it is worth our notice, how serviceable the angels were to Christ upon all occasions, when he was here upon earth; an angel declares his conception; a host of angels publish his birth; in his temptation, an angel strengthens him; in his agony, an angel comforts him; at his resurrection, an angel rolls away the stone from the door of the sepulchre; at his ascension, the angels attend him up to heaven; and at his second coming to judge the world, he shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels. And great reason there is, that the angels should be thus officious in their attendances upon Christ, who is a head of confirmation to them, as he was a head of redemption to fallen man.

Observe, 2. The persons to whom this joyful message of a Saviour's birth is first brought, and they are the shepherds; The angel said unto the shepherds, Fear not.

1. Because Christ, the great shepherd of his church, was come into the world.

2. Because he was of old promised unto shepherds, the old patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who by their occupation were shepherds.

Observe, 3. The time when these shepherds had the honour of this revelation; it was not when they were asleep on their beds of idleness and sloth, but when they were lying abroad, and watching their flocks.

The blessings of heaven usually meet us in the way of an honest and industrious diligence; whereas the idle are fit for nothing but temptation to work upon. If these shepherds had been snoring in their beds, they had no more seen angels, nor yet heard the news of a Saviour, than their neighbours.

Observe, 4. The nature and quality of the message which the angel brought; it was a message of joy, a message of great joy, a message of great joy unto all people.

For here was born a Son, that Son a Prince, that Prince a Saviour, that Saviour not a particular Saviour of the Jews only, but an universal Saviour, whose salvation is to the ends of the earth. Well might the angel call it a message, or glad tidings of great joy unto all people!

Observe, 5. The ground and occasion of this joy, the foundation of all this good news, which was proclaimed in the ears of a lost world; and that was, the birth of a Saviour; Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Hence learn, 1. That the incarnation and birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and his manifestation in our flesh and nature, was and is matter of exceeding joy and rejoicing unto all people.

2. That the great end and design of our Lord's incarnation and coming into the world, was to be the Saviour of lost sinners; "Unto you is born a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."


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Bibliography
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/luke-2.html. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

8.] Mr. Greswell has made it highly probable (Diss. x. vol. i.) that our Lord was born on the evening of (i.e. which began) the 5th of April, the 10th of the Jewish Nisan: on which same day of April, and the 14th of Nisan, He suffered thirty-three years after. Before this time there would be abundance of grass in the pastures—the spring rains being over: but much after it, and till after the autumnal equinox again, the pastures would be comparatively bare: see note on John 6:10.

ἀγρ.] spending the night in the open field.

φυλ. φυλακὰς τ. ν., either, keeping watch by night, or, keeping the watches of the night. The former seems most probable: and so Meyer and Bleek: see ref. Xen., and add Alexis in Athen(19) xv. 58, p. 700— ὁ πρῶτος εὑρὼν μετὰ λυχνούχου περιπατεῖν τῆς νυκτός, ἦν τις κηδεμὼν τῶν δακτύλων.


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Bibliography
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/luke-2.html. 1863-1878.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Luke 2:8 f. ποιμένες] not οἱ ποιμένες.

ἀγραυλοῦντες] staying out in the open fields; Plut. Numbers 4; Parthen. Erot. xxix. 1, and the ποιμένες ἄγραυλοι already in Homer, Il. xviii. 162.

φυλάσσ. φυλακάς] often conjoined also among the Greek writers; Plat. Phaedr. p. 240 E Xen. Anab. ii. 6. 10, and the passages in Kypke. Comp. שָׁמַו מִשְׁמָרו ̇ח, Numbers 1:53, al. The plural applies to the different watch-stations.

τῆς νυκτός] not belonging to φυλακάς, but: by night, definition of time for ἀγραυλ. and φυλάσσ.

According to this statement, Jesus cannot have been born in December, in the middle of the rainy season (Robinson, Pal. II. p. 505 f.), as has been since the fourth century supposed with a probable joining on of the festival to the Natales solis invicti (see Gieseler, Kirchengesch. I. 2, p. 287 f. ed. 4). Just as little can He have been born on the sixth day of January, which in the East was even earlier fixed as the festival of the birth and baptism (still other times fixed as the day of birth may be seen in Clement Al. Strom. I. p. 339 f. Sylb.). According to the Rabbins, the driving forth of the flocks took place in March, the bringing in of them in November (see Lightfoot); and if this is established at least as the usual course, it certainly is not in favour of the hypothesis (Wieseler) that Jesus was born in February (750), and necessitates precarious accessory assumptions.

ἐπέστη] Comp. Luke 24:4; Acts 12:7; Acts 17:5. In the classical writers it is used also of theophanies, of appearances in dreams, and the like, frequently since Homer (Il. xxiii. 106, x. 496), denoting their sudden emergence, which nevertheless is implied not in the word in itself, but in the text.

δόξα κυρίου], בְּבוֹד יְהֹוָה radiance by which God is surrounded. Comp. Ewald, ad Apoc. p. 311. God’s glorious radiance (comp. Acts 7:2) had streamed down with the angel. “In omni humiliatione Christi per deeoram quandam protestationem cautum est gloriae ejus divinae,” Bengel.


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Bibliography
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/luke-2.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Luke 2:8. χώρᾳ, region) in which David also had fed his sheep.— φυλακὰς, watch [plur.]) by turns.


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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/luke-2.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Bethlehem was a place about which were pastures for sheep, as appears from 1 Samuel 17:15. There were shepherds abroad in the night (for so the word signifieth) watching over their flocks; whether the phrase signifieth (as some think) successive watches, such as are kept by soldiers, and by the priests, I cannot say. This maketh some think, that it is hardly probable that our Saviour was born in December in the midst of the winter, that being no time when shepherds use in the night to be keeping their flocks in the field.


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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Luke 2:8". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/luke-2.html. 1685.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

8. ποιμένες. Shepherds at this time were a despised class, so that in this instance first πτωχοὶ εὐαγγελίζονται. Luke 7:22 (Meyer). Why these were the first to whom was revealed the birth of Him who was called the Lamb of God we are not told. The sheep used for the daily sacrifice were pastured in the fields of Bethlehem.

ἀγραυλοῦντες. This does not prove, as some have supposed, that the Nativity took place in spring, for in some pastures of Palestine the shepherds to this day bivouac with their flocks in winter. See, however, Robinson, Bibl. Res. II. 505, who thinks that this would not be possible at Bethlehem in the rainy season of December. On the other hand, we cannot estimate the extent to which the climate may have altered.

ἐν τῇ χώρᾳ τῇ αὐτῇ. Tradition says that they were natives of the little village Beth-zur (Joshua 15:58; Nehemiah 3:16). They were feeding their flocks in the same fields from which David had been summoned to feed Jacob, God’s people, and Israel His inheritance.


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"Commentary on Luke 2:8". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/luke-2.html. 1896.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘And there were shepherds in the same country abiding in the countryside, and keeping watch by night over their flock.’

The scene now moves to the countryside, possibly the craggy mountainside, where there were shepherds who were watching their flocks by night. Day and night it was their responsibility to watch over the sheep, summer and winter alike if the weather was mild enough. Here was where David had once watched his father’s sheep (1 Samuel 17:15; 1 Samuel 17:34-37), here he had slain the lion and the bear, and it was therefore seemly that when his Greater Son was being born into the world shepherds should be involved in it. It is an indication of God’s delicate touch, and a reminder of the Davidic connection.

Such shepherds would not be looked on favourably by most people and they would almost certainly not have been seen as ritually ‘clean’. They were not in a position to observe the niceties of religion. Yet we are probably justified in seeing in these shepherds pious men, and men who were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, men who were looking for the consolation of Israel (compare Luke 2:25).


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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/luke-2.html. 2013.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

8. Abiding in the fields—Probably both day and night in the open air.

Keeping watch.—That is taking watch by turns.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/luke-2.html. 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Shepherds were socially looked down upon in Jesus" day. Their work made them ceremonially unclean, and they had a reputation for being untrustworthy. [Note: Liefeld, p845.] Thus God first sent the gospel to the lowly. Luke had a special interest in the lower elements of society. David, of course, had been a shepherd, but God had elevated him to be the ruler of His people ( 2 Samuel 7:8). Jesus" career would follow the pattern of his ancestor generally. Throughout the Old Testament God used shepherds as symbols of those who cared for His people ( Psalm 23:1; Isaiah 40:11; Jeremiah 23:1-4; et al.). Consequently these shepherds represent all people of lowly origin and reputation who receive the gospel by God"s grace and proclaim it joyfully to others. The idea that these shepherds were raising sheep that the people would offer as Passover sacrifices in a few months is possible but not capable of verification. [Note: See Morris, p84.] They would have been out in the fields with their sheep at night if the winter weather was mild, as it apparently was. There is evidence in the Mishnah, however, that sheep pastured there were destined for temple sacrifice. [Note: Mishnah Shekalim7:4. See also Edersheim, 1:186-87.]


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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/luke-2.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Luke 2:8. Shepherds, i.e., some shepherds, probably chosen because they too like Simeon ‘were waiting for the consolation of Israel’ (Luke 2:25). The Shepherd of Israel cares for His flock; while sending a Saviour to the whole world, He satisfied the secret yearnings of this humble company. His care is as minute as it is extensive.

Keeping watch over their flock by night. This might have been in December. The Jewish Rabbins indeed say that flocks were taken out in March and brought home in November, but this probably refers to far-off pastures. During the rainy season from November to March, according to the testimony of trustworthy observers, there generally occurs an interval of dry weather (between the middle of December and the middle of February), when of course the grass is green. The exact date cannot be fixed. The traditional date (December 25) is of late origin, and Christmas was not celebrated in the Church till after the middle of the fourth century, and seems to have been substituted for a series of heathen festivals (see Schaff: Church History, vol. ii., p. 395 ff.). The anniversary is of less antiquity, of less importance and accuracy, than Easter, which was observed from the earliest times. In the early Church there was no agreement as to the time of Christ’s birth, and quite as little among modern chronologists. The Saviour was born in the fulness of time, just when He was most needed, and when the Jewish and Gentile world was fully prepared for this central fact and turning-point in history. The 25th of December may have been selected for poetic and symbolical fitness. At that season the longest night gives way to the returning sun on his triumphant march, just as Christ appeared in the darkest night of sin and error as the true Light of the world.


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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/luke-2.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Luke 2:8. ποιμένες, shepherds, without article; no connection between them and the birthplace.— ἀγραυλοῦντες ( ἀγρός, αὐλή, here only), bivouacking, passing the night in the open air; implying naturally a mild time of the year between March and November. In winter the flocks were in fold.


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Bibliography
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/luke-2.html. 1897-1910.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Luke 2:8. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field — Here we see, that as Abraham and David, to whom the promise of the Messiah was first made, were shepherds, so the completion of this promise was first revealed to shepherds. Keeping watch over their flocks by night — Which it was necessary they should do, to guard against the wolves and other beasts of prey, common there. The original words, φυλασσοντες φυλακας της νυκτος, may be more literally rendered, watching the watches of the night. These watches were four; the first is mentioned, Lamentations 2:19; the second and third, Luke 12:38; and the fourth, Matthew 14:25; being the morning watch. It seems there was a considerable number of the shepherds together here, for the expression implies that they watched by turns according to these divisions of the night. “As it is not probable,” says Dr. Doddridge, “that they exposed their flocks to the coldness of winter nights in that climate, where, as Dr. Shaw (Trav., p. 379) has shown, they were so very unwholesome, it may be strongly argued from this circumstance that those who have fixed upon December for the birth of Christ have been mistaken in the time of it.” The birth of Christ has been placed in every month of the year. The Egyptians placed it in January — Wagenseil, in February — Bochart, in March — some mentioned by Clement of Alexandria, in April — others, in May — Epiphanius speaks of some who placed it in June — and others who supposed it to have been in July — Wagenseil, who was not sure of February, fixed it probably in August — Lightfoot, on the 15th of September — Scaliger, Casaubon, and Calvisius, in October — others, in November. But the Latin Church, being infallible in judgment, and supreme in power, has settled the matter by declaring that he was born on the 25th of December. See Labbæi, Concil. Fabricii, Bibliot. Antiq., cap. 10. It is happy for us that the particular day and hour, or even year, in which he was born is not necessary to be ascertained in order to our salvation; nor at all material to true religion. It is sufficient for us to know that he was born, was made flesh, and dwelt among us, assumed our nature, and in consequence thereof is become an all-sufficient Saviour and Redeemer, in whom whosoever believeth, with a right faith, shall not perish, but have eternal life.


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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/luke-2.html. 1857.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

country = region where David fed his father"s sheep, when sent for by Samuel (1 Samuel 16:11, 1 Samuel 16:12).

over. Greek. epi. App-104.


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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/luke-2.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field (staying there, probably in huts or tents), keeping watch , [ fulassontes (Greek #5442) fulakas (Greek #5438) tees (Greek #3588) nuktos (Greek #3571)] - rather, 'keeping the night watches,' or taking their turn of watching "by night." From this most critics, since Lightfoot, conclude that the time which, since the fourth century, has been ecclesiastically fixed upon for the celebration of Christ's birth-the 25th of December, or the midst of the rain season-cannot be the true time, as the shepherds drove their flocks about the spring or Passover time out to the fields, and remained out with them all summer, under cover of huts or tents, returning with them late in the autumn. But recent travelers tell us that in the end of December, after the rains, the flowers come again into bloom, and the flocks again issue forth. The nature of the seasons in Palestine could hardly have been unknown to those who fixed upon the present Christmas-period: the difficulty, therefore, is perhaps more imaginary than real.

But leaving this question undecided, another of some interest may be asked-Were these shepherds chosen to have the first sight of the blessed Babe without any respect to their own state of mind? That, at least, is not God's way. No doubt, as Olshausen remarks, they were, like Simeon (Luke 2:25), among the waiters for the Consolation of Israel; and if the simplicity of their rustic minds, their quiet occupation, the stillness of the midnight hours, and the amplitude of the deep blue vault above them for the heavenly music which was to fill their ear, pointed them out as fit recipients for the first tidings of an Infant Saviour, the congenial meditations and conversations by which, we may suppose, they would beguile the tedious hours would perfect their preparation for the unexpected visit. Thus was Nathanael engaged, all alone but not unseen, under the fig tree, in unconscious preparation for his first interview with Jesus. (See the note at John 1:48.) So was the rapt seer on his lonely rock "in the spirit on the Lord's day," little thinking that this was his preparation for hearing behind him the trumpet-voice of the Son of Man, (Revelation 1:10, etc.) But if the shepherds in his immediate neighbourhood had the first, the sages from afar had t he next sight of the newborn King. Even so still, simplicity first, science next, finds its way to Christ. Whom,

`In quiet ever and in shade Shepherd and Sage may find; They who have bowed untaught to Nature's sway, And they who follow Truth along her star-pav'd way.' (KEBLE)


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/luke-2.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(8) Shepherds abiding in the field.—The fact has been thought, on the supposition that sheep were commonly folded during the winter months, to have a bearing adverse to the common traditional view which fixes December 25 as the day of the Nativity. At that season, it has been urged, the weather was commonly too inclement for shepherds and sheep to pass the night in the open air, and there was too little grass for pasturage. In summer, on the other hand, the grass on the hills is rapidly burnt up. The season at which the grass is greenest is that just before the Passover (Mark 6:39; John 6:10); and, on the whole, this appears the most probable date. The traditional season, which does not appear as such till the fourth century, may have been chosen for quite other reasons—possibly to displace the old Saturnalia, which coincided with the winter solstice. It is noticeable that the earliest Latin hymns connected with the festival of Christmas dwell on the birth as the rising of the Sun of Righteousness on the world’s wintry darkness.

Keeping watch.—Literally, keeping their night-watches, as in Matthew 14:25. Who the shepherds were, or why they were thus chosen as the first to hear the glad tidings, we cannot know. Analogy suggests the thought that it was an answer to their prayers, the fulfilment of their hopes, that they, too, were looking for “the consolation of Israel.” We may venture, perhaps, to think of the shepherds of Bethlehem as cherishing the traditions of David’s shepherd-life, and the expectations which, as we know from Matthew 2:5, John 7:42, were then current throughout Judæa—that the coming of the Christ was not far off, and that Bethlehem was to witness His appearing, as thus gaining a higher spiritual receptivity than others. The statement in the Mishna that the sheep intended for sacrifice in the Temple were pastured in the fields of Bethlehem, gives a special interest to the fact thus narrated, and may, perhaps, in part, explain the faith and devotion of the shepherds. They had been rejoicing, at the Paschal season, over the spring-tide birth of the lambs of their flocks. They now heard of the birth of “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).


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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/luke-2.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
abiding
Genesis 31:39,40; Exodus 3:1,2; 1 Samuel 17:34,35; Psalms 78:70,71; Ezekiel 34:8; John 10:8-12
watch over their flock by night
or, the night-watches.

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/luke-2.html.

The Bible Study New Testament

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.


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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Luke 2:8". "The Bible Study New Testament". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/luke-2.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

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