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led Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceiv ed in the womb. But because the law required that he should be presented in the temple, at the end of forty days from his birth, and that the usual offerings should be made, his parents would find it more convenient to go up with him from Bethlehem where he was born, at the distance of six miles, only, than after Mary's recovery to carry him first to Nazareth, which was a great way from Jerusalem. We may therefore reasonably enough suppose, that they tarried in Bethlehem all the days of the purification, and that from Bethlehem they went straight way to Jerusalem. Here entering the temple, the sacrifices prescribed for the purification of women after child-bearing, were offered for Mary, who, according to custom, waited in the outer court till the service of her purification was performed. 22. And when the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. 23. (As it is written in the law of the Lord, (Exod. xiii. 2) every male that openeth the womb, shall be called holy to the Lord) 24. And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons. This was the offering appointed for the poorer sort. It is evident, therefore, that although Joseph and Mary were both of the seed royal, they were in very mean circumstances. The evangelist mentions the presentation of the child to the Lord, before the offering of the sacrifice for the mother's purification; but in fact this preceded the presentation, because till it was per
xi. 3. Wherefore, to render Jesus acceptable to the Jews, to fit him for conversing familiarly with there, and to qualify him for discharging the other duties of his ministry, it was necessary that he should be circumcised. Besides, as Messiah was to be the descendent of Abraham, whose posterity were distinguished from the rest of mankind by this rite, he received the seal of circumcision to shew that he was rightly descended from that pa triarch. To conclude, it was necessary Jesus should be circumcised, because thereby he was subjected to the law of Moses, and put in a condition to fulfil all righteousness.
Ver. 22. Days of her purification.] See Lev. xii. 1,-6. from which it appears, that for the first seven days after child-bearing, whoever touched the woman, or conversed with her, was pollutted. For thirty-three days more she was still, though in an inferior degree, unclean; because she could not all that time partake in the solemnities of public worship. At the conclusion of this term, she was commanded to bring certain sacrifices to the temple, by the offering of which the stain laid on her by the law was wiped off, and she restored to all the purity and cleanness she had before. This was the law of the purification after bearing a son. But for a daughter the time of separation was double: the first term being fourteen days, and the second sixty-six; in all eighty days before she could approach the sanctuary. Now as Jesus was circumcised, though perfectly free from sin, so his mother submitted to the purifications prescribed by the law, notwithstanding she was free from the pollutions common in other births. It was evident, indeed, that she was a mother, but her miraculous conception was not generally known.
formed, the mother could not enter the temple; accordingly, Luke himself introduces both the parents presenting Jesus, v. 27,
The service of Mary's purification therefore being ended, she went with her son in her arms into the temple, and assisted her husband in presenting him to the Lord. On this occasion two extraordinary incidents happened, which not a little confirmed their faith, and raised their hopes concerning the future greatness of their son. There was now, it seems, in Jerusalem, one Simeon, venerable on account of his age, his prophetic spirit, his virtue, and his consummate piety. This good man had lived long in expectation of seeing Messiah. For God, in reward of his piety, had favoured him so highly as to assure him by a particular revelation, that he should not die till he had seen the Lord's Christ. 25. And behold there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, i. e. the Messiah, very fitly called the consolation of Israel, because in all ages the prophets had been sent with promises of his coming, to comfort the people of God under their afflictions. (See Isa. xlix. 13. lii. 9.
And the Holy Ghost was upon him. He was endowed with the spirit of prophecy. 26. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. (See on John xii. 2. at the end of the note, § 110.) Accordingly, coming by the direction of the Spirit into the temple, while the parents of Jesus were presenting him to the Lord, and paying the usual price for his redemption, it was signified to him that this was He. Transported therefore with exceeding joy, he took the child in his arms, and praised God for allowing him to behold the author of that salvation, which he had prepared to be offered to all people. 27. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: And when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law 28. Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said aloud, in the hearing of all the people then present, 29. Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word. Let me depart out of the world filled with the satisfaction of having seen the Messiah, according to the gracious promise thou wast pleased to make me. This good man having obtained
V 61.3. Îxvi. 13. Jer. xxxi. 13. Zech. i. 17.)
• The rite of redemption was instituted to perpetuate the memory of the divine mercy, which spared the first-born of Israel, when those of Egypt, men and beast, were destroyed. Accordingly, by this title God claimed the whole first-born of Israel, in all succeeding generations, as his property; ordering the firstlings of clean beasts to be offered to him in sacrifice, and the first-born of men to be presented before him in the temple, as an acknowledgment of his right to them; but at the same time permit ting their parents to redeem them, by paying to the priests five shekels, in value about twelve shillings and sixpence of our money; a sum that was exacted for the redemption of every first-bora son whatever, without regard to the condition of the family. Numb. xviii. 15, 16.
obtained the utmost pitch of felicity, in the gratification of that which had always been his highest wish, and having no farther use for life, desired immediate death. Yet he would not depart of himself, knowing that no man can lawfully desert his station till God who placed him therein, calls him off. 30. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31. Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people. 32. A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. Simeon being well acquainted with the prophetic writings, knew from them that Messiah was to be the author of a great salvation, which, because it was planned by God, this pious man very properly refers to God; thy salvation. He knew likewise, that this salvation was not designed for the Jews only, but for all mankind. Therefore he says, it was prepared by God before the face of all people. Withal, because in the prophecies Messiah is introduced teaching and ruling the Gentiles, he calls him, after Isaiah, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Israel, whom he greatly honoured by condescending to arise among them.
Simeon's words surprised both Joseph and Mary, not because they imported things greater than could be applied to their son; they knew him to be the Messiah, and so must have been sensible that they were what properly belonged to him; but they marvelled how Simeon, a stranger, came to the knowledge of the child. 33. And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 34. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, * Behold this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign that shall be spoken against; (us onμsion artiλeyoμsver) a mark to be shot at; the butt of the malice of wicked men. In these words which he addressed to Mary, he foretold the reception which her son was to meet with from his countrymen. He added, 35. Yea a sword (gaupa, a javelin or dart) shall pass through thine own soul also; the darts that are shot at thy son shall pierce thee to the heart; the calumnies, persecutions and sufferings which he shall be exposed to, especially in his death, shall prove matter of the greats. VOL. I. Y y
• Ver. 34. Behold this child, &c] In this prediction, Simeon was directed to use a metaphor corresponding to that found Isa. viii. 14 xxviii. 16. which passages Paul has joined in one citation, and applied to the Meseiah, Rom. ix. 33. Behold I lay in Sion a stumbling-stone, and rock of offence, and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. In allusion to this metaphor, Simeon, holding up the child in his arms, cried, Behold, this is set for the full and rising again of many in Israel. This is the stumbling-stone and rock of offence, which God has long ago foretold he will lay in Sion, and by whom many iu Israel shall fall; for they shall reject him on account of the meanness of his birth and fortune. At the same time, this is a stone set for the rising again of many in Israel; because those who are fallen may help themselves up by leaning upon him, i. e. receiving and obeying his re ligion; or, as the apostle has expressed it, whosoever believeth on him shall
not be ashamed.
est affliction to thee, and shall sting thee with the bitterest griefs; -that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed; all these things are ordered by providence, that the dispositions of men, whether good or bad, may be made to appear.
In the mean time there came into the temple an aged woman named Anna, whose mortification to the world appeared by her having lived a widow ever since her husband's death, which happened while she was very young; as did her piety likewise towards God, by the constancy with which she waited on the temple worship, night and day. 36. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser; she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity. 37. And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. The meaning is not, that Anna abode continually in the temple. For none lived there save the priests and Levites. But she attended constantly at the morning and evening sacrifices, (see on Luke xviii. 1. § 101.) and was often in the exercise of private prayer and fasting, spending the greatest part of her time in the temple, as we find the apostles doing, Acts ii. 46. This good woman having the Messiah discovered to her, either by what Simeon said, or by a particular revelation of the Spirit, the favour which God now conferred on her, in allowing her to behold his Christ, filled her with an ecstacy of joy. She therefore praised the Lord aloud with great fervency, and spake afterwards of the child under the character of Messiah, to all her acquaintance in Jerusalem that had any sense of religion, or faith in its promises. 38. And she coming in at that instant, gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. This is the reading of most of the Greek copies, and of the Syriac version. But an old copy mentioned by Mill has to Irgan, to all who looked for the redemption of Israel.
When these things were ended, Joseph and his family went home to Nazareth. This Luke expressly affirms: 39. And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee to their own city Nazareth. Here there stay was short; for putting their affairs in order, they returned as soon as possible to Bethlehem, where the wise men found them, Matt. ii. 8. Perhaps they thought their son's edu cation in that town, as necessary to his being acknowledged the Messiah as his birth, which had been so providentially brought to pass. Accordingly we are told, that when they were leaving Egypt after Herod's death, Joseph would gladly have turned into the parts of Judea, to Bethlehem I suppose, for the reason mentioned. But when he heard that Archelaus reigned in Judea, he durst not attempt it; and so was obliged to go to Nazareth in Galilee, the place of his former residence.
XI. The eastern Magi arrive at Jerusalem. Matt. ii. 1,-15.
JOSEPH and Mary having come to Bethlehem the second time," dwelt there with their son, when certain eastern heathen philosophers, to whom, as well as to the Jews, God notified the birth of his son, (see on verse 2.) arrived at Jerusalem, and enquired for the king of the Jews who was born, affirming that they had seen his star before they left the east. 1. Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold there came wise men from the east (from Persia; see note †, p. 48.)
• Ver. 1. Wise men from the east] These philosophers, in their own country language, were called Magi, a name mentioned once in the Old Testament, though none of the translations take notice of it. The passage is Isa. viii. 19. where in the Hebrew, with wizzards and them that have familiar spirits, the maghghim are joined. This word the LXX have rendered by caro τns xoidias Cavesi, they who speak from their belly; but for what reason I cannot imagine, unless it was on account of the names that accompany it. It is plainly formed from Hagah, which, according to Kircher, signifies cogitationem in rem aliquam intendere. S. P. also meditari, garrire, mussitare. But in support of the last mentioned signification, no passage can be produced except the one from Isaiah under consideration. Le Clerc indeed thinks the magi derived their name from a custom they had of muttering their prayers with a low voice, which he says Herodotus has mentioned, B. i. c. 131. But it is more natural and more agreeable to the accounts left us of these ancient sages, to suppose that they derived their name originally from their intense contemplations, and their continual study of theology and natural philosophy. Accordingly the younger Cyrus, who rebelled against his brother, in the letter which he sent to the Lacedæmonians soliciting their assistance, tells them, "That he had a greater and a more princely soul than his brother, that he was more conversant in philosophy, and better instructed in magic;" by which the Persians meant the knowledge of religion and government. However, it is not improbable, that in process of time some of the sect might bring themselves under a bad fame, by the improper use which they made of their knowledge; which was the reason that Isaiah mentioned them with wizzards and those that had familiar spirits.
Alberti and others think the philosophers who now visited our Lord, were learned Jews, called by their own nation (years) Scribes, many of which order lived in Persia, Babylonia, Arabia, Syria, and the other eastern countries; being the posterity of the captives who did not return home when permitted by Cyrus's decree. It is supposed that they came as ambassadors, in the name of the whole body, to do homage to Messiah, and to congratulate their brethren on his birth. But, if I mistake not, the circumstances of the history are inconsistent with this hypothesis. For had the magi been Jewish scribes, they must have known all the prophecies relating to Messiah, and therefore could have no need to enquire either of their brethren scribes or of Herod, concerning the place of his nativity. Besides, we are not under the smallest necessity of making such a supposition, as there is nothing incredible in the fact, that heathen philosophers came into Judea at this juncture, and enquired concerning the birth of the Messiah. For from authors of unquestionable credit, we know an opinion had long prevailed over all the east, that in Judea one was to be born about this time, who should become universal monarch of the world. Thus Suetonius in Vespas. c. 4. "An old and firm opinion had prevailed over all the