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Luke 1:5-9

Context
Birth Announcement of John the Baptist

1:5 During the reign 1  of Herod 2  king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah who belonged to 3  the priestly division of Abijah, 4  and he had a wife named Elizabeth, 5  who was a descendant of Aaron. 6  1:6 They 7  were both righteous in the sight of God, following 8  all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. 9  1:7 But they did not have a child, because Elizabeth was barren, 10  and they were both very old. 11 

1:8 Now 12  while Zechariah 13  was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 14  1:9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, 15  to enter 16  the holy place 17  of the Lord and burn incense.

1 tn Grk “It happened that in the days.” The introductory phrase ἐγένετο (egeneto, “it happened that”), common in Luke (69 times) and Acts (54 times), is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.

2 sn Herod was Herod the Great, who ruled Palestine from 37 b.c. until he died in 4 b.c. He was known for his extensive building projects (including the temple in Jerusalem) and for his cruelty.

3 tn Grk “of”; but the meaning of the preposition ἐκ (ek) is more accurately expressed in contemporary English by the relative clause “who belonged to.”

4 sn There were twenty-four divisions of priesthood and the priestly division of Abijah was eighth on the list according to 1 Chr 24:10.

5 tn Grk “and her name was Elizabeth.”

6 tn Grk “a wife of the daughters of Aaron.”

sn It was not unusual for a priest to have a wife from a priestly family (a descendant of Aaron); this was regarded as a special blessing.

7 tn Grk “And they.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here.

8 tn Grk “walking in” (an idiom for one’s lifestyle).

sn The description of Zechariah and Elizabeth as following… blamelessly was not to say that they were sinless, but that they were faithful and pious. Thus a practical righteousness is meant here (Gen 6:8; Deut 28:9).

9 tn The predicate adjective has the effect of an adverb here (BDF §243).

10 sn Elizabeth was barren. Both Zechariah and Elizabeth are regarded by Luke as righteous in the sight of God, following all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly (v. 6). With this language, reminiscent of various passages in the OT, Luke is probably drawing implicit comparisons to the age and barrenness of such famous OT personalities as Abraham and Sarah (see, e.g., Gen 18:9-15), the mother of Samson (Judg 13:2-5), and Hannah, the mother of Samuel (1 Sam 1:1-20). And, as it was in the case of these OT saints, so it is with Elizabeth: After much anguish and seeking the Lord, she too is going to have a son in her barrenness. In that day it was a great reproach to be childless, for children were a sign of God’s blessing (cf. Gen 1:28; Lev 20:20-21; Pss 127 and 128; Jer 22:30). As the dawn of salvation draws near, however, God will change this elderly couple’s grief into great joy and grant them the one desire time had rendered impossible.

11 tn Grk “were both advanced in days” (an idiom for old age).

12 tn Grk “Now it happened that.” The introductory phrase ἐγένετο (egeneto, “it happened that”), common in Luke (69 times) and Acts (54 times), is redundant in contemporary English and has not been translated.

13 tn Grk “he”; the referent (Zechariah) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

14 tn Grk “serving as priest in the order of his division before God.”

sn Zechariah’s division would be on duty twice a year for a week at a time.

15 tn Grk “according to the custom of the priesthood it fell to him by lot.” The order of the clauses has been rearranged in the translation to make it clear that the prepositional phrase κατὰ τὸ ἔθος τῆς ἱερατείας (kata to eqo" th" Jierateia", “according to the custom of the priesthood”) modifies the phrase “it fell to him by lot” rather than the preceding clause.

16 tn This is an aorist participle and is temporally related to the offering of incense, not to when the lot fell.

17 tn Or “temple.” Such sacrifices, which included the burning of incense, would have occurred in the holy place according to the Mishnah (m. Tamid 1.2; 3.1; 5-7). A priest would have given this sacrifice, which was offered for the nation, once in one’s career. It would be offered either at 9 a.m. or 3 p.m., since it was made twice a day.



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