Luke

1:39-56

The mission of the Messiah, 1:5-9:50

1. Prophecies concerning the coming messiah, 1:5-2:40

iii] The prophecy of Mary

Synopsis

Luke now records Mary's visit with Elizabeth, v39-45, and Mary's psalm of thanksgiving, the Magnificat, v46-56. Mary, who is now pregnant, visits the home of Zechariah and stays with the family for some three months. His wife Elizabeth is also pregnant and not only is she filled with joy on meeting Mary, her child leaps in the womb. In Mary's song she gives thanks to God for turning her humiliation into exaltation by realizing in her his promise to Abraham - the coming of God's long-awaited messianic king.

 
Teaching

In fulfillment to his promise to Abraham, God has "manifested his supreme strength" in the provision to his servant Israel of a messianic deliverer, a savior, and this at the hand of a peasant maid.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 1:5-25.

 

ii] Structure: This passage, The prophecy of Mary, presents as follows:

Setting, v39-40:

Mary's meeting with Elizabeth.

Elizabeth's prophecy, v41-42;

"blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!"

Mary's response, v43-44;

Elizabeth's blessing, v45:

"blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill his promise to her!"

Mary's song / prophecy, v46-56.

 

iii] Interpretation:

In this third prophecy, Luke has Mary speaking of Israel's deliverance. God "has manifested his supreme strength" to redeem "his servant" Israel, and this in the terms of the promise made to Abraham: "I will give to you and to your descendants..... the land...... for an everlasting possession." Mary rejoices for she is to share in this deliverance, yet even more so, because God has chosen her as the mother of the Deliverer.

Mary is an object of God's grace, which fact Elizabeth makes clear. She is blessed, not because of her own person, but because she believed God; she rested in faith on God's word to her.

 

The Song of Mary: In the opening verses, v46-49, Mary expresses her gratitude for the outpouring of God's special favour upon her. Then, in v50, she affirms that God's kindness extends to all who reverence him. The word "fear" means respect rather than scared. Fear of God is "the Old Testament description of piety", Plummer. In v51-53 she declares that the coming of the kingdom serves to reverse the perceived standing of mankind before God. Those favoured with power, wealth, status, the seemingly righteous before God, .... they will be brought low ("put down"). The "humble", lost, broken, "poor", the outcasts from God's mercy, .... they are lifted up ("exalted"). This great reversal, which achieves the redemption of the lost, is best taken as a present reality. In typical prophetic style, God's future intentions are proclaimed as already accomplished; God's Word is as good as done. We must take care that we don't read this passage as if it were a social-justice manifesto. The language used of Israel's deliverance from oppression is typical of the Old Testament. The New Testament writers happily use Old Testament imagery, but see deliverance in terms of an eternal redemption, a redemption inaugurated now, but realized at the second coming of Christ. Finally, in v54-55, Mary ends by linking the deliverance of Israel to the promise made to Abraham by God. The New Testament writers see this promise fulfilled in Jesus, the "servant Israel." Those who are "in Christ" become the "servant Israel", children of Abraham through faith rather than natural descent.

 

iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 1:39

Mary's visit with Elizabeth, v39-45. i] The Lord has revealed to Mary the wondrous blessing visited upon her relative and so, in response, she rushes off to witness God's word realized in Elizabeth, as well as to tell Elizabeth of her own joy (wonder, shock, horror, ....!). Mary and Elizabeth demonstrate a close friendship. They may well have been neighbors. As was typical of the time, priests tend to live outside of Jerusalem. The "greeting" was traditionally a formal address containing a statement about the person, eg. "Hail, King of the Jews!"

Luke recounts the story with an eye to the Old Testament. The three months may allude to Numbers 10:35, while the story of Hannah most likely runs in the background, cf., 2Sam.6. Of course, the baby leaping in the womb may allude to Rebekah's experience, Gen.25:22 - the same Gk. word is used in the LXX.

en + dat. "at [that time]" - in [those days]. Temporal. For Luke, possibly a connective, or just expressing a short interval, "not long after this", Weymouth.

anastasa (anisthmi) aor. part. "got ready" - having arisen. Attendant circumstance participle identifying action accompanying the main verb "went". There are numerous possibilities, since the word is often used to express the commencement of an action, eg. "set out", NJB, although literally, "got up", Williams.

meta + gen. "and hurried" - with [haste]. Adverbial use of the preposition, modal, expressing manner; "went as quickly as she could", NJB; "with eagerness", Nolland.

Iouda (aV ou) gen. "[to a town in the hill country] of Judea" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive, although possibly locative; "a city located in Judea", Culy. The destination is unknown. Some commentators have suggested that the reference is to an actual town, but that the text was corrupted.

 
v40

Zacariou (aV ou) gen. "Zechariah's [home]" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive.

 
v41

ii] Elizabeth's prophecy, v41-42: The greeting caused a movement of Elizabeth's foetus and so served as a confirmation that the Holy Spirit was involved, not only in Mary's pregnancy, but her own. The phrase, "filled with the Holy Spirit", is common to Luke. It is used in the Old Testament sense of someone empowered by God to perform a special task, often a prophetic one. The Spirit comes upon the prophet and he speaks. Such a "filling" is for the task at hand and is not ongoing. It is true to say that all mothers are "blessed", but Mary has received a unique blessing. Mary is "fortunate" in that God has "favoured" her as mother of the messiah.

wJV "when" - Temporal conjunction introducing a temporal clause.

hkousen (akouw) aor. + acc. "heard [Mary's greeting]" - "Heard" with the accusative refers to the thing spoken, as here; with the genitive "heard" would refer to the speaker.

eskirthsen (skirtaw) aor. "leaped" - leaped, jumped, sprung. There is nothing unusual in fetal movement, but Elizabeth takes it as a sign, given that her unborn child has sensed the presence of Mary, God's "blessed" one. "The baby stirred in her womb", Barclay.

en dat. "in [her womb]" - Expressing space/sphere, locative.

eplhsqh (pimplhmi) aor. pas. "was filled" - The aorist indicating immediate action. As is typical of Luke/Acts, a person filled with the Spirit proclaims, preaches. This very much reflects a momentary divine empowering for prophetic utterance, a "filling" common to the Old Testament. A regenerative filling of the Spirit is not intended.

pneumatoV aJgiou gen. "with the Holy Spirit" - of the holy spirit. The genitive is adjectival, of content.

 
v42

kraugh/ megalh/ dat. "in a loud voice [she exclaimed]" - [she cried out] with a cry loud. Instrumental dative. Possibly Elizabeth's words are in the form of a hymn, but more likely an enthusiastic declaration. "Burst into speech", Barclay.

euloghmenh (eulogew) perf. pas. part. "blessed" - having been blessed. The predicate participle (Wallace 618) may express a wish, but more likely a statement of fact. The perfect tense expressing a past action with ongoing consequences. Possibly in a state of divine grace, but more likely having been divinely favored, in this case, given the honour to bear the messiah. A similar sense for "the child" as well; divinely favoured = set apart as the messiah - the divine Son.

en + dat. "among [women]" - in [women]. Expressing association; "in the company with, with." A Hebraic superlative may be intended, although a comparative is possible. "You are the most favored of women", Goodspeed.

thV koiliaV (a) gen. "[the child you] will bear" - [the fruit] of the womb [of you]. The genitive is ablative, source/origin.

 
v43

iii] Mary's response, v43-44: She asks why she is blessed.

toqen "why" - from where, where / why. Interrogate particle. Possibly introducing a question, as NIV, or expressing surprise, "what an honour it is to have the mother of my Lord come to see me", Phillips.

moi dat. pro. "am I [so favored]" - [this] to me. Dative of interest, advantage.

iJna + subj. "that" - Forming an appositional / epexegetic clause (less likely, purpose or consequence) explaining touto, "this", "that/namely."

tou kuriou (oV) gen. "[my] Lord" - of the lord, master [of me]. The genitive is adjectival, relational, while mou,"of me", is adjectival, possessive, "my Lord", or subordination, "Lord over me." Expressing respect, not divine status, so "mother of the messiah."

proV eme "to me?" - Emphatic by position.

 
v44

gar "-" - for. Expressing cause/reason, introducing a causal clause explaining why Elizabeth is amazed.

idou "-" - behold. Serving to introduce an important statement. "I tell you", REB.

wJV "as soon as" - when. Temporal use of the conjunction; "when the sound of your greeting came", ESV.

tou aspasmou (oV) gen. "[the sound] of [your] greeting" - [the sound] of the greeting. The genitive is ablative, source/origin. Mary's voice stirred the fetus, not the greeting itself.

sou gen. pro. "your [greeting]" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive, but can be classified as verbal, subjective.

en agalliasei (iV ewV) "for joy" - in extreme gladness, exultation. The prepositional phrase is adverbial, modal, expressing manner. Interestingly, this emotion is attributed to the fetus, rather than the mother. This has prompted debate as to whether John has knowingly responded to Mary's presence.

 
v45

iv] Elizabeth's blessing, v45. Elizabeth gives the answer: because she took the Lord at his word ("believed")

makaria adj. "blessed" - blessed, happy. Favoured, "fortunate", Nolland.

hJ pisteusasa (pisteuw) aor. part. "she who has believed" - the one having believed. The participle serves as a substantive. Referring to Mary's response as an example of faith, of taking God at his word.

oJti "that" - that. Possibly introducing the reason for her present "blessed" state, ie. causal, "because", or introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing the content of her belief, namely "that fulfilment will come", Bock.

para + gen. "what [the Lord]" - from / by [Lord]. Here expressing source, "from the Lord", or agency, "by the Lord."

toiV lalalhmenoiV (lalew) perf. pas. part. "has said [to her] / [his] promises [to her]" - to the things having been spoken [to her]. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of reference; "with respect to the things that have been spoken to her."

teleiwsiV (iV ewV) "[will be] accomplished / fulfill" - [there will be] a fulfillment (as in the execution of a plan), completion (as in nothing need be added, or of something finished). "Because you believed that he will keep his promise", CEV.

 
v46

The Magnificat, v46-55. The Song of Mary is in the form of a hymn of praise directed to God for his kindness toward Mary, with particular reference to remnant Israel. The Song of Mary, titled the Magnificat in the Latin Vulgate of the medieval church, is a lyrical poem similar to the Psalms. It has a special affinity with the Song of Hannah, 1Sam.2:1-10.

The ongoing debate on source may be of interest, but adds little of substance, cf. Bock 142-145.

megalunei hJ yuch mou "my soul glorifies" - the soul of me exalts. A technical term expressing an act of praise that emerges from deep within our being. Following Hebrew parallelism, the thought is repeated in v47. "With my heart I praise the Lord and am glad", CEV.

 
v47

hgalliasen (agalliaw) aor. "rejoices" - rejoiced. Unlike "glorifies", v46, which takes the present tense, the verb here is aorist and therefore possibly gnomic, expressing a timeless sense, so Fitzmyer, or better, ingressive, where the emphasis falls on the beginning of the action; "my spirit has begun to delight", Nolland.

epi + dat. "in [God my Savior]" - in [God the savior of me]. Here with a causal sense, rather than spacial; "on the basis of"

 
v48

oJti "for" - because. Causal.

epebleyen (epiblepw) aor. "he has been mindful" - he looked on with care. Used of a loving preference toward another person, so another way of saying that God has favoured Mary.

epi + acc. "-" - upon. Spacial; "he has looked on / upon."

thn tapeinwsin (iV ewV) "the humble state" - humiliation, lowliness, afflicted state. Here probably of Mary's low social position - she was favoured despite her social position. Of course, humiliation my be intended, in that she is with child while only engaged to be married, and Joseph is not the biological father.

thV doulhV (oV) gen. "[his] servant" - of the bondmaid [of him]. The genitive may be treated as verbal, subjective, or adjectival, attributed; "his humble servant." Further underlining Mary's lowly state. "He took notice of his servant girl", Berkeley.

gar "-" - for. Probably causal; "so because God has taken notice of his servant girl ..."

apo tou nun "from now on" - from the now. Temporal prepositional phrase.

makariousin (makarizw) fut. "will call me blessed" - will consider blessed. Mary "will be considered favoured by God" because of the "great things" done by God through her, v49.

 
v49

oJti "for" - because. Expressing cause/reason; Mary gives another reason for her praise.

megala oJ dunatoV "the Mighty One" - The God of the impossible; "the one who is able", Nolland.

moi dat. "for me" - to, for me. Dative of interest, advantage.

aJgion to onoma autou "holy is his name" - holy the name of him. God is a unique God, a set-apart God. "He whose name is holy", TH/Brouwer.

 
v50

An allusion to Psalm 103:17.

to eleoV (oV) "mercy" - compassion, pity. Reflecting the Old Testament sense of God's covenant loyalty and loving kindness toward Israel, his hesed, Heb., "his faithful love", NJB.

toiV foboumenoiV (fobew) dat. pres. pas. part. "to those who fear" - to the ones fearing. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of interest, advantage. The word "fear" does not mean "scared", but rather is used of those who "acknowledge God's position and authority", Bock. "Respect / reverence."

eiV geneaV kai geneaV "from generation to generation" - to generations and generations. The prepositional phrase is adverbial, possibly temporal, as NIV, but Culy also suggests advantage, "his mercy benefits all generations", or goal, "his mercy extends to all people in all ages."

 
v51

Verses 51-52 most likely refer to Israel's enemies.

epoihsen (poiew) aor. "he has performed" - he did, made [might]. The aorist tense, as with the ones that follow in v51-54, has been interpreted variously: i] past (referring to God's past actions); ii] gnomic (expressing a universal truth); iii] parallel to the Heb. iterative perfect (the weight is on the past action rather than the present state); and iv] prophetic (referring to divine action in the last day, although in typical prophetic style, God's salvation is "now", just as much as it is "not yet"), cf. Bock 154. Gnomic (always acts this way), iterative perfect (has acted and continues to act this way), or prophetic (acts and will act this way) seem best. So, best translated with a present tense (although rarely so). Probably "performed", as NIV, but "displayed" / "shown", Phillips, is possible. "He acts mightily with the strength of his arm."

en + dat. "with" - The dative is instrumental.

bracioni (wn onoV) "[his] arm" - Of course, a figurative use (an anthropomorphism) is intended, so simply, "he performs mighty deeds."

dieskorpisen (diaskorpizw) aor. "scattered" - Most likely referring to the scattering of Israel's enemies.

uJperhfanouV adj. "those who are proud" - haughty, arrogant, presumptuous. Those "confident in their own achievements", Nolland.

dianoia/ (a) dat. "in [their inmost] thoughts" - in the thoughts [of their hearts]. Dative of reference; "with respect to their thoughts." Deep seated thoughts, therefore an arrogance that is ingrained. "He has swept away the high and mighty", Phillips.

kardiaV (a) gen. "inmost" - of [their] heart. The genitive is ablative, source/origin; "the thoughts originating in their heart / mind."

 
v52

kaqeilen (kaqairew) aor. "he has brought down" - he brought down, put down, tore down. The verb expresses vigorous action.

uJywsen (uJyow) aor. "has lifted up" - lifted up on high. "Exalted."

tapeinouV (oV) "the humble" - those of low estate. Clearly the remnant of Israel is in mind. It is they who are oppressed by God's enemies - secular authorities, etc.

 
v53

peinwntaV (peinaw) pres. part. "the hungry" - hungering. Although anarthrous, the participle serves as a substantive. With regard the reversal motif here, is it an actual or spiritual reversal? Probably we have a typical Jewish motif of national reversal to be realized in the blessings of the promised land, which blessings Jesus reinterprets in eschatological terms, cf. Danker.

agaqwn gen. adj. "with good things" - of good. Genitive of content, as NIV.

ploutountaV (ploutew) pres. part. "the rich" - the ones being rich. The participle serves as a substantive.

kenouV acc. adj. "empty" - Accusative complement of the participle "being rich."

 
v54

antelabeto (antilambanw) aor. "he has helped" - he helped (in the sense of to lay hold of to assist or support). "He has succored his servant Israel", Moffatt.

mnhsqhnai (mimnhskomai) aor. pas. inf. "remembering" - to remember. The infinitive is probably verbal, forming a result clause, "with the result that," BDF, but possibly causal, "because," Marshall, "mindful of his faithful love", RJB, even purpose, "in order that", Nolland, "so as to remember his mercy", Williams. Possibly similar to a Hebrew infinitive which expresses a parallel thought, as NIV. Culy classifies this approach as an exegetical infinitive; "he helped Israel .... that is, he remembered mercy." It seems reasonable to argue that divine action is motivated by divine love.

eleouV (oV) gen. "to be merciful" - of mercy. A genitive of direct object after the infinitive "to remember."

 
v55

A syntactical problem exists in handling the two phrases found in the Greek "just as he spoke to our Fathers, to Abraham and his offspring, into the ages." The NIV views "just as he spoke to our Fathers" as a parenthetical remark concerning those who know of God's intention to remember his people, while "to Abraham and his offspring" identifies the one (the people) whom God remembers. It seems better to take both phrases as appositional, "as he promised our forefathers - (that is as he promised) To Abraham and his posterity for ever", Weymouth.

tw/ Abraam dat. "to Abraham" - A dative of indirect object / interest, advantage. "Spoke" is followed either by proV with the accusative, or as here, by the dative. The Lord remembers his remnant elect, Abraham, his servant Israel, forever, and we share that merciful remembering in Christ.

eiV ton aiwna "forever" - to the ages. A common temporal phrase.

kaqwV "just as" - Comparative, where the promise of v55 is being compared with fulfillment in v54.

 
v56

A typical concluding comment rounds off the episode, v56.

de "-" - but, and. Serving to define the end of the hymn.

sun + dat. "with [Elizabeth]" - Expressing accompaniment / association.

wJV "about" - like. "Approximately" three month, indicating that Mary probably stayed till the birth of John, although Luke doesn't confirm this.

 

Luke Introduction

Exposition

 

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