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Circumcision, Temple Service, and Naming of Jesus.
(the Temple at Jerusalem, b.c. 4)
C Luke II. 21–39.
c 21 And when eight days [Gen. xvii. 12] were fulfilled for circumcising him [The rite was doubtless performed by Joseph. By this rite Jesus was “made like unto his brethren” (Heb. ii. 16, 17); that is, he became a member of the covenant nation, and became a debtor to the law—Gal. v. 3] , his name was called JESUS [see Luke i. 59], which was so called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. [Luke i. 31.] 22 And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled [Purification took place on the fortieth day after the nativity in the case of males, and eighty days in the case of females (Lev. xii. 1–5). Until it was performed the mother was not permitted to go to the temple, take part in any public service, or even to leave her house. It seems that the members of her family were also ceremonially unclean, because they came in daily contact with her], they brought him up to Jerusalem [to the temple], to present him to the Lord [When God slew the firstborn of Egypt he spared the firstborn of Israel. For this reason all the firstborn of Israel were regarded as being peculiarly the Lord's (Ex. xii. 29, 30; xiii. 2); and the firstborn male child of each family had to be redeemed with money (Ex. xiii. 11–15; Num. xviii. 15, 16). Originally the firstborn or eldest son was priest of the household after his father's death; but God chose the Levites to serve in his sanctuary in the place of these 34firstborn or household priests (Num. iii. 11–13; viii. 14–19); but this choosing did not annul the statute which required the payment of redemption money. The redemption money for a male was five shekels of the sanctuary, or about $3.75— Lev. xxvii. 6] 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord [for additional passages see Ex. xxii. 29; xxxiv. 19, 20], Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord), 24 and to offer a sacrifice [By redemption money and sacrifice the life of Jesus was ceremonially redeemed from God the Father, that his consecration of it to the will of the Father might be perfect. We likewise are redeemed by the blood of Christ, but are expected nevertheless to be more consecrated than ever] according to that which is said in the law of the Lord [Lev. xii. 6–8; v. 11], A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. [The required offering was a yearling lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon for a sin-offering. But the law allowed a poor mother to substitute doves or pigeons for the lamb. We see here an early trace of the poverty of Him who had not where to lay his head. Knowing the greatness of the child, Joseph and Mary would never have used the lesser sacrifice if they could have afforded the regular and more costly one. Poverty is not dishonorable in God's sight; for Mary was honored of him above all women.] 25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon [the name means “Hearing.” Some think that it was Rabbi Simeon, the son of the great teacher Hillel; but the context forbids such an idea]; and this man was righteous and devout [Right in outward and devout in his inward life. The first prophet to tell the world that its Messiah had come was a thoroughly good man], looking for [Waiting like Jacob (Gen. xlix. 18), and Joseph of Arimathæa ( Mark xv. 43), he realized the truth of God's promise (Isa. xlix. 23). The Jews waited for a coming Prince, local, carnal, finite, temporal; we wait for a KING universal, spiritual, infinite, eternal, the Son of God. Hence the magnitude of our expected consolation is to theirs as an ocean is to a drop of 35 water] the consolation of Israel [A common name for the era of the Messiah, which was so called because the advent of the Christ would bring comfort to his people (Isa. xl. 1). Jews swore by the consolation of Israel, and the phrase, “May I see the consolation of Israel,” was common among them. A prayer for the coming of the Messiah was daily used by them]: and the Holy Spirit was upon him. [Luke i. 68.] 26 And it had been revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit [probably in a dream], that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. [A remarkable favor, a notable blessing—Luke x. 23, 24.] 27 And he came in the Spirit [moved by the impulses of inspiration—Matt. xxii. 14; Rev. i. 10] into the temple [those who go to church perfunctorily see little; those who go in the Spirit—according to the measure in which He is given them—see and hear much]: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, that they might do concerning him after the custom of the law, 28 then he received him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 Now lettest thou thy servant depart [This hymn of Simeon is called the “Nunc Dimittis” from the two words with which the Latin translation of it begins. Simeon regards his death as now near, since he had seen that for which God had kept him alive. He represents as a sentinel who, seeing the rising of the day-star which is the signal that his watch is relieved, knows his weary waiting is at an end], Lord, According to thy word [God keeps his word, and never disappoints], in peace [to the living the Jews said, “Go in peace” (Leshalom), as Jethro said to Moses; to the dying they said, “Go in peace” (Beshalom)—Gen. xv. 15]; 30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation [Only the eye which sees Christ is satisfied with seeing ( Eccl. i. 18). To one who has Christ in his arms and salvation before his eyes the world looks poor indeed, and the loss of it appears gain—Phil. i. 21], 31 Which thou hast prepared [God prepared the gospel in his counsels before Christ came into the world (Acts ii. 23 ), and foretold it by the 36prophets—Acts iii. 18] before the face of all peoples [The Jewish Scriptures were then scattered among all nations, and all people were acquainted with the Hebrew expectations of a Messiah. Simeon saw in the Babe the initial step of God toward fulfilling all these prophecies]; 32 A light for revelation to the Gentiles. [A reference to Isa. xlix. 6. Christ's light has revealed the Father to the Gentiles. That Simeon should prophesy this is an evidence of the large spiritual knowledge given him, since even the apostles were slow to grasp the fullness of Christ's world-wide mission—see Ps. xcviii. 2, 3; Isa. lii. 10; xlii. 6] to the Gentiles, And the glory [Isa. xlv. 25. Israel is doubly glorified in Jesus, in that God chose this people to receive the Word, or divine Son, in that Jesus, as a Jew, presented to the world the picture of the perfect manhood. In his divinity and his humanity Jesus glorified Israel] of thy people Israel. [The Gentiles and Israel are here contrasted. The Gentiles refused the knowledge of God (Rom. i. 28), and Israel abused it—Rom. iii. 1–9.] 33 And his father and his mother were marvelling at the things which were spoken concerning him [Not because they heard anything which was really new, but because the words caused them to see the truth in a new way. They were also doubtless surprised to find that an utter stranger should speak thus about the child. Such manifestations of inspiration were no more common then than now]; 34 and Simeon blessed them [While blessing the parents, he refrained from blessing the child, lest it might appear that he did it as a superior. He could bless God in the heavens (see verse 28) without fear of being misunderstood; but to bless this little Babe might seem to be presumptuous], and said unto Mary his mother [thus distinguishing between Mary the real parent, and Joseph the supposed one] , Behold, this child is set [either as a stone of stumbling (Isa. viii. 14; Rom. ix. 32, 33; I. Cor. i. 23), or a precious cornerstone (I. Pet. ii. 7, 8; Acts iv. 11; I. Cor. iii. 11). Jesus is the cornerstone of true religion. Those who reject him fall over him and are broken; those who accept him, build upon him, and are lifted up and edified] 37for the falling and the rising of many in Israel [Jesus has always wrought changes which were like fallings and risings. In his own early lifetime Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, Nazarenes, Gadarenes, etc., sank down before his example and teaching; while fishermen, publicans and outcasts were elevated and encouraged by his sympathy. In the ecclesiastical field Jesus has brought down the powers of superstition and priestcraft, and exalted the common worshiper, giving him liberty of conscience. In the political field Jesus has brought down the pride of kings and lifted up the common people, and given them sovereign powers. In the spiritual realm this work of Jesus is most clearly displayed. Not only did he bring down the pride of Judah and lift up the despised Gentiles (Rom. ix. 25); but he has worked a leveling and a lifting work in the life of each of his followers. Those proud of their manhood, he has made as children, that they might become truly men (Matt. xviii. 3); those wise in their own conceit, he approaches with the foolishness of preaching, that they might be instructed in true learning (I. Cor. i. 26–31); those strong in self-confidence, he makes weak, that he may fill them with the divine power (II. Cor. xii. 10; Phil. iv. 13). Like Paul, we fall and rise in Christ—Acts ix. 4–6]; and for a sign [Something which challenges attention, and is full of significant meaning. Signs were intended to allay controversy, and to exclude contradiction, but Jesus provoked both. When he was thus first in the temple, opposition was prophesied; when he was last there it was fully realized—Matt. xxiii. 38] which is spoken against [during his earthly lifetime Jesus was called “deceiver,” “Samaritan,” “demoniac,” etc., and subsequently his followers were abused (Acts xxviii. 22); later the Jews wrote of him as “the deceiver,” “that man,” and “the hung.” Early Christians were charged by the pagans with committing cannibalism, incest, and every conceivable atrocity, and in this day “Christian” is—after Jew—the most stringing term of reproach known to the Eastern tongue]; 35 yea and a sword shall pierce through thine own soul [Simeon had read and 38understood the prophecies which told of the suffering Messiah (Isa. xlii. 14-xliii. 12). Hence, to prepare the soul of Mary he touches this minor chord. By as much as the prophecies and annunciations concerning Jesus, led Mary to expect honor, and glory for her son; by so much did the rejection, persecution and cruel death of Jesus overwhelm her with piercing anguish and disappointment. It is also probable that at the time of the crucifixion Mary shared with the apostles the doubts as to the mission of Jesus, and these doubts must have been unspeakably bitter to her]; that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed. [The word here translated “thoughts” is generally used to signify bad or evil thoughts. Jesus often revealed such (John ix. 16); but the context shows that Simeon had in mind the evil thoughts which were revealed by the sufferings inflicted on Christ. The human heart is desperately wicked (Jer. xvii. 9); but its wickedness was never more manifest than when it chose a murderer and crucified its Creator (Acts iii. 14, 15). Men are still revealed by their attitude toward Christ, the sincere being drawn to him, and the hypocrites being repelled from him. But at the judgment he shall shine forth as the perfect revealer of all thoughts and actions—Matt. x. 26.] 36 And there was one Anna [the same name as Hannah (I. Sam. i. 20 ), meaning “He was gracious”], a prophetess [like Miriam, Deborah, Huldah—II. Chron. xxxiv. 22], the daughter of Phanuel [the same as Peniel, meaning “Face of God”—Gen. xxxii. 30], of the tribe of Asher [Asher was the second son of Jacob and Zilpah (Gen. xxx. 12, 13). The name means “happy.” Though the ten tribes were lost and scattered, many individuals belonging to them remained in Judah—Acts xxvi. 7; Jas. i. 1] (she was of a great age, having lived with a husband seven years from her virginity, 37 and she had been a widow even unto fourscore and four years) [She had been married seven years, and was now eight-four years old. Her long widowhood is mentioned, because young widows who did not remarry were held in especial honor. Anna was about twenty-four years 39old when Jerusalem was conquered by Pompey, and came under the power of Rome] , who departed not from the temple [This may simply mean that she was unusually assiduous in her attendance at all the temple services (Acts ii. 46); or it may be taken literally, in which case we may suppose that her prophetic talents had secured for her the right of living in one of the temple chambers. Those who patiently frequent God's house will sooner or later obtain a blessing], worshipping with fastings. [Moses appointed one yearly fast, viz.: that on the day of Atonement; but the Pharisees introduced the custom of fasting twice a week to commemorate the days when Moses was supposed to have ascended and descended Mt. Sinai; viz.: on Monday and Thursday. They had also otherwise multiplied the fasts—Luke v. 33] and supplications night and day. [In Hebrew idiom night is mentioned before day, following the example of Moses (Gen. i. 5). The Hebrew theory that “God made the world in six days and seven nights,” may have given birth to this idiom. For instances of this idiom, see Acts xxvi. 7; I. Tim. v. 5. There were probably night services of sacred music held in the temple, at which priests sung anthems—Ps. cxxxiv. 1, 2; cxix. 62.] 38 And coming up at that very hours she gave thanks unto God, and spake of him [Jesus] to all them that were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 And when they [the parents of Jesus] had accomplished all things that were according to the law of the Lord, they returned. [Luke here adds the words “into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth.” We have omitted these words from the text here, and carried them forward to Section XV., where they rightfully belong. Luke omits to tell that Jesus returned to Nazareth by way of Bethlehem and Egypt. Such omissions are common in all biographies, and this one is paralleled by Luke himself in his life of Paul. Compare Acts ix. 19–26 with Gal. i. 17, 18.] 40
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