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The Birth of Jesus

 2

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

14

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Jesus Is Named

21 After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.


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Lu 2:1-7. Birth of Christ.

1. Cæsar Augustus—the first of the Roman emperors.

all the world—so the vast Roman Empire was termed.

taxed—enrolled, or register themselves.

2. first … when Cyrenius, &c.—a very perplexing verse, inasmuch as Cyrenius, or Quirinus, appears not to have been governor of Syria for about ten years after the birth of Christ, and the "taxing" under his administration was what led to the insurrection mentioned in Ac 5:37. That there was a taxing, however, of the whole Roman Empire under Augustus, is now admitted by all; and candid critics, even of skeptical tendency, are ready to allow that there is not likely to be any real inaccuracy in the statement of our Evangelist. Many superior scholars would render the words thus, "This registration was previous to Cyrenius being governor of Syria"—as the word "first" is rendered in Joh 1:15; 15:18. In this case, of course, the difficulty vanishes. But it is perhaps better to suppose, with others, that the registration may have been ordered with a view to the taxation, about the time of our Lord's birth, though the taxing itself—an obnoxious measure in Palestine—was not carried out till the time of Quirinus.

3. went … to his own city—the city of his extraction, according to the Jewish custom, not of his abode, which was the usual Roman method.

4, 5. Not only does Joseph, who was of the royal line, go to Bethlehem (1Sa 16:1), but Mary too—not from choice surely in her condition, but, probably, for personal enrollment, as herself an heiress.

5. espoused wife—now, without doubt, taken home to him, as related in Mt 1:18; 25:6.

6. while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered—Mary had up to this time been living at the wrong place for Messiah's birth. A little longer stay at Nazareth, and the prophecy would have failed. But lo! with no intention certainly on her part, much less of Cæsar Augustus, to fulfil the prophecy, she is brought from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and at that nick of time her period arrives, and her Babe is born (Ps 118:23). "Every creature walks blindfold; only He that dwells in light knows whether they go" [Bishop Hall].

7. first-born—So Mt 1:25; yet the law, in speaking of the first-born, regardeth not whether any were born after or no, but only that none were born before [Lightfoot].

wrapt him … laid him—The mother herself did so. Had she then none to help her? It would seem so (2Co 8:9).

a manger—the manger, the bench to which the horses' heads were tied, on which their food could rest [Webster and Wilkinson].

no room in the inn—a square erection, open inside, where travellers put up, and whose rear parts were used as stables. The ancient tradition, that our Lord was born in a grotto or cave, is quite consistent with this, the country being rocky. In Mary's condition the journey would be a slow one, and ere they arrived, the inn would be fully occupied—affecting anticipation of the reception He was throughout to meet with (Joh 1:11).

Wrapt in His swaddling—bands,

And in His manger laid,

The hope and glory of all lands

Is come to the world's aid.

No peaceful home upon His cradle smiled,

Guests rudely went and came where slept the royal Child.

Keble

But some "guests went and came" not "rudely," but reverently. God sent visitors of His own to pay court to the new-born King.

Lu 2:8-20. Angelic Annunciation to the ShepherdsTheir Visit to the Newborn Babe.

8. 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 (Lu 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 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 on Joh 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 (Re 1:10, &c.). 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

9. glory of the Lord—"the brightness or glory which is represented as encompassing all heavenly visions" [Olshausen].

sore afraid—So it ever was (Da 10:7, 8; Lu 1:12; Re 1:17). Men have never felt easy with the invisible world laid suddenly open to their gaze. It was never meant to be permanent; a momentary purpose was all it was intended to serve.

10. to all people—"to the whole people," that is, of Israel; to be by them afterwards opened up to the whole world. (See on Lu 2:14).

11. unto you is born—you shepherds, Israel, mankind [Bengel]. Compare Isa 9:6, "Unto us a Child is born." It is a birth—"The Word is made flesh" (Joh 1:14). When? "This day." Where? "In the city of David"—in the right line and at the right "spot"; where prophecy bade us look for Him, and faith accordingly expected Him. How dear to us should be these historic moorings of our faith! With the loss of them, all substantial Christianity is lost. By means of them how many have been kept from making shipwreck, and attained to a certain external admiration of Him, ere yet they have fully "beheld His glory."

a Saviour—not One who shall be a Saviour, but "born a Saviour."

Christ the Lord—"magnificent appellation!" [Bengel]. "This is the only place where these words come together; and I see no way of understanding this "Lord" but as corresponding to the Hebrew Jehovah" [Alford].

12. a sign—"the sign."

the babe—"a Babe."

a manger—"the manger." The sign was to consist, it seems, solely in the overpowering contrast between the things just said of Him and the lowly condition in which they would find Him—Him whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting, "ye shall find a Babe"; whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain, "wrapt in swaddling bands"; the "Saviour, Christ the Lord," lying in a manger! Thus early were these amazing contrasts, which are His chosen style, held forth. (See 2Co 8:9.)

13. suddenly—as if only waiting till their fellow had done.

with the angel—who retires not, but is joined by others, come to seal and to celebrate the tidings he has brought.

heavenly host—or "army," an army celebrating peace! [Bengel] "transferring the occupation of their exalted station to this poor earth, which so seldom resounds with the pure praise of God" [Olshausen]; to let it be known how this event is regarded in heaven and should be regarded on earth.

14. Glory, &c.—brief but transporting hymn—not only in articulate human speech, for our benefit, but in tunable measure, in the form of a Hebrew parallelism of two complete clauses, and a third one only amplifying the second, and so without a connecting "and." The "glory to God," which the new-born "Saviour" was to bring, is the first note of this sublime hymn: to this answers, in the second clause, the "peace on earth," of which He was to be "the Prince" (Isa 9:6)—probably sung responsively by the celestial choir; while quickly follows the glad echo of this note, probably by a third detachment of the angelic choristers—"good will to men." "They say not, glory to God in heaven, where angels are, but, using a rare expression, "in the highest [heavens]," whither angels aspire not," (Heb 1:3, 4) [Bengel]. "Peace" with God is the grand necessity of a fallen world. To bring in this, and all other peace in its train, was the prime errand of the Saviour to this earth, and, along with it, Heaven's whole "good will to men"—the divine complacency on a new footing—descends to rest upon men, as upon the Son Himself, in whom God is "well-pleased." (Mt 3:17, the same word as here.)

15. Let us go, &c.—lovely simplicity of devoutness and faith this! They are not taken up with the angels, the glory that invested them, and the lofty strains with which they filled the air. Nor do they say, Let us go and see if this be true—they have no misgivings. But "Let us go and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us." Does not this confirm the view given on Lu 2:8 of the spirit of these humble men?

16. with haste—Compare Lu 1:39; Mt 28:8 ("did run"); Joh 4:28 ("left her water-pot," as they do their flocks, in a transport).

found Mary, &c.—"mysteriously guided by the Spirit to the right place through the obscurity of the night" [Olshausen].

a manger—"the manger," as before.

17. made known abroad—before their return (Lu 2:20), and thus were the first evangelists [Bengel].

20. glorifying and praising God, &c.—The latter word, used of the song of the angels (Lu 2:13), and in Lu 19:37, and Lu 24:53, leads us to suppose that theirs was a song too, probably some canticle from the Psalter—meet vehicle for the swelling emotions of their simple hearts at what "they had heard and seen."

Lu 2:21. Circumcision of Christ.

Here only recorded, and even here merely alluded to, for the sake of the name then given to the holy Babe, "Jesus," or Saviour (Mt 1:21; Ac 13:23). Yet in this naming of Him "Saviour," in the act of circumcising Him, which was a symbolical and bloody removal of the body of sin, we have a tacit intimation that they "had need"—as John said of His Baptism—rather to be circumcised by Him "with the circumcision made without hands, in the putting off of the body [of the sins] of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ" (Col 2:11), and that He only "suffered it to be so, because thus it became Him to fulfil all righteousness" (Mt 3:15). Still the circumcision of Christ had a profound bearing on His own work—by few rightly apprehended. For since "he that is circumcised is a debtor to do the whole law" (Ga 5:3), Jesus thus bore about with Him in His very flesh the seal of a voluntary obligation to do the whole law—by Him only possible in the flesh since the fall. And as He was "made under the law" for no ends of His own, but only "to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Ga 4:4, 5), the obedience to which His circumcision pledged Him was a redeeming obedience—that of a "Saviour." And, finally, as "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law" by "being made a curse for us" (Ga 3:13), we must regard Him, in His circumcision, as brought under a palpable pledge to be "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Php 2:8).




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