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The difficulty which strikes us in the examination of Luke's genealogy is the introduction of Cainan between Arphaxad and Salah, in which instance he is supposed to have followed the Septuagint, which was the version most commonly received by the Jews. This will appear the more probable, if we admit that he only transcribed such a genealogy of Christ, as he found already drawn up and acknowledged among his relations. Concerning Matthew we remark,
1. The genealogy as given by Matthew commences with the following words, The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. The word book here may be very well rendered a table of genealogy. He proposes to prove that Jesus Christ was the son of David and of Abraham, and he therefore enumerates so many of his ancestors as may be necessary to ascertain that point.
2. The brethren of Judas are mentioned in this genealogy, because, though they were not Messiah's progenitors, they were on an equal footing with Judas, in respect of religious privileges. To them belonged the promises, and their posterity had the law given to them. It was otherwise with Ishmael and Esau, though the one was the son of Abraham, and the other of Isaac. They and their posterity were expressly excluded from the privileges of the covenant, for which reason they are not mentioned in Messiah's genealogy.
3. Zarah is mentioned, not because he was the twin brother of Pharez, our Lord's progenitor; for if that had been a reason for assigning him this honour, Esau, the twin brother of Jacob, ought to have obtained it likewise; but he is mentioned to prevent any mistake. For unless Zara had been spoken of, considering the infamy of Pharez's birth, we might have been apt to imagine, that not the Pharez whom Judas begat in incest, but another son of Judas, called Pharez, was our Lord's progenitor, it being no uncommon thing among the Jews to have several children of the same name. Wherefore, to put the matter beyond doubt, Thamar, as well as Zarah, is mentioned in the genealogy. It is, perhaps, for a like reason, that in this genealogy, when Solomon. is spoken of, his mother Bathsheba is mentioned, not by her own name, but by her relation to her former husband, verse 6, David, the king, begat Solomon, of her that. was the wife of Uriah.
4. Theophylact was of opinion, that Rahab, mentioned in this genealogy, was not the harlot of Jericho; and his opinion has been embraced by several modern commentators, for the following reasons. First, Because her name is written differently by the LXX, and by the apostles, viz. Raab, not Rachab, as in Matthew. Second, In every passage where Rahab of Jericho is mentioned, she is distinguished by the epithet of the harlot; whereas the woman mentioned in the genealogy has no such name given her. Third, Because the Israelites were expressly discharged from entering into affinity with any of the nations who inhabited Canaan, [Deut. vii. 1.] Fourth, On supposition that Rahab of Jericho was the mother of Boos, and wife of Salmon, she must have borne Booz when she was eighty years old, a thing not very probable in that age of the world, when the period of human life was so much shortened. But to the first and second arguments it is replied, that nothing can be concluded with certainty from the orthography of the name, or from the epithet of harlot, such differences occurring often in histories both sacred and profane. To the third the answer is, that Rahab, though originally a heathen, may have been a proselyte, as Ruth the Moabitess, whom Booz married, and Maacah the daughter of the king of Geshur, whom David married, are supposed to have been. To the fourth argument it is replied, that Booz may have been not Salmon's immmediate son by Rahab, but his grand son, or great-grandson; which consideration derives some strength from other omissionsobserved in the same genealogy.
5. David has the title of king given him because he was the first king of his family, and because he had the kingdom entailed upon his children; in which respect he had greatly the advantage of Saul, from whose family the kingdom was taken away almost as soon as it was conferred.
6. The Jechonias who is mentioned in the eleventh verse, is understood to be Jehoiakim the immediate son of Josias, called Jechonias, not by Matthew only, but by the author also of the third of Esdras, first chapter and thirty-fourth verse. Josiah is. said to have begotten Jechoniah and his brethren about the time of the captivity, although it was more than forty years before it, as is plain from Jehoiakim's age. He was thirty-six years old when he died, [2 Kings, xxiii. 36.] eight years before the captivity, for so long his son Jehoiakim reigned after his death, [2 Kings, xxiv. 12.] It is plain, therefore, that the preposition epi does not signify here precisely at that time; but, as usual, it comprehends a period of some considerable length. The brethren of Jechonias or Jehoiakim are mentioned in the genealogy, because all of them, except Shallum, filled the throne, though Jechonias alone had the right, being the elder brother 7. It is observable that Matthew omits three of the kings of Judah-Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah. This might be done either for the sake of making the numbers more easily to be remembered, as such omissions are common in Jewish genealogies, or, as has been insinuated, because these three princes had a defective title to the crown.
On comparing the two genealogies with one another, we perceive two difficulties of a similar kind. The first ascribes two different descents to Salathiel, the father of Zorobabel; Matthew making him the son of Jechonias, and Luke the son of Neri. This may be obviated by considering the Salathiels as two different persons; one of whom having heard of the fame of that Zorobabel, the son of Salathiel, who was a great instrument of providence in restoring the Jews, might confer a similar name upon his son, in hopes that he might copy from the example of such an illustrious name-sake. The second difficulty concerns the father of Joseph, who is called Jacob by Matthew, and Heli by Luke. The most received opinion is, that Jacob was the father of Joseph, and Heli his father-in-law, by his marriage with Mary the daughter of Heli, and mother of our Lord.
Nearly related to Mary, though of the family of Aaron, were two personages illustrious for their piety; a priest named Zacharias, and his wife, whose name was Elizabeth. Though they had long walked in a very strict conformity with the institutions of Moses, they remained destitute of one of those blessings, which that dispensation promised to the obedient; for they had no offspring, nor the least expectations of any. being both very old.
And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office, in the order of his course; According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. Because some parts of the sacred service were more honourable than others, both the priests and Levites divided the whole among them by lot. The Jews tell us, that there were three priests employed about the service of the incense; one, who carried away the ashes left on the altar at the preceding sacrifice; another, who brought a pan of burning coals from the altar of sacrifice, and having placed it in the golden altar departed; a third, who went in with the incense, sprinkled it on the burning coals, and while the smoke ascended made intercession for the people. This was the part that fell to Zacharias, and the most honourable in the whole service. From the whole multitude of the people being mentioned as praying without at this time, it is concluded, that it was at some great festival, a circumstance which duly attended to strengthen the credibility of the facts reported by the evangelist. Zacharias' tarrying in the temple beyond the usual time, must thus have been
taken notice of by many, verze 21. There were likewise many, who, upon his coming out dumb, conjectured that he had seen a vision, verse 22. Matters of so public a nature, and the truth or falsehood of which so many must have known, would never have been thus openly appealed to by Luke if they had been really false.
When the angel appeared to Zacharias, it was in such a form, as evidently proved him to be a being of a superior nature, and therefore filled the mind of Zacharias with that awful sensation, which the greatest and best of mankind have often experienced on similar occasions. To relieve him from this apprehension, the angel said, Fear not, Zacharias, for thy prayer is heard, and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son. cannot imagine that this holy man, at so advanced an age, and on such an occasion, would pray for the pregnancy of his wife, who was likewise very old. The priests, in this office, considered themselves as the mouth of the people, and made the welfare of the nation the subject of their prayers. Wherefore, since it is reasonable to suppose that Zacharias now interceded for the coming of the Messiah, in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed, we may consider the angel's word as having a reference to such a prayer, thus: The Messiah, for whose coming thou prayest, is about to be born, for thy wife shall bring forth his fore-runner." Some, indeed, are of opinion, that the prayers which Zecharias may have put up for offspring when he and his wife were young, were meant. Yet the time and place of the vision gives reason to believe, that the object of it was a matter of more general concern:—and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias. The son of Zacharias had the spirit of Elijah, equalling, if not exceeding him, in zeal for God, in severity of manners, in courage, and in sustaining persecutions. For he was clad in a garment of camel's hair, fed on locusts and wild honey, rebuked sinners of the highest distinction with great boldness, and was put to death on that account. He had the power also of Elijah; for though he did no miracle, he was honoured with the like success in restoring the lost spirit of true religion among his countrymen. Nay, he even excelled Elijah in that which is properly the power of a prophet, and to which all his other gifts are subservient; the power of converting men being in this more successful without miracles, than Elijah had been with them. By his preaching he made such a general change upon the manners of the nation, that he turned the hearts of the fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to their children the Jews, from whom they had been alienated or account of their wickedness; and the hearts of the children to their fathers, by begetting in them a love of religion, and religious characters, and by so doing prepared a people for the coming of the Lord.
Thus God, by a supernatural interposition, testified his approbation of the piety of this religious pair. But Zacharias, looking on the pregnancy of his wife as a thing incredible, because she was greatly advanced in years, did not believe the news thereof, though brought him by an angel, and rashly demanded a sign in confirmation of it; which want of faith was the more culpable, as he was well acquainted with the instances of Sarah, who brought forth Isaac in an extreme old age; and of the wives of Manoah and Eleana, who, after long barrenness, conceived by the promise of angels The angel, in reply, informed him that he was Gabriel, who stood in the presence of God, referring, as some suppose, to his station among the heavenly hosts; or, as others think, to the place he then occupied in the temple. To confirm his faith, he gave him a siga, which was also a chastisement of his offence. Because he had sinned with his
lips, the angel struck him dumb, declaring that he should continue so till the message, whose truth he had doubted of, was verified by the accomplishment. Accordingly, when Zacharias came out to the people, who had been praying in the court of the temple while the incense was burning, he could not speak to them; but he made such signs as let them know he had seen a vision, which was the cause of his dumbness.
And it came to pass that as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed unto his own house. This is generally supposed to have been in Hebron, a city of the priests, about twenty miles from Jerusalem. And after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men. The meaning is, either, that she saw no company, judging it proper to spend much of her time in the duties of devotion, and meditating silently on the wonderful goodness of God; or, that she concealed her pregnancy for a while, lest she should expose herself to ridicule, by speaking of it before she knew certainly that it was a real conception.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy the angel Gabriel was sent to a city of Galilee, that he might there communicate the most important tidings to a young virgin, who, though a descendant of David, lived in circumstances of humble poverty, and was distinguished by nothing but her exemplary piety. She was contracted to a man of the same tribe, and similar character, whose name was Joseph. It was usual among the Jews for women to be for some time thus contracted, before that they were taken home to reside with their husbands; they were considered as under all the obligations of wedlock, and every deviation from the rules of chastity was, in them, punishable as adultery.
When the angel entered the apartment where Mary resided, he addressed her with Hail! thou art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, i. e. according to the Hebrew idiom, thou art the happiest of all the women that ever lived. A salutation so unusual from a being of a superior order, (for such his form, which was more than human, bespoke him to be,) put Mary into a great perturbation of spirit. Wherefore, to remove her fears, the angel, speaking with a soothing accent, bid her take courage; and explained what he had said by telling her that she was the happiest woman upon earth, in having found such favour with God, as to be chosen to the highest honour that a mortal could enjoy. She was to conceive and bring forth the great person, who, on earth, was to be called Jesus, because he would be the restorer of human nature, and Saviour of the world; but in heaven was known by the name of the Son of God most high. Moreover, being the long expected Messiah, the Lord God would give him the throne typified by that of David his earthly father; for he was to rule over the house of Jacob, the spiritual Israel, even all who imitated the faith and obedience of that good patriarch, and of this his kingdom there was to be no end. When Mary heard Gabriel say that she was to conceive Messiah, being conscious of her virginity, she found the matter above her comprehension, and therefore desired him to explain it. Being young and unexperienced, it was not to be expected that she could have a comprehension of mind and strength of faith, equal to that which the old priest Zacharias ought to have possessed. Besides, this was a thing supernatural, and altogether without example; for though it is not distinctly mentioned by the evangelist, it is plain, from Mary's answer, that the angel had let her know she was to conceive forthwith, and without the concurrence of a man. These seem to have been the reasons why Gabriel, who had struck Zacharias dumb for presuming to ask a sign in proof of his wife's future pregnancy, bore with the virgin, when she desired to know how hers could be brought about. In the mean time, it should be observed,