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Nazarene Commentary to An Angel Appearing to a Priest

Luke 1:8-17 – An Angel Appears to a Priest

LK1:8 Now [something] happened while Zechariah was serving as priest before The God when it was the turn for his [priestly] division. LK1:9 Then according to the ritual of the priesthood it was his turn to burn incense[1] when he entered the temple of the LORD. LK1:10 Outside the throng of worshippers were praying at the time of the offering of incense. LK1:11 Suddenly YHWH’s angel[2] appeared on the right side of the altar of incense [in the Holy Place]. LK1:12 Now when Zechariah saw the angel he was startled and he began to tremble in fear. LK1:13 Then the angel said to him: “Do not to be frightened, Zechariah! For your prayer has been heard and your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son and you will call his name ‘John’.[3] LK1:14 And you will become filled with joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. LK1:15 For he will be great in YHWH’s sight[4] and he will not drink wine or strong drink.[5] [Numbers 6:3] He will be filled with holy Pneuma even while in his mother’s womb. LK1:16 He will restore many of the children of Israel[6] to YHWH their God. LK1:17 He will be a forerunner before [the Messiah] in the inspiration and power of Elijah – to restore the hearts of fathers to their children [Malachi 4:5, 6] and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to get ready YHWH’s people[7] prepared for [Messiah].”

 


[1] His turn to burn incense: Something rotated in the priestly divisions. In the first compartment of the Temple called the Holy Place there was an incense altar before the curtain to the Most Holy. [Exodus 25:1, 2, 6; 35:4, 5, 8, 27-29; 30:34-38]

[2] YHWH’s angel: A Hebraism where the Greek could suggest YHWH originally occurred here.

[3] ‘John’: Meaning “Jehovah Has Favored” or “God’s Gift.” One of the most common names in the Western world, occurring as Juan, Yves, Ivan, Sean, etc.

[4] YHWH’s sight: It is possible the Tetragram originally occurred here.

[5] He will not drink wine or strong drink: That is, a Nazarite from birth by God’s choosing like Samson. [Numbers 6:3; Judges 13:7]

[6] He will ‘restore many of the children’ of Israel: The phrase is borrowed from Malachi 4:5-6. This foretold “restoration” by Elijah was that of Israel to their God and also between Hebrew fathers and sons.

[7] To get ready YHWH’s people: The allusion to Malachi 4:5-6 gives an inspired interpretation to the prophecy. Peter alludes to a similar “restoration” at Acts 3:21. John the Baptist would go ahead of Christ by six months to prepare Israel for Messiah’s appearance by a baptism of repentance. All of Jesus’ apostles and early disciples were most likely disciples of John first.

 

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Preceding:

The Advent of the saviour to Roman oppression

Nazarene Commentary to Zechariah and Elizabeth

Next:

Nazarene Commentary to Struck Dumb For Disbelief

Nazarene Commentary to Elizabeth Pregnant

Nazarene Commentary to Gabriel’s Appearance to Mary

Nazarene Commentary to Mary Visits Elizabeth

Nazarene Commentary to Mary Magnifies God

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Cappella tornabuoni frescoes in Florence. Annu...

Annunciation of the angel to Zecharia. – Cappella tornabuoni frescoes in Florence. Annuncio dell’angelo a San Zaccaria. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • With God Nothing is Impossible (thebeggardanced.com)
    As a priest of Israel, during the time that Jesus was born, you could only minister at the altar of Incense that stood before the great curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place once in your life. There were so many priests that they were divided into divisions and that division would serve for a two-week period at the great Temple in Jerusalem. Two priests were appointed by casting lots to serve each day, and as a result only 28 priests would have the privilege of representing their nation before God through supplication and prayer within the Holy Place.It was with great excitement that Zechariah of the division of Abijah (Luke 1:5) was called upon to, “enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.” (v. 9) While he was serving as a priest before God Luke tells us, “The whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense.” (v. 10)
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    Zechariah, when confronted by Gabriel himself, still couldn’t believe and wanted a sign. What a contrast with the young girl Mary who, when she came face to face with Gabriel said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38 Sometimes in life, regardless of our learning and our status, we understand less about the workings of God than a theologically uneducated person who simply has an honest heart for truth. Mary had faith and needed no further proof that God was leading her, while Zechariah couldn’t accept by faith Gabriel’s announcement and asked instead for proof. It is fitting that Luke should remind us, “For with God nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1:37 Regardless of what difficulties and problems you encounter, that text is as true for you as it was for Mary and Zechariah.
  • Thursday, 19 December 2013 : 3rd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading) (petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com)
    Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I believe this? I am an old man and my wife is elderly, too.” The angel replied, “I am Gabriel, who stands before God, and I am the one sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news! My words will come true in their time. But you would not believe, and now you will be silent and unable to speak until this has happened.”
  • Thursday (December 19): “Do not be afraid because your prayer has been heard.” (shechina.wordpress.com)
    Do you believe that God will fulfill all his promises just as he said? Advent is a time to renew our hope and confidence in God’s faithfulness to the covenant he made with his people. In preparing the way for a Savior, we see the wondrous miracle of two barren couples who conceive and bear sons – Samson in the Old Testament (Judges 13) and John the Baptist in the New Testament (Luke 1:5ff) – who are called by God to bring hope and deliverance at a time of spiritual darkness and difficulty for the people of God.
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    When God draws us into his presence, he wants us to be still and quiet before him so we can listen to his voice as he speaks to our hearts and reveals his mind to us.  Do you listen attentively to the Lord and do you ponder his word in your heart with trust and confidence?
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    In the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist, the angel explains to Zechariah the role his son is to play in preparing the way for the Messiah. John will be great in the sight of God. He will live as a Nazarite (see Numbers 6) – a person set apart for the Lord. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even within his mother’s womb. And he shall be sent to the people of God, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers and children to God and one another, by turning the “disobedient to the wisdom of the just.” The name John means “the Lord is gracious”. When God acts to save us he graciously fills us with his Holy Spirit and makes our faith “alive” to his promises. Do you pray that “the hearts of parents and children may be turned to God and one another”?
  • The Daily Gospel and Readings 19 December 2013 (prayersandmeditations.com)
    There was a certain man from Zorah, of the clan of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. His wife was barren and had borne no children.
    An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Though you are barren and have had no children, yet you will conceive and bear a son. Now, then, be careful to take no wine or strong drink and to eat nothing unclean.
    As for the son you will conceive and bear, no razor shall touch his head, for this boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb.
    It is he who will begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines.”
  • Advent Series, part II – Zechariah (matthewjabate.wordpress.com)
    Gabriel informed Zechariah that his son would fulfill Biblical prophecy in Malachi 4:6, which stated that “he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children.” This was an unbelievable revelation for Zechariah to digest in one sitting. His son would pave the way for the coming of the Messiah. The sheer magnitude of this more than likely allowed Zechariah’s unbelief to come out; therefore, Gabriel told him that he would be unable to speak until God’s word took place (Luke 1:18-20, ESV).
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    Zechariah lived to see the Lord respond to his longings. He knew that the God of his ancestors answered prayer and moved among his people. Little did Zechariah know that God Almighty had chosen him and Elizabeth to bring about his purposes and plans. We must beware of unbelief when the Lord answers our prayers.
  • Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 1:5-25. (diizebuno.wordpress.com)
    You must be silent. Then God will be born in you, utter his word in you and you shall hear it; but be very sure that if you speak, the word will have to be silent. The way to serve the word is to keep silent and listen. If you go out, he will most surely come in; as much as you go out for him, he will come in to you; no more, no less
  • The Nazarene. (mjseymour1959.wordpress.com)
    The Temple is the kingdom of the Messiah. It is clear that Gentiles have trusted in the LORD since the time of the Nazarene (Branch) through the building of the church done by Jesus the Nazarene who as we have shown is literally “the Branch.”
    These two references to the Branch must speak of the same person. It is obvious that Joshua who is being addressed cannot be the branch which he is told will come in the future. Joshua, who bears the same human name (Joshua is the Hebrew form of the Greek Jesus), is a symbol and type of the “Branch” because he had a leading part in building the second Temple which was under construction when this message was given to him. The Messiah is spoken of here as in other Branch prophecies, all of which follow:
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    the man, “the Branch,” to come shall be of the house of David, he will be a judge, he will be a king, he will be a priest, he will be the Lord Our Righteousness, he will save Israel and Judah, he will build the Temple of God, in him will the Gentiles trust. Attention given to the context of these Branch prophecies will show that the Branch is the same person who will fulfill the David prophecies. They clearly refer to the Messiah and Jesus of Nazareth has astonishingly paralleled these predictions, so wonderfully fulfilled, yet unwittingly completed by those who reject him. Attention given to the context of these Branch prophecies will show that the Branch clearly refers to the Messiah, and Jesus has astonishingly paralleled these predictions, especially the last, that is, ”in him will the Gentiles trust.”
  • God Has a Plan – 12 Days of Christmas Devotional Day 3 (gloriousfilms.com)
    For childless couples, praying to God for a child can become a desperate cry of the heart that is not always answered by God.  Though some people take it better than others, many react with understandable bitterness.  But no matter how one reacts, there is something deeply heartbreaking about not being able to have a child.  It has been described as experiencing the death of a child, except there are no memories of its life. Now that is difficult stuff.One can only image the pain of the childless couple Zechariah and Elizabeth, whose misfortune was compounded by the suspicions of family and friends around them who viewed barrenness as a sign of God’s disfavor. In ancient Israel, if you couldn’t have children, it was assumed you must be committing some sin against God for which He was punishing you (although barrenness did befall disobedient persons and entire nations in Scripture, this was certainly not the rule).
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    we can learn something very important from Zechariah’s ordeal. The lesson goes beyond “God answers prayer” or “God loves the humble.” It goes beyond even “God is with us in our pain,” or “Trust in God.” All of these things are very important, and very true. But the deeper thing Zechariah discovered is that God has a Master plan, and that his life – and all of our lives – are intertwined in it. His suffering and his joy were both the result of God working out His divine plans on the earth. Even his momentary lack of trust in God was used by God to work out God’s plans (Zechariah got some quiet time, and his muteness brought even more attention to the special nature of his coming son and the Messiah he preceded). Zechariah was lucky because he lived to see this intersection very clearly. But we must remember that this happened when Zach was very old.
  • Israel’s Kings as Messiahs or Christs (mindingthetruth.com)
    In a previous post, I pointed out that in the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures Israel’s kings are spoken of as God’s anointed ones. In the Hebrew texts the word for “anointed one” is mashiach (משיח), which is anglicized as “messiah.” And in the Septuagint (LXX), the ancient Greek translations of the Hebrew Scriptures used by early Christians, mashiach was rendered christos (χριστος), which is anglicized as “christ.” Here are some examples of this usage of the term mashiach in the Hebrew texts and christos in the Greek translations. This usage, of course, is critical for rightly understanding Jesus as mashiach or christos. Against the background of Israel’s kings as mashiach or christos, it is evident that the claim Jesus is the Messiah or Christ is the claim that Jesus is the king appointed by God.

Nazarene Commentary to Zechariah and Elizabeth

Luke 1:5-7 – Zechariah and Elizabeth

LK1:5 In the days of Herod,[1] king of Judea, there happened to be a certain priest named Zechariah[2] out of the [priestly] division of Abijah,[3] as well as his wife named Elizabeth[4] from the daughters of Aaron. LK1:6 Now they were both righteous before The God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and righteous requirements of the LORD. LK1:7 Elizabeth had never had any children as she was barren and they were both well along in years.


[1] In the days of Herod: Luke does not begin with something obscure, as “once upon a time in a land far away.” He states the Roman appointed king of Judea, something that could be confirmed. There is considerable information in Josephus on the house of Herod and its various rulers. Though scholars disagree on the time of the death of Herod it is possible he lived until 2-1 BC, about the time of the birth of Jesus.

[2] Zechariah: Meaning “Yah Remembers.”

[3] Division of Abijah: King David divided the priests into 24 divisions. Abijah was the eighth. [1 Chronicles 24:10] Each of the divisions served for one week every six months.

[4] Elizabeth: Meaning “God of Plenty.”

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Preceding:

Nazarene Commentary to A Factual and Logical Statement

The Advent of the saviour to Roman oppression

Next: Nazarene Commentary to An Angel Appearing to a Priest

Zechariah the priest, father of John the Bapti...

Zechariah the priest, father of John the Baptist, with a scroll showing the opening words of the Benedictus; old Russian Orthodox icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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  • Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 1:5-25. (diizebuno.wordpress.com)
    St. Augustine said: “Empty yourself, so that you may be filled; go out, so that you can go in.” And in another place, he said: “Noble soul, noble creature, why do you seek outside yourself for something which in its most constant, truest and purest form is within you? You share God’s own nature: what business can you have with created things?” If a man would prepare an empty place in the depths of his soul there can be no doubt that God must fill it at once. If there were a void on earth the heaven would fall. God will not allow anything to be void. That would be contrary to his nature and his just ordinance.
  • Advent Series, part II – Zechariah (matthewjabate.wordpress.com)
    Abijah’s name was listed among other names of priests who served during the reign of King David. This is an amazing heritage for Zechariah. It’s a heritage that he does not take for granted. According to Luke, Zechariah was righteous before God and walked blamelessly according to the statutes and commandments of the Lord (Luke 1:6, ESV). This does not sound like a man slacking off, or treating his priestly role in a lackadaisical manner. He’s committed to serving the Lord.
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    It must be said that Zechariah was not precluded from interceding for himself and his family. In fact, the Levitical code required priests to intercede for themselves before performing anything on behalf of the people (Leviticus 9:6-14, ESV). In Luke’s text, Zechariah offered incense in the Lord’s presence, which alluded to intercessory prayer (Luke 1:9 & Rev 5:8c, ESV). Gabriel’s appearance and response confirmed this as he spoke to Zechariah, “your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son” (Luke 1:13, ESV).
  • Daily December Devotional – Day 2 (kellyefabian.com)
    Herod the Great ruled over, among other places, Judea and Galilee from 37-4 B.C. Bethlehem and Jerusalem were both in Judea. Priests during this time were required to keep incense burning on the altar in front of the Most Holy Place in the temple in Jerusalem. To be the one to enter the Most Holy Place and supply fresh incense for the morning and evening sacrifices would have been a distinct privilege and a priest could only be chosen once in his lifetime to fulfill this role. As a priest, Zechariah would have been very familiar with Mosaic law and the prophecies about the coming Messiah.
  • Thursday Third Week Advent 2013 – Zechariah and the Angel and Third O Antiphon (blueeyedennis-siempre.blogspot.com)
    Once when he was serving as priest in his division’s turn before God, according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense.
  • December 4th: Zechariah and Elizabeth (victoriagriffiths7.wordpress.com)
    Luke deliberately and carefully structures his gospel to parallel the story of Christ’s birth with that of John’s, compelling us to take a closer look.
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    In the Jewish community, it was considered a great disgrace to remain childless and sometimes it was thought to be due to the wife’s sinfulness. This simply wasn’t the case for Zechariah and Elizabeth who we are told were both righteous and blameless before God. They were both quite elderly and had probably given up hope some time ago that they would ever be parents, resigning themselves to enduring the assumptions and whispers of their community. It just seems so appropriate that the birth of Christ, who was to bring newness of life and healing in both his life and death, should be paralleled with God’s grace and restoration of joy to Zechariah and Elizabeth.
  • The Daily Gospel and Readings 19 December 2013 (prayersandmeditations.com)
    you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
  • Day 1 – Luke 1:5-12 (immanuelstpauldevotions.wordpress.com)
    Everyone who had an ancestor who was of the tribe of Levi was a priest; so about 20,000 priests lived in and around Jerusalem, all serving the temple.  Of course they all weren’t there at the same time.  Most of them were farmers.  But 2 weeks out of the year, each priest would serve along with others of their order, to perform sacrifices, assist pilgrims, give blessings, and care for the holy vessels.
  • 19th December, Gospel Reading (Luke 1:5-25) (prayers4reparation.wordpress.com)
    Now it was the turn of Zechariah’s section to serve, and he was exercising his priestly office before God when it fell to him by lot, as the ritual custom was, to enter the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense there. And at the hour of incense the whole congregation was outside, praying.
  • Words are important (rkonazeski.wordpress.com)
    It was so important that Zechariah not speak unbelieving words that the angel shut his mouth until he (Zechariah) could speak believing words.  If you notice in verse 12 it says that Zechariah  was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw the Angel.  He would have spoken fear words, when he needed to speak faith words.
  • Thursday, 19 December 2013 : 3rd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading) (petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com)
    When his time of service was completed, Zechariah returned home, and some time later Elizabeth became pregnant. For five months she kept to herself, remaining at home, and thinking, “This, for me, is the Lord’s doing! This is His time for mercy, and for taking away my public disgrace.”

The Advent of the saviour to Roman oppression

Before Roman Judean rule

Rome, Ara Pacis museum: cast of a portrait of ...

Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti filius Augustus – Rome, Ara Pacis museum

The Trojan refugee Aeneas had escaped to Italy and founded the line of Romans through his son Iulus, the namesake of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. The Year of the Consulship of Balbus and Vetus was gone by and the Rome considered to have become a real Roman Empire bastion (on 21 April 753 bCE) had sent their conquerors also to the East. One of the most prominent patrician houses at Rome which were known for their pride and arrogance and intense hatred of the commonalty, brought Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti filius Augustus better known simply as Tiberius Claudius Nero. After he had divorced Vipsania Agrippina, he had married Augustus’ daughter Julia the Elder (from his marriage to Scribonia) and was adopted by Augustus, by which act he officially became a Julian, bearing the name Tiberius Julius Caesar. {Tiberius was the stepson of Augustus, grand-uncle of Caligula, paternal uncle of Claudius, and great-grand uncle of Nero.}

On the verge of accepting command in the East and becoming the second most powerful man in Rome, Tiberius suddenly announced his withdrawal from politics and retired to Rhodes, possibly as an interim solution: he would hold power only until his stepsons would come of age, and then be swept aside.

Instalment of Roman client king of Judea

Rome, Ara Pacis museum: collection of casts of...

Rome, Ara Pacis museum: collection of casts of busts showing the members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, March 28 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In in 63 BCE the Romans had taken over control of Syria, and then intervened in the Hasmonean civil war. A Roman client king of Judea was installed. But he seemed for many “the evil genius of the Judean nation” {Tierney, John. “Herod: Herod the Great”, Catholic Encyclopedia (1910): “Herod, surnamed the Great, called by Grätz “the evil genius of the Judean nation” (Hist., v. II, p. 77)} Though the Jews were granted exemptions from the official Roman state religion, they were not happy with this ambitious man and saw their tribe threatened very hard by this ruthless savage. For others he was Herod the Great (not to be confused with Herod Antipas who came later) and became known as Herod I. He has been described as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis“.

Worshippers of One God

By the Greek experience they had learned that others could not be forced to worship their idols and they saw for themselves that the Jews, who only wanted to worship One God, were not like other pagan people who had already several gods and perhaps could have advantage in some extra ones. By the years the Jews had prove that they were not going to conform to a worship which would not have been according to their Laws of worship. So the Romans granted the Jews an official status of being exempt from Roman state religion when they were willing to pay their punitive tax called fiscus Judaicus.

At the time Judea was a very important place for several major trade routes. It was sort of like the great way-station for the incense trade coming from Yemen up the Arabian Peninsula and going out to the Mediterranean. It was also one of the most agriculturally productive pieces of land in the Middle East famous for its olive oil (which was used as a main source of light, and not just for cooking), for its dates (the chief sweetener in the times before sugar), and for its wine.

Thorn in the flesh for the Jews

Roman Theatre

Roman Theatre

A thorn in the flesh was the centre of trade and the Roman administrative capitol of Judea, the artificial port city of Caesarea (one of the two largest in the Empire). Like in the most important Roman cities there was a beautiful amphitheatre, a hippodrome for chariot races and people could gamble and enjoy life or give one’s desires in their pleasure gardens. There was also a huge temple dedicated to the Roman god-emperor, Augustus Caesar.

Temples were sacred places and for the People of God the mount in Jerusalem was most sacred and they did not like the pagan ideas of their oppressor who had found an ambitious project in the re-building of ‘the Temple’, which was almost certainly an attempt to gain popularity among his subjects who, he knew, held him in contempt and also to make amends for his cruelty toward the rabbis.

Build walls around the Temple Mount

It took 10,000 men ten years just to build the retaining walls around the Temple Mount (on top of which the Muslim shrine, the Dome of the Rock, stands today). The Western Wall (formerly known as the Wailing Wall or “Kotel Ma’arabi”) is merely part of that 500-meter-long retaining wall that was designed to hold a huge man-made platform that could accommodate twenty four football fields. When it was completed, it was the world’s largest functioning religious site and until today it remains the largest man-made platform in the world.

‘Foresight is the essence of government’, he must have thought and forward looking to a growing Jewish community of which there were already about 6-7 million Jews living in the Roman Empire (plus another 1 million in Persia), they should have felt welcome in the town they had to visit in their lifetime. Because it was considered to go for pilgrimage to  Jerusalem for the three pilgrimage festivals: Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.  (Exodus 23: 17; Deuteronomy 16:16). The Mishnah says,

“All are under obligation, to appear, except minors, women, the blind, the lame, the aged, and one who is ill physically or mentally.”

Also knowing that according to the Mosaic law every one should take an offering, though the value thereof is not fixed (comp. Exodus 23: 14; Deuteronomium 16:17) this would mean they had to buy goods in the city and could bring in money for the Roman Empire by the taxes. They were sure of collecting at least the tax for a fixed minimum of three silver pieces, each of thirty-two grains of fine silver (Ḥagai 1:1-2). While the appearance of women and infant males was not obligatory, they usually accompanied their husbands and fathers, as in all public gatherings (Deuteronomy 31:12), which would mean lodging and food for them to be provided. The Talmud plainly infers that both daughters and sons joined the pilgrims at the Passover festival in Jerusalem (Pes. 89a; Giṭ. 25a).

Herod understood that in case the Jews could find a nice place where they could come together to celebrate their festivals, they also would spend a lot of money over there, which would be good for the tax-income. To accommodate such a huge number of people there was a need for a huge space. Hence the size of the platform.

Several Jews where also astonished what the emperor could establish and in the Talmud it was notated:

“He who has not seen Herod’s building, has never in his life seen a truly grand building.” (Talmud-Bava Basra 4a)

In Judea the pilgrimages to Jerusalem were kept up regularly, but the principal gathering of the people was on the Sukkot festival, called “Ḥag ha-Asif” = “Festival of Gathering” (1 Kings 8:65; 2 Chronicles 7:8, 9). The people went undisturbed to Jerusalem for the festivals (Yer. Ta’an. iv. 7; Giṭ. 88a). From beyond Palestine, especially from the River Euphrates, they journeyed to Jerusalem for the festivals. Some even endangered their lives passing the guards posted to stop the pilgrimages (Ta’an. 28a; Grätz, “Gesch.” 3d ed., iii. 157, 668). The number of Jewish pilgrims to the Temple was computed by the governor Gesius Florus (64-66), who counted 256,500 paschal lambs at one Passover festival; allowing ten persons to one lamb, this would make 2,565,000 pilgrims (Josephus, “B. J.” vi. 9). The Tosefta records the census of Agrippa, who ordered the priests to take one hind leg of every paschal lamb, and counted 1,200,000 legs, which would make the total 12,000,000, (Tosef., Pes. iv. 64b). {These figures are evidently exaggerated, and are based on the desire to double the 600,000 of the Exodus, a tendency frequently noticed in the Haggadah.}  It is calculated that ancient Jerusalem comprised an area of 2,400,000 square yards, and, allowing 10 yards for each person, would contain 240,000 persons {see Luncz, “Jerusalem,” i, English part, pp. 83-102}. {Jewish Encyclopedia}

Temple servants also servants of the emperor

Having built the Temple, Herod took pains to make sure it would be run without future problems of this kind. He appointed his own High Priest, having by then put to death forty-six leading members of the Sanhedrin, the rabbinical court.

In that Holy of Holies which was covered in gold there was such a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Z’kharyah or Zachariah who had a wife who descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honourably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God Who is One. He was a respected priest who could use his words to enlighten many people.
In the other buildings were the walls and columns were of white marble; the floors were of carrara marble, its blue tinge giving the impression of a moving sea of water, the congregation gathered and waited for Zachariah who did not seem to come at his regular time. They waited and waited  and became restless. what they did not know was what happened in the house, where the curtains were tapestries of blue, white, scarlet and purple thread, depicting, according to Josephus, “the whole vista of the heavens.” those heavens seemed to have opened for the priest who was astonished and did not believe his eyes and ears.

A special messenger to a priest

Unannounced, an angel of God had appeared just to the right of the altar of incense and got the priest Zachariah paralyzed in fear. But the angel reassured him not to fear because this messenger of God came to tell that their prayer to receive a child was been heard and would be answered positively.  Elisheva (Elizabeth), his wife, who also observed all the mitzvot and ordinances, but did not seemed to be blessed to have children, would bear a son by him. Both where were quite old and had passed the age of having children so Zachariah did not believe the angel Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring him this glad news.
As priest before God, now not believing the messenger of God, he was punished and became unable to say a word until the day of his son’s birth. He would not be able to say any word until he would be filled with the Ruach haKodesh (the Holy Spirit) when the baby would leave his mother’s womb and would get people to  rejoice when he was born, having to face the one who  was going to turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God Adonai Elohim Hashem Jehovah. That son of those old people would herald and go before his face in the spirit and power of Eliyahu (Elijah), to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to walk in the wisdom of the just; to make ready for the Most High a people prepared for him.

Dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things were performed, because he did not believe the words, which were fulfilled in their season, he went out the  sanctuary, to the waiting people, who marvelled while he tarried in the temple and saw at his face and how he behaved that something special had happened. They knew he had seen a vision. He continued speechless and had to use sign language with the people. When the course of his priestly assignment was completed, he went back home. It wasn’t long before his wife, Elizabeth, conceived. She went off by herself for five months, relishing her pregnancy.

Luke’s story of the temple priest

The physician Luke (Colossians 4:14) has generally been credited with the writership of the following account:

“5  In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well on in years. 8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshippers were praying outside. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16 Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well on in years.” 19 The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.” 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realised he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favour and taken away my disgrace among the people.”  (Luke 1:5-25 NIV)

Elisabeth’s other family member also receiving honour of being with child

Eastern Christianity fresco of the Visitation in St. George Church in Kurbinovo, Macedonia

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy by which God had taken away away her reproach among men or her  public disgrace, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of  Natzeret/Nazareth to an Essene young girl, a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Miryam/Miriam (the same name as the granddaughter of Hyrcanus, the Hasmonean princess). Miriam is today better known as Mary (Maria), the mother of Christ (and by many also called the mother of God, though God did not have a mother and has been for ever, so did not have a beginning as eternal Spirit).  Mary or Miryam/Miriam became pregnant with the Messiah and lost her virginity at the exact same time (her first time), thus confirming the Messiah’s physical birth (a physical to Spiritual parallel) as a First Born Son (physical for Mary and Joseph, but Spiritual for Jehovah), and legal heir to the throne of King David. This was a serious situation for the young girl, because in the East, the betrothal or engagement was entered into with much ceremony, and usually took place a year before the marriage and was so sacred that the parties entering into it could not be separated save by a bill of divorcement, which could be called in when somebody seemed to have been unfaithful. Unfaithfulness to each other was deemed adultery and could result in stoning to death.

26  In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God.” (Luke 1:26-30 NIV)

Shame over the family

Joseph or Yosef, her husband, being a righteous man,chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced, not willing to make her a public example, intended to put her away secretly. But when he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Most High appeared to him in a dream, saying,

“Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take to yourself Mary, your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She shall bring forth a son. You shall call his name Jesus, for it is he who shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

Not interested in Judean politics

At the time that Jewish nationalistic feelings were rising to the surface and Hellenism dominated Judea, the devote Miriam (Mary) was not interested in politics and the significant number of Greeks as well as other gentiles who adopted the Greek lifestyle who came to settle the land. As a result of Herod’s interference and the ever-spreading Hellenistic influences among the Jewish upper classes, the Temple hierarchy had become very corrupt, but her family always stayed truthful to her God, who was the God of Abraham and which she considered the Only One God, the Divine Creator. But perhaps she also might have looked forward to a solution and to their promised land and have sang:

“Maran de-bashamaya,” “Our Master in heaven, to Thee we beg, even like a captive to his master. All captives are ransomed with money; but Thy people Israel, with mercy and supplication. O grant us our request and prayer, and let us not return from Thy presence in vain.”

The Sadducees, a religious group of the wealthy, who collaborated with the Romans in order to keep their power base, now had come in control of the Temple, much to the chagrin of the mainstream Jewish majority, the Pharisees, and of the extreme religious minority, the Zealots.

Dating “Before and after Christ”

HerodtheGreat2.jpg

Basileus or King, emperor Herod the Great

Evidence for the 4 BCE date as the death of Herod in Jericho, is provided by the fact that Herod’s sons, between whom his kingdom was divided, dated their rule from 4 BCE, and Josephus tells us that Herod died after a lunar eclipse.  {Josephus, Antiquities, 17.6.4} Elisabeth and Mary having become pregnant before his death, should then also have been delivered their child before the so called Anno Domini (AD or A.D.) used to label or number years used with the Julian and Gregorian calendars.That Medieval Latin term specified more fully as Anno Domini Nostri Iesu (Jesu) Christi (“In the Year of Our Lord Jesus Christ”) was long wrongly taken as the year of birth of Christ Jesus. This Gregorian calendar dating system was devised in 525, but was not widely used until after 800, when the Trinitarians got in the majority of those who still kept to the teachings in which Miriam (Mary) strongly believed. Because BC is the English abbreviation for Before Christ, it is sometimes incorrectly concluded that AD means After Death, i.e., after the death of Jesus. However this would mean that the ~33 years commonly associated with the life of Jesus would not be present in either BC or AD time scales. {Donald P. Ryan, (2000), 15.} Others use it as “Anno Domine” “Year of the Lord” meaning Year of God an having the years BC ‘before Christ’ as the years ‘Before God’ of the “years before God his birth”, which would naturally be impossible, having God being the creator when he would not yet have been born or been in existence.

From told before

Palestine after Herod's deathIsrael had not yet seen realized the long-awaited fulfilment of the promise regarding the Seed through whom blessings would flow. (Ge 22:15-18) Israel had tried to create their won country and to liberate themselves many times from several oppressors. But their own efforts at salvation had produced nothing, unreality. They did not yet form a political nation where there could be found freedom “from enslavement to corruption” and peace for which all creation “keeps on groaning together and being in pain together.” (Romans 8:19-22; compare 10:3; 11:7.) Jehovah, their God had made Jerusalem like a woman who had been made pregnant by her husband and who brought forth numerous children. (Isaiah 54:1-8). After several prophets telling about a saviour to come the time seemed to be ripe.

Later the devout Jew and convert to the new faith, the apostle Paul quoted this prophecy of Isaiah chapter 54 and applied it to “the Jerusalem above [which] is free, and she is our mother.” (Galatians 4:26, 27)

At the end of the current time indication the stars and the moon came to stand in a situation which was predicted by the earlier prophets. Some wise men knew those predictions of a great king and noticed the signs which were predicted in many books. some started traveling and following the stars to find the right place where that king would come to earth.

They did not know that out of that simple devout woman from Nazareth would arise such a great prophet. The apostle John his vision recorded at Revelation 12:1-5 brings the pregnant heavenly “woman” to the forefront. In his revelation we can see that there is given birth to “a son, a male, who is to shepherd all the nations with an iron rod.” The shepherding of the nations with an iron rod is directly connected with the Messianic Kingdom of God, and hence the vision must relate to the producing of that Kingdom, so that, following the defeat of Satan’s attack on the newborn “child,” the ensuing cry goes forth:

“Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ.” (Revelation of the apostle John 12:10)

The anguish of the pregnant heavenly “woman” preceding the birth calls to mind Paul’s expression at Galatians 4:19, “childbirth pains” there apparently representing stirring interest and fervent desire to see full development of matters reached (in Paul’s case, the full development of the Galatian believers as Christians).

  • Lectionary sermon for 15 December 2013 (Advent 3 A) on Matthew 11:2-11 (billpeddie.wordpress.com)
    John’s undoing in this instance was that he believed Herod Antipas the Tetrarch had done something quite immoral, and despite knowing Herod Antipas’ unpleasant reputation, told him so. Herod Antipas had been named as king by Caesar Augustus on the death of his father King Herod the Great, but the Romans had decided his power should be limited and only gave him a quarter share of his father’s territory. He set about trying to win back more power by building the city of Tiberius in honour of his current patron the Emperor Tiberius. The immoral action which had offended John was that Antipas also fancied his brother’s wife, Herodias, so he divorced his own wife and married Herodias. Well it is one thing to believe the king had done wrong, but telling him so was quite another. It is understatement to say upsetting a ruthless king from a ruthless family by calling him immoral was not a wise career move and it was probably no surprise to anyone that John was now imprisoned, and, according to the historian Josephus, in the forbidding fortress Machaerus.
  • Tiberius (14-37) (mkukahiwaharuno.wordpress.com)
    During this time, Augustus’ death in 14 had then caused Tiberius to become ruler.  However, at the time of Augustus’ death, he had hesitated to take over as ruler because he felt as if he was inadequate for the position.  He had even gone as far as telling the senate that he was reluctant and inadequate to fill this role.  He was then appointed control of the Praetorian Guard.  The authority in which Tiberius had during this time since he was Augustus’ heir was also greatly and positively impacted because of his tribunician power, the fact Augustus adopted him and Augustus’ bequest to him of his estate along with one of the most important components, his name… Augustus.  However, Rome’s armies had saw the death of Augustus in a different aspect which was it simply being their way to possibly obtain munity.
  • Sorting out the Agrippinas (timesonline.typepad.com)
    One of the problems of the first century AD is that there are simply too many Agrippinas. Not only the “Elder Agrippina” (the wife of the glamorous prince Germanicus, who kept his memory alive after his suspicious death and was morally upright to the point of being a bit of a pain in the neck) and the “Younger Agrippina” (daughter of the Elder A, wife of Claudius and mother — and lover it was said — of Nero). There’s also the virtuous lady that we tend to know as Vipsania, who was the first wife of the emperor Tiberius….the one he really loved but was made to divorce in order to marry the dreadful Julia. Vipsania was actually “Vipsania Agrippina”, the daughter of Augustus’ aide, Agrippa.This last Agrippina is often missed. In fact the traditional title of the picture, below right (by Rubens, now in the National Gallery in Washington) was “Tiberius and Agrippina”… but has been changed to A0000e45“Germanicus and Agrippina”, partly because the traditional pairing seemed so odd (the Elder Agrippina hated Tiberius, whom she believed was heavily implicated in the death of Germanicus). But actually it’s a pairing that makes perfect sense if you remember it could be what we would call “Tiberius and Vipsania”. This is the sad loving couple who were forced to divorce by the imperial dynastic machine.
  • The Story of Mary and the Birth of the King (womenfromthebook.com)
    or over 500 years the nation of Israel chafed under the thumb of first one Gentile kingdom and then another—Babylon, Persia, the Greco Macedonians, and now Rome, with its absolute ruler Caesar Augustus, and Herod the Great, one of his ruthless client kings. It wasn’t unusual, particularly during Passover season, for passions to ignite as the tribes of Israel revisited the story of God’s intervention and the stunning liberation of their ancestors.  When the white-hot flames of resistance and rebellion flared, they were summarily stamped out under the cruel boot of Herod’s soldiers.Exorbitant taxation compounded the misery of oppression in pre- and first-century Palestine: the mandatory tribute to Rome; locally imposed taxes; several layers of temple tax; impromptu levies to fund military expeditions and building projects. Privation and hardship enveloped the land like a dank, smothering blanket, and peasants found themselves forced to sell their land holdings—inheritances from generations past—in order to survive. The swelling ranks of day laborers told the tale.
    +
    On a cool autumn morning sometime before Herod’s death, in the frontier town of Nazareth in Lower Galilee, a young woman prepared for a long trip to Bethlehem. Caesar Augustus called for a census, declaring “all the world should be taxed” (Luke 2:1-5) and ordered that everyone[1] must register in their ancestral home. And so, Mary, nearly full-term in her pregnancy, helped Joseph load the cart with the necessities they would need to see them through their journey to the ancient city of David.
  • Signs and Wonders (mnorth52.wordpress.com)
    Astrology boomed under the Caesars: here we had a severely autocratic regime which considered it worthwhile to be seen as “one with the gods”, and so it greatly benefited the emperors to have the legitimacy of their sovereignty literally “written in the stars.”Tiberius was no exception: having become self proficient in divination, after a dream which told him to give a large sum of money to a certain person, he decided he was the victim of enchantment, and had the man put to death. So even if you have no connection with someone (even an emperor), you could find your life terminated simply on the arbitrary say-so of interpretation of dreams. Freud no doubt would have been in his heaven among the Romans.
  • Rome’s Religion (ecpsocialstudies6.wordpress.com)
    Honoring gods was a big part of Roman life. There were thousands of Roman gods. The ancient Romans believed gods lived everywhere—in trees, by the side of the road, in a flower, under the bed, and maybe even in the oven in your house.  In ancient Rome, everything had a spirit in charge of it.
  • Tiberius Used Quantitative Easing To Solve The Financial Crisis Of 33 AD (businessinsider.com)
    Tiberius ruled the Roman Empire from 14 AD to 37 AD.  He was frugal in his expenditures, and consequently, he never raised taxes during his reign. When Cappadocia became a province, Tiberius was even able to lower Roman taxes. His frugality also allowed him to be liberal in helping the provinces when, for example, a massive earthquake destroyed many of the famous cities of Asia, or when a financial panic struck the Roman Empire in 33 AD.As with many financial panics, this one began when unexpected events in one part of the Roman world spread to the rest of the Empire. To quote Otto Lightner from his History of Business Depressions, “The important firm of Seuthes and Son, of Alexandria, was facing difficulties because of the loss of three richly laden ships in a Red Sea storm, followed by a fall in the value of ostrich feather and ivory. About the same time the great house of Malchus and Co. of Tyre with branches at Antioch and Ephesus, suddenly became bankrupt as a result of a strike among their Phoenician workmen and the embezzlements of a freedman manager. These failures affected the Roman banking house, Quintus Maximus and Lucious Vibo. A run commenced on their bank and spread to other banking houses that were said to be involved, particularly Brothers Pittius.
  • Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 22:15-21 (thedivinelamp.wordpress.com)
    Pharisees are in a special manner said to be the instigators or concocters of this scheme, to insnare our Redeemer, both, because they were most hostile to Him, and among them, especially the following captious question was agitated. Instead of being struck with feelings of dread at the punishment menaced by our Redeemer, and conceiving feelings of true sorrow, they become more hardened in their iniquity, and endeavour to insnare Him.
  • The man behind the emperor: major Augustus exhibit opens in Rome (rawstory.com)
    A political genius, a great reformer, a patron of the arts — but ancient Rome’s first emperor Augustus was also a family man, as highlighted in a new exhibition that opened in Rome this week.The show marks 2,000 years since the death of the founder of the Roman Empire and the man most associated with the “Pax Romana”, a period of immense architectural and artistic achievement.“We wanted to look at the personality of Augustus beyond the official persona,” said Daniel Roger, chief conservator at the Louvre museum in Paris, which is co-organising the exhibition in Rome.

    Through some 200 items including statues, jewelry and platters, the exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale delves into the emperor’s family life and tries to depict the ebullient mood of the time.

    The show brings together for the first time statues of Augustus in his attire as a divine leader and as a star general, as well as an equestrian one found in the Aegean Sea in Greece and displayed in Italy for the first time.

  • Augustus (aaam4e.wordpress.com)
    Augustus got very sick in 23 BC he died visiting his fathers grave on August 19 14 AD

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