Luke 1:78
Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high has visited us,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(78) Through the tender mercy.—Literally, on account of the bowels of mercy of our God. After this manner the Jews spoke of what we should call the heart” of God. The word was a favourite one with St. Paul, as in the Greek of 2Corinthians 7:15; Philippians 1:8, Php_2:1; Colossians 3:12. The pity that moved the heart of God is thought of, not as the instrument through which, but that on account of which, the work of the Baptist was to be accomplished.

The dayspring from on high.—The English word expresses the force of the Greek very beautifully. The dawn is seen in the East rising upward, breaking through the darkness. We must remember, however, that the word had acquired another specially Messianic association, through its use in the LXX. version as the equivalent for the “Branch,” “that which springs upward,” of Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 3:8. Here the thought of the sunrise is prominent, and it connects itself with such predictions as, “The glory of the Lord hath risen upon thee” (Isaiah 60:1), “The sun of righteousness shall rise” (Malachi 4:2). What had become a Messianic name is taken in its primary sense, and turned into a parable.

Hath visited us.—Better, hath looked upon us.

Luke

ZACHARIAS’S HYMN

THE DAYSPRING FROM ON HIGH

Luke 1:78 - Luke 1:79
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As the dawn is ushered in by the notes of birds, so the rising of the Sun of Righteousness was heralded by song, Mary and Zacharias brought their praises and welcome to the unborn Christ, the angels hovered with heavenly music over His cradle, and Simeon took the child in his arms and blessed it. The human members of this choir may be regarded as the last of the psalmists and prophets, and the first of Christian singers. The song of Zacharias, from which my text is taken, is steeped in Old Testament allusions, and redolent of the ancient spirit, but it transcends that. Its early part is purely national, and hails the coming of the Messiah chiefly as the deliverer of Israel from foreign oppressors, though even in it their deliverance is regarded mostly as the means to an end, and the end one very appropriate on the lips of a priestly prophet-viz. sacerdotal service by the whole nation ‘in holiness and righteousness all their days.’

But in this latter portion, which is separated from the former by the pathetic, incidental, and slight reference to the singer’s own child, the national limits are far surpassed. The song soars above them, and pierces to the very heart and kernel of Christ’s work. ‘The dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.’ Nothing deeper, nothing wider, nothing truer about the mission and issue of Christ’s coming could be spoken. And thus we have to look at the three things that lie in this text, as bearing upon our conceptions of Christ and His work-the darkness, the dawn, and the directing light.

I. The darkness.

Zacharias, as becomes the last of the prophets, and a man whose whole religious life was nourished upon the ancient Scriptures, speaks almost entirely in Old Testament phraseology in this song. And his description of ‘them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death’ is taken almost verbally from the great words from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, who speaks, in immediate connection with his prophecy of the coming of the Christ, of ‘the people that walk in darkness and them that dwell,’ or sit, ‘in the shadow of death, upon whom the light hath shined.’

The picture that rises before us is that of a group of travellers benighted, bewildered, huddled together in the dark, afraid to move for fear of pitfalls, precipices, wild beasts, and enemies; and so sighing for the day and compelled to be inactive till it comes. That is the picture of humanity apart from Jesus Christ, a darkness so intense, so tragic, that it is, as it were, the very shadow of the ultimate and essential darkness which is death, and in it men are sitting torpid, unable to find their way and afraid to move.

Now darkness, all the world over, is the emblem of three things-ignorance, impurity, sorrow. And all men who are rent away from Jesus Christ, or on whom His beams have not yet fallen, this text tells us, have that triple curse lying upon them.

Ignorance. Think of what, without Jesus Christ, the world has deemed of the unseen, and of the God, if there be a God, that may inhabit there. He has been to them a great Peradventure, a great Terror, a great Inscrutable, a stone-eyed Fate, a thin, nebulous Nothing, with no emotion, no attributes, no heart, no ear to hear, the nearest approach to nonentity, according to the despairing saying of a master of philosophy, that ‘pure Being is equal to pure Nothing.’ And if all men do not rise to such heights of melancholy abstraction as that, still how little there is of blessed certainty, how little clearness of conception of a Divine Person that turns to us with love and tenderness in His heart, apart from Christ and His teaching! If you take away from civilised men all the knowledge of God that they owe to Jesus Christ, what have you left? The ladder by which they climbed is kicked away by a great many people nowadays, but it is to Him that they owe the very conceptions in the name of which some of them turn round and deny Him.

Ignorance of God, ignorance of one’s own self and of one’s deepest duties, and ignorance of that solemn future, the fact of which is plain to most men, but the how of which is such a blank mystery but for Jesus Christ-these things are elements of the darkness that wraps the world. Go to heathendom if you want to see the problem worked out, as to what men know outside of the revelation which culminates in Jesus Christ. And take your own hearts, dear friends who stand aside from that sweet Lord and light of our lives, and ask yourselves, What do I know, with a certainty which is to me as valid, as-yea! more valid than that given by sense and outward perceptions? What do I know of God that I do not owe to Jesus Christ? Nothing. You may guess much, you may hope a little, you may dread a great deal, you may question more than all, but you will know nothing.

Well, then, further, this solemn emblem stands for impurity. And we have only to consult our own hearts to feel how true it is about us all, that we dwell in a region all darkened, if not by the coarse transgressions which men consent to call sins, yet darkened more subtly and oftentimes more hopelessly by the obscuration of pure selfishness and living to myself and by myself. Wherever that comes, it is like the mists that steal up from some poisonous marsh, and shut out stars and sky, and drape the whole country in a melancholy veil. It is white but it is poisonous, it is white but it is darkness all the same. There are other kinds of sin than the sins that break the Ten Commandments; there are other kinds of sin than the sins that the world takes cognisance of. The worst poisons are the tasteless ones, and colourless gases are laden with fatal power. We may walk in a darkness that may be felt, though there be nothing in our lives that men call sin, and little there of which our consciences are as yet educated enough to be ashamed. Rent from God, man lives to himself, and so is sunk in darkness.

And what shall I say about the third of the doleful triad of which this pregnant emblem is the recognised symbol all the world over? Surely, though earth be full of blessing, and life of possibilities of joy, no man travels very far along the road without feeling that the burden of sorrow is a burden that we all have to carry. There are blessings in plenty, there is mirth more than enough. There is ‘the laughter’ which is ‘the crackling of thorns’ under a pot. There are plenty of distractions and amusements, ‘blessings more plentiful than hope’; but yet the ground tone of every human life, when the first flush of inexperience and novelty has worn off, apart from God, is sadness, conscious of itself sometimes, and driven to all manner of foolish attempts at forgetfulness, unconscious of itself sometimes, and knowing not what is the disease of which it languishes. There it is, like some persistent minor in a great piece of music, wailing on through all the embroidery and lightsomeness of the cheerfuller and loftier notes. ‘Every heart knoweth its own bitterness,’ and every heart has a bitterness of its own to know.

I do not understand how it is that men who have no religion in them can bear their own sorrows and see their neighbours’ and not go mad. Sometimes the world seems to me to be moving round its central sun with a doleful atmosphere of sighs wherever it goes, and all the mirth and stir and bustle are but like a thin crust of grass with flowers upon it, cast across the sulphurous depths of some volcano that may slumber for a while, but is there all the same.

Brother! you and I, away from Jesus Christ, have to face the certainties of ignorance, of sin, of sorrow-ignorance unenlightened, sin unconquered, sorrow uncomforted.

And then comes the other tragic, and yet most picturesque emblem in the representation here: ‘They sit in darkness.’ Yes! what can they do, poor creatures? They know not where to go. The light has left them, inactivity is a necessity. And so, with folded hands, they wish for the day, or try to forget the night by lighting some little torch of their own that only serves to make darkness visible, and dies all too soon, leaving them to lie down in sorrow.

But, you say, ‘What nonsense! Inactivity! look at the fierce energy of life in our Western lands.’ Well, grant it all, there may be plenty of material activity attendant upon inward stagnation and torpor. But, again, I would like to ask how much of the most godless, commercial, artistic, intellectual activity of so-called civilised and Christian countries is owing to the stimulus and ferment that Jesus Christ brought. If you want to see how true it is that men without Him sit in the darkness, go to heathen lands, and see the stagnation, the torpor, there.

Now, dear brethren, all this is true about us, in the measure in which we do not participate by faith and love, welcoming Him into our hearts in the illumination that Jesus Christ brings. And what I want to do is to lay upon the hearts and consciences of each of us here this thought, that the solemn, tragic picture of my text is the picture of me, separate from Christ, however I may try to conceal it from myself, and to mask it from other people by busying myself with inferior knowledges, by avoiding to listen to the answer that conscience gives to the question as to my moral character, and by befooling myself with noisy joys and tumultuous pleasures, in which there is no pleasure.

II. Now, note secondly, the dayspring, or dawn.

My text, in the part on which I have just been speaking, links itself with ancient Messianic prophecy, and this expression, ‘the dayspring from on high.’ also links itself with other prophecies of the same sort. Almost the last word of prophecy before the four centuries of silence which Mary and Zacharias broke, was, ‘Unto you that fear His name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His beams.’ There can be little doubt, I think, that the allusion of my text is to these all but the last words of the prophet Malachi. For that final chapter of the Old Testament colours the song both of Mary and of Zacharias. And it is to be observed that the Greek translation of the Hebrew uses the same verb, of which the cognate noun is here employed, for the rising of the Sun of Righteousness. The picturesque old English word ‘dayspring’ means neither more nor less than sunrising. And it is here used practically as a name for Jesus Christ, who is Himself the Sun, represented as rising over a darkened earth, and yet, with a singular neglect of the propriety of the metaphor, as descending from on high, not to shine on us from the sky, but to ‘visit us’ on earth.

Jesus Christ Himself, over and over again, said by implication, and more than once by direct claim, ‘I am the Light of the world.’ And my text is the anticipation, perhaps from lips that did not fully understand the whole significance of the prophecy which they spoke, of these later declarations. I have said that the darkness is the emblem of three baleful things, of the converse of which light is the symbol. As the darkness speaks to us of ignorance, so Christ, as the Sun illumines us with the light of ‘the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’ For doubt we have blessed certainty, for a far-off God we have the knowledge of God close at hand. For an impassive will or a stony-eyed fate we have the knowledge {and not only the wistful yearning after the knowledge} of a loving heart, warm and throbbing. Our God is no unemotional abstraction, but a living Person who can love, who can pity, and we are speaking more than poetry when we say, God is compassion, and compassion is God. This we know because ‘He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.’ And the solid certainty of a loving God, tender, pitying, mighty to help, quick to hear, ready to forgive, waiting to bless, is borne into our hearts, and comes there, sweet as the sunshine, when we turn ourselves to the light of Christ.

In like manner the darkness, born of our own sin, which wraps our hearts, and shuts out so much that is fair and sweet and strong, will pass away if we turn ourselves to Him. His light pouring into our souls will hurt the eye at first, but it will hurt to cure. The darkness of sin and alienation will pass, and the true light will shine.

The darkness of sorrow-well! it will not cease, but He will ‘smooth the raven down of darkness till it smiles,’ and He will bring into our griefs such a spirit of quiet submission as that they shall change into a solemn scorn of ills, and be almost like gladnesses. Peace, which is better than exuberant delight, will come to quiet the sorrow of the soul that trusts in Jesus Christ. The day which is knowledge, purity, gladsomeness, the cheerful day will be ours if we hold by Him. We ‘are all the children of the light and of the day’; we ‘are not of the night nor of darkness.’

Brother, it is possible to grope at noontide as in the dark, and in all the blaze of Christ’s revelation still to be left in the Cimmerian folds of midnight gloom. You can shut your eyes to the sunshine; have you opened your hearts to its coming?

I cannot dwell {your time will not allow of it} upon the other points connected with this description of the day spring, except just to point out in passing the singular force and depth of the words-which I suppose are more forcible and deep than he who spoke them understood at the time that visitation was described. The dayspring is ‘from on high.’ This Sun has come down on to the earth. It has not risen on a far-off horizon, but it has come down and visited us, and walks among us. This Sun, our life-star, ‘hath had elsewhere its setting, and cometh from afar.’ For He that rises upon us as the Light of life, hath descended from the heavens, and was, before He appeared amongst men.

And His coming is a divine visitation. The word here ‘hath visited us’ {or ‘shall visit us,’ as the Revised Version varies it}, is chiefly employed in the Old Testament to describe the divine acts of self-revelation, and these, mostly redemptive acts. Zacharias employs it in that sense in the earlier portion of the song, where he says that ‘God hath visited and redeemed His people.’ And so from the use of this word we gather these two thoughts-God comes to us when Christ comes to us, and His coming is wondrous, blessed nearness, and nearness to each of us. ‘What is man that Thou shouldst be mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou shouldst visit him?’ said the old Psalmist. We say ‘What is man that the Dayspring from on high should come down upon earth, and round His immortal beams, should, as it were, cast the veil and obscuration of a human form; and so walk amongst us, the embodied Light and the Incarnate God?’ ‘The dayspring from on high hath visited us.’

III. Lastly, note the directing by the light.

‘To guide our feet into the way of peace.’ This Sun stoops to the office of the star that moved before the wise men and hovered over His cradle, and becomes to each individual soul a guide and director. The picture of my text, I suppose, carries us on to the morning, when the benighted travellers catch the first gleams of the rising sun and resume their activity, and there is a cheerful stir through the encampment and the way is open before them once more, and they are ready to walk in it. The force of the metaphor, however, implies more than that, for it speaks to us of the wonder that this universal Light should become the special guide of each individual soul, and should not merely hang in the heavens, to cast the broad radiance of its beams over the whole surface of the earth, but should move before each man, a light unto his feet and a lamp to his path, in special manifestation to him of his duty and his life’s pilgrimage.

There is only one way of peace, and that is to follow His beams and to be directed by His preceding us. Then we shall realise the most indispensable of all the conditions of peace-Christ brings you and me the reconciliation which puts us at peace with God, which is the foundation of all other tranquillity. And He will guide docile feet into the way of peace in yet another fashion-in that the following of His example, the cleaving to Him, the holding by His skirts or by His hand, and the treading in His footsteps, is the only way by which the heart can receive the solid satisfaction in which it rests, and the conscience can cease from accusing and stinging. The way of wisdom is a path of pleasantness and a way of peace. Only they who walk in Christ’s footsteps have quiet hearts and are at amity with God, in concord with themselves, friends of mankind, and at peace with circumstances. There is no strife within, no strained relations or hostile alienation to God, no gnawing unrest of unsatisfied desires, no pricks of accusing conscience; for the man who puts his hand into Christ’s hand, and says, ‘Order Thou my footsteps by Thy word’; ‘Where Thou goest I will go, and what Thou commandest I will do.’

Brother, put thy hand out from the darkness and clasp His, and ‘the darkness shall be light about thee’; and He will fulfil His own promise when He said, ‘I am the Light of the world. He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of life.1:67-80 Zacharias uttered a prophecy concerning the kingdom and salvation of the Messiah. The gospel brings light with it; in it the day dawns. In John the Baptist it began to break, and increased apace to the perfect day. The gospel is discovering; it shows that about which we were utterly in the dark; it is to give light to those that sit in darkness, the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. It is reviving; it brings light to those that sit in the shadow of death, as condemned prisoners in the dungeon. It is directing; it is to guide our feet in the way of peace, into that way which will bring us to peace at last, Ro 3:17. John gave proofs of strong faith, vigorous and holy affections, and of being above the fear and love of the world. Thus he ripened for usefulness; but he lived a retired life, till he came forward openly as the forerunner of the Messiah. Let us follow peace with all men, as well as seek peace with God and our own consciences. And if it be the will of God that we live unknown to the world, still let us diligently seek to grow strong in the grace of Jesus Christ.Whereby the dayspring ... - The word "dayspring" means the morning light, the aurora, the rising of the sun. It is called the dayspring "from on high" because the light of the gospel shines forth from heaven. God is its Author, and through His mercy it shines upon people. There is here, doubtless, a reference to Isaiah 60:1-2; indeed, almost the very words of that place are quoted. Compare also Revelation 22:16. 78. Through the tender mercy of our God—the sole spring, necessarily, of all salvation for sinners.

dayspring from on high—either Christ Himself, as the "Sun of righteousness" (Mal 4:2), arising on a dark world [Beza, Grotius, Calvin, De Wette, Olshausen, &c.], or the light which He sheds. The sense, of course, is one.

In the Greek it is, through the bowels of mercy. An ordinary expression, and very natural, to signify great and deep compassion, Genesis 43:30 1 Kings 3:26. Our remission of sin floweth from God’s bowels of mercy; it depends not upon our satisfactions and penances, (as papists dream), but God’s free and tender love; yet God must be just, and declare his righteousness while he justifieth the ungodly.

Whereby the Dayspring from on high hath visited us, anatolh ex uqouv. Some think that the Greek word answereth the Hebrew word, translated the Branch, Jeremiah 23:5 Zechariah 3:8: the seventy interpreters translate it by anatolhn, Jeremiah 33:15. Those texts manifestly relate to Christ, who is called there the Branch. Others think it rather answereth the Hebrew word dwa we translate it a great light. Others think it should be translated the East. So they say Christ is called Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12; but we translate it the Branch in both those places. Be it the Branch, or the Light, or Dayspring, or the East, it is certain Christ is meant, who is called the Sun of righteousness, Malachi 4:2. That God might be just in the remission of our sins, he sent Christ to visit us, and in our nature to die for us. Through the tender mercy of our God,.... or "bowels of mercy", to which the forgiveness of sin is owing; the source and spring of pardon, is the free grace and abundant mercy of God; it takes its rise from thence, though it is channelled in the blood and sacrifice of Christ; and which no way derogates from, but rather heightens the riches of God's grace and mercy: for it was mercy that moved God to enter into a covenant with his Son, in which forgiveness of sin is promised; and it was mercy to set forth his Son, in his eternal purposes and decrees; and to send him forth in the fulness of time, to shed his blood for the remission of sins; it was the mercy of God to us, that provided a lamb for a burnt offering, and then accepted of the sacrifice and satisfaction of his Son, in our room and stead, and forgave all our sins, for his sake; and whatever the pardon of our sins cost God and Christ, it is all free grace and mercy to us: it is owing not to the absolute mercy of God, or to the mercy of God as an absolute God, but to the mercy of "our" God; our God in Christ, our covenant God and Father, whose bowels yearned towards us, and whose pity is that of a tender parent: whereby

the day spring from on high hath visited us: the word here used, and is translated "the day spring", is the same which the Septuagint use, in Jeremiah 23:5 where the Messiah is spoken of, under the name of the "branch": and undoubtedly the Messiah Jesus, is intended here, who is the man, that branch, that has grown up out of his place; not from below, but from above; and who is the phosphorus, or bringer of light, that bright and morning star, that sun of righteousness, who has light in himself, and communicates light to others; even light natural, spiritual, and eternal; and with his rays and beams of light, life, and love, refreshes, exhilarates, and warms, the hearts of his people: and by the "visit" he has made in our "horizon", is meant his assumption of human nature; which, like a friendly visit, proceeded from pure love to the children of God; and was a drawing near unto them, for it was a taking on him their nature, in which he represented their persons; and was done through much difficulty and great condescension, since he was in the form of God, and thought it no robbery to be equal with him; and his stay on earth in this nature, was but for a little while; so that on all accounts, it may be truly called a "visit": and which, as the remission of sin is wholly owing to the tender mercy of our God, who put him upon it, called him to it, sent him forth made of a woman, and in the likeness of sinful flesh, to obtain eternal redemption, in which mercy and truth met together: the end and design of this visit, are signified in the next verse; for the following words belong to the day spring from on high, and not to John the Prophet of the Highest.

Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the {p} dayspring from on high hath visited us,

(p) Or bud, or branch; he alludes to Jer 23:5 Zec 3:8 6:12; and he is called a bud from on high, that is, sent from God unto us, and not as other buds which bud out of the earth.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 1:78 f. Διὰ σπλάγχνα ἐλέους κ.τ.λ.] is not to be separated from what precedes by punctuation, but to be immediately connected with ἐν ἀφ. ἁμ. αὐτ.: ἐν ἀφέσει δὲ ἁμαρτιῶντῇ διδομένῃ διὰ τὴν συμπάθειαν τοῦ ἐλέους αὐτοῦ, Euthymius Zigabenus. Comp. Theophylact. The reference to all that is said from προπορεύσῃ onwards, Luke 1:76 (Grotius, Kuinoel, de Wette, and others), is the more arbitrary, in proportion to the natural and essential connection that subsists between the forgiveness of sins and God’s compassion.

διά] not through, but for the sake of, see on Luke 1:77; σπλάγχνα is not merely, according to the Hebrew רחמים (see Gesenius), but also in the Greek poetical language, the seat of the affections, as, for instance, of anger (Arist. Ran. 1004) and of sympathy (Aesch. Ch. 407). So here. Comp. Colossians 3:12; Php 2:1. ἐλέους is genitivus qualitatis, and Θεοῦ ἡμῶν depends on σπλάγχνα ἐλέους: for the sake of the compassionate heart of our God.

ἐν οἷς] instrumental: by virtue, of which.

ἐπεσκέψατο ἡμᾶς ἀνατολὴ ἐξ ὕψ.] to be taken together: has visited us, etc., has become present to ns with His saving help (comp. Xen. Cyr. v. 4. 10; Sir 46:14; Jdt 8:33; Luke 7:16), It is appropriate to ἀνατ. ἐξ ὕψ., as the latter is personified. The figurative designation of the Messiah: Dayspring from on high, is borrowed from the rising of the sun (Revelation 7:2; Matthew 5:45; Hom. Od. xii. 4; Herod. iv. 8), or as is more in keeping with the ἐξ ὕψιστου, from the rising of a bright-beaming star of the night (Numbers 24:17; Valck. ad Eur. Phoen. 506), not (in opposition to Beza, Scultetus, Lightfoot, Wetstein) from an ascending shoot (צֶמַח, Isaiah 4:2; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12), against which may be urged ἐξ ὕψ. and ἐπιφᾶναι.[34] Comp. Isaiah 9:2.

ἘΠΙΦᾶΝΑΙ] Infinitive of the aim. On the form see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 25 f.

τοῖς ἐν σκότει κ. σκ. θαν. καθημ.] those who sit in darkness and (climactic) the shadow of death—a picturesque delineation of the people totally destitute of divine truth and the true ζωή (ἡμῶν, Luke 1:79).

The shadow of death (צַלְמֶוֶת) is such a shadow as surrounds death (personified), and they are sitting in this shadow, because death is ruling among them, namely, in the spiritual sense, the opposite of the true life whose sphere is the light of divine truth. Moreover, comp. Isaiah 9:2, and on Matthew 4:16; on καθημ. also, Nägelsbach, Anm. z. Ilias, ed. 3, p. 65.

τοῦ κατευθῦναι κ.τ.λ.] The aim of ἐπιφᾶναι κ.τ.λ., and so the final aim of ἐπεσκέψατο κ.τ.λ. Comp. on τοῦ δοῦναι, Luke 1:77. “Continuatur translatio, nam lux dirigit nos,” Grotius. Observe also the correlation of ΤΟῦ ΠΌΔΑς with the preceding ΚΑΘΗΜΈΝΟΙς.

ΕἸς ὉΔῸΝ ΕἸΡΉΝ.
] in viam ad salutem (Messianam) ducentem. ΕἸΡΉΝΗ = שָׁלוֹם, opposite of all the misery denoted by ΣΚΌΤΟς Κ.Τ.Λ. (hence not merely peace). It has another sense in Romans 3:17. But comp. Acts 16:17.

[34] Bleek wishes to combine the two senses, and infers from this that the source whence Luke drew was Greek and not Hebrew, because צמח would not have admitted a reference to the rising of the sun. But the whole mixing up of two incongruous figures is excluded by ver. 79; hence the inference drawn by Bleek (see also his Einleit. p. 277 f.), and approved by Holtzmann, falls to the ground. The source may have been Greek; but if it was Hebrew, צמח need not have stood in it.Luke 1:78. διὰ σπλάγχνα, etc., on account of, etc., indicating the fountain-head of salvation—the mercy of God, described in Hebrew phrase as the bowels of mercy of our God.—ἐπισκέψεται: the future (aorist in T.R.), though in few MSS. ([15] [16] [17]), is doubtless the true reading. In the second great strophe the verbs are all future, and describe what is to be.—ἀνατολὴ: happily rendered “dayspring” in A. V[18] The reference is undoubtedly to a light, star, or sun, not to a branch from Jesse’s stem, as it might be so far as usage in Sept[19] is concerned (vide Jeremiah 23:5, Zechar. Luke 3:8, Luke 6:12), for its function is ἐπιφᾶναι, to appear as a light to those in darkness (σκότει).—σκιᾷ θανάτου: vide on Matthew 4:16.

[15] Codex Sinaiticus (sæc. iv.), now at St. Petersburg, published in facsimile type by its discoverer, Tischendorf, in 1862.

[16] Codex Vaticanus (sæc. iv.), published in photographic facsimile in 1889 under the care of the Abbate Cozza-Luzi.

[17] Codex Regius--eighth century, represents an ancient text, and is often in agreement with א and B.

[18] Authorised Version.

[19] Septuagint.

The Benedictus is steeped in O. T. language; “an anthology from Psalms and Prophets,” Holtz., H. C.78. Through the tender mercy of our God] Literally, “Because of the heart of mercy.” Σπλάγχνα (literally ‘bowels’) is favourite word with St Paul to express emotion (2 Corinthians 7:15; Php 1:8; Php 2:1; Philemon 1:7; Philemon 1:12; Philemon 1:20, &c.). The expression is common to Jewish (Proverbs 12:10, &c.) and classical writers.

the dayspring] The word Anatole is used by the LXX. to translate both Motsah ‘the Dawn’ (Jeremiah 31:40) and Tsemach ‘branch’ (Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12. See on Matthew 2:23). Here the context shews that the Dawn is intended. Malachi 4:2, “Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings.” See Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 4:16; John 1:4-5.

hath visited] or shall visit, in some MSS.Luke 1:78. Διὰ, through) Construe with ἀφέσει, remission—through, etc.—ἐλέους, of mercy) An allusion to the name John: [In Hebr. = the mercy or grace of the Lord.]—[ἐπεσκέψατο ἡμᾶς, hath visited us) He was the Saviour even before that He assumed human nature. For His incarnation was a visiting of us of His own free choice.—V. g.]—ἀνατολὴ) So the LXX. render צמח, Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12; Jeremiah 23:5 : for צמח is also said of the dawn of daylight. See John Gregor. Observ. c. 18, Tom. vii. Crit. col. 585, where there is a copious and admirable dissertation. There is a Metonymy of the Abstract for the Concrete, Day-spring [day-rising], i.e. the Sun-rising. See following verse [“to give light,” etc., which applies to the sun itself, not to its rising]; Joshua 9:1; Revelation 22:16.—ἐξ ὓψους, from on high) This is said concerning the Son of God in this passage, and concerning the Holy Ghost in ch. Luke 24:49 [Endued with power from on high]: comp. Galatians 4:4; Galatians 4:6. So [The second man is the Lord] from heaven, 1 Corinthians 15:47.Verse 78. - Through the tender mercy of our God. And, goes on Zacharias in his noble hymn, all this tender care for Israel (but really for mankind, though perhaps the speaker of the hymn scarcely guessed it) is owing to the deep love of God. Whereby the Dayspring from on high hath visited us. The beautiful imagery here is derived from the magnificence of an Eastern sunrise. In his temple service at Jerusalem the priest must have seen the ruddy dawn rise grandly over the dark chain of the distant mountains, and lighting up with a blaze of golden glory the everlasting hills as they stood round about Jerusalem. The thought which pictured the advent of Messiah as a sunrise was a favorite one with the prophets. We see it in such prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi as, "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For behold... Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of the; rising" (Isaiah 60:1-3). "Unto you that fear my Name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings" (Malachi 4:2). Tender mercy (σπλάγχνα ἐλέους)

Lit., bowels of mercy. See on 1 Peter 3:8; and James 5:11. Rev. gives heart of mercy in margin. Wyc., frightfully, entrails of mercy.

The day-spring from on high (ἀνατολὴ ἐξ ὕψους)

Lit., the rising. The word occurs in the Septuagint as a rendering of branch, as something rising or springing up, by which the Messiah is denoted (Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 6:12). Also of the rising of a heavenly body (Isaiah 60:19, Sept.). Compare the kindred verb arise (ἀνατέλλω) in Isaiah 60:1; Malachi 4:2. This latter is the sense here. See on Matthew 2:2. Wyc. has he springing up from on high.

Hath visited (ἐπεσκέψατο)

See on Matthew 25:36; and 1 Peter 2:12. Some, however, read ἐπισκέψεται, shall visit. So Rev.

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