|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:57-66 In these verses we have an account of the birth of John the Baptist, and the great joy among all the relations of the family. He shall be called Johanan, or Gracious, because he shall bring in the gospel of Christ, wherein God's grace shines most bright. Zacharias recovered his speech. Unbelief closed his mouth, and believing opened it again: he believers, therefore he speaks. When God opens our lips, our mouths must show forth his praise; and better be without speech, than not use it in praising God. It is said, The hand of the Lord was working with John. God has ways of working on children in their infancy, which we cannot account for. We should observe the dealings of God, and wait the event.
Verse 59. - On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. This was always, among the Hebrew people, a solemn day of rejoicing; it resembled in some particulars our baptismal gatherings. Relatives were invited to be present, as witnesses that the child had been formally incorporated into the covenant. It was, too, the time when the name which the newly born was to bear through life was given him.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And it came to pass that on the eighth day,.... The precise time fixed in the normal restitution of the ordinance of circumcision, Genesis 17:12 though this was not always attended to, but circumcision was sometimes deferred to another time; yet keeping the exact time was judged most commendable and praiseworthy; see Gill on Philippians 3:5.
they came to circumcise the child; that is, the neighbours and cousins of Elisabeth, who were at the time of her delivery; eight days after they came again to be at the circumcision of the child: who was the operator is not known; nor was there any particular person appointed for this service; but any one might do it, whether ecclesiastic or laic, men or women, father or mother, or any other friend; for the rule is (n),
"all are fit to circumcise; even an uncircumcised person, and a woman, and a minor, may circumcise in a place where there is no man; but a Gentile may not circumcise at all.
The circumcision of John seems to be performed in Zacharias's house, and by one of those that came; for Zacharias, being dumb, could not say the blessing which the circumciser was obliged to say: nor indeed could he say that, which, as the father of the child, belonged to him; concerning which, take the following account (o):
"the circumciser blesses before he circumcises, "saying", blessed is he that hath sanctified us by his precepts, and hath commanded us concerning circumcision: if he circumcises the son of his friend, or if he circumcises his own son, he blesses him with "this blessing"; and hath commanded us to circumcise a son: and the father of the son blesses with another blessing; blessed art thou, O Lord our God, the King of the world, who hath sanctified us by his precepts, and hath commanded us to enter him into the covenant of Abraham our father.----If his father is not there, they do not say this other blessing.----And if there are any standing there, they say, as he hath brought him into the covenant, so bring him to the law, and to matrimony, and to good works; and after that the father of the child, or the circumciser, or one of those that stand by, bless, "saying", blessed art thou, O Lord our God, the King of the world, who sanctified the beloved (Isaac) from the womb, &c.
How many of Elisabeth's neighbours and relations were present at this ceremony, is not related; but the Jews require ten persons as witnesses of it; for they say (p), that "testimonies worthy of belief, in Israel, are ten, the witnesses of the covenant of circumcision are ten, the witnesses of a dead person ten, &c.
and at this time also it was usual to give the child a name, which was not by divine appointment, but was a custom that prevailed among them; which took its rise from Abraham, having his name changed at the time when circumcision was enjoined him, Genesis 17:5 and from the naming and circumcision of Isaac, mentioned together, .
and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father: as the neighbours of Naomi gave a name to the son of Boaz and Ruth, calling him Obed, Ruth 4:17. This they took upon them to do, because that Zacharias was deaf and dumb; but why they should call him by his name, cannot well be accounted for, it not being usual to call the father, and the son, by the same name; unless they were desirous of continuing the same name in the family, which had been famous in Israel for a prophet, and a priest: to call children by Gentile names was not lawful. In the Targum on Amos 6:1 it is said,
"woe to them that name their children after the names of the Gentiles.
(n) Maimon. Hilch. Milah, c. 2. sect. 1, (o) Ib. c. 3. sect. 1, 2, 3.((p) Pirke Eliezer, c. 19.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
59. eighth day—The law (Ge 17:12) was observed, even though the eighth day after birth should be a sabbath (Joh 7:23; and see Php 3:5).
called him—literally, "were calling"—that is, (as we should say) "were for calling." The naming of children at baptism has its origin in the Jewish custom at circumcision (Ge 21:3, 4); and the names of Abram and Sarai were changed at its first performance (Ge 17:5, 15).
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