Luke 1:54
He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
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(54) He hath holpen his servant Israel.—Up to this point the hymn has been one of personal thanks-giving. Now we find that all the soul of the maiden of Nazareth is with her people. Her joy in the “great things “which God has done for her rests on the fact that they are “great things “for Israel also. The word which she uses for her people is that which expresses their relation to God as “the servant” of Jehovah, who is prominent in the later chapters of Isaiah, and is in Isaiah 41:8 identified with the nation, as elsewhere with the nation’s Head (Isaiah 42:1). One may see in the utterance of this hope already seen as realised, an indication of the early date of the hymn. At the time when St. Luke wrote, the rejection, not the restoration of Israel, was the dominant thought in men’s minds.

In remembrance.—Literally, in order to remember. He helped Israel, as with the purpose to prove Himself not unmindful of His promised mercy.

1:39-56 It is very good for those who have the work of grace begun in their souls, to communicate one to another. On Mary's arrival, Elisabeth was conscious of the approach of her who was to be the mother of the great Redeemer. At the same time she was filled with the Holy Ghost, and under his influence declared that Mary and her expected child were most blessed and happy, as peculiarly honoured of and dear to the Most High God. Mary, animated by Elisabeth's address, and being also under the influence of the Holy Ghost, broke out into joy, admiration, and gratitude. She knew herself to be a sinner who needed a Saviour, and that she could no otherwise rejoice in God than as interested in his salvation through the promised Messiah. Those who see their need of Christ, and are desirous of righteousness and life in him, he fills with good things, with the best things; and they are abundantly satisfied with the blessings he gives. He will satisfy the desires of the poor in spirit who long for spiritual blessings, while the self-sufficient shall be sent empty away.Hath holpen - Hath helped or assisted. The word rendered "holpen" denotes properly, "to take hold of one, to help him up when he is in danger of falling," and here means that God had succored his people when they were feeble, and were in danger of falling or being overthrown.

His servant Israel - His people the Israelites, or those who truly revered him and kept His commandments. See Isaiah 41:8-9; Hosea 11:1.

In remembrance of his mercy - Or that His mercy may be remembered.

54. holpen—Compare Ps 89:19, "I have laid help on One that is mighty."Ver. 54,55. In these verses the blessed virgin celebrates God’s mercy together with his truth, withal she hath here a respect to God’s particular goodness and mercy in the sending of the Redeemer. The word which we here translate

hath holpen, signifieth he hath sustained, or as it were lifted up with his hand,

his servant Israel, or his child Israel. He calleth Ephraim his dear son, his pleasant child, Jeremiah 31:20; but by Israel he meaneth believers, those of Abraham’s seed that lived in the faith, hope, and expectation of the Messiah; the children of the promise, Romans 9:8; those who are Jews inwardly, Romans 2:29; the true circumcision, Philippians 3:3; Israelites indeed, John 1:47. This, she saith, God had done, not in remembrance of their merits, but his own mercy, Ezekiel 36:32; of his own free goodness and mercy, and in the fulfilling of his promise made to Abraham, Genesis 17:15; the extent of which promise is declared Romans 9:6-9; and that seed of Abraham, his seed as the father of the faithful, shall be for ever, and the virtue of the promise shall hold to them for ever.

He hath holpen his servant Israel,.... Meaning, not the natural posterity of Jacob, or Israel in general, but the elect of God among them; for all were not Israel, who were of Israel; and not them only, but also the chosen ones among the Gentiles; who, with the former, make up the whole Israel of God, in a spiritual and mystical sense: these are the Israel, God has chosen, redeemed, and calls by his grace, and are here styled his "servant", as Israel is frequently called, Isaiah 41:8. The word signifies a "child", as well as a "servant": and may design, either the weak and helpless condition God's elect are in by nature, which calls for, and requires divine help and assistance; or the relation they stand in to him, being his adopted children, and which is the reason of his helping them: and which signifies to take them by the hand, and lift them up, and support and uphold them; and supposes them to have been fallen down, and unable to raise themselves up; but God having laid help for them on one that is mighty, sent him to take upon him their nature; and by obeying, suffering, and dying for them, to help them out of their state of sin and misery; and to uphold them with the right hand of his righteousness, and bring them safe to glory; and all this,

in remembrance of his mercy; which he had in his heart towards them, and had promised in his covenant to them: the mercy of God, is the spring and source of redemption; mercy provided a Redeemer, and a ransom; and it is owing to it, that the Redeemer came; and he, in his love and pity, performed the work: and therefore salvation is to be ascribed, not to works of righteousness done by men, but to the abundant mercy of God our Saviour.

{b} He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;

(b) He has helped Israel up with his arm, who had been completely cast down.

Luke 1:54 ff. What was expressed descriptively in Luke 1:51-53, and that by means of antitheses, is now definitely and particularly condensed in ἀντελάβετο Ἰσραὴλ παιδὸς αὐτοῦ (comp. Isaiah 41:8 f.), which is the summary of what has been previously said. The aorist is to be taken quite like the previous aorists.

ἀντελάβετο] He has interested Himself for Israel His servant (עֶבֶד). Comp. on ἀντελάβ., Acts 20:35; Thuc. iii. 22; Diod. Sic. xi. 13. Euthymius Zigabenus explains it: ἐπεσκέψατο τὸν Ἰσραηλιτικὸν λαὸν, τὸν δοῦλον αὐτοῦ. Others, including Paulus, Glöckler, Kuinoel, take παιδός as filii (comp. Exodus 4:22; Hosea 11:1). But the theocratic notion of sonship is never expressed by παῖς (not even in Acts 3:13).

μνησθῆναι ἐλέους] not: “ita ut perpetuo memor sit,” etc. (Kuinoel, Bleek), but: in order to be mindful of mercy. We have to note the connection with the ἕως αἰῶνος emphatically put at the end. God has interested Himself for Israel, in order to be mindful of mercy even to eternity, in order never again to forget mercy.

καθὼς ἐλαλ. πρὸς τ. πατ. ἡμ.] not indeed a parenthesis, but an inserted clause, which makes one feel that the telic μνησθῆναι ἐλέους takes place in consequence of the divine truthfulness.

τῷ Ἀβραὰμ κ. τ. σπέρμ. αὐτ.] Dativus commodi to μνησθῆναι. Comp. Psalm 98:3; Xen. Cyr. i. 4. 12; Bornemann, Schol. p. 14 f. It might belong to ἐλάλησε (Euthymius Zigabenus, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Beza, Kuinoel), since λαλεῖν may be joined as well with πρός as with a dative; but against this may be urged κ. τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ, which denotes[31] the whole posterity of Abraham without limitation, and therefore cannot be included in apposition to ΠΡῸς ΤΟῪς ΠΑΤΈΡΑς ἩΜῶΝ.

Observe, moreover, that here (comp. Luke 1:72) Abraham, the progenitor of the race, is conceived of as jointly affected by and interested in the destiny of his descendants; Isaiah 29:22 f.; Micah 7:20. Comp. John 8:56; Test. XII. Patr. p. 587. Abraham liveth unto God, Luke 20:38.

ἔμεινε δὲ κ.τ.λ.] but not until the delivery of Elizabeth (in opposition to Calvin, Maldonatus, and others); see Luke 1:57.

[31] In what manner it was the σπέρμα Ἀβραάμ that actually received the compassion (Romans 4, Galatians 4), was not here the question.


The harmonizers, even the most recent, have adopted very different ways for the fitting of this history into the narrative of Matthew. According to Lange, L. J. II. 1, p. 84 ff., Mary is driven to Elizabeth by her grief at being Ebionitically misjudged and discarded by Joseph; according to Hug, Gutacht. I. p. 85, Ebrard, Riggenbach, and others, she made the journey immediately after her marriage, which took place a few days after the beginning of her pregnancy! Luke says and knows nothing of either view.


The historical character of the Visitation of Mary stands or falls with that of the Annunciation. But the psychological and moral impossibility, that Mary, after the certainty as to her condition acquired while she was with Elizabeth, and after the theocratic inspiration with which she declares herself blessed on account of that condition, should not have made any communication at all to Joseph on the subject (as must nevertheless, according to Matthew, be assumed, so that thus our narrative and that of Matthew 1:18 ff. exclude one another); further, the utter want of any trace elsewhere of such an intimate and confidential relation as, according to our history, must have subsisted between the two holy families; moreover, the design of the narrative to invest Jesus with a singular glory, according to which even the yet unborn John signifies his rejoicing homage before the Messiah when but just conceived in His mother’s womb; the circumstance, not to be explained away (see the untenable suggestion of Lange, p. 92), that it is only after the leaping of the babe that Elizabeth receives the Holy Spirit, and by means of this Spirit recognises from that leaping the mother of the Messiah as such; the hymnic scene annexed thereto, the poetic splendour and truth of which lifts it out of the historical sphere, in which subsequently the house of Mary was not the abode of the faith that is here proclaimed from the mouth of the Virgin with so lofty a triumph (Mark 3:31; John 7:3),—all this is not adapted to support or to uphold its historical character, even apart from the fact that tradition has not even conveyed to Luke the name of the mountain-town. The apocryphal poor and pale copy of the Annunciation and the Visitation may be seen in the Protevang. Jacobi, c. xi., xii.; according to which, moreover,—quite differently from the course followed by the modern Harmonists,—it is not till after the visitation, only in the sixth month of pregnancy, when Mary is recognised as in this condition and called to account by Joseph, that she asserts her innocence, and then the dream-revelation of the angel is imparted to Joseph (ch. xiii. f.).

Luke 1:54. ἀντελάβετο: laid hold: of with a view to help, as in Isaiah 41:8-9, Acts 20:35, 1 Timothy 6:2. cf. ἰπιλαμβάνεται, Hebrews 2:16.—μνησθῆναι ἐλέους, καθὼς ἐλάλησεν: what is about to happen is presented as fulfilling a promise made to the Fathers long, long ago, but not forgotten by God, to whom 1000 years, so far as remembering and being interested in promises are concerned, are as one day.—τῷ Ἁβραὰμ καὶ τ. σ. α The construction is a little doubtful, and has been differently understood. It is perhaps simplest to take Αβ., etc., as the dative of advantage = to remember mercy for the benefit of Abraham and his seed. The passage is an echo of Micah 7:20.

54. hath holpen] Literally, “took by the hand.” Isaiah 41:8-9, LXX. The proper punctuation of the following words is to remember His mercy—(even as He spake to (πρὸς) our fathers)—to (τῷ) Abraham and his seed for ever. Micah 7:20, “Thou wilt perform … the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.” Galatians 3:16, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made.”

Luke 1:54. Ἀντελάβετο, He hath helped) in the fact of His sending the Messiah. The same verb is given as the rendering of נשא, 1 Kings 9:11.—παιδὸς, servant) So Luke 1:69.—μνησθῆναι) for this reason, because He remembered; or else, in order that He might evince Himself mindful, Luke 1:72; Habakkuk 3:2.

Verses 54, 55. - He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; as he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. Her hymn dies down into a strain of gratitude for the eternal faithfulness to the cause of the chosen people. Had not God in very truth remembered his ancient promise? From one of their daughters, still speaking of the future as of the past, Messiah had been born - a greater Deliverer, too, than the most sanguine Hebrew patriot had ever dreamed of. Luke 1:54Hath holpen (ἀντελαβέτο)

The verb means to lay hold on: thence to grasp helpfully or to help. To lay hold in the sense of partaking (1 Timothy 6:2), carries us back to the primitive meaning of the word according to its composition: to receive instead of, or in return (ἀντὶ), and suggests the old phrase to take up for, espouse the cause of. Wyc., has took up, but probably not in this sense.

Servant (παιδὸς)

Often child, son or daughter, but here servant, in allusion to Isaiah 41:8. Meyer truthfully says that the theocratic notion of sonship is never expressed by παῖς. See Rev., Acts 3:13, Acts 3:26; Acts 4:27, Acts 4:30.

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