Luke 1:59
And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(59) They came to circumcise the child.—The day of circumcision, as the admission of the child into God’s covenant with his people, was, like the day of the baptism of infants among Christians, one on which relatives were invited to be present as witnesses, and was commonly followed by a feast. It was also, as baptism has come to be, the time on which the child received the name which was to bear its witness of the prayers of his parents for him, and of his personal relation to the God of his fathers.

They called him . . .—The Greek tense is strictly imperfect—they were calling him. The choice of the name commonly rested with the father, but the kinsfolk seem to have assumed that, in the dumbness of the father, the duty devolved on them, and they, according to a custom not uncommon, showed their respect for the father by choosing his name.

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.On the eighth day - This was the day on which it was required to circumcise children, Genesis 21:4.

And they called him Zacharias - The name of the child was commonly given at the time of the circumcision, Genesis 21:3-4. The name "commonly" given to the eldest son was that of the father.

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).

Ver. 59-61. The law for circumcision, Genesis 17:12 Leviticus 12:3, was strictly for it to be performed the eighth day. We find nothing commanded in Scripture, either as to the person who was to perform the office of the circumciser, or as to the place. God met Moses in the inn, and sought to kill him, because he had not circumcised his child, and Zipporah his wife did it, Exodus 4:24,25. It is said they afterwards did it in the synagogues, but there is no Divine law in the case. That the name was given to the child upon its circumcision appeareth not from Scripture. It is said, Genesis 21:3, that Abraham called his son Isaac, and then, Luke 1:4, he circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old. We read of no name given by Zipporah to her child when she circumcised him. But the name was at circumcision declared. It is most certain that John was circumcised in his father’s house, for we find his mother was present, who at that time was not in a condition to stir abroad. They called his name

Zacharias, whence we may observe the ancient usage of giving to children the names of their fathers and kindred. This in all probability is the reason of so many odd and unjustifiable names given to persons, such as are names of heathenish gods and goddesses, not fit to be named amongst Christians, &c. We derive from pagans, and though some heathens changed their names when they turned Christians, yet many (probably) did not, and by a long traduction (the names of parents being given to children) the names of pagan idols, such as Fortune, Diana, and the like, are by a most sordid practice made the names of Christians, a thing which certainly ought to be reformed, for it is a doing honour to those idols, if the giving a person’s name to a child be (as we ordinarily account it) an honour done to the person whose name is so given. The Jews from their beginning seem to have had a religion as to this, giving names to their children either significative of God’s mercy to them, or their children, or their own duty to God; and the names of the parents, or some of the kindred, were in honour to them given to their children; therefore when Elisabeth (who knew the counsel of God as to this child, either by some writing from Zacharias, or some revelation to herself) heard them call him Zacharias, and contradicted them in this thing, and named him John, they object that none of her kindred was called by that name. 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.

And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 1:59 f. “With the circumcision was associated the giving of the name, Genesis 21:3. See Ewald, Alterth. p. 110. Among the Greeks and Romans it took place on the dies lustricus. See Dougtaeus, Anal. II. p. 44 f.; Hermann, Privatalterth. § 32. 17.

ἦλθον] The subject is evident of itself, namely, the persons pertaining to the circumcision: “amici ad eam rem vocati,” Grotius. Any Israelite might be the circumciser (in case of necessity even a woman, Exodus 4:25). See Lund, Heiligth., ed. Wolf, p. 949; Keil, Archäol. I. p. 307 f.

ἐκάλουν] They actually uttered this name (this took place immediately after the circumcision was performed; see Lund, l.c., Buxtorf, Synagog. 4): but the mother (for the father was still dumb) took exception to it, Luke 1:60. “Vere enim incipit actus, sed ob impedimenta caret eventu,” Schaefer, ad Phoen. 81; Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 178 [E. T. 205].

The naming of the child after the father (Tob 1:9; Joseph. Antt. xiv. 1. 3) or after a relative (Luke 1:61; Lightfoot, p. 726) was very common, as it was also among the Greeks (Hermann, l.c. 18). On ἐπί, comp. Nehemiah 7:63; Plut. Demetr. 2. The idea is: in reference to.

οὐχί, ἀλλὰ κληθ. Ἰωάνν.] The usual supposition (Paulus, Kuinoel, Ebrard, Bleek, following Calvin and others), that Zacharias after his return from the temple made known to Elizabeth by writing the words of the angel, Luke 1:13, is the more arbitrary, the less it is in keeping with the miraculous impress of the whole history. Theophylact is right in saying: ἡ δὲ Ἐλισάβετ ὡς προφῆτις ἐλάλησε περὶ τοῦ ὀνόματος; and Euthymius Zigabenus: ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου καὶ αὐτὴ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ παιδὸς μεμάθηκε (comp. Origen and Ambrose), and this, indeed, at the moment of that ἐκάλουν, Luke 1:59, else it would not be easy to perceive why she should not at the very beginning have carried out the giving of the divinely-appointed name.Luke 1:59. ἦλθον, on the eighth, the legal day, they came, to circumcise the child; i.e., those who were concerned in the function—the person who performed the operation, and the relatives of the family.—ἐκάλουν may be the imperfect of repeated action = they took for granted by repeated expressions that the name was to be Zechariah, or the conative imperfect indicating a wish which was frustrated.59. on the eighth day] According to the ordinance of Genesis 17:12; Leviticus 12:3;—Php 3:5. The name was then given, because at the institution of circumcision the names of Abram and Sarai had been changed, Genesis 17:15. The rite was invested with extreme solemnity, and in later times a chair was always put for the prophet Elijah.

they called] Rather, they wished to call. Literally, ‘they were calling,’ but the imperfect by an idiomatic use often expresses an unfulfilled attempt. So in Matthew 3:14, ‘he tried to prevent Him’ (diekôluen).Luke 1:59. Ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ, after the name of his father) This was not the custom among the Jews: but in this case an extraordinary cause moved the members of the family, inasmuch as John was to sustain the whole posterity of [was the sole representative to posterity of] Zacharias.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. They called (ἐκάλουν)

The imperfect tense signifies, as Rev., they would have called: they were about to call: or, as Bishop Lightfoot has happily suggested, they were for calling.

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