Luke 1:80
And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBVWSWESTSK
(80) And the child grew.—We have no materials for filling up this brief outline of the thirty years that followed in the Baptist’s life. The usual Jewish education, the observance of the Nazarite vow, the death of his parents while he was comparatively young, an early retirement from the world to the deserts that surrounded the western shores of the Dead Sea, study and meditation given to the Law and the Prophets, the steadfast waiting for the consolation of Israel, possible intercourse with the Essenes who lived in that region, or with hermit-teachers, like Banus, the master of Josephus (Life, c. 1), whose form of life was after the same fashion as his own: this we may surmise as probable, but we cannot say more. Whatever may have been the surroundings of his life, he entered upon his work in a spirit which was intensely personal and original.



Luke 1:67 - Luke 1:80

Zacharias was dumb when he disbelieved. His lips were opened when he believed. He is the last of the Old Testament prophets, [Footnote: In the strictest sense, John the Baptist was a prophet of the Old dispensation, even though he came to usher in the New. {See Matthew 11:9 - Matthew 11:11.} In the same sense, Zacharias was the last prophet of the Old dispensation, before the coming of his son to link the Old with the New.] and as standing nearest to the Messiah, his song takes up the echoes of all the past, and melts them into a new outpouring of exultant hope. The strain is more impassioned than Mary’s, and throbs with triumph over ‘our enemies,’ but rises above the mere patriotic glow into a more spiritual region. The complete subordination of the personal element is very remarkable, as shown by the slight and almost parenthetical reference to John. The father is forgotten in the devout Israelite. We may take the song as divided into three portions: the first {Luke 1:68 - Luke 1:75} celebrating the coming of Messiah, with special reference to its effect in freeing Israel from its foes; the second {Luke 1:76 - Luke 1:77}, the highly dramatic address to his unconscious ‘child’; the third {Luke 1:78 - Luke 1:79} returns to the absorbing thought of the Messiah, but now touches on higher aspects of His coming as the Light to all who sit in darkness.

I. If we remember that four hundred dreary years, for the most part of which Israel had been groaning under a foreign yoke, had passed since the last of the prophets, and that during all that time devout eyes had looked wearily for the promised Messiah, we shall be able to form some faint conception of the surprise and rapture which filled Zacharias’s spirit, and leaps in his hymn at the thought that now, at last, the hour had struck, and that the child would soon be born who was to fulfil the divine promises and satisfy fainting hopes. No wonder that its first words are a burst of blessing of ‘the God of Israel.’ The best expression of joy, when long-cherished desires are at last on the eve of accomplishment, is thanks to God. How short the time of waiting seems when it is past, and how needless the impatience which marred the waiting! Zacharias speaks of the fact as already realised. He must have known that the Incarnation was accomplished; for we can scarcely suppose that the emphatic tenses ‘hath visited, hath redeemed, hath raised’ are prophetic, and merely imply the certainty of a future event. He must have known, too, Mary’s royal descent; for he speaks of ‘the house of David.’

‘A horn’ of salvation is an emblem taken from animals, and implies strength. Here it recalls several prophecies, and as a designation of the Messiah, shadows forth His conquering might, all to be used for deliverance to His people. The vision before Zacharias is that of a victor king of Davidic race, long foretold by prophets, who will set Israel free from its foreign oppressors, whether Roman or Idumean, and in whom God Himself ‘visits and redeems His people.’ There are two kinds of divine visitations-one for mercy and one for judgment. What an unconscious witness it is of men’s evil consciences that the use of the phrase has almost exclusively settled down upon the latter meaning! In Luke 1:71 - Luke 1:75, the idea of the Messianic salvation is expanded and raised. The word ‘salvation’ is best construed, as in the Revised Version, as in apposition with and explanatory of ‘horn of salvation.’ This salvation has issues, which may also be regarded as God’s purposes in sending it. These are threefold: first, to show mercy to the dead fathers of the race. That is a striking idea, and pictures the departed as, in their solemn rest, sharing in the joy of Messiah’s coming, and perhaps in the blessings which He brings. We may not too closely press the phrase, but it is more than poetry or imagination. The next issue is God’s remembrance of His promises, or in other words, His fulfilment of these. The last is that the nation, being set free, should serve God. The external deliverance was in the eyes of devout men like Zacharias precious as a means to an end. Political freedom was needful for God’s service, and was valuable mainly as leading to that. The hymn rises far above the mere impatience of a foreign yoke. ‘Freedom to worship God,’ and God worshipped by a ransomed nation, are Zacharias’s ideal of the Messianic times.

Note his use of the word for priestly ‘service.’ He, a priest, has not forgotten that by original constitution all Israel was a nation of priests; and he looks forward to the fulfilment at last of the ideal which so soon became impracticable, and possibly to the abrogation of his own order in the universal priesthood. He knew not what deep truths he sang. The end of Christ’s coming, and of the deliverance which He works for us from the hand of our enemies, cannot be better stated than in these words. We are redeemed that we may be priests unto God. Our priestly service must be rendered in ‘holiness and righteousness,’ in consecration to God and discharge of all obligations; and it is to be no interrupted or occasional service, like Zacharias’s, which occupied but two short weeks in the year, and might never again lead him within the sanctuary, but is to fill with reverent activity and thankful sacrifice all our days. However this hymn may have begun with the mere external conception of Messianic deliverance, it rises high above that here, and will still further soar beyond it. We may learn from this priest-prophet, who anticipated the wise men and brought his offerings to the unborn Christ, what Christian salvation is, and for what it is given us.

II. There is something very vivid and striking in the abrupt address to the infant, who lay, all unknowing, in his mother’s arms. The contrast between him as he was then and the work which waited him, the paternal wonder and joy which yet can scarcely pause on the child, and hurries on to fancy him in the years to come, going herald-like before the face of the Lord, the profound prophetic insight into John’s work, are all noteworthy. The Baptist did ‘prepare the way’ by teaching that the true ‘salvation’ was not to be found in mere deliverance from the Roman yoke, but in ‘remission of sin.’ He thus not only gave ‘knowledge of salvation,’ in the sense that he announced the fact that it would be given, but also in the sense that he clearly taught in what it consisted. John was no preacher of revolt, as the turbulent and impure patriots of the day would have liked him to be, but of repentance. His work was to awake the consciousness of sin, and so to kindle desires for a salvation which was deliverance from sin, the only yoke which really enslaves. Zacharias the ‘blameless’ saw what the true bondage of the nation was, and what the work both of the Deliverer and of His herald must be. We need to be perpetually reminded of the truth that the only salvation and deliverance which can do us any good consist in getting rid, by pardon and by holiness, of the cords of our sins.

III. The thoughts of the Forerunner and his office melt into that of the Messianic blessings from which the singer cannot long turn away. In these closing words, we have the source, the essential nature, and the blessed results of the gift of Christ set forth in a noble figure, and freed from the national limitations of the earlier part of the hymn. All comes from the ‘bowels of mercy of our God,’ as Zacharias, in accordance with Old Testament metaphor, speaks, allocating the seat of the emotions which we attribute to the heart. Conventional notions of delicacy think the Hebrew idea coarse, but the one allocation is just as delicate as the other. We can get no deeper down or farther back into the secret springs of things than this-that the root cause of all, and most especially of the mission of Christ, is the pitying love of God’s heart. If we hold fast by that, the pain of the riddle of the world is past, and the riddle itself more than half solved. Jesus Christ is the greatest gift of that love, in which all its tenderness and all its power are gathered up for our blessing.

The modern civilised world owes most of its activity to the quickening influence of Christianity. The dayspring visits us that it may shine on us, and it shines that it may guide us into ‘the way of peace.’ There can be no wider and more accurate description of the end of Christ’s mission than this-that all His visitation and enlightenment are meant to lead us into the path where we shall find peace with God, and therefore with ourselves and with all mankind. The word ‘peace,’ in the Old Testament, is used to include the sum of all that men require for their conscious well-being. We are at rest only when all our relations with God and the outer world are right, and when our inner being is harmonised with itself, and supplied with appropriate objects. To know God for our friend, to have our being fixed on and satisfied in Him, and so to be reconciled to all circumstances, and a friend of all men-this is peace; and the path to such a blessed condition is shown us only by that Sun of Righteousness whom the loving heart of God has sent into the darkness and torpor of the benighted wanderers in the desert. The national reference has faded from the song, and though it still speaks of ‘us’ and ‘our,’ we cannot doubt that Zacharias both saw more deeply into the salvation which Christ would bring than to limit it to breaking an earthly yoke, and deemed more worthily and widely of its sweep, than to confine it within narrower bounds than the whole extent of the dreary darkness which it came to banish from all the world.

Luke 1:80. And the child grew, &c. — The years of John’s infancy expiring, he grew daily in wisdom and stature; and was in the deserts, &c. — During the whole course of his private life, he continued in the deserts, or hill- country of Judea, Luke 1:39, till his ministry commenced, about the thirtieth year of his age. It is probable that the deserts here mentioned were those of Ziph and Maon, where Saul pursued David. Though there were several country towns and villages in these deserts, yet, as they were but thinly inhabited, they were in the Jewish idiom called deserts. Now it was wisely ordered, to prevent a personal acquaintance between Jesus and John, that the latter should continue in one of these deserts, at the distance of probably one hundred miles from Nazareth, till the time of his entering upon his ministry. There, in a state of solitude and retirement from the world, he lived an austere and mortified life, that his character might be suited to his office — the preaching of repentance, self-denial, and deadness to the world and sin.

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.Waxed strong in spirit - That is, in courage, understanding, and purposes of good, fitting him for his future work. The word "wax" means to "increase, to grow," from an old Saxon word.

In the deserts - In Hebron, and in the hill country where his father resided. He dwelt in obscurity, and was not known publicly by the people.

Until the day of his showing - Until he entered on his public ministry, as recorded in Matthew 3 - that is, probably, until he was about 30 years of age. See Luke 3.

80. And the child, &c.—"a concluding paragraph, indicating, in strokes full of grandeur, the bodily and mental development of the Baptist; and bringing his life up to the period of his public appearance" [Olshausen].

in the deserts—probably "the wilderness of Judea" (Mt 3:1), whither he had retired early in life, in the Nazarite spirit, and where, free from rabbinical influences and alone with God, his spirit would be educated, like Moses in the desert, for his future high vocation.

his showing unto Israel—the presentation of himself before his nation, as Messiah's forerunner.

The evangelist having done with Zacharias’s prophetical song, now cometh to tell us what became of John. He saith, the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit. He did not only grow in his bodily dimensions, but in the endowments of his mind.

And was in the deserts, that is, in places very thinly inhabited, (some will have this to have been the deserts of Ziph and Maon),

till the day of his showing unto Israel; that is, in all probability, till he was about thirty years of age, when he came forth as a public preacher to those parts of Israel where he spent the small remaining part of his life, of which we shall hear more hereafter.

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit,.... That is, John, the son of Zacharias and Elisabeth, grew in stature of body, and increased in wisdom and knowledge, and fortitude in his soul:

and was in the deserts; or "desert", as the Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions read; not in the wilderness of Judea, where he came preaching, but either of Ziph or Maon, which were near to Hebron; see 1 Samuel 23:14 he was not brought up in the schools of the prophets, nor in the academies of the Jews, or at the feet of any of their Rabbins and doctors; that it might appear he was not taught and sent of men, but of God: nor did he dwell in any of the cities, or larger towns, but in deserts; partly that he might be fitted for that gravity and austerity of life, he was to appear in; and that it might be clear he had no knowledge of, nor correspondence with Jesus, whose forerunner he was, and of whom he was to bear testimony, till such time he did it; and in this solitude he remained,

till the day of his showing unto Israel; either till the time came that he was to appear before, and be examined by the sanhedrim, that judged of persons fitness and qualifications for the priesthood, in order to be admitted to it; which should have been when he was thirty years of age, but that he was designed for other service; or rather therefore till he appeared in his prophetic office, and showed himself to the people of Israel; to whom he came preaching the doctrine of repentance and remission of sins, administering the ordinance of baptism, giving notice of the near approach of the Messiah, and pointing him out unto the people.

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.
Luke 1:80. A summary account (comp. Jdg 13:24) of the further development of John. More particular accounts were perhaps altogether wanting, but were not essential to the matter here.

ηὔξανε] the bodily growing up, and, connected therewith: ἐκρατ. πνεύμ., the mental gaining of strength that took place εἰς τὸν ἔσω ἄνθρωπ. (Ephesians 3:16). Comp. the description of the development of Jesus, Luke 2:40; Luke 2:52. ψυχῇ is not mentioned, for the πνεῦμα is the ἡγεμονικόν, in whose vigour and strength the ψυχή shares. Comp. Delitzsch, Psychol. p. 217.

ἦν ἐν τοῖς ἐρήμοις] in the well-known desert regions. It is the desert of Judah ἐξοχήν that is meant (see on Matthew 3:1). In that desert dwelt also the Essenes (Plin. N. H. v. 17). How far their principles and askesis, which at least could not have remained unknown to John, may have indirectly exercised an influence on his peculiar character, cannot be determined; a true Essene this greatest and last phenomenon of Israelitish prophecy certainly was not; he belonged, like some God-sent prophet higher than all partisan attitudes in the people, to the whole nation.

ἀναδείξεως αὐτοῦ πρὸς τ. Ἰσρ.] His being publicly made known to Israel, when he was announced to the Israelites as the forerunner of the Messiah. This was done on the command of God by John himself. See Luke 3:2-6. ἀνάδειξις is the making known (renuntiatio) of official nomination; Polyb. xv. 26. 4; Plut. Mark 8; see Wetstein. Comp. Luke 10:1.

Luke 1:80. Conclusion: being a summary statement on John’s history from childhood to manhood.—πνεύματι: the growing strength of John’s spirit, the development of a remarkable moral individuality, the main point in the view of the evangelist.—ἐν ταῖς ἐρήμοις, in the desert places: not far to go from his home to find them; visits to them frequent in early boyhood; constant abode when youth had passed into manhood; love of solitude grown into a passion. Meet foster-mother for one who is to be the censor of his time. Essenes not far off, but no indication of contact, either outwardly or inwardly, with them.

80. the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit] The description resembles that of the childhood of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:26) and of our Lord (Luke 2:40-52). Nothing however is said of ‘favour with men.’ In the case of the Baptist, as of others, ‘the boy was father to the man,’ and he probably shewed from the first that rugged sternness which is wholly unlike the winning grace of the child Christ. “The Baptist was no Lamb of God. He was a wrestler with life, one to whom peace does not come easily, but only after a long struggle. His restlessness had driven him into the desert, where he had contended for years with thoughts he could not master, and from whence he uttered his startling alarms to the nation. He was among the dogs rather than among the lambs of the Shepherd.” (Ecce Homo.)

was in the deserts] Not in sandy deserts like those of Arabia, but in the wild waste region south of Jericho and the fords of Jordan to the shores of the Dead Sea. This was known as Araboth or ha-Arabah, 2 Kings 25:4-5 (Heb.); Jeremiah 39:5; Jeremiah 52:8. See on Luke 1:39. This region, especially where it approached the Ghôr and the Dead Sea, was lonely and forbidding in its physical features, and would suit the stern spirit on which it also reacted. In 1 Samuel 23:19 it is called Jeshimon or ‘the Horror.’ John was by no means the only hermit. The political unsettlement, the shamelessness of crime, the sense of secular exhaustion, the wide-spread Messianic expectation, marked ‘the fulness of time.’ Banus the Pharisee also lived a life of ascetic hardness in the Arabah, and Josephus tells us that he lived with him for three years in his mountain-cave on fruits and water. (Jos. Vit. 2.) But there is not in the Gospels the faintest trace of any intercourse between John, or our Lord and His disciples, with the Essenes. The great Italian painters follow a right conception when they paint even the boy John as emaciated with early asceticism. In 2Es 9:24 the seer is directed to go into a field where no house is and to “taste no flesh, drink no wine, and eat only the flowers of the field,” as a preparation for ‘talking with the Most High.’ It is doubtful whether Christian Art is historically correct in representing the infant Jesus and John as constant friends and playmates. Zacharias and Elizabeth, being aged, must have early left John an orphan, and his desert life began with his boyish years. Further, the habits of Orientals are exceedingly stationary, and when once settled it is only on the rarest occasions that they leave their homes. The training of the priestly boy and the ‘Son of the Carpenter’ (Matthew 13:55) of Nazareth had been widely different, nor is it certain that they had ever met each other until the Baptism of Jesus (John 1:31).

his shewing] his public ministry, literally, “appointment” or manifestation. The verb (anedeixen) occurs in Luke 10:1; Acts 1:24. Thus St John’s life, like that of our Lord, was spent first in hallowed seclusion, then in public ministry.

At this point ends the first very interesting document of which St Luke made use. The second chapter, though in some respects analogous to it, is less imbued with the Hebraic spirit and phraseology.

Luke 1:80. Ηὔξανε, grew) in body.—ἐν ταῖς ἐρήμοις, in the deserts) Here the more inward and remote parts of the desert are denoted; but in Matthew 3:1 [“the wilderness of Judea,” where John began his preaching]: it is the exterior desert that is meant. He remained exempt from contact with [lit. rubbing with] life in its ordinary and polluted forms. The Forerunner of Christ, and Christ Himself, had experience themselves, and gave a specimen to others, of both kinds of life; and indeed, first, of a solitary mode of life, afterwards also of a public one.—ἓως, even up to) Ch. Luke 3:2-3.

Verse 80. - And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit. We have here another of St. Luke's solemn pauses in his narrative - one of those little passages in which, in a few words, he sets before us a picture clear and vivid of the events of long years. "The description," writes Dr. Farrar, "resembles that of the childhood of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:26) and of our Lord (Luke 2:40-52). Nothing, however, is said of 'favor with men.' In the case of the Baptist, as of others, 'the boy was father to the man;' and he probably showed from the first that rugged sternness which is wholly unlike the winning grace of the child Christ. 'The Baptist was no lamb of God. He was a wrestler with life, one to whom peace does not come easily, but only after a long struggle. His restlessness had driven him into the desert, where he had contended for years with thoughts he could not master, and from whence he uttered his startling alarms to the nation. He was among the dogs rather than among the lambs of the Shepherd' ('Ecce Homo')." And was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel. "The deserts" here alluded to were that desolate waste country south of Jericho and along the shores of the Dead Sea. We know nothing of the details of the life of the boy, the wonderful circumstances of whose birth are related so circumstantially in this opening chapter of St. Luke's Gospel. Mary, whose "memories," we believe, are recounted almost in her own words, was herself a witness of some of the circumstances narrated; from her friend and cousin Elisabeth she doubtless received the true history of the rest. But Zacharias and Elisabeth, we know, were aged persons when John was born. They probably lived only a short time after his birth. Hence his solitary desert life. Of it we know nothing. In those wild regions at that time dwelt many grave ascetics and hermit teachers, like the Pharisee Banus, the matter of Josephus. From some of these the orphan boy probably received his training. It is clear, from such passages as John 1:31-33 and chapter John 3:2, that some direct communication from the Highest put an end to the ascetic desert life and study. Some theophany, perhaps, like the appearance of the burning bush which called Moses to his great post, summoned the pioneer of Christ to his dangerous and difficult work. But we possess no account of what took place on this occasion when God spoke to his servant John, the evangelist simply recording the fact, "The word of God came unto the son of Zacharias in the wilderness" (chapter 3:2).

Luke 1:80The deserts (ταῖς ἐρήμοις)

The article indicating a well-known place.

Shewing (ἀναδείξεως)

The word was used of the public announcement of an official nomination; hence of the public inauguration of John's ministry.

Luke 1:80 Interlinear
Luke 1:80 Parallel Texts

Luke 1:80 NIV
Luke 1:80 NLT
Luke 1:80 ESV
Luke 1:80 NASB
Luke 1:80 KJV

Luke 1:80 Bible Apps
Luke 1:80 Parallel
Luke 1:80 Biblia Paralela
Luke 1:80 Chinese Bible
Luke 1:80 French Bible
Luke 1:80 German Bible

Bible Hub

Luke 1:79
Top of Page
Top of Page