Luke 2:13
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
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(13) A multitude of the heavenly host.—The phrase, or its equivalent, “the host of heaven,” is common in the later books of the Old Testament, but is there used as including the visible “hosts” of sun, moon, and stars, which were worshipped by Israel (Jeremiah 8:2; Jeremiah 19:13; 2Chronicles 33:3). In this sense we find it in St. Stephen’s speech (Acts 7:42). Here it is obviously used of the angels of God as forming the armies of the great King. The great name of the Lord of Hosts, the Lord of Sabaoth, was probably intended to include both the seen and the unseen hosts, the stars in the firmament, and the angels in heaven. Its use in the New Testament is confined to these two passages. The Hebrew word is found, in Old Testament quotations, in Romans 9:29, James 5:4.

Luke 2:13-14. And suddenly there was with the angel, &c. — The welcome news was no sooner published, than a multitude of heavenly beings were heard celebrating, in songs and hymns divine, the praises of God, on account of his unspeakable mercy and love to men; and saying, Glory to God in the highest, &c. — The shouts of a multitude are generally broken into short sentences, and are commonly elliptic; which is the cause of some ambiguity in these words, which may be understood in different senses. Some read them thus: Glory to God in the highest, that is, in heaven, and on earth peace, yea, favour, toward men. Others understand them as signifying, That the good-will, or favour, which was now shown to men, is the Glory of God in the highest, and is the peace and happiness of those who dwell on earth. This is doubtless an important sense, and what the original will very well bear, but it changes the doxology into a kind of proverb, and destroys much of its beauty. As Dr. Campbell observes; “The most common interpretation of the passage is the most probable.” The words are doubtless to be considered as expressions of rejoicing exclamation, strongly representing the piety and benevolence of these heavenly spirits, and their affectionate good wishes for the prosperity of the Messiah’s kingdom; as if they had said, “Glory be to God in the highest heavens, and let all the angelic legions resound his praises in the most exalted strains, for, with the Redeemer’s birth, peace and all happiness come down to dwell on earth; yea, the overflowings of divine benevolence and favour are now exercised toward sinful men, who through this Saviour become the objects of his complacential delight.” The words, considered in a doctrinal point of view, teach us, what it is of great importance to know, 1st, That the birth of Christ is an event which, above all others, brings glory to God, giving such a display of several of his perfections as had never been made before, particularly of his holiness and justice, in requiring such a sacrifice as was hereby to be prepared for the expiation of human guilt, and his mercy, in providing and accepting it; his wisdom, in devising such a plan for the redemption of lost man, and his power, in executing it. 2d, It brings peace on earth, that is, peace to man, peace with God, through the atonement and mediation of Christ; peace of conscience, as the consequence of knowing that we have peace with God, and peace one with another. 3d, It displays the good-will, the benevolence, the love of God to man, as no other of his works or dispensations ever did, or could do. See 1 John 4:7, &c.; John 3:16.

2:8-20 Angels were heralds of the new-born Saviour, but they were only sent to some poor, humble, pious, industrious shepherds, who were in the business of their calling, keeping watch over their flock. We are not out of the way of Divine visits, when we are employed in an honest calling, and abide with God in it. Let God have the honour of this work; Glory to God in the highest. God's good-will to men, manifested in sending the Messiah, redounds to his praise. Other works of God are for his glory, but the redemption of the world is for his glory in the highest. God's goodwill in sending the Messiah, brought peace into this lower world. Peace is here put for all that good which flows to us from Christ's taking our nature upon him. This is a faithful saying, attested by an innumerable company of angels, and well worthy of all acceptation, That the good-will of God toward men, is glory to God in the highest, and peace on the earth. The shepherds lost no time, but came with haste to the place. They were satisfied, and made known abroad concerning this child, that he was the Saviour, even Christ the Lord. Mary carefully observed and thought upon all these things, which were so suited to enliven her holy affections. We should be more delivered from errors in judgment and practice, did we more fully ponder these things in our hearts. It is still proclaimed in our ears that to us is born a Saviour, Christ the Lord. These should be glad tidings to all.This shall be a sign ... - The evidence by which you shall know the child is that you will find him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. 13. suddenly—as if only waiting till their fellow had done.

with the angel—who retires not, but is joined by others, come to seal and to celebrate the tidings he has brought.

heavenly host—or "army," an army celebrating peace! [Bengel] "transferring the occupation of their exalted station to this poor earth, which so seldom resounds with the pure praise of God" [Olshausen]; to let it be known how this event is regarded in heaven and should be regarded on earth.

Ver. 13,14. The nativity of our Saviour was published first by one angel, but it must be celebrated by a multitude of angels, who appear praising God upon this occasion. These are called the Lord’s host, Psalm 103:20,21, not only because he useth them as his arms, to destroy his enemies, but also because of the order which is amongst them. How they praised God is expressed Luke 2:14, they sang

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men. The words may be taken either judicatively, as signifying that was come to pass that day, by which God would have glory, men would have peace, and the good will of God to the sons of men was unspeakably declared: or precatorily, the angels desiring God might have glory, and that peace might be on earth, and the goodwill of God published to the sons of men. But the Vulgar Latin is most corrupt, that rendereth these words, peace to men of good will. When we consider that the heavenly host was here praising God, it will appear very reasonable to interpret these words judicatively; the angels hereby declaring their apprehensions, and the truth concerning this act of providence, no act more declaring the glory of God’s power, wisdom, or goodness; nor more declaring his good will towards men, and more conducing to peace upon the earth, whether by it we understand the union of the Jews and Gentiles, or that peace of particular souls which floweth from a justification by faith in Christ; for though the text seemeth to speak of three things,

glory to God, peace on earth, and good will toward men, yet indeed they are but two; the two latter differing only as the cause and the effect; the good will of God is the cause, peace with or amongst men is the effect, Romans 5:1 Ephesians 2:14,15,17.

And suddenly there was with the angel,.... That brought the tidings of Christ's birth to the shepherds: a multitude of the heavenly host: who being caused to fly swiftly, were at once with him, by his side, and about him; and which was a further confirmation of the truth of his message to them: these were angels who were called an host, or army, the militia of heaven, the ministers of God, that wait upon him, and do his pleasure; and are sent forth to minister to his people, and encamp about them, preserve, and defend them; see Genesis 32:1 These are styled an heavenly host, because they dwell in heaven; and to distinguish them from hosts and armies on earth; and said to be

multitude, for the angels are innumerable; there are thousands, ten thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand of them: it may be rendered "the multitude", and may intend the whole company of angels, who were all of them together to sing the praises of God, and glorify him at the birth of the incarnate Saviour, as well as to adore him; since it is said, "when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, and let all the angels of God worship him", Hebrews 1:6, and these were

praising God; on account of the birth of Christ, and the redemption that was to be obtained by him, for elect men; which shows their friendly disposition to them, and how much they rejoice at their spiritual and eternal welfare; see Luke 15:10; And thus, as at the laying of the foundation of the earth, these "morning stars sang together, and all these sons of God shouted for joy", Job 38:7 they did the same when the foundation of man's salvation was laid in the incarnation of the Son of God,

and saying, as follows.

And suddenly there was with the angel {f} a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

(f) Whole armies of angels, who compass the majesty of God round about, just as soldiers, as it were.

Luke 2:13 f. Πλῆθος στρ. οὐρ.] a multitude, of the heavenly host (צְכָא הַשָּׁמַיִם), a multitude of angels. The (satellite-) host of the angels surrounds God’s throne, 1 Kings 22:19; 2 Chronicles 18:18; Psalm 103:21; Psalm 148:2; Matthew 26:53; Revelation 19:14, al. On γίνεσθαι σύν τινι, to be associated with any one, comp. Xen. Cyr. v. 3. 8. On στρατιά, comp. Plat. Phaedr. p. 246 E: στρατιὰ θεῶν τε καὶ δαιμόνων.

δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις κ.τ.λ. According to the reading εὐδοκίας (see the critical remarks, and Nösselt, Exercitatt. p. 171 ff.): Glory (is, comp. 1 Peter 4:11) in the heaven to God, and on earth salvation among men who are well-pleasing! The angels declare to the praise of God (Luke 2:13) that on account of the birth of the Messiah God is glorified in heaven (by the angels), and that on the earth there is now salvation among men, to whom in and with the new-born child has been imparted God’s good pleasure.[50] They thus contemplate the Messiah’s work as having already set in with His birth, and celebrate it in a twofold manner in reference to heaven and earth (comp. Isaiah 6:3). Their exclamation is not a wish, as it is usually rendered by supplying ἔστω or εἴη, but far stronger,—a triumphant affirmation of the existing blessed state of things. The ἐν ἀνθρώπ. εὐδοκίας (genitive of quality, see Winer, p. 211 f. [E. T. 296 f.]) adds to the scene of the εἰρήνη the subjects, among whom it prevails (comp. Plat. Symp. p. 197 C); these, namely, are those who believe in the Messiah, designated in reference to God whose grace they possess, as men who are well-pleasing (to Him). Comp. Test. XII. Patr. p. 587: καὶ εὐδοκήσει κύριος ἐπὶ τοῖς ἀγαπητοῖς αὐτοῦ ἕως αἰώνων. Observe, moreover, the correlation which exists (1) between δόξα and εἰρήνη; (2) between ἐν ὑψίστοις and ἐπὶ γῆς; and (3) between Θεῷ and ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας. By ἐν ὑψίστοις (in regions, which are the highest of all, Luke 19:38) the angels declare what takes place in the highest heaven, whence they have just come down. Comp. Matthew 21:9; Wis 9:17; Sir 43:9; Job 16:19; Hebrews 1:3.

By εἰρήνη they mean not only peace (usually understood of the peace of reconciliation), but the entire salvation, of which the new-born child is the bearer; comp. Luke 1:79.

With the Recepta εὐδοκία, the hymn would also consist of only two parts, divided by καί,[51] which is not for (Bengel, Paulus, Kuinoel, and others, comp. Theophylact), but and. And the second part would consist of two parallel clauses, of which the first lays down the state of things in question after a purely objective manner (ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη), while the second designates it from the point of view of God’s subjectivity (ἐν ἀνθρ. εὐδοκία): on earth is salvation, among men is (God’s) good pleasure; ἐν ἀνθρ., namely, would not be in the case of men (Matthew 3:17; so usually), but local, as previously ἐν ὑψίστ. and ἐπὶ γῆς. Fritzsche, ad Rom. II. p. 372, takes εὐδοκία as delight; “in genere humano (Messia nato) voluptas est et laetitia.” But εὐδοκία nowhere expresses this strong idea, but only the state of well-pleased satisfaction (as Ps. 144:16, LXX.), and the latter idea would in this place be too weak; we could not but expect χαρὰ καὶ ἀγαλλίασις, or the like. Moreover, according to Luke 2:13 (αἰνούντων τ. Θεόν) it is more in harmony with the text to understand εὐδοκία on the part of God, in which case the quite usual meaning of the word (ἐπανάπαυσις τοῦ Θεοῦ, Theophylact) is retained; “quod sc. Deus gratuito suo favore homines dignatus sit” (Calvin). The opposite: Ephesians 2:3. Bornemann, Schol. p. 19 ff., considers the whole as affirmed of Christ: “Χριστὸς ὁ κύριος δόξα ἐσται ἐν ὑψίστοις ὄντι Θεῷ κ.τ.λ., h. e. Messias celebrabit in coelis Deum et in terram deducet pacem divinam, documentum (in apposition) benevolentiae divinae erga homines.” But Luke himself specifies the contents as praise of God (Luke 2:13); and the assumption of Bornemann (after Paulus), that Luke has given only a small fragment of the hymn, is the more arbitrary, the more the few pregnant words are precisely in keeping with a heavenly song of praise.

[50] Olshausen (following Alberti, Obss., and Tittmann, Diss., Viteb. 1777) places a stop after γῆς, so that the first clause says: “God is now praised as in heaven, so also in the earth.” This is erroneous, because, according to the order of the words in Luke, the emphatic point would be not ἐπὶ γῆς, as in the Lord’s Prayer, but ἐν ὑψίστοις.

[51] Nevertheless Ebrard (on Olshausen) still defends the threefold division. According to him, the angels exult (1) that in heaven honour is given to God for the redemption now brought about; (2) that upon earth a kingdom of peace is now founded; (3) that between heaven and earth the right relation is restored, that God’s eye may again rest with good pleasure on mankind. This alleged third clause of necessity contains somewhat of tautology; and the text itself by its καί and by its contrast of heaven and earth yields only two clauses. Lange also, L. J. II. 1, p. 103, understands it in a threefold sense, but very arbitrarily takes εὐδοκία of the divine good pleasure manifested in a Person, referring to passages such as Ephesians 1:5-6.

13. a multitude of the heavenly host] The Sabaoth; Romans 9:29; James 5:4. “Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him,” Daniel 7:10; Revelation 5:11-12. The word is also used of the stars as objects of heathen worship, Acts 7:42.

Luke 2:13. Πλῆθος, a multitude) The article is not added.—στρατιᾶς, [army], host) A glorious appellation. Here, however, the host [army] are announcing peace [unlike other armies, which bring war].

Verse 13. - With the angel a multitude of the heavenly host. "The troop of angels issues forth from the depths of that invisible world which surrounds us on every side" (Godet). One of the glorious titles by which the eternal King was known among the chosen people was "Lord of sabaoth," equivalent to "Lord of hosts." In several passages of the Scriptures is the enormous multitude of these heavenly beings noticed; for instance, Psalm 68:17, where the Hebrew is much more expressive than the English rendering; Daniel 7:10, "Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him" (see, too, the Targum of Palestine on Deuteronomy 33, "And with him ten thousand times ten thousand holy angels;" and "The crown of the Law is his [Moses'], because he brought it from the heavens above, when there was revealed to him the glory of the Lord's Shechinah, with two thousand myriads of angels, and forty and two thousand chariots of fire," etc.). Luke 2:13A multitude of the heavenly host

Host (στρατιας) is literally army. "Here the army announces peace" (Bengel). Wyc., heavenly knighthood. Tynd., heavenly soldiers.

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