Luke 2:29
Lord, now let you your servant depart in peace, according to your word:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(29) Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.—It is not expedient to alter the translation, but we have to remember that the central idea is that of the manumission of a slave. The word for Lord is not the usual Kyrios, but Despotes—a word but seldom used of God, and then almost always of the relation of a master and the slave who is such by inheritance or purchase (Acts 4:24; 2Peter 2:1; Jude Luke 2:4; Revelation 6:10, are the only other instances of its use). Simeon speaks as a slave who, through the night of long, weary years, has been standing on the watch-tower of expectation, and is at last set free by the rising of the Sun.

According to thy word.—The reference is to the oracle which had been uttered within his soul, and was now being fulfilled.

Luke

SIMEON’S SWAN-SONG

Luke 2:29 - Luke 2:30
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That scene, when the old man took the Infant in his withered arms, is one of the most picturesque and striking in the Gospel narrative. Simeon’s whole life appears, in its later years, to have been under the immediate direction of the Spirit of God. It is very remarkable to notice how, in the course of three consecutive verses, the operation of that divine Spirit upon him is noted. ‘It was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.’ ‘And he came by the Spirit into the Temple.’ I suppose that means that some inward monition, which he recognised to be of God, sent him there, in the expectation that at last he was to ‘see the Lord’s Christ.’ He was there before the Child was brought by His parents, for we read ‘He came by the Spirit into the Temple, and when the parents brought in the Child Jesus . . . he took Him in his arms.’ Think of the old man, waiting there in the Sanctuary, told by God that he was thus about to have the fulfilment of his life-long desire, and yet probably not knowing what kind of a shape the fulfilment would take. There is no reason to believe that he knew he was to see an infant; and he waits. And presently a peasant woman comes in with a child in her arms, and there arises in his soul the voice ‘Anoint Him! for this is He!’ And so, whether he expected such a vision or no, he takes the Child in his arms, and says, ‘Lord! Now, now !-after all these years of waiting-lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace.’

Now, it seems to me that there are two or three very interesting thoughts deducible from this incident, and from these words. I take three of them. Here we have the Old recognising and embracing the New; the slave recognising and submitting to his Owner; and the saint recognising and welcoming the approach of death.

I. The Old recognising and embracing the New.

It is striking to observe how the description of Simeon’s character expresses the aim of the whole Old Testament Revelation. All that was meant by the preceding long series of manifestations through all these years was accomplished in this man. For hearken how he is described-’just and devout,’ that is the perfection of moral character, stated in the terms of the Old Testament; ‘waiting for the Consolation of Israel,’ that is the ideal attitude which the whole of the gradual manifestation of God’s increasing purpose running through the ages was intended to make the attitude of every true Israelite-an expectant, eager look forwards, and in the present, the discharge of all duties to God and man. ‘And the Holy Ghost was upon him’; that, too, in a measure, was the ultimate aim of the whole Revelation of Israel. So this man stands as a bright, consummate flower which had at last effloresced from the roots; and in his own person, an embodiment of the very results which God had patiently sought through millenniums of providential dealing and inspiration. Therefore in this man’s arms was laid the Christ for whom he had so long been waiting.

And he exhibits, still further, what God intended to secure by the whole previous processes of Revelation, in that he recognises that they were transcended and done with, that all that they pointed to was accomplished when a devout Israelite took into his arms the Incarnate Messiah, that all the past had now answered its purpose, and like the scaffolding when the top stone of a building is brought forth with shouting, might be swept away and the world be none the poorer. And so he rejoices in the Christ that he receives, and sings the swan-song of the departing Israel, the Israel according to the Spirit. And that is what Judaism was meant to do, and how it was meant to end, in an euthanasia, in a passing into the nobler form of the Christian Church and the Christian citizenship.

I do not need to remind you how terribly unlike this ideal the reality was, but I may, though only in a sentence or two, point out that that relation of the New to the Old is one that recurs, though in lees sharp and decisive forms, in every generation, and in our generation in a very special manner. It is well for the New when it consents to be taken in the arms of the Old, and it is ill for the Old when, instead of welcoming, it frowns upon the New, and instead of playing the part of Simeon, and embracing and blessing the Infant, plays the part of a Herod, and seeks to destroy the Child that seems to threaten its sovereignty. We old people who are conservative, if not by nature, by years, and you young people who are revolutionary and innovating by reason of your youth, may both find a lesson in that picture in the Temple, of Simeon with the Infant Christ in his arms.

II. Further, we have here the slave recognising and submitting to his Owner.

Now the word which is here employed for ‘Lord’ is one that very seldom occurs in the New Testament in reference to God; only some four or five times in all. And it is the harshest and hardest word that can be picked out. If you clip the Greek termination off it, it is the English word ‘despot,’ and it conveys all that that word conveys to us, not only a lord in the sense of a constitutional monarch, not only a lord in the polite sense of a superior in dignity, but a despot in the sense of being the absolute owner of a man who has no rights against the owner, and is a slave. For the word ‘slave’ is what logicians call the correlative of this word ‘despot,’ and as the latter asserts absolute ownership and authority, the former declares abject submission. So Simeon takes these two words to express his relation and feeling towards God. ‘Thou art the Owner, the Despot, and I am Thy slave.’ That relation of owner and slave, wicked as it is, when subsisting between two men-an atrocious crime, ‘the sum of all villainies,’ as the good old English emancipators used to call it-is the sum of all blessings when regarded as existing between man and God. For what does it imply? The right to command and the duty to obey, the sovereign will that is supreme over all, and the blessed attitude of yielding up one’s will wholly, without reserve, without reluctance, to that infinitely mighty, and-blessed be God!-infinitely loving Will Absolute authority calls for abject submission.

And again, the despot has the unquestioned right of life and death over his slave, and if he chooses, can smite him down where he stands, and no man have a word to say. Thus, absolutely, we hang upon God, and because He has the power of life and death, every moment of our lives is a gift from His hands, and we should not subsist for an instant unless, by continual effluence from Him, and influx into us, of the life which flows from Him, the Fountain of life.

Again, the slave-owner has entire possession of all the slave’s possessions, and can take them and do what he likes with them. And so, all that I call mine is His. It was His before it became mine; it remains His whilst it is mine, because I am His, and so what seems to belong to me belongs to Him, no less truly. What, then, do you do with your possessions? Use them for yourselves? Dispute His ownership? Forget His claims? Grudge that He should take them away sometimes, and grudge still more to yield them to Him in daily obedience, and when necessary, surrender them? Is such a temper what becomes the slave? What reason has he to grumble if the master comes to him and says, ‘This little bit of ground that I have given you to grow a few sugar-canes and melons on, I am going to take back again.’ What reason have we to set up our puny wills against Him, if He exercises His authority over us and demands that we should regard ourselves not only as sons but also as slaves to whom the owner of it and us has given a talent to be used for Him?

Now, all that sounds very harsh, does it not? Let in one thought into it, and it all becomes very gracious. The Apostle Peter, who also once uses this word ‘despot,’ does so in a very remarkable connection. He speaks about men’s ‘denying the despot that bought them.’ Ah, Peter! you were getting on very thin ice when you talked about denial. Perhaps it was just because he remembered his sin in the judgment hall that he used that word to express the very utmost degree of degeneration and departure from Jesus. But be that as it may, he bases the slave-owner’s right on purchase. And Jesus Christ has bought us by His own precious blood; and so all that sounds harsh in the metaphor, worked out as I have been trying to do, changes its aspect when we think of the method by which He has acquired His rights and the purpose for which He exercises them. As the Psalmist said, ‘Oh, Lord! truly I am Thy slave. Thou hast loosed my bonds.’

III. So, lastly, we have here the saint recognising and welcoming the approach of death.

Now, it is a very singular thing, but I suppose it is true, that somehow or other, most people read these words, ‘Lord! now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace,’ as being a petition; ‘Lord! now let Thy servant depart.’ But they are not that at all. We have here not a petition or an aspiration, but a statement of the fact that Simeon recognises the appointed token that his days were drawing to an end, and it is the glad recognition of that fact. ‘Lord! I see now that the time has come when I may put aside all this coil of weary waiting and burdened mortality, and go to rest.’ Look how he regards approaching death. ‘Thou lettest Thy servant depart’ is but a feeble translation of the original, which is better given in the version that has become very familiar to us all by its use in a musical service, the Nunc Dimittis; ‘Now Thou dost send away’ It is the technical word for relieving a sentry from his post. It conveys the idea of the hour having come when the slave who has been on the watch through all the long, weary night, or toiling through all the hot, dusty day, may extinguish his lantern, or fling down his mattock, and go home to his little hut. ‘Lord! Thou dost dismiss me now, and I take the dismission as the end of the long watch, as the end of the long toil.’

But notice, still further, how Simeon not only recognises, but welcomes the approach of death. ‘Thou lettest Thy servant depart in peace.’ Yes, there speaks a calm voice tranquilly accepting the permission. He feels no agitation, no fluster of any kind, but quietly slips away from his post. And the reason for that peaceful welcome of the end is ‘for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.’ That sight is the reason, first of all, for his being sure that the curfew had rung for him, and that the day’s work was done. But it is also the reason for the peacefulness of his departure. He went ‘in peace,’ because of what? Because the weary, blurred, old eyes had seen all that any man needs to see to be satisfied and blessed. Life could yield nothing more, though its length were doubled to this old man, than the sight of God’s salvation.

Can it yield anything more to us, brethren? And may we not say, if we have seen that sight, what an unbelieving author said, with a touch of self-complacency not admirable, ‘I have warmed both hands at the fire of life, and I am ready to depart.’ We may go in peace, if our eyes have seen Him who satisfies our vision, whose bright presence will go with us into the darkness, and whom we shall see more perfectly when we have passed from the sentry-box to the home above, and have ceased to be slaves in the far-off plantation, and are taken to be sons in the Father’s house. ‘Thou lettest Thy servant depart in peace.’2:25-35 The same Spirit that provided for the support of Simeon's hope, provided for his joy. Those who would see Christ must go to his temple. Here is a confession of his faith, that this Child in his arms was the Saviour, the salvation itself, the salvation of God's appointing. He bids farewell to this world. How poor does this world look to one that has Christ in his arms, and salvation in his view! See here, how comfortable is the death of a good man; he departs in peace with God, peace with his own conscience, in peace with death. Those that have welcomed Christ, may welcome death. Joseph and Mary marvelled at the things which were spoken of this Child. Simeon shows them likewise, what reason they had to rejoice with trembling. And Jesus, his doctrine, and people, are still spoken against; his truth and holiness are still denied and blasphemed; his preached word is still the touchstone of men's characters. The secret good affections in the minds of some, will be revealed by their embracing Christ; the secret corruptions of others will be revealed by their enmity to Christ. Men will be judged by the thoughts of their hearts concerning Christ. He shall be a suffering Jesus; his mother shall suffer with him, because of the nearness of her relation and affection.Now lettest - Now thou "dost" let or permit. This word is in the indicative mood, and signifies that God was permitting him to die in peace, by having relieved his anxieties, allayed his fears, fulfilled the promises, and having by the appearing of the Messiah, removed every reason why he should live any longer, and every wish to live.

Depart - Die.

According to thy word - Thy promise made by revelation. God never disappoints. To many it might have appeared improbable, when such a promise was made to an old man, that it should be fulfilled. But God fulfils all his word, keeps all his promises, and never disappoints those who trust in him.

29. Lord—"Master," a word rarely used in the New Testament, and selected here with peculiar propriety, when the aged saint, feeling that his last object in wishing to live had now been attained, only awaited his Master's word of command to "depart."

now lettest, &c.—more clearly, "now Thou art releasing Thy servant"; a patient yet reverential mode of expressing a desire to depart.

Ver. 29-32. The song consists of an eulogium of Christ, whom Simeon here calls:

1. The Lord’s salvation;

2. A light to lighten the Gentiles;

3. The glory of Israel;

and a petition, that now the Lord would let him depart in peace. But I shall take the words in order.

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word. He desireth to die, having now lived to see what alone he desired life for. It is a speech much like Jacob’s, Genesis 46:30, when he had seen Joseph, whom he thought lost, but spoken here upon a much more weighty consideration. The word translated

depart, signifies to absolve, and forgive, Luke 6:37; to dismiss, and to deliver as from bondage and misery. It is used to express the death of good men, by the Septuagint, Genesis 15:15 Numbers 20:29; and the noun from it is used so by the apostle, 2 Peter 1:15. Simeon owns God to be the Lord of his life, who had the power of it, and could alone dismiss him; and signifieth himself to be an old man, satisfied with days, willing to be at rest from the miseries of this life; but he begs to be dismissed, and to die in peace, that is, happily: see Genesis 15:15 2 Kings 22:20 Psalm 4:8.

According to thy word, that is, thy promise, mentioned Luke 2:26. But the putting of these words in before those words

in peace, seems to import that he could not die in peace before he had seen God’s word fulfilled to him, in which he had made him to hope.

For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, that is, thy Christ, according to the revelation I had from thee. Simeon had a special revelation of a corporeal sight of Christ; he could not die happily till he had had that. None of us can die in peace, till we have seen the Lord’s salvation with a spiritual eye, and made application of the promises of the gospel, in the more general revelation of his word.

Thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; that is, the author of salvation, for there is no salvation in any other, Acts 4:12. Simeon declares that this salvation was prepared for all people. Isaiah 11:10, he was prophesied of as an ensign for the people, to it shall the Gentiles seek. So Isaiah 52:10, The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. So Psalm 98:2. Simeon speaks the same thing more particularly, Luke 2:32,

A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. All the people mentioned Luke 2:32 were either Gentiles or Jews. Simeon here prophesieth, that Christ should lighten the Gentiles. The state of the Gentiles (by whom were understood all the people in the world except the Jews) is often in Scripture expressed under the notion of darkness, both in respect of the ignorance of the true God which was amongst them, and of their idolatry and superstition, and their lewd and wicked lives, much proportioned to their religion. Hence Paul is said to be sent to the Gentiles, to turn them from darkness to light, Acts 26:18. Christ is called light; John 8:12, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. So John 9:5. Conformable to the old prophecies: Isaiah 60:1-3, Arise, shine, for thy light is come. Behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light. And speaking of Christ, Isaiah 49:6, I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. So Isaiah 42:6, And give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles. See Psalm 98:3 Acts 13:47.

And the glory of thy people Israel. All the earth is the Lord’s, but Israel is called his son, his first born, Exodus 4:22. Christ was the minister of the circumcision, Romans 15:8. To them it was that he was promised, of them it was that he was born, Romans 9:5. Amongst them it was that he preached and wrought miracles: He came unto his own, John 1:11. It was said of old, I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory, Isaiah 46:13. Christ is the glory of any people; the preaching of Christ, the owning and professing of Christ, a living up to his rules, this is a people’s glory. And as some do this more and better than others, so in God’s account they differ from others in what is true glory. Lord, now lettest thou thy servant,.... He acknowledges him as his Lord, and to have a despotic power over him with respect to life and death; and himself as his servant, which he was, both by creation and grace: and though it expresses humiliation, and a sense of distance and unworthiness, yet to be a servant of the most high God, is a very high and honourable character: what he requests of the Lord is that he might

depart in peace; signifying his hearty desire to die, and with what cheerfulness he should meet death, having obtained all that he could wish for and desire, in seeing and embracing the Saviour: he expresses his death, by a departure out of the world, as in John 13:1 Philippians 1:21 agreeably to the way of speaking of it among the Jews. See Gill on Philippians 1:21 and by a word, which signifies a loosing of bonds; death being a dissolving the bond of union, between soul and body, and a deliverance, as from prison and bondage; the body being, as it were, a prison to the soul in the present state of things: and he also intimates, that whereas, though he had the strongest assurances of the Messiah's coming, and of his coming before his death, by the revelation of the Holy Ghost, and so most firmly believed it, without fluctuation, and hesitation of mind; yet as hope deferred makes the heart sick, he was anxious and restless in his desire, till it was accomplished; but now being come, he could take his leave of the world, and his entrance into eternity, with the greatest calmness and tranquillity of mind, having nothing to disturb him, nor more to desire: he adds,

according to thy word; for he seems to have understood by the revelation made to him, that as he should not die before he saw the Messiah, so, when he had seen him, that he should immediately, or in a very short time after, be removed by death; and which he greatly desired, and in which, he sinned not, because his request was according to the word of God: whereas often, desires of death are not only without the word of God, and due resignation to his will, and any regard to his glory, but to be rid of some trouble, or gratify some lust, as pride, revenge, &c.

Lord, now {l} lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy {m} word:

(l) Let me depart out of this life, to be joined to my Father.

(m) As you promised me.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Luke 2:29 ff. Now (after I have seen the Messiah, Luke 2:26; Luke 2:30) Thou lettest Thy servant depart, O Ruler, according to Thine utterance (Luke 2:2), in bliss (so that he is happy, see on Mark 5:34); now the time is come, when Thou lettest me die blessed.[55]

ἀπολύεις] present, of that which is nearly and certainly impending. There is no need to supply τοῦ ζῆν, or ἐκ τῆς γῆς, or the like (as is usually done), as the absolute ἀπολύειν is at all events used (comp. Soph. Ant. 1254; Genesis 15:2; Numbers 20:29; Tob 3:6), but Simeon conceives of his death figuratively as an enfranchisement from service, as is signified by the context in τ. δοῦλόν σου, δέσποτα. The servant of God dies and is thereby released from his service.

εἶδον prefixed with emphasis, in retrospective reference to Luke 2:26.

τὸ σωτήριόν σου] the deliverance bestowed by Thee, the Messianic deliverance, which has begun with the birth of the Messiah. Comp. Luke 3:6; Acts 28:28.

κατὰ πρόσωπον πάντ. τ. λαῶν] in the face of all peoples, so that this deliverance is set forth before all peoples, is visible and manifest to them. Comp. on κατὰ πρόσωπ., Jacobs, ad Ach. Tat. iii. 1, p. 612. The prophet sees the σωτήριον already in its unfolded manifestation to all. This is then, in Luke 2:32, further specially characterized as respects the two portions of the πάντων τῶν λαῶν, in which φῶς and δόξαν are appositional definitions to τὸ σωτήριόν σου: light, which is destined to bring revelation to the heathen, and glory of Thy people Israel. The progression of the climax lies in φῶς and δόξα. For the heathen the σωτήριον is light, when, namely, they come in accordance with the time-hallowed promise (Isaiah 2:2 ff; Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 44:5; Isaiah 60:1 ff., and many other passages), and subject themselves to the Messianic theocracy, whereby they become enlightened and sharers in the unveiling of the divine truth. For the people Israel the σωτήριον is glory, because in the manifestation and ministry of the Messiah the people of God attains the glory, through which it is destined to be distinguished above all peoples as the seat and possessor of salvation. Δόξαν might be included as still dependent on εἰς (Theophylact, Euthymius Zigabenus, Luther, Bleek, and others), but by taking it independently, the great destination of the σωτήριον for the people of Israel is brought into more forcible prominence.

Luke 2:33. And there was (on the singular ἦν and the plural participles that follow, see Kühner, § 433, 1; comp. Matthew 17:3) His father and His mother in amazement, etc. In this there is no inconsistency with the earlier angelic revelations (Strauss). The thing was great enough in itself, and they learned it here in another form of revelation, the prophetic.

[55] Euthymius Zigabenus well remarks: μηκέτι λυπούπενον ὑπὲρ τῆς ἐλευθερίας τοῦ Ἰσραήλ.Luke 2:29-32. Nunc dimittis.29. Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace] Rather, Now art Thou setting free Thy slave, O Master, according to Thy word, in peace. This rapturous Psalm—the Nunc Dimittis—has formed a part of Christian evening worship certainly since the fifth century. Despotes is not often used of God (Acts 4:24; Revelation 6:10).

In peace] On leaving a dying person the Jews said, ‘Go in peace’ (Be shalôm), Genesis 15:15. Otherwise they said, ‘Go to peace’ (Le shalôm) as Jethro did to Moses. See on Luke 7:50.Luke 2:29. Νῦν, now) Simeon receives and accepts a double benefit conjointly [at once] in accordance with the Divine promise, viz. the sight of the Saviour and a happy departure. The ancient fathers have formed many conjectures as to what John may have announced to the dead after his departure: it is strange, if they framed no similar suppositions as to Simeon.—ἀπολύεις, Thou lettest depart[28]) The same verb occurs, Genesis 15:2; Numbers 20:29; Job 3:6; Job 3:16 (13).—Δέσποτα, Lord) Δεσπότης properly signifies a master [‘herus, viz. of slaves, servants], Acts 4:24; 2 Timothy 2:21; Revelation 6:10.—κατὰ τὸ ῥῆμά σου, according to Thy word) The Song of Simeon exactly corresponds to the word of the promise. For the words are respectively parallel in each: the Lord’s Christ [Luke 2:26], and Thy [the Lord’s] Salvation [Luke 2:30]: “before he had seen” [Luke 2:26], and mine eyes have seen” [Luke 2:30]: Death [Luke 2:26], and Thou lettest depart [29].—ἐν εἰρήνῃ, in peace) in perfect peace.

[28] Not a prayer, but an expression of thankful acquiescence in God’s will.—ED. and TRANSL.Verse 29. - Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace. The beautiful little hymn of Simeon was no doubt preserved by the Virgin Mary and given to St. Luke. The Nunc dimittis has been used constantly in the liturgics of Christian Churches for fourteen centuries. The thought which runs through the hymn has been well put by Godet: "Simeon represents himself under the image of a sentinel, whom his master has placed in an elevated position, and charged to look for the appearance of a star, and then to announce it to the world. He sees this long-desired star; he proclaims its rising, and asks to be relieved of the post on the watch-tower he has occupied so long. In the same way, at the opening of AEschylus's 'Agamemnon,' when the sentinel, set to watch for the appearing of the fire that is to announce the taking of Troy, beholds at last the signal so impatiently expected, he sings at once both the victory of Greece and his own release." Lettest thou thy servant depart (ἀπολύεις τὸν δοῦλόν σου)

Lit., thou dost release. The word is often used of manumitting or setting free on payment of ransom; and as Simeon uses the word for bond-servant, it is evident that his death is conceived by him under the figure of enfranchisement from service. Godet's "release of a sentinel from duty" is fanciful.

O Lord (δέσποτα)

See on 2 Peter 2:1.

In peace

Rev. properly puts this in its emphatic position at the end of the sentence.

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