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Mary visits Elizabeth, Part 2

Oct 08, 2013

Mary’s Magnificat is in two sections. The first stanza is personal, the second is communal in Luke 1:50-55,

A…And His mercy is upon generation after generation
to those who fear Him.

B…He has done mighty deeds with His arm,
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.

C…He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.

C1He has filled the hungry with good things;
And sent away the rich empty-handed.

B1He has given help to Israel His servant,

A1In remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his offspring forever.


A sets forth God’s extended mercy “to those who fear Him.”
A1 sets forth mercy specifically “to Abraham and his offspring.”

B sets forth salvation (deliverance) in general by means of judgment.
B1 sets forth salvation for Israel specifically.

C sets forth humiliation of rulers and exaltation of the humble.
C1 sets forth exaltation of the poor (hungry) and humiliation of the rich.

The Missing Line

In each section of this stanza we see two lines in a couplet, with the exception of B1, which has only one line and seems to be incomplete. What was Luke thinking? More important, what was God thinking when He inspired Luke to say nothing in that line? When we compare B with B1, we would expect to read B1 to say something like:

He has given help to Israel His servant,
And cut off the nations.

This would have been how the average Judean would have written it in those days. But this would have gone contrary to Luke’s purpose, as well as it being contrary to the mission of Jesus Christ. Hence, the very absence of this line in the Magnificat shows a type of divine deletion or correction in men’s viewpoint. The blessings upon Abraham and Israel, and upon the humble and the hungry, come at the expense of the proud, the rich, and the powerful, but not at the expense of other ethnic groups or nations.

The very absence of this single line, then, speaks volumes, because if anyone else in that time had written the Magnificat, the missing line would have been their favorite. But stanza 2 is communal in nature, and so the other nations are not excluded from the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is to include all nations.

After the Magnificat, Luke continues his narrative in Luke 1:56,

56 And Mary stayed with her about [hosei, “as it were, about, nearly”] three months, and then returned to her home.

The Greek term hosei, usually translated “about,” is not an imprecise measure of time. The way we use the term “about” in English gives much more latitude than it does in Greek. We should understand that Mary stayed with Elizabeth exactly or almost exactly three months. Because she came in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Doctor Luke was telling us that Mary stayed to assist in the birth of John.

She then concluded her visit and returned to her home in Nazareth.

This is part 2 of a mini-series titled "Mary visits Elizabeth." To view all parts, click the link below.

Mary visits Elizabeth

This is part 4 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.

Studies in the Book of Luke

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Category: Teachings
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones