Bible References: Luke Chapter 1
Heart of Story: Elizabeth, a previously barren woman, was the mother of John the Baptist who Jesus, the Christ, identified as the greatest man born of woman.
Back Story: Elizabeth lived in a town in the hill country of Judea. Both she and her husband, Zechariah, were from the lineage of Aaron. That would make both Levites. Zechariah was an Israelite priest. Before events described in Luke chapter 1, Elizabeth had no children. The Bible narrative described her not just as old but “very old.”
Elizabeth was related to Mary, the mother of Jesus. By tradition they were cousins with Mary and Elizabeth’s mothers being sisters. More recently, Bible scholars suggested that Elizabeth was Mary’s aunt.
Story Line: After Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah came home from serving his weeks rotation in the Jerusalem temple, he was mute. He and Elizabeth had intercourse and she became pregnant. After Elizabeth became pregnant she stayed in seclusion for five months.
About the 6th month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Mary, the mother of Jesus, visited Elizabeth. Seemingly, Mary was in her first trimester of pregnancy. When Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s home, Bible readers hear the only words spoken by Elizabeth in the Bible. Elizabeth was inspired by the Holy Spirit to exclaim to Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy” (Luke 1:42-44).
Mary stayed with Elizabeth and Zechariah approximately 3 months then returned to Nazareth.
When their baby was born, Elizabeth and Zechariah named him John. He was the forerunner of Jesus. Most likely, both Elizabeth and Zechariah were dead by the time that John began his ministry which was when he was about 30 years of age.
Pondering Relationships: What must Elizabeth thought when Zechariah returned from Jerusalem mute. Zechariah would have communicated with Elizabeth somehow and told her they were going to have a child. When Elizabeth became pregnant she stayed in seclusion for five months. Likely, seclusion means that Elizabeth did not go out of the home; she ceased visiting friends, neighbors, and even family. I’m never quite sure how to interpret Elizabeth’s choice to seclude herself. Was it because she wanted to remain or bedrest or semi-bedrest because she feared loosing her unborn baby? Alternatively, was she embarrassed by a pregnancy at this late point in her life?
Normally, pregnant women feel the baby in their wombs moving in the second trimester (4-6 months) of pregnancy. Likely Elizabeth felt her baby in her womb more before Mary’s visit? Possibly, what she felt was small flutters; however, the baby in her womb “jumped for joy” at hearing Mary’s voice.
About the time that Elizabeth was to deliver her son, Mary left Elizabeth and Zechariah’s home and returned to Nazareth. Do you ever wonder why Mary did not stay until after the baby’s birth? I did and could only conclude that something drew Mary back to Nazareth. Most likely Mary wanted to see Elizabeth’s baby and support Elizabeth during the birth of her first child at Elizabeth’s advanced age.
Elizabeth would have doted on her son John. Yet, he grew up to be a blunt, even brash, individual. Because children often take on characteristics of parents, I wonder if Elizabeth tended to be pragmatic and honest. The angel Gabriel instructed Zechariah to make sure that John drank no wine. In this way, he was to be a Nazarite; but there was no prohibition against John cutting his hair as there was with Samson.
Reflection: Elizabeth a woman who gets few words in the New Testament and appeared in only one gospel, birth the greatest fully human man to be born of woman. Reflect on how important your own contribution is or can be to the world.
Copyright: January 24, 2019; Carolyn A. Roth
Please visit my website for books on lesser known Bible characters: http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com