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MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (4)

Blog Pic 12.24.19

     

       There was an unknown circumstance in Mary’s young life that spoke of great humility. We don’t know what this was exactly, and Luke does not elaborate. But there are directive clues. Read on:

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        The following is from Part 1: There is something else here that Luke’s narrative hints at which he does not delve into, possibly because he knew his audience was aware of whatever particulars were involved with Mary and the circumstances of her humble life.

         In the very beginning, after initially being told by the angel Gabriel that she was highly favored and the Lord was indeed with her, Mary became, depending on the translation, troubled/disturbed/perplexed. The Greek says greatly agitated. She wondered where this extraordinary greeting came from and what it could possibly be about. One senses she thought it must be meant for another, that the joyous messenger must have the wrong house.

         In answering a faithful reader’s comment on Part 3 today, who said of Mary, She must have indeed been a highly intelligent, spiritually sensitive young woman, I wrote the following:

         “Yes. A perfect choice. And she had to somehow come to a quick understanding of this fact though her humble nature would otherwise preclude it. She had to look beyond her humble circumstances and do her best to see herself as God saw her. He needed her. He wanted her to be the one. Here we have a good look into the counterintuitive nature of humanity. If Mary had previously thought herself as the best choice she would be disqualified, since that would reveal the presence of sinful pride. But if she thought herself unworthy and could never be persuaded to the contrary she would disqualify herself.”

         Why did she feel so unworthy? And why did she refer to herself not once but twice as a bondslave? I mentioned this in Part 1. The Hebrew word for a female slave is shiphchah. The Greek word used here is doulos, which speaks directly to a slave of the basest order and is used throughout the New Testament. One gets the idea that young Mary was somehow familiar with such status.

         It is also quite interesting that the New Testament never mentions any interaction with Mary’s parents or possible siblings. We know her father’s name was Eli (Heli), from her genealogy in Luke 3:23, but there is never any mention of her mother or her mother’s name. It appears they were no longer around. It is also evident that Mary was an only child. Imagine that. There is also a distinct possibility that Joseph, her betrothed, was her father’s adopted son, as alluded to in the genealogy. This was actually a Hebrew tradition going back centuries for men with no natural male heirs, so the idea isn’t so far-fetched. Any or all of these challenging life circumstances might be the cause of her feelings of unworthiness, but there is yet another, and it is here where we shall gain even greater understanding of the well known verse, “For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1Samuel 16:7).

        There is a Greek word that only occurs four times in the NT. It only applies to two specific people in the NT. Those two people are the Lord Jesus and His mother Mary. The word is tapeinosis. It is defined as “lowness, low estate, and humiliation.” Regarding the Lord it appears in Acts 8:33 in which the author references Isaiah 53:8. Here are both verses with the translated English word underlined:

     “IN HUMILIATION HIS JUDGMENT WAS TAKEN AWAY; WHO WILL RELATE HIS GENERATION? FOR HIS LIFE IS REMOVED FROM THE EARTH.” [Acts 8:33]

         By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? [Isaiah 53:8]

      Here is the verse that references Mary, again with the translated English words underlined:

          “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.” [Luke 1:48]   

         The Hebrew word is otser. It is defined as “restraint, coercion.” It is translated primarily as “oppression.” It refers in a sense to prison or being a prisoner. This indicates a form of slavery. Mary did refer to herself as a bondslave. This speaks indirectly of possessing a particular humble state or condition and we now have a better understanding of what that was. Isaiah chapter 53 is an OT prophetic picture of the Lord Jesus. Here is the verse that ties both Son and mother together:

          He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. [Isaiah 53:2][1] 

           © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (Intro)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (1)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (2)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (3)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (5)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (3)

Blog Pic 12.22.19

 

       Prior to her visitation by the angel Gabriel, Mary was burdened by an undisclosed life circumstance. We gain further clues of this by her reaction to Elizabeth’s powerful prophetic message.

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         To set the scene for the next historical interlude which bears upon the foundational Gospel account after her journey to Judea to visit Elizabeth, we must acknowledge the fact that, according to Luke’s account, Mary had yet to speak to anyone about the great news.

         She had left Nazareth in a hurry, almost immediately after she had consented to God’s plan. The Holy Spirit had indeed descended upon her and she was overshadowed with the power of the Most High. A miraculous conception had taken place in her womb! She had told no one, not even Joseph. Her elder relative Elizabeth would be her confidant. As the many repercussions played out in her thinking, Mary had remained amazed but laden with knowledge that no one else possessed.

GOD’S PERFECT TIMING

         In Part 1, we covered Luke 1:26-38. In Part 2, we covered Luke 1:39-45. There are several components of the narrative within these verses to be addressed. The first thing we must do, however, is address the timing of the events. The angel Gabriel had told Mary that Elizabeth was already with child and in her sixth month. The human gestation period is 280 days, which is almost exactly 9.5 lunar cycles. An exact 9.5 moons would be a half day longer. Here is the math: A lunar cycle is 29.53059 days. Multiplied by 9.5 the gestation period would be 280.54 days. Since we know the Bible grants much importance to the number 40, it is not a coincidence that 280 is 40 times 7 (another significant number). Regarding the number of days into her pregnancy for Elizabeth at the time, it was somewhere between five and six months because Luke’s account says she was in her sixth month. She had yet to complete her second trimester.

         I submit that it was exactly five and a half months and during a new moon.

       It should have taken Mary less than a week, probably about five days, to get to Elizabeth’s house in Judea from Nazareth since the journey was at least 70 miles as the crow flies but maybe 80 or more considering the roads and terrain. Luke does not tell us the town or Mary’s specific destination in Judea. This was also during the winter rains though most of the precipitation was in the north. We have no knowledge regarding who may have accompanied Mary on the trip. There is no mention of Joseph. Would she have gone alone? From the narrative it certainly appears that she was alone when greeting Elizabeth.

         Regarding the time of year, my research has long indicated that the Lord was born in the autumn. I believe it was likely on the 15th of the month of Tishrei on the Hebrew calendar, which was the first day of the weeklong Feast of Succoth (Tabernacles / Booths) and during a full moon. In 2019 this day fell on October 14th. We have a hint of this as the Lord’s birthday in John’s gospel. The word “dwelt” in the following verse is from a Greek word meaning “to fix one’s tabernacle or tent:”

         And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. [John 1:14]

         Tishrei was the seventh month of the ancient sacred calendar adopted originally by the Lord during the time of Moses. The spring is the natural beginning of the year and was also the time of the Exodus and the Resurrection of the Lord. It is thus quite clear that the spring feasts are first and then followed by the autumn feasts. Tishrei later became the first month of the civil calendar and begins with Rosh Hashanah, the “head” of the year which is considered the Jewish New Year. This can get confusing, of course, but for the purposes of this study I will number the months as beginning in the spring from the vernal equinox.

         Since the Lord was likely born on Tishrei 15 in the autumn, it would mean the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary nine and a half months before, during a new moon on the 1st of Tevet, the tenth month (if it was a twelve month year, which was most probable). Tevet occurs in Dec/Jan. From this we get a clear timeline of these two miraculous pregnancies of Elizabeth and Mary:

YEAR 1: John was conceived in the summer on the 15th of the fourth month during a full moon.

YEAR 1: The Lord Jesus was conceived in the winter on the 1st of the tenth month during a new moon.

YEAR 2: John was born in the spring on the 1st of the second month during a new moon.

YEAR 2: The Lord Jesus was born in the autumn on the 15th of the seventh month during a full moon.

         After Elizabeth’s greeting and anointed word, Mary responded once again, as she did to Gabriel, with amazement and great humility. It was no insignificant response but revealed a woman of strong intellect, spiritual grace, and much insightful knowledge of Scripture for one so young. Her words reverberate through the centuries illustrating the profound nature of the Lord’s great plan and her own unique circumstances. We don’t hear much from Mary ever again but the following passage is filled with spiritual portent and the faithfulness of God. He has come to His people:

        And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM. He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; and sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” [Luke 1:46-55][1]

         Luke tells us that Mary stayed in Judea with Elizabeth for about three months after her arrival. The two would have had many long talks. As I stated earlier, Elizabeth was Mary’s only confidant. She was the only one who would have understood her circumstances because she had the same circumstances. These two ladies would have discussed all the implications of what they were presented with and how best to deal with the outcome and responses of others, especially as how it affected Mary. She still had to tell Joseph. She had to tell her parents. How would they react? She knew how everybody else would react and it was a hard pill to swallow. The time with Elizabeth was cherished because she gained the support she would need, to build herself up, and prepare for the coming storm of controversy.

        And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home. [Luke 1:56]

         One would think Mary would have stayed for John’s birth. We are tempted to add to the narrative and think she must have stayed, but Luke did not present it that way. With regard to why she left early, the calendar gives us a direct clue: It was now the early spring. The first month of Nisan had arrived. The spring feasts, to which Mary had remained faithful her entire life, were upon the nation. Passover week would be happening very soon, within about a week or so. Did Mary leave a few weeks before John’s birth to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem?

         © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (Intro)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (1)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (2)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (4)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (5)

 

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (2)

Blog Pic 12.18.19

     

      The conventional perception of the mother of our Lord is off. It is way off. She is commonly depicted in religious art, iconography, and statuary as Caucasian, and often northern European.

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         Knowledge of her Hebrew heritage among Christians is largely lost. Even her actual name is mostly unknown. The name Mary derives from the Judeo-Aramaic variant Maryam, from the Greek Mariam, which was derived from the original Hebrew Miryam, the name of the elder sister of Moses and Aaron (which is translated into English primarily as Miriam). New Testament readers know this was a popular name for Hebrew women at that time, as there are several with the name in the Gospel accounts.

      As a young Hebrew maiden of eastern Mediterranean stock, she was likely dark complected with dark hair and Semitic features. Semitic refers to one of the three sons of Noah—Shem—whose descendants predominantly populated the Middle East and still do today. We know from early OT accounts that the ancient Hebrews shared their DNA with many different ethnos of the greater region, including the Canaanite tribes. There were also the two great disruptions to the nation when the ten northern tribes of Israel were deported to the east in 722 BC followed by the Babylonian captivity of Judah 136 years later. The three remaining tribes of the latter—Judah, Levi, and Benjamin—were removed to Babylon for 70 years. They were allowed to return but many chose to stay. The lands of Israel and Judah had been repopulated somewhat by foreigners in the interim, especially the Samaritan region. The land was then ruled by a succession of Persians, Greeks, and Romans. It is therefore difficult if not impossible to arrive at a definitive Hebrew nationality by the first century AD.

         Even so, we do have two extant genealogies of our Lord Jesus from that time, both of which stem from the tribe of Judah and feature the persons of Abraham and David. The genealogy of Joseph the carpenter in Matthew’s gospel descends through King David’s son Solomon, the third and final king of a united Israel. After Solomon’s death the kingdom split into the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah. Luke’s gospel contains the genealogy of Mary, which also goes through David but by his son Nathan, Solomon’s brother. This family tree divergence took place over 900 years before the Lord’s birth. The last of the Hebrew kings of the Judaic line ceased with the Babylonian captivity in 586 BC. Zedekiah was the last king of Judah, but was somewhat illegitimate in that he was installed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in 597 BC after the siege of Jerusalem. The king before Zedekiah was Jeconiah (AKA Coniah, Jehoiachin), who was carted off to Babylon a prisoner in chains. This is what the prophet Jeremiah said about him:

         “Is this man Coniah a despised, shattered jar? Or is he an undesirable vessel? Why have he and his descendants been hurled out and cast into a land that they had not known? O land, land, land, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the LORD, ‘Write this man down childless, a man who will not prosper in his days; for no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah.’” [Jeremiah 22:28-30]   

         The Hebrew monarchy was thus abolished. There were no more kings. No one could ever again qualify. Joseph the carpenter’s line included Jeconiah and he is listed in Matthew’s genealogy. Nevertheless, it was established that Joseph, the legal stepfather of the Lord, could trace his direct lineage to Solomon and David. Mary’s genealogy could also be traced directly to King David. This means the Lord Jesus had a legal right as king through Joseph and a biological right through His mother. Though the monarchial birthright was essentially revoked by Jeremiah’s prophecy, this did not apply to the Lord Jesus because he was not a blood descendant of Jeconiah. Thus, the only possible way the Davidic line of kings could be restored, even after a six century interval, would be through the following:

       “Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” [Isaiah 7:14]

GREETINGS FROM THE WOMB

         As described in Part 1, Mary was soon on the road south to Judea to visit her relative Elizabeth. The two women were anxious to share the great news of their pregnancies, both of which were only possible through direct miraculous means. Elizabeth was greatly humbled in her long life of barrenness but maintained her faith regardless. Mary was also burdened somewhat by an undisclosed life circumstance. Here we have the young and the old, both of whom must deal with the inevitable gossip of unbelievers, yet blessed abundantly as major players in the great plan of God for the salvation of Israel and humanity. But besides these two who knew each other well, there were others who met for the very first time:

        Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said,

         “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” [Luke 1:39-45][1]

         © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (Intro)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (1)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (3)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (4)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (5)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (1)

NAZARETH

 

       She was given the opportunity to be the mother of Messiah—the Son of the Most High. She accepted without question, filled with wonder, in humble awe of being chosen.

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         In reading between the lines in the initial Gospel references to the mother of our Lord, we happen upon facts otherwise escaping our notice, primarily, her humble origin. We already know her hometown was not the greatest of places, as none other than one of the twelve, Nathanael Bar Tholmai (Bartholomew) articulated,

         “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” [1]

         The rustic community is never mentioned in any of the Old Testament writings, meaning it had yet to exist then, suffered utmost insignificance, or was known by a different name, one of which might have been “white town” or a variation, named after the ready supply of limestone rocks in the area. Nestled among the lower hills of the Nazareth Range in the ancient tribal land of Zebulun, the city lay about halfway between the seas—the great Mediterranean on the west where sailing ships launched for far-off lands, and to the east, the indigenous, often mysterious Sea of Galilee, loved freshwater fishery of the locals.

         From the little we know, Mary was likely born is this little village by the cliffs in circa 18 BC. This was during the early years of Augustus, who became the first Roman emperor in 27 BC, and the local reign of the ruthless client-king Herod the Great who had gained power a decade earlier. How she or her family arrived in the area is lost to history. Though Nazareth was within the small area originally allotted to the Tribe of Zebulun (the tenth son of Jacob and sixth born to Leah), Mary was actually a distant descendent of King David of the ruling line of Judah. Her connection to the latter tribe is somewhat problematic for a Galilean from the north due to her clear connection to relatives in the territory of Judea south of Jerusalem. The unknown story of her family’s transplantation is an intriguing one.

         We know from the later annual pilgrimages made by the holy family to Jerusalem for the feasts that young Mary likely also made such trips as a child growing up, probably as part of small caravans. She was thus familiar with the territory and probably looked forward to such opportunities to see the great city and visit family. Journeying from the north in Galilee, one would traverse the disparaged Samaria, sandwiched between Galilee and Judea, and venture through the ancient tribal areas of Issachar, Manasseh, and Ephraim in the process, and lastly through the allotment of Benjamin on the approach to Yerushalayim which was located on the southern edge of his tribal land.

         The eastern border between the two famous territories of Benjamin and Judah actually runs north and south along the Kidron Valley. The Kidron divides the city of Jerusalem in Benjamin’s territory to the west from the Mount of Olives in Judah’s territory to the east. The southern border between the tribes is divided by the valley of Hinnom which was immediately due south of the ancient city. Beyond these two natural demarcation lines was the fatherland of Judah and the ancestral land of King David to which Mary and her family sojourned frequently. It was also the ancestral homeland of her new husband Joseph, the strong but tender carpenter, chosen also as she was, and suited well for the calling.

AN ANGELIC VISITATION

         Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. [Luke 1:26-27]

       Luke makes it clear in his definitive account that Mary was a virgin when the angel Gabriel revealed to her the plan of God which would soon go into effect upon her consent. She was betrothed to the carpenter, meaning the marriage was not yet fully contracted, and both were honorable and chaste. It is often not acknowledged that young Mary had a choice regarding the Lord’s plan for her life. We all have a choice, and for everyone there is a plan. Notwithstanding the discipline required to live and work for the Lord according to His will and not our own, any other plan created and chosen by a person is always inferior to His. Mary understood this. It is why she replied to Gabriel with no hesitation in her heart:

         And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

         Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

         And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. [Luke 1:28-38] [2] 

         Mary’s use of the word “bondslave” is not without import. It is from the Greek doulos and is defined accordingly as a female slave without any ownership rights of her own. This word, also translated as bond-servant, is used throughout the New Testament denoting the pure servanthood and dedication to the Master by real believers. The Hebrew equivalent for a female servant is shiphchah and has an ancient etymology dating to the book of Genesis. Though we often fail to perceive, in these brief Scriptural renderings, the full connotation and significance of the choice she made, Mary knew exactly what she was doing by deciding in the affirmative. She understood the gravity of the situation, the ramifications thereof, and that is was a lifelong commitment.

         But there is more. Mary alluded to her current state of life before the angelic visitation as thoroughly humble and insignificant. We see this first in her initial reaction to Gabriel’s greeting when he referred to her as “favored one” and said the Lord was with her: But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. She was also afraid, probably for the same reasons you or I would be startled at the appearance of an angel. It was more than this, however. She was concerned about what it meant for her life and, in those first few seconds, that she was in no way worthy of such an astounding visitation and calling.

         Why did she feel this way? There is something else here that Luke’s narrative hints at which he does not delve into, possibly because he knew his audience was aware of whatever particulars were involved with Mary and the circumstances of her humble life.

         In Part 2, I will continue delving into such lesser-known particulars. We will look closer at Mary’s upbringing, family, and momentous visit to her elderly but expecting relative Elizabeth, also a chosen woman of the Lord who found much grace in His sight.

         © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] John 1:46  

[2] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (Intro)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (2)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (3)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (4)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (5)