Thirdmill Study Bible

Notes on Luke 2:2-9

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Luke 2:2

This verse presents some historical difficulties. There was a Quirinius who governed Syria and carried out a famous census in AD 6 (see Acts 5:37; Josephus, Antiquities, 18.26). However, this was after the death of Herod the Great (4 BC), whom we know was alive during Jesus's birth (1:5; Matt. 2:1-18). Three options could explain the apparent discrepancy. First, the Greek could allow for the translation the first census before Quirinius was governor. This would mean Luke distinguished between the census at Jesus's birth and the later famous one. Second, it could be that word governor was used as a general term and only meant Quirinius was an administrator of the census. Then later he came to power formally as the governor. Finally, it's possible that there were two governors named Quirinius, though we only have extra-biblical records of one.

Luke 2:3-4

Joseph and Mary (v. 5) traveled from their home in Nazareth (1:26) to Bethlehem. This was the ancestral home of Joseph who was a descendent of David (1:27). He may have owned property there, which accounts for his need to travel. Luke emphasized the journey because Bethlehem was the foretold birthplace of the Messiah (Mic. 5:2). Though Caesar seemed in control, God was fulfilling his plans and promises (v. 6; see 1:51-52; Prov. 21:1).

Luke 2:5

engaged . . . pregnant. Luke probably inferred what Matthew made explicit (Matt. 1:25). Because they were engaged (1:27), Mary and Joseph had not consummated their marriage. The reader is reminded of Jesus's supernatural conception (1:30-35) as well as the shocking situation for Jewish society.

Luke 2:7

firstborn. Luke implied that Joseph and Mary had other children after Jesus (8:19; Mark 6:3). Like the people of Israel had been considered, Jesus is God's firstborn son (Exod. 4:22). Through him, many will become sons of God (John 1:12; 51-52; Gal 3:26). inn. A word which could refer to a few different things. It could mean a public shelter were several families would stay under one roof. Or, it might refer to a guest room attached to a home (22:11). Still yet, it might refer to a formal inn. These were either two-story buildings with customers staying above the animals, or a large, single-story building with stable and room side-by-side. The first or second option seems likely in this case. manger. A feeding trough for animals. Because the inn was full to capacity given the census (v. 1), Joseph and Mary stayed in a location normally reserved for animals. This was either a room attached to a home, or a nearby cave as ancient tradition suggests. See WLC 47; WSC 27.

Luke 2:8

shepherds. Often stayed in the fields at night to protect their sheep. They could have been at the traditional Shepherd's Field, which was about two miles from Bethlehem. Shepherds were especially appropriate to serve as witness to the birth of Jesus, since David was a shepherd as well (2 Sam. 5:2; 7:7; 1 Chron. 11:2; 17:6). He would also save his people as the Good Shepherd (John 10:11; see Gen. 48:15; 49:24; Ps. 23:1-4; Jer. 31:10). Yet, shepherds were not wealthy or powerful. The message given to them (vv. 10-12) was good news for the poor (Isa. 61:1; see 1:52; 4:18; 7:22).

Luke 2:9

angel of the Lord. See note on 1:11. glory of the Lord. The manifestation of God's presence among his people (see Exod. 16:10; 24:17; 40:34; Ps. 63:2). fear. A typical response to the appearance of angels (see 1:12, 30; 2:10; 8:50; Gen. 15:1; Judg. 6:23; Dan. 10:12, 19).

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