Elizabeth (biblical figure)
|Born||1st century BC
Hebron (Joshua 21:11)
|Died||1st century BC (or early AD)
|Honored in||Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Oriental Orthodox Church
|Feast||November 5 (Roman Catholic, Lutheran)
September 5 (Eastern Orthodox, Anglican)
Elizabeth, also spelled Elisabeth (Greek Ἐλισάβετ) or Elisheba (from the Hebrew אֱלִישֶׁבַע / אֱלִישָׁבַע "My God has sworn"; Standard Hebrew Elišévaʿ Elišávaʿ, Tiberian Hebrew ʾĔlîšéḇaʿ ʾĔlîšāḇaʿ; Syriac: ܐܠܝܫܒܥ Elishwa; Arabic أليصاباتAlyassabat), was the mother of John the Baptist and the wife of Zacharias/Zachary, according to the Gospel of Luke.
According to the Gospel of Luke, Elisabeth was "of the daughters of Aaron" (Luke 1:5-7). She and her husband Zacharias were "righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless" (1:6), but childless. While ministering in the temple of the Lord, Zacharias was visited by the angel Gabriel (Luke 8-12):
Luke 1:13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
Zacharias doubted "whereby" he could know this since both he and his wife were very old. The angel identified himself as Gabriel and told Zacharias that he would be "dumb, and not able to speak" until the words were fulfilled, because he did not believe. When the days of his ministry were complete, he returned to his house (Luke 1:16-23).
Luke 1:24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
According to the account, the angel Gabriel was then sent to Nazareth in Galilee to her relative Mary, then a virgin, espoused to a man called Joseph, and informed her that she would conceive by the Holy Ghost and bring forth a son to be called Jesus. After she was also informed that her "cousin Elisabeth" had begun her sixth month of pregnancy, she travelled to "Hebron, in the hill country of Judah", to visit (Luke 1:26-40).
Luke 1:41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
Matthew Henry comments, "Mary knew that Elisabeth was with child, but it does not appear that Elisabeth had been told any thing of her cousin Mary's being designed for the mother of the Messiah; and therefore what knowledge she appears to have had of it must have come by a revelation, which would be a great encouragement to Mary." After Mary heard Elisabeth's blessing, she spoke the words now known as the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). Again, Henry notes that "it was here, in Hebron, that circumcision was first instituted", and it was here that the LORD turned Abram's name to Abraham when he gave him the covenant of circumcision.
Luke 1:56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
57 Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.
58 And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.
59 And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.
60 And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.
61 And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.
62 And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.
63 And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.
64 And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.
That was the last mention of Elisabeth, who is not mentioned in any other chapter in the Bible. The chapter continues with the prophecy of Zacharias, (known as the Benedictus,) and ends with the note that John "grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts" until his ministry to Israel began; so it is unknown how long Elisabeth and her husband lived after that (Luke 1:65-80).
Elisabeth is revered as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church on November 5, and in the Orthodox and Anglican traditions on September 5, on the same day with her husband Zacharias/Zechariah. She is commemorated as a matriarch in the Calendar of Saints (November 5) of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod and Zacharias is commemorated as a prophet.
Elizabeth, the wife of Zachariah, the mother of John the Baptist and cousin of Mary, is an honored woman in Islam. Although Zachariah himself is frequently mentioned by name in the Qur'an, Elizabeth, while not mentioned by name, is referenced. Islamic tradition, like Christianity, gives her the name. She is revered by Muslims as a wise, pious and believing person who, like her cousin Mary, was exalted by God to a high station. She lived in the household of Amram, and is said to have been a descendant of the prophet and priest Aaron.
Zachariah and his wife were both devout and steadfast in their duties. They were, however, both very old and they had no son. Therefore, Zachariah would frequently pray to God for a son. This was not only out of the desire to have a son but also because the great apostle wanted someone to carry on the services of the Temple of prayer and to continue the preaching of the Lord's message after his death.
God cured Elizabeth's barrenness and granted Zachariah a son, Yahya (John the Baptist), who became a prophet. God thus granted the wishes of the couple because of their faith, trust and love for God. In the Qur'an, God speaks of Zachariah, his wife and John describes the three as being humble servants of the LORD:
So We listened to him: and We granted him John: We cured his wife's (Barrenness) for him. These (three) were ever quick in emulation in good works; they used to call on Us with love and reverence, and humble themselves before Us.
Notes and references
- Compare Luke 1:39-40 with Joshua 21:11 The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge says, "This was most probably Hebron, a city of the priests, and situated in the hill country of Judea, (Jos 11:21; 21:11, 13,) about 25 miles south of Jerusalem, and nearly 100 from Nazareth."
- Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary
- Lutheran Book of Worship published by Augsburg Publishing House and the LCA Board of Publication, 1978. ISBN 0-8006-3330-X
- Women in the Qur'ān, Traditions, and Interpretation. Oxford University Press. 1994. pp. 68–69.
- Luke 1:5: "In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron."
- Quran 21:89: "And Zachariah, when he cried unto his Lord: My Lord! Leave me not childless, though Thou art the Best of inheritors."
- Quran 19:12: "(To his son came the command): 'O John! take hold of the Book with might': and We gave him Wisdom even as a youth,"
- Quran 21:90: "So We listened to him: and We granted him John: We cured his wife's (Barrenness) for him. These (three) were ever quick in emulation in good works; they used to call on Us with love and reverence, and humble themselves before Us."
Elizabeth (biblical figure)
Birth of Jesus: The Nativity