John’s Birth & Early Life (Part 1)

"Now Elizabeth's full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her. So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. His mother answered and said, 'No; he shall be called John.' But they said to her, 'There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.' So they made signs to his father--what he would have him called. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, 'His name is John.' So they all marveled. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea. And all those who heard them kept them in their hearts, saying, 'What kind of child will this be?' And the hand of the Lord was with him" (Luke 1:57-66).

Elizabeth gave birth to a son, as prophesied. The Lord was merciful in granting her a child, especially such an important child. The circumcision of Hebrew boys was to be on the 8th day of life (cf. Gen. 17:12; Lev. 12:3; Phil. 3:5). According to Jewish traditional law, ten witnesses were required to be present at a circumcision (hence, the presence of relatives and friends). The formal naming of a Hebrew baby boy was generally done at his circumcision. It was expected that the new baby be named after his father, but Elizabeth was firmly against it. Either Zacharias had written out everything and explained things to her or she had received some divine instructions of her own. Since they communicate to him with signs, it is apparent that he could not talk or hear. He confirmed what Mary said about the boy's name.

The angel's words were now completely fulfilled regarding John' birth, and thus, the punishment for disbelief was removed. Note that the first use of his recovered speech was not for complaining, nor for conversing with his wife or friends, but for praising God (likely the words recorded at the end of Luke 1).

The miraculous phenomena associated with the birth of John made the people conscious of God's presence, thereby filling them with awe. The people knew of Zacharias' affliction of muteness, and they had likely heard rumors of the events connected with the birth of John. Some people would remember these things when John began preaching the gospel of the kingdom (cf. John 1:19 for an "echo" of the question contained here). And now, for the first time in nearly a year, Zacharias breaks his long silence. We will look at his words in our next lesson.