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Benedictus





Benedictus is the Hymn of Zacharias upon the first beginning of the
actual Coming of Messiah. "The horn of salvation was virtually raised
up when the Incarnation became an accomplished fact" (Godet). The
birth of S. John the Baptist was foretold to his father Zacharias, and
the name by which he was to be {84} called. Zacharias showed his faith
in the Angel's message by giving him this name--John--which means
God's mercy. Benedictus is a Hymn upon that name. There is a
Psalm, well-known, we are to suppose, to Zacharias, upon the same
theme. It is number cvi. in our Bible. From it a very large
proportion of the leading words of this Hymn are taken. Blessed be
the Lord God of Israel (v. 48), visited (v. 4), redeemed (v.
10), salvation (v. 4), spake (v. 2), since the world began
(v. 48), from our enemies--from the hands of all that hate us
(vv. 10, 41), mercy (vv. 1, 7), remember, remember the covenant
(vv. 4, 7, 45), being delivered (v. 43), righteousness (v.
3), all the days of our life (=at all times, v. 3). Some of these
come twice in the Hymn, or in the Psalm, and leave comparatively few
leading words unaccounted for.

There are, however, two verses in the Hymn which require further
notice. The word anatole is translated dayspring in the last
couplet, because it is treated here as giving light to those who sit in
darkness. But in Zech. iii. and vi. it is used of Joshua the son of
Zerubbabel and translated Branch. The thought of Joshua the High
Priest as prefiguring Jesus our High Priest suggested the idea of the
Branch, but its other meaning suggested the star of the East ushering
in the day.

Distinguish between the Zacharias who speaks and the Zechariah of the
Old Testament, the prophet whose words he uses. Note that Joshua and
Jesus are the same word, and that the prophet's words about Joshua are
used by John's father about Jesus. {85} Also there are references to
Psalm cxxxii., where vv. 1 and 11 mention God's remembrance and God's
oath, and v. 17 has the horn of David and I will make to
flourish, using a word akin to the word for dayspring (exanatelo,
anatole).

v. 2. A mighty salvation. In S. Luke (A.V.) horn of salvation: see
Psalm xviii. 2. The horn is used as the symbol of strength.

v. 6. The oath is in Gen. xxii. 16, 17, 18, By myself have I
sworn--that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will
multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven--and in thy seed shall all
the nations of the earth be blessed. It is explained (Gal. iii. 16)
that Abraham's seed is Christ: in Him all nations are blessed. And if
ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the
promise (Gal. iii. 29). Thus the oath to multiply Abraham's seed is
fulfilled in the increase of the Christian Family.

v. 9. Thou, child,=John the Baptist.

The Highest=God Almighty.

v. 10. St John Baptist was to give people knowledge of Jesus--the
Saviour.

v. 11. The Dayspring is Jesus. The word for dayspring in Greek means
"springing up," and is translated Branch in Zech. iii. 8 and vi. 12,
and Jer. xxiii. 5.

v. 12. Read Isaiah ix. 2 (to give light, &c.) and Isaiah xlix.
9-11 (to guide, &c.). Also 2 Pet. i. 19 and Rev. xxi. 23 and xxii.
16.

It will be noticed that although the occasion was the Birth of John,
yet his father's Hymn is directed to the Coming of Jesus. Jesus is the
Dayspring or {86} Branch--John is to be the herald of the Saviour. Not
till the 9th verse does the father address his infant son: his mind is
turning upon the greater Birth which was to come six months later.

In verses 5, 6 and 7 there is a complex reference to the birth of
Christ's forerunner. By a play on the names Zacharias, Elizabeth and
John he sings that God's remembrance was wedded to God's oath, and
thence was born God's mercy: for as we said above the 'text' of the
Hymn is John--God's mercy.

This Hymn may be called a Hymn of the Advent; whatever is read in the
Gospels as the Second Lesson will be sure to excite, in those who
listen, Praise to God for the Advent of His Son.





Next: Nunc Dimittis

Previous: Canticles Which Follow The Second Lesson



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