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.





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