In the birth/infancy narratives, Luke emphases the Jewishness of our Christian origins. Zechariah is a priest serving the temple in Jerusalem. Elizabeth is a descendant of Aaron — the first priest. They have a priestly heritage. They are also both described as being “righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord” (1:5-6).
“Zechariah” is the name of more than thirty people in the Bible. Frequently it is a name related to the priestly Levite tribe: a Levite gatekeeper (1 Chr 26:2, 14), a Levite harpist (1 Chr 15:18, 20; 16:5), and a trumpet-blowing priest who led David’s procession accompanying the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem (1 Chr 15:24). There is also a prophet Zechariah, who was the son of a priest, who was stoned by the people (2 Chr 24:20-23; probably also referred to in Mt 23:35; Lk 11:51). The name means “Yahweh remembers” — a name that would be quite appropriate for Zechariah and Elizabeth as God had remembered them in their old age and given them a son.
1. Parallels between the stories of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis and Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke?
Like their ancestors Abraham and Sarah, Zechariah and Elizabeth are blessed with a son in their old age. Both sons would serve a key role in the fulfilling of the covenant. The connection is not lost on Zechariah, who praises God for remaining faithful to the covenant with Abraham.
Both couples receive news of their child from heavenly visitors. Announcement is made to a man.
One spouse believes the announcement (Abraham and Elizabeth) while the other does not. (Sarah and Zechariah) The unbelieving spouse is quick to reveal their disbelief with their responses. Sarah laughs in disbelief when the heavenly visitors reveal she will have a son. (Genesis 18) Zechariah is ministering in the holy of holies of the Temple when the angel Gabriel reveals Elizabeth will bear a son. Zechariah’s questioning of Gabriel reveals his disbelief. (Luke 1)
Zechariah’s response to angel (Luke 1:18) is a verbatim quote to Abraham’s response to divine revelation (Genesis 15:8).
Elizabeth rejoices with neighbors over the good news (Luke 1:58), as does Sarah (Genesis 21:6).
2. Parallel with Hannah and Samuel.
- Revelation to Hannah that she would give birth to Samuel is at a visit to the temple sanctuary (1 Samuel 3, 17), just as revelation to Zechariah is in the Jerusalem temple sanctuary
- Child to be born would not drink wine or strong drink (Luke 1:15, 1 Samuel 1:9-15)
- The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) evokes Hannah’s canticle in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.