‘This is what
Has done to me.
He looked on me.
He took away
That I have endured
Among my people.’”
ὅτι Οὕτως μοι πεποίηκεν Κύριος ἐν ἡμέραις αἷς ἐπεῖδεν ἀφελεῖν ὄνειδός μου ἐν ἀνθρώποις.
Luke has this prayer of Elizabeth. She said that the Lord had done this to her (ὅτι Οὕτως μοι πεποίηκεν Κύριος). Many believed that only God could help people get pregnant, since he controlled the opening and closing of the womb, as indicated in Genesis, chapter 16:2, about Sarah and being barren. That was the reason that there were so many pagan fertility gods, rites, and rituals, since giving birth was considered to be some kind of magical or divine action. Also, contemporary political gesturing around reproductive rights has its basis in religious beliefs. Elizabeth said that in those days (ἐν ἡμέραις), the Lord had looked on her (αἷς ἐπεῖδεν), since he took away her disgrace or reproach (ἀφελεῖν ὄνειδός) that she had endured among her people or other men (ἐν ἀνθρώποις). Being barren or sterile was considered a punishment from God. The prime example of a happiness at birth would have been in Genesis, chapter 29:31-30:23, where Rachel finally had a son, Joseph. Elizabeth understood her pregnancy as a personal vindication or reward for her righteousness. She did not seem to understand the wider consequences of her pregnancy.
“But they had no children.
Both were advanced
καὶ οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τέκνον, καθότι ἦν ἡ Ἐλεισάβετ στεῖρα, καὶ ἀμφότεροι προβεβηκότες ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις αὐτῶν ἦσαν.
Next Luke presents this unique portrait of Zechariah and Elizabeth, much like that of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis, chapters 18:1-15 and 21:1-7. They had no children (καὶ οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τέκνον). Elizabeth was barren or sterile (καθότι ἦν ἡ Ἐλεισάβετ στεῖρα), often times a sign of God’s displeasure. They were both advanced (καὶ ἀμφότεροι προβεβηκότες) in their years (ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις αὐτῶν ἦσαν). In other words, they were old folks, beyond child bearing years. Thus, only a miraculous birth would give them children.
Shall take hold of one man
In that day.
‘We will eat our own bread.
We will wear our own clothes.
Just let us be called by your name.
Take away our disgrace.’”
In order to avoid dishonor and disgrace, seven young widows would join a harem so that they can have something to eat and clothes to wear. They will even take the name of their new protector or husband. They do not want to be reproached for being celibate or sterile, since the single woman was considered outside the pale of society.
“A daughter is a secret anxiety
To her father.
Worry over her robs him of sleep.
When she is young,
He fears that she may not marry.
He fears that she may be disliked.
While a virgin,
He fears that she may be seduced.
He fears that she may become pregnant
In her father’s house.
Or having a husband,
He fears that she may go astray.
He fears that she may be barren.”
Sirach lists all the fears that a father has for his daughter. He has a secret anxiety about her that robs him of sleep. When she is young, he is afraid that she will never marry. He is also afraid that she may be seduced and have a child in his house. If she gets married, he is afraid that her new husband will dislike her. He also is afraid that she may go astray from her new husband. Finally, he worries whether she might be sterile and have no children. He seems like an over protective concerned father who does not have the same concern about his sons.