The circumcision of Jesus (Lk 2:21-2:21)

“After eight days

Had passed,

It was time

To circumcise

The child.

He was called

Jesus.

This was the name

Given to him

By the angel

Before he was conceived

In the womb.”

 

Καὶ ὅτε ἐπλήσθησαν ἡμέραι ὀκτὼ τοῦ περιτεμεῖν αὐτόν, καὶ ἐκλήθη τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦς, τὸ κληθὲν ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀγγέλου πρὸ τοῦ συλλημφθῆναι αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ.

 

Just as Luke had the circumcision and naming of John, so too he has the circumcision and naming of Jesus, his cousin.  Like John, it takes place on the 8th day after the birth in chapter 1:59.  So too, just like John, chapter 1:63, Jesus got his name at his circumcision.  Luke said that after eight days had been completed (Καὶ ὅτε ἐπλήσθησαν ἡμέραι ὀκτὼ), it was time to circumcise the child (τοῦ περιτεμεῖν αὐτόν).  He was called Jesus (καὶ ἐκλήθη τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦς), the name given to him by the angel Gabriel (τὸ κληθὲν ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀγγέλου) before Mary conceived him in the womb (πρὸ τοῦ συλλημφθῆναι αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ) in chapter 1:31.  Luke continued these parallel stories of John and Jesus.  Both families clearly followed all the Jewish laws and customs about circumcision and naming a child, but John and Jesus were nevertheless special children.

The conception of Jesus (Mt 1:18-1:18)

“Here is how the birth

Of Jesus,

The Messiah Christ,

Took place.

Mary,

His mother,

Had been engaged

To Joseph.

However,

Before they lived together communally,

She was found

To be pregnant with a child

From the Holy Spirit.”

 

Τοῦ δὲ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἡ γένεσις οὕτως ἦν. μνηστευθείσης τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ Μαρίας τῷ Ἰωσήφ, πρὶν ἢ συνελθεῖν αὐτοὺς εὑρέθη ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχουσα ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου.

 

Matthew was going to explain how the birth (ἡ γένεσις) of Jesus Christ (δὲ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ), the anointed Messiah, took place. His mother (τῆς μητρὸς αὐτοῦ), Mary (Μαρίας), was engaged or betrothed (μνηστευθείσης) to Joseph (τῷ Ἰωσήφ). In this arranged marriage, these were two engaged people. Perhaps the father of Mary had agreed to the marriage of his young daughter to Joseph, the son of Jacob. There was no mention of Mary’s father or mother here. This was the common engagement process where the girl stayed with her parents for as long as a year. However, before they came to live together in marriage (πρὶν ἢ συνελθεῖν αὐτοὺς), Mary was found to be pregnant. Literally, there was a child in the womb (εὑρέθη ἐν γαστρὶ ἔχουσα). However, this pregnancy was from the Holy Spirit (ἐκ πνεύματος ἁγίου), not from Joseph or another man. Right from the beginning, Jesus was in the womb of Mary because of the Holy Spirit. This divine presence was different in many ways,

Ephraim is the bad child (Hos 13:12-13:13)

“Ephraim’s iniquity

Is bound up.

His sin is kept in store.

The pangs of childbirth

Come for him.

But he is an unwise son.

At the proper time,

He does not present himself

At the mouth of the womb.”

The iniquity of the territory of Ephraim, in the northern kingdom of Israel, has bound and tied them up. They have kept their own sins stored up. When the pangs of childbirth came for him, he was an unwise son. He failed to present himself at the mouth of the womb for childbirth. In other words, Ephraim refused to come out of the womb, a strange concept for us today.

Jeremiah curses the day he was born (Jer 20:14-20:18)

“Cursed be the day

On which I was born!

The day

When my mother bore me,

Let it not be blessed!

Cursed be the man

Who brought the news to my father!

‘A child is born to you,

A son.’

This made him very glad.

Let that man be

Like the cities

That Yahweh overthrew without pity!

Let him hear a cry in the morning!

Let him hear an alarm at noon!

Because he did not kill me

In the womb.

Thus my mother would have been

My grave.

Her womb would be forever great.

Why did I come forth

From the womb?

To see toil?

To see sorrow?

Why do I spend my days in shame?”

It is an unusual idea to curse one’s own existence. The only comparable thought would have been in Job, chapter 3, where he cursed the day he was conceived and the day he was born. This is a lament about the personal problems in the life of the prophet Jeremiah. He wanted the day of his birth not to be a celebration or blessing, but a cursed day. He even wanted the man who told his father about the birth of his son to be cursed also. Jeremiah wanted that man to be like Yahweh’s destroyed cities. He wanted him to hear cries in the morning and at noon. They should have killed him in the womb so that his mother’s womb would have been his grave. This is an interesting thought for many anti-abortionists. Jeremiah wondered why he had come forth from the womb only to have a life of toils and sorrow, filled with shame. This is a very depressing idea, much like the poor depressed Job.

The servant’s purpose (Isa 49:5-49:6)

“Now Yahweh says

That he formed me

From the womb

To be his servant.

I was to bring Jacob

Back to him.

Thus Israel might be gathered to him.

I am honored

In the sight of Yahweh.

My God has become my strength.

Yahweh says.

‘It is too light a thing

That you should be my servant

To raise up the tribes of Jacob,

To restore the survivors of Israel.

I will give you

As a light to the nations.

Thus my salvation may reach

To the ends of the earth.’”

Second Isaiah explains why this servant was formed from the womb. He was to bring back Jacob and gather Israel. This servant would be honored in the sight of Yahweh and become his strength. It was not enough that that he would raise up the tribes of Jacob or restore the survivors of Israel. He would now become the light to all the nations. Thus Yahweh would save everyone, even those at the ends of the earth.

Yahweh will help the house of Jacob (Isa 46:3-46:4)

“Listen to me!

O house of Jacob!

The entire remnant

Of the house of Israel!

You have been borne by me

From your birth!

I carried you

From the womb!

Even to your old age

I am He!

Even when you turn gray

I will carry you!

I have made you!

I will bear you!

I will carry you!

I will save you!”

Second Isaiah has this beautiful Yahweh call to the house of Jacob and the remnant of the house of Israel. He wanted them to listen to him. He reminded them that he had taken care of them since their birth. He had carried them from the womb. Even to their old age, when their hair turns gray, he would be with them since he made them. He would bear them, carry them, and save them because they were special.

Listen my servant Jacob (Isa 44:1-44:2)

“But now hear!

O Jacob!

My servant!

Israel!

Whom I have chosen!

Thus says Yahweh

Who made you.

He formed you

In the womb.

He will help you.

Do not fear!

O Jacob!

My servant!

Listen Jeshurun!

Whom I have chosen.”

Once again we have Yahweh in the first person singular ask Jacob or Israel to listen. Jacob is clearly the servant of Yahweh since he was chosen, made, and formed in the womb. Yahweh would help, so that there was no reason to be afraid. After all, he has chosen both Jacob and Israel or as they are called here Jeshurun, an endearing term for Israel used in Deuteronomy, chapters 32-33.