Parents of John the Baptist

This entry is part 2 of 13 in the series Jesus' Birth and Early Years

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.  (Luke 1:5 ESV)


Luke 1:5-10 tells the story of John the Baptist’s parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth.

Zechariah means ‘God remembers’.

Elizabeth means ‘God is my oath’

Zechariah + Elizabeth = God remembers His oath.



Priestly Descendants

Aaron, brother of Moses, was ordained as the first high priest under the Law. All future high priests were descendants of him.

Aaron also married Elizabeth (Elisheba) in Exodus 6:23.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were both from the tribe of Levi and descendants of Aaron.

Zechariah was a priest of the division of Abijah, a descendant of Aaron (1 Chronicles 24:10). Israel’s priesthood was divided into 24 divisions of which Abijah’s family was the 8th of 24 divisions that was reinstated after the Babylonian exile.

One of the duties of the high priest was to burn fragrant incense on the altar of incense twice a day. And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the Lord throughout your generations.(Exodus 30:7-8 ESV) 

In Luke 1 Zachariah was chosen by lot to burn the incense. A priest served for a week twice a year in the Temple but only once in his lifetime would he get the opportunity to burn the incense.


Who was the High Priest?

During this time the high priest was appointed by the Roman government; he wasn’t God’s appointed high priest. The office of high priest had become very political and was easily bought or given to families with wealth and power; the families that accepted the Roman government and helped in enforcing their rule.  King Herod was also appointed by the Roman governor.

God is a God of detail. It was part of God’s plan that Zechariah would be on duty that day and that he and his wife would become John the Baptist’s parents. Could it be that Zechariah was the real high priest through lineage and that his son would be the last high priest under the Law? Was that perhaps one of the details in the Lord’s plan? Was that why he waited until it was Zechariah’s turn to do his priestly duties, to prophecy the birth of John the Baptist?


Biblical Facts

The Bible doesn’t say, but the facts are that:

  • Zechariah was a priest.
  • Zechariah descended from Abijah, who was a descendant of Aaron.
  • Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.
  • Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous before the Lord.
  • They were an elderly couple.
  • Elizabeth was barren.
  • God gave her a child.

What promises of God has been fulfilled in your life? What promises are you waiting for to be fulfilled?

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