From John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible
The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2
And it came to pass in those days,…. When John the Baptist was born, and Christ was conceived, and his mother pregnant with him, and the time of his birth drew on. The Ethiopic version reads, “in that day”; as if it was the same day in which John was circumcised, and Zacharias delivered the above song of praise: that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus; second emperor of Rome; the name Caesar was common to all the emperors, as Pharaoh to the Egyptians, and afterwards Ptolemy. His name Augustus, was not his original surname, but Thurinus; and was given him, after he became Caesar, to express his grandeur, majesty, and reverence; and that by the advice of Munatius Plancus, when others would have had him called Romulus, as if he was the founder of the city of Rome: by him a decree was made and published,
that all the world should be taxed; or “registered”, or “enrolled”; for this was not levying a tax, or imposing tribute upon them, but a taking an account of the names of persons, and of their estates; and which might be, in order to lay a tax upon them, as afterwards was: for the payment of a tax, there was no need of the appearance of women and children; and so the Arabic version renders it, “that the names the whole habitable world might be described, or written down”: such an enrolment had been determined on by Augustus, when at Tarracon in Spain, twenty seven years before; but he was diverted from it by some disturbances in the empire, so that it was deferred to this time, in which there was a remarkable interposition of divine providence; for had this enrolment been made then, in all likelihood it had not been done now, and Joseph and Mary would not have had occasion to have come to Bethlehem: but so it must be; and thus were things ordered by an infinite, and all wise providence to effect it: nor did this enrolment reach to all the parts of the known world, but only to the Roman empire; which, because it was so very large as it was, and in the boasting language of the Romans was so called, as, Ptolemy Evergetes calls his kingdom, κοσμος, “the world”. Though some think only the land of Judea is meant, which is called the earth, in Luke 21:26 and “all the world”, in Acts 11:28 but the other sense seems more agreeable; and so the Syriac version renders it, “that all the people of his empire might be enrolled”: and the Persic version, “that they should enrol all the subjects of his kingdom”; and is justified by the use of the phrase for the Roman empire, in several passages of Scripture, Romans 1:8. Now at the time of this enrolment, and under this august emperor, and when the whole world was in a profound peace, was the Messiah born, the King of kings, and the only potentate; the Shiloh, the peaceable and prosperous, the Prince of Peace, and Lord of life and glory; and that, in order to redeem men from that worse subjection and bondage they were in to sin, Satan, the law, and death, than they were to the Roman emperor. The Jews say, the son of David shall not come, until the kingdom (of Edom, or Rome, as some copies read, in others it is erased) shall be extended over all Israel, nine months, according to Micah 5:3. The gloss on it is, that is, “all the world”, in which the Israelites are scattered,
And this taxing was first made,…. Or “this was the first enrolment, or taxing” in the Jewish nation; for there was another afterwards, when Judas the Galilean arose, and drew many after him, Acts 5:38.
When Cyrenius was governor of Syria; or “of Cyrenius” “governor of Syria”; that is, it was the first that he was, concerned in; who not now, but afterwards was governor of Syria; and because he had been so before Luke wrote this history, and this being a title of honour, and what might distinguish him from others of that name, it is given him; for as Tertullian says, Sentius Saturninus was now governor of Syria, when Cyrenius was sent into Judea, to make this register, or taxing; and which is manifestly distinguished from that, which was made during his being governor of Syria, when Archelaus was banished from Judea, ten or eleven years after Herod’s death; which Josephus gives an account of, and Luke refers to, in Acts 5:37. Moreover, the words will bear to be rendered thus, “and this tax, or enrolment, was made before Cyrenius was governor of Syria”; πρωτη, being used for προτερα, as in John 1:15. This Cyrenius is the same whom the Romans call Quirinius, and Quirinus; a governor of Syria had great power in Judea, to which it was annexed, when Cyrenius was governor there. It is reported of R. Gamaliel, that he went to take a licence, מהגמון בסוריא, “from a governor of Syria”; i.e. to intercalate the year: and Syria was in many things like to the land of Judea, particularly as to tithes, and the keeping of the seventh year,
And all went to be taxed,…. Throughout Judea, Galilee, and Syria; men, women, and children,
every one into his own city; where he was born, and had any estate, and to which he belonged.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee,…. Where he now lived, and worked at the trade of a carpenter; having for some reasons, and by one providence or another, removed hither from his native place:
out of the city of Nazareth; which was in Galilee, where he and Mary lived; and where he had espoused her, and she had conceived of the Holy Ghost:
into Judea; which lay higher than Galilee, and therefore he is said to go up to it:
unto the city of David; not what was built by him, but where he was born and lived; see 1 Samuel 17:12.
which is called Bethlehem: the place where, according to Micah 5:2 the Messiah was to be born, and was born; and which signifies “the house of bread”: a very fit place for Christ, the bread which came down from heaven, and gives life to the world, to appear first in. This place was, as a Jewish chronologer says, a “parsa” and half, or six miles from Jerusalem; though another of their writers, an historian and traveller, says, it was two “parsas”, or eight miles; but Justin Martyr says, it was but thirty five furlongs distant from it, which is not five miles; hither Joseph came from Galilee,
because he was of the house and lineage of David; he was of his family, and lineally descended from him, though he was so poor and mean; and this is the reason of his coming to Bethlehem, David’s city,
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife,…. Whom also he had married, though he had not known her in a carnal way; she came along with him to be taxed and enrolled also, because she was of the same family of David, and belonged to the same city:
being great with child; very near her time, and yet, though in such circumstances, was obliged by this edict, to come to Bethlehem; and the providence in it was, that she might give birth there, and so the prophecy in Micah 5:2 have its accomplishment: this was an instance, and an example, of obedience to civil magistrates.
And so it was, that while they were there,…. At Bethlehem, waiting to be called and enrolled in their turn,
the days were accomplished that she should be delivered; her reckoning was up, the nine months of her going with child were ended, and her full time to bring forth was come.
And she brought forth her firstborn son,…. At Bethlehem, as was predicted; and the Jews themselves own, that the Messiah is already born, and born at Bethlehem. They have a tradition, that an Arabian should say to a Jew.
“Lo! the king Messiah is born; he said to him, what is his name? Menachem: he asked him, what is his father’s name? he replied to him, Hezekiah; he said unto him, from whence is he? he answered, from the palace of the king of Bethlehem.
Which is elsewhere reported, with some little variation; the Arabian said to the Jew,
“the Redeemer of the Jews is born; he said unto him, what is his name? he replied, Menachem is his name: and what is his father’s name? he answered, Hezekiah: he said unto him, and where do they dwell? he replied, in Birath Arba, in Bethlehem.
And the Jewish chronologer affirms, that “Jesus the Nazarene, was born at Bethlehem Judah, a “parsa” and a half from Jerusalem.
And even the author of the blasphemous book of the life of Christ owns, that “Bethlehem Judah was the place of his nativity.
Jesus is called Mary’s firstborn, because she had none before him; though she might not have any after him; for the first that opened the matrix, was called the firstborn, though none followed after, and was holy to the Lord, Exodus 13:2. Christ, as to his human nature; was Mary’s firstborn; and as to his divine nature, God’s firstborn:
and wrapped him in swaddling clothes; which shows, that he was in all things made like unto us, sin only excepted. This is one of the first things done to a new born infant, after that it is washed, and its navel cut; see Ezekiel 16:4 and which Mary did herself, having neither midwife nor nurse with her; from whence it has been concluded, that the birth of Jesus was easy, and that she brought him forth without pain, and not in that sorrow women usually do,
and laid him in a manger. The Persic version serves for a comment; “she put him into the middle of the manger, in the place in which they gave food to beasts; because in the place whither they came, they had no cradle”: this shows the meanness of our Lord’s birth, and into what a low estate he came; and that now, as afterwards, though Lord of all, yet had not where to lay his head in a proper place; and expresses his amazing grace, in that he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor: and the reason of his being here laid was,
because there was no room for them in the inn. It seems that Joseph had no house of his own to go into, nor any relation and friend to receive him: and it may be, both his own father and Mary’s father were dead, and therefore were obliged to put up at an inn; and in this there was no room for them, because of the multitude that were come thither to be enrolled: and this shows their poverty and meanness, and the little account that was made of them; for had they been rich, and made any considerable figure, they would have been regarded, and room made for them; especially since Mary was in the circumstances she was; and it was brutish in them to turn them into a stable, when such was her case,
And there were in the same country shepherds,…. For Bethlehem was a place of pasture: near to Ephrata, the same with Bethlehem, were the fields of the wood, Psalm 132:6 and the tower of Edar or the tower of the flock, Genesis 35:21 and here David kept his father’s sheep, 1 Samuel 17:15 so that we need not wonder to hear of shepherds here,
abiding in the field, watching over their flock by night: from whence it appears, that Christ was born in the night; and the Jews say, that the future redemption shall be in the night; and Jerom says, it is a tradition of the Jews, that Christ will come in the middle of the night, as was the passover in Egypt: it is not likely that he was born, as is commonly received, at the latter end of December, in the depth of winter; since at this time, shepherds were out in the fields, where they lodged all night, watching their flocks: they were diligent men, that looked well to their flocks, and watched them by night, as well as by day, to preserve them from beasts of prey; they were, as it is in the Greek text, “keeping the watches of the night over their flock.” The night was divided into four watches, the even, midnight, cock crowing, and morning; and these kept them, as the Arabic version adds, alternately, some kept the flock one watch, and some another, while the rest slept in the tent, or tower, that was built in the fields for that purpose. There were two sorts of cattle with the Jews; there was one sort which they called מדבריות, “the cattle of the wilderness”, that lay in the fields; and another sort which they called בייתות, “the cattle of the house”, that were brought up at home: concerning both which, they have this rule,
“they do not water nor slay the cattle of the wilderness, but they water and slay the cattle of the house: these are the cattle of the house, that lie in the city; the cattle of the wilderness, are they that lie in the pastures.
On which, one of their commentators observes,
“these lie in the pastures, which are in the villages, all the days of cold and heat, and do not go into the cities, until the rains descend.
The first rain is in the month Marchesvan, which answers to the latter part of our October, and the former part of November; and of this sort, seem to be the flocks those shepherds were keeping by night, the time not being yet come, of their being brought into the city: from whence it appears, that Christ must be born before the middle of October, since the first rain was not yet come; concerning this, the Gemara is more large,
“the Rabbins teach, that these are they of the wilderness, or fields, and these are they of the house; they of the field are they that go out on the passover, and feed in the pastures, and come in at the first rain; and these are they of the house, all that go out and feed without the border, and come and lie within the border (fixed for a sabbath day’s journey): Rabbi says, those, and those are of the house; but these are they that are of the field, all they that go out and feed in the pastures, and do not come in to remain, neither in the days of the sun, nor in the days of the rains.
To the shepherds, the first notice of Christ’s birth was given; not to the princes and chief priests, and learned men at Jerusalem, but to weak, mean, and illiterate men; whom God is pleased to choose and call, and reveal his secrets to; when he hides them from the wise and prudent, to their confusion, and the glory of his grace: and this was a presage of what the kingdom of Christ would be, and by, and to whom, the Gospel would be preached,
And lo, the angel of the Lord,…. It may be Gabriel, who had brought the tidings of the conception of the Messiah to the virgin, and now the birth of him to the shepherds:
came upon them; on a sudden, unexpectedly, at once, and stood by them, as some versions read; or rather, stood over them, over their heads, just above them; so that he was easily and perfectly seen by them,
and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; or a very glorious and extraordinary light shone with surprising lustre and brightness all around them; by which light, they could discern the illustrious form of the angel that was over them:
and they were sore afraid; at the sight of such a personage, and at such unusual light and glory about them: they were not used to such appearances, and were awed with the majesty of God, of which these were symbols, and were conscious to themselves of their own sinfulness and frailty.
And the angel said unto them; fear not,…. For he was not a messenger of bad, but of good tidings:
for behold, I bring you good tidings; tidings, that were both wonderful and amazing, and therefore a “behold” is prefixed to them, as well as to excite to attention; and which were good news, and glad tidings, for such the birth of Christ of a virgin is: in which the good will and amazing love of Cod to man are displayed, and the promises, and prophecies relating to him fulfilled; and the work of man’s salvation, his peace, pardon, righteousness, &c. about to be accomplished, and so matter of great joy: not carnal, but spiritual; not feigned, but real; not temporary, but lasting; even such as cannot be taken away, nor intermeddled with; and not small, but great, even joy unspeakable, and full of glory:
which shall be to all people; not to every individual of mankind; not to Herod and his courtiers, who were troubled at it; nor to the greater part of the Jewish nation, who when he came to them, received him not, but rejected him as the Messiah; particularly not to the chief priests, Scribes, and Pharisees, who when they saw him, said, this is the heir, let’s kill him, and seize on the inheritance; but to all that were waiting for him, and were looking for redemption in Israel; to all sensible sinners who rejoice at his birth, and in his salvation; see Isaiah 9:3 to all the chosen people of God, whether Jews or Gentiles, whom God has taken to be his covenant people, and has given to his Son, as such, to redeem and save; to these the incarnation of Christ, with all the benefits resulting from it, is the cause of great joy, when they are made a willing people in the day of Christ’s power.
For unto you is born this day,…. Day is here put for a natural day, consisting both of night and day; for it was night when Christ was born, and the angels brought the tidings of it to the shepherds. The particular day, and it may be, month and year, in which Christ was born, cannot be certainly known; but this we may be sure of, it was in the fulness of time, and at the exact, season fixed upon between God and Christ in the council and covenant of peace; and that he was born, not unto, or for the good of angels; for the good angels stand in no need of his incarnation, sufferings, and death, having never fell; and as for the evil angels, a Saviour was never designed and provided for them; nor did Christ take on him their nature, nor suffer in their stead: wherefore the angel does not say, “unto us”, but “unto you”, unto you men; for he means not merely, and only the shepherds, or the Jews only, but the Gentiles also; all the children, all the spiritual seed of Abraham, all elect men; for their sakes, and on their account, and for their good, he assumed human nature; see Isaiah 9:6.
in the city of David; that is, Bethlehem, as in Luke 2:4 where the Messiah was to be born, as being, according to the flesh, of the seed of David, his son and offspring; as he is, according to his divine nature, his Lord and root. The characters of this new born child follow, and which prove the tidings of his birth to be good, and matter of joy:
a Saviour; whom God had provided and appointed from all eternity; and had been long promised and much expected as such in time, even from the beginning of the world; and is a great one, being God as well as man, and so able to work out a great salvation for great sinners, which he has done; and he is as willing to save as he is able, and is a complete Saviour, and an only, and an everlasting one: hence his name is called Jesus, because he saves from sin, from Satan, from the law, from the world, from death, and hell, and wrath to come, and from every enemy,
Which is Christ the Lord; the Messiah spoken of by the prophets; the anointed of the Lord, with the Holy Ghost without measure, to be a prophet, priest, and king in his church; and who is the true Jehovah, the Lord our righteousness, the Lord of all creatures, the Lord of angels, good and bad, the Lord of all men, as Creator, the Prince of the kings of the earth, the Lord of lords, and King of kings; and who is particularly the Lord of saints by his Father’s gift, his own purchase, the espousal of them to himself, and by the power of his grace upon them: and the birth of such a person must needs be joyful, and is to be accounted good news, and glad tidings.
And this shall be a sign unto you,…. When they should come to Bethlehem, and to the inn where Joseph and Mary were:
ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger; for though there might be many other children, in the inn, yet none else in swaddling clothes, at least lying in a manger: this sign would distinguish the new born Saviour from all others; had not the angel given them this direction, they would never have thought to have looked for, and found: him in such a place: and moreover, it might have been a stumbling to them, and an objection with them against his being Christ, the Lord, had they not been told beforehand where he was; but by this means this objection was prevented, and this stumbling block was removed out of the way, and they were prepared to see him, embrace, and believe in him, in this mean condition.
And suddenly there was with the angel,…. That brought the tidings of Christ’s birth to the shepherds: a multitude of the heavenly host: who being caused to fly swiftly, were at once with him, by his side, and about him; and which was a further confirmation of the truth of his message to them: these were angels who were called an host, or army, the militia of heaven, the ministers of God, that wait upon him, and do his pleasure; and are sent forth to minister to his people, and encamp about them, preserve, and defend them; see Genesis 32:1 These are styled an heavenly host, because they dwell in heaven; and to distinguish them from hosts and armies on earth; and said to be
a multitude, for the angels are innumerable; there are thousands, ten thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand of them: it may be rendered “the multitude”, and may intend the whole company of angels, who were all of them together to sing the praises of God, and glorify him at the birth of the incarnate Saviour, as well as to adore him; since it is said, “when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, and let all the angels of God worship him”, Hebrews 1:6, and these were
praising God; on account of the birth of Christ, and the redemption that was to be obtained by him, for elect men; which shows their friendly disposition to them, and how much they rejoice at their spiritual and eternal welfare; see Luke 15:10; And thus, as at the laying of the foundation of the earth, these “morning stars sang together, and all these sons of God shouted for joy”, Job 38:7 they did the same when the foundation of man’s salvation was laid in the incarnation of the Son of God,
and saying, as follows.
Glory to God in the highest,…. Which with the following words, are not to be considered as a wish, that so it might be, but as an affirmation, that so it was; for the glory of God is great in the salvation, peace, and reconciliation of his people by Jesus Christ, even the glory of all his perfections; of his wisdom and prudence in forming such a scheme; of his love, grace, and, mercy, the glory of which is his main view, and is hereby answered; and of his holiness, which is hereby honoured; and of his justice, which is fully satisfied; and of his power in the accomplishment of it; and of his truth and faithfulness in fulfilling his covenant and oath, and all the promises and prophecies relating to it. Great glory from hence arises to God; who is in the highest heavens, and is given him by angels and saints that dwell there, and that in the highest strains; and by saints on earth too in, their measure, and as they are able: the ground and foundation of which is what follows:
and on earth peace: by which is meant, not external peace, though, at this time there was peace on earth all the world over; nor internal peace, as distinguished from that eternal peace which the saints enjoy in heaven; nor even peace made by Christ; for this, as yet, was not done on earth, but was to be made by the blood of his cross: rather Christ himself is here intended, who is called “the man, the peace” Micah 5:5 and “our peace”, Ephesians 2:14 and was now on earth, being just born, in order to make peace with God, and reconciliation for the sins of the people: and he is so called, because he is the author of peace between Jew and Gentile, which were at enmity with each other; by abrogating the ceremonial law, the cause of that enmity; by sending the Gospel to them, and converting some of each; and by granting the like privileges to them both; see Ephesians 2:14 and because he is the author of peace between God and elect sinners, who, through the fall, are at enmity against, God, and enemies in their minds by wicked works unto him; nor can they make their peace with God; they know not the way of it; nor are they disposed to it; nor can they approach to God to treat with him about terms of peace; nor can they do those things that will make their peace with God, as satisfying his justice, and fulfilling his law: Christ only is their peace maker; he only is fit for it, being God and man in one person, and so a daysman that can lay his hands on both, and has a concern in each, in things pertaining to God, and to make reconciliation for the sins of the people: he only is able to do it, and he has done it by the blood of his cross; and a very excellent peace it is he has made: it is made upon the most honourable terms, to the satisfaction of justice, and the magnifying of the law of God; and is therefore a lasting one, and attended with many blessings, such as freedom of access to God, and a right to all the privileges of his house; and the news of it are glad tidings of good things: and those angels that first brought the tidings of it, may be truly called, as some of the angels are by the Jews, מלאכי שלום “angels of peace”. Moreover, Christ may be said to be “peace”, because he is the donor of all true solid peace and real prosperity, both external, which his people have in the world, and with each other; and internal, which they have in their own breasts, through believing in him, and attending on his ordinances; and eternal, which they shall have for ever with him in the world to come. And now Christ being the peace on earth, is owing to
good will towards men; that is, to the free favour, good will, and pleasure of God towards chosen men in Christ Jesus: that Christ was on earth as the peacemaker, or giver, was owing to God’s good will; not to angels, for good angels needed him not as such; and the angels that sinned were not spared, nor was a Saviour provided for them; but to men, and not to all men; for though all men share in the providential goodness of God, yet not in his special good will, free grace, and favour: but to elect men, to whom a child was born, and a Son given, even the Prince of Peace: it was from God’s good will to these persons, whom he loved with an everlasting love in Christ, laid up goodness for them in him, blessed them with all spiritual blessings in him, and made a covenant with him for them; that he provided and appointed his son to be the Saviour and peace maker; that he sent him into this world to be the propitiation for sin; and that he spared him not, but delivered him up into the hands of men, justice, and death, in order to make peace for them. The Vulgate Latin version, and some copies, as the Alexandrian, and Beza’s most ancient one, read, “peace on earth to men of good will”; and which must be understood, not of men that have a good will of themselves, for there are no such men: no man has a will to that which is good, till God works in him both to will, and to do of his, good pleasure; wherefore peace, reconciliation, and salvation, are not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy: but of such who are the objects of God’s good will, and pleasure, whom he loves, because he will love, and has mercy and compassion on them, and is gracious to them, because he will be so; and therefore chooses, redeems, and regenerates them of his own will, and because it seems good in his sight. The Syriac and Persic versions read, “good hope to men”; as there is a foundation laid in Christ the peace, of a good hope of reconciliation, righteousness, pardon, life, and salvation for sinful men. The Arabic version renders it, “cheerfulness in men”; as there is a great deal of reason for it, on account of the birth of the Saviour and peace maker, the salvation that comes by him to men, and the glory brought thereby to God,
And it came to pass, as the angels,…. The Persic version reads in the singular number, “the angel: were gone away from them into heaven”, from whence they came, and which was the place of their abode and residence; and therefore they are called the angels of heaven, where they always behold the face of God, hearken to the voice of his commandment, and go and come at his orders; and these having finished their embassy, delivered their message to the shepherds, and done all the work they came about,
departed from them: and, as the Ethiopic version adds, “and ascended up into heaven”; and as soon as they were gone, immediately,
the shepherds said one to another, let us now go even to Bethlehem the place where the angel said the Saviour was born,
and see this thing which hath come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us: from whence it appears, that it was not from diffidence of the matter, as questioning the truth of what the angel said, that they moved one another to go to Bethlehem; for they firmly believed the thing was come to pass, which the angel had told them of, and that what he said was from the Lord; nor did they act any criminal part, or indulge a vain curiosity, in going to Bethlehem to see what was done; for it seems to be the will of God that they should go, and for which they had a direction from the angel, and a sign given them by which they might know the new born Saviour from any other infant, Luke 2:12 and which would also be a further confirmation of their faith, and by which they would be qualified not only as ear, but as eyewitnesses of the truth of this fact, to report it with greater certainty.
And they came with haste,…. In the night, leaving their flocks, to see their incarnate Lord, as Zacchaeus hastened down from the tree to receive the Saviour. The wonderfulness of the vision, the importance of the thing related, the eagerness of their spirits to see the thing that was told them, put them on making quick dispatch, and hastening to the city with all speed:
and found Mary and Joseph; as they had been directed by the angel, in the city of Bethlehem, in an inn there, and in a stable in the inn:
and the babe lying in a manger: where Mary had put it as soon as born, and had wrapped it in swaddling clothes; because there was no room in the inn, and as the angel had told them they should find it, Luke 2:12
And when they had seen it,…. Or “him”, as the Arabic version reads, the child Jesus, or “them”, Joseph, Mary, and the child; or this whole affair, as had been related to them:
they made known abroad; not only in the inn, and among all the people there but throughout the city of Bethlehem,
the saying which was told them concerning this child: both what the angel had told them concerning his birth, and what he was, and where he lay; and what Mary had told them concerning the notice she had from an angel of the conception of him, and the manner of it, and of what he should be; and likewise what Joseph had told them, how an angel had appeared to him, and had acquainted him, after the conception of him, that it was of the Holy Ghost; and was bid to call his name Jesus: as Mary also was, because he was to be the Saviour of his people from their sins: for, no doubt, but they had a conversation with Joseph and Mary about him; and as they could not fail of relating to them, what they had seen and heard that night in the fields, it is reasonable to suppose, that Joseph and Mary would give them some account of the above things; which all make up the saying, or report, they spread abroad: the Persic version reads, “what they had heard of the angel”; but there is no reason to confine it to that.
And all they that heard it,…. What the shepherds related of what they had heard from the angel, and from Joseph and Mary, and what they had seen themselves,
wondered at those things that were told them by the shepherds: for though they expected the Messiah, and that he would be born at Bethlehem, yet they did not imagine that he would be born of such mean parents, and appear in such mean circumstances, and in so contemptible a place; and that shepherds, and not the princes of Israel, should have the first notice of it; and yet the account which these shepherd, who were plain hearted men, and could never be thought to invent such a story, and spread it, and impose on men, without any interest in it, was very surprising; so that they knew not what to say to it, neither to deny, nor believe it; accordingly, the Persic version renders the whole thus, “and whoever heard, wondering, stuck at it”; hesitated about it, and yet astonished at the particulars of it; just as Christ’s hearers were in Luke 4:22 who wondered at his ministry, and the manner of it, and yet objected the meanness of his parentage and education.
But Mary kept all these things,…. Which the shepherds had related to her:
and pondered them in her heart; or compared them in her mind, with what had been said to herself by the angel, and also by her husband, as well as what was said by Elisabeth at the time she made her a visit; but she said nothing of them to others, lest she should be thought an enthusiast, or a vain boaster; and therefore left things, till time should make a discovery of them in a proper way, and in the best season.
And the shepherds returned,…. From Bethlehem, to the fields, and to their flock there,
glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard; from Joseph and Mary:
and seen; as the babe lying in the manger:as it was told unto them; by the angel: they glorified God on account of the birth of the Messiah; and praised him, wondering at his grace, and the high honour put upon them, that they should be acquainted with it; and that there was such an exact agreement between the things they had seen, and the angel’s account of them.