Aug 022012
This entry is part 2 of 17 in the series Birth and early years

Birth of John the Baptist Foretold 

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. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. (Luke 1:5-10 ESV)


The parents of John the Baptist, Zechariah and Elizabeth


Zechariah means ‘God remembers’.

Elizabeth means ‘God is my oath’

Zechariah + Elizabeth = God remembers His oath.


Aaron, brother of Moses, was ordained as the first high priest under the Law, who offered the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. Thereafter the high priest was of Aaron’s descendants.

Aaron also married an 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 eighth of 24 divisions that was reinstated after the Babylonian exile.

One of the duties of Aaron, and therefore 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). We read in Luke 1 that 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.

We know that at that time the high priest was Roman government appointed and not God’s appointed high priest. The office of high priest was very political and easily bought or given to families with wealth and power that could accept the Roman government and would help enforce 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 the parents of John the Baptist. Could it be that Zechariah was the actual 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 when he waited for Zechariah’s turn to do his priestly duties of burning incense, to foretell the birth of John the Baptist?

We do not know. What we do know is that:

  • Zechariah was a priest.
  • Zechariah was a descendant of the division of 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.
Series Navigation<< 11 interesting things about Luke and the bookGabriel, the angel >>
The following two tabs change content below.
Retha is passionate about the Bible, she is the author of The Four Faces, a fantasy novel, a reader, and a blogger. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Hubpages, Pinterest, LinkedIn Other blogs: Discover Bible Treasures and Author blog 

Latest posts by Retha Groenewald (see all)

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge

%d bloggers like this: