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Zechariah and Elizabeth, Parents of John the Baptist


Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus Christ, experienced a prolonged period without children. Society deemed them accursed, interpreting their situation as divine punishment. Nevertheless, they remained steadfast in their faith and dedicated themselves to serving the Lord and His people. Although barrenness was considered grounds for divorce, Zechariah chose to remain committed to his wife. Eventually, after testing their faith, the Lord blessed them with a son who would pave the way for the Messiah. Those who once looked down upon Zechariah and Elizabeth now admired them, as the circumstances surrounding the birth of their son, John, bore a distinct mark of divine intervention.

Jesus’ mother and foster father hailed from the royal lineage of King David, while John the Baptist’s parents were of the priestly lineage of Aaron. It is noted in Luke 1:5 that Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah, also came from a priestly family.

According to the Jewish historian Josephus, Levite priests adhered to the practice of marrying within their own tribe to uphold the sanctity of their priesthood. Despite Mary and Elizabeth being relatives, they belonged to distinct tribes of Israel. Intertribal marriages were typically reserved for the noble tribes of Judah and Levi.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were described as upright in the eyes of God, living blamelessly in accordance with all the laws and commands of the Lord (Luke 1:6). Despite their unwavering faithfulness, their prayers for a child went unanswered for a considerable time. Elizabeth was both barren and advanced in age. Consequently, in the eyes of their contemporaries, the couple’s childlessness was interpreted as a divine punishment.

God ordained David’s lineage as the royal line and Aaron’s lineage as the priestly line. Every direct descendant of Aaron was destined to be a part of the Levitical priesthood. Due to the multitude of priestly descendants, King David organized them into twenty-four divisions. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, hailed from the division of Abijah, which was the eighth among these twenty-four sections (1 Chr 24:10).

During the bustling seasons of the three pilgrimage feasts – the Passover, the Pentecost, and the Feast of the Tabernacles – all priests were required to serve in the Temple of Jerusalem. However, during other times of the year, each division of priests would take turns serving two one-week terms. Even during these off-season periods, it wasn’t necessary for all priests of a division to serve in the Temple. Instead, a few were selected by lot, a process interpreted as God’s choice by the authorities. Unfortunately, many priests wouldn’t have the opportunity to serve in this capacity.

Through God’s providence, Zechariah was granted the coveted chance to offer incense in the Holy Place of the Temple at that particular juncture.

Prominent figures in salvation history have often been born to parents who were advanced in age, seemingly defying natural possibilities. Examples include Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Samson, and Samuel. According to the Proto-Evangelium of Saint James, Mary, the mother of Jesus, was similarly born to her parents, Joachim and Anne, in their old age.

According to the Old Testament, it is the Lord who bestows speech and can also render one mute or deaf (Ex 4:11). In the case of the Prophet Ezekiel, God made him mute (Ezek 3:26) as a consequence of Israel’s rebellion and disregard for his message. However, when Israel became receptive after seven years, God restored Ezekiel’s speech (Ezek 24:27; 33:22). Similarly, Zechariah lost his ability to speak when he expressed disbelief but regained it when he obeyed the angel’s instruction to name the child (Lk 1:20).


The childlessness experienced by Zechariah and Elizabeth served as a providential sign, demonstrating the miraculous nature of their future child. Similarly, Zechariah’s muteness was not a punitive measure but rather a divine confirmation of the extraordinary nature of their forthcoming son, serving as proof for their family, friends, and neighbors.

When we or others encounter misfortunes in life, it’s essential not to hastily attribute them to punishment from God. Divine retribution, traditionally understood, awaits sinners mainly after death.

Despite societal judgment and the challenges of their childlessness, Zechariah and Elizabeth remained steadfast in their faith, devoted to serving the Lord and His people. God, recognizing their unwavering faith, blessed them with a son who would pave the way for the Messiah. Consequently, they were honored, blessed, and remembered through the remarkable life of their special child.

In times of unanswered prayers, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, we are encouraged to maintain our faith, recognizing that God’s timing may differ from our own. Patience and trust in the Lord’s plan are essential virtues.

Zechariah’s refusal to divorce or dishonor Elizabeth, despite her barrenness, serves as a reminder for us not to hastily judge others and to exercise patience before taking negative actions.

The conception of a child transcends mere biological processes; while parents provide the physical body, it is God who bestows the soul. Zechariah and Elizabeth’s failed attempts to conceive earlier in life highlight God’s sovereignty over the timing of life’s events. Gratitude for our children’s lives and a commitment to care for them in accordance with divine guidance are therefore warranted.

Let us acknowledge God’s control over our lives, trusting in His timing and providence, and nurturing our children according to His divine plan.

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