ELIZABETH (Gr. Elisabet, God is my oath, kjv Elisabeth). The wife of the priest Zechariah, herself of the lineage of Aaron (Luke.1.5-Luke.1.57). In fulfillment of God’s promise, in her old age she bore a son, John the Baptist. Her kinswoman (cousin), Mary of Nazareth in Galilee, having learned that she was to be the virgin mother of Jesus, visited Elizabeth in the hill country of Judea. Elizabeth’s Spirit-filled greeting prompted Mary to reply in a song called Magnificat. After Mary returned home, Elizabeth’s son was born. She was a woman of unusual piety, faith, and spiritual gifts, whose witness to Mary must have been an incomparable encouragement. Luke, who alone tells the story, appreciated the significant role of women in the history of redemption and emphasized the agency of the Holy Spirit in the life of Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH ĭ lĭz’ ə bəth
, same as Heb. אֱלִישֶׁ֧בַע
, God is my oath
; KJV, ASV, ELISABETH). The wife of the priest Zechariah (KJV, ASV Zacharias
), and the mother of John the Baptist
Like her husband, Elizabeth was of Aaronic descent; indeed, she had the same name as Aaron’s wife (Exod 6:23). She and her husband are described as being righteous before God, walking before Him blamelessly by obeying all His commandments and ordinances. Her barrenness was a great trial to them, until an angel appeared to Zechariah and told him that in spite of their age, their prayer for a child would be answered, and their son would be the forerunner of the Messiah. The story recalls similar answers to prayer to Sarah and Hannah in the OT.
Elizabeth is called the “kinswoman,” or relative, of Mary the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:36), but the term is too broad to indicate the precise nature of the relationship. When Mary came to visit her, the babe leaped in the womb of Elizabeth and, in the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth told Mary how greatly blessed she was and expressed her amazement that God should honor her with this visit from the mother of her Lord. There is some textual evidence in Old Latin MSS, in Irenaeus, and in Origen, that the Magnificat was originally ascribed to Elizabeth rather than to Mary.
“Mary or Elizabeth?” ExpT, 41 (1929-1930), 266, 267; “Again the Magnificat,” ExpT, 42 (1930-1931), 188-190.