Luke 2:25-32


Luke 2:25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

"Now there was" is a Lukan favorite (5:12; 10:25; 13:11; 14:2; 19:2, etc.) for introducing a new event. Simeon was a very common Jewish name. Nothing else about this man is known except for what is said in verses 25-35. "In Jerusalem" if frequently found in Luke and is found nowhere else in the New Testament, except Romans 15:26. "Righteous" denotes his relationship to God, forensic justification. The same is said of Joseph, Zechariah, and Elizabeth Matthew 1:19; Luke 1:6). Also of Joseph of Arimathea (Luke 23:30). The adjective "devout" denotes Simeon in his life of sanctification. Used also at Acts 2:5; 8:2; 22:12. Literally it means "taking hold well." This word is peculiar to Luke. Simeon was a conscientious and faithful believer. RSV, NIV, and NASB translate "righteous and devout." Beck is definitely not recommended: "A good man, fearing God." "Righteous" is much more than "good." 

Of course, other believers "were awaiting the Comfort of Israel" but here we have a special case. The lack of the article with "consolation" does not make the noun indefinite. The genitive with it makes it definite. For "consolation" see Isaiah 40:1; 49:13; 51:3; 61:2; 66:13. The Greek word order is likely for emphasis. The context in no way indicates an ecstatic state. It was all very natural.

Luke 2:26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

Note the frequency with which the Holy Spirit is mentioned, 25, 26, 27. Only the Holy Spirit can enlighten. Just how this was done is not stated. In verse 25 it could very well mean that he believed the Old Testament promises concerning Christ. In 26 and 27, of course, we have a particular revelation.

"The Lord's Christ" means "the Messiah of Jahweh," subjective genitive. It took genuine faith to believe that this baby was the Messiah. Only the Holy Spirit could tell Simeon that.

Luke 2:27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required,

"Moved by the Spirit" is dative of means indicating what caused him to do this on this occasion. This is followed by a clause, infinitive with subject in the accusative, denoting time, a remarkable coincidence caused by the Holy Spirit. This is followed by a purpose clause introduced by an articular infinitive whose subject is in the accusative. "Parents" refers to Mary and Joseph.

This occasion was not just any custom instituted by men. By the way, there must have been many parents bringing their baby boys to the temple each day. Likely on this occasion there were many others there. And, likely, this case was not noticed by others. Jesus made Himself of no reputation.

Luke 2:28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

"And he" or "And Simeon" introduces the main clause of the sentence begun middle of verse 27. This is a frequent idiom in Luke. The "and," though necessary in the idiom, is not translated into English.

It is remarkable that Mary and Joseph did not object to someone, who was very likely unknown to them, taking their child in his arms. The only explanation is that the Holy Spirit guided the whole matter.

Luke 2:29  "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace." 

Plummer: Since the fifth century this canticle has been used in the evening service of the Church and has often been the hymn of dying saints.

It is very fittingly used in the Common Order of Communion. 

Much has been written about "dismiss your servant." Some scholars think it denotes the manumission or freeing of a slave. Geldenhuys has another idea:

The thought underlying its working is of a slave who is instructed by his master to keep watch through the long, dark night on a high place to wait for the rising of a special star and then to announce it. After wearisome hours of waiting he at last sees the star rising in all its brightness. He announces it and is then discharged from keeping watch any longer.

These Notes agree with neither explanation. Simeon is God's  "servant," a person who is owned by another and has no will of his own. As Luther says in the explanation of the second article: "Christ redeemed me that I might be His own and live under Him in His Kingdom." The will of the justified person has been absorbed in the saving will of a gracious God. Not only is that person not afraid to die but even looks forward to it.

Is "you now dismiss" indicative mood (NEB, NASB, Beck) or imperative mood ? KJV is ambiguous:  "Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace." The grammars and commentators wrestle with this problem. It is both a request and a statement of fact. These Notes prefer the KJV rendering.

Furthermore, the commentators argue about whether Simeon is speaking about death. Why not? It was clearly mentioned in verse 26. In any case, a justified person is always ready to die.

Furthermore, was Simeon now an old man? We don't know for sure. but the whole context seems to give that impression.

"As you have promised" is an adverbial phrase denoting the standard according to which Simeon can say this. Beck and NIV:  "As you promised." NEB has: "Now thy promise is fulfilled." This is very attractive. Verse 30 seems to indicate this. The fulfilled promise brings a condition of peace between Redeemer and redeemed.

Luke 2:30  "For my eyes have seen your salvation," 

A causal clause giving the reason why verse 29 is so. His very eyes saw God's salvation.

Luke 2:31  "which you have prepared in the sight of all people," 

God alone is the designer and the One who carried it out. All is because of Him.

Arndt: All are to see it, it is intended for all.

NEB: "In full view of all the nations." RSV and NASB: "In the presence of all peoples." It is effective, universal redemption in Jesus Christ.

Luke 2:32  "a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." 

The translations reflect various readings:

  1. KJV:  "A light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel." 

  2. RSV and NIV: "A light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to thy people Israel." 

  3. NEB:  "A light that will be a revelation to the heathen, and glory to thy people Israel." 

  4. NASB:  "A light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel." 

  5. BECK: A light to shine on the Gentiles and the glory of Your people Israel.

Christ is the life giving light which enlightens nations, which includes both Gentiles and Jews. Furthermore, no greater glory ever came to Israel than that Christ was born of the Jews. Look at Romans 9:1-5.

Arndt: Its greatest distinction is that the Messiah came from Israel.
Hendriksen: God chose Israel for the purpose of spreading the true religion among the nations of the world (Isaiah 49:6; 60:1-3; Zechariah 8:20-23) . . . . And Christ is the 'Light of the world' (John 8:12).
Marshall: 'Gentiles' is equivalent to 'nations' in Isaiah 52:10, Luke having made the alteration to avoid repetition of the same word in verse 32. . . . It is more probable that this change of word here from Isaiah 52:10 (LXX) reflects a deliberate intention to show that the Gentiles are included. . . . The use of Isaiah 40:3-5 in Luke 3:4-6 to prove that 'all flesh will see the salvation of God' strongly suggests that the same thought is present here.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Luke-John, Festival Season Sundays Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1979, pp. 11-13. Used with permission.

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