“My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord”
The above words were spoken by Mary the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ when she visited her cousin Elisabeth, following the angelic visitations which resulted in both of them “being with child”. The object of this article is to analyse and contemplate numerous allusions to the Old Testament found in the immediate context of these events and particularly in the remarkable song of Mary. We are not told that the words were the result of the Holy Spirit coming upon her although we do know that she conceived as a result of the power of God overshadowing her. In any event we will see that Mary was a truly remarkable maiden in Israel with a profound understanding of the Word of God, and ready to submit herself to the will of God, however great the demands.

“Blessed art Thou among Women” Luke 1:26–33

The angel Gabriel, who “stood in the presence of God”, was sent from God to Nazareth to the vir­gin Mary, who was espoused to Joseph, a man of the house of David. He addressed her with words calculated to arrest her attention: “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee—blessed art thou among women”. The latter phrase was also spoken by Elisabeth when the Holy Spirit came upon her as Mary entered her house (v42). They were also recorded of Jael wife of Heber in Debo­rah’s song of victory: “Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent”. She was instru­mental in destroying Sisera and Israel’s enemies, but Mary’s son would destroy the ultimate enemy, Sin—she would be the mother of the “seed of the woman” (Gen 3:15).

As she strove to assess the import of such a salutation, she was comforted with words from the angel. She was told she had no cause for fear because she had found favour with God. The nature of this favour is revealed in the words which follow:

“And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his king­dom there shall be no end” (v30–33). Mary knew immediately that she had been chosen by God to be the mother of the Messiah, the son of David, the Son of God and the King of Israel, who would fulfil God’s promise to David (2 Sam 7). This was an awesome responsibility, and one which every spiritually minded young woman of the house of Judah desired. How would Mary react and respond to such an august commission? There does not appear to be any reticence, only the question as to how she could bear the Son of God. Gabriel’s an­swer confirmed that she would conceive as a result of the Holy Spirit coming upon her, and in order to dispel any incredulity she is informed that her cousin Elisabeth, who was considered barren, had also conceived a son in her old age: “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (v34–37).

Significant Allusion to the Old Testament

Verses 31–32 make clear reference to the promise to King David (2 Sam 7:10–16), which has been a cornerstone of Christadelphian understanding from the beginning. This glorious promise shows plainly the relationship between Christ and his Father; and also the nature of the Kingdom of God, so dispelling the fundamental errors of Christendom at large.

At the end of verse 33 we are told, “of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Grk tes basileias autou ouk estai telos), words which allude to Isaiah 9:7: “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end…”. The context is significant being in the midst of the Immanuel (“God with us”) prophecy, which centres on the origin of Messiah. In fact the preceding verse tells us that Immanuel would come from God and be a gift to men. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given” (verse 6). It is notable, too, that in essence these words were spoken by the angelic host to the shepherds upon Immanuel’s birth: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Also the words of Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”, are highly relevant. Matthew tells us that the events we are considering were a fulfilment of these words (1:22–25).

“That Holy Thing”

This is Gabriel’s description of the child to be born to Mary by the Holy Spirit (v35). Yahweh Himself is the Holy One of Israel but His Son, too, is holy as He is holy. Among the Old Testament allusions to the Son as such we might look at two.

1 Leviticus 19:8 where we read that the Peace Offering had to be eaten before the third day to be acceptable to Yahweh. To do other wise was to “profane the hallowed thing of Yahweh”. Along with the fat it was dedicated to Him and ultimately represented Christ, through whom we have peace and fellowship with God (Rom 5:1,2).

2 Psalm 16:10 tells us that God would “not suffer his Holy One to see corruption”. Just as the remnants of the Peace Offering were not to remain till the third day to corrupt, even so God would not allow His Holy One to see corruption, because he was holy, for in him was “the spirit [mind] of holiness” (Rom 1:4). Psalm 16:10 is quoted in Acts 2:25–31 and 13:34,35 to prove that Messiah had to die and be resurrected .

“With God Nothing Shall be Impossible” Luke 1:37

These words of Gabriel were intended to reinforce in Mary’s mind God’s mighty power—He could even cause the barren to conceive! But the words are a significant echo from the past and are found in the life of Abraham in relation to his seed. Sarah, for so long grieved at being childless, was to give birth to a son, but conception depended on her belief (Heb 11:11). “Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” (Gen 18:12). Sarah’s unbelief was known to the angelic messenger. The response of the Name-bearer was: “Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is anything too hard for Yahweh?” (v13, 14). In the lxx these words are identical to those in Luke 1:37 (hoti ouk adunatesei para tou theou pan rhema), translated by Rotherham, “Because no declaration from God shall be void of power”.

Again the context is significant, for Isaac, the seed of Abraham—“thine only son… whom thou lovest”—was a type of his greater son.

“The Handmaid of the Lord” Luke 1:38

Mary responded positively with the words, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word”. Perhaps she had thought that Mes­siah would be born under the normal conditions of married life, hence her initial reservation in verse 34. Her statement of resignation after explanation shows she had appreciated that she would con­ceive ‘out of wedlock’ and have to bear the taunts of unfaithfulness. Now there was no hesitation, no thought of present loss. How different to the spirit of this age where marriage and family are often delayed to provide for self-indulgence. The Greek word for “handmaid” is doule, being the feminine of doulos, bond slave. She was aware of the enormity of the responsibility in the privilege and honour just bestowed upon her. She submitted to the challenge: she was not only pure and lovely but courageous and faithful and prepared to do whatever God required of her. The challenge comes to us. Are we prepared to respond positively to the call of Christ in all its various forms and regardless of what it entails?

“And Mary Arose…”

The angel left abruptly, leaving Mary with her won­derful secret. With whom could she converse and share this momentous news? The angel’s intimation of God’s purpose with Elisabeth, her cousin, not only confirmed His ability to do ‘the impossible’, but also directed her to one she could confide in. Accordingly she made haste and came into a “city of Juda”. Here would come the inaugural declara­tion to the cities of Judah to “Behold your God!” (Isa 40:9).

Of Mary’s desire to immediately commune with Elisabeth, Brother Roberts wrote: “What woman does not feel that this is just what she would have done under similar circumstances. What lovelier theme of interest among them at any time than that of motherhood, and how much deeper would this interest have been between two enlightened women of Israel who had just been recipients of information connected with the realisation of the hope of the promise that God has made unto the fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob etc) from the beginning” (Nazareth Revisited).

It is interesting to reflect upon the differences amid the similarities between the circumstances of both women. Mary’s role was clearly greater and, as we have said, she wonderfully accepted what would bring reproach and shame, conception out of wedlock! Who would believe her explanation? But in the case of Elisabeth, the Lord had “taken away her reproach among men” (Luke 1:25). Ultimately, of course, Mary’s honoured place in God’s purpose would be understood and appreciated.

Gleefully entering the house of her cousin, her face fresh and radiant, she saluted her and amaz­ing things took place, orchestrated by the power of God. Instantly the babe in Elisabeth’s womb leapt (for joy, cp John 3:29). She was filled with the Holy Spirit and loudly proclaimed words which repeated and confirmed what the angel had said: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb”. In so saying the Holy Spirit picks up the words of Psalm 132:11 in which Yahweh affirms His intent to fulfil His oath to David. “Yahweh hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.” These words now had tangible reality in the babe in the womb of Mary, a virgin of David’s house.

In verse 43 she reflects upon the wondrous privilege of a visit from one so honoured, the mother of her Lord; she then discloses the unmistakable, irrepressible and joyous reaction of the babe in her womb as soon as her salutation was heard.

Finally, she testifies to the belief of Mary which contrasted so much with her husband Zecharias’ response: he was smitten with dumbness “because he believed not” the angel’s words (v18–21). Elisa­beth was a living witness to the truth of the angel’s words, being now great with child. Because Mary believed there would be fulfilment: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (rsv). Faith is at the foundation of all our acceptable deeds and is thus the basis of God’s favourable response.

What follows are truly wonderful words and they illustrate the profound mind and the understanding of scripture possessed by one chosen by God to be His handmaid. Almost all of the words are found in the Old Testament, being drawn from numerous significant backgrounds. Brief mention only will be made of these background quotations, but again their contexts are important and significant.

  “And Mary Said”

v46 “My soul doth magnify the Lord”

It should be noted at the outset of this considera­tion of Mary’s words that there are many references and allusions to the sentiments expressed by Han­nah in her song of rejoicing and praise to Yahweh upon the birth of Samuel (1 Sam 2:1–10).

  •  1 Samuel 2:1 “My heart rejoiceth in Yahweh…”
  •  Psalm 34:2 “My soul shall make her boast in Yahweh…”
  •  Psalm 34:3 “O magnify Yahweh with me…”

v47 “And my spirit had rejoiced in God my Sav­iour”

  •  Isaiah 61:10 “I will greatly rejoice in Yahweh, my soul shall be joyful in my God…”

v48 “For he had regarded the low estate of his handmaiden”

  •  Psalm 138:6 “Though Yahweh be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off”
  •  1 Samuel 1:11 “And she vowed a vow to the Lord saying, O Lord God of Sabaoth, if thou wilt indeed look upon the humiliation of thine handmaid [doules] and remember me, and give to thine handmaid a man child…” (lxx)

See other references to Yahweh’s handmaid:

  •  Psalm 86:16 “O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me [Messiah]; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid”
  •  Psalm 116:16 “O Yahweh, truly I am thy serv­ant… the son of thy handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds” (in resurrection).

v48 continued “for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed”

  •  Psalm 45:17 “I will make thy name [Messiah’s] to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee forever and ever”
  •  Psalm 72:17, 19 “His name [Messiah’s] shall en­dure forever … all nations shall call him blessed”.

v49 “For he that is mighty hath done to me great things”

  •  Psalm 71:21 “Thou shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side”
  •  Psalm 98:1 “O sing unto Yahweh a new song; for he hath done marvellous things…”
  •  Psalm 126:2, 3 “Yahweh hath done great things for them…

“And holy is his name”

  •  1 Samuel 2:2 “There is none holy as Yahweh”
  •  Psalm 99:3 (5, 9) “Let them praise thy great and terrible name; for it is holy”
  •  Psalm 111:9 “… holy and reverend is his name”

v50 “And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation”

  •  Psalm 103:17 “But the mercy [chesed] of Yahweh is from everlasting to everlasting on them that fear him

v51 “He hath showed strength with his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.”

  • 1 Samuel 2:10 “… he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed”
  • Psalm 89:10 “… thou hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm”
  • Psalm 33:10 “Yahweh bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect”.

v52 “He hath put down the might from their seats, and exalted them of low degree”

  • 1 Sam 2:7–8 “Yahweh maketh poor and maketh rich: he bringeth low and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill”
  • Ezekiel 21:26 “Thus saith the Lord Yahweh; Remove the diadem … exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high”.

v53 “He had filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent away empty”

  • 1 Samuel 2:5 “They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased…”

v54,55 “He hath holpen his servant Israel, in re­membrance of his mercy; as he sware to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever”

  • Isaiah 41:8–10 “But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend … I will help thee …”
  • Micah 7:20 “Thou wilt perform the truth [emeth] to Jacob, and the mercy [chesed] to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from days of old”
  • Psalm 98:3 “He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel…”

This list, no doubt incomplete, illustrates the breadth and depth of Mary’s understanding of Yahweh’s purpose and the significance of what had happened to her. We can only imagine the exhilara­tion, comfort and strength these two outstanding women must have gained from the company of each other. As the days unfolded the greatness of the challenges facing them both would unfold, but their impregnable trust and conviction enabled them to surmount them all and to perform the duty that fell to their lot.