Luke 1:67-79 – Zechariah’s Prophecy (the Benedictus)


Luke 1:67-79


Zechariah praises God, characterizing God as powerful and faithful to covenant promises. Zechariah also declares that his son, John, will play an important but subordinate role in the story that will unfold in Luke’s Gospel.


Zechariah’s extended statement of praise (often called the Benedictus, the first word of the Latin translation of his statement) comes in response to his son John’s birth and the restoration of his ability to speak. As with the other two “canticles” in Luke 1-2 (the Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis), the words of the Benedictus are derived from numerous passages in the Old Testament.

The Benedictus divides into two parts. The first speaks about the works of God (vv. 68-75). Here Zechariah praises God for delivering Israel from its enemies and for remembering covenants that God has made in the past. Zechariah describes the current events–that is, the coming of John and Jesus–as evidence that God has remembered and is acting on behalf of the world. The second part (vv. 76-79) turns attention toward John, directly addressing him. It states clearly that John and Jesus are not equals; instead, John is the prophet and forerunner of the Lord Jesus, who will be God’s means of bringing peace.

Luke explicitly introduces the Benedictus as “prophecy” in v. 67. Zechariah views the present events concerning John and Jesus through the lens of God’s faithfulness. The births of these two babies are part of the story that is about more than Jesus, his teachings, his deeds, and his execution. Ultimately it is a story about a God who keeps promises and acts on behalf of the people of Israel.