Luke describes Zacharias and Elizabeth echoing several OT stories.
First, they are obviously an Abraham and Sarah. They walk in the commandments and ordinances of the Lord “blameless” (1:6, cf. Gen. 17:1). And Elizabeth, like Sarah, is barren. This means John the Baptizer is an Isaac, and perhaps Zacharias’ speechlessness underlines this. Zacharias cannot talk, and therefore, presumably, he cannot laugh. It is not until John is born and named that Zacharias can speak again. Only when his “Isaac/laughter” is born can he speak. And then he bursts out filled the Holy Spirit and singing a prophecy of laughter, rejoicing in the salvation of God (Lk. 1:63-79).
Second, Zacharias and Elizabeth are like Manoah and his wife, the parents of Samson. Again, the mother of Samson is barren, like Elizabeth, and here the Nazirite restrictions are imposed. Like Samson, John is not to drink wine or strong drink, and like Samson, John will be filled with the Holy Spirit for holy war. Both are warriors, and both ultimately give their lives in battle. Given this parallel, the implication is that John’s beheading was not merely a testimony of the wickedness of Herod’s house but a prophetic preview of the end of Herod’s house. When Samson pulled the temple of Dagon down on the Philistines, it was full of Philistine lords. These “heads” along with many other heads were literally crushed in the demolition of the temple, and the writer of Judges explicitly points out that Samson was more effective in breaking the power of the Philistines in his death than in his life (Jdg. 16:30). This parallel Christ’s own death of course, but it also implies that John’s death had something of the same effect. John’s death displays the cruelty and weakness of Herod and in so doing, highlights Herod’s weakness and powerlessness. John’s head on a platter is a preview of Herod’s own demise. Cannibalism is not a sustainable practice.
Finally, Zacharias and Elizabeth are like Elkanah and Hannah, the parents of Samuel. Again, Hannah is barren like Elizabeth, and again there is a Nazirite vow in view. Samuel is also a forerunner just as John is a forerunner. While Samuel initially prepares the way for Saul, it is ultimately David who Samuel anoints as king over Israel. But John is the greater Samuel who reverses the curse of the kingdom. Israel asked for a king and rejected God as their king, desiring to be a kingdom like all of the other nations. But John comes in order to lead Israel back to to her true King, back to her God and to His Kingdom. Jesus is the son of David, but He brings the Kingdom of Heaven which is in many ways nothing like the kingdoms of the nations.
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