The Baby Leaped in her Womb
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.—Luke 1:39-41 NIV
Elizabeth and Mary
Bible students generally agree that the Lord was not born on the date normally celebrated by the Christian world. Using the “seventy week” prophecy of Dan. 9:24-26 to make our calculations, the numbers and the logic do not add up. The Bible clearly denotes the season when he died, during the spring feast of the Passover. According to prophecy he was to be cut off in the midst of the seventieth week, or three and a half years after his birth. This would make his crucifixion six months later than his birth date. Dating backwards from a crucifixion in late March, depending on the full moon at that time, we arrive at a birth date in late September or early October, in the year BC 2. There is some debate on the year as historians do not agree on the date of the death of Herod the Great.
Mary and Elizabeth
“In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. (Her Hebrew name would have been Miriam, which means exalted. Although Luke fails to identify her heritage, she was a daughter of the same royal family as Joseph, a lineal descendant of King David.)
“The angel went to her and said, `Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, `Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.’ `How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, `since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, `The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.’ `I am the Lord’s servant.’ Mary answered. May it be to me as you have said.’ Then the angel left her.”—Luke 1:26-38 NIV
What is the meaning of the phrase, “the Most High will overshadow you?” The clue to the answer may be in the word power which is the Greek word dunamis, miraculous power, the equivalent of divine energy. It has been suggested that perhaps overshadow means to envelop, either as a cloud casting a shadow or a shining cloud enveloping on with a brightness. This thought is supported by the word for “overshadow,” Strong’s #1982. The Greek word episkiazo is derived from two words—epi, meaning over or above; and skia,meaning shade or shadow. Therefore, by the English interpretation of the Greek word, Mary was to be enveloped in a haze of brilliancy, or more figuratively, to be invested with preternatural (that which transcends the normal course of nature) influence. This is what occurred at the Mount of Transfiguration (See Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34.
The Baby Leaped
It is written that “the babe leaped in her womb” (KJV). Why did this occur? What was the purpose and mechanism of this action? What would cause the fetus within the womb of Elizabeth to leap at the presence of Mary in the house of Zacharias? This action was not a normal biological movement noted in the physiological development of the unborn. Something had to trigger this action for a purpose. There had to be a reason. Matthew Henry suggests: “It is very probable that she had been several weeks quick (for she was six months gone), and that she had often felt the child stir; but this was a more than ordinary motion of the child, which alarmed her to expect something very extraordinary, eskirtese. It is the same word that is used by the Septuagint (Gen. 25:22) for the struggling of Jacob and Esau in Rebecca’s womb. . . . The babe leaped as it were to give a signal to his mother that he was now at had whose forerunner he was to be, about six months in ministry, as he was in being; or, it was the effect of some strong impression made upon the mother. Now began to be fulfilled what the angel said to his father (v. 15), that he should be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb; and perhaps he himself had some reference to this, when he said (John 3:29), The friend of the Bridegroom rejoiceth greatly, because of the Bridegroom’s voice, heard, though not by him, yet by his mother.”
Elizabeth was hersealf filled with the holy spirit, or the spirit of prophesy. By this she was given to understand that the Messiah was at hand, in whom prophecy should revive, and by whom the holy spirit should be more plentifully poured out than ever. This was the expectation of those who waited for the consolation of Israel. The uncommon motion of the babe in her womb was a token of extraordinary emotion of her spirit, triggered by a divine impulse. Those who Christ graciously visits may know it by their being filled with the holy spirit; for, if any man have not the spirit of Christ he is none of his (Rom. 8:9).
An Inspired Announcement
There are two points that should not be overlooked to complete the picture. In the King James version, verse 15 states, “for he shall be great in the sight (that is, before, or in the presence of: see verse 6) of the LORD, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the holy spirit (power from on high) even from his mother’s womb.”
It will be noted in verse 41 “when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the holy spirit.” The purpose of this indwelling of the spirit in Elizabeth at this time may have been to calm her and instruct her so she could make the pronouncement in verses 42 to 45, “And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
This was necessary so that Elizabeth could understand the purpose of Mary’s visit, for if the spirit of the Lord had not entered into her she might have had reservations as to Mary being with child. It was this indwelling of God’s spirit which assured her that both were blessed of the LORD.