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Encyclopedia of The Bible – Elizabeth
Elizabeth

ELIZABETH ĭ lĭz’ ə bəth (̓Ελισάβετ, ̓Ελεισάβετ, same as Heb. אֱלִישֶׁ֧בַע, God is my oath; KJV, ASV, ELISABETH). The wife of the priest Zechariah (KJV, ASV Zacharias), and the mother of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-66).

Like her husband, Elizabeth was of Aaronic descent; indeed, she had the same name as Aaron’s wife (Exod 6:23). She and her husband are described as being righteous before God, walking before Him blamelessly by obeying all His commandments and ordinances. Her barrenness was a great trial to them, until an angel appeared to Zechariah and told him that in spite of their age, their prayer for a child would be answered, and their son would be the forerunner of the Messiah. The story recalls similar answers to prayer to Sarah and Hannah in the OT.

Elizabeth is called the “kinswoman,” or relative, of Mary the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:36), but the term is too broad to indicate the precise nature of the relationship. When Mary came to visit her, the babe leaped in the womb of Elizabeth and, in the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth told Mary how greatly blessed she was and expressed her amazement that God should honor her with this visit from the mother of her Lord. There is some textual evidence in Old Latin MSS, in Irenaeus, and in Origen, that the Magnificat was originally ascribed to Elizabeth rather than to Mary.

Bibliography “Mary or Elizabeth?” ExpT, 41 (1929-1930), 266, 267; “Again the Magnificat,” ExpT, 42 (1930-1931), 188-190.