on Luke 1 :15
He shall be great in the sight of the Lord - That is, before Jesus Christ, whose forerunner he shall be; or he shall be a truly great person, for so this form of speech may imply.
Neither wine nor strong drink - Σικερα, i.e. all fermented liquors which have the property of intoxicating, or producing drunkenness. The original word σικερα, sikera, comes from the Hebrew, שכר shakar, to inebriate. "Any inebriating liquor," says St. Jerome, (Epis. ad Nepot)." is called sicera, whether made of corn, apples, honey, dates, or any other fruits." One of the four prohibited liquors among the East Indian Moslimans is called sikkir. "Sikkir is made by steeping fresh dates in water till they take effect in sweetening it: this liquor is abominable and unlawful." Hedaya, vol. iv. p. 158. Probably this is the very liquor referred to in the text. In the Institutes of Menu it is said, "Inebriating liquor may be considered as of three principal sorts: that extracted from dregs of sugar, that extracted from bruised rice, and that extracted from the flowers of the madhuca: as one, so are all; they shall not be tasted by the chief of the twice-born." Chap. xi. Inst. 95. Twice-born is used by the Brahmins in the same sense as being born again is used by Christians. It signifies a spiritual regeneration. From this word comes our English term cyder, or sider, a beverage made of the fermented juice of apples. See the note on Leviticus 10:9.
Shall be filled with the Holy Ghost - Shall be Divinely designated to this particular office, and qualified for it, from his mother's womb - from the instant of his birth. One MS., two versions, and four of the primitive fathers read εν τῃ κοιλιᾳ, In the womb of his mother - intimating that even before he should be born into the world the Holy Spirit should be communicated to him. Did not this take place on the salutation of the Virgin Mary? - and is not this what is intended, Luke 1:44? To be filled with the Holy Ghost, implies having the soul influenced in all its powers, with the illuminating, strengthening, and sanctifying energy of the Spirit.
on Luke 1 :15
Shall be great - Shall be eminent, or distinguished as a preacher.
In the sight of the Lord - Greek, "before the Lord." That is, shall be "really" or "truly" great. God shall regard him as such.
Shall drink neither wine - The kind of wine commonly used in Judea was a light wine, often not stronger than cider in this country. It was the common drink of all classes of the people. See the notes at John 2:11. The use of wine was forbidden only to the Nazarite, Numbers 6:3. It was because John sustained this character that he abstained from the use of wine.
Strong drink - It is not easy to ascertain precisely what is meant by this word, but we are certain that it does not mean strong drink in our sense of the term. Distilled spirits were not then known. The art of distilling was discovered by an Arabian chemist in the 9th or 10th century; but distilled liquors are not used by Arabians. They banished them at once, as if sensible of their pernicious influence; nor are they used in Eastern nations at all. Europe and America have been the places where this poison has been most extensively used, and there it has beggared and ruined millions, and is yearly sweeping thousands unprepared into a wretched eternity. The "strong drink" among the Jews was probably nothing more than fermented liquors, or a drink obtained from fermented dates, figs, and the juice of the palm, or the lees of wine, mingled with sugar, and having the property of producing intoxication. Many of the Jewish writers say that by the word here translated "strong drink" was meant nothing more than old wine, which probably had the power of producing intoxication. See the notes at Isaiah 5:11.
Shall be filled with the Holy Ghost ... - Shall be divinely designated or appointed to this office, and qualified for it by all needful communications of the Holy Spirit. To be "filled" with the Holy Spirit is to be illuminated, sanctified, and guided by his influence. In this place it refers:
1. To the divine intention that he should be set apart to this work, as God designed that Paul should be an apostle from his mother's womb, Galatians 1:15.
2. It refers to an actual fitting for the work from the birth by the influence of the Holy Spirit, as was the case with Jeremiah Jer 1:5, and with the Messiah himself, Psalm 22:9-10.
on Luke 1 :15
1:15 He shall be great before the Lord - God the Father: of the Holy Ghost and the Son of God mention is made immediately after. And shall drink neither wine nor strong drink - Shall be exemplary for abstemiousness and self - denial; and so much the more filled with the Holy Ghost.