Luke 2:14
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
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(14) Glory to God in the highest.—The words would seem to have formed one of the familiar doxologies of the Jews, and, as such, reappear among the shouts of the multitude on the occasion of our Lord’s kingly entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:38). The idea implied in the words “in the highest” (the Greek is plural), is that the praise is heard in the very heaven of heavens, in the highest regions of the universe.

On earth peace, good will toward men.—The better MSS. give, “on earth peace among men of good will”—i.e., among men who are the objects of the good will, the approval and love of God. The other construction, “Peace to men of peace,” which the Christian Year has made familiar, is hardly consistent with the general usage of the New Testament as to the word rendered “good will.” The construction is the same as in “His dear Son,” literally, the Son of His Love, in Colossians 1:13. The word is one which both our Lord (Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21) and St. Paul use of the divine will in its aspect of benevolence, and the corresponding verb appears, as uttered by the divine voice, at the Baptism and Transfiguration (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5). The words stand in the Greek, as in the English, without a verb, and may therefore be understood either as a proclamation or a prayer. The “peace on earth” has not unfrequently been connected, as in Milton’s Ode on the Nativity, with the fact that the Roman empire was then at peace, and the gates of the Temple of Janus closed because there was no need for the power of the god to go forth in defence of its armies. It is obvious, however, that the “peace” of the angels’ hymn is something far higher than any “such as the world giveth”—peace between man and God, and therefore peace within the souls of all who are thus reconciled. We may see a reference to the thought, possibly even to the words of the angelic song, in St. Paul’s way of speaking of Christ as being Himself “our peace (Ephesians 2:14).

2:8-20 Angels were heralds of the new-born Saviour, but they were only sent to some poor, humble, pious, industrious shepherds, who were in the business of their calling, keeping watch over their flock. We are not out of the way of Divine visits, when we are employed in an honest calling, and abide with God in it. Let God have the honour of this work; Glory to God in the highest. God's good-will to men, manifested in sending the Messiah, redounds to his praise. Other works of God are for his glory, but the redemption of the world is for his glory in the highest. God's goodwill in sending the Messiah, brought peace into this lower world. Peace is here put for all that good which flows to us from Christ's taking our nature upon him. This is a faithful saying, attested by an innumerable company of angels, and well worthy of all acceptation, That the good-will of God toward men, is glory to God in the highest, and peace on the earth. The shepherds lost no time, but came with haste to the place. They were satisfied, and made known abroad concerning this child, that he was the Saviour, even Christ the Lord. Mary carefully observed and thought upon all these things, which were so suited to enliven her holy affections. We should be more delivered from errors in judgment and practice, did we more fully ponder these things in our hearts. It is still proclaimed in our ears that to us is born a Saviour, Christ the Lord. These should be glad tidings to all.Glory to God - Praise be to God, or honor be to God. That is, the praise of redeeming man is due to God. The plan of redemption will bring glory to God, and is designed to express his glory. This it does by evincing his love to people, his mercy, his condescension, and his regard to the honor of his law and the stability of his own government. It is the highest expression of his love and mercy. Nowhere, so far as we can see, could his glory be more strikingly exhibited than in giving his only-begotten Son to die for people.

In the highest - This is capable of several meanings:

1. In the highest "strains," or in the highest possible manner.

2. "Among" the highest that is, among the angels of God; indicating that "they" felt a deep interest in this work, and were called on to praise God for the redemption of man.

3. In the highest heavens - indicating that the praise of redemption should not be confined to the "earth," but should spread throughout the universe.

4. The words "God in the highest" may be equivalent to "the Most High God," and be the same as saying, "Let the most high God be praised for his love and mercy to people."

Which of these meanings is the true one it is difficult to determine; but in this they all agree, that high praise is to be given to God for his love in redeeming people. O that not only "angels," but "men," would join universally in this song of praise!

On earth peace - That is, the gospel will bring peace. The Saviour was predicted as the Prince of peace, Isaiah 9:6. The world is at war with God; sinners are at enmity against their Maker and against each other. There is no peace to the wicked. But Jesus came to make peace; and this he did,

1. By reconciling the world to God by His atonement.

2. By bringing the sinner to a state of peace with his Maker; inducing him to lay down the weapons of rebellion and to submit his soul to God, thus giving him the peace which passeth all understanding.

3. By diffusing in the heart universal good-will to people - "disposing," people to lay aside their differences, to love one another, to seek each other's welfare, and to banish envy, malice, pride, lust, passion, and covetousness - in all ages the most fruitful causes of difference among people. And,

4. By diffusing the principles of universal peace among nations. If the gospel of Jesus should universally prevail, there would be an end of war. In the days of the millennium there will be universal peace; all the causes of war will have ceased; people will love each other and do justly; all nations will be brought under the influence of the gospel. O how should each one toil and pray that the great object of the gospel should be universally accomplished, and the world be filled with peace!

Good will toward men - The gift of the Saviour is an expression of good-will or love to people, and therefore God is to be praised. The work of redemption is uniformly represented as the fruit of the love of God, John 3:16; Ephesians 5:2; 1 John 4:10; Revelation 1:5. No words can express the greatness of that love. It can only be measured by the "misery, helplessness," and "danger" of man; by the extent of his sufferings here and in the world of woe if he had not been saved; by the condescension, sufferings, and death of Jesus; and by the eternal honor and happiness to which he will raise his people. All these are beyond our full comprehension. Yet how little does man feel it! and how many turn away from the highest love of God, and treat the expression of that love with contempt! Surely, if God so loved us "first," we ought also to love him, 1 John 4:19.

14. Glory, &c.—brief but transporting hymn—not only in articulate human speech, for our benefit, but in tunable measure, in the form of a Hebrew parallelism of two complete clauses, and a third one only amplifying the second, and so without a connecting "and." The "glory to God," which the new-born "Saviour" was to bring, is the first note of this sublime hymn: to this answers, in the second clause, the "peace on earth," of which He was to be "the Prince" (Isa 9:6)—probably sung responsively by the celestial choir; while quickly follows the glad echo of this note, probably by a third detachment of the angelic choristers—"good will to men." "They say not, glory to God in heaven, where angels are, but, using a rare expression, "in the highest [heavens]," whither angels aspire not," (Heb 1:3, 4) [Bengel]. "Peace" with God is the grand necessity of a fallen world. To bring in this, and all other peace in its train, was the prime errand of the Saviour to this earth, and, along with it, Heaven's whole "good will to men"—the divine complacency on a new footing—descends to rest upon men, as upon the Son Himself, in whom God is "well-pleased." (Mt 3:17, the same word as here.) See Poole on "Luke 2:13"

Glory to God in the highest,.... Which with the following words, are not to be considered as a wish, that so it might be, but as an affirmation, that so it was; for the glory of God is great in the salvation, peace, and reconciliation of his people by Jesus Christ, even the glory of all his perfections; of his wisdom and prudence in forming such a scheme; of his love, grace, and, mercy, the glory of which is his main view, and is hereby answered; and of his holiness, which is hereby honoured; and of his justice, which is fully satisfied; and of his power in the accomplishment of it; and of his truth and faithfulness in fulfilling his covenant and oath, and all the promises and prophecies relating to it. Great glory from hence arises to God; who is in the highest heavens, and is given him by angels and saints that dwell there, and that in the highest strains; and by saints on earth too in, their measure, and as they are able: the ground and foundation of which is what follows:

and on earth peace: by which is meant, not external peace, though, at this time there was peace on earth all the world over; nor internal peace, as distinguished from that eternal peace which the saints enjoy in heaven; nor even peace made by Christ; for this, as yet, was not done on earth, but was to be made by the blood of his cross: rather Christ himself is here intended, who is called "the man, the peace" Micah 5:5 and "our peace", Ephesians 2:14 and was now on earth, being just born, in order to make peace with God, and reconciliation for the sins of the people: and he is so called, because he is the author of peace between Jew and Gentile, which were at enmity with each other; by abrogating the ceremonial law, the cause of that enmity; by sending the Gospel to them, and converting some of each; and by granting the like privileges to them both; see Ephesians 2:14 and because he is the author of peace between God and elect sinners, who, through the fall, are at enmity against, God, and enemies in their minds by wicked works unto him; nor can they make their peace with God; they know not the way of it; nor are they disposed to it; nor can they approach to God to treat with him about terms of peace; nor can they do those things that will make their peace with God, as satisfying his justice, and fulfilling his law: Christ only is their peace maker; he only is fit for it, being God and man in one person, and so a daysman that can lay his hands on both, and has a concern in each, in things pertaining to God, and to make reconciliation for the sins of the people: he only is able to do it, and he has done it by the blood of his cross; and a very excellent peace it is he has made: it is made upon the most honourable terms, to the satisfaction of justice, and the magnifying of the law of God; and is therefore a lasting one, and attended with many blessings, such as freedom of access to God, and a right to all the privileges of his house; and the news of it are glad tidings of good things: and those angels that first brought the tidings of it, may be truly called, as some of the angels are by the Jews (t), "angels of peace". Moreover, Christ may be said to be "peace", because he is the donor of all true solid peace and real prosperity, both external, which his people have in the world, and with each other; and internal, which they have in their own breasts, through believing in him, and attending on his ordinances; and eternal, which they shall have for ever with him in the world to come. And now Christ being the peace on earth, is owing to

will towards men; that is, to the free favour, good will, and pleasure of God towards chosen men in Christ Jesus: that Christ was on earth as the peacemaker, or giver, was owing to God's good will; not to angels, for good angels needed him not as such; and the angels that sinned were not spared, nor was a Saviour provided for them; but to men, and not to all men; for though all men share in the providential goodness of God, yet not in his special good will, free grace, and favour: but to elect men, to whom a child was born, and a Son given, even the Prince of Peace: it was from God's good will to these persons, whom he loved with an everlasting love in Christ, laid up goodness for them in him, blessed them with all spiritual blessings in him, and made a covenant with him for them; that he provided and appointed his son to be the Saviour and peace maker; that he sent him into this world to be the propitiation for sin; and that he spared him not, but delivered him up into the hands of men, justice, and death, in order to make peace for them. The Vulgate Latin version, and some copies, as the Alexandrian, and Beza's most ancient one, read, "peace on earth to men of good will"; and which must be understood, not of men that have a good will of themselves, for there are no such men: no man has a will to that which is good, till God works in him both to will, and to do of his, good pleasure; wherefore peace, reconciliation, and salvation, are not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy: but of such who are the objects of God's good will, and pleasure, whom he loves, because he will love, and has mercy and compassion on them, and is gracious to them, because he will be so; and therefore chooses, redeems, and regenerates them of his own will, and because it seems good in his sight. The Syriac and Persic versions read, "good hope to men"; as there is a foundation laid in Christ the peace, of a good hope of reconciliation, righteousness, pardon, life, and salvation for sinful men. The Arabic version renders it, "cheerfulness in men"; as there is a great deal of reason for it, on account of the birth of the Saviour and peace maker, the salvation that comes by him to men, and the glory brought thereby to God,

(t) Zohar in Exod. fol. 8. 1. & 98. 4.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, {g} good will toward men.

(g) God's ready, good, infinite, and gracious favour towards men.

Luke 2:14. The angels’ song.—If we regard the announcement of the angel to the shepherds (Luke 2:10-12) as a song, then we may view the gloria in excelsis as a refrain sung by a celestial choir (πλῆθος στρατιᾶς οὐρανίου, Luke 2:13). With the reading εὐδοκίας, the refrain is in two lines:—

1. “Glory to God in the highest.”

2. “And on earth peace among men, in whom He is well pleased.” εἰρήνη in 2 answering to δόξα in 1; ἐπὶ γῆς to ἐν ὑψίστοις; ἀνθρώποις to Θεῷ. With the reading εὐδοκία (T.R.), it falls into three:—

1. Glory to God in the highest.

2. And on earth peace (between man and man).

3. Good will (of God) among men. ἐν ὑψίστοις, in the highest places, proper abode of Him who is repeatedly in these early chapters called “the Highest”. The thought in 1 echoes a sentiment in the Psalter of Solomon (Luke 18:11), μέγας ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν καὶ ἔνδοξος ἐν ὑψίστοις.—εὐδοκίας is a gen. of quality, limiting ἀνθρώποις = those men who are the objects of the Divine εὐδοκία. They may or may not be all men, but the intention is not to assert that God’s good pleasure rests on all. J. Weiss in Meyer says = τοῖς ἐκλεκτοῖς.

14. in the highest] i. e., in highest heaven, Job 16:19; Psalm 148:1; comp. “the heavenlies” in Ephesians 1:3, &c.; Sir 43:9.

on earth peace]

“No war or battle’s sound

Was heard the world around;

The idle spear and shield were high uphung:

The hookèd chariot stood

Unstained with hostile blood,

The trumpet spake not to the armèd throng;

And kings sat still with awful eye

As if they surely knew their sovran Lord was by.”

Milton, Ode on the Nativity.

This however is only an ideal aspect of affairs, and the closing at this time of the Temple of Janus had little or no meaning. It was not in this sense that the birth of Christ brought Peace. If we understood the expression thus we might well say with Coleridge:

“Strange Prophecy! if all the screams

Of all the men that since have died

To realize war’s kingly dreams

Had risen at once in one vast tide,

The choral song of that vast multitude

Had been o’erpowered and lost amid the uproar rude.”

The Angels sang indeed of such an ultimate Peace; but also of “the peace which passeth understanding;” of that peace whereof Christ said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you.” See Proverbs 3:17, on which the Book of Zohar remarks that it means peace in heaven and on earth, and in this world and the next. As regards earthly peace He himself said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword,” Matthew 10:34; Luke 12:51. See this contrast magnificently shadowed forth in Isaiah 9:5-6.

Good will towards men] The reading eudokia, ‘goodwill,’ is found in B, but א, A, D read eudokias, and if this be the right reading the meaning is “on earth peace among men of good will” (hominibus bonae voluntatis, Vulg.), i. e. those with whom God is well pleased. “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that hope in His mercy,” Psalm 147:11; comp. Luke 12:32, “it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” The construction “men of good will” would be rare in this sense, but the triple parallelism of the verse,


  to God

  in the highest


  to men whom God loves

  on earth

seems to favour it. In either case the verse implies that “being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Romans 5:1. In any case the “towards” is wrong, and must be altered into “among” (ἐν).

“Glory to God on high, on earth be peace,

And love towards men of love—salvation and release.”—Keble.

Luke 2:14. [13] Λεγόντων, saying) This whole hymn consists of two members, and has a doxology, or thanksgiving which in its turn consists of two members, and an Ætiology [or an assigning of the reason (See Append.)] for the doxology, as the particle καὶ, and [between δόξαΘεῷ and ἐπὶ γ. εἰρήνη], implies, it not being likely that it is so placed without design. The whole may be thus paraphrased: Glory (be) to God in the highest, and on earth (may there be) peace! Why? Since there is good will [‘beneplacitum,’ God’s good pleasure and grace] among men. Iren. i. 3, c. 11, fol. 216, ed. Grab. is in conformity with this view. However, the second clause may be taken in closer connection with the first than with the third, so that there may be an Asyndeton [copula omitted] before the third clause; as in Jeremiah 25:18; 1 Samuel 3:2. See Nold. Concord. part. p. 269.—δόξα, glory) Implying the mystery of redemption, and its fruit and final consummation. Moreover we ought to observe the double antithesis: 1. between, in the highest, and, on earth; 2. between, to God, and, among men.—ἐν ὑψίστοις, in the highest) By the incarnation there are called forth praises given to God by the noblest of His creatures. They do not, however, say, in heaven, where even the angels dwell; but, employing a rare expression, in the highest, a place to which the angels do not aspire: Hebrews 1:3-4. They wish their giving of praise to ascend to the highest region.—ἐπὶ) We are to observe the difference between this particle [on earth] and the preceding ἐν [in the highest].—γῆς, earth) not merely in Judea; nor now any longer merely in heaven. The earth is wider in its comprehension [meaning] than men: for the earth is the theatre of action even of the angels. The dwellers in heaven say, in [on] earth; the dwellers on earth say, in heaven [“Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest,” at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem], ch. Luke 19:38.—εἰρήνη, peace) Luke 2:29.—ἀνθρώποις, men) not merely among the Jews. Heretofore men had been regarded and spoken of unfavourably among angels: now these latter, as if in wonder, give utterance to what seemed a paradox, good will among men!εὐδοκία, good will) The newly-manifested pleasure [favourable inclination] of God towards the whole human race [name], in his Well-Beloved.

Verse 14. - On earth peace. At that juncture, strange to say, the Roman empire was at peace with all the world, and, as was ever the case in these brief rare moments of profound peace, the gates of the temple of Janus at Rome were closed, there being, as they supposed, no need for the presence of the god to guide and lead their conquering armies. Not a few have supposed that the angel choir in these words hymned this earthly peace. So Milton in his 'Ode to the Nativity' -

"No war or battle's sound
Was heard the world around
The idle spear and shield were high uphung:
The hooked chariot stood

Unstained with hostile blood,
The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;
And kings sat still with awful eye
As if they surely knew their souvran Lord was by."
But the angels sang of something more real and enduring than this temporary lull. The gates of Janus were only too quickly thrown open again. Some seventy years later, within sight of the spot where the shepherds beheld the multitude of the heavenly host, the awful conflagration which accompanied the sack of the holy city and temple could have been plainly seen, and the shrieks and cries of the countless victims of the closing scenes of one of the most terrible wars which disfigure the red pages of history could almost have been heard. Good will toward men. A bare majority of the old authorities read here, "On earth peace among men of good will;" in other words, among men who are the objects of God's good will and kindness. But the Greek text, from which our Authorized Version; was made, has the support of so many of the older manuscripts and ancient versions, that it is among scholars an open question whether or not the text followed in the Authorized Version should not in this place be adhered to. Luke 2:14Peace, good-will toward men (εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκία)

Both Tischendorf and Westcott and Hort read εὐδοκίας which the Rev. follows. According to this the rendering is, unto men of good pleasure, or as Rev., among men in whom he is well pleased. Wyc., to men of good-will. For a similar construction, see Acts 9:15; Colossians 1:13.

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