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Verse 2 is very familiar from Christmas readings over the years, but I don’t remember ever hearing/reading verse 4 before – maybe it does always follow on but I switch off by that point. I like the idea of the shepherd standing and tending his flock with majesty – majesty isn’t usually a word you hear associated with shepherds, is it?!

There’s an interesting verse in the middle there, too:

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“Israel will be abandoned…until the rest of [Jesus’] brothers return to join the Israelites”?

My study Bible is unhelpfully silent on what that might mean. Does it actually mean Jesus’ brothers? My little Bible (NIV 1984) just says “until the time when she who is in labour gives birth”, making it even less clear who the ‘his’ refers to – Israel’s, maybe?

Verse 2 seems to suggest that the end of Israel’s abandonment will be the birth of the promised ruler in Bethlehem, but verse 3 appears to contradict that.

Does anyone know what it means?

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