Why did Elizabeth hide herself away for the first 5 months of her pregnancy?
I tried googling it when I noticed this verse today, but the only reasons anyone seemed to be able to think of were to do with fear of miscarriage, or wanting to be able to offer proof of her claim by the time she made it. Neither seem particularly likely (one can go out in public without announcing one’s pregnancy!).
Hiddenness, barrenness and silence are all over this story, when you think about it:
- Elizabeth was barren
- Zechariah was struck dumb
- Elizabeth hid herself away
- John was hidden in her womb
- John lived in the wilderness until his time came to have a public ministry (v 80)
- And all this was after 400 years of silence from God
Whatever Elizabeth thought her reasons were, I think her hiding away had a prophetic flavour to it. And from her statement here I wonder if she did, too. Look at the word ‘thus’ in verse 25. She hid herself away saying, or explaining, ‘this is the way God has dealt with me’.
Her story was: ‘God has hidden something within me to take away my shame, therefore I will also hide myself away until his time is right.’
It seems possible that that time came when the angel told Mary of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. I had always assumed that everyone knew, but it may well be that Mary was the first person outside Elizabeth’s household to be told. No wonder she leaped up and rushed off to visit her cousin!
John’s is a story of waiting; of long, silent, wilderness years where God seems hidden and far away. His word is not heard, his works are not seen. And yet, the whole of heaven is pregnant with new life, being prepared in the darkness, ready to burst forth when the time has come.
Why this concealment? We can’t know for sure; his ways are certainly not our ways. But we can know that his ways are good, his timing is right, and his silence does not, by any means, signify his absence.