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Bible Q

What is the “Dayspring” in the song of John the Baptist’s father Zechariah? (Luke 1:78)

What is the “Dayspring” in the Luke 1 song of John the Baptist’s father Zechariah?

This is old English, “the day spring” in Tyndale 1525, and occurs in the Authorised or King James Version of 1611:

“Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us” (Luke 1:78 KJV)

The Greek word here ANATOLE means sunrise, and consequently is also used for the rising of the sun in the East, and the geographical direction East.

“because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven” (Luke 1:78 NIV)

Modern versions use a variety of words. The NIV has “rising sun”. ESV has “Sunrise”. NRSV has “dawn from on high”.  The Holman and Lexham have “Dawn”.

An Old Testament connection in Greek

Interestingly the word ANATOLE would be familiar to any of Luke’s readers familiar with the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament.

“In those days, and at that time, will I cause the BRANCH of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.” (Jeremiah 33:15 KJV)

In these three verses Jeremiah 33:15, Zechariah 3:8, 6:12 the Hebrew word tsemach, branch, is translated ANATOLE, suggesting that tsemach may have been understood by the Septuagint translators as relating to the branch or origin of the rising sun. [1]

“Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH. (Zechariah 3:8)

“And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD” (Zechariah 6:12)

As to what it means, Zechariah’s song from verses 67-76 is about the work of his own son, John, as a herald preparing the way. But 77-79 switches into the appearance of the Messiah himself, Jesus. The theme of Jesus as a shoot from the stump of the David is also explored in Isaiah and elsewhere. [2]


1.There is another Branch, tsemach verse in Hebrew, Jeremiah 23:5, but this is missing in the Septuagint.

2. There is a thematically related verse in Isaiah with more tree terminology:
And there shall come forth a rod (hoter, Greek RABDOS) out of the stem (geza’, Greek RIZ root ) of Jesse, and a Branch (netzer, Greek ANTHOS flower) shall grow out of his roots (sheresh, Greek RIZA root): (Isaiah 11:1)

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