59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” 62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
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Although it is not (to my knowledge) explicitly mentioned in the Biblical account, I have always interpreted the cited passage as indicating that Zechariah was stricken deaf (in addition to being unable to speak, as specifically indicated by Gabriel) as a result of the encounter between Gabriel and Zechariah as related in Luke 1:11-20. This was what necessitated communicating with Zechariah by sign language or by writing until his speech and hearing were divinely restored following his written confirmation that his newborn son was to be named John, as Gabriel had indicated.
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