Zachariah and Elizabeth
In Israel, being childless was a major tragedy. The Jewish rabbis said that seven people were excommunicated from God and the list began, "A Jew who has no wife, or a Jew who has a wife and who has no child." (Barclay - Luke pg 10) If a woman remained childless after ten years of marriage, it was considered grounds for divorce, since having a family was one of the important reasons for marriage.
Barrenness was thought to be a major sign of God's disfavor and a result of divine judgment. To counter this belief in their case, Luke stresses that Zachariah and Elizabeth were completely faithful and met the standards of being considered "righteous before God," which meant that they loved God and their fellowmen, trusted God and believed His word. As evidence of their love and trust, they faithfully observed all revealed rules of behavior, and repented and offered sacrifices when they fell short of full obedience. (JNTC. 103)
Zachariah (Heb. "the Lord remembers") and Elizabeth (Heb. "oath or covenant of God") were both from the priestly line of Aaron. Taken together, the combined meanings of their names bears a witness of God's faithfulness: "The Lord remembers his covenant." The word "remember" can mean more than just "not forgetting." It is used at times to mean "to intervene on behalf of." (Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, pg. 58)
It is used in this sense in Genesis 30:23 "And God remembered Rachel...and she conceived and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach." Another woman who petitioned the Lord to "remember" her and give her a child was Hannah.
In 1 Samuel 1:11, Hannah prayed, "Oh Lord of Hosts, if Thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me...give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life,.…." Perhaps these scriptural precedents gave Zachariah and Elizabeth hope that God might yet still intervene in their behalf and grant them this righteous desire of their hearts.