Matthew 2

Commentary:

1    Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,

in the days of Herod the king: King Herod I, also known as Herod the Great, was a Roman client king of Judaea, which was, at the time, subordinate to the Roman Empire. Josephus, a Jewish scholar from the 1st century, writes that Herod ruled for 37 years.

wise men: In Greek, “μάγοι (magoi),” which literally means “sorcerers,” here referring to “the Magi of the Persians, who foretold the Saviour’s birth, and came into the land of Judaea guided by a star” (Clement of Alexandria, Strom., Bk. I, Ch. XV). Tertullian said, “We know the mutual alliance of magic and astrology. The interpreters of the stars, then, were the first to announce Christ’s birth” (On Idolatry, Ch. IX).

2    saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

King of the Jews: This is the prophesied king, who was said to come and to reign over the people of God, the Messiah—Jesus.

For we have seen His star in the East: According to tradition, the Magi saw “a star of great size shining among [the] stars, obscuring their light, so that the stars did not appear; and [they] thus knew that a king has been born to Israel” (Protev. of James, P. 21).

3    When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled: This is because Herod was afraid that another would usurp his authority in Judaea.

4    And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born: So that he could find him and order that he be put to death, lest his authority be usurped. Eusebius said, “When Christ was born . . . [Herod], asking where he who was born King of the Jews was to be found . . . imagined that his kingdom might be endangered; and he enquired therefore of the doctors of the law, who belonged to the Jewish nation, where they expected Christ to be born” (Ecc. Hist., Bk. I, Ch. VIII).

5    So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

Bethlehem: In Hebrew, “בֵּֽית־לֶחֶם,” which means “house of bread.”

6    ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

As it is written, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth, to Me, the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Mic. 5:2).

out of you: That is, “from among your brethren” (Dt. 18:18), from the nation of Israel, and of Jewish descent.

a Ruler: We are taught, by the Prophet Micah, that this “Ruler,” the Messiah, is God Himself, “Whose goings forth are from old, from everlasting.” This is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ.

7    Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.

8    And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

bring back word to me: So that he could know where the Messiah was, in order that he might put Him to death.

that I may come and worship Him also: Herod’s intention was not to worship the Messiah, but he said this to the Magi, in order to deceive them, that they might bring him necessary information as to the birthplace of Jesus.

9    When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.

10    When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

11    And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

they saw the young Child . . . and fell down and worshiped Him: commentary1.

they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myyrh: As it is written, “The kings of Sheba and Seba will offer gifts” (Ps. 72:10), and “The gold of Sheba will be given to Him . . . and daily He shall be praised” (Ps. 72:15).

gold: Tertullian said, “The divine Scriptures regard ‘gold’ as constituting the ‘power’ of all other nations; as it says in Zechariah: ‘And Judah keeps guard at Jerusalem, and shall amass all the vigor of the surrounding peoples, gold and silver’ (Zech. 14:14)” (An Answer to the Jews, Ch. IX).

frankincense, and myrrh: Saint John Chrysostom said, “They not only worship, but also ‘open their treasures,’ and ‘offer gifts’; and gifts, not as to a man, but as to God. For the frankincense and the myrrh were a symbol of this” (Hom. VIII on Matt.).

12    Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

Saint John Chrysostom said, “See from this also their faith, how they were not offended, but are docile, and considerate; neither are they troubled, nor reason with themselves, saying, ‘And yet, if this Child be great, and has any might, what need of flight, and of a clandestine retreat? And wherefore can it be, that when we have come openly and with boldness, and have stood against so great a people, and against a king’s madness, the angel sends us out of the city as runaways and fugitives?’ But none of these things did they either say or think. For this most especially belongs to faith, not to seek an account of what is enjoined, but merely to obey the commandments laid upon us” (Hom. VIII on Matt.).

13    Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”

Saint John Chrysostom said, “There is something here worth inquiring into, both touching the magi, and touching the Child; for if even they were not troubled, but received all with faith, it is worthy of examination on our part, why they and the young Child are not preserved, continuing there, but they as fugitives go into Persia, He with His mother into Egypt. But what? Should He have fallen into the hands of Herod, and having fallen, not have been cut off? Nay, He would not have been thought to have taken flesh upon Him; the greatness of the Economy would not have been believed. For if, while these things are taking place, and many circumstances are being ordered mysteriously after the manner of men, some have dared to say that His assumption of our flesh is a fable; in what degree of impiety would they not have been wrecked had He done all in a manner becoming His Godhead, and according to His own power?” (Hom. VIII on Matt.).

14    When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt,

15    and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt, I called My Son.”

“Out of Egypt, I called My son”: As it is written, “When Israel was a child, I loved him; and out of Egypt, I called My son” (Hos. 11:1).

16    Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.

Eusebius said, “When he learned that the prophecy of Micah announced that Bethlehem was to be his birthplace he commanded, in a single edict, all the male infants in Bethlehem, and all its borders, that were two years of age or less, according to the time which he had accurately ascertained from the magi, to be slain, supposing that Jesus, as was indeed likely, would share the same fate as the others of his own age” (Ecc. Hist., Bk. I, Ch. VIII).

17    Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:

18    “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”

As it is written, “Thus says the LORD: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more’” (Jer. 31:15).

19    Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,

20    saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.”

those who sought the young Child’s life: These are Herod, and those whom he appointed to kill all infants from the ages of two and under.

Eusebius said, “It is worth while, in addition to this, to observe the reward which Herod received for his daring crime against Christ and those of the same age. For immediately, without the least delay, the divine vengeance overtook him while he was still alive, and gave him a foretaste of what he was to receive after death . . . The account, which casts every other tragic drama into the shade, is detailed at length in the histories of Josephus . . . in the seventeenth book of his Antiquities of the Jews, [writing] . . . ‘The disease of Herod grew more severe, God inflicting punishment for his crimes. For a slow fire burned in him which was not so apparent to those who touched him, but augmented his internal distress; for he had a terrible desire for food which it was not possible to resist. He was affected also with ulceration of the intestines, and with especially severe pains in the colon, while a watery and transparent humor settled about his feet. He suffered also from a similar trouble in his abdomen. Nay more, his privy member was putrefied and produced worms. He found also excessive difficulty in breathing, and it was particularly disagreeable because of the offensiveness of the odor and the rapidity of respiration. 8. He had convulsions also in every limb, which gave him uncontrollable strength. It was said, indeed, by those who possessed the power of divination and wisdom to explain such events, that God had inflicted this punishment upon the King on account of his great impiety’” (Ecc. Hist., Bk. I, Ch. VIII).

21    Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.

22    But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee.

Archelaus: Also known as Herod Archelaus, was the son and successor of King Herod I. He reigned for about 10 years, after which point he was deposed.

Galilee: In Hebrew, “גָּלִיל,” similar to the word, “גַּלְגַּל,” meaning, ”wheel.” In Standard Gematria, the numerical value for the word, “Galilee,” is 73.

23    And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

He shall be called a Nazarene: Of the Messiah, it is written, “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Is. 11:1). In Hebrew, “Branch,” here, is “נֵצֶר,” which is transliterated as “Nezer,” like “Nazarene.”

“If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book . . . God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19).

Some scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved.

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