Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
Verses 1-12. - Born at Bethlehem, according to prophecy, he receives there the homage of representatives of the, heathen world. Verse 1. - Now when Jesus; who has just been identified with Christ. But in this chapter the narrative employs only those terms ("Jesus," "young Child") which bystanders might have used. They are purely annalistic, not interpretative. Contrast Matthew 1:18 and Herod's statement of a thee-logical problem (ver. 4). Was born in Bethlehem. The First Gospel, if taken alone would give the impression that Joseph had had no previous connexion with Nazareth. But about the place where Joseph and Mary lived before the birth of Jesus the evangelist did not concern himself (cf ver. 23, note). Of Judaea. For the evangelist's purpose it was most important so to define it as to exclude Bethlehem of Zebulun (Joshua 19:15). The inhabitants of Bethlehem of Judaea, a market town of a fruitful (Ephratah) district, live chiefly by agriculture, but also for several centuries have manufactured images of saints, rosaries, and fancy articles. Since 1834: it has been almost exclusively occupied by Christians (Socin's Baedeker,' p. 243, seq.). From "the House of Bread" came forth" the true Bread." In the days of Herod the king. Herod the Great and Herod Agrippa II. (Acts 25:13) alone held the legal title of "king" for any time (but cf. Matthew 14:1, note) - the former as King of the Jews (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 1:14.4), or King "of the Idumaeans and Samaritans" (Appian, 'Civ., 5:75; vide Schurer, 1:1. 340), by a decree of an express meeting of the Roman senate, B.C. 40; the latter by Claudius's appointment, as king first of Chalcis (A.D. 48-53) and afterwards (A.D. 53-100) of the tetrarchies of Philip and Lysanias (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 2:12. 8; 13. 2), although Herod Antipas was so spoken of by courtesy ( infra, Matthew 14:9). As the date of Agrippa II. is quite out of the question, we are almost compelled by this phrase alone to recognize the date of Christ's birth as falling in the lifetime of Herod the Great. Herod the Great died in the spring of A.U.C. 750, our B.C. 4 (Schiirer, 1:1. 466), and as our Lord was born at least forty days earlier, for the purification in the temple must have taken place before Herod's massacre of the innocents, he cannot have been born later than the very beginning of B.C. 4, or the end of B.C. 5. Indeed, upon the most natural deduction from ver. 16, he must have been born some months earlier. The Church, from the days of Justin Martyr ('Ap.,' 1:32), has loved to see in the abolition by Rome of the kingdom of the Jews at the death of Herod, of its native dynasty by Herod's usurnation (Origen, 'Genesis Hom.,' 17:6), the fulfilment of Jacob's prophecy (Genesis 49:10). Behold, there came Wise Men from the East. The true order, as given in the Revised Version, lays the emphasis on the office, and in a subordinate degree on the home of the strangers - Wise Men from the East came. This translation also hints at the full meaning of the verb ( παρεγένοντο) , of which the connotation is not of the place a quo, but of the publicity of their appearance at the place in quo (cf. Matthew 3:1). Wise Men (Μάγοι); "astromyens" (Wickliffe); "rages" (Rheims). On this word see especially Schrader ('Cuneiform Inscriptions and the Old Testament') on Jeremiah 39:3. He considers it to be in origin not Iranian (Medo-Persian), but Babylonian, and to have primarily meant either "one who is deep whether in power and reputation or in insight," or one who has fulness of power. It was, perhaps, at first used with special reference to astrologers and interpreters of dreams, and, passing from Babylonia to Media, it became the name of the Median priestly order. In the latter sense it is probably used here. In Acts 13:6-8 it, apparently by reversion, is used in its wider meaning. Of the number and rank of those who now came absolutely nothing is known. Of greater importance is Cicero's statement ('De Div.,' 1:41), "Nee quisquam rex Persarum potest esse, qui non ante magorum disciplinam scientiamque perceperit." These Magi spontaneously submit to the Babe. From the East. The proper home of the Magi would thus be Media, and, from the length of time employed on their journey (ver. 16), it is probable that by "the East" we must here understand Media or some other part of the kingdom, of Parthia, into which Media had been mostly absorbed, and in which, in fact, the Magi were now greatly honoured. Many, however (e.g. Lightfoot, 'Her. Hebr.'; and Edersheim, 'Life,' etc., 1:203, who points out that a Jewish kingdom of Yemen then existed), think that these Magi came from Arabia; and with this the tradition, evidently received by Justin Martyr and frequently referred to by him ( οἱ ἀπὸ Ἀρραβίας Μάγοι, 'Trypho,' §§ 77, 78, 88, 102; cf. Reseh, 'Agrapha,' p. 471), perhaps agrees. But Justin's own opinion was that they came from Damascus, which "was and is a part of the land of Arabia" (§ 78). It is noticeable that Justin's tradition is confirmed by the Jerusalem Talmud ('Ber.,' 2:4), which makes an "Arabian" tell a Jew that Messiah is born. The whole passage is worth quoting for its illustration of several details in this chapter. "After this the children of Israel shall be converted, and shall inquire after the Lord their God, and David their king (Hosea 3:5). Our rabbins say, 'That is King Messias, if he be among the living, his name is David, or if dead, David is his name.' Rabbi Tanchum said, 'Thus I prove it: He sheweth mercy to David his Messiah' (Psalm 18:50). Rabbi Josua ben Levi saith, 'His name is צמח, a Branch (Zechariah 3:8).' Rabbi Judah bar Aibu saith, ' His name is Menahem (that is, Para>klhtov, the Comforter).' And that which happened to a certain Jew, as he was ploughing, agreeth with this business. A certain Arabian travelling, and hearing the ox bellow, said to the Jew at plough, 'O Jew, loose thy oxen, and loose thy ploughs, for, behold, the temple is laid waste!' The ox bellowed the second time; the Arabian saith to him, 'O Jew, Jew, yoke thy oxen, and fit thy ploughs: for, behold, King Messiah is born!' But saith the Jew, 'What is his name?' 'Menahem,' saith he. 'And what is the name of his father?' 'Hezekiah,' saith the Arabian. To whom the Jew, 'But whence is he?' The other answered, ' From the palace of the King of Bethlehem-Judah.' Away he went, and sold his oxen, and his ploughs, and became a seller of infants' swaddling-clothes, going about from town to town. When he came to that city (Bethlehem) all the women bought of him, but the mother of Menahem bought nothing. He heard the voice of the women saying, 'O thou mother of Menahem, thou mother of Menahem, carry thy son the things that are here sold.' But she replied, 'May the enemies of Israel be strandded, because on the day that he was born the temple was laid waste.' To whom he said, 'But we hoped, that as it was laid waste at his feet, so at his feet it would be built again.' She saith, 'I have no money.' To whom he replied, 'But why should this be prejudicial to him? Carry him what you buy here, and if you have no money to-day, after some days I will come back and receive it.' After some days he returns to that city, and saith to her, 'How does the little infant?' And she said, 'From the time you saw me last, spirits [winds] and tempests came, and snatched him away out of my hands.' Rabbi Bon saith, 'What need have we to learn from an Arabian? Is it not plainly written, "And Lebanon shall fall before the Powerful One?" (Esa. 10:34). And what follows after? "A Branch shall come out of the root of Jesse" (Esa. 11:1)'" ('Hor. Hebr.,' in loc.) . To Jerusalem. The capital, where this King would reign, and where information about his birth would most naturally be obtained.
Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
Verse 2. - Saying. The inquiry was on their lips at the moment of their appearance. Where is? Not "whether there is." The Magi show no signs of doubt. He that is born King of the Jews; i.e. he that is born to be King of the Jews. Whether he is king from the very moment of his birth is not stated. The rendering of the Revised Version margin, "Where is the King of the Jews that is born?" would imply this. With either form the bystanders could hardly help contrasting him with their then ruler, who had acquired the kingship after years of conflict, and who was of foreign extraction. King of the Jews. Notice:
(1) This was, perhaps, Herod's exact title (ver. 1, note).
(2) They do not say king of the world. They accept the facts that the Jews alone expected this king, and that according to the more literal interpretation of the Jewish prophecies the homage of the world would be rendered to him as the Head of the Jewish nation.
(3) The title is not used of our Lord again until the Passion, where it is only used by heathen (Pilate and the soldiers, Matthew 27:11, 29, 37, and parallel passages, Mark, Luke, John, and especially John 19:21). The Magi and the Roman, learning and administration, East and West, acknowledge, at least in form, the King of the Jews.
(4) The Jews themselves preferred the term, "King of Israel" (Matthew 27:42; Mark 15:32, to which passages Luke 23:37, placing the gibe in the soldiers' mouth, forms a significant contrast). The term "Jews" made them only one of the nations of the earth; "Israel" reminded them of their theocratic privileges. For. They state the reason of their certainty. We have seen ( we saw, Revised Version); at home. His star. In the way of their ordinary pursuits they learned of Christ. The observation of nature led them to nature's Bond (Colossians 1:17). What this star really was has been the subject of much consideration without any very satisfactory result. The principal theories are:
(1) It was the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, which took place in May to July and again in September, B.C. 7.
(2) It was the rising of Sirius on the same day in the fifth, fourth, third, and second years B.C.
(3) It was some strange evanescent star such as Kepler saw in 1603-4.
(4) Astronomy can suggest nothing which satisfies all the conditions, and the appearance must have been strictly miraculous. Since Professor Pritchard's article in the 'Dictionary of the Bible,' this last has been generally accepted in England. A further question is - How came they to identify the star as "his"? i.e. What made the Magi connect the coming of the King of the Jews with a star? and what made them consider that this particular appearance was the one they expected? The latter part of the question can hardly be answered, except on the supposition that the star that they saw was in itself so extraordinary as to convince them that no greater star could be looked for. To the former part various answers have been given.
(1) Balaam's prophecy (Numbers 24:17) was understood literally, and the knowledge of it, with its misinterpretation, had spread to the Magi. For this literal interpretation, cf. the 'Pesikta Zutarta' ('Lekah Tob') on Numbers 24:17 (p. 58, Venice edit.), where it says that in the fifth year of the heptad before Messiah "the star" shall shine forth from the east,, and this is the star of the Messiah (cf. also Edersheim, 'Life,' etc., 1:212). Similarly we find the false Messiah of the second century applying the term to himself - "Barcochab."
(2) They had learned, by intercourse with Jews (cf. the influence of the Jewish Sibylline oracles on the fourth eclogue), that these latter expected a great King, and they had applied to his coming, as to all events, the science that they themselves practised. They believed fully in astrology, and the Divine ordering that a star should appear to them was a condescension to the then state of human knowledge. In the East (ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ). Ellicott points out ('Hist. Lects.,' p. 73) that to translate this "at its rising" seems to be at needless variance with the use of the same words in ver. 9, where they seem to stand in a kind of local antithesis to "where the young Child was." For the phrase as referring to the Eastern part of the earth, cf. Clem. Romans, § 5. It is more definite than the plural of ver. 1. And are come. "We saw... and came" (εἴδομεν... ἤλθομεν) without delay. To Worship him. Not as God, but as Lord and King (Matthew 4:9, note). The prostration of themselves bodily before him (προσκυνῆσαι; cf. also ver. 11) was not a Greek or Roman, but an Eastern, and it is said especially a Persian, form of homage.
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
Verse 3. - When; and when, Revised Version. There is a contrast (δέ) between the eager question of the Magi and the feelings of Herod. Herod the king. In the true text the emphasis is not on the person (as in ver. 1, where the date was all-important), but on the office as then exercised. Tile king visibly regnant is contrasted with him who was born to be King. Heard. Through some of his many sources of information, for "there were spies set everywhere" (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 15:10. 4). These things; it, Revised Version. Nothing is expressed in the original. He was troubled; perplexed, agitated (ἐταράχθη). Fully in accordance with his jealous and suspicious character. For he had already slain, as actual or possible candidates for the throne, five of the Maccabean princes and princesses, including his favourite wife Mariamne (thus extirpating the direct line) and also his two sons by Mariamne. Josephus ('Ant.,' 17:02. 4; cf. Holtzmann) mentions a prediction of the Pharisees towards the end of Herod's life, that "God had decreed that Herod's government should cease, and his posterity should be deprived of it." This seems to have a Messianic reference, though used at the time for an intrigue in favour of Pheroras, Herod's brother. And all Jerusalem. The feminine (here only, πᾶσα Ἰεροσόλυμα) points to a Hebrew source. The reason for the inhabitants of Jerusalem feeling troubled is generally explained, by their fear, which was in fact only too well justified by experience, that the news would excite Herod to fresh crimes. It is also possible that many would shrink from the changes which the coming of Messiah could not but bring. Present ease, though only comparative, is with the unbelieving preferable to possibilities of the highest blessedness. Matthew 21:10 affords both a parallel and a contrast. With him. In this respect Jerusalem was one with Herod (John 1:11).
And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
Verse 4. - And when he had gathered... together (καὶ συναγαγών). The Revised Version, and gathering together, suggests that there was no delay. All the chief priests and scribes of the people (πάντας τοὺς ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ γραμματεῖς τοῦ λαοῦ). In the absence of the article before γραμματεῖς we must take the words, "of the people," as belonging to both terms. The addition helped to bring out the evangelist's thought that the representatives of the chosen people (1 Peter 2:10) were fully informed of the coming of Christ. The chief priests (cf. also Matthew 16:21, note) represented the ecclesiastical and Sadducean part, the scribes the more literary and probably the Pharisaic part, of the nation. The width of the term "all," and the double classification, seem to point to this not being a meeting of the Sanhedrin as such. Herod called an informal and perhaps the more comprehensive meeting of those who could assist him. He demanded of them; Revised Version, inquired, for "demand" is, in modern English, too strong for ἐπυνθάνετο The tyrant could be courteous when it served his purpose. Does the imperfect mark his putting the question to one after another (cf. Acts 1:6; and contrast John 4:52)? Where Christ ( the Christ, Revised Version) should be born (γεννᾶται). In ver. 2 (ὁ τεχθείς) the stress lay on his birth as an accomplished fact. Here on his birth as connected with his origin The present is chosen, not the future, because Herod is stating a theological question without reference to time. Observe, in Herod's inquiry and subsequent action, the combination of superstition and irreligion. He was willing to accept the witness of stars and of prophecies, but not willing to allow himself to be morally influenced by it. His attempt to kill this Child was the expression of a desire to destroy the Jewish nationality so far as this was severed from himself, and perhaps with it to uproot at the same time a fundamental part of the Jewish religion.
And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
Verse 5. - And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet. For" by" the Revised Version margin has "through" (Matthew 1:22, not,.).
And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
Verse 6. - And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Jude, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel; and thou Bethlehem, land of Judah, art in no wise least among the princes of Judah: For out of thee shall come forth a governor, which shall be shepherd of my people Israel (Revised Version). In this quotation from Micah 5:2 notice the following Variations from the Hebrew, and practically from the LXX.:
(1) "Land of Judah" for "Ephratah"; an unimportant change in the terms of definition.
(2) "Art in no wise least" for "which art little to be "; a verbal contradiction probably, but also unimportant, as the thought of the context in Micah is of Bethlehem's greatness.
(3) "Princes" for "thousands." This may be due
(a) to a different pointing of the Hebrew, בְּאַלֻפֵי for בְּאַלְפֵי (cf. the rabbinic commentary, 'Metzud. Zion.'), or
(b) to understanding בְּאַלְפֵי as "families" (Judges 6:15; cf. Revised 'Version margin), and then concentrating the family in its head.
(4) "For out of thee shall come forth a governor, which shall be shepherd of my people Israel" for "out of thee shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel." This is a paraphrase, with a paraphrastic addition from 2 Samuel 5:2 (7:7), in order to distinctly identify the ruler with Messiah. Nothing is commoner in Jewish authors than the silent conjunction of quotations from separate contexts. In this case the thought of the shepherd in Micah 5:4 made the addition from Samuel the more easy. It must also be noticed that the reference of the passage in Micah to Christ is fully borne out by Jewish writers. Though they generally explain the rest of the verse as referring to the long lapse of time from David himself, they understand the ruler to be Messiah. But it is not usual with Jewish interpreters to understand the reference to Bethlehem as implying the place of Messiah's own birth. They generally take it as referring to the home of David, Messiah's ancestor. And this is the more natural meaning of the prophecy. The quotation, however, from the Jerusalem Talmud already given on ver. 1, and the Targum of Jonathan on Genesis 35:21 ("the tower of Edar - the place whence King Messiah is about to be revealed in the end of the days"), endorse the thoroughly Jewish character of the reply given to Herod (cf. also John 7:42). If it be asked why St. Matthew does not give an exact and verbal rendering of the Hebrew, the answer may be made that he probably gives the current form of its exposition. The high priests and scribes would have doubtless quoted it accurately in the process of weighing Micah's statement, but when, as here, they were only reproducing the result that they had arrived at, they would care for only the substance of the prophet's teaching (cf. the paraphrastic rendering of the Targum). In the land of Judah; Revised Version omits in ( Βηθλεὲμ γῆ Ἰούδα). "Bethlehem-Judah" would have presented no difficulty, for a town was often distinguished by the apposition of the name of the district in which it was situated; e.g. Ramoth-Gilead, Kedesh-Naphtali. It seems best to explain the γῆ as a mere expansion of "Judah" (cf. 1 Macc. 5:68, ἄζωτον γῆν ἀλλοφυλῶν, where probably the thought was Ashdod-Philistia). It is, however, possible that γῆ is here used in the sense of "the town and its surrounding district, over which district, it is to be observed, Herod extended his massacre (verse 16)" (Humphrey, in loc.).
Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
Verse 7. - Then Herod, when he had privily called the Wise Men. Secrecy was doubly necessary. He would not publicly commit himself to acknowledging the rights of the new King, and he would give no opportunity for others to warn the Child's parents of the dangerous interest that Herod was taking in him. Duplicity was very characteristic of Herod; cf. his assassination of Aristobulus the high priest (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 15:03. 3), and his alluring his son Antipater home to death (ibid., 17:5. 1). Inquired of them diligently; learned of them carefully (Revised Version); "lerned of hem bisili" (Wickliffe); ἠκρίβωσεν παρ αὐτῶν. The stress is not upon Herod's careful questioning, but on the exact information that he obtained. What time the star appeared. Although this is not the literal translation, it may, perhaps, represent the sense of the original ( τὸν χρόνον τοῦ φαινομένου ἀστέρος) , the participle characterizing the star in its most important relation - its appearance, and the words being treated as a compound expression (cf. John 12:9, 12). Herod supposed that the birth of the Babe was synchronous with the first appearance of the star. The translation, however, of the Revised Version margin, "the time of the star that appeared," better suits the exact wording ( χρόνον, not καιρόν;φαινομένου, not φανέντος) , the phrase thus including both the first appearance and also the period of continuance (cf. Grotius, "non initium, sed continuitas"). But it is difficult to see What Herod would have learned from this latter particular. Some even think that the star was still visible (Plumptre; Weiss, 'Matthew'), but in this case the joy of the Magi in ver. 10 is not satisfactorily explained.
And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
Verse 8. - And he sent them to Bethlehem. Thus answering their question (ver. 2). And said, Go and search diligently for the young Child; and search out carefully concerning, Revised Version; ἐξετάσατε ἀκριβῶς περί. Herod bade them make precise inquiry as to all particulars about the Child. The more details he could obtain, the more easily he could make away with him. And when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also; the Revised Version rightly joins, I also - I as well as you; I the king. It might well be at a secret conference with the Magi that Herod said this, for no Jew would have believed him. Worship; ver. 2, note.
When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
Verse 9. - When they had heard the king. There is a slight contrast in the Greek, but they [for their part] having heard the King. They departed; went their way (Revised Version). Took their journey ( ἐπορεύθησαν) . And lo, the star, which they saw in the East. They would, in accordance with Eastern custom, probably travel by night. Observe that the joy they felt at seeing the star (ver. 10) implies that it had not continued visible (ver. 7, note). They had fully used all means; now they receive fresh Divine guidance. In the East (ver. 2, note). Went before them. Continuously ( τροῆγεν); "taking them by the hand and drawing them on" (Chrysostom). Not to show them the way to Bethlehem, for the road was easy, but to assure them of guidance to the Babe, over whose temporary home it stayed. The road to Bethlehem is, and from the nature of the valley must always have been, so nearly straight (until the last half-mile, when there is a sudden turn up the hill) that the star need have moved but slightly. Bethlehem itself is seen soon after passing Mar Elias, a monastery rather more than half-way from Jerusalem (Socin's 'Baedeker,' p. 242). Till it came and stood over where the young Child was. Does the true reading ( ἐστάθη) suggest the unseen hand by which this star was itself guided and stationed (Matthew 27:11)? or is it used with a kind of reflexive force, indicating that it was by no chance that it stood still there - "took its stand" (cf. σταθείς, Luke 18:11, 40; Luke 19:8; Acts 2:14, et al.; cf. also Revelation 8:3; 12:18)?
When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
Verse 10. - When ( and when, Revised Version) they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy; "they were marvelously glad" (Tyndale). Its reappearance was the pledge of the full answer to their search, the full reward of their toilsome journey. Contrast the indifference of the chosen people.
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
Verse 11. - And when they were come into the house. For after the enrolment the caravanserai would not be so crowded (Luke 2:7). But whether it was now the caravanserai or a private house, we have no evidence to show. They saw (εϊδον, with the uncials and most of the versions). The translators in this case followed the text of the Complutensian (1514) and of Colinaeus' edition (1534), rejecting the false εῦρον of the Vulgate and the Received Text. The young Child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him (ver. 2, note). In this latter clause Mary is not mentioned. And when they had opened. Neither the Authorized Version nor the Revised Version brings out the exact correlation of the six aorists in this verse. Their treasures (so the Revised Version); perhaps, more strictly, treasuries, coffers. There is the same ambiguity about "treasure" in old English (cf. Jeremiah 10:13; Jeremiah 51:16; Eeclus. 43:14) as in the Greek. They presented unto him gifts. Thus fulfilling in germ the predictions of offerings being made to Messiah and Messiah's people by the Gentile nations (Isaiah 60; Haggai 2:7; Psalm 72:10). Presented; offered (Revised Version). The verb used ( προσφέρω) seems to lay stress on the persons to whom and by whom the offering is made, the personal relation in which they stand to each other; ἀναφέρω (cf. Bishop Westcott, on Hebrews 7:27) and παρίστημι on the destination and use of the offering (James 2:21; Romans 6:13). Observe the three stages in this verse - vision, submission, consecration. Gifts; without which one does not approach an Eastern monarch (cf. 1 Kings 10:2). Gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. Wealth and delights, the material and the aesthetic.
And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
Verse 12. - And being warned of God (καὶ χρηματισθέντες; cf. Bishop Westcott, on Hebrews 8:5). And, not "but;" this is joined to the threefold "and" of ver. 11, and is the final example of God's mercy and grace towards them, preserving them from probable death at Herod's hands. In a dream (Matthew 1:20, note). That they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. Perhaps eastwards by Bet Sahur and Mar Saba and Jericho.
And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
Verse 13. - And (Revised Version, now) when they were departed. The flight was not by their advice, and they were not even entrusted with the secret. Behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream (Matthew 1:20, notes). The present tense (φαίνεται) is here more vivid. Saying, Arise (ver. 14, note), and take the young Child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word; Revised Version, I tell thee (ἕως α}ν εἴπω σοι). The rendering of the Authorized Version seems to be due to a desire to express the dependence of the messenger on him who sent him. For Herod; though he spoke so fair to the Magi. Will seek. The full form (μέλλει ... ζητεῖν) hints that Herod's action will be the result of no momentary emotion, but of premeditation. The young Child to destroy him. The final motive (τοῦ ἀπολέσαι) of seeking him.
When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
Verse 14. - When he arose, he took; Revised Version, and he arose and took. The ἐγερθείς here, as in ver. 13, precludes delay. The young Child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt. As St. Paul in after years was able to connect himself with fellow-craftsmen, and thus maintain himself (Acts 18:3), so might Joseph reasonably expect to be able to do in Egypt, and the more so since the connexion there between those who worked at the same trade seems to have been even closer than elsewhere, for in the great synagogue at Alexandria they sat together, "so that if a stranger came he could join himself to his fellow-craftsmen and, through their means, obtain his livelihood" (Talm. Jeremiah, 'Suecah,' 5:1, p. 55, d). Jewish reference to our Lord's stay in Egypt are to be found in the blasphemous tables of his having brought thence his knowledge of magic (cf. Laible, in 'Nathanael,' 1890, p. 79).
And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
Verse 15. - And was there until the death of Herod. The Revised Version rightly joins this with the preceding, not with the following, clause. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying (Matthew 1:22, notes), Out of Egypt have I called (Revised Version, did I call) my Son (Hosea 11:1, "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt"). Observe here:
(1) The quotation is not from the LXX. ("Out of Egypt I summoned his children"), but from the Hebrew, which Aquila also follows.
(2) The expression in Hosea is based on Exodus 4:22, "Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, my firstborn;" cf. also Wisd. 18:13. "They acknowledged this people to be the son of God (ὡμολόγησαν Θεοῦ υἱὸν λαὸνεϊναι)."
(3) The quotation is, by the context, evidently adduced, not to prove the sonship of Jesus, but to enlarge upon the treatment that he received. The fundamental thought is that the experience of Messiah was parallel to the experience of the nation.
(4) The application of the term "my Son" to Messiah is justified by Jewish thought. In Exodus 4:22 the nation was so called; in Psalm 2:7 the head of the nation, the theocratic king, received the same title; much more could the great theocratic King, the Messiah, be so spoken cf. That, indeed, the name, "the Son of God," was used as a title of Messiahship by the Jews lacks direct evidence (cf. Stanton, 'The Jewish and the Christian Messiah,' 1886, p. 288), but is surely to be deduced from Matthew 26:63 (16:16); cf. also the application of Psalm 2:7 to Messiah in Talm. Bab.,' Succah,' 52 a, in the late Midrash 'Tillim,' in loc., which traces" the decree" there spoken of through the Law (Exodus 4:22), the prophets (e.g.. Isaiah 52:13), and the Hagiographa (e.g. Psalm 2:7; Psalm 110:1; for a paraphrase, cf. Edersheim, 'Life,' etc., App. 9.). It is hardly too much to say that no Jew could consistently, either in the early days of the Church or now, find any difficulty in St. Matthew's reference of the term "my Son" to Christ.
(5) Seeing that St. Matthew's reference of the term "my Son" is justified by Jewish thought, and that the passage in Hosea is adduced to show that the experience of Messiah was parallel to that of the nation, there seems no real need to look for further reasons for the application. St. Matthew may hays held that Messiah was the Flower of Israel, so that what was predicated of Israel could be essentially explained of Messiah; he may have considered that Messiah was so organically connected with Israel that even when the nation was in Egypt Messiah was there also (cf. Hebrews 7:10; Hebrews 11:26); he may have thought that the pro-incarnate Son of God was always with his Church, and therefore with it even in Egypt; but of none of these theories have we any hint. The application of Hosea 11:1 to the early life of Christ belongs, we do not doubt, to the very earliest stage of Jewish Christian thought, and to defend it by modern subtleties of interpretation (sound though they may be in other connexions) seems quite out of place. Messiah was in some sense, as all Jews granted, the Son of God; Messiah, like the nation, went down into Egypt; what was predicated of the one was, clearly in this case, true of the other, and the prophet's words received a "fulfilment." The fulfilment was, indeed, what we should call a coincidence (cf. ver. 23, note), but to the pious mind, and especially to the pious mind of a Jew, coincidences are not chances, they are signs of the Divine Governor (cf. Bishop Westcott, 'Hebr.,' p. 481: 1889).
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
Verses 16-18. - The slaughter of the innocents. Verse 16. - Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked (ὅτι ἐνεπαίχθη). The verb which in the New Testament occurs only in the synoptists, and always in the strict sense of "mock" ( e.g. Matthew 20:19; Matthew 27:29, 31, 41), represents Herod's feelings, and perhaps his language, at his treatment by the Magi. It was more than deception; they had trifled with him. Of the Wise Men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children; Revised Version, male children ( τοὺς παῖδας, not τὰ τέκρα). That were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts (Revised Version, borders) thereof. Not merely the districts legally belonging to the city, but the neighbourhood generally. From two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired (ver. 7, note) of the Wise Men. Had he made further inquiries, he might have aroused suspicion, so he made sure of his prey by allowing a wide margin both in time and space. "'On Augustus being informed,' says Macrobius ['Saturn.,' 2:4], 'that among the boys under two years of age whom Herod ordered to be slain in Syria, his own son also lind been slain, "It is better," said he, "to be Herod's pig (ϋν) than his son (υἱὸν)." Although Macrobius is a late writer [circ. 400]. and made the mistake of supposing that Herod's son Antipater, who was put to death about the same time as the massacre of the innocents, had actually perished in that massacre, it is clear that the form in which he narrates the bon mot of Augustus points to some dim reminiscence of this cruel slaughter" (Farrar, 'Life,' etc., p. 34, illust. edit.; cf. also Ellicott, 'Lectures,' p. 78). Farrar (and Edersheim accepts his calculation) reckons that not more than twenty children were killed. Thus failed the first attempt to destroy Christ, Revelation 12:4 (Nosgen).
Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,
Verses 17, 18. - Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by (διά) Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not (Jeremiah 31:15, from the Hebrew). Notice:
(1) As to details.
(a) The order in the Revised Version. A voice was heard in Ramah is more literal; the stress is on the cry rather than on the place.
(b) Lamentation and must be omitted, with the Revised Version, as a mere addition from the LXX.
(c) And would not. The Revised Version, and she would not, seems to be an attempt to express the full term, καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν κ.τ.λ.. (cf. Genesis 37:35).
(2) As to the quotation generally. St. Matthew applies Jeremiah's picture of Rachel, the mother of Joseph, i.e. of Ephraim (and also Manasseh), which was the typical part of the northern kingdom, weeping over the destruction of her children by the Assyrians, to the weeping of the mothers in Bethlehem. This application was the more easy because, as Rachel's tomb was near Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19; Genesis 48.7), she might be considered the figurative ancestress of the Bethlehe-mites as well as the physical ancestress of the Ephraimites. The fulfilment spoken of is thus not to be understood as implying that Jeremiah predicted the massacre at Bethlehem, but that in it his words received a new and deeper significance. It must, however, be added that, although Rachel's tomb is placed at Bethlehem, both by the direct statement of the present text of Genesis and by tradition, which may be traced at least as far back as A.D. , and is accepted by Jews, Christians, and Mohammedans, there are serious doubts whether 1 Samuel 10:2 does not definitely place it in the north of Benjamin, and whether Jeremiah 31:15 does not accept this latter view (cf. for this question Delitzsch, on Genesis, loc. cit.) . In any case, St. Matthew adopts the statement of Genesis.
In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
Verses 19-23. - The return from Egypt and settlement in Nazareth. Verse 19. - But when Herod was dead. Does the repetition of the tenor of ver. 15 point to a different source? Behold, an angel (rightly; contrast Matthew 1:20, note) of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph (φαίνεται κατ ὄναρ, as in ver. 13). In both cases the stress is on the fact of the appearance, not on its mode. In Egypt. The evangelist will leave no room for doubt as to where Joseph then was (cf. note at head of chapter).
Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.
Verse 20. - Saying, Arise, and take the young Child and his mother (so far verbally equivalent to ver. 13). And go into the land. of Israel; any part of the holy and promised land (1 Samuel 13:19; Ezekiel 11:17). For they are dead which sought the young Child's life. The plural is difficult, and is perhaps best explained as an adaptation of the historic parallel of Exodus 4:19.
And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
Verse 21. - And he arose, and took the young Child and his mother (so far verbally equivalent to ver. 14), and came into the land of Israel. Implicit and immediate obedience marking all he did.'
But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:
Verse 22. - But when he heard that Archelaus. Until his murder five days before Herod's own death in the spring of A.U.C. 750, Antipater, Herod's eldest son, might naturally have been regarded as the successor, though in fact Antipas had been named as such in the will. But after Antipater's death Herod altered his will; and appointing Antipas Tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea, and Philip Tetrarch of Gaulonitis, Traehonitis, and Paneas, he granted the kingdom to Archelaus. Further, even after Herod's death, the succession was far from certain until the consent of Augustus had been obtained, and this, in fact, was jeopardized by Archelaus's massacre of three thousand cf those who, on his accession, called for justice on the agents of the barbarities of the late reign. Eventually, however, Herod's last arrangement was practically confirmed by Augustus, save that he expressly gave Archelaus, who had hastened to Rome, but half of his father's dominion, and appointed him only ethnarch, promising to make him king "if he governed that part virtuously" (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 17:08. 1; 11. 4; cf. 'Bell. Jud.,' 1:33. 8; 2:7. 3). Joseph's fear of Archelaus quite corresponds to the character given of him by the Jewish ambassadors before Augustus. "He seemed to be afraid lest he should not be deemed Herod's own son; and so, without any delay, he immediately Jet the nation understand his meaning," i.e. by the slaughter of the three thousand malcontents above referred to (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 17:11.2). He was in A.D. deposed for his cruelty, and banished to Vienne, in Gaul. Did reign; Revised Version, was reigning; an attempt to express the vivid present of the original, which recalls the very words he heard. After Augustus's decision, Archelaus could not legally have called himself βασιλεύς, but the title, especially as implied in the verb, would have been customary in popular speech (cf. Matthew 14:9). But it is possible that the expression was used before Archelaus went to Rome, and at the time of his first grasp of power under Herod's will. In Judaea. The Revised Version ( over Judaea, βασιλεύει τῆς Ἰουδαίας) rightly implies not only that he lived in Judaea, but that, unlike his father, was not king of the whole of Palestine, but emphatically of Judaea. To this Idumaea and Samaria were appendages. In the room of his father Herod. Had St. Matthew the same thought as the Jewish ambassadors above? He was afraid to go thither; and presumably he told God his fears. Notwithstanding (only δέ); Revised Version, and. Being warned of God (ver. 12, note). For he does not leave his people in perplexity. In a dream. No angel is mentioned this time. He turned aside; Revised Version, he withdrew (ἀνεχώρησεν). Into the parts of Galilee; where Antipas was tetrarch. The form (cf. Matthew 15:21; Matthew 16:13) seems to imply removal from one spot to another before finally settling at Nazareth, and also the subordinate importance of the places visited, compared with the more populous towns.
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.
Verse 23. - And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth. En-Nasira, now of from five thousand to six thousand souls, in the hills on the northern edge of the Plain of Esdraelon, not mentioned in the Old Testament or by Josephus. "Nazareth is a rose, and, like a rose, has the same rounded form, enclosed by mountains as the flower by its leaves" (Quaresimus, in Stanley, 'Sinai and Palestine,' p. 365). Observe the (:) in the Revised Version, showing that the following "fulfilment" is not to be considered as part of Joseph's intention. Dwelt; settled down after the exile life (cf Acts 7:4). That (ὅπως). The purpose lay in the Divine overruling of Joseph's action, ὄπως with πληρωθῇ, Matthew 8:17 and Matthew 13:35 only. In each case it is used with reference to general statements, i.e. it marks a less close connection than that implied by ἵνα. It might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets. He shall be called (Revised Version, that he should be called; ὅτι κληθήσεται; cf. also the Geneva) a Nazarene. The Revised Version expresses the fact that the quotation is not of words, but of substance, for although the recitative ὅτι is found in St. Matthew (Matthew 7:23; Matthew 9:18; Matthew 14:26; Matthew 27:43, 47) and even before verbal citations from Scripture after γέγραπται (Matthew 4:6) and ἀνέγνωετε (Matthew 21:16, contrast 42), yet it does not occur after the formula τὸ ῤηθέν κ.τ.λ. By the prophets. Not "in the prophets" (Acts 13:40), which might have preferred (yet cf. Hebrews 1:1) only to the book containing their writings, and then would not in itself have implied more than one passage there. The present phrase (διὰ τῶν προφητῶν) suggests personality rather than writing, and implies either that two or more prophets were the agents by whom the words were spoken, or, better, that in some way the whole company of the prophets (cf. Acts 3:25; Hebrews 1:1) spoke the message now summarized. In this way the phrase will indicate that even if the following words are found in the utterances of only one prophet, they also represent a phase of teaching common to all. A Nazarene. Those interpretations which connect this with נזר (nzr) ,
(1) in the sense of "separated" (Lightfoot, 'Hor. Hebr.'),
(a) generally (cf. Psalm 69:7);
(b) specifically as "Nazarite" (נזיר, Ναζηραῖος, so Tyndale to Rheims); or
(2) in the sense of "diadem" (נֵזֶר, "Zu Cronberg [נזרת] hat der Gekronte gewohnet," Bengel); are inadmissible in the light of the fact that, in Jewish writings, both "Nazareth" (נַצְרָת, Neub., 'Geogr.,' p. 190) and "Nazarene" (נוצרי) are from נצר (ntsr). Thus the reference to the prophets requires that they speak of Messiah by some term belonging to this root, and not to נזר (nzr). What this term is may be gathered from the true text of Talm. Bab., 'Sanh.,' 43a (cf. 'Levy,' s.v. נצר, and for the passage in full, Rabbinowicz, 'Var. Leer.'), where, after enumerating five disciples of Jesus the Nazarene (ישו הנוצרי), among them Netzer, a summary is given of their trial and condemnation. Of Netzer it is said, "They brought Netzer up for trial. He said to the judges, Shall Netzer be slain? It is written, 'A branch (netzer, נצר) out of his roots shall bear fruit (Isaiah 11:1).'They answered him, Yea, Netzer shall be slain. For it is written, 'But thou art cast forth away from thy sepulchre like an abominable branch'" (netzer, Isaiah 14:19). It does not now concern us to inquire which, if any, of the twelve disciples is here spoken of by the name of Netzer. But it is evident that the Jews
(1) connected this name closely with Jesus the Nazarene just before mentioned, and
(2) saw a connexion between it and "the Branch" of Isaiah 11:1. True that they rejected the disciple's application of the passage, but they did not reject the identity of the expressions. The application which was made, even according to the Talmud, is fully expressed by the evangelist here. There, as we may see if we read between the lines, the disciple claimed for his Christianity that it corresponded to the promise of Isaiah; here the evangelist more definitely claims a correspondence between that promise and Jesus. He is not concerned with deeper points of similarity, though they could not fail to suggest themselves both to him and to his readers, but merely notices that the very dwelling-place of Jesus answers to the promise of Messiah. Netzer he was to be; the Divine working brought it about that this, though in adjectival form, was his common appellation. Observe that
(1) to netzer in Isaiah 11:1 the word tsemah, corresponds in Jeremiah 23:5 and Zechariah 3:8;
(2) the fulfilment consists, not in carrying out a definite statement to its logical issue in history, but in the existence of a strange correspondence which implies Divine foresight and arrangement. Why Joseph settled at Nazareth rather than at any other spot in Galilee, St. Matthew gives no hint. The reason is found in the fact recorded by St. Luke that Mary (Luke 1:26) and Joseph (Luke 2:4) had lived there before the Birth. It is true that St. Matthew's account taken alone gives the impression that this was not the case, but the impression is not so strong as to warrant even the assertion that St. Matthew was ignorant of the earlier residence, much less that his account in fact contradicts St. Luke's. The mutual independence and the general trustworthiness of the two accounts of the Birth and Infancy is shown by the fact that in their less important details they cannot always be reconciled. (On our present difficulties in arranging the events recorded in Matthew 1:2 and Luke 1:2, cf. Ellicott, 'Lects.,' p. 70; Godet, 'Luke,' transl., 1. pp. 153-156.)