Vincent's Word Studies
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,
Hebrew, House of Bread, probably from its fertility. The birthplace of him who calls himself the Bread of Life (John 6:35), and identified with the history of his human ancestry through Ruth, who was here married to Boaz, and was the ancestress of David (Matthew 1:5, Matthew 1:6), and through David himself, who was born there, and anointed king by Samuel (compare Luke 2:11, city of David).
Wise men, or Magi (μάγοι)
Wycliffe renders kings. A priestly caste among the Persians and Medes, which occupied itself principally with the secrets of nature, astrology, and medicine. Daniel became president of such an order in Babylon (Daniel 2:48). The word became transferred, without distinction of country, to all who had devoted themselves to those sciences, which were, however, frequently accompanied with the practice of magic and jugglery; and, under the form magician, it has come to be naturalized in many of the languages of Europe. Many absurd traditions and guesses respecting these visitors to our Lord's cradle have found their way into popular belief and into Christian art. They were said to be kings, and three in number; they were said to be representatives of the three families of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and therefore one of them is pictured as an Ethiopian; their names are given as Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior, and their three skulls, said to have been discovered in the twelfth century by Bishop Reinald of Cologne, are exhibited in a priceless casket in the great cathedral of that city.
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.
The east (ἀνατολή)
Literally, the rising. Some commentators prefer to render at its rising, or when it rose. In Luke 1:78, the word is translated dayspring, or dawn. The kindred verb occurs in Matthew 4:16, "light did spring up" (ἀνέτειλεν)
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
All the chief priests
We should expect only one chief priest to be mentioned; but the office had become a lucrative one, and frequently changed hands. A rabbi is quoted as saying that the first temple, which stood about four hundred and ten years, had only eighteen high-priests from first to last; while the second temple, which stood four hundred and twenty years, had more than three hundred high-priests. The reference here is not to a meeting of the Sanhedrin, since the elders, who are not mentioned, belonged to this; but to an extraordinary convocation of all the high-priests and learned men. Besides the high-priest in actual office, there might be others who had been his predecessors, and who continued to bear the name, and in part the dignity. It may possibly have included the heads of the twenty-four courses of priests.
And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
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.
Land of Judah
To distinguish it from Bethlehem in the territory of Zebulon.
Shall be shepherd of (ποιμανεῖ), from ποιμήν, a shepherd
So Rev., rightly, instead of shall rule. The word involves the whole office of the shepherd - guiding, guarding, folding, as well as feeding. Hence appropriate and often applied to the guides and guardians of others. Homer calls kings "the shepherds of the people." To David the people said, "The Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed (as a shepherd) my people Israel" (2 Samuel 5:2; compare Psalm 78:70-72). God is often called a shepherd (Genesis 48:15; Psalm 23:1; Psalm 77:20; Psalm 80:1; Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:11-31). Jesus calls himself the good shepherd (John 10:11). Peter, who is bidden by Jesus to shepherd his sheep (John 21:16, ποίμαινε, Rev., tend), calls him the Shepherd of Souls (1 Peter 2:25), and the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4); and in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 13:20), he is styled the great Shepherd of the sheep. In Revelation 2:27, rule is literally to shepherd (compare Revelation 19:15); but Christ will shepherd his enemies, not with the pastoral crook, but with a sceptre of iron. Finally, Jesus will perpetuate this name and office in heaven among his redeemed ones, for "the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall be their shepherd (Revelation 7:17, Rev.). In this verse the word governor is in harmony with the idea of shepherding, since the word ἡγούμενος originally means one who goes before, or leads the way, and suggests Christ's words about the good shepherd in John 10:3, John 10:4 : "He calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out....He goeth before them, and the sheep follow him."
Inquired diligently (ἠκρίβωσεν)
Better learned accurately. The verb is formed from ἄκρος, at the point or end. The idea is, therefore, he ascertained to the last point; denoting the exactness of the information rather than the diligence of the search for it. Compare Matthew 2:8, "Search out carefully" (ἀκριβῶς). So the Rev. for diligently.
What time the star appeared (τὸν χρόνον τοῦ φαινομένου ἀστέρος)
Lit., the time of the appearing star. Herod asks, "How long does the star make itself visible since its rising in the East? rather than "At what time did it appear?"
Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
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.
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.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
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.
And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
Being warned (χρηματισθέντες)
The verb means to give a response to one who asks or consults: hence, in the passive, as here, to receive an answer. The word therefore implies that the wise men had sought counsel of God; and so Wycliffe, "And answer taken in sleep."
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.
When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
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.
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.
The children (τούς παῖδας)
Male children, as is indicated by the masculine form of the article, and so Rev.
Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by 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.
But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
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.
And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
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:
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.
Note the plural, as indicating not any one prediction in particular, but a summary of the import of several prophetic statements, such as Psalm 22:6, Psalm 22:8; Psalm 69:11, Psalm 69:19; Isaiah 53:2, Isaiah 53:3, Isaiah 53:4.
A term of contempt (compare John 1:46, and John 7:52). The very name of Nazareth suggested insignificance. In Hebrew it meant sprout or shoot. The name is prophetically given to the Messiah (Isaiah 11:1). In Isaiah 10:33, Isaiah 10:34, the fate of Assyria is described under the figure of the felling of a cedar forest. The figure of the tree is continued at the opening of ch. 11 concerning the Jewish state. The cedar throws out no fresh suckers, but the oak is a tree "in which, after the felling, a stock remaineth" (Isaiah 6:13; compare Job 14:9). There is a future then for Israel, represented by the oak. "There shall come forth a shoot from the stock of Jesse, and a twig from his roots shall bear fruit." As David sprang from the humble family of Jesse, so the Messiah, the second David, shall arise out of great humiliation. The fact that Jesus grew up at Nazareth was sufficient reason for his being despised. He was not a lofty branch on the summit of a stately tree; not a recognized and honored son of the royal house of David, now fallen, but an insignificant sprout from the roots of Jesse; a Nazarene, of an upstart sprout-town.