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7 Then Herod, when he the young child with Mary his had privily called the wise mother, and fell down and wormen, inquired of them dili- shipped him; and when they gently what time the star ap- had opened their treasures, peared. they presented unto him gifts; 8 And he sent them to Beth-gold, and frankincense, and lehem; and said, Go and myrrh.
search diligently for the young 12 And being warned of child; and when ye have found God in a dream that they him, bring me word again, that should not return to Herod, I may come and worship him they departed into their own also. country another way.
9 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.
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
13 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
11 And when they were him. come into the house, they saw
of Bethlehem as being a small place in point of civil distinction, but yet a place to be greatly distinguished by the appearing there of a distinguished ruler. On this last thought the mind of Matthew rested, and he speaks of Bethlehem as not being small, inasmuch as a distinguished ruler was to proceed from it.
8. Worship. This word has the same meaning here as in the second verse. We cannot fail to notice the hypocrisy of Herod.
9. In the east; not in a direction | east from them, but which they had before seen while in the eastern country.
14 When he arose, he took
aromatic resinous substance, issuing by incision, and sometimes spontaneously, from a tree growing in Arabia. It was in abundant use among the ancients for anointing and perfuming. It was also used for anointing the dead. See John 19: 39.
12. In a dream. See on 1: 20.
13. Flee into Egypt. Egypt was at this time a Roman province, and many Jews had taken up their abode there. It lay south-west from Bethlehem, a short distance, which could probably be travelled over by Joseph's family in three or four days. By retiring to Egypt, they would be beyond Herod's jurisdiction; and yet might 11. Presented unto him gifts. In be among Jews, who would symeastern countries, those who called up-pathize with them. How kind, too, on kings and other distinguished men, brought presents. Compare Gen. 43: 1. 1 Kings 10: 2. Ps. 72: 10. ||Frankincense; a valuable transparent gum, procured by incision from a tree found in Arabia || Myrrh; an
was the arrangement of providence, which sent the Magians [the wise men] with presents! thus furnishing them with articles that might readily be converted into means of subsist
ence and comfort.
the young child and his mother by [ saw that he was mocked of night, and departed into Egypt: 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.
15 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.
16 Then Herod, when he
15. Until the death of Herod. How long the family remained in Egypt cannot be precisely ascertained. It was, however, but a short time. Herod is believed to have died in the second year of our Lord. By the prophet. Hosea 11: 1. The prophet in this passage merely makes a declaration of God's kind dealings towards the nation of Israel, whom he delivered from bondage in Egypt, and whom as a nation he affectionately called his But now that Jesus, who was in the highest sense his son, was by a divine monition conveyed to Egypt, the language which was formerly used in reference to the nation of Israel was to be verified, or fulfilled, in a higher and more remarkable sense. That language was applicable to the case of Jesus more fully and appropriately, so that the event which the evangelist was relating, could be happily expressed in those same words. There was, then, a striking resemblance between the language of the prophet and this event in the history of Jesus; and thus this event might be regarded as filling out that language. An examination of the passage in Hosea will show, that it is not a prophecy of this event in the life of Jesus; and the word fulfil is here used in the wide sense in which we often employ it in ordinary life. It points out the striking resemblance between language in the Old Testament and an event in the history of Jesus.
16. Mocked. The word mock now means to mimic, to imitate in a way of contempt. But in the Bible it means to treat disrespectfully, to trifle with. Herod felt that he had been trifled with, deluded, and defeated. || All the children. The original Greek, and
the circumstances of the case, make it appear probable that it was only the male children whom he ordered to be put to death. The coasts thereof; the places bordering on Bethle hem.
In respect to the number of infants put to death on this occasion, it is impossible to speak with certainty. Bethlehem was rather an inconsiderable town as to population, and the families bordering upon it were probably few. One of the modern travellers states the present population at three hundred, and is inclined to think the population formerly did not much exceed that number. But if we estimate it at one thousand, the number of male children of the ages mentioned would doubtless fall short of fifty. Fifty is sometimes stated as the highest number; the number of ten, or twelve, is frequently stated as the most probable. But our judgment of Herod's conduct must not be regulated so much by the number of children put to death, as by the nature of the act and the motive which influenced him. This act, cruel as it was, corresponded to other deeds of Herod. He put to death a brother-in-law, one of his own wives, and three of his children; and when expecting his own death, he ordered that several principal men of the Jewish nation, who were for this purpose confined in Jericho, should be killed as soon as it should be known that he himself had died, so that there might be mourning at his death. This cruel order was not, however, obeyed. Josephus, the Jewish historian, in summing up the character of Herod, says, He was a man universally cruel, and of an un governable anger."
17 Then was fulfilled which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,
20 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.
21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Is
18 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. rael. 19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
17, 18. Jeremy; that is, Jeremiah. See Jer. 31: 15. || Rama; the name of a city a few miles north of Jerusalem. Rachel; one of Israel's wives, and mother of Joseph and Benjamin. See Gen. 30: 22-24.
Rachel died and was buried not far from Ephrath (Gen. 35: 16-19), that is, Bethlehem. Bethlehem was about six miles south of Jerusalem, and Rama a few miles north. In the passage quoted, the prophet poetically represents Rachel as sorely distressed at the going away of her descendants into captivity; sympathizing with them in their woes, she mingles her voice with theirs, and would not admit consolation. The distress thus poetically described, Matthew represents as again endured by her, in view of the calamities now experienced in Bethlehem. Those calamities occasioned a general and wide-spread mourning; the deep distress in the families of Bethlehem could not better be described than by adopting the language of Jeremiah, in reference to a preceding state of calamity and mourning. The distress, which fell so unexpectedly, so unreasonably, so cruelly, upon helpless babes and sorrowing families, was of no ordinary character. And well might the evangelist, while recording this act of unheard-of cruelty, summon to his aid the strong poetic representation of the prophet, and regard the prophet's language as still more
22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither:
applicable, and still more fully verified, on this occasion, than on the one to which it originally referred. Well might he feel that this heart-rending event did really fill up that language.
20. Land of Israel; country of the Jews.
See on v. 6. They are dead. Herod's partisans doubtless partook of his spirit in regard to any one who might be supposed able to interfere with their honors. Others besides Herod had died, from whom evil might have been apprehended.
22. Archelaus. Herod the Great had, in his last will, appointed Archelaus his successor in the government. He, accordingly, on the death of Herod, repaired to Rome, to procure from Augustus, the emperor, a confirmation of the arrangement which his father had made. But his brother Antipas disputed his title, since Herod had, in a previous will, appointed him to be his successor. The result was, that Archelaus was established in the government of a part of his father's dominions, namely, Judea, Idumea, which was partly in the south of Judea, partly further south, and Samaria, three cities excepted, with the title of ethnarch; Antipas, that is, Herod Antipas, was
constituted tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. Perea was the southern part of the country on the east of the Jordan. Archelaus proved to be a very cruel ruler, and after a few years was banished from his government by Augustus. He died in
notwithstanding, being warned | spoken by the prophets, He shall of God in a dream, he turned be called a Nazarene. aside into the parts of Galilee:
23 And he came and dwelt
in a city called Nazareth: that TN those days
23. Nazareth; a town in the southern part of Galilee, and the former place of Mary's residence. See Luke 1: 26. By the prophets, &c. The expression which follows cannot be found in any of the books of the Old Testament. Nor does Matthew intimate that any one prophet in particular had used this expression concerning the Messiah. He is rather to be understood as saying, that what he is about to express accorded with prophetic declarations respecting him. In order fully to understand the evangelist in this place, it should be considered that Nazareth appears to have been regarded, by the people of Judea, in a contemptuous manner. See John 1:46. From John 7: 52, it appears, that the whole district of Galilee, in which Nazareth was situated, was viewed in an unfavorable light. Hence, "to be a Nazarene," was a phrase implying reproach. The expressions Jesus of Galilee and Jesus of Nazareth, in Matt. 26: 69, 71, were probably meant as terms of reproach. Now, it had been predicted that the coming Saviour would be "despised and rejected of men." See Is. 53: 2, 3. Instead, then, of simply saving he would be an object of reproach, Matthew uses an expression of the same import, suggested by the circumstance of his abode being in Nazareth - he shall be called a Nazarene.
2. The Eastern Magi treated the infant Messiah with distinguished respect. What reverence ought we to cherish towards him, having so superior knowledge of his character!
3. How vain it is to attempt defeating the purposes of God! v. 13. He makes even the wrath of man to praise him. Compare Ps. 76: 10.
4. Notice the extreme cruelty to which a sinful heart may prompt. v. 16. Comp. Ex. 1:22. 2 Kings 8:11-15, 5. In every exigency, God will provide for those who trust in him. vs. 11, 13, 22.
6. What changes God effects! Egypt, from being the place of oppression to the Lord's people, becomes a place of refuge and protection for the infant Messiah from cruelties in his native land.
1. In those days. A new scene now opens before us. The evangelist, having related what took place in the early infancy of Jesus up to the time of the family's becoming again established in Nazareth, passes over a very considerable period in the life of Jesus. During that period, he lived in comparative obscurity, and was not occupied in matters pertaining to the public discharge of his office as Messiah. This period occupied a space of between twenty-five and thirty years. See Luke 3: 23. How Jesus was occupied during this time, we are not informed. The only circumstance particularly related, in regard to this period, is his visit to Jerusalem with his parents, at the age of twelve 1. Prophecy was remarkably ful-years. See Luke 2: 41-51. There
TOPICS FOR REFLECTION suggested by this chapter.
the wilderness of Judea,
2 And saying, Repent ye: for
is also a general remark made by Luke (2:52), which shows that Jesus, while advancing in age, manifested much intellectual capacity and piety. From Matt. 13: 55, it would appear that Joseph, his reputed father, was, by trade, a carpenter; and from Mark 6: 3, that Jesus himself wrought at the same occupation. His dignity consisted in innocence and holiness of character, and in performing a work which should glorify God by bringing countless multitudes to holiness and happiness. This portion of his life, however, was by no means destitute of an important bearing on his official work. He came to be the Redeemer of men; it was therefore suitable that he should know, by experience, how to sympathize with human beings in the ordinary circumstances of life, as well as with respect to their eternal interests. Heb. 2: 11, 14, 17, 18. Besides, the Jews maintained, that every man, whatever his station or his prospects, ought to be able to follow some trade.
The expression in those days is a general one, referring to some past time, without intending to connect, in point of time, a following account with events just related. It here carries us back to the early period of the Christian history. The same phrase, used in a similar manner, occurs in Ex. 2: 11. || John the Baptist; that is, the baptizer. John was distinguished from all preceding religious teachers by his administering of baptism in reference to the Messiah. The administering of baptism, with this reference, to those whom he deemed suitable persons to receive it, was an important part of his commission. For a full account of the circumstances connected with the birth of John, see Luke 1: 5-25, 57 -80. || Preaching; proclaiming. We are not to think of John as delivering formal discourses to established and well-regulated audiences; but as traversing the country, announcing the
the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
approach of the Messiah, and calling on the people to prepare for his coming, by a suitable reformation of heart and life. The wilderness of Judea. Judea was the southern part of Palestine, or the Holy Land. See the Map. The term wilderness in the Bible has not exactly the same meaning as that in which we use it. We express by it a region not yet inhabited, perhaps uninhabitable by civilized men; occupied rather by wild beasts than by civilized human beings. In the Scriptures, this word, as also the similar word desert, is applied to certain regions, as distinguishing them from more thickly-peopled places; somewhat as our word country is used in distinction from city or village. John was traversing the country parts of Judea. These thinlysettled tracts received names from places near them. The wilderness of Judea, here mentioned, was so called because it commenced in the territory of Judea. It was sometimes called the Great Desert, on account of its extent; commencing at the city of Tekoa, six miles south of Bethle hem, it extended to the east as far as the Persian Gulf, and very far northward along the river Euphrates.
2. Repent. This word signifies that true reformation of heart and life, that becoming truly pious, which would be adapted to the design of the Saviour's coming, and would be a suitable preparation for his approach. By the prophet Malachi (4: 5, 6), it was foretold that the Messiah would be preceded by a distinguished messenger, whose official business would be to attempt a general reformation among the Jews. John was that messenger. Matt. 11: 14. 17: 1013. In pursuance of his commission, he now began summoning the people to true repentance, that they might be ready for the coming Messiah. See Luke 1: 17. || The kingdom of heaven. This expression is of the same import as the expression king