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the facts of his reign prove that he was abundantly capable of this wickedness. The following bloody deeds will show that the slaying of the infants was in perfect accordance with his character. Aristobulus, brother of his wife Mariamne, was murdered by his directions at eighteen years of age, because the people of Jerusalem had shown some affection for his person. In the seventh year of his reign he put to death Hyrcanus, grandfather of Mariamne, then eighty years of age, and who had formerly saved Herod's life; a man who had, in every revolution of fortune, shown a mild and peaceable disposition. His beloved and beautiful wife, Mariamne, was publicly executed, and her mother Alexandra followed soon after. Alexander and Aristobulus, his two sons by Mariamne, were strangled in prison by his orders, upon groundless suspicions, when they were at man's estate, were married, and had children. In his last sickness, he sent orders throughout Judea, requiring the presence of all the chief men of the nation at Jericho. When they were come he had them all shut up in the circus; and calling for his sister Salome, and her husband Alexas, he told them-My life is now short. I know the Jewish people, and nothing will please them better than my death. You have them now in your custody. As soon as the breath is out of my body, and before my death can be known, do you let in the soldiers upon them, and kill them. All Judea, then, and every family, will, though unwillingly, mourn at my death.' Surely there could be no cruelty which such a man was not capable of perpetrating.
17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 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.
17, 18. 'Jeremy.' Jeremiah. This quotation is taken from Jeremiah xxxi. 15. The word 'fulfilled, here is taken evidently in the sense that the words in Jeremiah aptly express the event which Matthew was recording. The original design of this prophecy was to describe the sorrowful departure of the people into captivity, after the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuzaradan. The captives were assembled at Rama, Jeremiah himself being in chains, and there the fate of those who had escaped in the destruction of the city was decided at the will of the conqueror, Jer. xl. 1. The sadness of such a scene is well expressed in the language of the prophet, and no less beautifully and fitly applies to the melancholy event which the evangelist records. Rama was a small town in the tribe of Benjamin, not far from Bethlehem. Rachel was the mother of Benjamin, and was buried near to Rama, Gen. xxxv. 16-19. By a beautiful figure of speech, the prophet introduces the mother weeping over the tribe, her children, and
over the fallen destiny of Israel, and the calamities about to come upon the land. The language and the image aptly and beautifully expressed the sorrows of the mothers in Bethlehem, when Herod slew their infant children. We may remark here, that the sacred writers were cautious of speaking of characters. Here was one of the worst men in the world, committing one of the most awful crimes, and yet there is not a single mark of exclamation; not a single reference to any other part of his conduct. What was to their purpose they record; what was not, they left to others. This is the nature of religion. It does not speak evil of others, except when necessary, nor then take pleasure in it. But, when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 19. Herod was dead.' See note on v. 15. Herod left three sons, and the kingdom was at his death divided between them. To Archelaus was given Judea, Idumea, and Samaria; to Philip, Batanea, Trachonitis, &c.; to Antipas, Galilee and Perea. Each of these was also called Herod, and these are the Herods who are mentioned commonly in the New Testament,
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 Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea 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 :
22. Archelaus possessed a cruel and tyrannical disposition similar to his father. At one of the passovers he caused three thousand of the people to be put to death in the temple and city. Knowing his character, and fearing that he would not be safe there, Joseph hesitated about going there. The parts of Galilee.' The country of Galilee. At this time the land of Palestine was divided into three parts: Galilee, on the north; Samaria, in the middle; and Judea, on the south. Galilee was under the government of Herod Antipas, who was comparatively a mild prince; and in his dominions Joseph might find safety.
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.
23. Nazareth was a small town, situated in Galilee, west of Capernaum, and not far from Cana. It was built partly in a valley, and partly on the declivity of a hill, Luke iv. 29. A hill
is yet pointed out, to the south of Nazareth, as the one from which the people of the place attempted to precipitate the Saviour. It was a place, at that time, proverbial for wickedness, John i. 46. It is now a large village, with a convent and two churches. That it might be fulfilled by the prophets,' &c. The words here are not found in any of the books of the Old Testament. Matthew refers not to any particular place, but to the leading characteristics of the prophecies respecting him. The following remarks may make this clear. 1. He does not say, by the prophet,' as in ch. i. 22; ii. 5, 15, but by the prophets,' meaning no one particularly, but the general character of the prophecies. 2. The leading and most prominent prophecies respecting him were, that he was to be of humble life, to be despised, and rejected. See Isa. liii. 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 12. Ps. xxii. 3. The phrase, he shall be called,' means the same as 'he shall be.' 4. The character of the people of Nazareth was such that they were proverbially despised and contemned, John i. 46; vii. 52. To come from Nazareth, therefore, or to be a Nazarene, was the same as to be despised, and esteemed of low birth; to be a root out of dry ground, having no form or comeliness. And this was the same as had been predicted by the prophets. When Matthew says, therefore, that the prophecies were fulfilled, it means that the predictions of the prophets that the Messiah should be of humble life, and rejected, were fully accomplished in his being an inhabitant of Nazareth, and despised as such.
IN those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea,
1. It is not probable that John began to baptize or preach long before the Saviour entered on his ministry; and, consequently, from the time that is mentioned at the close of the second chapter, to that mentioned in the beginning of the third, an interval of twenty-five or more years elapsed. 'John the Baptist.' Or John the baptizer. So called from his principal office, that of baptizing, Preaching.' The word rendered to preach, means, to proclaim in the manner of a public crier; to make proclamation. 'In the wilderness of Judea.' This country was situated along the Jordan, and the Dead Sea, to the east of Jerusalem. The word translated 'wilderness', does not denote a place entirely destitute of inhabitants; but a mountainous, rough, and thinly-peopled country, better fitted for pasture than for tilling. There were inhabitants in those places, and even villages, but they were the comparatively unsettled portions of the country, 1 Sam. xxv. 1, 2. In the time of Joshua there were six cities in what was then called a wilderness, Joshua xv. 61, 62.
2 And saying, Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
2. Repentance implies sorrow for past offences, 2 Cor. vii. 10; a deep sense of the evil of sin as committed against God, Ps. li. 4; and a full purpose to turn from transgression, and to lead a holy life. A true penitent has sorrow for sin, not only because it is ruinous to his soul, but chiefly because it is an offence against God, and is that abominable thing which he hates, Jer. xliv. 4. It is produced by seeing the great danger and misery to which it exposes us; the justice and holiness of God, Job xlii. 6; and that our sins have been committed against Christ, and were the cause of his death, Zech. xii. 10. Luke xxii. 61, 62. There are two words in the New Testament translated repentance; one of which denotes a change of mind, or a reformation of life; and the other sorrow, or regret that sin has been committed. The word used here is the former: calling the Jews to a change of life, or a reformation of conduct. In the time of John the nation had become extremely wicked and corrupt. Both he and Christ began their ministry by calling to repentance. 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand." The expectation of such a kingdom was taken from the Old Testament, especially from Daniel, ch. vii. 13, 14. The prophets had told of a successor to David, who should sit on his throne, 1 Kings ii. 4; viii. 25. Jer. xxxiii. 17. The Jews expected a great national deliverer. They supposed that when the Messiah should appear, all the dead would be raised; that the judgment would take place; and that the enemies of the Jews would be destroyed, and their nation advanced to great dignity and honour.
The language in which they were accustomed to describe this event was retained by our Saviour and his Apostles. Yet he early attempted to correct the common notions respecting his reign. This was one design, doubtless, of John in preaching repentance. Instead of summoning them to military exercises, and collecting an army, which would have been in accordance with their expectations, he called them to a change of life; to the doctrine of repentance; a state of things far more accordant with the approach of a kingdom of purity.
The phrases, kingdom of God,' &c., have been supposed to have a considerable variety of meaning. Some have thought that they refer to the state of things in heaven; others, that they mean the church, or the reign of Christ in the hearts of his people. There can be no doubt that there is reference in the words to the condition of things in heaven, after this life. But the church of God is a preparatory state to that beyond the grave; a state in which Christ pre-eminently rules and reigns; and it means, therefore, the state of things which the Messiah was to set up---his spiritual reign begun in the church on earth, and completed in heaven.
The phrase would be best translated the reign of God draws
near,' or the time when Christ would reign is at hand. The time when Christ should set up his kingdom, or begin his dominion on earth, under the Christian economy, was about to commence. The phrase should not be confined to any period of that reign, but includes his whole dominion over his people on earth, and in heaven.
The word heaven, or heavens, as it is in the original, means sometimes the place, so called, and sometimes is put for the Great Being whose residence is there; as in Daniel iv. 26; 'the Heavens do rule.' See also Mark xi. 30. Luke xv. 18. Ás that kingdom was one of purity, was proper that the people should prepare themselves for it by turning from their sins.
3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
3. The prophet Esaias.' The prophet Isaiah. Esaias is the Greek mode of writing the name. This passage is taken from Isaiah xl. 3. It is here said to have been spoken in reference to John, the forerunner of Christ. The language is such as was familiar to the Jews, and such as they would understand. Anciently, it was customary in the march of armies to send messengers, or pioneers, before them, to proclaim their approach; to provide for them; to remove obstructions; to make roads, level hills, fill up vallies, &c.
As applied to John, it means, that he was sent to remove obstructions, and to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah; like a herald going before a host on the march, to make preparation for their coming.
4 And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
4. His raiment of camel's hair.' His clothing. This is not the fine hair of the camel from which cloth is made, called camlet, nor the more elegant stuff, brought from the East Indies, under the name of camel's hair; but the long, shaggy hair of the camel, from which a coarse, cheap cloth is made, still worn by the poorer classes in the East, and by monks. This dress of the camel's hair, and a leathern girdle, it seems, was the common dress of the prophets, 2 Kings i. 8. Zech. xiii. 4. 'His meat was locusts.' His food. These were the food of the common people. Among the Greeks, the poorest of the people used to eat them; and the fact that John made his food of them is significant of his great poverty and humble life. The Jews were allowed to eat them, Lev. xi. 22. Locusts are flying insects, and are of various kinds. The green locusts are about two inches in length,