1 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,
1 CHAPTER II.
NOTES ON CHAP. II.
Verse 1. Bethlehem of Judea] This city is mentioned in
Jud 17:7, and must be distinguished from another of the same name
in the tribe of Zebulon, Jos 19:15. It is likewise called
Ephrath, Ge 48:7,
or Ephratah, Mic 5:2, and its inhabitants Ephrathites, Ru 1:2;
1Sa 17:12. It is situated on the declivity of a hill, about six
miles from Jerusalem. Beth-lechem, in Hebrew, signifies
the house of bread. And the name may be considered as very
properly applied to that place where Jesus, the Messiah, the true
bread that came down from heaven, was manifested, to give life to
the world. But lehem also signifies flesh, and is applied to
that part of the sacrifice which was burnt upon the altar.
See Le 3:11-16; 21:6. The word is also used to signify a
carcass, Zep 1:17.
The Arabic version has [Arabic] Beet lehem, and the Persic
[Persic] Beet allehem: but [Arabic] lehem, in Arabic, never
signifies bread, but always means flesh. Hence it is more proper
to consider the name as signifying the house of flesh, or, as some
might suppose, the house of the incarnation, i.e. the place where
God was manifested in the flesh for the salvation of a lost world.
In the days of Herod the king] This was HEROD, improperly
denominated the GREAT, the son of Antipater, an Idumean: he
reigned 37 years in Judea, reckoning from the-time he was
created-king of that country by the Romans. Our blessed Lord was
born in the last year of his reign; and, at this time, the sceptre
had literally departed from Judah, a foreigner being now upon the
As there are several princes of this name mentioned in the New
Testament, it may be well to give a list of them here, together
with their genealogy.
Herod, the Great, married ten wives, by whom he had several
children, Euseb. l. i. c. 9. p. 27. The first was Doris, thought
to be an Idumean, whom he married when but a private individual;
by her he had Antipater, the eldest of all his sons, whom he
caused to be executed five days before his own death.
His second wife was Mariamne, daughter to Hircanus, the sole
surviving person of the Asmonean, or Maccabean, race. Herod put
her to death. She was the mother of Alexander and Aristobulus,
whom Herod had executed at Sebastia, (Joseph. Antiq. l. xvi. c.
13.-De Bello, l. i. c. 17,) on an accusation of having entered
into a conspiracy against him. Aristobulus left three children,
whom I shall notice hereafter.
His third wife was Mariamne, the daughter of Simon, a person of
some note in Jerusalem, whom Herod made high priest, in order to
obtain his daughter. She was the mother of Herod Philippus, or
Herod Philip, and Salome. Herod or Philip married Herodias,
mother to Salome, the famous dancer, who demanded the head of John
the Baptist, Mr 6:22. Salome had been placed, in the will of
Herod the Great, as second heir after Antipater; but her name was
erased, when it was discovered that Mariamne, her mother, was an
accomplice in the crimes of Antipater, son of Herod the Great.
Joseph de Bello, lib. i. c. 18,19,20.
His fourth wife was Malthake, a Samaritan, whose sons were
Archelaus and Philip. The first enjoyed half his father's kingdom
under the name of tetrarch, viz. Idumea, Judea, and Samaria:
Joseph. Antiq. l. xvii. c. 11. He reigned nine years; but, being
accused and arraigned before the Emperor Augustus, he was banished
to Vienna, where he died: Joseph. Antiq. l. xvii. c. 15. This is
the Archelaus mentioned in Mt 2:22.
His brother Philip married Salome, the famous dancer, the
daughter of Herodias; he died without children, and she was
afterwards married to Aristobulus.
The fifth wife of Herod the Great was Cleopatra of Jerusalem.
She was the mother of Herod surnamed Antipas, who married
Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, while he was still
living. Being reproved for this act by John the Baptist,
Mt 14:3; Mr 6:17; Lu 3:19, and having imprisoned this holy
man, he caused him to be beheaded, agreeable to the promise he had
rashly made to the daughter of his wife Herodias, who had pleased
him with her dancing. He attempted to seize the person of Jesus
Christ, and to put him to death. It was to this prince that
Pilate sent our Lord, Lu 13:31, 32. He was banished to Lyons,
and then to Spain, where both he and his wife Herodias died.
Joseph. Antiq. l. xv. c. 14.-De Bello, l. ii. c. 8.
The sixth wife of Herod the Great was Pallas, by whom he had
Phasaelus: his history is no ways connected with the New
The seventh was named Phoedra, the mother of Roxana, who married
the son of Pheroras.
The eighth was Elpida, mother of Salome, who married another son
With the names of two other wives of Herod we are not
acquainted; but they are not connected with our history, any more
than are Pallas, Phoedra, and Elpida, whose names I merely notice
to avoid the accusation of inaccuracy.
ARISTOBULUS, the son of Herod the Great by Mariamne, a
descendant of the Asmoneans, left two sons and a daughter, viz.
Agrippa, Herod, and Herodias, so famous for her incestuous
marriage with Antipas, in the life-time of his brother Philip.
AGRIPPA, otherwise named Herod, who was imprisoned by Tiberius
for something he had inconsiderately said against him, was
released from prison by Caligula, who made him king of Judea:
Joseph. Antiq. l. xviii. c. 8. It was this prince who put St.
James to death, and imprisoned Peter, as mentioned in xii. of
Acts. He died at Caesarea, in the way mentioned in the Acts, as
well as by Josephus, Antiq. l. xix. c. 7. He left a son named
Agrippa, who is mentioned below.
HEROD, the second son of Aristobulus, was king of Chalcis, and,
after the death of his brother, obtained permission of the emperor
to keep the ornaments belonging to the high priest, and to
nominate whom he pleased to that office: Joseph. Antiq. l. xx. c.
1. He had a son named Aristobulus, to whom Nero gave Armenia the
lesser, and who married Salome, the famous dancer, daughter to
AGRIPPA, son of Herod Agrippa, king of Judea, and grandson to
Aristobulus and Mariamne; he was at first king of Chalcis, and
afterwards tetrarch of Galilee, in the room of his uncle Philip:
Joseph. Antiq. l. xx. c. 5. It was before him, his sister
Berenice, and Felix, who had married Drusilla, Agrippa's second
daughter, that St. Paul pleaded his cause, as mentioned Acts 26.
HERODIAS, the daughter of Mariamne and Aristobulus, is the
person of whom we have already spoken, who married successively
the two brothers Philip and Antipas, her uncles, and who
occasioned the death of John the Baptist. By her first husband
she had Salome, the dancer, who was married to Philip, tetrarch of
the Trachonitis, the son of Herod the Great. Salome having had no
children by him, she was married to Aristobulus, her cousin-german,
son of Herod, king of Chalcis, and brother to Agrippa and Herodias:
she had by this husband several children.
This is nearly all that is necessary to be known relative to the
race of the Herods, in order to distinguish the particular persons
of this family mentioned in the New Testament. See Basnage,
Calmet, and Josephus.
There came wise men from the east] Or, Magi came from the
eastern countries. "The Jews believed that there were prophets in
the kingdom of Saba and Arabia, who were of the posterity of
Abraham by Keturah; and that they taught in the name of God, what
they had received in tradition from the mouth of Abraham."-WHITBY.
That many Jews were mixed with this people there is little doubt;
and that these eastern magi, or philosophers, astrologers, or
whatever else they were, might have been originally of that class,
there is room to believe. These, knowing the promise of the
Messiah, were now, probably, like other believing Jews, waiting
for the consolation of Israel. The Persic translator renders the
Greek μαγοι by [Persic] mejooseean, which properly signifies a
worshipper of fire; and from which we have our word magician. It
is very probable that the ancient Persians, who were considered as
worshippers of fire, only honoured it as the symbolical
representation of the Deity; and, seeing this unusual appearance,
might consider it as a sign that the God they worshipped was about
to manifest himself among men. Therefore they say, We have seen
his star-and are come to worship him; but it is most likely that
the Greeks made their μαγοι magi, which we translate wise men,
from the Persian [Persian] mogh, and [Persian] moghan, which the
Kushuf ul Loghat, a very eminent Persian lexicon, explains by
[Persian] atush perest, a worshipper of fire; which the Persians
suppose all the inhabitants of Ur in Chaldea were, among whom the
Prophet Abraham was brought up. The Mohammedans apply this title
by way of derision to Christian monks in their associate
capacity; and by a yet stronger catachresis, they apply it to a
tavern, and the people that frequent it. Also, to ridicule in the
most forcible manner the Christian priesthood, they call the
tavern-keeper [Arabic], peeri Mughan, the priest, or chief of
the idolaters. It is very probable that the persons mentioned by
the evangelist were a sort of astrologers, probably of Jewish
extraction, that they lived in Arabia-Felix, and, for the reasons
above given, came to worship their new-born sovereign. It is
worthy of remark, that the Anglo-saxon translates the word μαγοι
by [Anglo-Saxon], which signifies astrologers, from [Anglo-Saxon]
a star or planet, and [Anglo-Saxon], to know or understand.
2 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.
2 Verse 2. We have seen his star] Having discovered an unusual
luminous appearance or meteor in the heavens, supposing these
persons to have been Jews, and knowing the prophecies relative to
the redemption of Israel, they probably considered this to be the
star mentioned by Balaam, Nu 24:17. See the note there.
In the east] εντηανατολη, At its rise. ανατολη and δυσην
are used in the New Testament for east and west.
To worship him.] Or, To do him homage; προσκυνησαιαυτω. The
word προσκυνεω, which is compounded of προς, to, and κυων,
a dog, signifies to crouch and fawn like a dog at his master's
feet. It means, to prostrate oneself to another, according to the
eastern custom, which is still in use. In this act, the person
kneels, and puts his head between his knees, his forehead at the
same time touching the ground. It was used to express both civil
and religious reverence. In Hindostan, religious homage is paid
by prostrating the body at full length, so that the two knees, the
two hands, forehead, nose, and cheeks all touch the earth at the
same time. This kind of homage is paid also to great men. AYEEN
AKBERY, vol. iii. p. 227.
As to what is here called a star, some make it a meteor, others
a luminous appearance like an Aurora Borealis; others a comet!
There is no doubt, the appearance was very striking: but it seems
to have been a simple meteor provided for the occasion.
See Clarke on Mt 2:9.
3When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
3 Verse 3. When Herod-heard these things, he was troubled]
Herod's consternation was probably occasioned by the agreement of
the account of the magi, with an opinion predominant throughout
the east, and particularly in Judea, that some great personage
would soon make his appearance, for the deliverance of Israel from
their enemies; and would take upon himself universal empire.
SUETONIUS and TACITUS, two Roman historians, mention this. Their
words are very remarkable:-
\@Percrebuerat Oriente toto, vetus et constans opinio, esse in
fatis, ut eo tempore Judaea profecti rerum potirentur. Id de
imperatare Romano, quantum eventu postea predictum patuit, Judaei
ad se trahentes, rebellarunt\@. SUETON. VESP. "An ancient and
settled persuasion prevailed throughout the east, that the fates
had decreed some to proceed from Judea, who should attain
universal empire. This persuasion, which the event proved to
respect the Roman emperor, the Jews applied to themselves, and
The words of Tacitus are nearly similar:-
\@Pluribus persuasio inerat, antiquis sacerdotum literis
contineri, eo ipso tempore fore, ut valesceret Oriens, profectique
Judaea rerum potirentur. Quae ambages Vespasianum ac Titum
"Many were persuaded, that it was contained in the ancient books
of their priests, that at that very time the east should prevail:
and that some should proceed from Judea and possess the dominion.
It was Vespasian and Titus that these ambiguous prophecies
predicted." Histor. v.
4And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
4 Verse 4. The chief priests] Not only the high priest for the
time being, called cohen ha-rosh, 2Ki 25:18, and his
deputy, called cohen mishneh, with those who had
formerly borne the high priest's office; but also, the chiefs or
heads of the twenty four sacerdotal families, which David
distributed into so many courses, 1Ch 24. These latter are styled
sarey ha-cohanim, chief of the priests, 2Ch 36:14;
Ezr 8:24; and
roshey ha-cohanim, heads of the priests, Ne 12:7.
Josephus calls them by the same name as the writers of the New
Testament. In his Life, sect. 8, he mentions πολλουςτων
αρχιερεων, MANY of the chief priests. The word is used in the
singular in this last sense, for a chief of the priests, Ac 19:14.
Scribes] The word γραμματευς, in the Septuagint, is used for a
political officer, whose business it was to assist kings and civil
magistrates, and to keep an account in writing of public acts and
occurrences. Such an officer is called in Hebrew seper
hamelech, ογραμματευςτουβασιλεως, the king's scribe, or
secretary. See LXX. 2Ki 12:10.
The word is often used by the LXX. for a man of learning,
especially for one skilled in the Mosaic law: and, in the same
sense, it is used by the New Testament writers. γραμματευς is
therefore to be understood as always implying a man of letters, or
learning, capable of instructing the people. The derivation of
the names proves this to be the genuine meaning of the word
γραμμα: a letter, or character, in writing: or γραμματα,
letters, learning, erudition, and especially that gained from
books. The Hebrew or sopher, from saphar, to
tell, count, cypher, signifies both a book, volume, roll, &c., and
a notary, recorder, or historian; and always signifies a man of
learning. We often term such a person a man of letters.
The word is used Ac 19:35,
for a civil magistrate at Ephesus, probably such a one as we would
term recorder. It appears that Herod at this time gathered the
whole Sanhedrin, in order to get the fullest information on a
subject by which all his jealous fears had been alarmed.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
5 Verse 5. In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the
prophet] As there have been several confused notions among the
Jews, relative not only to the Messiah, and his character, but
also to the time of his birth, it may be necessary to add, to what
has already been said on this subject, the following extracts from
the Talmudists and Gemarists, quoted by LIGHTFOOT. At the close
of a long dissertation on the year of our Lord's birth, (which he
places in the 35th of the reign of Herod, not the last or 37th as
above,) he says: "It will not be improper here to produce the
Gemarists themselves openly confessing that the Messias had been
born, a good while ago before their times. For so they write:
After this the children of Israel shall be converted, and shall
inquire after the Lord their God, and David their king: Ho 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. R. Tanchum
said, Thus I prove it: He showeth mercy to David his Messiah.
R. Joshua ben Levi saith, His name is tsemach, a Branch.
R. Juban bar Arbu saith, His name is Menahem. (That is,
παρακλητος, 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 belloweth 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 (i.e.
the Comforter.) 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 strangled, 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 today, after some
days I will come back and receive it. After some days, he
returned to that city, and saith to her, How does the little
infant? And she said, From the time you saw me last, spirits and
tempests came, and snatched him away out of my hands. R. Bon
saith, What need have we to learn from an Arabian? Is it not
plainly written, And Lebanon shall fall before the powerful one?
And what follows after? A branch shall come out of the root of
Jesse. (Isa 11:1.)
"The Babylonian doctors yield us a confession not very unlike
the former. R. Charinah saith: After four hundred years are
passed from the destruction of the temple, if any one shall say to
you, Take to thyself for one penny a field worth a thousand pence,
do not take it. And again, After four thousand two hundred thirty
and one years from the creation of the world, if any shall say to
you, Take for a penny a field worth a thousand pence, take it not.
The gloss is, For that is the time of redemption, and you shall be
brought back to the holy mountain, to the inheritance of your
fathers; why, therefore, should you misspend your penny?
"You may fetch the reason of this calculation, if you have
leisure, out of the tract Sanhedrin. The tradition of the school
of Elias, the world is to last six thousand years, &c. And a
little after, Elias said to Rabh Judah, The world shall last not
less than eighty-five jubilees: and in the last jubilee shall the
Son of David come. He saith to him, Whether in the beginning of
it, or in the end? He answered him, I know not. Whether is this
whole time to be finished first, or not? He answered him, I know
not. But Rabh Asher asserted, that he answered thus, Until then,
expect him not, but from thence expect him. Hear your own
countrymen, O Jew! How many centuries of years are passed by and
gone from the eighty-fifth jubilee of the world, that is, the year
MMMMCCL, and yet the Messias of your expectation is not yet come!
"Daniel's weeks had so clearly defined the time of the true
Messias, his coming, that the minds of the whole nation were
raised into the expectation of him. Hence, it was doubted of the
Baptist, whether he were not the Messias, Lu 3:15. Hence it was,
that the Jews are gathered together from all countries unto
Jerusalem, Acts 2:, expecting and coming to see, because at that
time the term of revealing the Messias, that had been prefixed by
Daniel, was come. Hence it was that there was so great a number
of false Christs, Mt 24:5, &c., taking the occasion of their
impostures hence, that now the time of that great expectation was
at hand, and fulfilled: and in one word, They thought the kingdom
of God should presently appear, Lu 19:11.
"But when those times of expectation were past, nor did such a
Messias appear as they expected, (for when they saw the true
Messias, they would not see him,) they first broke out into
various, and those wild, conjectures of the time; and at length,
all those conjectures coming to nothing, all ended in this curse
(the just cause of their eternal blindness) ,
May their soul be confounded who compute the times!" They were
fully aware that the time foretold by the prophets must be long
since fulfilled; and that their obstinacy must be confounded by
their own history, and the chronology of their own Scriptures;
and therefore they have pronounced an anathema on those who shall
attempt to examine, by chronological computations, the prophecies
that predict his coming. Who can conceive a state of wilful
blindness or determined obstinacy superior to this!
6 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.
6 Verse 6. And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda] To
distinguish it from Bethlehem, in the tribe of Zebulon. Jos 19:15.
See Clarke on Mt 2:1.
Art not the least] In Mic 5:2,
it is read, Though thou be little- tsair lehayoth,
little to be. Houbigant, struck with the oddness of the
construction of the Hebrew, by dividing the last word, and making
a small change in two of the letters, makes the prophet agree with
the evangelist, tsair lo hayita, thou art not the
least. Several learned men are of opinion, that the copy from
which St. Matthew quoted, had the text in this way. However, some
MSS. of very good note, among which is the Codex Bezae, have μη
ελαχιστηει, for ουδαμωςελαχιστηει, Art thou not the least?
This reconciles the prophet and evangelist without farther
trouble. See the authorities for this reading in Griesbach and
Among the princes of Juda] In Mic 5:2,
it is, the thousands of Judah. There is much reason to believe
that each tribe was divided into small portions called thousands,
as in England certain small divisions of counties are called
hundreds. For the proof of the first, the reader is referred to
where, instead of my FAMILY is poor in Manasseh, the Hebrew is, my
THOUSAND () is the meanest in Manasseh: and to 1Sa 10:19,
Present yourselves before the Lord by your TRIBES and by your
THOUSANDS: and to 1Ch 12:20, Captains of the THOUSANDS of
Manasseh. Now these THOUSANDS being petty governments, Matthew
renders them by the word ηγεμοσις, because the word princes or
governors was more intelligible in the Greek tongue than
thousands, though, in this case, they both signify the same. See
That shall rule my people Israel.] οστιςποιμανει, Who shall
FEED my people. That is as a shepherd feeds his flock. Among the
Greeks, kings are called, by Homer, λαωνποιμενες, shepherds of
the people. This appellation probably originated from the
pastoral employment, which kings and patriarchs did not blush to
exercise in the times of primitive simplicity; and it might
particularly refer to the case of David, the great type of Christ,
who was a keeper of his father's sheep, before he was raised to
the throne of Israel. As the government of a good king was
similar to the care a good shepherd has of his flock, hence ποιμην
signified both shepherd and king; and ποιμαινω, to feed and
to rule among the ancient Greeks.
7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
8And 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.
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.
9 Verse 9. In the east] Or, at its rise.
See Clarke on Mt 2:2.
Stood over where the young child was.] Super caput pueri, Over
the head of the child, as the OPUS IMPERFECTUM, on this place, has
it. See Griesbach's Var. Lect. So it appears to have been a
simple luminous meteor in a star-like form, and at a very short
distance from the ground, otherwise it could not have ascertained
the place where the child lay. But the last quoted reading, from
the Opus Imperfectum, justifies the opinion that the luminous
appearance which had hitherto directed them now encompassed the
head of the child; and probably this gave the first idea to the
ancient painters, of representing Christ in the manger, with a
glory surrounding his head. This glory, or nimbus, is usually
given also to saints and eminent persons, especially in the Roman
Church, by all Roman Catholic painters.
10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
11 ¶ 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.
11 Verse 11. They presented unto him gifts] The people of the
east never approach the presence of kings and great personages,
without a present in their hands. This custom is often noticed in
the Old Testament, and still prevails in the east, and in some of
the newly discovered South Sea Islands.
Gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.] Some will have these gifts
to be emblematic of the Divinity, regal office, and manhood of
Christ. "They offered him incense as their God; gold as their
king; and myrrh, as united to a human body, subject to suffering
and death." Aurum, thus, myrrham, regique, DEO, HOMINIQUE, dona
ferunt. JUVENCUS. Rather, they offered him the things which were
in most esteem among themselves; and which were productions of
their own country. The gold was probably a very providential
supply, as on it, it is likely, they subsisted while in Egypt.
12And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
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 him.
13 Verse 13. Flee into Egypt] Many Jews had settled in Egypt; not
only those who had fled thither in the time of Jeremiah, see Jer.
48; but many others who had settled there also, on account of the
temple which Onias IV. had built at Heliopolis. Those who could
speak the Greek tongue enjoyed many advantages in that country:
besides, they had the Greek version of the Septuagint, which had
been translated nearly 300 years before this time. Egypt was now
a Roman province, and the rage of Herod could not pursue the holy
family to this place. There is an apocryphal work in Arabic,
called the Gospel of the infancy, which pretends to relate all the
acts of Jesus and Mary while in Egypt. I have taken the pains to
read this through, and have found it to be a piece of gross
superstition, having nothing to entitle it to a shadow of
14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
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.
15 Verse 15. Out of Egypt have I called my son.] This is quoted
from Ho 11:1, where the deliverance of Israel, and that only, is
referred to. But as that deliverance was extraordinary, it is
very likely that it had passed into a proverb, so that "Out of
Egypt have I called my son," might have been used to express any
signal deliverance. I confess, I can see no other reference it
can have to the case in hand, unless we suppose, which is
possible, that God might have referred to this future bringing up
of his son Jesus from Egypt, under the type of the past
deliverance of Israel from the same land. Midrash Tehillin, on
has these remarkable words: I will publish a decree: this decree
has been published in the Law, in the Prophets, and in the
Hagiographia. In the Law, Israel is my first-born son: Ex 4:22.
In the Prophets, Behold, my servant shall deal prudently:
In the Hagiographia, The Lord said unto my lord: Ps 110:1.
All these passages the Jews refer to the Messiah. See Schoetgen.
16 ¶ 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 enquired of the wise men.
16 Verse 16. Slew all the children] This cruelty of Herod seems
alluded to in very decisive terms by Macrobius, who flourished
toward the conclusion of the fourth Century. In his chapter De
jocis Augusti in alios, et aliorum rursus in ipsum, he says, Cum
audisset inter pueros, quos in Syria Herodes, rex Judeorum, intra
bimatum jussit interfici, filium quoque ejus occisum, ait, Melius
est Herodis PORCUM esse, quam FILIUM. "When he heard that among
those male infants about two years old, which Herod, the king of
the Jews, ordered to be slain in Syria, one of his sons was also
murdered, he said: 'It is better to be Herod's HOG than his SON.'"
Saturn. lib. ii. c. 4. The point of this saying consists in this,
that Herod, professing Judaism, his religion forbade his killing
swine, or having any thing to do with their flesh; therefore his
hog would have been safe, where his son lost his life.
17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,
18In 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.
18 Verse 18. In Rama was there a voice heard] These words, quoted
from Jer 31:15, were originally spoken concerning the captivity
of the ten tribes; but are here elegantly applied to the murder of
the innocents at Bethlehem. As if he had said, Bethlehem at this
time resembled Rama; for as Rachel might be said to weep over her
children, which were slaughtered or gone into captivity; so in
Bethlehem, the mothers lamented bitterly their children, because
they were slain. The word θρηνος, lamentation is omitted by the
Codd. Vatic. Cypr. one of Selden's MSS. the Syriac, Arabic,
Persic, AEthiopic, all the Itala, (except that in the Cod. Bezae,)
Vulgate, and Saxon, several of the fathers, and above all
Jeremiah, Jer 31:15, from which it is quoted. Griesbach leaves
it in the text with a note of doubtfulness. This mourning may
refer to cases far from uncommon in the east, where all the
children have been massacred. The lamentations of a Hindoo mother
for her child are loud and piercing; and it is almost impossible
to conceive of a scene more truly heart-rending than that of a
whole town of such mothers wailing over their massacred children.
19 ¶ But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
20Saying, 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.
20 Verse 20. They are dead] Both Herod and Antipater his son;
though some think the plural is here used for the singular, and
that the death of Herod alone is here intended. But as Herod's
son Antipater was at this time heir apparent to the throne, and he
had cleared his way to it by procuring the death of both his elder
brothers, he is probably alluded to here, as doubtless he entered
into his father's designs. THEY are dead-Antipater was put to
death by his father's command, five days before this execrable
tyrant went to his own place. See Josephus, Antiq. xvi. 11; xvii.
21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
22But 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:
22 Verse 22. When he heard that Archelaus did reign] Herod,
having put Antipater his eldest son to death, altered his will,
and thus disposed of his dominions: he gave the tetrarchy of
Galilee and Petrea to his son Antipas; the tetrarchy of
Gaulonitis, Trachonitis, Batanea, and Paneadis, to his son Philip;
and left the kingdom of Judea to his eldest remaining son,
Archelaus. This son partook of the cruel and blood-thirsty
disposition of his father: at one of the passovers, he caused
three thousand of the people to be put to death in the temple and
city. For his tyranny and cruelty, Augustus deprived him of the
government, and banished him. His character considered, Joseph,
with great propriety, forbore to settle under his jurisdiction.
He turned aside into the parts of Galilee] Here Antipas
governed, who is allowed to have been of a comparatively mild
disposition: and, being intent on building two cities, Julias and
Tiberias, he endeavoured, by a mild carriage and promises of
considerable immunities, to entice people from other provinces to
come and settle in them. He was besides in a state of enmity with
his brother Archelaus: this was a most favourable circumstance to
the holy family; and though God did not permit them to go to any
of the new cities, yet they dwelt in peace, safety, and comfort at
23And 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 Verse 23. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the
prophets] It is difficult to ascertain by what prophets this
was spoken. The margin usually refers to Jud 13:5, where the
angel, foretelling the birth of Samson, says, No razor shall come
upon his head; for the child shall be a NAZARITE ( nezir)
unto God from the womb. The second passage usually referred to is
There shall come forth a rod from the stem of Jesse, and a BRANCH
( netser) shall grow out of his roots. That this refers to
Christ, there is no doubt. Jeremiah, Jer 23:5, is supposed to
speak in the same language-I will raise unto David a righteous
BRANCH: but here the word is tsemach, not netser; and
it is the same in the parallel place, Zec 3:8; 6:12; therefore,
these two prophets cannot be referred to; but the passages in
Judges and Isaiah may have been in the eye of the evangelist, as
well as the whole institution relative to the Nazarite (
nezir) delivered at large, Num. 6:, where see the notes. As the
Nazarite was the most pure and perfect institution under the law,
it is possible that God intended to point out by it, not only the
perfection of our Lord, but also the purity of his followers. And
it is likely that, before St. Matthew wrote this Gospel, those
afterwards called Christians bore the appellation of Nazarites, or
Nazoreans, for so the Greek word, ναζωραιος, should be written.
Leaving the spiritual reference out of the question, the Nazarene
or Nazorean here may mean simply an inhabitant or person of
Nazareth; as Galilean does a person or inhabitant of Galilee.
The evangelist evidently designed to state, that neither the
sojourning at Nazareth, nor our Lord being called a Nazarene, were
fortuitous events, but were wisely determined and provided for in
the providence of God; and therefore foretold by inspired men, or
fore-represented by significant institutions.
But how shall we account for the manner in which St. Matthew and
others apply this, and various other circumstances, to the
fulfilment of ancient traditions? This question has greatly
agitated divines and critics for more than a century. Surenhusius,
Hebrew professor at Amsterdam, and editor of a very splendid and
useful edition of the Mishna, in six vols. fol. published an
express treatise on this subject, in 1713, full of deep research
and sound criticism. He remarks great difference in the mode of
quoting used in the Sacred Writings: as, It hath been said-it is
written-that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the
prophets-the Scripture says-see what is said-the Scripture
foreseeing-he saith-is it not written?-the saying that is
written, &c., &c. With great pains and industry, he has collected
ten rules out of the Talmud and the rabbins, to explain and
justify all the quotations made from the Old Testament in the New.
RULE I. Reading the words, not according to the regular vowel
points, but to others substituted for them. He thinks this is
done by Peter, Ac 3:22, 23;
by Stephen, Ac 7:42, &c.;
and by Paul, 1Co 15:54; 2Co 8:15.
RULE II. Changing the letters, as done by St. Paul, Ro 9:33;
1Co 9:9, &c.; Heb 8:9., &c.; Heb 10:5.
RULE III. Changing both letters and vowel points, as he
supposes is done by St. Paul, Ac 13:40, 41; 2Co 8:15.
RULE IV. Adding some letters, and retrenching others.
RULE V. Transposing words and letters.
RULE VI. Dividing one word into two.
RULE VII. Adding other words to make the sense more clear.
RULE VIII. Changing the original order of the words.
RULE IX. Changing the original order, and adding other words.
RULE X. Changing the original order, and adding and retrenching
words, which he maintains is a method often used by St. Paul.
Let it be observed, that although all these rules are used by
the rabbins, yet, as far as they are employed by the sacred
writers of the New Testament, they never, in any case, contradict
what they quote from the Old, which cannot be said of the rabbins:
they only explain what they quote, or accommodate the passage to
the facts then in question. And who will venture to say that the
Holy Spirit has not a right, in any subsequent period, to explain
and illustrate his own meaning, by showing that it had a greater
extension in the Divine mind than could have been then perceived
by men? And has HE not a right to add to what he has formerly
said, if it seem right in his own sight? Is not the whole of the
New Testament, an addition to the Old, as the apostolic epistles
are to the narrative of our Lord's life and acts, as given by the
Gusset, Wolf, Rosenmuller, and others, give four rules, according
to which, the phrase, that it might be fulfilled, may be applied
in the New Testament.
RULE I. When the thing predicted is literally accomplished.
RULE II. When that is done, of which the Scripture has spoken,
not in a literal sense, but in a spiritual sense.
RULE III. When a thing is done neither in a literal nor
spiritual sense, according to the fact referred to in the
Scripture; but is similar to that fact.
RULE IV. When that which has been mentioned in the Old Testament
as formerly done, is accomplished in a larger and more extensive
sense in the New Testament.
St. Matthew seems to quote according to all these rules; and it
will be useful to the reader to keep them constantly in view. I
may add here, that the writers of the New Testament seem often to
differ from those of the Old, because they appear uniformly to
quote from some copy of the Septuagint version; and most of their
quotations agree verbally, and often even literally, with one or
other of the copies of that version which subsist to the
present day. Want of attention to the difference of copies, in
the Septuagint version, has led some divines and critics into
strange and even ridiculous mistakes, as they have taken that for
THE SEPTUAGINT which existed in the printed copy before them;
which sometimes happened not to be the most correct.
ON the birth-place of our Lord, a pious and sensible man has
made the following observations:-
"At the first sight, it seems of little consequence to know the
place of Christ's nativity; for we should consider him as our
Redeemer, whatever the circumstances might be which attended his
mortal life. But, seeing it has pleased God to announce,
beforehand, the place where the Saviour of the world should be
born, it became necessary that it should happen precisely in that
place; and that this should be one of the characteristics whereby
Jesus Christ should be known to be the true Messiah.
"It is also a matter of small importance to us where we may
live, provided we find genuine happiness. There is no place on
earth, however poor and despicable, but may have better and more
happy inhabitants than many of those are who dwell in the largest
and most celebrated cities. Do we know a single place on the
whole globe where the works of God do not appear under a thousand
different forms, and where a person may not feel that blessed
satisfaction which arises from a holy and Christian life? For an
individual, that place is preferable to all others where he can
get and do most good. For a number of people, that place is best
where they can find the greatest number of wise and pious men.
Every nation declines, in proportion as virtue and religion lose
their influence on the minds of the inhabitants. The place where
a young man first beheld the dawn and the beauty of renewed
nature, and with most lively sensations of joy and gratitude
adored his God, with all the veneration and love his heart was
capable of; the place where a virtuous couple first met, and got
acquainted; or where two friends gave each other the noblest
proofs of their most tender affection; the village where one may
have given, or seen, the most remarkable example of goodness,
uprightness, and patience; such places, I say, must be dear to
"Bethlehem was, according to this rule, notwithstanding its
smallness, a most venerable place; seeing that there so many pious
people had their abode, and that acts of peculiar piety had often
been performed in it. First, the patriarch Jacob stopped some
time in it, to erect a monument to his well-beloved Rachel. It
was at Bethlehem that honest Naomi, and her modest
daughter-in-law, Ruth, gave such proofs of their faith and
holiness; and in it Boaz, the generous benefactor, had his abode
and his possessions. At Bethlehem the humble Jesse sojourned, the
happy father of so many sons; the youngest of whom rose from the
pastoral life to the throne of Israel. It was in this country
that David formed the resolution of building a house for the Lord,
and in which he showed himself the true shepherd and father of his
subjects, when, at the sight of the destroying angel, whose sword
spread consternation and death on all hands, he made intercession
for his people. It was in Bethlehem that Zerubbabel the prince
was born, this descendant of David, who was the type of that Ruler
and Shepherd under whose empire Israel is one day to assemble, in
order to enjoy uninterrupted happiness. Lastly, in this city the
Son of God appeared; who, by his birth, laid the foundation of
that salvation, which, as Redeemer, he was to purchase by his
death for the whole world. Thus, in places which from their
smallness are entitled to little notice, men sometimes spring, who
become the benefactors of the human race. Often, an
inconsiderable village has given birth to a man, who, by his
wisdom, uprightness, and heroism, has been a blessing to whole
Sturm's Reflections, translated by A. C. vol. iv.