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 , 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, , 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, ; 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, ;
by Stephen, , &c.;
and by Paul, ; .
RULE II. Changing the letters, as done by St. Paul, ;
, &c.; ., &c.; .
RULE III. Changing both letters and vowel points, as he
supposes is done by St. Paul, ; .
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.