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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

their hearts.

"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.