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Matthew 2

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

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Verses 1-12



Harmony pages 8-10 and Luke 2:21-38; Matthew 2:1-12.


On this point the answers to two questions will be sufficient: Why was our Lord subject to this ordinance? and to what did it obligate him? Paul answers both questions: "He was born under the law that he might redeem them that were under the law" (Galatians 4:4-5). Circumcision made him "a debtor to do the whole law" (Galatians 5:2). To accomplish his ultimate mission of mercy to the Gentile world he must approach them through the Jews – "For I say that Christ hath been made a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God that he might confirm the promises given unto the fathers and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy" (Romans 15:8-9).

So that his circumcision had a twofold purpose – to reach the Jews and through the Jews to reach the Gentiles. Being, through his mother, a lineal descendant of Abraham, it became him to magnify and make honorable the law in every minute respect. He himself said: "Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy but to fulfill. . . . Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law till all things be accomplished" (Matthew 5:17-18).


This was the second step in the line of keeping the law. Circumcision was a family rite on the eighth day – this a Temple rite on the fortieth day. In this account we must distinguish what applied to Jesus from what applied to his mother. Two laws applied to his mother: (1) The forty days of purification required after bearing a first-born son (Leviticus 12:1-4). (2) The bringing to the sanctuary a lamb for a burnt offering and a turtle-dove or a pigeon for a sin offering. But in mercy the law provided: "If her means suffice not for a lamb, then she shall take two turtle-doves or two young pigeons – the one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean" (Leviticus 12:6-8). What a comment, then, on the family poverty when our text says she offered "a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons!"

The laws applying to her Son were: (1) He belonged, as first-born, to Jehovah and must be presented to him. The historical ground of Jehovah’s title to the first-born of man or beast was the salvation of Israel’s first-born through the blood of the passover lamb on the night that Egypt’s first-born perished (Exodus 13:2; Exodus 13:11-16). This obligated the first-born son to a consecrated service in the sanctuary.

(2) But when Jehovah selected the tribe of Levi for sanctuary service in lieu of the first-born males of all the tribes, then the first-born of the other tribes were exempted from sanctuary service on payment of a redemption price of five shekels, which constituted a part of the means for supporting the tribe of Levi (Numbers 8:16; Numbers 18:15-16).

So when Jesus was seven days old he was circumcised; and when forty days old was carried from Bethlehem to Jerusalem for presentation in the Temple, that the laws cited bearing on him and his mother might be fulfilled. The habit-blinded Temple officers saw nothing unusual in this observance of ordinary ritual. To them only a poor Jewish mother and her child had entered the gorgeous Temple of Herod. Like the unseeing man pilloried by Wordsworth: A primrose by a river’s brim A yellow primrose was to him, And it was nothing more.

But this first appearance of our Lord in the Temple, as many subsequent ones, was to be signalized by mighty events. To one man and to one woman were given the seeing eye. One righteous and devout old man was looking for the coming Messiah, here called, according to prophecy, the Consolation of Israel. He had not only noted that the converging lines of type and prophecy had focused, but the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that his old eyes should not close in death until they had seen the Lord’s Christ. It was like -the revelation to Enoch that his son Methuselah should live to the end of the antediluvian world, and like the revelation to Lamech that his son Noah should give rest from the flood and start a new race in the postdiluvian world. The Spirit, all the time resting on Simeon, gave him special prompting to go to the Temple at a certain hour, and there enabled him to recognize the Lord just entering in, borne by his mother. He took the child in his arms, blessing God and Joseph and Mary. Under immediate inspiration he spoke of three things:

(1) Salvation, (a) It was a salvation prepared before the face of all nations. This preparation had been going on for 4,000 years. In some way the preparation had conspicuously touched every nation under heaven. The Old Testament records the story of the contact. The great world empires, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, were no more than smaller nations and tribes. The loom of God’s moral government of the world was ever weaving its web. The nations, as colored threads, constituted the warp. His providence, like a shuttle, ever flying to and fro, supplied the woof. And now, at last, after 4,000 years of weaving the pattern of the web exhibits the Lord Jesus Christ as the central figure of all history.

(b) It was a salvation, not only "to the glory of Israel," but as a revelation to the Gentiles.

(c) After his eyes had seen the coming of this salvation earth had nothing more of honor to wait for he was permitted to depart in peace. Happy old man! What a glorious consummation of a long and faithful life! What a brilliant sunset of life, unflecked by a cloud I Well might a disobedient prophet say, Let me die the death of the righteous, And let my last end be like his.

Contrast the hideous old age and exit of Herod with the old age and beatific departure of Simeon.

(2) Concerning the Saviour, (a) "Behold, this child is set for the falling and rising up of many in Israel." Christ is the touchstone revealing the secret of every heart. Those who accept him rise. Those who reject him fall. He is a savor of life unto life, or of death unto death.

(b) He is set for a sign which is spoken against. This again depends on how he is presented or regarded. As a mere good man none spoke against him. But as God-man on the cross, expiating, as a substitute the sins of the world, voices from every class blaspheme his name and mission.

(3) Concerning his mother. "Yea, and a sword shall pierce through thine own soul." Your attention has been called to a book entitled The Sorrows of Mary, based on this passage. The honor put on Mary was the highest privilege ever conferred on woman. When she thought of the honor, well might she sing: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God, my Saviour. . . . For he that is mighty hath done to me great things."

But with this honor come many sorrows. She must see her Son pass beyond all earthly relations to become absorbed in the higher spiritual relations. She must witness his rejection, betrayal, and crucifixion. Her sympathetic maternal heart must lead her into a baptism of suffering on his account.

Anna, the prophetess. Simeon, the aged man, is not alone as a witness. Here is a woman more than 100 years old. She had lived as a wife seven years, and had now been a widow eighty-four years. If she married at fourteen she would be 105 years old. She reminds us of Paul’s direction concerning one "who is a widow indeed" (1 Timothy 5:5-10). After the death of her husband she devoted herself exclusively to the service of God in the Temple. Great joy comes to her old age. She, like Simeon, beholds the coming of the long-expected Saviour. Under the inspiration of the Spirit she testifies of the Christ to other waiting souls expecting the redemption.

In the most degenerate days of impiety and public corruption God never leaves himself without witnesses.

They are not in the high places, nor conspicuous in the congregations. They quietly wait and pray and serve. There are always more of them than men think. Elijah thought himself alone against the world. But God, even then, had reserved to himself seven thousand who had not bowed the knees to Baal. And so, says Paul, there is always "a remnant according to the election of grace." It is this remnant that constitutes the seed and nucleus of future revivals. In the dark days of Malachi, there were some faithful ones: "Then they that feared Jehovah spake one with another; and Jehovah hearkened, and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before him’, for them that feared Jehovah, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith Jehovah of hosts, even mine own possession, in the day that I make; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not." And this "book of remembrance" will be among the "books opened at the judgment" (Revelation 20:12).

THE VISIT OF THE MAGI – Matthew 2:1-12
On this notable event we submit the following observations: (1) The meaning of Magi. Nebuchadnezzar summoned all his "wise men" (Daniel 2:12) to reveal to him the dream he had forgotten and ’then to interpret it. In this case our word "magi" is made to include "magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans" (Daniel 2:2). The Chaldeans only of this list answer to the character of the Magi of our paragraph. They were astronomers, devoting much attention to the study of the heavenly bodies, and believing, not only that they were appointed for signs to the earth, as taught in Genesis 1:14, but had much influence for good and evil on earth’s affairs, hence the question of the Almighty to Job: Canst thou bind the cluster of the Pleiades, Or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season, Or canst thou guide the Bear with her train? Knowest thou the ordinances of the heavens? Canst thou establish the dominion thereof in the earth?

Job 38:31-33

To like effect is the passage in Judges 5:20 From heaven fought the stars, From their courses they fought against Sisera,

So the sun and the moon, at the bidding of Joshua, paused in their respective courses that the enemies of Israel might be utterly discomfited (Joshua 10:12-14).

From astronomy, a great and proper science with the ancient Egyptians and Chaldeans, there was developed later the superstition of astrology, with its casting of horoscopes, which darkened medieval Europe.

Later than Daniel’s time we have another Old Testament use of the word "magi": "Then the king said to the wise men, who knew the times (for so was the king’s manner toward all that knew law and judgment; and the next unto him were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, who saw the king’s face, and sat first in the kingdom)" (Esther 1:13-14). The Magi here are both princes and counselors to Ahasuerus (Xerxes the Great).

It is evident from a comparison of our paragraph with the two instances quoted from the Septuagint, that Magi might be very wise and honorable men engaged in the lawful study of astronomy, and that if Jehovah made a revelation to them, it would be adapted to their line of study.

(2) How would these Wise Men in the Far East be prepared to recognize a heavenly phenomenon as a sign of a coming Jewish king? Very much to the point is a prophecy under the compulsion of unwelcome inspiration, by an unworthy magian from the Far East, many centuries before the birth of our Lord. Balaam three times prophesies of a coming king of Israel who shall rule the nations. In his last prophecy concerning this king, he says,

I see him but not now; I behold him but not nigh: There shall come forth a star out of Jacob And a sceptre shall rise out of Israel . . . And out of Jacob shall one have dominion.

Numbers 24:17-19

Then, in the captivity under Nebuchadnezzar this book, centuries later, was carried to the home of the Magi – Ezra on his return bringing back a copy (Ezra 7:6; Ezra 7:10; Nehemiah 8:2) and then the book of Isaiah was also shown to Cyrus, in which the prophecy, "Jehovah will arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And nations shall come to thy light, and kings to the bright-ness of thy rising. . . . They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praises of Jehovah" (Isaiah 60:2-6). Moreover, all these holy books were kept in circulation in the land of the Magi, by resident Jews, until Christ was born.

I say, then, in view of the prophecy of a magian concerning the star and the King, and of Isaiah’s prophecy of Gentiles coming to his rising, naming the very gifts they would bring, and of the circulation of these books in their very midst by resident Jews up to Christ’s birth, of which it was impossible for these Magi to be ignorant, it is easy to understand how these stargazers would connect the appearance of a new and brilliant luminary with the birth of the long foretold King of the Jews who would rule the world.

(3) Was the star they saw the conjunction of heavenly bodies, appearing naturally at this time) or was it a miracle? You will find in Dr. Robertson’s note, appendix to Broadus Harmony, a brief summary of the argument in favor of a natural phenomenon. I do not quote it, because such an explanation could not be made to fit Matthew’s account, particularly, 2:9. It must be considered a miraculous appearance.

(4) How many of these Wise Men, what were their names, were they kings, and what became of them? The record is silent. We had better follow the record. Of course, if you desire to follow traditional fancies, utterly worthless, you may learn from Gen. Lew Wallace’s romance, Ben Hur, that they were three in number, and royal personages, and their names and countries, and how, contrary to Matthew’s account, they lingered long and conspicuously, instead of returning quietly to their distant homes.

Moreover, if you are given to the worship of lying relics, the next time you visit the famous cathedral at Cologne, the janitor, for a fee, will show you their bones in the shrine behind the high altar. Then will be justified the proverb: "A fool and his money are soon parted." The first time I visited New Orleans, an auctioneer of curios told me they were still selling to credulous visitors the cannon ball that killed Sir Edward Packingham in his great battle with Andrew Jackson.

And I have heard that an auctioneer once tried to sell the sword with which Balaam killed his ass. When a bystander informed him that Balaam did not kill his ass, but only wished for a sword that he might kill him, the auctioneer was nothing daunted: "This," said he, "is the sword be wished for," and he sold is as an antique relic.

(5) These Wise Men, quite naturally, went to Jerusalem with their question: "Where is he that is born king of the Jews, for we have seen his star in the East, and are come to do homage to him?" But it was not good tidings to Herod and Jerusalem. Both were greatly troubled – Herod, because he feared the downfall of his proposed dynasty; Jerusalem, because it dreaded political convulsions followed by bloodshed and destruction of their city. Herod summons the obsequious Sanhedrin and learns that Bethlehem, according to prophecy, was to be his birthplace. The cunning old tyrant, having gathered from the Wise Men the time of the appearance of the star, sent them to Bethlehem, with the charge to let him know if they found the child, that he also might come and worship him.

(6) It seems that the Magi saw the star only twice: first, at its appearance in the East, and second, after they left Jerusalem on their way to Bethlehem, where the star led them, and then stood still over the house where Joseph and Mary lodged.

(7) Observe that the first gift laid at the feet of Jesus was gold. On a great occasion, before our Texas convention, when the foreign mission cause was greatly suffering, I preached a sermon on the gold, frankincense and myrrh, the first gifts to Jesus, and as myrrh was used for both the holy ointment in the anointing of kings and prophets, and also for embalming, I made the gifts represent contribution, prayer, and unction, and that they should never be separated: We must contribute, we must pray, we must have the unction of the Spirit. A great collection followed for foreign missions.

These Wise Men, having done homage to the new-born King, and warned of God in a dream not to return to Herod, went away into their own country. How dramatic their coming and their going!

(8) Evidently they may be counted as the firstfruits of the Gentiles.


1. Why should Jesus be circumcised, and what was its twofold purpose in his case?

2. In the presentation of our Lord in the Temple, distinguish the laws as applied to him from those applied to his mother.

3. What two mighty events signalized this first appearance of our Lord in the Temple?

4. Is Luke 2:29 a prayer for an affirmation?

5. In the prophecy of Simeon, he speaks three things concerning salvation. What are they?

6. He speaks two things concerning the Saviour: What are they?

7. He speaks one thing concerning Mary: What is it?

8. Does "that thoughts out of many hearts be revealed," in v. 35, refer to what Simeon said to Mary, or to what he said of her Son?

9. What do you learn concerning Anna the prophetess?

10. Cite the Old Testament uses of the word "Magi," and what is its meaning?

11. What is the difference between astronomy and astrology?

12. How were these Wise Men prepared to recognize a heavenly phenomenon as a sign of the coming Jewish King?

13. Was the star they saw a junction of heavenly bodies appearing naturally, or was it a miracle?

14. How many of these Wise Men, what were their names, were they kings, what became of them?

15. What traditions concerning them are given in Gen. Lew Wallace’s Ben Hur!

16. What have you to say about their bones now lying in the cathe dral at Cologne?

17. Why were Herod and Jerusalem troubled at the account of the Wise Men?

18. What wag the first gift ever laid at the feet of our Lord, and what providential use was made of it?

19. Tell concerning the sermon on "gold, frankincense and myrrh."

Verses 13-23



Harmony pages 10-11 and Matthew 2:13-23; Luke 2:39-52

In two respects the flight into Egypt is connected with the visit of the Wise Men: First a dream was sent to them not to return to Herod at Jerusalem, and another dream to Joseph to escape with the child into Egypt. Second, the Wise Men’s gift of gold provided the means of paying the expense of the Egyptian trip. Before leaving the subject of the Wise Men, you will recall my warning against the unhistorical accretions to the simple story of them by Matthew. Now, as some compensation for the caution against unworthy legends, I commend with pleasure and without reserve a little book by Henry van Dyke, entitled: The Fourth Wise Man. It makes no pretension to be either history or tradition but, like a parable, has the verisimilitude of history, and is one of the most exquisite portrayals of great abstract principle and truth known to literature. If any of you are puzzled to select an appropriate gift for Christmas, New Year, a birthday or wedding, you cannot do better than to select van Dyke’s little book, which contains The Fourth Wise Man, and other equally exquisite stories.

Dr. Maclaren, in his extended exposition of Matthew, calls attention, with modified approval, to the contention of Delitzsch that Matthew’s Gospel follows the plan of the Pentateuch, with a Genesis ending in a dreaming Joseph entering into Egypt to provide a nurturing home for Israel, Jehovah’s ideal son. Then an exodus from Egypt, here fulfilled again: "Out of Egypt have I called my Son," followed by the Sermon of the Mount, which answers to the giving of the Law at Sinai; then the forty days of hunger and temptation of our Lord, answering to the forty years of -the wilderness wanderings in Numbers, etc. That there are points of striking correspondence between Matthew and the Pentateuch would naturally follow from the fact that our Lord is the ideal Son and Servant of Jehovah, of whom the national Israel was a type, and hence the history of ancient Israel is itself prophetic.

The whole paragraph, Matthew 2:13-23, naturally divides itself into three parts:

(1) The flight into Egypt, and the prophecy.

(2) The massacre of the Bethlehem babes, and the prophecy.

(3) The return to Nazareth, and the prophecy. We consider them in order:


This is the historic background of the symbolism in Revelation referring to a later persecution of the church and her converts. See the author’s exposition of Revelation 12:1-6. That passage must be interpreted as a symbol concerning future events, but it does prove that Satan, who here prompts the malice of Herod to drive Mary and her Son into Egypt, does there prompt a heathen emperor of Rome to drive the church into the wilderness and make war on her seed. The mistake to avoid is not, like Alford, to interpret the symbol so as to make it mean its historic background.

One acquainted with the Old Testament history may easily observe that for ages whoever fled from persecution in Palestine quite naturally went into Egypt. It was the best of all places for Joseph to take the family while the bloody-minded Herod lived.

It will be observed that from this time on it is the child, not Mary or Joseph, who occupies the chief place – "take the young child and his mother." They remain in Egypt until in another dream Jehovah notified Joseph "that those who sought the young child’s life were dead," and directing him to return to the land of Israel, as Matthew says, "that the prophecy might be fulfilled, out of Egypt have I called my Son." This expression is a plain historical statement in the book of Hosea, and yet Matthew is justified in calling it a prophecy merely because the whole history of ancient Israel was prophetic. As has already been said, national Israel was Jehovah’s typical son; Jesus was the ideal Israel, or the true Son of Jehovah. We observe that the latter part of Isaiah concerning "the servant of Jehovah," finds its application in the antitype, Jesus, and not in the type, Israel.


On this incident in the history of Matthew, we submit the following observations. Some critics have affected to discredit the historical character of Matthew’s incident because it is not mentioned in Josephus. The reply to the criticism is –

The gospel historians, writing directly upon a more limited topic than Josephus, do not need any confirmation from him.

The greater part of the New Testament would have to be rejected if it must be proved from Josephus.

Bethlehem was merely a village, and the number of male children two years old and under would not exceed twenty. The killing of twenty babies by Herod was a small item in his bloody record, quite infinitesimal in comparison with many other of his deeds of cruelty.

Josephus was not merely a Jew, but a sycophantic admirer of the Romans. He would necessarily avoid many references to our Lord. One, however, rejected by some critics as spurious, is very striking. There is also an undisputed reference to John the Baptist, and another one to James, the brother of our Lord. These several passages from Josephus will be considered later, and at greater length.

First, the murder of these babies is in full accord, not merely with the general character of Herod, but particularly with his dying condition, jealous to madness of any one who would likely dispute the continuance of his dynasty, as he had arranged it in his will.

Second, in every age of the world, the bloody death of these babies has attracted the attention of the poet and of the artist, and has excited sympathy for these first martyrs, more perhaps than of any other of the long line of those who died bloody deaths on account of our Lord. They are even called "Little flowers of martyrdom, roses by the whirlwind shorn." The great Augustine said, "Oh, happy little ones! just born, not yet tempted, not yet struggling, already crowned." We see in their death an anticipation of Christ’s later words: "I come not to bring peace, but a sword."

The powers of darkness would naturally seek to cut off his life at the beginning in order to frustrate the great purpose of his mission, and as we have already seen that the dragon, even Satan himself, was prompting Herod to take away the life of the long-promised Messiah. This much good at least resulted from the death of these children: Jerusalem, Herod, and even Satan himself, supposed that their object had been accomplished, and that the one "born King of the Jews" had perished in this massacre. Hence there is no other assault made upon him by the powers of darkness until at his baptism he is not only seen to be alive, but is declared by the Father to be his beloved Son, and at that point Satan renews the attack, but in a different form.

Third, the prophecy concerning this event is a quotation from Jeremiah 31:15-17: "Thus saith Jehovah: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentations, and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children; she refuseth to be comforted for her children, because they are not. Thus saith Jehovah: Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears; for thy work shall be rewarded, saith Jehovah; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope for thy latter end, saith Jehovah; and thy children shall come again to their own border." This declaration from Jehovah, by a vivid personification, represents Rachel, the mother of three tribes, rising from her tomb to bewail their captivity as they are dragged away by the Assyrian tyrant. It is not meant to teach that the departed have a personal interest in those that are left behind them, and bewail their faults and calamities. It is the purpose of Matthew to show that if Rachel could be so personified in the first great disaster to her children it would be fulfilled again in this instance, and the comforting words are much more appropriate: "Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears, for they shall come again from the land of the enemy."

Just how long Joseph, with Mary and the child, remained in Egypt, we do not know. But the angel who guided him comes again with these words: "Arise and take the young child and his mother and go into the land of Israel, for they are dead that sought the young child’s life." We cannot help recalling a similar word to Moses, when he was recalled from Midian to Egypt – "All the men are dead who sought thy life." We cannot help being impressed with the guiding providence of God in protecting and caring for the child, and in the prompt and implicit obedience of Joseph to every admonition from the Lord.

This declaration, "They are dead that sought the young child’s life," seems to be prophetic of all the future. Herod died in the horrors of madness, a rotting carcass. Jesus lived. In Acts 12 his grandson Herod put to death James, the brother of John the apostle. But the chapter closes with this statement: "An angel of the Lord smote him, and he was eaten of worms and gave up his spirit, but the word of God grew and multiplied." The apostate Roman emperor, Julian, who tried so hard to destroy the Christian religion and to falsify the prophecies concerning it, when he came to die is reported as saying, "Thou Galilean hast conquered." Somewhat similar reports are made concerning the death of Tom Paine.

In any event, throughout all the ages of the Christian era the enemies of our Lord and of his kingdom have died and rotted, but the kingdom moved on conquering and to conquer.

And so it shall be until the words of the book of Revelation shall be fulfilled: "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is to this thought that Psalm 2 speaks when it says: Why do the nations rage, And the peoples meditate a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, Against Jehovah, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bonds asunder, And cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens will laugh: The Lord will have them in derision. Yet I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

Those words are quoted by the apostles when they were forbidden to continue to preach in the name of Jesus.

It appears from the record that Joseph intended to return to Bethlehem, but was troubled to learn that Archelaus reigned instead of Herod over ldumea, Judea and Samaria, as ethnarch, according to the Roman confirmation of Herod’s will. He was as mean and as cruel as Herod, though much inferior in capacity. When he went to Rome to have himself confirmed as king, five hundred prominent Jews followed him to protest against his kingly rule. The Romans allowed him to remain as ethnarch for about nine years, and then removed him permanently and banished him for just cause. In the meantime the angel comes again to relieve the perplexity of Joseph, and directs him to his old home in Nazareth. And here Matthew again finds a fulfilment of prophecies – "That it might be fulfilled that he should be called a Nazarene." There is no one prophecy in the Old Testament which contains those words, but there are many prophecies that speak of him as being under reproach, and the title "Nazarene" was always held by the outside world as a reproach to his claim to the messiah-ship. It was even inscribed on the headboard of his cross, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." Nathanael said later, "Can any good come out of Nazareth?" And without destroying at all the sense of reproach in the name, the special prophecy to which Matthew refers might be Isaiah 11:1: "And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit." Here only a stump seems to be left of the ancient stock of Jesse and David, and the branch or shoot from the root is called nether. It is quite probable that the word "Nazarene" is derived from the same word, and as a proof of the reproach involved in the name, we have these words in Isaiah 53:1: "Who hath believed our message and to whom hath the arm of Jehovah been revealed? For he grew up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of the dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see him there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and is one from whom men hide their faces; he was despised and we esteemed him not."

So, whether we regard the term "Nazarene" as merely one of reproach, or whether we derive it etymologically from netzer, the thought is the same, and Matthew rightly construes the prophecy which so speaks of the Messiah.

Jesus lived at Nazareth and visited Jerusalem when twelve years of age (Luke 2:40-52). On this paragraph of Luke we observe:

The development of the childhood of Jesus: "And the child grew and waxed strong, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him." This is a clear proof of the humanity of our Lord. It shows the development of body, mind, and spirit.

The Law of Moses required all males to go up three times a year to Jerusalem to the great feasts. They did not scrupulously fulfil this law in their history, but even the Jews of the dispersion were accustomed at least to go up to the Passover Feast, and it is concerning attendance on this feast, which lasts a week, that our lesson speaks.

Jesus Twelve Years Old. Under the Jewish law the -child remained under the teaching of its mother till he was five years old, and then the responsibility passed to his father until he was twelve years old; and at twelve years of age he become what is called "a son of the law." From this time forward the responsibility of his life rests upon himself more than upon his father or his mother.

It was every way appropriate, therefore, that when Jesus reached this critical period of his life that he should attend the Passover Feast, there to receive instruction not from father or mother, nor from the synagogue teacher, but from the great doctors of the law who held their school in the Temple itself. There were a number of illustrious Jewish doctors at this time in Jerusalem, including the great Hillel, and Gamaliel, the teacher of Paul. While there is no evidence that Jesus and Paul ever met face to face, yet they were about the same age, and Paul went from Tarsus, where he was born, to receive this rabbinical education in the famous Jerusalem schools. He says, "I was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel." It was also about this time that the celebrated Philo, the Alexandrian Jew, was a pupil in this school of rabbis, though there is no evidence that he himself ever met Jesus face to face, Jesus being there only a short time.

That you may understand the story, there were at such a time as this, from every town and village in the land, pilgrims, grouped together, who would be marching up toward Jerusalem, singing the prescribed songs of the psalter. You will find them in the book of Psalms named, "The Songs of the Going Up." It is easy to see, therefore, that when the parents started home, they would not notice the temporary absence of Jesus, supposing him to be in the great company. But when, at the end of a day’s journey, they missed him, and could hear nothing of him from any of the returning pilgrims, they themselves went back to Jerusalem to find him.

The record says, "And it came to pass, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions, and all that heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers." We have just noted in the first verse of this paragraph that Jesus not only grew in wisdom, but that the grace of God was upon him. Which not only means wisdom as applied to the development of the mind of ordinary persons, but a spiritual increase of wisdom through the grace of God resting on him. In a previous chapter we have noted that Christ could read and speak at least three languages, and that he, in his whole life up to this point, whether his mother, or Joseph, or the synagogue was his teacher, was learning the word of God and its meaning. The illumination given him by the Spirit would enable him to understand more than any of the great doctors who, according to their method, were catechizing him and allowing him to catechize them.

The lesson teaches that one taught of God is wiser than all who are taught of men. He himself later said that while Solomon was counted the wisest man in the world, he was greater in wisdom than Solomon. This is not the first instance on record where teachers have been instructed by their more enlightened pupils. It is related of the celebrated Dr. Blair, of Scotland, that his university teacher in theology was carried away with the wisdom of his answers. On one occasion, propounding three questions in Latin, which the student must off-hand answer in Latin, the last question was, Quid est caritas? (what is charity) and the reply came like the lightning flash, Ah, magister, id est raritas (ah master, that is rare).

It is to be deplored that great teachers of theology yield to a tendency to become mere professors, hair-splitting in their niceties of explanation, and gradually forgetting the spirit and power of all true theology. Never was this more noticeable than in the Sanhedrin, with its great Jewish doctors of the law. Only two of them are represented as becoming followers of Christ, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. The rest all perished in their learning.

You will recall how often I have emphasized the value of the catechetical form of instruction – questions and counter questions. Nothing but my deafness has prevented me from resorting more to this method.

At this amazing juncture, the child instructing the doctors, Joseph and Mary came upon the scene, which astonishes them much, and with something of reproach his mother says, "Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I sought thee, sorrowing." The answer of our Lord to his mother not only conveys a counter reproach, disclaiming Joseph as his father, but shows that he has reached a great epoch in his life, to whit: consciousness of his messiahship and the paramount claims of its duties over any earthly relations. His reply is "How is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be in my Father’s house?" When he says "my Father’s" house, he disclaims the paternity of Joseph, which Mary had at least assumed, or by a marginal rendering, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?" It is indeed a pregnant reply, and discloses at least the following things:

(1) That at least now, if at no earlier date, there was a full consciousness in his own mind of his messianic mission.

(2) It is strange that his mother should not have, from the past remarkable events of his life, which she had kept in her heart, understood this, and that from this time on the voice of God must be higher than the voice of his mother in determining his movements and actions. I know that some claim that consciousness of messiahship did not come to him until his baptism, but when we come to interpret the history of that baptism, the proof will be submitted that the consciousness preceded that occasion.

This incident is named by the book, to which your attention has been called, The Sorrows of Mary, as the third sorrow of her heart – first, the words of Simeon; second, the flight into Egypt; and third, the announcement that from this time on the path of the child must be away from the family.

(3) We know that his mother did not fully learn the lesson, for twice later she is rebuked by the Son who is her Lord. Once, at the marriage of Cana of Galilee, he says to her interference, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" And still later, when the family learn that he was so absorbed in teaching and healing that he would not take time to eat, but his kinsfolk counted him mad, his mother and younger brothers came to call him off from his work, as it were under a writ of lunacy, and he replies, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" and resisted their interference with his messianic work.

Having thus stated the paramount law of his messiahship, the record says he went down to Nazareth with them and "was subject to them." This subjection was another step like his circumcision and his presentation in the Temple in fulfilling to perfection all of the law. It shows that he venerated and observed the Fifth Commandment. In the later history we will consider other visits of our Lord to the Temple, and every time he comes into his Father’s house, his coming is signalized by mighty events.

Luke closes his paragraph by showing the development of his manhood, in these words: "Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man." How few, as we have already learned, are the words of our historians concerning the greater part of the life of Christ. Let me repeat them to you again:

"And the child grew and waxed strong, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him" (Luke 2:40).

"He was subject to them" (Luke 2:51).

"And Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man" (Luke 2:52).

"And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and he entered, as his custom was, into the Synagogue on the sabbath day" (Luke 4:16).

"Is not this the carpenter?" (Mark 6:3).

These, indeed, are few words, but they are mighty words. They show not only the physical, mental, and spiritual development of his childhood and his manhood, his observance of the Fifth Commandment in honoring his parents, his observance of the sabbath day in synagogue instruction, but his learning, as all Jews counted honorable, a trade. These were years of preparation – thirty years of preparation in order that he might publicly labor three years. Only prepared men accomplish great things, and the greater the preparation the less need for long time in which to do great things. But our young people of the present day count wasted the time devoted to deep and thorough preparation for lifework. They are in haste to rush out, half equipped, for the strenuous battle of life.


1. In what two respects was the flight into Egypt connected with the Wise Men?

2. What little book is specially commended?

3. What of the contention of Delitzsch, concerning the plan of Matthew’s Gospel?

4. Cite some striking correspondences between Matthew and the Pentateuch.

5. What symbolism in Revelation finds its historic background in the flight into Egypt?

6. Into what new prominence in the family does the child Jesus now come?

7. What prophecy was fulfilled by the exodus from Egypt, and how do you prove that it was really prophetic?

8. Why do some critics discredit the historical character of Matthew’s account of the massacre of the babes in Bethlehem and your reply to the criticism?

9. What attention has this slaughter of the few babes in Bethlehem attracted in the after ages?

10. Mention one practical good at least that resulted from the murder of these children.

11. What was the prophecy in relation to this massacre, and how do you make it out to be prophetic?

12. What assurance was given to Joseph when the angel directed him to leave Egypt, and compare this with a similar statement to Moses in Midian?

13. How does this declaration, "They are dead that sought the young child’s life," seem to be prophetic, and illustrate?

14. What danger would have occurred if Joseph had returned to Bethlehem?

15. What prophecy was fulfilled in the return to Nazareth?

16. In what two ways can you show that this would be a term of reproach?

17. What has Luke to say concerning the development of the child hood of Jesus at Nazareth?

18. How often were male Jews required to go up to Jerusalem?

19. How long was a mother responsible for the spiritual instruction of her child? How long the father? and at what age did the Jewish child become a son of the law?

20. What higher instruction was given at Jerusalem for those who were the sons of the law?

21. Cite some of the great Jewish rabbis who taught these sons of the law in the Temple.

22. Name two illustrious men who were under this instruction about the same time with Jesus.

23. When the Jews from the villages and towns of the Holy Land went up to Jerusalem, what hymns of the psalter did they sing on their pilgrimage?

24. How was Jesus qualified to astound the great rabbis in the Temple?

25. How many of the Sanhedrin became Christians?

26. What were the words of Mary to Jesus when she found him in the Temple with the doctors, and his reply?

27. What makes this a great epoch in the life of Jesus?

28. What were the words of Luke to show the development of Jesus into manhood?

29. Repeat again the five short passages that constitute the only story of the greater part of the life of Christ?

30. What do they show?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 2". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/matthew-2.html.
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