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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 2

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

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Verse 1


Jesus was born. Not Nazareth, but Bethlehem—David’s town. Pride in “family records” sent Jews back to their “home city.” (See Luke 2:1-4). Bethlehem. Six miles south of Jerusalem, this was one of the oldest places in Judea. It was at least 1,500 years old when Christ was born there. It stands on the summit of a narrow ridge, which projects eastward from the central mountain chain of Judah. It was the scene of the Book of Ruth. David was born here. When Herod was king. This places the time. Since Herod died about 3 B.C., this demonstrates our calendar to be in error, and Christ’s birth to be about 4 B.C. This Herod was the son of Antipater, an Edomite, and an Arabian mother. He was both brilliant and cruel, murdering even his own wife and sons. Seven Herods are mentioned in the New Testament. (l)Herod the Great (who is named in this verse). He received his authority from Rome. He had great force of character, but was a bloody tyrant. (2) Herod Archelaus, his son (Matthew 2:22). (3) Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee, who killed John the Baptist (Matthew 14:1); he was also a son of Herod the Great. (4) Herod Philip, a third son, the lawful husband of Herodias (Matthew 14:3). (5) Another son who was also named Herod Philip (Luke 3:1). (6) Herod Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great (Acts 12:1-2; Acts 12:23). (7) Herod Agrippa, son of the former. It was to him Paul made his famous defence (Acts 25:13; Acts 25:23; Acts 26:27). Men who studied the stars. The Magi. A name for a group of priests and philosophers, beginning in Persia and Media, who spread through the area of the Euphrates. Those mentioned in the Book of Daniel who “studied the stars” belonged to this group. No mention of how many came. East. Possible from the valley of the Euphrates,

Verse 2


King of the Jews. They were expecting a baby who would become the Messiah. They must have known and read the Jewish Scriptures. But it seems they thought in terms of a temporal kingdom. His star. It is useless to speculate about what they saw. To them it identified the birth of the One they expected. God willed that Gentiles as well as Jews would honor the infant King.

Verse 3


Herod . . . was very upset. Herod did not rightfully hold the throne. A rival, legitimate, who would be accepted by the Jews, was bad news to him. Everyone else in Jerusalem. This was the capitol, the seat of his power. Herod’s backers were there.

Verse 4


He called together. Literally, “high priests.” “Teachers of the Law” were the official copyists of Scripture, and the theologians of that time. These together formed the Sanhedrin or ruling body of the Jews. They would know the prophecies. Messiah be born? The question shows: the Jews expected a Messiah; the Scriptures prophesied it; even the place of birth was pointed out.

Verse 5


Bethlehem, in Judea. Micah said this seven centuries before Christ. (Micah 5:1-2).

Verse 6


Bethlehem, in the land of Judah. This quotation is from the (Greek) Septuagint translation of the Old Testament (the version in common use, and which Jesus and his disciples commonly quoted). The (Masoretic) Hebrew says literally: “And you, O Bethlehem Ephrata, who are small among the thousands (townships) of Judah, from you will come out to Me one, who must be ruler in Israel.” (Zamenhof’s translation) Rulers. That is, towns where the rulers of thousands lived.

Verse 7


Herod called . . . secret meeting. This cunning and ruthless man had gained one point. He knew where the Messiah was to be born. Now he hopes to learn his age. The exact time of the star. It had been seen first about two years before (implied in Matthew 2:16).

Verse 8


Then he sent them to Bethlehem. He wanted the Magi to find the Messiah, but not for him to worship, rather to murder.

Verse 9


With this they left. Probably immediately. The appearance of the star implied that it was night, and that their meeting with Herod was in the evening. Went ahead of them. A miraculous appearance is implied—no less probable than the pillar of fire which guided Israel. Stopped over the place. Either over Bethlehem, or the house where the young child was sheltered.

Verse 10


When they saw the star. Implying that for a time, at least, they had not seen the star—until leaving Jerusalem for Bethlehem. Its appearance shows their search is not futile.

Verse 11


They went into the house. Not the stable, but a temporary home. Many think Joseph and Mary stayed in Bethlehem until the forty days of purification were completed; the young child then presented in the Temple (Luke 2:22); returned to Bethlehem; were visited by the Magi; then escaped to Egypt. If this is correct, Jesus would have been at least six or seven weeks old when the Magi came. (Some think Matthew 2:16 implies he was almost two years old when they came.) With his mother Mary. Perhaps in his mother’s arms. They knelt down and worshipped him. (Note they did not worship his mother.) Offered him presents. As customary to kings. Frankincense. A very expensive fragrant gum, distilled from a tree which grows in India and Arabia. Myrrh. A fragrant gum from an Arabian thorn-bush. God’s providence is seen in these gifts. They provided the money for the escape into Egypt and bought food and shelter for the holy family while there.

Verse 12


God warned them. Knowing Herod’s character, his questioning of the Magi would make them suspicious, and they would seek God’s guidance. God warned them in a dream.

Verse 13


After they had left. Probably the Magi were led by the star to Bethlehem, offered their worship, then left, Joseph was warned, and the holy family started for Egypt—all in the same night. Run away to Egypt. Egypt is closely connected to Bible history, It was the nearest of the Roman provinces not ruled by Herod; was the home of thousands of Jews; and was convenient for a return at the right time.

Verse 14


Joseph got up, took the child. The message came in a dream. He got up and left immediately. Divine commands should be promptly obeyed.

Verse 15


To make come true. (Hosea 11:1) The life and times of Israel were a prophesy of the Messiah. The son—Israel—was called out of Egypt in the Exodus. The Son—Jesus—was to be called out of Egypt also.

Verse 16


When Herod realized. The Magi disobeyed his order to report to him, and returned home by a different route. Orders to kill. Herod was brutal! He ordered the murder of those boys in Bethlehem and its neighborhood, hoping to destroy the infant King.

Verse 17


What the prophet Jeremiah had said. (Jeremiah 31:15) This was first spoken about the conquest of Israel by Nebuchadnezzar. The survivors of that were gathered at Ramah as captives. Mothers there wept bitterly for their dead children. The prophet described Rachel, mother of two great Tribes, as weeping and refusing to be comforted. The tomb of Rachel was within half a mile of the city, so the sadness is again applied to those mothers of Bethlehem who weep for their children, as though the Rachel in the tomb were the mourner. A Moslem mosque is now built on the site of this tomb. The burial of Rachel is in Genesis 35:19.

Verse 18


A sound is heard in Ramah. Ramah was a border fortress. The generals of Nebuchadnezzar collected the captives here after the fall of Jerusalem.

Verse 19


After Herod had died. That signaled for the return. Herod died in the spring of the year “750 after the building of Rome” Just before the Passover. This makes his death almost four years before the start of our Christian era. (Our calendar dates from the sixth century, and is in error by a few years.)

Verse 20


Get up . . . Go back. Joseph is not told to return to Bethlehem or to Judea, just to the land of Israel. Those who tried to kill the child. “Those” implies more than one. Five days before his death, Herod murdered his son Antipater (A prince who was evil, sadistic, and treacherous) whom he had expected to rule after him. Antipater would also want the child killed. Now both men were dead.

Verse 21


Took the child . . . went back. He immediately obeyed the Lord’s will. To Israel. This included Judea, Samaria, Galilee, and the country beyond the Jordan. He would first reach Judea.

Verse 22


When he heard. Archelaus is one of the four sons of Herod who are mentioned in the New Testament. (See note on Matthew 2:1.) Joseph was afraid. This implies he had intended to settle there,

Verse 23


Nazareth. Matthew does not mention their previous residence at Nazareth, but mentions it now as the home of Jesus. It was an obscure village, nestled on the hills about five hundred feet above the plain of Esdraelon, on the edge of Galilee. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament, and was probably a Small town in the time of Christ. To make come true. No one prophet had specifically said this. They did call him “Nezer,” from which “Nazareth” comes.

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Matthew 2". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ice/matthew-2.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.
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