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1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Ver. 1. The Book ] That is, a roll or register, catalogue or calendar, a ciphering and summing up. (Genesis 5:1 , זח ספר תולדת αυτη η βιβλος γενεξεως .)
Of the generations ] That is, of the genealogies, as touching his humanity (St Matthew’s main drift), for touching on his divinity (St John’s chief scope and subject), "who can declare his generation?" Isaiah 53:8 ; "What is his name and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell?"Proverbs 30:4; Proverbs 30:4 . He is without descent or pedigree, as Melchisedec, Hebrews 7:3 .
Of Jesus Christ ] Jesus shows he was God (for "besides me there is no Saviour," Isa 45:21 ). Christ, that he was man, the anointed; for in respect of his manhood chiefly is this anointing with gifts and graces attributed to Christ. The name of Jesuits, therefore, savoureth of blasphemous arrogance. One of their own gives the reason; -becanse he hath communicated unto us the thing signified by the name Christ, but not by the name Jesus. a And yet it is notoriously known (saith Dr Fulke, out of another of their own writers) that the most honourable name of Christians is in Italy and at Rome a name of reproach, and usually abused to signify a fool or a dolt. (Fulke in Rhem. Testara. on Acts xi., sect. 4, out of Christoph. Franch. Col. Jesuit. in fine. )
The Son of David ] God’s darling, b one that observed all his wills, Acts 13:22 , and faithfully served out his time, Acts 13:36 .
The son of Abraham ] The friend of God and father of the faithful, reckoned here (for honour’s sake) as the next immediate father of Christ, whose day indeed he saw and rejoiced, John 8:56 ; ( ηγαλλιασατο ); he laughed, yea, leapt for joy of this man child to be born into the world. Whose children we are, so long as we walk in the steps of his faith; that Christ, being formed in us, may "see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied,"Isaiah 53:10-11; Isaiah 53:10-11 ; he may "see his seed, and prolong his days upon earth." Such honour have all his saints, Psalms 149:9 .
a Rem signatam nomine Christi nobis communicavit, non autem Iesu. Lindwood.
b David, amatus vel amabilis. Unde Dido Poenis, Hinc Solomon dictus est Iedidiah.
2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren;
Ver. 2. Abraham begat Isaac ] The fruit, not more of his flesh than of his faith, a whence he is said to be "born after the spirit,"Galatians 4:29; Galatians 4:29 .
Isaac begat Jacob ] After twenty years’ expectance, and many a hearty prayer put up therewhile, Genesis 25:21 . b So Adam lived "an hundred and twenty years ere he begat Seth;" whom God set as another seed instead of Abel,Genesis 5:3; Genesis 5:3 ; cf. Genesis 4:25 , when Cain’s family flourished and grew great in the earth. God usually stays so long that he hardly finds faith, Luke 18:8 , till men have done expecting, and then he doth things that they look not for, Isaiah 64:3 . Wait therefore upon him who waits to be gracious; and know this, that he is a God of judgement, Isaiah 30:18 , that is, a wise God, one that chooseth his times, and knows best when to deal forth his favours. See Isaiah 49:8 ; cf.Psalms 69:13; Psalms 69:13 . Everything is beautiful in its season, saith Solomon, Ecclesiastes 3:11 .
Jacob begat Judah and his brethren ] Brethren in iniquity (the most of them), a part of their father’s punishment, for that three-fold lie in a breath, Genesis 27:19-20 . Reuben was the beginning of his strength, "excelling in dignity and power," Genesis 49:3 , that is (saith the Chaldee Paraphrast), in the principality and the priesthood. Both which he forfeited by his foul offence; the former to Judah, the latter to Levi. Howbeit, upon his return to God (though disinherited of the birthright, yet) he had this honour of an elder brother, that he was first provided for. But Judah was he "whom his brethren should praise" (saith Jacob), in allusion to his name and in reference to his privilege, Genesis 49:8 ; for it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah ( ανατεταλκεν ), Hebrews 7:14 , that branch from on high ( ανατολη ), Luke 1:78 , that Shiloh, which some interpret His son (R. David). Others (Tranquillator, Salvator), the Prosperer, Pacificator, Safe Maker, &c. c Others, the son of her secundines, d which is the tunicle e that wrappeth the child in the womb.
a Vere fuit Isaac beatae senectutis et emeritae fidei filius. Bucholcer.
b The Hebrew word is, "to frequent and multiply prayer."
c Tranquillator, Salvator, a themate Salah, unde Shalvah, tranquillitas. Unde etiam Lat. Salvere, Salvus, Salvare. Amama.
d The placenta and other adjuncts of a foetus extruded from the womb after the expulsion of the foetus in parturition; the afterbirth. ŒD
e A membrane enclosing a bodily organ, ŒD
3 And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram;
Ver. 3. And Judah begat Phares and Zarah ] Jerome is deceived, that deriveth the pedigree of the Pharisees from this Phares. They took their name either of Pharash, to expound as interpreters of the law, Romans 2:18 ; or of Pharas, to separate with a-"Stand further off, for I am holier than thou." Josephus saith, that the Pharisees seemed to outstrip all others both in height of holiness and depth of learning: συνταγμα τι Ιουδαιων ευσεβεστερων τον βιον, και δοκουντωνακριβεστερον των αλλων τον νομον εφηγεισθαι . B. J. i. 4. As for Pharos, he was a breachmaker (whence also he had his name, Gen 38:29 ). He violently took the first birthright, and became both a father of the Messiah and a type. For Christ by his strength broke the power of death and hell; he broke down also the partition wall that was between the Jews and Gentiles, who when they shall be fully born, then shall the Jews, typified by Zarah, who thrust forth the hand first, as those that, willing to be justified by their works, and thinking to regenerate themselves, had the scarlet thread of the law’s condemnation bound upon their hands, which therefore they drew back and fell from God, -then shall they, I say, come forth again, Romans 11:11-12 ; Romans 11:25-26 .
Of Thamar ] A Canaanitess, but probably a proselyte. The Jews say she was Melchisedec’s daughter, the high priest, and was therefore to be burned, Leviticus 21:9 . But this may well pass for a Jewish fable: howbeit, that Melchisedec was a Canaanite, but a most righteous king and priest of the most high God, and was therefore not molested or meddled with by Kedarlaomer and his accomplices, I judge not unlikely. This Thamar, out of desire, partly of revenge, and partly of issue, fell into the sin of incest. Rahab was a harlot, Bathsheba an adulteress: yet all these grandmothers to our Saviour; who, because he needed not to be ennobled by his stock, so neither was disparaged by his progenitors, but took flesh of these greatest sinners to show that we cannot commit more than he can remit; and that by his purity he washeth off all our spots, like as the sun wasteth and wipeth away all the ill vapours of the earth and air.
And Phares begat Esrom ] When he was about fourteen years of age, the year before they went down to Egypt, say some: others view it otherwise. (Pareus in Gen.; Funccius in Chronol. Com., Anno 2273.) Let him that readeth understand as he can. Christ (the Arch-Prophet), when he comes again, shall teach us all things.
Esrom begat Aram ] While they sojourned in the land of Egypt; a miserable home, where was nothing but bondage and tyranny. And yet in reference to it, Moses (who was likewise born there) calls his son Gershom, or a stranger there, because born in Midian. The sons of Ephraim, about the birth of Moses, sought to break prison before God’s delivery: but this proved a great mischief to themselves, and no small heart break to their aged father, 1Ch 7:21-22 Psalms 78:9 . Besides that, it gave occasion, likely, to that cruel edict of Pharaoh: "Let us deal wisely" (St Stephen saith sophistically, subtilly, κατασοφισαμενος , Act 7:19 ), "lest they multiply and join also to our enemies, and fight against us" (as now they have fought against the Gittites, their own enemies, who detained from them the promised land, till their sins were full), and "so get them up out of the land," as lately they had essayed to do. "Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens,"Exodus 1:11; Exodus 1:11 , and to keep them from spawning so fast, after the manner of fishes (as the word imports), which multiply beyond measure. But God turned their wisdom into folly; they took a wrong course. For who knows not that your labouring men have the most and the strongest children? And notwithstanding this new Pharaoh’s craft and cruelty,
4 And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon;
Ver. 4. Aram begat Aminadab, and Aminadab begat Naasson ] Who was hung up in the wilderness, among the rest of their rulers, for folly committed with the mistresses of Moab. Neither escaped the common sort scot-free, for they fell in one day "three and twenty thousand," saith St Paul, 1 Corinthians 10:8 ; "Four and twenty thousand," saith Moses: whereof a thousand were the chief princes, the other were inferiors provoked to sin by their example. But why doth the apostle insist in the special punishment of the people? To show, saith learned Junius, how rigid and slender their defence is, how short their covering, who plead and pretend for their sins the example of their superiors.
And Naasson begat Salmon ] Called, 1 Chronicles 2:11 , Salmah. There was also a mount of this name (as touching the sound, though with difference of one letter in the original) whither Abimelech and his host resorted, Judges 9:48 ; and whereof the Psalmist speaketh: "When the Almighty scattered kings, they shall be white as snow in Salmon." Now the story is told of Andronicus, the old Emperor of Constantinople, that all things going cross with him, he took a Psalter into his hand to resolve his doubtful mind; and opening the same, as if it were of that heavenly oracle to ask counsel, he lighted upon this verse, and was thereby comforted and directed what to do for his greatest safety. To be "white as snow in Salmon" Psa 68:14 is to have joy in affliction, light in darkness. "Salmon" signifieth shady and dark: so this mount was with dens and glimness but made lightsome by snow. Hoc autem obiter But this in way of passing.
5 And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse;
Ver. 5. And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab ] This the Evangelist might have by tradition. Salmon’s genealogy is set down, 1Ch 2:9-17 Ruth 4:18-22 ; but whom he married, nothing is reported.
And Booz begat Obed of Ruth ] While Orphah lacks bread in her own country, Ruth is grown a great lady in Bethlehem, and advanced to be great grandmother to the King of kings. There is nothing lost by God’s service. η μυριομακαριοτης εστιν εν τη ευσεβεια .
And Obed begat Jesse ] A good old man, but not very famous. Retired it seems he was, and drawn much up into himself; a neither thinking great things of himself, nor seeking great things for himself; but living among his own people; much of his son David’s disposition, who loves his book the better since he saw the court, and sings, Beatas ille qui procul negotiis, &c. (Horat.) Non vixit male, qui natus moriensque fefellit. He is not the least happy that is least observed.
a Λαθε βιωσας . Vivetibi, quantumque potes, praelustria vita.
6 And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;
Ver. 6. And Jesse begat David the king ] But that was not his chief title: he gloried more in styling himself the servant of the Lord, Psalms 36:1 , tit. So Theodosius esteemed it a greater honour that he was membrum Christi member of Christ than Caput Imperii, head of the empire. Numa etiam του θεου υπηρεσιαν βασιλευειν existimabat. Numa held the service of God the highest honour. (Plut. in Vit.)
David the king begat Solomon ] Whom Bellarmine reckoneth for a reprobate: but (besides that he was God’s corculum, little heart, and by him called Jedediah) he calleth himself in his sacred retractations, Coheleth; which being interpreted the Preacher, is a word of the feminine termination, and by some rendered aggregata, where understanding the substantive anima, they conclude herehence that he was renewed by repentance and reunited to the Church.
Of her that had been the wife of Uriah ] His best children he had by this wife: the fruit of humiliation doubtless. ( Peccatum tametsi non bonum, tamen in bonum. Aug.) The barren women’s children are observed to have been the best, as Isaac, Samuel, John Baptist, &c., for like reason.
7 And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa;
Ver. 7. And Solomon begat Roboam ] A child of forty years old, a soft spirited man; the Scripture notes him a פהי , easily drawn away by evil counsel. Green wood will, by nature warp. Of him it might be said, as once it was of a certain prince in Germany, Esset alias, si esset apud alios (Bucholcer). But a man would wonder, that by so many wives Solomon should have but one son, and him none the wisest either. Heroum filii noxae, He might (likely) bewail his own unhappiness in Rehoboam, Ecclesiastes 2:18-19 , as he is thought to do in Jeroboam, Proverbs 20:21 . His mother was an Ammonitess: the birth follows the belly: the conclusion follows the weaker proposition.
And Roboam begat Abia ] A man not right, yet better than his father: and for this to be commended, that he held and pleaded the true worship and services of God as the beauty and bulwark of his kingdom: relying also upon God, he discomfited Jeroboam: Deo confisi, nunquam confusi.
And Abia begat Asa ] A better son sprung of the seed of bad Abia, of the soil of worse Maachah, whom St Jerome makes to be a worshipper of that abominable idol Priapus, otherwise called Baalpeor, Numbers 25:5 . For thus he translates that,1 Kings 15:13; 1 Kings 15:13 : Insuper et Maachan matrem suam amovit, ne esset princeps in sacris Priapi, et in luco eius. Nos, pudore pulso, stamus sub Iove, coelis apertis, said the worshippers of Priapus. The people that came thereto (the sacrifice being ended) all stepped into a thicket, which was always planted near the altar of this god; Hos 4:13 and there, like brute beasts, they promiscuously satisfied their lusts; thereby, as they conceived, best pleasing their god (Hackwell’s Apolog.). This villany Maachah may seem to have been guilty of, and was therefore worthily removed by her son Asa from being queen. Sedes prima, et vita ima, suit not well together. Dignitas in digno est ornamentum in luto, saith Salvian. Honour in a dishonest man is as a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout.
8 And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias;
Ver. 8. And Asa begat Josaphat ] A godly king, but late witted, and therefore paid for his learning twice at least in holy history. One thing in the narration of his acts is very remarkable. He placed forces in all the fenced cities; yet it is not said thereupon that the fear of the Lord fell on the neighbouring nations. But when he had established a preaching ministry in all the cities, then his enemies feared and made no war, 2 Chronicles 17:10 . Solidissima regiae politiae basis (saith Paradinus in Symbolis) est verum Dei cultum ubivis stabilire: alias qui potest aut Deus Reges beare, a quibus negligitur; aut populus fideliter colere, qui de obsequio suo non recte instituitur? The ordinances of God are the beauty and bulwark of a place and people.
And Josaphat begat Joram ] That lived undesired and died unlamented. While he lived there was no use of him, and when he died, no miss of him: no more than of the paring of the nails or sweeping of the house ( περιψηματα ). He lived wickedly, and died wishedly, as it is said of King Edwin (Daniel’s Hist.).
And Joram begat Ozias ] Here Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah are written in the earth, not once set down in the roll: perhaps it was because they were imped in the wicked family of Ahab. This Uzziah, though a king, yet he loved husbandry, 2 Chronicles 26:10 . Thrift is the fuel of magnificence. He was at length a leper, yet still remained a king. Infirmities may deform us, they cannot dethrone us. The English laws (saith Camden, Elizabeth) pronounce, that the crown once worn quite taketh away all defects whatsoever: sure it is that when God once crowns a man with his grace and favour, that man is out of harm’s way for ever.
9 And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias;
Ver. 9. And Ozias begat Joatham ] A pious prince, but not very prosperous. Grace is not given to any as a target against outward affliction.
And Joatham begat Achaz ] A sturdy stigmatic, a branded rebel. The more he was distressed, the more he trespassed. "This is that Ahaz," 2 Chronicles 28:22 . How many (today) are humbled, yet not humble! low, but not lowly! Humiliantur, et humiles non sunt (Bern. in Cantic.). Qui nec fractis cervicibus inclinantur, as Jerome complaineth: quos multo facilius fregeris quam flexeris, as another hath it. These are like the creature called Monoceros, who may he killed, but not caught. Interimi potest, capi non potest (Plin.). Plectimur a Deo, saith Salvian, nec flectimur tamen: corripimur, sed non corrigimar. But if men harden their hearts against correction, God will harden his hand, and hasten their destruction.
Achaz begat Ezekias ] Who stands between his father Ahaz and his son Manasseh, as a lily between two thorns, or as a fuller between two colliers; or as that wretched Cardinal of Toledo in his Preface before the Bible, printed at Complutum in Spain, said that he set the Vulgate Latin between the Hebrew and Greek as Christ was set between two thieves. Here observe (by the way) that Judah had some interchange of good princes, Israel none; and that under religious princes the people were ever religious; under wicked princes, wicked. Most people will be of the king’s religion, whatever that may be, as the Melchites were of old (Nicephorus), and the Papists still, if Mr Rogers (our protomartyr in Queen Mary’s days) may be believed. The Papists, saith he, apply themselves to the present state, yea, if the state should change ten times in the year, they would be ever ready at hand to change with it, and so follow the cry, and rather utterly forsake God, and be of no religion, than that they would forego lust or living for God or religion (Acts and Mon.).
10 And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias;
Ver. 10. And Ezekias begat Manasses ] Who degenerates into his grandfather Ahaz, as the kernel of a well-fruited plant doth sometimes into that crab or willow which gave the original to his stock. This man was (till converted) as very a nonesuch in Judah as Ahab was in Israel; yet no king of either Judah or Israel reigned so long as he. It was well for him that he lived so long to grow better, as it had been better for Asa to have died sooner, when he was in his prime. But they are met in heaven, I doubt not; whither whether we come sooner or later, happy are we.
And Manasses begat Amon ] Who followed his father in sin, but not in repentance. "And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; but hast lifted up thyself against the Lord," &c.,Daniel 5:22; Daniel 5:22 . It is a just presage and desert of ruin, not to be warned. This was a bloody prince, therefore lived not out half his days. Queen Mary’s reign was the shortest of any since the Conquest, Richard III only excepted; yet she was non natura, seal pontificiorum arte ferox, say some.
And Amon begat Josias ] Of whom that is true that Jerome writes of another, In brevi vitoe spatio tempora virtutum multa replevit; or, as Mr. Hooker speaketh of King Edward VI, He departed soon, but lived long; for life consists in action: "In all these is the life of my spirit," saith Hezekiah, Isaiah 38:15-16 ; but the wanton widow is "dead while she liveth," 1 Timothy 5:6 . That good king lived apace and died betime, being delicioe Orbis, as Titus was called; and Mirabilia mundi, as Otho; having at his death (as it is said of Titus) one thing only to repent of, and that was his rash engaging himself in a needless quarrel, to the loss of his life and the ruin of that state. a When Epaminondas was once slain, his countrymen were no longer famous for their valour and victories, but for their cowardice and calamities. ( Nec virtutibus Thebani, sed cladibus insignes. ) When Augustus departed this world, we feared, saith one, the world’s ruin, and were ready to wish that either he had never been born, or never died. When God took away Theodosius, he took away with him almost all the peace of that church and state; so he did of this, with Josiah, that heavenly spark, that plant of renown, that precious prince,
" Qui regum decus, et iuvenum flos, spesque bonorum,
Delicice seecli, et gloria gentis erat: "
as Cardanus sang of our English Josiah, King Edward VI b
a Titus moriens, se unius tantummodo rei poenitere dixit. Id autem quid esset non aperuit, nec quisquam certo novit. Dio. in Tito.
b Orbis ruinam timueramus. Paterculus. Ludovico XII defuncto, tam subita orta est mutatio, ut qui prius digito coelum attingere videbatur, nunc humi serpere; sideratos esse diceres. Budaeus. Some think that Pedaiah (whose natural son Zorobabel was, 1Ch 3:19 ) should be here reckoned, though he be not named, because he was born and died obscurely in Babylon. Verseius. Funccius. Magdeburg. Praefat. ad Centur. 5.
11 And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon:
Ver. 11. And Josias begat Jechonias ] Rob. Stephanus restoreth and rectifieth the text thus: "Josias begat Jakin and his brethren, and Jakin begat Jechonias." For otherwise the middle fourteen (whereby St Matthew reckoneth) would want a man. Jehoahaz, younger brother to Jakin, had, after his father’s death, stepped into the throne, but was soon ejected. Usurpation prospers not. Abimelech’s head had stolen the crown, and by a blow on his head he is slain at Shechem. What got most of the Caesars by their hasty advancement, nisi ut citius interficerentur? as one hath it. Notandum, saith the chronologer, quod nullus Pontificum, egregii aliquid a tempore Bonifitcii tertii pro sedis Romanae tyrannide constituens, diu supervixerit. Quod et huic Bonifacio accidit. It is remarkable that no pope of any note for activity in his office was long of life.
12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel;
Ver. 12. And after they were brought to Babylon ] This the Evangelist inculcates, and rings often in the ears of his impious countrymen, as a notorious public judgment on a nation so incorrigibly flagitious, so unthankful for mercies, so impatient of remedies, so incapable of repentance, so obliged, so warned, so shamelessly, so lawlessly wicked, quorum maxima beneficia, flagitia, supplicia, as the Centurists set it forth. Abused mercy turns into fury.
Jechonias begat Salathiel ] Neri begat him naturally, Jechonias, legally; adopting him for his child that was his nephew, 1 Chronicles 3:17 .
And Salathiel begat Zorobabel ] Who brought forth the head stone of the second temple with shoutings, crying, "Grace, grace unto it,"Zechariah 4:7; Zechariah 4:7 . He was a chieftain in the first year of Cyrus, Ezra 2:2 , and he lived to see the building of the temple, about the sixth year of Darius Nothus, which is a matter of a hundred years between. So he had a longer life than ordinary, which God granteth to some, because he hath something to be done by them. A short life in some cases is a blessing, 1 Kings 14:13 , as grapes gathered before they be ripe are freed from the violence of the winepress; as lambs slain before they be grown escape many storms and sharp showers that others live to taste of. Some wicked live long, that they may aggravate their judgment; others die sooner, that they may hasten it. But they are blessed, that whether they live, they live unto the Lord, or whether they die, they die unto the Lord, and in the Lord, their works following them.Romans 14:8; Romans 14:8 ; Revelation 14:13 .
13 And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor;
Ver. 13. And Zorobabel begat Abiud ] St Luke saith, Rhesa: hence the diversity of number and names. Matthew descends by the posterity of Abiud; Luke, of Rhesa, down to Joseph.
And Abiud begat Eliakim, and Eliakim begat Azor, &c. ] These lived in those calamitous times of the people of God after the Captivity, and were not kings and captains, as being held under by other nations; but law givers they were, as Jacob prophesied, and principal men among that people, "till Shiloh came,"Genesis 49:10; Genesis 49:10 .
14 And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud;
Ver. 14. And Azor begat Sadoc, and Sadoc begat Achim ] Of these and the rest, as the Scripture sets down nothing more than their bare names, so neither is there any Jewish record, at this day extant, of their acts. So many miseries they had, one in the neck of another, that little liberty was left them to write; though I doubt not but the posterity of David were then carefully observed by as many as looked for the consolation of Israel. But among the Jews, since our Saviour’s time, after the sealing up of the Babylonish Talmud, that is, after the year of Christ 500 to the year 1000, there was little or nothing written, by reason of the grievous calamities that seized upon them.
15 And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob;
Ver. 15. And Eliud begat Eleazar, &c. ] These might be private persons, some of them, as Joseph and Mary were; it being the care and the endeavour of the Herods, and those before, that held the Jews in subjection, to suppress as much as might be the posterity of David, at least to keep them in a low condition; forasmuch as it was a certain and received truth among that people, that "Messiah the Prince" Dan 9:25 should shortly come from that family. And this was that which held up the fainting hearts of the good people of those sad times (when prophecy failed them, and prosperity too), they looked for the "Desire of all nations," for the consolation of Israel, having little else to relieve them, for the external means, unless it were that בת קיל , that echo heard in the temple, they tell us of, which served them for an oracle; and the miracle of the pool of Bethesda granted by God to strengthen them in the true worship of God, under the persecution of Antiochus and other tyrants, till the days of John Baptist and the Lord Christ.
16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
Ver. 16. And Jacob begat Joseph ] Whose genealogy is here recorded, and not Mary’s, it being not the custom of that people then to set forth the genealogies of women. As at this day, the Jews have an over-base conceit of that sex; saying that they have not so divine a soul as men, but are of a lower creation, &c., and therefore they suffer them not to enter the synagogue, but appoint them a gallery without. (Blount’s Voyage into the Levant.)
The husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus ] This is the sum of all the good news in the world, such as surpasseth the joy of conquest or of harvest, Isaiah 9:3 ; Isaiah 9:5-6 , and should therefore swallow up all discontents whatsoever.
Who is called Christ ] The name of Jesus is mel in ore, melos in aure, iubilium in corde (Bernard): as it was to St Paul, who therefore names it nine different times in the ten first verses of his First Epistle to the Corinthians, as loth to come off it. Yet is not the name Jesus alone half so sweet as when Christ is added to it, as here. For Jesus Christ betokeneth such a Saviour as is anointed and appointed thereunto by God, consecrated to the office according to his Godhead, and qualified for it according to his manhood. In both natures a Saviour, and that ex professo (as you would say) and by consent of all three persons; the Son being anointed by the Father, with the Holy Ghost: and as Samson when clothed with the spirit saved the people, so Christ much more.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.
Ver. 17. So all the generations, &c., are fourteen generations ] For memory’ sake Matthew summeth up the genealogy of our Saviour into three fourteens ( tessaradecades ): like as some of the Psalms are, for the same reason, set down in order of the alphabet. Discere voluit Socrates, nihil aliud esse quam recordari, saith Cicero (Tusc. Quest.). Magis autem Christi memiuisse debemus quam respirare (Chrysost.). The soul should be as the ark of God, the memory like the pot of manna, preserving holy truths touching him that is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life."
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
Ver. 18. Now the birth of Jesus Christ ] A γενεσει from γεννησιν transit. And being to relate a strange thing, and till then never heard of, he elegantly stirs up the hearers’ mind with this preface.
When as his mother Mary was espoused ] An ancient and commendable custom. Adam took his wife the first day of their creation (she was espoused to him), but knew her not till after the fall: Lot’s daughters were espoused, yet had not known man, Genesis 19:8 ; Genesis 19:14 . See Deuteronomy 22:22 . Yea, the very heathens had their espousals,Judges 14:1; Judges 14:1 ; Placuit, despondi: nuptiis hic dictus est dies, saith he in Terence. We agreed, were contracted, and the wedding day appointed.
To Joseph, before they came together ] Espoused they were by a special providence. 1. That Mary might not be held a harlot. 2. That being big, and needing necessary help, she might be provided for. 3. That the mystery of Christ might be made known by degrees.
She was found with child of the Holy Ghost ] This wonderful conception of our Saviour is a mystery not much to be pried into, a and is therefore called an overshadowing,Luke 1:35; Luke 1:35 . Where also, lest any should mistake this of in the text for the material cause: as if the Holy Ghost had begotten him of his own substance (as fathers do their children), the whole order and manner of this conception, so far as concerneth us to know, is declared by the angel.
a Mirari licet, rimari non licet.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man , and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
Ver. 19. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man ] And yet withal a merciful, tender man of the Virgin’s credit. Hence that conflict and fear within himself lest he should not do right.
And not willing to make her a public example ] That is, to wrong her, as the same word is used and expounded by the author to the Hebrews of the Son of God, as here of the mother of God,Hebrews 6:6; Hebrews 6:6 ; cf. Hebrews 10:29 : παραδειγματισαι . Noluit ipse eam nec poenis, nec infamiae, imo nec risui exponere (Aret.).
Was minded to put her away privily ] Which yet he could hardly have done, without blame to himself and blemish to her. So far out we are (the best of us) when destitute of Divine direction. How shamefully was that good Josiah miscarried by his passions to his cost, when he went up against Pharaohnecho, without once advising with Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Huldah, or any other prophet of God then living by him!
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
Ver. 20. But while he thought on these things ] And was not so well advised upon his course, God, who reserveth his holy hand for a dead lift, expedites him. The Athenians had a conceit that Minerva (their goddess) drove all their ill counsels to a happy conclusion. The superstitious Romans thought that an idol, which they called Vibilia, kept them from erring out of their way. a The Divine providence is our Vibilia, that will not allow us to miscarry, so long as we have an eye to the pattern that was showed us in the mount, Exodus 25:40 . In the mount will the Lord be seen, b Genesis 22:14 ; Proverbs 3:26 .
Behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him ] As of old he had done to Daniel, being caused to fly swiftly, or with weariness of flight (as the Hebrew hath it), with so good a will he did it, as thinking he could never come soon enough. Daniel 9:21 ; Revelation 1:9 .
Joseph, thou son of David ] Albeit a poor carpenter. A man may be as high in God’s favour and as happy in russet c as in tissue. "I know thy poverty" (saith Christ to that Church), but that is nothing, "thou art rich," Revelation 2:9 .
Fear not to take unto thee ] viz. from the hands of her parents, who have, by all right, the disposal of their children as a chief part of their goods. Therefore when Satan obtained leave to vex Job and to touch him in his possession, he dealt with his children also, Job 1:11-19 .
For that which is conceived in her ] "That holy thing," Luke 1:35 , that Holy of Holies wherein the "Godhead dwelleth bodily," that is, personally; and is called the Son of God, saith the angel there. Yet not in respect of his human nature, for then there should be in the person of Christ two sons, viz. one of the Father and another of the Holy Ghost. Besides, Hebrews 7:3 , he is "without father," as man, and "without mother;" as God. All that can be gathered out of that place in Luke is, that he that was so conceived of the Holy Ghost was the natural Son of God. The union of three persons into one nature, and of two natures into one person, these are the great mysteries of godliness. The well is deep, as she said, and we want wherewith to draw ( αντλημα ), John 4:11 .
Is of the Holy Ghost ] As the efficient, not as the material cause. The virtus formatrix, the formative faculty which the Virgin had not, is ascribed to the power of the Holy Ghost, framing and fashioning Christ of the substance of the Virgin sanctified miraculously and without man’s help. But if no mother knows the manner of her natural conception, what presumption shall it be for flesh and blood to search how the Son of God took flesh from his creature? It is enough for us to know that he was conceived of the Holy Ghost, not spermatically, but operatively, yet secretly and mystically; the Virgin herself knew not how. Fearfully and wonderfully he was made, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Psa 139:14-15 Ephesians 4:9 .
a Jun. Emblem. Ab erroribus viarum Dea Vibilia liberat. Arnob. adver. Gentes.
b Becilleia in stultitia tua (ait Rab. Solomon ex Talmud. Hieros.), i.e. in rebus in quibus es stultus, aderit tamen tibi Dominus.
c A coarse homespun woollen cloth of a reddish-brown, grey or neutral colour, formerly used for the dress of peasants and country folk. ŒD
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Ver. 21. And she shall bring forth a Son ] Shiloh, the son of her secundines: that Son, that Eve made account she had gotten when she had gotten Cain: for said she, "I have gotten a man from the Lord;" or, as others read it (and the original rather favours it), "I have gotten the man, the Lord." But how far she was deceived, the issue proved. Fallitur augurio spes bona saepe suo. Hope comes halting home many times.
And then shalt call his name Jesus ] Not of ιαομαι , to heal, as some Hellenists would have it; although it be true that he is Exo 15:26 the Lord the Physician, "by whose stripes we are healed," Isaiah 53:5 ; but of Jashang, whence Jehoshuah, Jesus. Two in the Old Testament had this name. The first when he was sent as a spy into Canaan, Numbers 13:16 , had his name changed from Oshea, "Let God save," to Jehoshuah; "God shall save." Under the Law (which brings us, as it were, into the wilderness of Sin) we may wish there were a Saviour, but under the Gospel we are sure of salvation, since our Jehoshuah hath bound himself to fulfil all righteousness, and had therefore this name imposed upon him at his circumcision. For he assumed it not to himself (though, knowing the end of his coming and the fulness of his sufficiency, he might have done it), nor received it from men, but from God, and that with great solemnity, by the ministry of an angel, who talked with a woman about our salvation as Satan sometime had done about our destruction.
For he shall save his people from their sins ] This is the notation and etymon, or reason for his name, Jesus, -a name above all names, Philippians 2:9 . Σωτηρ , saith the heathen orator, a is a word so emphatic, that other tongues can hardly find a word fit to express it. Salvation properly notes the negative part of a Christian’s happiness, viz preservation from evil, chiefly from the evil of sin (which is the mother of all our misery); from the damning and domineering power thereof, by his merit and Spirit, by his value and virtue. Jesus therefore is a short Gospel, and should work in us strongest affections and egressions of soul after him who hath saved us from the wrath to come, 1 Thessalonians 1:10 . The Grecians, being set free but from bodily servitude, called their deliverer a saviour to them; and rang it out, Saviour, Saviour, b so that the fowls in the air fell down dead with the cry. Yea, they so pressed to come near him and touch his hand, that if he had not timely withdrawn himself, he might have beseemed to have lost his life. c The Egyptians preserved by Joseph, called him Abrech, or tender father. The daughters of Jerusalem met David returning from the slaughter of the Philistines with singing and dancing. When the Lord turned again the captivity of his people, they were like those who dream, Psalms 126:1 . And Peter enlarged, could scarcely believe his own eyes, with such an ecstasy of admiration was he rapt upon that deliverance. Oh, then, how should our hearts rejoice and our tongues be glad, Acts 2:26 ; and how should we be vexed at the vile dulness and deadness of our naughty natures, that can be no more affected with these indelible ravishments! Jacob wept for joy at the good news that Joseph was yet alive. Joannes Mollius, whensoever he spake of the name of Jesus, his eyes dropped. And another reverend divine among us, being in a deep muse, after some discourse that passed of Jesus, and tears trickling abundantly from his eyes before he was aware, being urged for the cause thereof, confessed ingenuously, it was because he could not draw his dull heart to prize Christ aright. Mr. Fox never denied beggar that asked in that name; and good Bucer never disregarded any (though different in opinion from him) in whom he could discern aliquid Christi. "None but Christ," said that blessed martyr at the stake. And another in the flames, when judged already dead, suddenly, as waked out of sleep, moved his tongue and jaws, and was heard to pronounce this word, Jesus. (John Lambert, Julius Palmer. Acts and Mon.)
Here also we have an excellent argument of our Saviour’s Divinity and omnipotence; forasmuch as the angel ascribeth unto him that which the Psalmist affirmeth of Jehovah, that he shall "redeem Israel from all his iniquities," Psalms 130:8 ; cf. Hosea 13:4 . λυτρωσεται . Christus autem, non Pater, factus est απολυτρωσις .
a Cicer. in Verrem.
b σωτηρ, σωτηρ . Plut. in Vita Flamin.
c Tyndale in his Annotat.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
Ver. 22. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled ] An angel’s testimony is not to be taken, if it be beside or against the written word. I am of them that keep the sayings of this book, saith the angel to the apostle, Revelation 22:5 ; "For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven," Psalms 119:82 .
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Ver. 23. Behold, a virgin, &c. ] העלמה , that Virgin, κατ εξοχην , that famous Virgin foretold, Isaiah 7:14 . That he should be the seed of the woman was made known to Adam; but not of what nation till Abraham, nor of what tribe till Jacob, nor of what sex till David, nor whether born of a Virgin till Isaiah. Thus by degrees was that great mystery of godliness revealed to mankind. If any Jew object, saith Chrysostom, how could a Virgin bring forth Dic ei, quomodo peperit sterilis et vetula? Ask him, how could Sarah, when old and barren, bear a child? The bees have young, yet know not marriage. The Phoenix, they say, hath no parents. This headstone of the corner was cut out of the mountain without hands; Dan 2:34 this flower of the field, this rose of Sharon, Son 2:1 hath Heaven for his father, and earth for his mother. Was it not as easy to frame this second Adam in the womb, as that first Adam out of the mire? Herein see a miracle of mercy, that the incomprehensible God, that circle (whose centre is everywhere, whose circumference nowhere), should be circled and cooped up for nine months together in the narrow womb of a pure Virgin.
And shall bring forth a Son ] Who in the birth opened the womb, Luke 2:21-22 , and so put her to pain likely, as other women. He hid the glory of his eternal nativity under a mean and temporary birth to purchase for us a heavenly and eternal birth. Whether the blessed Virgin were Deipara, the Mother of God, raised great storms in the Council of Ephesus, and came to commotions in the secular part, and excommunications among the Bishops-inasmuch as the Emperor declared both sides heretics, -but forasmuch as she brought forth a Son that was God, we doubt not to style her the Mother of God; not Moll, God’s maid, as one hath lately slandered some of us in print. At Rome (it is said) was seen, at the same time, about the sun, the likeness of a woman carrying a child in her arms: and a voice heard, Pan, the great god, is now about to be born, &c.
And they shall call his name Immanuel, &c. ] By a wonderful and unsearchable union: the manner whereof is to be believed, not discussed; admired, not pried into: personal it is, yet not of persons: of natures, and yet not natural. As a soul and body are one man; so God and man are one person, saith Athanasius. And as every believer that is born of God, saith another, remains the same entire person that he was before, receiving nevertheless into him a divine nature which before he had not; so Immanuel, continuing the same perfect person which he had been from eternity, assumeth nevertheless a human nature which before he had not, to be born within his person for ever. This is so much the more wonderful, because the very angels (which are far greater in glory than man) are not able to abide the presence of God,Isaiah 6:2; Isaiah 6:2 . But this is our ladder of ascension to God, John 3:13 . Faith first lays hold upon Christ as a man; and thereby, as by a mean, makes way to God, and embraceth the Godhead, which is of itself a consuming fire. And whereas sin is a partition wall of our own making, denying us access, Ephesians 2:14 ; God is now with us: and in Christ "we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him." Christ’s humanity serves as a screen to save us from those everlasting burnings; and as a conduit to derive upon us from the Godhead all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, Ephesians 1:3 : if any Assyrian invade us, we may cry, as they of old, "The stretching out of his wings doth fill thy land, O Immanuel," Isaiah 8:8 , and we shall have help.
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
Ver. 24. Then Joseph, being raised from sleep, did as the angel, &c. ] As well assured that it was of God, whom he was ready pressed to obey without sciscitation. Iussa sequi, tam velle mihi, quam posse, necesse est. (Lucan.) If some princes will not endure that subjects should scan their laws, but require absolute obedience: if generals excuse not in a soldier the neglect of their commands, but severely punish even prosperous disorders: if Jesuits exact blind obedience of their wretched novices (our Throgmorton dared not give up the ghost till he had obtained leave of his superior), a should not we much more obey God in his commands, counsels, promises, prohibitions, comminations, all?
a In articulo mortis nolebat obire, non impetrata a superiore venia.
25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
Ver. 25. And knew her not till she brought forth ] We think hardly of him that taketh to wife the widow and relict of another, that is left great with child, before she hath laid down her burden; how much more in this case! Besides, this might be part of the angel’s charge to him, that after she had brought forth her Son Jesus she continued still a Virgin, pie credimus, but it is neither article of our creed nor principle of our religion. But that she vowed virginity is both false and absurd. For how could she promise virginity to God and marriage to Joseph? Sure it is, the blemish will never be wiped off from some of the ancients, who, to establish their own idol, of I know not what virginity, have written most wickedly and most basely of marriage, which both Christ honoured with his first miracle and the Holy Ghost by overshadowing the betrothed Virgin. As for the Papists that disgrace it, they appear herein more like devils than divines. 1 Timothy 4:1 . If the same God had not been the author of virginity and marriage, he had never countenanced virginity by marriage, as he did in the Virgin Mary.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 1". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent