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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 2

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

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Verses 1-12

The Adoration of the Magi (2:1-12)

The prophecies of the Old Testament do not limit the mission of the Savior to the Jewish people alone. He will be "a light to the nations" (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6). "Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves" (Isaiah 49:7). The story of the adoration of the Wise Men from the East has therefore a symbolic meaning. A day will come when the East and the West will bow before the King of the Jews who is today ignored and forgotten, and they will 6e bring their glory" to him (see Revelation 21:24-26).

Thus, right from the beginning, after having underlined the fact that the mission of Jesus was first to his own people (Matthew 1:21), the evangelist indicates the universal character of his salvation. And astrology is the means which God used to conduct the Wise Men to the crib of Jesus! Their offering and then: adoration are, as it were, the announcement that one day all the treasures of the Orient will be laid at the feet of the King of kings. They are also a reminder that the essence of all Christian worship is adoration and offering--offering of ourselves and of our most precious possessions.

In the ancient liturgies of the Church, this first "manifestation" of the glory of the Christ was celebrated on a special day, the feast of Epiphany (the 6th of January).

The episode relating to King Herod shows Jesus as the object of the hostility of the powers of this world from his very birth. But the hand of God was on the infant Jesus as it was ever on the infant Moses. The purpose of God is accomplished in spite of men. God thwarts the plans of the enemy (see Exodus 2:1-10).

The fact that Jesus was born at Bethlehem is the occasion for the evangelist to recall the prophecy of Micah (Micah 5:2). Everything takes place as had been anticipated. Addressing himself to the Jews, Matthew makes scriptural evidence the cornerstone of his testimony. We are less sensitive today to this type of argument. Nevertheless, it is very important to remember that for the entire Apostolic Church the relation of the old revelation to the new was the relation of promise to fulfillment. That is why the New Testament and the Old form an inseparable whole.

Verses 13-23

The Flight Into Egypt (2:13-23)

The hostility of Herod has not subsided. Usurper of the Jewish throne, he dreads even the shadow of a rival, and his fear draws back from no cruelty.

Dreams play a large role in the story of Joseph as in that of the patriarch Joseph. God warns Joseph of the danger which pursues the child, and Joseph once more obeys without hesitating: he leaves for Egypt.

Egypt, many a time in the history of Israel, had been a land of refuge. Abraham, and later Jacob and his sons, descended there in time of famine. Others had fled there from persecution (1 Kings 12:2). At the same time, however, Egypt was a land of exile and slavery, and the reminder of a miraculous deliverance. Jesus is here shown, after a fashion, recapitulating in his own life the experience of his people. He also, from his earliest infancy, knows flight across the desert and is exiled until the all-powerful hand of God leads him back "to the land of Israel" (Matthew 2:21). This is what permits the evangelist to apply to him the words of Hosea: "Out of Egypt have I called my son" (Matthew 2:15; see Hosea 11:1).

Did God truly allow so many innocent children to be massacred? (vss. 16-18). This question immediately poses itself to modern minds. Matthew does not raise it He knows that the history of the People of God is all strewn with blood and tears. The prophets also recognized this. The rage of man is unfurled upon the Elect of God. Once again in history, the mothers in Israel weep for their children and refuse to be comforted (see Jeremiah 31:15). Our own time has seen massacres equally shameless. The testimony of the evangelist is that God nonetheless pursues his purpose of salvation.

Herod is dead. He has divided his kingdom among his three sons, giving Judea and Samaria to Archelaus, Archelaus will be hated on account of his exactions, and will be dismissed by Rome in the year A.D. 6 and replaced by a Roman procurator. Herod Antipas inherits Galilee and Perea, He will be met again in the Gospel story. Finally, Philip, a peaceful man, inherits the territory situated to the northeast of Lake Tiberias. It is to this region that Jesus will occasionally retire.

A double dream reveals to Joseph that he should return to Palestine, but should settle in Nazareth, That is why, Matthew infers, Jesus will be called "a Nazarene" (Matthew 2:23). This statement, which claims to rest on a prophecy, has intrigued interpreters in every age without any positive solution being discovered, since the allusion is obscure. The term "Nazarene" is never used in the Old Testament. Some (Calvin, for example) see in this word a derivation from a Hebrew word of similar sound meaning "to separate," "to consecrate." Other interpreters think of another similar word meaning "a shoot" (Isaiah 11:1). According to this view, on the apparently dead stump of Jesse a shoot has sprouted which carries in it the future of the world.

Matthew reacted, no doubt, against the fact that the Nazareth origin of Jesus was a cause of contempt. Perhaps also the disciples of Jesus were sometimes confused with the sect of the Nazirites (see Numbers 6). The Gospel underlines the fact that Jesus’ rearing at Nazareth corresponded to a fixed purpose of God (Matthew 26:71-73; see also Luke 18:37; Acts 24:5).

The major impression carried away from these stories of Jesus’ infancy is of the hand of God on all the events surrounding it. Striking also is the obscurity in which Jesus lives, for he will be met with, again only at the threshold of his public ministry, about thirty years later.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 2". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/matthew-2.html.
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