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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

Matthew 2

Verses 1-12



Matthew 2:0 (Luke 2:0)

Contents:—Immediately on His appearance commenced the grand conflict between the Christ of the true theocracy and the degenerate, worldly form of the theocracy as then subsisting. Judaism rejects Him; the heathen world receives Him (the East and Egypt). Jerusalem knows nothing of Him, and is thrown into alarm at the tidings of His appearance. The high priests and the scribes are, by their knowledge of the Scriptures, able to indicate correctly the place of His birth, but they treat the announcement of His birth as if it were an idle report. Herod attempts to slay the child, first by craft, and then by a general massacre. The escape into Egypt is signalized by the martyrdom of the children at Bethlehem; and Jesus is only preserved for the work given Him by the Father by His concealment in heathen Egypt, and afterwards in semi-pagan Galilee. On the other hand, Joseph and Mary, a poor couple, and the heathen magi, are His guardians and witnesses; while the children and mothers of Bethlehem are involuntary sharers in His sufferings. But, despite the contempt poured on Him by a carnal and degenerate theocracy, God in various ways glorifies Him as the true heir of the theocracy; so that the events recorded in this section really corroborate the fact of His Divine mission. Every circumstance bears testimony in His favor: 1) His birth in Bethlehem, or the Divine word of promise, the Scripture. 2) The miraculous star in the sky, or Nature. 3) Heathen philosophy in its noblest aspirations (although clouded by error), under the guidance of Providence, or the course of history. 4) The unsuspecting sleep, and the fearful awakening of sinners at His name. 5) Orthodox unbelief, which, even in its stagnation, is compelled to point to Bethlehem. 6) The belief of the wise men bursting through the mist of astrological delusion. 7) The triumph of Christian simplicity over the craft of the world, through the guidance of the Divine Spirit. 8) The martyrdom at Bethlehem. 9) The devoted resignation of the Holy Family, the relatives of the Lord. 10) The miraculous deliverance and preservation of the Lord in the same heathen country from which Israel had been brought, 11) Jesus growing up in obscurity and lowliness at Nazareth. 12) His providential preservation, accomplished by means apparently the slightest, viz., prophetic dreams.

A. Matthew 2:1-12

The Gospel for Epiphany. (More recently designated the Missionary perikope)

1Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men [magi] from the east to Jerusalem, 2Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east [or, when first it rose], and are come to worship him. 3When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. 9When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11And when they were come into the house, they saw1 the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 12And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.


On the genuineness of this chapter, as well as of the former, comp. Meyer’s Commentary on Matth., p. 59.2

Matthew 2:1. Bethlehem (בֵּית לֶחֶם, house of bread), Βηθλεὲμ τῆς Ἰουδαίας, Bethlehem of Judea, as distinguished from Bethlehem in the tribe of Zebulon, Joshua 19:15. “Bethlehem Ephratah (Genesis 35:16; Genesis 35:19) was situated in the tribe of Judah (comp. Judges 17:9; Judges 19:1; 1 Samuel 17:12), six Roman miles, or two hours’ walk, to the south of Jerusalem.” (Reland, Palæstina, p. 642 foll.; Rosenmüller, Handbuch der biblischen Alterthumskunde, ii. 1, p. 123; Robinson, Pal. i. p. 470; Tobler, Bethlehem in Palæstina, St. Gall, 1848. With these comp. the recent travels of Schubert, Strauss, Schulz, etc.) The earlier name of Bethlehem was Ephratah, which probably also included its environs. This small town was the ancestral seat of the house of David (Ruth 1:1-2). It was fortified by Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:6), but remained an insignificant place (Micah 5:2), and is not even mentioned among the towns of Judah either in the Hebrew text of Joshua or in Nehemiah 11:25. The striking contrast between its insignificance and its future destiny is brought out by the prophet Micah, in a prophecy which forms one of the most pointed Messianic predictions (see Matthew 2:6). At present, Bethlehem is a small but populous town in a well-cultivated district. As to the road from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, see von Raumer’s Palestina, p. 276. “Bethlehem itself is situated on a ridge of moderate size, extending from east to west. It consists of about 100 indifferent dwellings, partly cut out in the rock, and contains 600 inhabitants capable of bearing arms, partly Turks and partly Christians. As the town in the year 1834 took part in the insurrection against Ibrahim Pasha, he caused the Turkish quarter to be destroyed. Since that time the place is inhabited exclusively by Christians, 3,000 in number.” Comp. Robinson, I. 470–’73 (Am. ed.).3

In the days of Herod the king.—The monarch here alluded to was Herod surnamed the Great. He was the first sovereign of the Idumæan (or Edomite) race, which, from the year 40 before Christ, reigned over Judæa, under the supremacy of Rome (Joseph. Antiq. xiv. 1, 3; de Bello Judges 1:8, Judges 1:9). Herod the Great was a son of Antipater, whom Cæsar had appointed procurator of Judæa at the time he acknowledged Hyrcanus II., the Maccabæan prince, as king When a youth of fifteen, Herod was en trusted by his father with the government of the province of Galilee (Joseph. Antiq. xiv. 9, 2). Subsequently, as “strategos” of Cælesyria, he defeated the Maccabæan prince Antigonus (son of Aristobulus), who had made an attempt to recover the sovereignty of which Aristobulus had been deprived. The Roman triumvir Antony made Herod and his brother Phasael tetrarchs. Driven from his province by Antigonus, Herod repaired to Rome, where, through the favor of Antony, he was declared by the Roman Senate king of Judæa. But he was obliged to call in the help of Rome before he could make himself master of his new capital, Jerusalem. After the fall of Antony, he succeeded in securing the favor of Augustus. For his further history, comp. the article Herod in Winer’s and other Bibl. Encycl., and Josephus.—Herod was destined to sustain a most ominous part in Jewish history. At his accession, he founded the Idumæan dynasty on the ruins of the Asmonæan or Maccabæan race. (Comp. the genealogical tables of the Asmonæan house and of the Herodian, in von Raumer’s Palestine, p. 331.) The glorious race of the Maccabees had fallen through their fanatical presumption, and a servile deference to the ultra-legalist religious party,—just as a similar ultra-ecclesiastical policy led to the ruin of various Byzantine dynasties, and in more modern times to that of the Stuarts in Great Britain, and of the Bourbons in France. The Idumæan dynasty, on the other hand, pursued a crafty secular policy, by which it succeeded in maintaining itself for a considerable time, under the most difficult circumstances. This policy consisted in flattering the party of the Pharisees, by the building of the temple, and by other tokens of religious zeal; while at the same time the favor of Rome was courted by servility, by concessions to heathenism, and by the introduction of Grecian customs. It is noteworthy that the same Herod who had already extinguished the priestly and royal house of the Maccabees by the murder of its last heirs, also attempted to destroy the true and eternal royalty of the house of David. But, strictly speaking, it was not with Herod that the outward sceptre first passed from the tribe of Judah to an alien family, as even the Maccabæan dynasty belonged to a different tribe, that of Levi. Hence, when the royal power was conferred on the Maccabees in the person of Simon, it was with an express reservation of the rights of the Messiah (1Ma 14:41). On the other hand, the Idumæans had, for more than a hundred years before that, been Jews,—the Maccabee Hyrcanus having compelled them to submit to circumcision. The Herodian dynasty remained, however, Idumæan in spirit,—circumcised semi-pagan and barbarian, though outwardly civilized. According to the statements of the Fathers (quoted by Winer, i. p. 481, note 5), the Herodians were of purely heathen extraction,—their ancestors having been Philistines from Ascalon, who had been brought to Idumæa as prisoners of war. But while the Asmonæans enjoyed the royal dignity with the express acknowledgment that the sceptre belonged to the “coming Prophet,” Herod recognized no such expected Messiah; or rather entertained only superstitious fears about Him, and cherished the desire of effecting His destruction. In this respect Herod may be said to have removed the sceptre from Judah, although not in the primary sense of the prediction in Genesis 49:10 (see the author’s Positive Dogmatik, p. 668).

Herod died in the fourth year before the commencement of our era, shortly before Easter (Joseph. Antiq. xvii. 9, 3). Accordingly, the birth of Christ must have taken place at least four years earlier than the usual date. See Wieseler, Chronol Synopse, p. 50; and the author’s Leben Jesu, ii. p. 106.

Wise men, lit. Magi, μάγοι, מָגִים.—The name originally belonged to a high sacerdotal caste among the Persians and Medes, who formed the king’s privy council, and cultivated astrology, medicine, and occult natural science. They are frequently mentioned by ancient authors, such as Herodotus (i. 132), Diogenes Laertius (i. 1, 9), Ælian, Porphyry, Cicero, and Pliny. During the time of the Chaldæan dynasty, there also existed an order of magi at the court of Babylon (Jeremiah 39:3), of which Daniel was made the president (Daniel 2:48). Subsequently the name was transferred to those Eastern philosophers in general who studied astrology, the interpretation of dreams, occult natural science, and the like. (See Winer’s Real-Wörterbuch.) At the time of Christ, many natives of Syria and Arabia, as well as Greeks and Romans, professed to be adepts in the magical art, and employed it for gain or personal advancement, taking advantage of the curiosity and superstition of their contemporaries. The names of Simon Magus, who drew down the rebuke of Peter, and of Elymas the sorcerer, who opposed Paul, will at once occur to the reader as familiar instances. The magi mentioned in the text belonged to the earlier class of Eastern sages, whose researches were sincere and earnest.

They are called wise men from the East, μάγοι ὰπὸ . The expression,ἁπὸ ., may be joined with equal propriety to the noun preceding or to the verb following. The first construction, however, is preferable, giving to the expression, magi, its full import; but the particular part of the East from which they came, cannot be determined. Justin, Tertullian, and many others (see Meyer), fixed on Arabia; Chrysostom, Theophylact, and others on Persia; while some have specified Parthia, Babylonia, and even Egypt and Ethiopia. At all events, they were of Eastern origin; and the Evangelist seems to imply that they came from Persia or Mesopotamia, the seat of the original magi. In attempting to account for the manner in which they had become acquainted with the Jewish expectation of a Messiah, some have laid too much stress on uncertain historical statements; while, more recently, others have entirely disregarded the established historical fact, that some such expectation was generally entertained at the time. Thus Suetonius mentions, in his Life of Vespasian (iv.), that throughout the East there was a general and settled belief, that about this period one would come from Judæa who should subdue the world. Tacitus (Hist. v. 13) refers to a similar expectation. But probably these two historians derived their statements only from a passage in Josephus (De Bello Judaico, vi. 5, 4. See Gieseler, Kirchengeschichte, vol. i. p. 47). Josephus, in his usual cringing manner, perverted the Scripture promise of a Messiah, applying it to Vespasian, who, from his campaign in Judæa or from the East, had gone to take possession of the empire of the world (see my Leben jesu, vol. ii. p. 105). But, on the other hand, it is undeniable that the temple of Jerusalem was famed all over the East (see Gieseler, vol. i. p. 46); that at that time the Jews had already spread over the known world; and that they had gained converts among the most intellectual and earnest inquirers of all countries. Such, for example, were the Greeks mentioned by John (Matthew 12:20). Nor must we forget that the greatest part of the ten tribes of Israel had remained in Parthia, though their ideas and hopes concerning the Messiah were probably not so clear and well defined as those of their brethren in Palestine. (See The Nestorians, or The Ten Tribes, by Asahel Grant, 1843.) From the circumstance that three different kinds of gifts were offered, the strange inference has been drawn, that three “wise men” presented them. Similarly, a purely fanciful interpretation of Psalms 72:10; Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 60:3; Isaiah 60:10, led to the idea, especially since the fifth century, that the magi were kings. Even before that time, this view had been propounded by Tertullian (Adv. Marc. iii. 13). Chrysostom speaks of twelve magi, and Epiphanius increased their number to fifteen.

The mediæval Church blended the commemoration of the holy three kings (Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, as they were called, although other names are also assigned them), with the festival of the Epiphany (6th Jan.). This feast, which was first instituted in the Eastern Church, commenced there the annual cycle of Christian festivals, and primarily bore reference to the baptism of Christ. As the Eastern Church adopted Christmas from the West, so the Western received the Epiphany from the East, by an interchange similar to that in regard to the use of organs and bells. The first trace of its celebration in the West occurs during the latter half of the fourth century (when, according to Ammianus Marcellinus, it was observed by the Emperor Julian at Vienne in 360). So early as the time of Augustine, it was celebrated in the West as Christ’s first manifestation to the Gentiles, the precedent and warrant for it being derived from the adoration of the magi in the passage under consideration. Hence also its name—Festival of the three Kings. In process of time, three different events came to be connected with this festival: 1) The baptism of Christ; 2) Christ’s first manifestation to the Gentiles; 3) the first miracle at Cana, John 2:11. A fourth reference to the miraculous feeding of the 5000 persons was afterward added. Comp. the article Epiphanien fest in Herzog’s Real-Encyclopœdie; also in Aschbach’s Allgem. Kirchenlexicon, and in Strauss’s Kirchen-jahr. The legends on this subject gave rise, as is well known, to a strange medley of ecclesiastical and popular usages.

We have no authentic record of the number and the social position of these magi. There must, of course, have been more than one; and they must have been persons of wealth and rank, who, in al. probability, would travel with a considerable retinue, so that their arrival at Jerusalem must have produced a sensation. That they were Gentiles and not Jews, appears from the whole tenor of the narrative; from the pointed contrast to which the Evangelist manifestly intends to draw attention; and especially from the question: “Where is the newborn King of the Jews?” Accordingly, most commentators are agreed on this question. (See Meyer, p. 63.)

Matthew 2:2. We have seen His star.—This cannot refer either to a comet (Origen and others), or a meteor, still less to an angelic apparition (Theophylact). Among the ancients, a comet was rarely considered a good omen; a meteor would blaze and burst; while an angelic vision would disappear when its object was accomplished. We have no knowledge that an entirely new star made its appearance at that time, and again disappeared. Astrologers drew their inferences not so much from an individual star, as from a constellation of stars, although the import of the vision was gathered from the presence or position of one particular star in the constellation. (See Lange’s Leben Jesu, vol. ii. p. 105.) “The famous astronomer Kepler (De Jesu Christi vero anno natalitio, Francf. 1606; comp. Münter, Stern der Weisen, Kopenhagen, 1827) has shown, that in the year 747 from the building of Rome, a very remarkable threefold conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the sign Pisces occurred; and that in the spring of the following year the planet Mars likewise appeared in this constellation. He regarded it as probable that an extraordinary star was conjoined with these three planets, as was the case in the year 1603. Kepler was of opinion that this conjunction formed the star of the magi. This view has been further explained and defended by Ideler in his Chronological Researches. Wieseler mentions, that, according to the statement of Münter, the Chinese astronomical tables record the appearance of a new star at a time which coincides with the fourth year before the birth of Christ. All chronological statements relating to the birth of Christ lead, according to Wieseler’s calculations, to the conclusion that Jesus was born in the year 750 from the building of Rome (four years earlier than the birth of Christ according to the usual chronology), and most probably in the month of February. The above-mentioned conjunction took place two years sooner, that is, in the year 747 and 748.”

The circumstance that Herod caused all the (male) children in Bethlehem, of two years old and under, to be put to death, is a strong argument in favor of the supposition, that the principal star in this constellation was that which directed the magi to their search. Gerlach, in his Commentary, says: As Jesus adapted Himself to the fishermen by the miraculous draught of fishes; to the sick, by the curing of their infirmities; and to all His hearers, by parables relating to the circumstances around, and the affairs of, ordinary life; so did He draw these astronomers to Himself by condescending to their favorite science.

If it be asked how Providence could employ such a deceptive art for the purpose of guiding the magi to the truth, we reply, that there is a vast difference between earlier and later astrology. Just as chemistry sprung from alchemy, and even war gave rise to the Law of Nations, so ancient pagan astrology was the parent of our modern science of astronomy. But the tendency of all true science is to point the way to faith. A perception of the harmonious order of the firmament, and especially a knowledge of astronomy, would direct devout minds to Him who is the Centre of the spiritual solar system, to the creative Word, the Source of all order. Besides, it was not astrological inquiry which primarily determined the magi to undertake the journey to Bethlehem, but their belief in the Messiah promised to the Jews, of whom they had heard. They were men earnest in their deep longing, and believers according to the measure of preparing grace granted them. Hence their astrological knowledge was used only as the instrument of advancing and directing their faith. Thus Divine Providence might condescend even to their erroneous ideas, and cause the appearance of the constellation in the heavens to coincide with the conviction in their hearts, that the birth of the Messiah had then taken place; more especially as their mistake implied at least the general truth that the whole starry world points to Christ, and that particular law of Providence, according to which great leading events in the kingdom of God are ushered in by solemn and striking occurrences, both terrestrial and celestial. Thus, all secular knowledge, however blended with error, serves to draw heavenly minds to Christ. Error is but the husk, truth is the kernel. Accordingly, the star which was a sign to these wise men, is to us a symbol that all nature—in particular, the starry heavens, and the whole compass of natural science—if properly understood, will, under Divine guidance, lead us to deeper and stronger faith. (Comp. Heubner, “Praktische Erklärung des Neuen Test.,” vol. i. p. 13.) The statement, that the star had guided the magi to Jerusalem, must be interpreted in accordance with the symbolical import of the passage. The magi, of course, availed themselves of the ordinary channels of information as to the road from the East to Jerusalem; and they went to Jerusalem on the supposition that the capital of Judæa would naturally be the birthplace of the King of the Jews. The way from Jerusalem to Bethlehem they learnt from local information, having been directed there by the scribes and by Herod. To them, however, the star still seemed to be the guide of their journey—more especially the same star which they had seen in the East when first it rose (for this must be the import of the singular number, ἐν τῆ , since the phrase, “in the East,” would require the Plural, and ἀνατολή evidently corresponds with τεχθείς), now appeared in its zenith right overhead upon Bethlehem, where the shepherds had already made known the abode of the Messiah. To their believing hearts the star seemed to stand fixed, as heaven’s own light, over the long desired, though obscure and humble residence. But it is remarkable how even their astrological inferences were purged from error, and transformed into genuine faith. For, first, they found the new-born King of the Jews not at Jerusalem. Secondly, they found on the throne of Judah a worldly-minded old tyrant. Thirdly, they found the representatives of the sanctuary of Judah, and the holy city itself, indifferent and unbelieving. Fourthly, they were directed to the poor village of Bethlehem. Fifthly, in Bethlehem itself they were directed to a poor cottage. Lastly, they found, not a child of two years of age, but an infant recently born, surrounded by what betokened extreme poverty, under the care of a homeless couple, the head of which was a carpenter. All these stumbling-blocks had to be removed by the testimony of the Scriptures which they had heard, by the witness of the Spirit in their hearts, by the sublime spectacle of Mary and the holy child, and by the communications of the believing shepherds Thus were the heathen and carnal elements in their astrological impressions effaced, and only what was true, remained. The star in the sky had guided them to the Sun of the spiritual firmament.

Matthew 2:2. And are come to worship Him.Προσκυνεῖν, to indicate veneration, homage, submission, by prostration of the face to the ground: Genesis 19:1; Genesis 42:6, etc.; Herodot. i. 134, etc. Here, as in many other places, the word is, however, to be taken as meaning adoration in the more general sense, as it evidently refers merely to religious, not to political homage.

Matthew 2:3. (Herod) was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him, ὲταράχθη.—Both Herod and the inhabitants of Jerusalem were struck with sinful fear. With Herod, it may have been chiefly political fear of a supposed new claimant of the throne. At the same time, he must also have felt a dread, partly religious and partly moral, of the power of religion, and of the advent of One who should judge both the nation and the world,—an event which he would naturally connect with the coming of the Messiah. Nor were the inhabitants of Jerusalem merely alarmed from apprehension of the cruelty of Herod, but because, along with him, they anticipated a conflict and a judgment of a spiritual character. Light-foot and Berthold suppose that they were merely afraid of the calamitous times which should precede the reign of Messiah, or of the dolores Messiœ, as they are termed. But this could form only one element in their general and undefined dismay. Jerusalem does not go to Bethlehem,—this fact best explains the character of their fear. Gerlach reminds us of the circumstance that, “a short time before this, the Pharisees had predicted to a female relative of Herod, that her descendants would obtain the royal dignity, and that Herod and his house would be destroyed. In consequence of this prediction several of the Pharisees had been put to death. When such a tyrant was alarmed, his whole capital could not but be also alarmed.”

Matthew 2:4. (Herod) gathered together, etc.—This refers either to an extraordinary sitting of the Sanhedrim—which is the usual opinion—or merely to a theological conference. The latter supposition seems to us the more probable, as the object of the meeting was merely a theological deliverance. It is rendered still more likely from the fact, that the third class of the members of the Sanhedrim, the elders, are not mentioned (for details, see Meyer, p. 65; and Winer and others, under the article Synedrium, or Sanhedrim). “The term ἀρχιερεῖς comprehends not only the actual high priest for the time (ὁ , כֹּהו הַגִּדוֹל, Leviticus 21:10), but those also who had previously held the office of high priest (for at this period it was often transferred at the caprice of the Romans: Joseph. Antiq. xv. 3), and, probably, even the heads of the twenty-four classes of priests (1Ch 24:6; 2 Chronicles 36:14; Joseph. Antiq. xx. 8, 8).” The scribes (γραμματεῖς, סוֹפְרִים) formed a separate class in the Sanhedrim, though only a portion of them were members of it. From the union of civil and spiritual government under the Old Testament theocracy, they were at one and the same time lawyers and theologians,—interpreters of the law in this twofold sense. Hence Luke calls them νομικοί and νομοδιδάσκαλοι. Most of them belonged to the sect of the Pharisees (see the article Schriftgelehrte in Winer). In all probability, the scribes originated not merely from the practice of employing copyists of the law and public readers in the synagogues, but were intended as a kind of successors to the prophets, in a sense modified by the circumstances of the time. The only point before the Sanhedrim on the present occasion was to specify, on theological grounds, the place where Christ should be born. No doubt, however, the scribes were aware of the reason why Herod wished to ascertain this point.

Matthew 2:5-6. For thus it is written by the prophet: Micah 5:2.—The passage is freely quoted from the Septuagint. In the Hebrew text the prophet says: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, too small to be among the thousands of Judah (צָעִיר לִהְיוֹת בְּאַלְפֵי יְהוּדָח)—[or, the central towns where the heads of thousands resided, i.e., subordinate divisions of tribes]—out of thee shall come forth unto Me One who is to be ruler in Israel: whose going forth (origin) is from the first of time, from the days of eternity.” The Sept. has: “And thou Bethlehem, house of Ephratah, too small to be among the thousands(ἐν χιλιάσιν) of Judah,” etc. Matthew substitutes for Ephratah, “land of Judah.” The expression probably means district, and is analogous to that of Ephraim, or twin-district. Ephratah was the District par excellence—the District of Judah.—The words, art not the least, seem to imply a question, as if it were said: “Art thou too small? Out of thee shall come, etc. Not only art thou not too small to be one of the thousands (or central towns) in the tribe of Judah, but thou shalt be the birthplace of the King of all Israel—the King eternal.” Though we have here among the princes for “among the thousands,” it must not be inferred that the Evangelist or his translator had mistaken the word אֶלֶף, a thousand (central town), for אַלּוּף, the chief of a thousand (as Meyer thinks, p. 66). In point of fact, the Evangelist here refers to a central town or thousand, only personifying it by the term “prince.” Even the Rabbins admit that this passage applies to the Messiah. Indeed, the whole context, and the mysterious designation of the promised ruler, prove its Messianic reference; but chiefly, the circumstance that the Messiah to be born in Bethlehem is distinguished from the then reigning house of David.

Rule, or rather feed, as in the margin—ποιμανεῖ, the primitive idea of ruling a people. Homer: ποιμένες λαῶν. It is clear, from this passage, that the scribes understood the words of Micah as referring to the Messiah. So also did the Chaldee translator. Subsequently, the Jews tried to destroy this testimony by applying the prediction to Hezekiah or Zerubbabel.

Matthew 2:7. Privily, λάθρα.—Quite characteristic of political suspicion. Herod evidently shared the mistake of the magi, that the birth of the child coincided with the first appearance of the star, and that, consequently, the child was then in its second year. This terror led to the slaughter of the children at Bethlehem.

Matthew 2:9. And, lo, the star.—Bengel infers from this passage, without sufficient reason, “toto itinere non viderant stellam.” The only difference was, that the star was now in its zenith, and hence appeared to go before them. According to a common Eastern custom, they travelled by night (Hasselquist, “Reise nach Palästina,” p. 152). From this circumstance, however, we are warranted in supposing that Herod received the magi at night, in order to question, and to give them such directions as would make them, unconsciously, spies, and subservient to his murderous purpose. Immediately on leaving the despot’s palace, they set out on their journey.

Matthew 2:11. Into the house.—This no more proves (as Meyer asserts) that Matthew represents Bethlehem as Joseph’s permanent place of residence than Matthew 2:1 shows that the magi did not arrive till long after the birth of the Saviour. In all probability the holy family removed, soon after the homage of the shepherds, from the stable (or the caravansery) to some shepherd’s cottage. The event here alluded to undoubtedly occurred soon after the birth of Jesus, and before His presentation in the temple.

Opened their treasures.—The bags or boxes containing their treasures. According to Oriental usage, offerings are presented when welcoming a distinguished stranger, but especially on rendering homage to a sovereign. The gold indicates wealth; the frankincense and myrrh point to the East, more particularly to Arabia. Frankincense, a resin of bitter taste, but fragrant odor, was used chiefly in sacrifices and in the services of the temple. On the tree from which frankincense was derived in Arabia and India, comp. Winer. Myrrh, an aromatic of a similar kind, was produced from a shrub, which, indigenous in Arabia and Ethiopia, grows also in Palestine. Myrrh was employed for fumigation and for improving the taste of wine, but especially as an ingredient of a very precious ointment. For a fuller account of these productions, see Winer and other Encycl.—These gifts have been regarded as symbolical. Thus Theophylact: The gold to the King, the incense to the Lord, the myrrh to Him who was to taste of death (the great High Priest). Similarly Leo the Great. Fulgentius: Per aurum Christi regnum, per thus ejus pontificatus, per myrrham mors significatur. Others give other explanations. Leo the Great and Juvencus suggest, that by these gifts the magi owned and did homage to both the divine and the human nature of Christ. Others have dwelt more on the practical utility of the gifts, as a provision for the holy family in their impending flight into Egypt. With this view we may, also, combine a symbolical interpretation of the threefold gift. Thus the myrrh, as precious ointment, may indicate the Prophet and the balm of Israel; the incense, the office of the High Priest; the gold, the splendor of royalty. In expatiating, however, on supposed symbolical meanings, great care is required to avoid mere trifling.

Matthew 2:12. And being warned of God, χρηματισθέντες.—The Vulgate: responso accepto.—The expression seems to imply a previous inquiry. Bengel: Sic optarant, vel rogarant. Hence we infer that, even before being warned in a dream, the former trustfulness and simplicity of the magi—so characteristic of these inquirers—had given place to suspicion of Herod’s intentions, from the contrast between the uncomfortable impression produced by the despotic king and the spiritual feelings awakened by the holy family. The word ἀνεχώρησαν is also significant: they withdrew, escaped, by another way to their own country. Their direct way home would, in all probability, have led by Jerusalem, as the route would depend not so much on the direction in which their country lay, as on the road usually taken by travellers.

General Remarks on the Historical Character of the Adoration of the Magi.—The idea (still, it would seem, countenanced, as in Meyer’s “Commentary,” p. 79) that the preceding narrative was no more than a legend, is not only theologically untenable, but scientifically antiquated. The deep significant and symbolical meaning is no argument against the historical truth of this Gospel narrative, but rather an additional evidence of its reality. (See “Leben Jesu,” vol. i. p. 41.) At any rate, if this narrative be a legend, it cannot be supposed to have been of Jewish Christian origin: it portrays Judaism in a most disadvantageous light compared with the Gentile world. It is remarkable that the Evangelist Luke, the companion of Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, introduces Jewish worthies as celebrating the praises of the new-born Messiah: while Matthew, whose Gospel was primarily intended for the use of Jewish converts, dwells upon the homage paid to the Saviour by Gentiles. This accounts for the circumstance, that in the Ebionite Hebrew Gospel, not only the first chapter, which records the miraculous birth, but also the second, was omitted. “Chalcidius, a Platonic philosopher and a heathen, but according to others a deacon of Carthage, also relates this narrative in his Commentar ad Timœum Plat. See Opera Hippolyti, ed. Fabric. xi. 325.”—Heubner. The same writer (Heubner) refers to Hamann: “Die Kreuzzüge des Philologen,” vol. ii. p 153; and to Lilienthal: “Die gute Sache der göttlichen Offenbarung,” v. 271 and x. 598.


1. In the first chapter, the Evangelist points out the part which the Jewish people had in connection with the Messiah. Christ’s genealogy, and His birth from the Virgin, show that salvation was of the Jews. The second chapter, which records the arrival of magi from the East, presents the interest of the Gentile world in Christ. The magi are, so to speak, the representatives of those pious Gentiles whose names are recorded in the Old Testament,—Melchisedec, Jethro, Ruth, Hiram, Job, Naaman, etc. To this class also belong, in a certain sense, Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus. The same thread continues to run through the New Testament history, where we meet with the three believing centurions and other pious Gentiles, and where the vision of a Gentile—the man of Macedonia—summons the Apostle to carry the Gospel into Europe, Acts 16:9. Thus the first chapter of our Gospel illustrates the hereditary blessing as contrasted with the hereditary curse; while the second proves, that although the heathen were judicially given up to their own ways, there was among them in all ages a certain longing after, and knowledge of, the Saviour (Romans 1:0). The Jewish hereditary blessing and the Gentile aspirations of nature together belong to what the Church calls the gratia prœveniens, or prevenient grace. Among those who enjoyed the hereditary blessing, prevenient grace was continued in genealogical succession. They were a chosen race. In the Gentile world, the hope of a Saviour was planted here and there in chosen individuals. Yet, these two classes of believers are not entirely distinct from each other. Even the Gentile world was favored with bright glimpses of Messianic tradition; while among the Jews, also, “prevenient grace,” in its highest manifestations, was accorded to chosen individuals, in whom it led to personal faith. In both these respects the scholastic view of Augustine (not of the Church in general) lags far behind the scriptural record of the riches of grace and of faith, and needs modification. The manifestation of Christ among the Gentiles, or the Epiphany (ἐπιφάνεια) of Scripture, is infinitely more grand and full than the mediæval festival of the Epiphany. Still, the latter was a solemn testimony to the wondrous efficacy of preparing grace, or the λόγος σπερματικός, to whom the ancient Greek Fathers (especially Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria) have borne such ample testimony.

The dark side of the picture in the first chapter consists mainly in the power of the heathen world which, like a frightful storm, seems to pass over the genealogical tree of the Messiah. This is reversed in the second chapter, where the Gentile world presents the bright, while unbelieving Israel forms the dark side of the picture.
2. Some of the statements contained in the second chapter seem, at first sight, to be stumbling blocks to our faith:—Christ so remote, so hidden, so disowned,—Christ at first a child in the world, a poor child, in a rural district at a distance from Jerusalem, in a lowly abode—a fugitive, an occasion of martyrdom, a Nazarene. On the other hand, we have here also an array of historical events which show Him to be the Christ; such as the star, nature, science, and philosophy,—history, on its dark side and on its bright (Herod and the theological lore of the scribes),—Holy Scripture, prophecy, the giving up of His kindred, the significant dream by night, God’s overruling providence,—all forming one glorious wreath of evidence. On the analogy presented by the humble church of Bethlehem, in Prague, where John Huss preached, and the insignificant church where Luther taught at Wittenberg, see Heubner, on Math. p. 14.

3. The star which the wise men saw must not be regarded as a fulfilment of Balaam’s prophecy respecting the Star that was to come out of Jacob (Numbers 24:17); for Christ Himself was that Star. The star seen by the wise men was, however, a symbol of the true Star, the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi). The arrival of those distinguished magi to do homage to the Messiah was clearly a beginning of the fulfilment of ancient prophecy, according to which the princes of the Gentiles were to come and present their homage to the Messiah (Psalms 72:10; Isaiah 60:3, etc.). In a symbolical sense, they may therefore be appropriately called the three kings from the East. They were spiritual princes from the Gentile world, bearing testimony by their gifts to the dim yet real longing after a Prophet, Priest, and King, in those whom they represented.

4. In the design of Herod the old enmity of Edom against Jacob seems to reappear. We are involuntarily reminded of that murderous purpose, “I will slay my brother Jacob” (Genesis 27:41), which Esau relinquished in his own person, but bequeathed to his posterity (see the prophet Obadiah), and which attained its fulfilment in the progress of history. The same may be said of the blessing which Jacob bestowed upon Esau; which also was most markedly fulfilled in the Idumæan rule over Israel, except that the noble traits in the character of Esau—his honesty and uprightness—are no longer traceable in the cruel and crafty Idumæan dynasty.

5. The antagonism between the Maccabees and the Herodians belongs to the great tragic contrasts in the history of the kingdom of God. The most touching incident in this drama is the sad fate of Mariamne, the Asmonæan princess, whom Herod married, passionately loved, but sacrificed to his suspicions. Rückert (the poet), in his Herod, well describes the Hellenizing and worldly spirit of this prince, who covered even Palestine with Greek names. The policy of these two dynasties may well serve as a beacon to the nations of Christendom. It the policy of the Maccabees was at a later period followed by the Byzantine court that of the Herodians is too well known in modern times as Macchiavellianism.

6. The contrast between the faith of the Gentiles and the unbelief of the Jews, here presented in its leading features, has been fully verified in the course of history. See Romans 9-11. The Gospel of the Epiphany is also the Gospel of Missions to the Heathen.
7. Heaven and earth, as it were, move around the holy child as around their centre. But this centre repels whatever is dark and evil by the same force with which it attracts every germ of what is noble and holy.
8. The higher and spiritual import attaching to the designation, “King of the Jews,” appears even from the conduct of Herod. In his mind, the expression is evidently equivalent with Messiah, and connected with spiritual rather than with temporal functions; otherwise the inquiry of the magi would have been treated as sedition.
9. For a time it was thought that the holy child had been put to death in Bethlehem, or else that He had forever quitted the scene and settled in Egypt. Next we find Him growing up in obscurity at Nazareth. Thus Christ may be regarded as the Prince of outcast children, such as Ishmael, Moses, Cyrus, Romulus, etc.
10. On the spread of the knowledge of Christ among the Persians and Mohammedans, comp. Heubner, p. 17.


The salvation of the world in the form of a child—1. concealed, and yet well known; 2. a child hated and feared, yet longed for and loved; 3. signally despised, and yet marvellously honored; 4. beset by extreme dangers, and yet kept in perfect safety.—The holy child viewed as the moving centre of the world in motion,—1. setting everything in motion; 2. attracting all that is congenial; 3. repelling all that is hostile. Christ had come to the wise men before they came to Him,—or the mysterious working of prevenient grace.—The threefold knowledge of Christ in the Gentile world: 1. Information by tradition; 2. a star in the sky; 3. the influence of the Spirit in the heart.—On the Gentile world also a star, if no brighter light, shed its lustre.—The star of heaven and the star of earth.—In what sense are the wise men from the East to be regarded as really kings from the Gentile world?—In preaching to the heathen, let us bear in mind that there is a star in their firmament.—Let us go and meet the Gentiles.—Even the best among the heathen may serve as evidence of the spiritual destitution and need of the heathen world.—The clearest light among the heathen is but starlight.—Candid philosophy must lead to Christ.—Genuine science, if true to its aim, points to the centre of all knowledge.—Every department of knowledge a mere potsherd, unless completed by faith.—Nature’s testimony to Christ. 1. The various stages in nature tending upward to what is spiritual, or to Christ. 2. By the travailing and groaning in pain of all nature, she points forward to salvation in Christ. 3. Through the varied imagery and symbols of nature, she points homeward to the spirit.—How everything replies to the inquiry: Where is He that has been, born King of the Jews? 1. Scripture. 2. The scribes. 3. Even the enemies of the King Himself. 4. The star in the sky. 5. The convictions of the heart.—Infinite importance of the question: Where is the new-born King of the Jews? 1. Its deep meaning. 2. The eager interest attaching to it. 3. The glorious hope connected with it.—The glory of the King of the Jews. 1. He is the King of the Jews, or the Messiah; 2. the King of all nations, or the Saviour of the world; 3. the King of kings and Lord of lords.—Jesus is still the King of the Jews,—a watchword for our missionary enterprise.—The King of the Jews is not to be found at Jerusalem, the city of the King.—The alarm of a tyrant spreads terror among his subjects.—Even inquiry after Christ alarms an unbelieving world.—The hatred of the wicked must serve as testimony to the truth of the Gospel.—Herod consulting Scripture as if it had been a heathen oracle.—The value of lifeless orthodoxy, and the worthlessness of lifeless theologians.—Those who are near are often afar off, and those who are afar off near.—The callous and unmoved guides to Bethlehem.—Without the light of Scripture, all the stars in the sky will not suffice to clear away our darkness.—If we but truly know that Christ has come, we shall soon learn where He is to be found.—The Gentile magi and the Jewish scribes. 1. The former obtain, by their star, the Scriptures also; the latter lose, with the Scriptures, also the star. 2. The former become scribes (or learned in the Scriptures) in the best sense; the latter magi, in the worst sense.—Jerusalem and Bethlehem, formerly and now.—Bethlehem and Nazareth.—Inconsistency in the character of Herod. 1. Belief in the letter of Scripture. 2. Unbelief in the spirit of Scripture.—The evil craft of Herod, and the pious simplicity of the magi.—Hypocrisy as the shadow of faith in the world. 1. It accompanies faith, as the shadow the substance. 2. It is a proof of the existence of faith, as the shadow is of the substance. 3. It vanishes before faith, as the shadow before the substance.—The devices of hypocrisy in their might and in their impotence. 1. They are mighty in the world. 2. They become powerless before the power of God.—Hypocrisy in its two most hideous forms: 1. As unprincipled religious policy; 2. as unprincipled political religiousness.—The road to Christ, and the decisive conflicts by the way: 1. It is always a long journey; 2. it always continues the grand question; 3. it is always a path of severe self-denial; 4. always a path full of dangers; 5. always a path abounding in obstacles; 6. always the only path to the true goal.—Recompense of perseverance in the path to Christ—great joy.—The star always rests over the place where Christ is.—“And they went into the house.” 1. What is suggested to us by the house? 2. What is suggested by those who entered? 3. What is suggested by their entering?—The homage of the wise men a sudden outburst of heartfelt blessed faith: 1. In their beholding Christ; 2. in their falling down and doing obeisance; 3. in their cordial homage, indicated by the noblest gifts.—The homage of the wise men indicating the order and succession of believing experience. 1. We behold. 2. We fall down. 3. We present gifts.—The homage of the wise men a picture of genuine and matured faith. 1. Vision issuing in humiliation and godly sorrow. 2. Adoration issuing in the joy of faith. 3. Perseverance of faith issuing in self-dedication and works of love.—The child with Mary, his mother; but not Mary, the mother, with her child (Maryolatry).—The offerings of a grateful faith; gold, frankincense, and myrrh: 1. as the noblest, 2. the most varied, 3. the most significant gifts.—The offering of a grateful hand, an expression of the dedication of the heart.—The earthly gifts of Christian gratitude reflecting the heavenly gift of the Lord.—We are to offer unto the Lord that which we have.—Prophetic dreams in the history of the kingdom of God.—Blessed faith, with its songs of the night.—The sleep of the pious more profitable than the vigils of godless craftiness.—The discoveries of faith are not meant for Herod nor for such as he.—The marvellous manner in which spiritual inquiry is directed from the native darkness of this world to the light of our eternal home.—God’s guidance is always toward Christ.—If God guide us, we shall always and certainly reach the goal.—The blessed return home.—Significance of Christ’s first possession in connection with His first flight. It came, 1. at the right time; 2. into the proper hands; 3. for the right purpose.—The first property of the Church in its significance with reference to all Church property in the world: 1. It should be regarded as belonging to Christ; 2. it should be applied to the service of Christ; and thus, 3. become a true blessing from Christ.—Divine providence most clearly manifesting itself in its care over the life of Christ.—Christianity universal in its nature and aim. It comprehends: 1. heaven and earth; 2. nature and Scripture; 3. the Gentiles and the Jews; 4. the heart and the life; 5. redemption and judgment.

Heubner:—Christ in the cradle was the terror of an unjust monarch on his throne.—The kings and governments of this world may well tremble, and feel themselves insecure, if they are hostile to Christ.—Christ is still both the hope of the pious, and the terror of the wicked, whose conscience everywhere apprehends an avenger, and is alarmed by every passing event.—The living Saviour always puts old Adam in terror, and threatens to drive him from his throne.—Inconsistencies in the character of Herod: Faith in the letter of Scripture,—resistance to God’s decrees.—We have here an instance of persons who point out Christ to others, without going to Him themselves.—who teach others the way of salvation, without entering on it themselves.—The wicked employ religion only as a means for their own ends.—The most blessed discovery of all is to have found Christ.—Edification to be derived from the history of the wise men. They were, 1. wise men—philosophers: Thus should all who are truly wise, etc. 2. Rich and noble: Thus should all the great of the earth, etc. 3. Strangers from a strange country: Thus we who are near to Christ, etc. 4. They saw Christ only as a child in His lowliness; we, on the contrary, etc. 5. They followed a small star; but our light is, etc. 6. They had a long and arduous journey to accomplish; but we scarce require to move a single step.—The glory shed on Jesus by the arrival of the wise men.—He who follows the feeble glimmerings of spiritual light, will receive divine guidance to perfect light.—True Occult Science.

Literature: Two sermons on the Epiphany by St. Augustin and Gregory of Nazianzen, in Augusti: “Collection of Patristic Sermons,” vol. i., p. 100.—Luther’s “Sermon on the Gospel of the Three Kings” (the wise men).—Dispositions of Rambach, Reinhard, etc., in Schaller’s “Homilet. Repert.,” p. 48.—F. Mallet: The Wise Men of the East. A Christmas Gift. Bremen, 1852 (10 Meditations).

[Trench: Christ the Desire of all Nations, or the Unconscious Prophecies of Heathendom. A Commentary on Matthew 2:1 to Matthew 11:4 th ed., Cambridge, 1854.—P. S.]

For Missionary Festivals: Christ the desire and goal of all nations.—The star of the wise men.—Ahlfeld: The Gentiles, too, shall walk in the light of Christ.—Uhle: The first Gentiles, who sought the Lord.—Rudelbach: The glory of the manifestation of Christ.


[1] Matthew 2:11. [They saw, εἶδον, text. rec., is followed by Lange in his Germ. vers. It is sufficiently supported by authorities, while εὖρον, they found, may have arisen, as Meyer suggests, from the εὖρητε in Matthew 2:8.—P. S.]

[2][Meyer properly defends the genuineness of the first two chapters, as Fritzsche, Kuinöl, Griesbach and others did before him, chiefly for the following reasons: 1) They are found in all Greek manuscripts and ancient versions; also the fathers of the second and third centuries quote several passages from them. Even the hostile Celsus refers to them (Orienes. Contra Cels. i. 38; ii. 32). 2) Their contents are especially adapted to the object of a Gospel for Jewish Christians. 3) The beginning of Matthew 3:0 is closely connected with Matthew 2:23. and also Matthew 4:13 refers to Matthew 2:23. Matthew 2:4) Construction and phraseology correspond with that of the whole Gospel.—The chief argument of the opponents is the omission of these two chapters in the Hebrew Gospel of the Ebionites (Epiph. Haer. xxx. 13); but this may be easily explained from the heretical character of this sect and their denial of the divinity and the miraculous conception of Christ.—P. S.]

[3][Rev. Benj. Bausmann, who visited Bethlehem in 1857, thus describes it, in his work Sinai and Zion, Philad. 1861, p. Matt 325: “Bethlehem and Calvary—joy and sorrow, life and death—are never far apart in this world. The town is built on the crest of a small hill, surrounded by other hills. The whole is surrounded by a wall about thirty feet high, with a number of gates through which you enter in. … Its present population is about 4,000, all belonging to the Greek Church. … The inhabitants now have the name of being a lawless, quarrelsome people, who are in the habit of rebelling against the Government. Some of them live by farming small patches of the rocky country around the town, and from the fruit of the fig, pomegranate, olive, and vine, which cover some of the neighboring hills; others live by carving events in the history of our Saviour on sea she is, and other curious trinkets, which they sell to the pilgrims that visit Jerusalem during the Easter season. … Its general appearance is like that of other towns in the East,—narrow, crooked streets, flat-roofed houses, mostly small, with fronts all walled up, save a small floor-door. It has no hotel or place of entertainment; the travellers usually lodge in the convent,” etc.—P. S.]



The Sinaitic Manuscript of the Bible, which Professor Tischendorf rescued from the obscurity of the Convent of St Catharine on Mount Sinai, and carefully edited in two editions in 1862 and 1863,* two years after the issue of the third edition of Dr. Lange’s Commentary on Matthew, has been carefully compared in preparing the American edition of this work from Chapter 8 to the close of the Gospel of Matthew. I thought I was the first to do so, but just before I finished the last pages of this volume, I found that Bäumlein, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St. John,** and Meyer, in the fifth edition of his Commentary on Matthew, both of which appeared in 1864, had preceded me, at least in print. No critical scholar can ignore this manuscript hereafter. For it is the only complete, and perhaps the oldest of all the uncial codices of the Bible, or at least of the same age and authority as the celebrated Vatican Codex (which is traced by some to the middle of the fourth century), and far better edited by the German Protestant Professor, Tischendorf, than the latter was by the Italian Cardinal, Angelo Mai. In the absence of a simpler mark agreed upon by critics (the proposed designation by the Hebrew א has not yet been adopted, and is justly objected to by Tregelles and others on the ground of typographical inconvenience), I introduce it always as Cod. Sin., and I find that Dr. Meyer in the fifth edition does the same. As I could not procure a copy of the printed edition of this Codex till I had finished the first seven chapters, I now complete the critical part of the work by adding its more important readings in the first seven chapters where they differ from the textus receptus, on which the authorized English, as well as all the older Protestant Versions of the Greek Testament are substantially based.

*Novum Testamentum Sinaiticum, sive Novum Testamentum cum Epistola Barnabœ et Fragmentis Pastoris (Hermæ). Ex Codice Sinaitico auspiciis Alexandri II., omnium Russiarum imperatoris, ex tenebris protracto orbique litterarum tradito accurate descripsit Ænotheus Friderious Constantinus Tischendorf, theol. et phil. Dr., etc. etc. Lipsiæ, 1863. The text is arranged in four columns and covers 148 folios; the learned Prolegomena of the editor 81 folios. There is besides a magnificent photo-lithographed fac-simile edition of the whole Sinaitic Bible, published at the expense of the Emperor of Russia, in 4 volumes (3 for the Old and 1 for the New Testament, the latter in 148 folios), under the title: Bibliorum Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus. Auspiciis augustissimis imperatoris Alexandri II. ed. Const. Tischendorf. Petropoli, 1862. A copy of this rare edition I have also consulted occasionally, in the Astor Library of New York. For fuller information on this important Codex (in the words of Tischendorf: “omnium codicum uncialium solus integer omniumque antiquissimus”), we must refer the reader to the ample Prolegomena of Tischendorf, also to an article of Hilgenfeld in his Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Theologie, vol. vii. (1864), p. 74 ff. (who is disposed to assign it to a somewhat later age), and to Scrivener’s treatise, which I have not seen.

**Hengstenberg, in his Commentary on John, concluded in 1863, pays no attention whatever to this Codex, and is very defective in a critical point of view

Matthew 2:11.—Cod. Sin. reads: ιδον (εἶο͂ον), they saw (as in the Eng. Ver.), for ε υ̇͂ ρον they found (Vulg.: invenerurt).

Verses 13-23

B. Matthew 2:13-23 (Luke 2:40-52)

(The Gospel for the Sunday after New Year or Day of Circumcision)

13And when they were departed, behold, the [an] angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt, 15And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my Song of Solomon 1:0; Song of Solomon 1:06Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of [by] the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children4 that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof,5 from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy6 the prophet, saying, 18In Rama was there a voice heard,7 lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. 19But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which [who] sought the young child’s life. 21And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus did reign [reigned] in Judea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, [and] being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: 23And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.


Matthew 2:13. Behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth.—Though the wise men had withdrawn from the influence of Herod, the child was still in danger. It may be presumed that the wise men and the child’s parents had conversed together about Herod, and that the magi had begun to entertain strong suspicions of his intentions. Probably Joseph and Mary were to some extent relieved when the wise men left the country without returning to Herod. Still, the anxious vigilance of Joseph continued unabated; and it may be regarded as an evidence of his devotedness, that he again received instruction and direction by a vision in a dream. He did not hesitate for a moment, but immediately fled with the child and its mother.

Matthew 2:14-15. Egypt was the only possible place of refuge. It was situated near the southern frontier of Judæa. Following this direction, the fugitives at once withdrew to a distance from Jerusalem. Frequented roads led through the desert into Egypt. There they would find a large and more liberal Jewish community under the protection of a civilized government. The supposition that this account was invented for the purpose of fulfilling the passage in Hosea 11:1 (which, in the text, is quoted in accordance with the original Hebrew), is entirely incompatible with the scope and meaning of the narrative. Even supposing the story to be legendary, it would have ill accorded with the anxiety of Joseph and Mary about the child to represent them as undertaking a journey for the purpose of fulfilling a prophecy; especially one which, in its literal sense, referred to the bringing of Israel out of Egypt (comp. Exodus 4:22; Jeremiah 31:9). The Septuagint translation has τὰ τέκνα αὐτοῦ (of Israel). As, however, the flight and the return had really taken place, the Evangelist, whose attention was always directed to the fulfilment of prophecy, might very properly call attention to the fact, that even this prediction of Hosea had been fulfilled. And, in truth, viewed not as a verbal but as a typical prophecy, this prediction was fulfilled by the flight into Egypt. Israel of old was called out of Egypt as the son of God, inasmuch as Israel was identified with the Son of God. But now the Son of God Himself was called out of Egypt, who came out of Israel as the kernel from the husk. When the Lord called Israel out of Egypt, it was with special reference to His Son; that is, in view of the high spiritual place which Israel was destined to occupy. In connection with this, it is also important to bear in mind the historical influence of Egypt on the world at large. Ancient Greek civilization—nay, in a certain sense, the imperial power of Rome itself—sprung from Egypt; in Egypt the science of Christian theology and Christian monasticism originated; from Egypt proceeded the last universal conqueror; out of Egypt came the typical son of God to found the theocracy; and thence also the true Son of God, to complete the theocracy.—According to tradition, Christ stayed at Matarea in Egypt, in the vicinity of Leontopolis, where, at a later period, the Jewish temple of Onias stood.—See Schubert’s Reise in das Morgenland, ii. p. 179.

Matthew 2:16. That he was mocked, ἐνεπαίχθηoutwitted, made a fool of.—The word is frequently so used in the Septuagint. “The expression is here employed from Herod’s point of view.”

From two years old, ἀπὸ διετοῦς, sc. παιδός.—From two years old down to the youngest male child on the breast. It follows that the star had been seen by the wise men for about two years before their arrival at Jerusalem. The massacre of the children at Bethlehem has been regarded as a myth, chiefly because Josephus makes no mention of it. Thus even Meyer doubts the historical truth of this narrative, since Josephus always relates circumstantially all the cruelties perpetrated by Herod (Antiq. xv. 7, 8, etc.). But that he recorded so many, scarcely implies that he meant to relate every instance of his cruelty. It is further argued, that, if the massacre had “been a historical fact, it would, on account of the peculiar circumstances of the case, certainly have been mentioned by the Jewish historian.” We infer the opposite. From the peculiarity of the occurrence, it would have been impossible to mention it without furnishing a more direct testimony, either for or against the Christian faith, than Josephus wished to bear. The supposition that the massacre was not openly and officially ordered, but secretly perpetrated by banditti in the employ of Herod (see Leben Jesu, ii. p. 112), is not “gratuitous,” but suggested by the text (λάθρα ἠκρίβωσε; ἀποστείλας ). Not that we draw any inference from the confused account in Macrobius8 (see Meyer, p. 174); the Gospel narrative can, however, easily dispense with it.

Matthew 2:17-18. Then was fulfilled, etc.—The prediction in Jeremiah 31:15 is here quoted freely from the Septuagint. This is another fulfilment of a typical, not of a literal, prophecy. The passage primarily refers to the deportation of the Jews to Babylon. Rachel, the ancestress of Benjamin, who was buried near Bethlehem, is introduced as issuing from her grave to bewail the captivity of her children. The sound of her lamentations is carried northward beyond Jerusalem, and heard at Rama—a fortress of Israel on the frontier toward Judah, where the captives were collected. The meaning probably is, that the grief caused by this deportation, and the consequent lamentations of the female captives, was such as to reach even the heart of the ancestress of Benjamin (which here includes also Judah). As used by Jeremiah, it was, therefore, a figurative expression for the deep sorrow of the exiled mothers of Judah. But in the massacre of the infants of Bethlehem this earlier calamity was not only renewed, but its description verified in the fullest and most tragic manner. Rachel’s children are not merely led into exile; they are destroyed, and that by one who called himself King of Israel. Accordingly, Rachel is introduced as the representative of the mothers of Bethlehem lamenting over their children (Chrysostom, Theophylact, and many others). The picture of Rachel herself issuing from the grave and raising a lament, indicates that the greatest calamity had now befallen Judah.—The words θρῆνος καί are wanting in Codd. B. Z., etc., and in several translations.

Matthew 2:20. They are dead who, etc.—In the vision a scriptural expression is used, Exodus 4:19, which must have been familiar to Joseph. On the horrible death of Herod, amid alternate designs of revenge and fits of despair, comp. Joseph. Antiq. xvii. 18, 1; 9, 3; De Bello Jud. 1, 33. He died at the age of 70, in the 37th year of his reign.

Matthew 2:22. But when he heard that Archelaus, etc.—After the death of Herod, his kingdom was divided among his three sons by Augustus. Archelaus obtained Judæa, Idumæa, and Samaria; Herod Antipas, Galilee and Peræa; Philip, Batanea, Trachonitis, and Auranitis. Herod and Philip received the title of Tetrarch. Archelaus obtained at first the designation of Ethnarch (Joseph. Antiq. xvii. 11, 4). The title of King was to be afterward conferred on him if he deserved it by his services. But, nine years after his accession, Augustus banished him, in consequence of the complaints of the Jews about his cruelty, to Vienne in Gaul, where he died (Antiq. xvii. 13, 2; De Bello Jud. ii. 7, 3). Like his father, Archelaus was a suspicious and cruel tyrant. Accordingly, Joseph was afraid to remain in Judæa with the holy child. Applying to the Lord for guidance, he was directed, in another dream, to settle in Galilee. This was the fourth revelation with which he was honored. It implies that a high tone of spirituality pervaded his soul. The ever-watchful solicitude of Joseph for the safety of the child of promise might serve as the natural groundwork for these communications, while the repeated revelations vouchsafed during his nocturnal thoughts show that a providentia specialissima watched over the life of the Divine child. Such prophetic dreams exhibit the connection and co-operation of a special Divine providence with the most anxious vigilance on the part of the servants of God. Nor must we forget the connection between the devotedness of Joseph and the fond anxiety of Mary.—These four dreams occurred at considerable intervals of time.

Matthew 2:23. A city called Nazareth.—The town was situated in Lower Galilee, in the ancient territory of the tribe of Zebulon (Lightfoot, Horœ Hebr. p. 918), to the south of Cana, not far from Mount Tabor. It lay in a rocky hollow among the mountains, and was surrounded by beautiful and grand scenery. The modern Nazareth is a small, but pretty town. According to Robinson, it has three thousand inhabitants (see Schubert iii. 169; Robinson, 3:421, Eng. ed. 2:333; and other books of travels). Compare also the article in Winer and other Encycls. The name of Galilee was derived from גָּלִיל, which originally signifies a circle,—hence Galilee, the circuit or surrounding country. The whole country received its name from the district, which was afterward named Hpper Galilee, as distinguished from Lower Galilee. Accordingly, in common conversation, the term Galilee was used to denote Upper Galilee, or the Galilee par excellence. This explains such expressions as Matthew 4:12 and John 4:43. One might be said to go from Nazareth to Galilee, just as we might speak of travelling from Berlin to Prussia (Proper), or from Geneva to (the interior of) Switzerland. “The word Nazareth is supposed to be derived from נֵצֶר, surculus, virgultum, as the surrounding district abounds in brushwood or shrubs; Burckhardt, ‘Reisen,’ ii. 583 (Matthew 2:23 is an allusion to נֵצֵר, surculus, in Isaiah 11:1, which Hofmann, in his ‘Weissagung,’ ii. 64, denies on insufficient grounds).” Winer.

He shall be called a Nazarene.—As the word Nazarene is not employed in any prophetic passage of the Old Testament to designate the Messiah, various explanations have been proposed:—1. According to Jerome, some “eruditi Hebræi” had before his time traced the term to the expression נֵצֶר, sprout, in Isaiah 11:1, by which the Messiah is designated; which view is followed by many modern expositors, as also by Piscator and Casaubon. Hengstenberg, in his Christology, Matthew 2:1, supports this explanation, by showing that the original name of the place was נצר, and not נצרת. 2. Chrysostom, and many others after him, consider the words in question a quotation from a prophetic book now lost. But in quoting from the Old Testament, the inspired penmen evidently regarded the Old Testament canon as closed, and referred only to books which had been received into it. This also disposes of the opinion that, 3. The quotation is from some apocryphal book (Gratz, Ewald). Still more untenable Isaiah , 4. the notion that the term Nazarene is equivalent to נָזִיר. For Jesus was neither a Nazarite (Matthew 11:19), nor is He so called in any prophetic passage. This vague conjecture is rendered even more improbable by the suggestion of Ewald, that the quotation was taken from a lost apocryphal book, in which the Messiah was represented at His first appearance as a Nazarite, and that from this verbal similarity the Evangelist had derived his reference to Nazareth 5. Some commentators have given up the idea of verbal reference. They argue that the expression Nazarene was used by the Jews to designate a slight, ed person; and the Messiah is represented as such in Psalms 22:0., Isaiah 53:0. (Michaelis, Paulus, Rosenmüller, etc.; comp. the author’s Leben Jesu, vol. ii. p. 48), This, or the explanation (1) proposed by Jerome, seems the most likely. Meyer supports the allusion to נֵצֶר by referring to the similar expression צֶמַח (Isaiah 4:2; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12), which would also account for the use of the plural number—”spoken by the prophets.” But it seems to us impossible to suppose that the allusion of the Evangelist should have been based merely on the similarity, and not on the meaning of the two words. Such a view could neither be reconciled with the suggestion of Meyer about Zemach, nor would it tally with Isaiah 11:1, where the term נצר is used only in allusion to, but not as a designation of the Messiah; so that the idea of a mere verbal fulfilment is out of the question. The conclusion at which we have arrived is, that the title Nazarene bears reference to the outward lowliness of the Messiah; accordingly, the נֵצֶר in Isaiah 11:1 is analogous to the expressions used in Isaiah 53:2, and to other descriptions of the humble appearance of the Messiah. In other words, the various allusions to the despised and humble appearance of the Messiah are, so to speak, concentrated in that of Nezer. The prophets applied to Him the term branch or bush, in reference to His insignificance in the eyes of the world; and this appellation was specially verified when He appeared as an inhabitant of despised Nazareth, “the town of shrubs” (Leben Jesu, vol. ii. 120 ff.).

Meyer has recently repeated the assertion, that, according to the account of Matthew, Bethlehem, and not Nazareth, was the original residence of Joseph and Mary; and that, in this respect, there is a discrepancy between Matthew and Luke. This commentator controverts the view of Neander, Ebrard. Hoffmann, and others, who have successfully, as we think, reconciled the statements of the two Evangelists (see Leben Jesu. ii. 122). In reply, it may be sufficient to say, that in all probability Joseph and Mary deemed it their duty to reside at Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus until otherwise directed, more especially as the magi had been directed to Bethlehem in their search after the Messiah, Indeed, Matthew himself furnishes the key for solving the apparent difficulty, when he mentions it as a new circumstance that the birth of Christ took place “at Bethlehem.” A discrepancy could only have been alleged if Joseph and Mary had, in the first chapter, been represented as residing at Bethlehem. On the other hand, it is easy to account for the special notice of the town of Nazareth in the passage before us, as the Evangelist wished to call attention to the circumstance of Christ’s residence at Nazareth, and to the prophetic allusions thereto.

The following appears to have been the chronological order of events:—Soon after the birth of Christ the wise men arrived from the East. This was followed by the flight into Egypt, and the sojourn there, which must have been very brief, as Herod’s death occurred soon afterward. The presentation in the temple must have taken place after the return, as, according to the law, it could not occur before the fortieth day, but did not necessarily take place on that day. After the presentation, Joseph and Mary settled in Galilee; and there, at Nazareth, the Lord resided for thirty years (see my Leben Jesu, vol. ii. 110).


1. Joseph’s dreams, in which angelic communications were made for the deliverance of the holy child, afford us a glimpse into the spiritual nature of man, and into the spiritual world beyond. A contest ensues between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness about the holy child. The craft of Herod assumes the form of satanic rage. The Jewish scribes have been successfully duped by him, and made subservient to the purposes of the tyrant. By their scriptural reply to his inquiry they have unconsciously delivered the infant Messiah into the power of the crafty monarch. But the deep and earnest spirituality of the pious heathen worshippers proved sufficient to defeat his plans. Warned of God in a dream, they escaped from the meshes of his iniquitous policy. By an unusual route they returned into their own country, and, to appearance, the holy child was safe. But Herod’s fury knew no bounds. The thought of having been outwitted by the magi was an additional incitement to wreak his vengeance on the object of their veneration. He now employed a band of ruffians as the instruments of his last desperate attempt on the life of Jesus. No doubt he expected that in the slaughter of the infants of Bethlehem the infant Jesus would perish. Thus did the kingdom of darkness put forth its utmost efforts, which, on the other hand, were counteracted by those of the kingdom of light. But if the powers of darkness proceed warily, those of light act still more warily. The calculations of a sleepless policy were baffled by the sleep of the pious. On the nature and significancy of dreams, see Schubert’s Symbolik des Traumes; and the author’s dissertation entitled: “Von dem zwiefachen Bewusstsein,” etc., in the “Deutsche Zeitschrift für christliche Wissenschaft und christliches Leben,” Berlin, 1851, N. 30 ff. On angelical communications, see the author’s Leben Jesu, i. 48.

In regard to the influence of the spiritual world on the human mind, the following principle may be laid down: The more vividly the soul is roused in its inmost being by wants and perplexities around, the more are we prepared for influences from the spiritual world, good or evil, according to the spiritual condition of the soul. Again, in proportion as the spiritual condition of the soul is undeveloped, though earnest in its aspirations after God, or as a person is engrossed with cares and toils in the ordinary course of his life, the more likely is the influence of the spiritual world to be felt in dreams and visions of the night. As instances in point, we may here refer to the ecstatic state of Hagar, of Gideon, of Mary Magdalene, of the Christian martyrs in the Primitive Church, of the French Camisardes, [the Scotch Covenanters], the Jansenists, and others.
2. The anxious care of Joseph for the safety of the child and its mother may be regarded as a proof that Divine Providence always raises up faithful servants to protect and to promote His own kingdom, and with it the spiritual welfare of mankind. But in this instance the salvation of the world was connected with the safety of a babe, threatened by the craft of a despot, whose dagger had on no other occasion missed its mark. Hence the care of Providence for the safety of this child was unremitting; Joseph’s vigilance did not cease even in his sleep, while the mother’s solicitude was undoubtedly still more eager. Every other consideration seems secondary to that of the safety of the child. Thus has the Lord ever prepared instruments for His work. By God’s grace, devoted and faithful servants have never been wanting in the world, and the King Eternal has always had His faithful ones.
3. The tractate of Lactantius, de morte perseeutorum, commences with an account of the death of Herod. It is a tale of persecution and retribution, renewed in every age.

4. The mysterious import of Egypt in the world’s history appears constantly anew. “Out of Egypt have I called My son,” is an expression which pervades the whole course of history. But this calling implies not only the Son’s residence in Egypt, but also his departure from it.

5. The wail of Rachel is here a symbol of the sympathy of the theocracy in general, called forth by the sufferings inflicted by the outward representatives of the theocracy on its genuine children. The wail of Rachel is renewed in the Church as often as the witnesses of the truth are put to death by carnal and worldly men, who profess to be the representatives of the Church.
6. We do not include the slaughtered infants of Bethlehem in the number of Christian martyrs properly so called, as they did not of their own free choice and will bear testimony to the Saviour.9 They perished simply because they were male children—children of Bethlehem, under two years of age. Still, they have been justly considered the prototypes of Christian martyrdom (Feast of the Innocents, Dec. 28), as they were cut off, 1. in their innocency; 2. as children of Bethlehem, and children of the promise; 3. from hatred to Christ; 4. for the purpose of withdrawing attention from the flight of the holy child, and to secure His safety in Egypt.

7. Nazareth is the perpetual symbol of the outward lowliness and humble condition of Christ and of Christianity in the world. It is the emblem of that poverty which apparently so ill accords with the exalted nature of, and the depth of spiritual life brought to light by, the Gospel. But what to the world seems unfitting, is in reality, and in the sight of God, most fitting; for Christianity is based and reared on deepest humility. Hence the path by which God leads His elect is first downward, and then upward; both the descent and the ascent increasing as they proceed, as we see in the history of Jacob, of Joseph, of Moses, of David, and of others. The prophets were fully and experimentally acquainted with this fundamental principle of the Divine government. Hence they prophesied of the lowliness of the Messiah during the earlier period of His life, of His subsequent humiliation, and of His death at the conclusion of His earthly career.
8. In the life of children, as in that of mechanics and laborers, the mind is taken up during the day with surrounding objects. Hence their inner life during the night is more widely awake and susceptible to dreams and visions. This is the basis for the prophetic dreams of Joseph in the Old Testament, and Joseph in the New.


The homage which Christ receives is the ground of his persecution and sufferings; but persecution and sufferings always lead to more abundant glory.—The wise of this world are unable to protect Jesus and His Church. For this purpose God employs His heavenly messengers, and His despised children on earth.—Divine Providence brought to nought all the designs of the wicked against the life of the holy child.—Children as under the protection of angels.—Warning angel-voices during the course of our life.—Obedience to the voice of the Spirit.—Joseph’s awakening in the morning. A short time before, he had risen to vindicate the mother: he now rises to rescue the child with its mother.—How the whole day is blessed when commenced with faith and obedience.—Joseph the model of all foster-parents.—Sacrifices for the Lord are the noblest gain.—The holy flight of the Lord in its happy results.—The holy withdrawal of the Lord the emblem of every holy withdrawal: 1. of that of the Old Testament prophets; 2. of that of Christians; 3. of the spiritual withdrawal from the world in the inner life.—Egypt, the land of tombs, the cradle of God’s people.—The persecuted Church of God ever at home with the Lord: 1. in flight; 2. in the desert; 3. in a strange land.—The Lord continues, while all who rise against Him perish.—The children of Bethlehem as types of Christian martyrdom. 1. They are, so to speak, the seal of the faith of Old Testament believers in the Messiah. 2. They confirm the faith of believers in all time coming.—Christ among the children of Bethlehem. 1. They die for Him, in order to live for Him. 2. He lives for them, in order to die for them.—No expenditure of blood and tears can be too great for the rescue of Jesus: 1. because His life is the ransom of the world; 2. because His life transforms every sacrifice of blood and of tears into life and blessedness.—The death of children is of deep import in God’s sight.—Lamentation in the Church of God. a. The cry of Abel for vengeance; b. Rachel’s cry of sorrow; c. Jesus’ cry of love.—“They are dead which sought the young child’s life.” Thus it was (1) formerly. Thus it is (2) still. Thus it will be (3) at the end of time.—Archelaus his father’s Song of Song of Solomon 1:0. Personal guilt; 2. hereditary guilt; 3. the judgment.—The savor of despotism banishes happiness from the land.—Christ the Nazarene: 1. as an inhabitant of the earth; 2. as an inhabitant of Judæa; 3. as an inhabitant of Galilee; 4. as an inhabitant of Nazareth; 5. as the carpenter’s son even in Nazareth.—The lowliness of Jesus prefigured His humiliation, but also His exaltation.—The obscurity of Christ, implying, 1. His ignominy: 2. His safety; 3. His ornament.—Jesus the great teacher of humility. The thirty years of Christ’s obscurity the foundation of His three years’ manifestation.—The inward unfolding of Christ had to be guarded from the influences of a corrupt world, and of corrupt ecclesiastical institutions.—Christ the Divine nursling under the fostering care, 1. of pious maternal love; 2. of the anxious solicitude of God’s hidden ones; 3. of nature in all its beauty and grandeur.—Christians as Nazarenes in the train of the Nazarene.—Nazareth itself usually does not know the Nazarene.—The heavenly youth of the Lord a mystery of the earth.—The glory of God in the lowliness of Christ.—The Joseph-dreams in the Old and the New Testament.

Starke:10—Joy and suffering are at all times next-door neighbors. When faith is strengthened, trials generally ensue. The Lord knows how, at the right moment, to withdraw His own from danger, and how to anticipate the enemy.—God often wonderfully protects his own by small means and humble instrumentalities, as he protected Jesus through the instrumentality of Joseph, a carpenter.—Whoever will love the infant Christ must be prepared to endure, for His sake, every sort of tribulation.—Jesus has sanctified even the afflictions of our childhood.—No sooner are we born again from on high, than persecution arises against us.—Rejoice, ye who suffer with Christ. 1 Peter 4:13.—If thine own people will not bear thee, God will provide a place for thee even among strangers. Revelation 12:4-6.—Tyrants must die, and thy sufferings will come to an end. Job 5:19.—What the enemies of the Church cannot accomplish by craft, they attempt to effect by force.—If we suffer with Christ, we shall also reign with Him. 2 Timothy 2:11.

Heubner:—Providence watches over the life of the elect.—Augustin: O parvuli beati, modo nati, nondum tentati, nondum luctati, jam coronati.—The kingdom of light was from its very commencement assailed by the kingdom of darkness.—In times of suffering the disciples of Jesus have often been obliged to shelter their light in the retirement of secret associations, and in strange places of refuge.—Joseph an example of obedient trust in God amid signal dangers.—“Duties are ours, events are God’s.” (Cecil.)—Herod a warning picture of a hardened, hoary sinner.—Mary the model of suffering mothers.—What trials a pious mother may have to endure!—The early death of pious children a token of Divine favor toward them.—The wickedness and violence of men are of short duration; God will always gain the day against them.—Let us affectionately remember what protection our heavenly Father has accorded us from our youth upward.—The wonderful guidance of God experienced by the pious.—Schleiermacher’s Predigten (vol. iv.): The narrative in the text a picture of sin, which ever attempts to arrest the progress of Christianity.—Wimmer: One Lord, one faith. The misery of those who harden themselves, as apparent, 1. in their anguish during life; 2. in the folly of all their measures; 3. in their despair in death.—Reinhard: On the dealings of God with our children.



The Sinaitic Manuscript of the Bible, which Professor Tischendorf rescued from the obscurity of the Convent of St Catharine on Mount Sinai, and carefully edited in two editions in 1862 and 1863,* two years after the issue of the third edition of Dr. Lange’s Commentary on Matthew, has been carefully compared in preparing the American edition of this work from Chapter 8 to the close of the Gospel of Matthew. I thought I was the first to do so, but just before I finished the last pages of this volume, I found that Bäumlein, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St. John,** and Meyer, in the fifth edition of his Commentary on Matthew, both of which appeared in 1864, had preceded me, at least in print. No critical scholar can ignore this manuscript hereafter. For it is the only complete, and perhaps the oldest of all the uncial codices of the Bible, or at least of the same age and authority as the celebrated Vatican Codex (which is traced by some to the middle of the fourth century), and far better edited by the German Protestant Professor, Tischendorf, than the latter was by the Italian Cardinal, Angelo Mai. In the absence of a simpler mark agreed upon by critics (the proposed designation by the Hebrew א has not yet been adopted, and is justly objected to by Tregelles and others on the ground of typographical inconvenience), I introduce it always as Cod. Sin., and I find that Dr. Meyer in the fifth edition does the same. As I could not procure a copy of the printed edition of this Codex till I had finished the first seven chapters, I now complete the critical part of the work by adding its more important readings in the first seven chapters where they differ from the textus receptus, on which the authorized English, as well as all the older Protestant Versions of the Greek Testament are substantially based.

*Novum Testamentum Sinaiticum, sive Novum Testamentum cum Epistola Barnabœ et Fragmentis Pastoris (Hermæ). Ex Codice Sinaitico auspiciis Alexandri II., omnium Russiarum imperatoris, ex tenebris protracto orbique litterarum tradito accurate descripsit Ænotheus Friderious Constantinus Tischendorf, theol. et phil. Dr., etc. etc. Lipsiæ, 1863. The text is arranged in four columns and covers 148 folios; the learned Prolegomena of the editor 81 folios. There is besides a magnificent photo-lithographed fac-simile edition of the whole Sinaitic Bible, published at the expense of the Emperor of Russia, in 4 volumes (3 for the Old and 1 for the New Testament, the latter in 148 folios), under the title: Bibliorum Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus. Auspiciis augustissimis imperatoris Alexandri II. ed. Const. Tischendorf. Petropoli, 1862. A copy of this rare edition I have also consulted occasionally, in the Astor Library of New York. For fuller information on this important Codex (in the words of Tischendorf: “omnium codicum uncialium solus integer omniumque antiquissimus”), we must refer the reader to the ample Prolegomena of Tischendorf, also to an article of Hilgenfeld in his Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Theologie, vol. vii. (1864), p. 74 ff. (who is disposed to assign it to a somewhat later age), and to Scrivener’s treatise, which I have not seen.

**Hengstenberg, in his Commentary on John, concluded in 1863, pays no attention whatever to this Codex, and is very defective in a critical point of view

Matthew 2:18.—Cod. Sin. omits θρῆνοςκαἰ, lamentation and, before κλανθμός, weeping. So all the critical editors. The text. rec. seems to be enlarged from the Septuagint.


[4] Matthew 2:16.—[Better: all the male children, πάντας τούς παῖδας. Lange: alle Knaben.—P. S.]

[5] Matthew 2:16.—[In all its borders, in all the neighborhood.]

[6] Matthew 2:17.—[Jeremiah.]

[7] Matthew 2:18.—[Proper order: A voice was heard in R. Comp. Jeremiah 31:15. The best editions omit θρῆνυς, καί, Lamentation and.—P. S.]

[8]Of Augustus: “Cum andisset, inter pueros, quos in Syria Herodes, rex Judaeorum intra bimatum jussit interficl, filium quoque ejus occisum, ait, melius est Herodis poicuiresse, quam filium.”

[9][The Church distinguishes and celebrates a threefold martyrdom: 1. martyrdom both in will and in fact,—Festival of St. Stephen the protomartyr, Dec. 26; 2. martyrdom in will, though not in fact,—Festival of St. John the Evangelist, Dec. 27; 3. martyrdom in fact, though not in will,—The Innocents’ Day, Dec. 23. These three festivals follow Christmas, because Christian martyrdom was regarded as a celestial birth, which is the consequence of Christ’s terrestrial birth. Christ was born on earth that His saints might be born in heaven.—On the Holy Innocents compare the old poem of Prudentius: Salvete flores martyrum, and John Keble’s Christian Year, p. 47.—P. S.]

[10][The Edinb. transl. uniformly has Starcke, following the first edition. But Dr. Lunge, in the second ed., as also in all the other vols. of the Com., changed it into Starke. The difference in spelling arises from an inconsistency of Starke himself, or his printer, in the various volumes of the Synopsis Bibliothecœ Exegeticœ. His last mode of spelling, however was Starke, which is also etymologically more correct.—P. S.]

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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Matthew 2". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.