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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 2

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

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Verses 1-12

Matthew 2. Three Incidents of Christ’ s Childhood.

Matthew 2:1-12 . The Visit of the Magians.—“ The religion of the Magi well deserved the double honour of stimulating the growth of the doctrine of the Future Life in Judaism, and of offering the first homage of the Gentile world to the Redeemer” (J. H. Moulton, “ Magi,” HSDB). [See on the relations of this story to Magianism, J. H. Moulton’ s Early Zoroastrianism, pp. 282– 285. He says, “ The narrative might have been composed by a Magus for the accuracy with which it portrays Magian ideas.” In a Jew the “ correct colour” is interesting. The star was not a planet or conjunction of planets, since “ the planets were malign for the Magi.” He thinks it was a new star, such as occasionally flame out in the sky, dwindling speedily and fading from sight. The stars were connected with the Fravashis, and the quest of the Magi was “ for an identification of the Fravashi they would associate with it.” The Fravashi is a man’ s spiritual counterpart. “ An apparition of a bright Nova in the sky would suggest the Fravashi of a great one newly born” (ERE, vol. vi., p. 118). See Matthew 18:10 *, Acts 12:15 *.— A. S. P.]

The astronomer Kepler regarded the star as a new star combined with a conjunction of Jupiter, Venus, and Mars in the sign “ pieces,” which signified Judæ a, the whole being interpreted by the Chaldæ an astrologers according to the rules of their art. To Mt. it was a fulfilment of Balaam’ s prediction in Numbers 24:17· Cf. also Test. Levi 18. There is a story that in A.D. 66 Tiridates of Parthia went with a train of three Magi laden with presents to Nero, “ whom they worshipped as Lord and God, even as Mithras.” If the anti-Christ of early Christian belief received such homage, the real Messiah could not have received less. Note that no number is given in Mt. The story has been embellished in later tradition by the addition of a Magus who could not join the others, but sacrificed his life in a deed of kindness and had a vision of Christ. An ancient commentator says that gold is the symbol of kingship, frankincense ( Jeremiah 6:20 *) of deity, myrrh of mortification (it was used to anoint the dead).

While Mt. selects this story Lk. supplies its counterpart, the homage of the lowly and simple shepherds. The quotation ( Micah 5:2) in Matthew 2:6 nor LXX, but perhaps some Palestinian midrash. (Matthew 1 f. as a whole is a kind of midrash, i.e. not follows neither Heb. history pure and simple, but history with a purpose.) It gives “ land of Judah” for “ Ephrathah,” inserts the negative “ in no wise,” and reads the Heb. consonants as “ princes” or “ leaders” instead of “ thousands.”

For a thorough study of “ the star in the East,” and especially of the word anatolè , by Dr. E. A. Abbott, see Exp., Dec. 1916.

Verses 13-18

Matthew 2:13-18 . The Flight into Egypt and the Massacre of the Innocents.— While Mt. says Jesus was born before Herod’ s death (how long before he does not say), Lk. suggests, by his reference to Quirinius, that it was after. But see Luke 2:1-3 *.

Matthew 2:15 . Hosea 11:1 *. It looks as though Mt. made the incident fit the quotation, cf. Abbott, op. cit., p. 413. A second-century Jewish tradition speaks of Jesus working as a labourer in Egypt, and practising magic ere he returned to Palestine and proclaimed Himself a God. There were a million Jews in Egypt in the first century A.D.

In place of the slaughter of the Bethlehem children Lk. gives the story of the presentation in the Temple. The massacre is not narrated by Josephus, though he dwells on Herod’ s crimes ( cf. p. 609). It may be an echo of a Jewish legend about Abraham’ s escape from Nimrod, and also recalls the story of Pharaoh ( Exodus 1:15 to Exodus 2:10).

Matthew 2:17 . Then was fulfilled: Mt. does not here say “ in order that” ; he will not attribute to Herod (or to Judas, Matthew 27:9) a Divine purpose. See Jeremiah 31:15 *. The “ two years” ( Matthew 2:16) suggests not that the Magi arrived two years after the Birth, but that the star appeared two years before it, and their quest had lasted so long.

Verses 19-23

Matthew 2:19-23 . The Settlement at Nazareth.— By Herod’ s will Archelaus (p. 609) held the title of King till the Emperor Augustus forbade it. In Galilee, another of Herod’ s sons, Antipas (p. 609), was tetrarch. There is here no thought that Nazareth (p. 29) was Joseph’ s previous home. He goes there because ( a) Judæ a might be dangerous, ( b) prophecy must be fulfilled. For Mt. the question of the Messiah’ s birthplace does not arise; Joseph and Mary live in Bethlehem, and it would be there. Lk.’ s knowledge of Nazareth is better than Mt.’ s. The closest OT connexion with Matthew 2:23 is that Is., Jer., and Zeph. refer to Messiah as the branch ( Nezer) of the house of David. “ Nazarenes” was a contemptuous name given to the early Christians; Mt., to consecrate it, snatches at the faintest prophetic allusion ( cf. Acts 2:22 *). It is curious that Nazareth is not mentioned in OT, Josephus, or the Talmud, but that seven miles from the present village there was Bethlehem of Zebulun ( Joshua 19:15), called in the Talmud “ Zoriyah” (?=Notzeriyah), i.e. the Nazarene (or Galilean) Bethlehem. Did Jesus really belong to this place? The double name “ Bethlehem-Nazareth” might easily account for the variant tradition as to His birthplace.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Matthew 2". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/matthew-2.html. 1919.
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