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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 2

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

Matthew 2:1. Now when Jesus was born. See chap. Matthew 1:25. Further details are given in Luke 2:1-21. The visit of the shepherds had already taken place, the presentation in the temple was either shortly before or after this visit of the Magi.

Bethlehem of Judea. A small town situated on the crest of a small hill about six miles south of Jerusalem. The present inhabitants (about 5 , 000 ) all belong to the Greek church. The name means: house of bread, probably given on account of its great fertility. It is called Bethlehem Judah (Judges 17:7-8; 1 Samuel 17:12) to distinguish it from another town in Galilee (tribe of Zebulon) of the same name; also Ephrath (Genesis 35:19; Genesis 48:7) and Ephrata (Micah 5:2); also ‘the city of David’ (Luke 2:4), because his birth-place (Ruth 1:1-19; 1 Samuel 16:0). Its insignificance and its honor are contrasted in the prophecy (Micah 5:2) quoted by the scribes (Matthew 2:6).

Herod the king, generally called in history Herod the Great, the son of the Edomite Antipater by an Arabian mother. Antipater, who was made procurator of Judea by Cæsar, appointed his son governor of Galilee at the age of fifteen. Herod was made tetrarch by Antony, but driven away by Antigonus, a Maccabæan prince. Fleeing to Rome, he was there crowned king of Judea by the Senate, through the favor of Antony, and by the help of the Romans actually obtained the throne. Securing the favor of Augustus he reigned thirty-seven years. A skilful ruler, fond of architectural embellishment, but extremely cruel and jealous, being charged with the murder of his wife and three sons. He died at the age of seventy, shortly after putting to death the third son, in the 750 th year of Rome. This date shows that the birth of Christ must have taken place at least four years before the common era. For forty days before his death he was at Jericho and the baths of Calirrhoe, hence the events mentioned in this section must have occurred before that time. He was the first ruler of the Jews who did not acknowledge the rights of the Messiah. The Asmonean princes all did. Before the death of him who had been foisted on the throne by Roman enactment, one was ‘born King of the Jews,’ in accordance with Genesis 49:10.

Magi, sages. Originally a class of priests among the Persians and Medes, who formed the king’s privy Council, and cultivated astrology, medicine, and occult natural science. They are frequently referred to by ancient authors. Afterwards the term was applied to all Eastern philosophers; and there were many in more Western countries who made astrology and the like their trade; for example, Simon Magus and Elymas the sorcerer. Hence the term ‘magician’ has a bad meaning, not implied in the word ‘magi,’ from which it is derived. The tradition that the Magi were three kings (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) appears to have arisen from the number of their gifts, and from the prophecy in Isaiah 60:3. The earlier fathers speak of them as twelve and even fifteen in number. They are justly regarded as the first fruits and representatives of heathen converts to Christianity. Hence the festival of Epiphany Jan. 6 ), also called ‘the three kings,’ celebrating Christ’s manifestation to the Gentiles, though originally instituted for a wider purpose, was very early associated with this visit of the Magi, and celebrated as a missionary festival. The date of the visit was probably more than twelve days after the birth of Jesus.

From the east. Either: they came from the east, or: their home was in the east. The latter is the more probable meaning, and would imply the former. ‘The east’ may refer to Arabia, Persia, Chaldea, or more remote countries. In all these astrologers were found, and in all there was an expectation of some great deliverer to come about this time, derived, as is supposed, from the prophecy, Dan. 14 : 24 . Comp. the Star of Jacob in Balaam’s prophecy, Numbers 24:17. Persia or Mesopotamia was probably their residence. The way was doubtless long, but they found Christ, while those nearer Him had not even looked for Him. The hope of a Saviour was given to the Jews as a chosen race, but the same hope was given to chosen individuals among the Gentiles. Comp. the many instances in Old Testament history.

To Jerusalem. At the capital they looked for the King, or for tidings of him. For a description of the city, see map and Bible dictionaries. The excavations of the Palestine Exploration Fund tend to alter the commonly received views in regard to some of the localities.

Verses 1-12

THE DATE OF OUR LORD’S BIRTH. See Introduction , § 8 , pp. 16 , 17 . The visit of the Magi, while it does not determine the year of the birth of Christ, fixes a date before which it must have taken place. Herod was alive when Jesus was born (Matthew 2:3-12), and therefore A. U. C. 750 is the latest date which can be assigned to the Nativity (see Matthew 2:7). The other chronological data are, ( 1 ) the age of Jesus at the date of His baptism (Luke 3:23); ( 2 ) the list of rulers named in Luke 3:1; ( 3 ) the saying of the Jews at the first Passover after our Lord’s baptism (John 2:20): ‘Forty and six years was this temple in building,’ etc. To this some add ( 4 ) the remark of Luke respecting Zacharias (Luke 1:5): ‘of the course of Abijah;’ ( 5 ) the appearance of the star (see Matthew 2:2). It will appear from a reference to the notes on the various passages cited, that the more definite statements may be used to support the view which places the birth of Jesus at the close of A. U. C 749 , or at the beginning of 75 a. It is true none of them are decisive; yet on the other hand the arguments used against this view rest on the statements (such as 4 and 5 ) which are far from presenting assured chronological data. As much confusion exists in the minds of some in consequence of the reckoning from two eras, we insert a list of corresponding years. It should be carefully noted that the numbers are ordinal, standing for ‘first,’’ second,’ etc.

A.U.C. 749 750 751 752 753 754 755 B.C. 5 4 3 2 1 1 2 A.D. If we fix the date at the close of 749 , the common era is four years too late, not five, since we reckon from the close of the fifth year. See on Luke 2:8, in regard to the time of the year.

But whatever be the date, the Saviour appeared in ‘the fulness of the time’ (Galatians 4:4). The visit of the Magi is of itself an indication that the preparation for the coming of the Messiah was now complete. ‘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 the 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……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). ‘Lange.

Matthew tells none of the details of the Nativity (see Luke 2:1-20), and makes no allusion to the fact that Joseph and Mary had previously resided in Nazareth. See next section. He brings into the foreground Joseph, while Luke tells of Mary. This difference, so far from being incompatible with the accuracy of both, is an evidence of truthfulness. Each chooses those facts which best accord with his purpose. The pictures are taken from different points of view; only real objects can be thus presented. In this chapter the Evangelist has grouped those events which further demonstrate the Messiahship of Jesus. The infant Saviour is recognized by representatives of the heathen world, in a state of expectancy; Judaism, with its better founded expectations, is hostile. The close connection of the facts, narrated in this chapter, is peculiar to Matthew. The visit of the Magi excites the suspicion of Herod; this suspicion leads to the murder; the murder to the night into Egypt; and then to the return to Nazareth instead of Bethlehem. Science (astrology) and history, nature and revelation, all point to the future greatness of the child. Prophecy directs whither the star leads; the Magi meet the dead orthodoxy of the Jews; the frightened ruler would defend himself with the sword against the ‘born King of the Jews,’ but the King is miraculously delivered. The visit of the Magi is profoundly significant: they were the forerunners of Gentile converts, and the whole occurrence foreshadows the reception given to the gospel in apostolic times. This section is the Gospel for the Epiphany, or Christ’s manifestation to the Gentiles. Other events have been connected with the day, called also the Festival of the Three Kings (see on Matthew 2:1).

Verse 2

Matthew 2:2. Where is he that is born King of the Jews? Confidence is implied in the question. The word ‘born’ is emphatic; the one sought was not only newly born, but a born king, not one placed on the throne by accident. The question involves a deeper meaning than the magi designed. A born King of the Jews is the hope of the Gentiles also, according to the promise now so widely fulfilled.

For we saw. They probably had not seen it all along their journey, certainly not while in Jerusalem.

His star. Comp. Zumpt on the year of our Lord’s birth; Upham on the star of Bethlehem. The event was worthy of such a display of power. Explanations: ( 1 ) A meteor or a comet. Improbable. ( 2 ) A miraculous star appearing for their guidance, and then disappearing (seen by them only, as some think). ( 3 ) A remarkable conjunction of the heavenly bodies, viz., of the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and an extraordinary star. First proposed by the devout astronomer Kepler. Jupiter and Saturn were conjoined in the year of Rome 747 , and seen twice (May 20 and Oct. 27 ), Mars was added in the following spring. In 1603 a fourth star was in conjunction. It is supposed that this occurred at that time also. The recent astronomical calculations on this subject have been verified at the Greenwich Observatory. ‘Abarbanel, a Jew of the fifteenth century, speaks of the same conjunction as occurring before the birth of Moses, and found in its recurrence in his day (A. D. 1463 ) a sign of the speedy coining of the Messiah.’ Astrologers would attach more importance to such a conjunction than to the appearance of a new star, hence the phenomenon must have been noticed by the Magi. The Greek word used, however, points to a single star, and the date is two years earlier (B. C. 7 ) than that in which Christ is generally supposed to have been born. These difficulties are not insuperable, however. ( 4 ) The expectations of the Magi were aroused by the remarkable conjunction, and their watching was rewarded by the sight of the miraculous star. This is, perhaps, the best theory. It recognizes the astronomical fact, and teaches even more fully the lesson that the expectant study of nature leads to the discovery of the supernatural. Equally with the last view it shows us the Magi, because earnestly seeking the Messiah, led to Him by nature, by science, if astrology can be so termed. God can use the imperfect researches of men, and blesses investigations which fail of obtaining the whole truth; otherwise modem science would be unblessed no less than astrology. Astrology did not, at all events, prevent them from recognizing ‘His Star.’ Among ancient nations there was a general belief that strange phenomena in the sky betokened important events, especially the birth of great men. A sign in heaven will precede the second coming of Christ (chap. Matthew 22:30).

In the east. Seen by them in Eastern countries, or seen in the eastern sky. The first was certainly the fact, but the second is the probable meaning here. Some explain it as meaning: ‘at its rising,’ but this is hardly borne out by the language.

And have come to worship him. No doubt in the sense of religious adoration. Gentiles would hardly travel so far merely to render the homage usually accorded to earthly kings.

Verse 3

Matthew 2:3. Herod the king; the reigning king was troubled, fearing for his throne, as might be expected from his jealous disposition.

And all Jerusalem with him. Either: at the same time with him, or: because of him, knowing his cruelty. Many may have dreaded the Advent of the Messiah, either from stings of conscience or from dread of the troublous times which were expected to attend his coming. If the tyrant tremble, all his surroundings tremble with him. Unbelievers, in times of danger, are often the most superstitious. Those who do not believe in God, believe in ghosts or idols.

Verse 4

Matthew 2:4. All the chief-priests. Probably not a formal meeting of the Sanhedrin, since to this belonged the ‘elders’ also, who are not mentioned here. Literally: ‘high priests.’ It includes, besides the one actual high-priest, those who had held the office (for the Romans often transferred it, contrary to the Jewish law), and, perhaps, the heads of the twenty-four courses of priests.

Scribes of the people. The successors of Ezra, the official copyists of the Scriptures, who naturally became its expounders. These two classes were the proper ones to answer Herod’s question.

Where the Christ should be born. An acknowledgment that the Messiah had been promised by God. Herod’s subsequent cruelty was a defiance of God. The scribes knew the letter, but not the spirit of the Scripture. The Magi, with less knowledge but more faith, were nearer the truth. The indifference of the former was hostility in the germ.

Verse 5

Matthew 2:5. For. They speak of the prophetic declaration as decisive.

It is written. It has been written and still remains on record.

By ( literally, through) the prophet (Micah 5:1-2). As the prophecy was well known the name is not given.

Verse 6

Matthew 2:6. And thou Bethlehem. Freely quoted from the Greek version (the Septuagint) then in common use. The Hebrew is literally: ‘But thou Bethlehem Ephratah, too small to be among the thousands of Judah [ i.e., the towns where the heads of thousands resided, the chief towns of the subdivisions of the tribes]: but of thee shall come forth unto me one who is to be ruler in Israel.’ The variations are undoubtedly intentional and explanatory. It is not evident whether the passage was quoted by the scribes, or inserted as an explanation by Matthew. Instead of Ephrata, we find ‘the land of Judah,’ and instead of ‘too small to be among’ we have ‘art not the least,’ which is a sort of question introducing the insignificance of the place, and im plying its moral greatness as the birthplace of the Messiah. Bethlehem was not among the chief towns of Judah in the list given, Joshua 15:59.

Princes is, according to a usual figure, put for the towns where the princes, or heads of thousands, lived. For gives the reason for the greatness in spite of the insignificance.

Shall be the shepherd. This includes both ruling and feeding; the meaning is: shall be a careful and affectionate ruler.

Verse 7

Matthew 2:7. Privately. This indicates his evil purpose, and is quite characteristic of political suspicion.

Learned of them earned. He probably drew some inference from what they told him, and took measures accordingly.

What time. This implies how long it had appeared, quite as much as, when it appeared.

Verse 8

Matthew 2:8. Contains his deceitful command. It was a lie diplomatic, based on the truth, for he sent them to Bethlehem.

Verse 9

Matthew 2:9. They went their way. The interview seems to have taken place in the evening, and they set out immediately afterwards, but night travelling is customary in the east.

Lo, the star, etc. The theory of a miraculous star easily explains the statement of this verse, and if we were told that the star stood over the house, then no other explanation will suffice. The expression, where the young child was, may, however, refer to Bethlehem. The astronomical theory thus explains the passage: The most remarkable conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn took place in May, and would be visible before sunrise ( i.e., in the east), five months afterwards, a sufficient time to perform the journey; another conjunction took place which would be visible near the meridian shortly after sunset. If then they set out in the early night this phenomenon would be apparent in the direction of Bethlehem. Being near the zenith it would seem to go before them on their way. Supposing, then, the standing of the star to mean its reaching its zenith, there would be about sufficient time to reach Bethlehem, for the calculations show that the planets were at the zenith one and a half hours after sunset. The time of year, according to this view, was December 5 .

Verse 10

Matthew 2:10. When they saw the star. This shows that for some time, at least, they had not seen it.

They rejoiced with exceeding great joy. Literally, ‘rejoiced a great joy exceedingly.’ The reappearance of the star indicated to them their success and the truth of their calculations. The joy, however, was not at the standing of the star, but at its appearing again, hence miraculous guidance is not necessarily implied.

Verse 11

Matthew 2:11. The house. Probably not the place where Jesus was born, but temporary lodgings, in which they remained until ‘the forty days of purification’ were accomplished. If the event falls within that period it would be easy to find the house, since the story told by the shepherds would not be so soon forgotten in a little place like Bethlehem.

With Mary, his mother, not ‘Mary with her child’ (as the later Mariolatry would have it). The same order occurs in Matthew 2:13-14; Matthew 2:20-21. Joseph seems to have been absent.

And they fell down and worshipped him, and Him alone. The worship was more than the usual reverence to kings, or the journey of the Magi would seem unaccountable (comp. Matthew 2:2).

Opening their treasures. The bags or boxes containing their treasures.

Gifts to a superior sovereign were usual in the East

Gold. Offered -chiefly to kings and gods.

Frankincense. A resinous transparent gum of bitter taste and fragrant odor, used in sacrifices and temple worship, distilled from a tree in Arabia and India.

Myrrh. An aromatic gum, produced from a thorn-bush, indigenous in Arabia and Ethiopia, but growing also in Palestine, used for fumigation and for improving the taste of wine, but especially as an ingredient of a very precious ointment. The Greek word is smyrna. These gifts were costly, but give no clue to the home of the magi, nor do they indicate their number or rank.

The holy family were thus providentially supplied with means for the journey to Egypt, and for the purification of Mary. Strangers from a distance must be the instruments of providing for the born King of the Jews; the promised Messiah supported in his poverty by heathen. Offering to the Lord what we have; He knows how to put it to the very best use. These heathen show how the sight of Christ not only leads earnest hearts to worship, but willing hands to give.

Verse 12

Matthew 2:12. Being warned of God. Probably they had asked guidance, because they suspected Herod’s double dealing. They obtained guidance in a dream, or by dreams.

They departed, or ‘withdrew.’

By another way. Avoiding Jerusalem, to which they would naturally have returned, wherever their own country might have been.

Their own country. Still indefinite.

The brief story of this episode thus ends Superstition has founded legends upon it; faith finds many lessons in it. Heaven and earth move, as it were, about the holy child as their centre; He is so remote, so hidden, so disowned, yet near, discovered and acknowledged by those who seek Him; their search is helped not only by Scripture, but by nature and the most imperfect science; the awakening faith of the Gentiles and the slumbering unbelief of the Jews. The star of Bethlehem is a beautiful symbol of the nobler aspirations of heathenism and of every human soul toward the incarnate God to whom it points and over whom it abides. The Magi, like Melchizedek and Job, open to us a vista of hope respecting the salvation of many who live outside the visible church and removed from the ordinary means of grace.

Verse 13

Matthew 2:13. The Magi may have communicated their suspicions or revelation (Matthew 2:12) to Joseph, to whom as the head of the family the present revelation is made, in a dream, again.

Egypt, ‘as near, as a Roman province and independent of Herod, and much inhabited by Jews, was an easy and convenient refuge’ (Alford). In Alexandria, its chief city, the Old Testament had been translated into Greek, and there the Jewish and Greek religions and systems of thought were brought into contact, resulting in the philosophy of Philo and his followers.

Until I tell thee, or, say to thee (what thou shalt do)

Will seek, more exactly, ‘is about to seek.’

Verses 13-23

CHRONOLOGY. We place the flight into Egypt a fter the presentation in the temple (Luke 2:22-39). The latter took place on the fortieth day, and the interval which this allows is too brief for the events of this section. On the relative position of the Adoration of the Magi and the presentation, see Luke 2:22-39. On the childhood of Jesus, see Luke 2:40-52.

Peculiar to Matthew, who follows the thread of the history, rather to discover proofs of the Messiahship of Jesus than to present a full and chronological narrative of events. In this section the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy is asserted in accordance with this design. The flight into Egypt Herod, failing to discover the Messiah by craft, seeks to destroy Him without discovery, by indiscriminate cruelty. The return to Judea and the residence in Galilee. Herod, the king of the Jews through Roman favor, represents the fruitless hostility of Jew and Gentile to the Christ of God; which results, however, in great human distress. Egypt and Galilee protect Him whom Jerusalem persecutes. Flight and persecution follow the angelic anthem and the adoration of the Magi. Egypt the cradle of God’s people, in both dispensations. ‘Jesus has sanctified even the afflictions of our childhood’ (Starke). Nazareth a symbol of the humiliation of Christ and the humble condition of His people.

Verse 14

Matthew 2:14. And he arose. Implying immediate obedience; characteristic of genuine faith.

By night, i.e., the same night.

Departed, or, ‘withdrew,’ the same word which was used respecting the Magi.

Verse 15

Matthew 2:15. The prophet. Hosea (Matthew 11:1). A prophecy referring first to the children of Israel, then typical of Christ. Alford: ‘It seems to have been a settled axiom of interpretation (which has, by its adoption in the New Testament, received the sanction of the Holy Ghost Himself, and now stands for our guidance), that the subject of all allusions, the represented in all parables and dark sayings, was He who was to come, or the circumstances attendant on His advent or reign.’ The place of Egypt in history should not be forgotten. Thence came the children of Israel and He whom they typified; but thence, too, ancient civilization and the influence which prepared the wav for the spread of the gospel. God did not forsake the Gentile world, though it forsook Him. His providential care was as really present in the formation of that civilization which issued from Egypt, as in the occurrences which led Israel and Jesus thither. The place of sojourn is unknown, though tradition points to a village called Metariyeh, not far from the city of Heliopolis, and near the site of the temple erected in Egypt for the Jews under the priesthood of Onias.

Verse 16

Matthew 2:16. The beginning of the persecutions which culminated in the crucifixion.

Then Herod when he saw that he was trifled with, i.e., duped, according to his view of the case, by the Magi, was exceeding wroth. The murderer of his own wife (Mariamne) and two sons (Alexander and Aristobulus) would easily murder other children in his anger. The emperor Augustus made a Greek witticism on the cruelty of Herod to his sons, and Josephus records that he ordered a number of the chief men to be put to death as soon as he expired, that there might be no rejoicing at his own decease. Josephus, however, does not mention the massacre at Bethlehem. It may have been unknown to him, since the sending forth may have been in secret, as was the questioning of the Magi (Matthew 2:7), or unnoticed among the many horrible crimes of Herod. ‘It will only be right, in estimating the value of the facts related by this Evangelist, to remember that the more forced in some cases appears’ the connection which he maintains between the facts he mentions and the prophecies he applies to them, the less probable is it that the former were invented on the foundation of the latter. Such incidents as the journey into Egypt and the mas grave and lamenting, thus indicating extreme calamity. The sound of her lamentations is carried beyond Jerusalem, and heard at Ramah (the name probably means ‘high’), a fortress of Israel on the frontier toward Judah, where the captives were collected. The figure becomes a typical prophecy of the grief in Bethlehem. Rachel was the ancestress of the tribe of Benjamin, which was always identified in fortune with Judah. She well represents the mothers of Bethlehem, near to which she died in child-birth and was buried. Her tomb, on the site of which there is now a mosque, lies about half a mile north of Bethlesacre of the children, must have been well-ascertained facts before any one would think of finding a prophetic announcement of them in the words of Hosea and Jeremiah, which the author quotes and applies to them.’ (Godet)

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Male children, as the Greek implies.

In all its borders, ‘coasts’ is now applied to sea borders alone. The neighborhood was included that there might be no escape, just as the age, two years, was the extreme limit within which the child could have been born, according to the time, or period, which he had exactly learned of the Magi. As children under the age of two years were slain, it is probable that the star had not appeared so long a time before the visit of the Magi. Cruelty here overran the limits of space and time alike. These infant martyrs were much celebrated in the ancient church, especially on the feast of Innocents (December 28 ).

Verse 17

Matthew 2:17. Jeremiah the prophet (Jeremiah 32:15). Free quotation (from the Septuagint) of a typical prophecy. Not: ‘that it might be fulfilled,’ but simply: ‘was fulfilled.’

Verse 18

Matthew 2:18. In Ramah, etc. The words ‘lamentation and’ are found in the Septuagint, but to be omitted here. The passage refers primarily to the leading of the Israelites captive to Babylon. Rachel, the ancestress of Benjamin, buried near Bethlehem, is represented as issuing from the hem on the road to Jerusalem. See the accompanying cut of the mosque, with the village of Bet Jala in the background. Jews, Christians, and Mohammedans alike revere the spot, which is much frequented by ‘pilgrims.’ ‘The wail of Rachel is renewed in the Church as often as the witnesses to the truth are put to death by carnal and worldly men, who profess to be the representatives of the Church.’ (Lange.)

Verse 19

Matthew 2:19. When Herod was dead. Herod died at Jericho about the time of the Passover (April) in the year 750 after the building of Rome, four years before the date from which we reckon our time. The common Christian era was not fixed until five hundred years later. (See Introd., § 8 .) The length of the stay in Egypt has however been variously reckoned from a few weeks to three years in accordance with the various dates assigned to the Nativity. The Evangelist adds no comment on Herod’s character, no terms of reproach. He can learn little, who will not of himself make proper inferences. Josephus describes the horrible death of Herod, amid alternate designs of revenge and fits of despair.

Matthew 2:20. They are dead, etc. A similar expression is used (Exodus 4:19) in a revelation made to Moses, with which Joseph was certainly acquainted.

Verse 21

Matthew 2:21. The land of Israel included Galilee, but Judea would be reached first on the return.

Verse 22

Matthew 2:22. Archelaus. Four sons of Herod (the Great) are mentioned in the New Testament. (He had ten wives and fourteen children.) ( 1 ) Herod Antipas, the murderer of John the Baptist (frequently mentioned in Gospels and Acts 4:27; Acts 13:1), and ( 2 ) Archelaus, were sons of Malthace the fourth wife of Herod; ( 3 ) Herod Philip I. (‘Philip,’ Mark 6:17) was the son of Mariamne, the third wife, and lived a private life, having been excluded from all share in his father’s possessions; ( 4 ) Herod Philip II. (‘Philip the tetrarch,’ Luke 3:1), was the son of Cleopatra, the fifth wife of Herod, and the husband of Salome, the daughter of Herodias (Matthew 14:6; Mark 6:22), and his half-brother Philip. The name, ‘Archelaus,’ means ‘ruler of the people.’ Herod excluded Archelaus by will from any share in his dominions, but afterward bequeathed him ‘the kingdom.’ The Emperor Augustus allowed him to be ‘Ethnarch’ over Judea, Idumea, and Samaria. He was actually reigning at the time referred to in this verse. He was afterward summoned to Rome and banished into Gaul. Herod Agrippa I. (‘Herod the King,’ Acts 12:1, etc.) and Herod Agrippa II. (‘King Agrippa,’ Acts 25-26) his son, were descendants of Aristobuius, the murdered son of Herod the Great.

Was afraid to go thither. Hearing this, probably, on the way, he turned aside before reaching Judea. The word go, strictly means ‘go away,’ as if he would naturally have gone somewhere else, i.e., to Nazareth his home.

And. The rendering of the E. V. (‘notwithstanding’) has misled many into the notion that Joseph acted contrary to the revelation he received on his return from Egypt, an idea of which there is no trace in the original.

Warned, even more than in Matthew 2:12, implies a previous inquiry.

Withdrew, as in Matthew 2:12; Matthew 2:14.

The parts of Galilee, i.e., the country itself, the northernmost province of Palestine. The name is derived from a word signifying a ring or circle. The Galileans, though Jews in religion, were looked down upon by inhabitants of Judea (Jews in the strict sense), probably because provincials, and living more closely allied with the heathen. Samaria lay between Judea and Galilee.

Verse 23

Matthew 2:23. It does not follow that Matthew was not aware of the previous residence of Joseph in Nazareth. There is no contradiction between his statements and those of Luke. Each mentions those facts most important for his special purpose. Matthew’s narrative is not a biography, but brings up facts to prove the fulfilment of prophecy. He reserves the mention of Nazareth until he can say: ‘that it might be fulfilled,’ etc. Nor was it strange that Joseph, though previously a resident of Galilee, should at first seek to return to Judea. The revelations made to him would suggest Bethlehem as the proper place to train this ‘child.’ ‘He naturally supposed that He who was of the tribe of Judah should dwell in the land of Judah, the most religious, most sacred part of Palestine; and, as the promised Messiah, should be brought as near as possible to the theocratic centre, where He might have frequent intercourse with the priests and rabbins, and be educated under the very shadow of the temple. Only through a special command of God, was he led to return with Jesus to Galilee; and that he made his abode in the obscure vale of Nazareth, can only be explained by the fact, of which Matthew is wholly silent, that this had been his earlier residence, as related by Luke.’ (Andrews.) All difficulties are met, if we suppose that when Joseph and Mary left Nazareth at the time of the census, they intended to settle at Bethlehem, which they would regard as the most suitable place of residence for the expected child, the infant Messiah.

A city called Nazareth. Implying the comparative obscurity of the place. ‘It is situated on the northern edge of the great central plain of Jezreel or Esdraelon, into which it opens through a narrow pass in the wall of hills by which it is surrounded. The name Nazareth, seems to be an Aramaic form of a Hebrew word, meaning a shoot or twig, and applied by Isaiah (Isaiah 11:1) to the Messiah as a shoot from the prostrate trunk or stem of Jesse, i.e. , to his birth from the royal family of Judah in its humble and reduced estate. This coincidence of name, as well as the obscurity of Nazareth itself and the general contempt for Galilee at large, established an association between our Lord’s humiliation and his residence at this place, so that various predictions of his low condition were fulfilled in being called a Nazarene.’ (J. A. Alexander.)

That it might be fulfilled. God so willed it, irrespective of Joseph’s design of settling there.

Prophets. Indefinite, because what follows is a summing up of the sense of a number of prophetic allusions.

That he should be called a Nazarene. He was thus called, as an inhabitant of Nazareth (comp. Acts 24:6: ‘sect of the Nazarenes’); but no prophet uses these words or applies this name to the Messiah. It cannot be a quotation from a lost or apocryphal book, nor is the term identical with ‘Nazarite.’ ‘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.”’ (Lange.)

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Matthew 2". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/matthew-2.html. 1879-90.
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