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Bible Commentaries

Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT

Matthew 1

Verse 1

That is, the descent of Jesus Christ, who was, according to the flesh, the Son of David and the Son of Abraham, is on this wise. And his genealogy from Abraham down to his reputed father, was thus:

Here note, That our Evangelist designing to write a narrative of our Savior's life, begins with his pedigree and genealogy, and shews whom he descended from, namely, from David and Abraham.

Where Observe, 1. That David is named before Abraham, because he being a king, an illustrious type of the Messiah, the Jews expected, and do to this day expect, that the son of David shall reign over them; and that they should enjoy a temporal kingdom by him.

Observe 2. The names given to our blessed Savior, Jesus and Christ; Jesus is his Hebrew name, and signifies a Savior; Christ is his Greek name, and signifies anointed: from whence some do infer an intimation and encouragement, that both Hebrews and Greeks, both Jews and Gentiles, may alike come unto Christ for life and Salvation, he being the common Savior of both; according to that of He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2

Verse 2

Both the Evangelists, St. Matthew and St. Luke, make mention of our Savior's pedigree; the former by his reputed father's side, the latter by his mother's side: the design of both was to present us with a general draught of our Lord's pedigree and descent, and not to be strict and accurate in enumerating every individual person. This should teach us, not to be over curious in scanning the parts of this genealogy, much less capaciously to object against it. For if the evangelists were not critical and exact in composing this genealogy, why should we show ourselves so in examining of it?

Rather let us attend to the design of the Holy Ghost in writing of it, which was twofold; first, For the honor of our Savior, as man, showing who were his noble and royal progenitors according to the flesh.

Secondly, For the confirmation of our faith, touching the reality of our Redeemer's incarnation. The scripture making mention of all his progenitors, from the first man Adam to his reputed father Joseph, will not suffer us to doubt either of the truth of his human nature, or of the certainty of his being the promised Messiah.

Learn hence, That he wisdom of God hath taken all necessary care, and used all needful means for satisfying the minds of all unprejudiced persons, touching the reality of Christ's human nature, and the certainty of his being the promised Messiah; for both these ends is our Savior's genealogy and descent recorded in the holy scriptures.

Verse 5

Observe, Here are several women mentioned in our Savior's genealogy, and all, or most of them, have a brand of infamy upon them. Thamar was one, with whom her father-in-law, Judah, committed incest; Rahab is called an harlot; Ruth came of Moab, whom Lot begat of his own daughter; and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, was one with whom David had committed adultery.

Now the wisdom of God has thought fit to leave all this upon record for several ends and purposes.

1. To denote the freeness of God's grace, which extends itself in the saving effects and benefits of it to them that are most unworthy and ill-derserving.

2. To encourage the greatest sinners to unto Christ by faith, and seek to be ingrafted into him: for as Christ, by the power of his godhead, did purify our nature from all the pollution of our ancestors, so he can, by the power of his grace and spirit, sanctify our persons and natures, how foul and impure soever they either are or have been.

3. Hereby our Lord gives us to understand, That he came to save the most notorious sinners, as well as those lives have been less scandalous.

4. This is recorded for the support of such as are illegitimate and base-born, how vile soever their parents' sin has rendered them in the eyes of men, it is their own sin only which exposes them to contempt in the sight of God. It is not illegitimacy, but unregeneracy, that makes us objects of God's wrath.

Verse 18

This is, the birth of Christ was not in the ordinary and natural way, but his mother Mary was found to be with child by the extraordinary and miraculous operation of the Holy Ghost.

Here note, That the espousal of Mary to Joseph was for the safety of Christ, and for the credit and reputation of the virgin. It was for our Savior's safety, because being to fly into Egypt, he has Joseph his reputed father to take care of him; and it was for the virgin's reputation, lest she should have been accounted unclean.

Learn hence, What a special regard Almighty God has to the fame and reputation of his children; he would have them free from the least suspicion of evil and dishonesty. Mary being espoused to an husband, frees herself from the suspicion of naughtiness, and her son from the imputation of an illegitimate birth.

Observe further, The miraculous conception of the holy Jesus; the Holy Ghost overshadowed the virgin, and did miraculously cause her conception without the help of an human father. Thus Christ was the Son of God as well in his human as in his divine nature; he must needs be a perfect, holy person, who was conceived purely by the Holy Spirit's operation.

Verse 19

That is, being an holy person, and a strict observer of the rites of his nation, he was unwilling to accompany with a defiled woman, and therefore minded to put her away, by giving a bill of divorce into her hand before two witnesses; but being kind and gentle, he intended to put her away privily, lest she should have be exposed and stoned to death.

Observe here, How early our dear Lord's sufferings began; he and his mother are designed to be put away, even when he was but an embryo in the womb.

Observe further, from the great clemency of Joseph towards the suspected virgin, that kind and merciful men always presume the best, and prosecute with gentleness, especially where life is concerned. Meek Joseph doth resolve upon the milder course, and chooses rather to put her away privily, than publicly to expose her. Leviticus 19:20 ; Genesis 6:9; Genesis 38:24 ; Deuteronomy 24:1-4

Verse 20

Two things here are observable; namely, the care that Almighty God takes; 1. For Joseph's satisfaction.

2. For vindicating the virgin's reputation. For Joseph's satisfaction, an angel is dispatched to give him assurance that the virgin was not defiled by a man, but overshadowed by the Holy Ghost.

Whence note, that Almighty God will certainly find out ways and means for his peoples' satisfaction, when they are willing and desirous above all things to come to the knowledge and right understanding of their duty.

Observe, 2. How the angel clears the virgin's innocency, as well as satisfies Joseph's doubtings, by assuring, that what was conceived in her, was by the Holy Ghost.

Learn hence, that God will, in his own time, clear the innocency of such as suffer in their name and reputation for the sake of Christ, through for the present they may lie under the burden of disgrace and shame.

Verse 21

Observe here, 1. A prediction of our Savior's birth; the virgin shall bring forth a son.

2. A precept for the imposition of his name; Thou shalt call his name Jesus, that is, a Savior.

3. The reason why that name was given him; because he should save his people, not temporarily, as Joshua did the Israelites from their enemies, but spiritually and externally from their sins; not in their sins but from them; that is, from the guilt and punishment, from the power and dominion, of them.

Observe, 4. The peculiar subjects of this privilege; his people: He shall save his people from their sins.

Learn, 1. That sin is the evil of evils; or that sin considered in itself, is comparatively the greatest and worst of evils.

2. That the great end of Christ's coming into the world, was to be a Savior from this evil.

3. That Christ's own people do want and stand in need of a Savior as well as others; if he does not save them from their sins, they must die in and for their sins, as well as others.

Therefore he saves them from sin in three ways;

1. By obtaining pardon for sin, and in reconciling us to God. 2. By weakening the reigning power of sin, and implanting a new principle of holiness in the heart. 3. By perfecting and accomplishing all these happy beginnings at the end of this life in heaven.

Dr. Hammond's Pract. Catech.

Verse 22

Of all the prophets of the Old Testament, the Prophet Isaiah has the honor to be the first recited in the New. Here the Evangelist quotes his prophecy of Christ's incarnation, Behold, a virgin shall be with child.

Learn thence, That the great mystery of our Savior's wonderful incarnation was, (though darkly) revealed to the Church of God under the Old Testament.

Observe further, the name given to our Savior under the Old Testament, Emmanual, that is, God with us; God manifest in our flesh, God appearing in nature; God reconciling man to himself.

O happy and blessed union of two natures in one person! Christ is God and man united, that God and man may be reconciled.

Verse 24

Joseph is no sooner assured that Mary is with child by the overshadowing power of the Holy Ghost, but he instantly obeys the Lord's command, and takes Mary to him, without further disputing or delaying.

Learn thence, That a gracious person,when once satisfied in God's word of command, disputes no further, but instantly complies with the will of God, even in the most hazardous and difficult duties.

Verse 25

It is piously believed, though not positively in scripture asserted,that the Virgin had no other child but our Savior: it is a very probable opinion, though not an infallible article of faith, as the Church of Rome would make it: for the word until signifies in scripture as much as never.

So Genesis 28:15. I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have promised; that is, I will never leave thee.

So the words following, Her first-born son, do not imply that she had any child after, but that she had none before. That child which first opened the womb, is usually in scripture called the first-born, though there was no other born after.

Thus Joshua 18 Machir is called the first-born of Manasseh, though he had no more children. So that Christ, not only as God, but as also he was man, was the first-born and only son. St. Austin expounds and applies Ezekiel 44:2 to the virgin Mary; This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it; because the Lord God of Israel hath entered in by it; therefore it shall be shut. And others of the ancients say, that as Christ lay in a tomb, in which none lay before or after himself. But he said, Quid post partum secutum erat curiose none est quarendum. What the Virgin was afterwards, is of small concern to the mystery, therefore not to be inquired after. And yet it is now passed by some into a matter of faith, that the Virgin Mary was ever a virgin, and it has been styled a heresy to hold the contrary; but how is it consistent with good divinity, to make that an article of divine faith, which is founded on no divine revelation. Or to make that necessary to be believed, which confessedly is not contained in the Holy scripture, let the Church of Rome answer.

Editor's Note: it would benefit the reader to cross-reference Mark 6:3 ; Galatians 1:19 , etc., to put this matter to rest.

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Bibliographical Information
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Matthew 1". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wbc/matthew-1.html. 1700-1703.