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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Matthew 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-8

CRITICAL NOTES

Mat . Born.—The birth of Jesus has been assigned to "the fourth year before the common account called Anno Domini." But Rev. A. Carr (Cambridge Bible for Schools) says, "the year 3 before the Christian Era has been fixed almost beyond a doubt as the date of the Nativity." Bethlehem of Judæa, situate on a limestone ridge, six miles from Jerusalem, south by west. Called Bethlehem of Judæa, to distinguish it from Bethlehem in Zebulon (Jos 19:15). A very ancient place. Called Ephrath or Ephratah, before it came into the possession of the Hebrews (Gen 48:7). Now called Beit-lachm. The birth-place of David. Name means literally "the house of bread"; derived probably from fertility of soil. Herod the king.—Called afterwards, but not in his lifetime, "the Great." An Idumæan (Edomite) who, chiefly through the friendship of Mark Antony, became king of Judæa. He was not an absolute monarch, but subject to the Roman empire, much in the same way as some of the Indian princes are subject to the British government (Carr). As a prince he was able and magnificent, but utterly unprincipled and most unhappy (Morison). Came.—Probably shortly after the presentation in the temple (Luk 2:22). Wise men = μάγοι.—In Chaldea and Persia a special class who gave themselves to the study of the stars and to that of the occult arts generally. In Egypt and in Babylon they formed a recognised and highly honoured class (Gen 41:8; Dan 2:2). Those who came to Bethlehem may have been from Media, but their gifts would rather suggest Arabia (Universal Bible Dictionary).

Mat . Born.—Literally, "the born King of the Jews." Herod was not a born king. It was long since there had been a born king in Israel (Morison). King of the Jews.—A title unknown to the earlier history of Israel and applied to no one except the Messiah. It reappears in the inscription over the cross (Carr). Star.—It is perhaps safest to regard it as simply a luminous meteor, which appeared under special laws, and for a special purpose (D. Brown). Worship.—To acknowledge His worthship (Morison). Not adoration in the strict sense. We attribute too much to the Magi if we suppose them aware of Christ's divinity. But it was clearly more than mere reverence for an earthly king. It hovered on the border line, and meant an indefinite submission and homage to a partially discerned superiority, in which the presence of God was in some sort special (Maclaren).

Mat . Troubled.—When we remember the recent agitations at Jerusalem, through the refusal of the Pharisees, to the number of six thousand, to take the oath of allegiance to him (Jos., Ant., XVII. ii., 4), with their prophecy of the divinely intended transfer of the kingdom from him and his race, to a favourite of their own, we can easily understand how much less a thing would have been sufficient to terrify him than this announcement of the star and the king (Trench). Jerusalem.—From a dread of revolutionary commotions, and perhaps also of Herod's rage (D. Brown).

Mat . Chief priests.—Probably the high priest, with those who had previously held the office of high priest (for at this period it was often transferred at the caprice of the Romans, Jos., Ant., XV. iii.), and the heads of the twenty-four courses into which the sons of Aaron were divided (2Ch 23:8; Luk 1:5). Scribes.—The interpreters of the law, casuists, and collectors of the traditions of the elders, for the most part Pharisees (Plumptre). Called "lawyers" in St. Luke's Gospel. Not certain whether a meeting of the Sanhedrin, or only of a "committee of notables" (Plumptre) or a "theological conference" (Lange).

Mat . Thou Bethlehem.—The passage is important as showing that the authorised expositors of the Jewish scriptures were in the habit of citing them by paraphrase, and not literally (Speaker's Commentary). Princes of Juda (Mic 5:2).—"Thousands." The tribe had been subdivided into thousands or chiliads, corresponding to the hundreds of England, and over each subdivision there was a chieftain or prince (Morison). Rule = act the part of a shepherd to.

Mat . Inquired … diligently.—Rather "ascertained exactly" (Speaker's Commentary).

Mat . I may come.—It was something like the kiss of Judas (Gualther).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mat

The King proclaimed.—The previous passage was of a comparatively domestic description. It told us practically how the holy family were made acquainted with the true origin of the heavenly Babe just appearing among them. Here we have a wider field and a more public announcement. That heavenly Babe is now presented to the whole of the world as its King. So we find here to be openly declared, on the one hand; and distinctly understood, on the other.

I. Openly declared—This may be seen:—

1. By the form of language employed by those who are spoken of here as coming as visitors to Jerusalem. Nothing is so emphatic a declaration of a fact as to ask a question which assumes its existence. "Where is the child we are seeking for?" Compare Jud ; Jud 6:14; Jos 1:9, etc.

2. By the purport of the question thus asked. Where is the King? The King of the Jews? The infant King of the Jews? To the people addressed such questions could mean only one thing: "There is an Infant among you whom ye know not, although He is really your King."

3. By the known position of those who employed it. They were men from afar, and therefore men most probably having something important to say (Isa ). Men of repute, also, and therefore not improbably well knowing what they were speaking about.

4. By the special experience which these strangers had had. Continual watchers of the skies themselves, they had seen that in the skies which they had learned to look upon as of the highest significance. "We have seen His star in the East." If they are right in their view, therefore (and they were fair judges of that), the message they bring is a message from heaven itself.

5. By the purpose avowed by them. They desire not to find only, but to do homage to, this infantile King. "We are come to worship Him." What depth of conviction! To come so far for that purpose. What depth of confession! However far off their home was, they acknowledge it thus to be part of His realm. All these things make their advent and language a wide and express proclamation indeed; especially so to men who were familiar with such prophecies as those of Num ; Psa 72:8-11, etc., and who were even then looking for some one to "restore to Israel" (Act 1:6) just such a kingdom as that of which these messengers spoke. No procession of heralds with banners and trumpets and regalia could have said any more.

II. Distinctly understood as so being.—The agitation this question aroused is one token of this. It greatly agitated king Herod, the then ruler of Jerusalem and Judæa. The fact of the question did so. "Where is the King?" was an inquiry which at once put him on one side. The form of it did so still more. Where is He that is "born" to be King was to reproach him tacitly as a usurper. No wonder, therefore, that together "with him"—"with" him and "after" him both, so some render the words—all Jerusalem also was agitated. Agitated with hope. It would be something to get any king—more still such a King as that asked about—in place of such a notorious tyrant as Herod. Agitated with fear. Jerusalem knew by experience what it was to have Herod disturbed. It meant double oppression for them. Next, the results of this agitation had the same significance. There was the question which immediately followed. The point it turned on—where the Christ should be born. The persons it was addressed to—those who from their office and the direction of their studies were the most likely to know. There was the answer returned to this question. An answer from the pages of one of the prophets which spoke so explicitly of "Bethlehem Judah" as the future birthplace of King Messiah, and as the city out of which was to come a "Governor that shall rule My people Israel." There was the further question, propounded by Herod in consequence of this answer. A question with some faith in it but more unbelief. A question asked privately (Mat ), so as not to extend the impression already made by the wise men's inquiry. A question asked "diligently," or with much concernment, as though there might be far more than was wished for in that inquiry. A question asked in much evident subtlety, in order, if possible, to be in a position to prevent that which was feared. See, therefore, how blind, yet how discerning, he was, and some of those he questioned as well. How little they understood the Power that was behind the inquiry of these strangers! How well they understood the direction to which it pointed their thoughts. As well to all these, as in itself, it was a proclamation of Christ.

Being such, it may be regarded, in conclusion, under more aspects than one.

1. As an act of justice to the infant Jesus.—Thus indeed a King, it was only right that He should be presented as such. The equivalent to this is done in all earthly sovereignties when a minor comes to the throne. The actual assumption of power, even the full ascription of power—the solemn coronation—may not follow at once. But the assertion of right is never delayed. For to delay that would be to deny it in fact.

2. As an act of mercy to Israel.—Here was a light given them, which, if they had followed it up, would have led them, as it did the wise men, to the very cradle of Christ!

3. As an act of mercy to all mankind.—It was not without significance that this "star in the East" was manifested to Gentiles and strangers. About this time we find from Virgil and others that there was a general expectation of some Great One amongst the nations of the earth. This message to Gentiles, conveyed in a language which they could all understand (Psa ), was a kind of corroboration of this idea. That great Christian church, indeed, which has been since gathered in so especially from the Gentiles, has understood it so ever since. It was a "manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles"; a beginning of that which has ever since been distinguished by this most distinguishing mark!

HOMILIES ON THE VERSES

Mat . Old types of modern classes.—In the historic facts of this chapter we have types of four classes of men which have ever existed, and which exist still, viz:—

I. Those who earnestly seek the truth.

II. Those who rest in the letter of the truth.

III. Those who are fearfully alarmed at the truth.

IV. Those who are affectionate guardians of the truth.

The Magi represent the first, the scribes and Pharisees the second, Herod the third, and Joseph and Mary the fourth.—D. Thomas, D.D.

Mat . The first-fruits of the Gentiles.—

I. We see here heathen wisdom led by God to the cradle of Christ.

II. The contrast of these Gentiles' joyful eagerness to worship the King of Israel, with the alarm of His own people at the whisper of His name, is a prelude of the tragedy of His rejection, and the passing over of the kingdom to the Gentiles.

III. Then comes the council of the theologians, with its solemn teaching of the difference between orthodoxy and life, and of the utter hollowness of mere knowledge, however accurate, of the letter of Scripture.

IV. Herod's crafty counsel; its absurdity.—If the Child were not Messiah, he need not have been alarmed; if It were, his efforts were fruitless. But he does not see this, and so plots and works underground in the approved fashion of king-craft.

V. The discovery of the King.—The great paradox of Christianity, the manifestation of Divinest power in uttermost weakness, was forced upon them in its most startling form.

VI. Adoration and offering follow discovery.—A. Maclaren, D.D.

Mat . The doom of Herod.—There is hardly any figure in history in whom the tragic irony of dreadful doom has been more vividly or terribly displayed than in that of Herod the Great. His fate has all the elements of pathos and of romance which constitute a great drama, and it was played on a large scene of human history at a moment when the stage was occupied by names famous to all time: Pompey, Cæsar, Crassus, Antony, Cleopatra, Augustus. With all these he is concerned. A great drama, and on a great stage! It is the splendour and the passion of the world that we touch when we read, "Then was Herod troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." He was troubled, troubled with a wholly new and unanticipated trouble, for the peril to his throne, which he had hitherto spent his whole life in arresting and subduing, had come from another direction altogether from that which now disturbed him. The claim that he had had to fear and to resist, and had been forced by his fear at last to stifle by murder, had been not that of the house of David, but of the Maccabean princes. That was the family by whose fall Herod the Great had risen. And now, when he might have supposed that the throne for which he had been driven to pay so dire a price had been secured at last from the fear of a competitor, he hears of the arrival of wise men from afar, asking for One who has just been born "King of the Jews." Why, had not Herod swept every claimant out of the field? Had he not rid himself at last of every terror which could assail him? Yes, but here is the irony. In wiping out of the scene the names of the Maccabees, he had but stripped off the veil that had obscured the memory of David. The Levite dynasty of Mattathias had, after all, been usurping the ground that was due to another. As long as its hope of victory, fed by such new glories, should fill the imagination of Jewish patriotism, the deeper tradition might lie forgotten. But Herod had himself wrecked the hope of the Jews. He had shattered that independence; he had stamped out its last spark; and now his very crimes had liberated a far more dangerous disturbance. A stronger voice, long buried in silence, wakes out of the dust, and cries against him. Behind this, then, and within it, is all the power of gathered prophecy, telling of One who should lift little Bethlehem-Ephrata into high place among the thousands of Israel; for out of it, out of the ancient stock of Jesse, should come One who should be the ruler of God's people in Israel. The entire force of spiritual Judaism, held in reserve hitherto by its doubtful allegiance to an intruding and unauthorised Maccabee, would move at the call of One who touched on the heritage of Judah and on all the sanctities of David. What a strange stroke of judgment! Herod has sacrificed the wife of his love, the children of his heart, to find that they have been his safest barrier against a peril which their removal has endowed with unanticipated life. The heart of the people—he knows it—will shake as corn Under the wind, if once the cry of David is heard in the land. And, therefore, it was a desperate hour when the lonely and savage-hearted king, tortured already by his last sickness, tortured yet deeper by the agonies of his repentance, suddenly knew that all his sin had been in vain if he could not by some swift stroke slay down all the children of two years old and under that had been born in Bethlehem of Judæa. We are shown here, how God uses the sinful resistance of man only to evoke a yet deeper and stronger manifestation of His name.

1. Is not that the whole story of the cross?

2. This is repeated in the story of the church.

3. This is the story of the crisis through which our church has passed in the last fifty years.—Each temporary disaster has served to break down some artificial and incidental support of the truth, only by that disappearance to throw us back on the deeper foundations which no man laid.

4. And each personal life is a repetition of this irony of God.—The sword of Herod only serves to reveal the living Christ; sometimes the sword of doubt, but perhaps more often the bitter blade of pain. There is a peace which passeth all understanding; there is a power in Jesus which suffering alone can disclose; there is a strength which is only made perfect in weakness; there is a life which has its root in death. We know it at last; the Christ of prophecy, the Christ of the Psalms, is become our Christ.—Canon Scott-Holland.

Mat . The birth of Jesus. (For the young.)—"Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa."

I. The village in which Christ was born and the reasons for His being born there.—Christ was born in Bethlehem:—

1. To teach men that the Old Testament was the book of God.—The past is somewhat clear, but the future is dark to all. Yet the writers of the Old Testament named, hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, the place where He would be born, and even the time. This could only have been because God had told them where He would have His Son born.

2. To teach us the importance of little things.—Men would have naturally thought that Christ would be born in the greatest city of the world, but Bethlehem was least among the thousands of Judah. A boy or girl is not to be despised on account of his or her birthplace.

3. There is a beautiful harmony between the birthplace and Him who was born in it.—Bethlehem means the "House of Bread," and Christ is the bread of life.

II. The place in the village in which Christ was born and the reasons for His being born there.—It was not in a house, nor in an inn, nor in a stable, for the "manger" was one of the caves in the adjacent rocks which were used both for the burial of the dead and for a temporary shelter by travellers. A friend of mine, with his children, slept in one of these caves for many a night without suffering any discomfort. Christ was born in that cave:—

1. That He might teach men humility.

2. To teach us not to despise humble birthplaces.—He was not ashamed of the place of His birth, but told His disciples to write about it.

3. To show how willing He was to receive men.—Had He been born in a lofty mansion the people might have been too timid to call; had He been born in a stable they might have been afraid of the cattle; but into the peaceful cave, which was open to all, they could freely come.—J. McAuslane, D.D.

Jesus the wonderful Babe. (For children.)—"Jesus was born." Children are mightily pleased when a new baby appears in the family. I want to speak to you of the most wonderful Babe ever born.

I. He had been talked about, written about, and expected for centuries.—Prophecies. Typical rites, etc. Expectation in heathen world as well as among Jews.

II. His birth caused more excitement than any other birth has done before or since.—Excitement in heaven (Luk ; Luk 2:13-14). On earth (Luk 2:8; Luk 2:17; Mat 2:1, etc.; Luk 2:25, etc.).

III. He was different in Himself from every other babe.—The Child born; the Son given. His name "Wonderful." Incarnation. Without sin, etc.

IV. Far more depended on His life than has depended on any other.—Human salvation. "Thou shalt call His name Jesus," etc.—H. M. Booth.

Mat . The wise men from the East.—Here we have the first indication of the coming fulfilment of the gracious promises of God toward the Gentile world. "He came unto His own and His own received Him not." But these strangers recognise Him and in worship bow before Him. A token this of what was afterward to come to pass. The Jews rejecting Christ, the Gentiles receiving Him. Notice:

I. The guidance which the Magi received.—"Star."

1. God will not with-hold guidance from any who sincerely desire to direct their steps to Christ.

2. If ordinary means are not sufficient, extraordinary means will be employed.

3. If we do not succeed in finding the Saviour, it is certainly not for want of the star.

II. The journey which the Magi took.—Long and arduous, and beset with difficulty, but the faith by which they were inspired surmounted all.

III. The worship which the Magi offered.—It was more than civil homage they paid, it had, undoubtedly, reference to the spiritual dignity of the holy Child. Nor did they come empty-handed. What are the feelings with which we regard Christ—what the homage which we pay to Him?—W. R. Inglis.

Mat . The Child-Saviour.—The salvation of the world in the form of a child:—

I. Concealed, yet well-known.

II. Hated and feared, yet longed for and loved.

III. Signally despised, yet marvellously honoured.

IV. Beset by extreme dangers, yet kept in perfect safety.—J.P. Lange, D.D.

Mat . The inquiry of the wise men.—

1. Though Christ's kingdom be not of this world, yet is He King of saints, the true King of Israel, to whom the throne of David was promised, that He should sit thereon and reign over souls for ever.

2. Saving faith looketh through all clouds of human infirmities in Christ and pitcheth upon some point of excellency in Him. These men behold, by faith, in a new born babe the promised Messiah and the King of Israel. "The King of the Jews" the ordinary style of the Messiah.

3. The least degree of saving knowledge doth set a man to seek after Christ. "Where is He?" say they.

4. Faith will hazard all to find Christ. These men confess Him, with the danger of their life, to be born King of the Jews, and do ask for Him in Jerusalem, even when and where Herod, a stranger, is reigning as king.

5. Though Christ came in the form of a servant, and humbled himself to be born of a mean damsel, yet is His honour to be seen in heaven and earth. A star gives warning to the world that the bright and morning Star is arisen, and from the East wise men do come to confess Him.

6. Though God gives signs and evidences of Christ's coming, yet every man doth not observe them, but such only as God doth reveal them unto. Only these wise men get a right sight of the star.

7. Faith in Christ and love to Him, will spare no pains to find Him.

8. Faith seeth Christ to be God, and that maketh men to overcome a world of difficulties in seeking communion with Him. "We are come to worship Him."—David Dickson.

Mat . Herod and the Jews troubled.—

1. It is no new thing that kings are jealous of Christ, when they hear He is a king. Yet their kingdoms have no such friend as Hebrews 2. Worldly men, settled in their honours, ease and wealth, are troubled about Christ, and could be content to be quiet without Him. All Jerusalem was troubled, more fearing temporal inconveniences by occasion of Christ's nativity, than rejoicing in the hope of salvation through Him.—Ibid.

Fear, the constant companion of the wicked.—

I. The wicked are afraid of the good.—The vicious man cannot conceal from himself that the good feel towards him repugnance, loathing, and contempt, and are resolved to oppose his wickedness with all possible energy.

II. The wicked are afraid of the wicked.—They have a constant dread and mistrust of each other.

III. The wicked are afraid of themselves.—They have no true courage to face the future. Conscience condemns.

IV. The wicked fear unexpected occurrences.

V. The wicked have a dread of the invisible.

VI. The wicked have a constant dread of death.—F. Mathieson.

Mat . Herod a type of the enemies of Christ.—In Herod we have the portrait of Christ's enemies.

1. He dissembleth, like a crafty fox waiting for the prey. So do they.

2. He befriendeth the wise men, who are seeking Christ, so far as it may serve his own ends. So do they.

3. He abuseth the church-men and their assembly, calling for a meeting of the chief priests and scribes and propounding questions to be solved, as if he wished to make good use thereof. Specially he asks of them where Christ should be born, as if none were readier to serve Him than he; meantime he was seeking to find Him out to kill Him. So do they.—David Dickson.

Mat . Rulership.—

I. The world has been taught to hope for rulership.

II. Rulership is right only in proportion as it is derived from Christ.

III. All false rulership trembles before the government of the Redeemer.

IV. Rulership is often connected with improbable circumstances.—

1. Improbable place, "Bethlehem."

2. Improbable person, "young child." The Ruler does not come from the metropolis; does not appear as an imposing personage.

V. True rulership is moral.—Joseph Parker, D.D.

Mat . Herod's plot.—In Herod we see yet more of the ways of the enemies of Christ.

1. He carrieth on his design closely, lest any should suspect his intention. He calleth the wise men privily. So do they.

2. Though he hath learned more of Christ than before, yet because his knowledge is not sanctified, his malice is not abated. So with the crafty politicians of this world.

3. When he hath gained one point about the place of Christ's birth, he goeth about to gain another concerning the time of His birth also, that he may draw so much nearer for the surprising of Christ. So do they, hauling in their nets gradually.

4. He covereth his purpose of murder under pretence of a purpose to worship Christ. So do they, drawing near in profession of religion, that they may more easily betray.

5. To make all fast, he abuseth the simplicity of Christ's friends, and thinketh to make them ignorantly betray Christ into his hands. "Go and search diligently," etc. So do they.—David Dickson.

Hypocrisy.—Hypocrisy may be designated the shadow of faith in the world.

I. It accompanies faith as the shadow the substance.

II. It is a proof of the existence of faith as the shadow is of the substance.

III. It vanishes before faith, as the shadow before the substance.—J. P. Lange, D.D.


Verses 9-11

CRITICAL NOTES

Mat . House.—It is not reasonable to suppose that the holy family would require to stay long in the public khan or caravanserai, where the infant Saviour was born. Worshipped.—The gathering of the Gentiles to the light of Israel was an essential part of true Judaism, and could not but be represented in the Gospel which set forth the glories of the King (Maclaren). Gifts.—Natural enough as the traditional gifts of homage to a ruler (Plumptre). Gold would be always a suitable present. Frankincense and myrrh would be used chiefly in the houses of the great and in holy places. They were prized for the delicious fragrance which they suffused (Morison).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mat

Doing homage.—In these verses the story of the previous verses is carried a step in advance. The infant King is not only heard of now, He is also beheld. Not only, now, is His kingdom proclaimed; not only is there evidence, now, that the proclamation is understood; we also find it obeyed. Only, however, as in the somewhat parallel case of 1Sa , by a few; even by those "wise men" of whom we were previously told. Touching these, we see in this passage:

1. How they were brought to this sight.

2. How they were affected thereby.

I. How they were brought to this sight.—We may attribute this, in the first place, to their own perseverance and faith. Unlike the priests, who had only pointed out the right place (Mat ); unlike Herod, who had only asked others to seek it (Mat 2:8); these men started to find it. It would appear, moreover, that they did so with some degree of anxiety. If they had gained something in hearing of Bethlehem, they had lost something in missing the star. (For so the subsequent mention of it in Mat 2:9-10, seems to imply.) For all that, however, they at once followed such light as they had. Bethlehem was the place in which they were bidden to search. To Bethlehem, therefore, "when they had heard the king, they departed." They were brought to it, next, by the special mercy of God. This was manifested in two separate ways. The way of special encouragement. As they started (so it appears) the "star" reappeared. The sight filled them with joy (Mat 2:10). Knowing to what it had previously guided them, viz. to hearing of Bethlehem as the predicted birthplace of the King they were seeking, they naturally rejoiced to see it again; and felt its reappearance so to be like the voice of a tried friend in their ears. The way of specific direction. After reappearing, the "‘star' went before them" (Mat 2:9) to show them the right way. After going before them, it "stood" still (ibid.), to show them the right spot. "There—under that roof—in that dwelling—is the sight you desire. You have but to go in."

II. How they were affected by what they saw in that dwelling.—Very significant, on this point, was their demeanour. In a direct manner we are told very little of what they beheld. "They saw the young Child and His mother." They saw the Babe for which they were seeking, where such a babe might be expected to be, in the arms of its mother. What kind of sight was thus seen by them we can only see, as it were, by reflection—in their looks and gestures. They "fall down" before that Infant in arms. They offer Him worship and homage. Their knees, their hands, their lips even (?) are kissing the ground before Him. Every gesture shows that they have found in Him the King whom they sought. Almost more significant, next, are their gifts. "The peculiar treasure of kings" (Ecc ) is what they present unto Him. The things which they have brought from so far, and carried so carefully, and concealed from all others, they "open" for Him. The tribute of "gold," the adoration of "frankincense," the preserving virtue of "myrrh," are what we see them present. Some think that there is unconscious prophecy as well as homage in this last; and that in this mention of "myrrh," so soon after His birth, there is a silent reference to His death (see Joh 19:39). At any rate, about the homage there is no manner of doubt. Neither is there any doubt, so we may notice yet further, about the impressiveness of this homage. Not only the nature of the gifts which were presented, but the men that brought them, the distance they came from, the guidance vouchsafed them, and the very tenderness of age of the King to whom these offerings were brought, are significant on this point. Much is rightly made in the Bible of the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon and of the gifts which she brought (1Ki 10:2; 1Ki 10:10, etc.; also Luk 11:31). Great was the evidence afforded thereby of his reputation and power. All this homage, however, was paid to one who, in the ripeness of his age, was seated on the throne of his father David, and had just completed the temple of God. The homage paid here was to an infant in arms, who was hid in a dwelling which had to be pointed out to eyes that had been looking for it for months. It spoke, therefore, with even louder voice and greater accentuation of meaning. It showed that Jesus in obscurity was felt to be greater far than even Solomon in his glory; and that this Son of David, even in His infancy, was far above that!

HOMILIES ON THE VERSES

Mat . The Magi led to Bethlehem.—The wise men follow the direction of Scripture and go toward Bethlehem, having (so far as we read) neither convoy nor encouragement of any company.

1. If we desire to find Christ we must resolve to go after Him, alone or in company, either with or without encouragements from men, as God shall dispose.

2. God is not wanting to such as are on the way to seek Christ, but will renew directions and encouragements unto them as they stand in need; for the star which for a time disappeared, now appeareth again to them.

3. What one means doth not reach, God supplieth by another. The Scripture had told them of Bethlehem, but had not descended so low as the particular house. God supplieth the rest, by the direction of the star.

4. Those means which do lead a man most certainly unto Christ should be the matter of his special joy. "They rejoiced," etc.—David Dickson.

Mat . Christ found and worshipped.—

1. Such as seek Christ in truth shall find Him at length.

2. Such as believe that the Scriptures speak of Christ will see Him, though God, in His deepest humiliation, and by faith will pierce through all impediments.

3. Riches, wisdom, honour, and all that we have, ought to be laid down at Christ's feet and offered to the service of Christ, as the fountain and owner thereof.—Ibid.

Consecration and no-consecration.—Whatever more there may be—and there is much more—in the visit of the wise men to the manger-cradle at Bethlehem, there is at least the lesson of consecration. These wise men had no greater joy than in emptying themselves of their treasures, and bestowing them in humblest adoration upon Him. To every man there comes the old choice of the Greek mythical hero—the choice between virtue and pleasure, between good and evil, between duty and frivolity, between consecration to Christ and subjugation by some other master. Think of a few of the ways in which this call for a choice is answered.

I. There is the answer—which is no answer—of simple indifference.

II. Another form of no-consecration is simple self-culture.—It recognizes that we are endowed with a complex nature, every part of which is capable of being developed. And this development, this contact, are in themselves enjoyment of an exalted kind. Self-culture, even on a humble scale, will never disappoint. But this is short of consecration; and the Christian conscience tells us that it is far inferior to it.

III. Consecration implies not only self-culture but self-surrender, and more than this, the joy of self-surrender. There may be consecration to a great cause, like justice or freedom. There may be consecration to an idea which we almost personify, and even deify, like truth or beauty. But it is to a person—to some one greater, purer, better than ourselves—that consecration is at once most passionately and most perseveringly rendered. And never does consecration of self take a nobler form than when a young man prostrates himself before the feet of his Saviour, and offers to Him, in their prime, the fulness of all his powers.—H. M. Butler.

The homage of the wise men.—

I. An outburst of faith.—

1. In their beholding Christ.

2. Doing obeisance.

3. Presenting noblest gifts.

II. An indication of order and succession of believing experience.—

1. We behold.

2. We fall down.

3. We present gifts.

III. A picture of genuine faith.—

1. Vision issuing in humiliation.

2. Adoration issuing in joy of faith.

3. Perseverance of faith issuing in self-dedication and works of love.—J. P. Lange, D.D.


Verses 12-18

CRITICAL NOTES

Mat . Egypt.—At all times the readiest place of refuge for the Israelites, whether from famine or from political oppression. In Alexandria the Jews numbered a fifth of the population. Wherever, therefore, the infant Saviour's home was in Egypt, it would be in the midst of His brethren according to the flesh (Carr).

Mat . Fulfilled.—The real key to the Evangelist's quotation (Hos 11:1), seems to be found in the principle that the whole Old Testament is but the bud of the New. And not only so, but Israel was Israel, and God's national son, just because it included in itself Him in whom is included the true Israel, and who is the only begotten Son of God. They were called out of Egypt chiefly that they might bring up with them the Seed of seeds—the Christ. Hence, when Hosea wrote the words which the Evangelist quotes, the kernel of Divine idea that was within their rind or outer shell could not possibly have been fully realised, or fulfilled, if the Christ had remained in Egypt (Morison).

Mat . Children.—All the male children, as is indicated by the gender of the article in the original ( πάντας τοὺς παῖδας). Not mentioned by Josephus. If we consider how small a town Bethlehem was, it is not likely there would be many male children in it from two years old and under; and when we think of the number of fouler atrocities which Josephus has recorded of Herod, it is unreasonable to make anything of his silence on this (D. Brown).

Mat . Rama … Eachel.—See Jer 31:15. 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 lamentation 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 (Lange).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mat

Apparent reversal.—The first impression produced by this passage is that of contrast with the last. The exceeding brightness of the previous verses appears exchanged for corresponding darkness in these. How far this is true, therefore, may well be our first point of inquiry. How far we find anything of a different kind may equally well be our next.

I. How far the story is dark.—It is so, in the first place, in what it tells us of the flight of the heralds. For such in fact, and such eminently also, these "wise men" had been; heralds sent by, heralds guided by, heralds loyal to God. It is surprising, therefore, to see such men in danger at all; more so to see the nature of the only counsel which is given them in their danger. They are warned of God (Mat ) to avoid Herod, and take "another way" home. Is this all He is pleased to do for such exceptional servants as these? Not less surprising is what we read here of the flight of their King. "Arise, and take the young child, and his mother, and flee" (Mat 2:13). How unexpected is such counsel from such a quarter, and about such persons as these! That the "child" should be in danger from the blind madness of Herod, Herod being such as he was, might have been looked for. What we should not have looked for is such a method of dealing therewith. Is this the sequel of that depth of homage of which we were told just now? Is this all that He who sent that "dream" is pleased to do for that King? Bid those who had charge of Him merely take Him away? Bid Him, in fact, become a fugitive and exile because of the enmity of about the vilest of kings? Very surprising also, in the last place, is the consequent slaughter of the infants of Bethlehem and its "coasts." This surprise seems to throw the other two into still stronger "relief." What we expect from a king is to preserve life, and not to destroy it. Especially do we expect this in the case of those who are both guiltless and weak. How, otherwise, can it be said of him with truth as in Rom 13:3-4? Yet what do we find brought about here in the case of this Ruler in chief? What is the first result of His being proclaimed and acknowledged as such by the "disposition" of God? The indiscriminate slaughter of many who were both offenceless and weak; and not improbably (it has been thought), from the place of their birth, near kinsfolk of Himself (Mat 2:16). Anyway, it is certain that they were very near Him, both in place and in age; also not wholly unlike Him in innocence too. How strange, therefore, that His proclamation as King should have caused destruction to them!

II. How far it is possible to trace light in this darkness.—Do we not, for example, see something of this in what is told us here about men? What is so surprising to us now does not appear to have been equally surprising to some of them at the time. Being nearer to it they appear to have seen more in it than we do so far off. In the case of the Magi, for instance, when commanded to flee, they appear to have obeyed the dream as unhesitatingly as they had previously followed the star. Joseph, also, in regard to his dream, appears to have been at least as swift to obey; rising up "by night" (Mat , cf. Gen 22:3) to do as God bid, and being evidently as satisfied here with God's appointments or "judgments" as the Psalmist of old (Psa 119:62). Perceptibly therefore, he is not walking here like a man quite in the dark. Also, we find some light here in what is told us of God. In judging this we must bear in mind how God is represented here as speaking to His people—viz., as in long previous days, by "visions and dreams" (see chap. Mat 1:20; Mat 2:12-13; Mat 2:22; Gen 15:1; Gen 46:2; Isa 1:1; Dan. passim, etc.). We must also remember how it often is with our "visions and dreams," how the usual sequences and distinctions of waking life are not always observed in such things, and how the dreamer himself may sometimes almost appear to be two persons in one. Viewed in this way we can see a correspondence between the experience of Israel as described in Hos 11:1, and the experience of the Hope of Israel as narrated here, in the land of Egypt. In a similar way we can understand a wide massacre of infants in the neighbourhood of Rachel's sepulchre (Gen 35:19), being mystically viewed as though it were a bereavement of Rachel herself, especially, perhaps, when we bear in mind some of the particulars of her sad history as a mother (Gen 35:18). Anyway this is how the inspiration of the Evangelist bids us look on these prophecies. We are to see in them tokens that the things spoken of were not unexpected by God; that they were parts rather of some mighty plan which He had in view from the first; and that they are not to be judged, therefore, by merely observing their appearance at the time. If these considerations do not remove the darkness they should at least reconcile us to its existence, and show that it carries with it the seeds of that which will fully dispel it in time (cf. Psa 97:11).

See, therefore, in conclusion:—

1. The exceeding watchfulness of God's care.—Over the Magi. How He reads the feelings of Herod about them! How He warns them in consequence! How "precious" their lives are in His "sight" (Psa ). Over that holy Babe. Noting Its peril. Giving time for escape by sending the wise men away, and not back. Telling Joseph of it by night. Providing in Joseph himself so faithful a guardian, so obedient, so prompt. Providing a place of refuge at once so safe and so near, being out of Herod's jurisdiction and yet not out of reach. Probably also (if we may judge from the "two years old" of Mat 2:16), postponing all this till the Babe and its mother should be equal to the journey required. If that holy One has to fly, it shall not be in vain.

2. The assured depth of God's plans.—When soldiers are under the lead of a commander in whom they have fully learned to confide, and find him issuing a series of orders which they did not expect and do not understand, what do they say? Not that he is in error, but that they are in ignorance. Not that he does not know, but that he only knows, what it is he is doing. We may rightly argue in the same way of the perplexities of this case. They are like "sounding a retreat" when we should have expected a "command to advance." It is the part of faith not to believe less, but to believe more, on this ground. Nothing is more likely than that the commands of an all-wise Commander should at times be perplexing to us. Never is this more likely than when His plans are most remarkable for their depth.

HOMILIES ON THE VERSES

Mat . The King in exile.—Without supposing that the Evangelist moulded his Gospel on the plan of the Pentateuch (as Dr. Delitzsch in his New Investigations into the Origin and Plan of the Canonical Gospels tries to show), we cannot but see that there is a real parallel between the beginnings of the national life of Israel and the commencement of the life of Christ. Mat 2:13-23 bring this parallel into great prominence. There are three sections, each of which has for its centre an Old Testament prophecy.

I. The flight into Egypt, and the prophecy fulfilled therein.—In their original place Hosea's words are not a prophecy at all, but simply a part of a tender historical résumé of God's dealings with Israel, by which the prophet would touch his contemporaries' hearts into penitence and trust. How, then, is the Evangelist justified in regarding them as prophetic, and in looking on Christ's flight as their fulfilment? The answer is to be found in that analogy between the national and the personal Israel which runs through all the Old Testament, and reaches its highest clearness in the second part of Isaiah's prophecies. Jesus Christ was what Israel was destined and failed to be, the true Servant of God, His Anointed, His Son, the medium of conveying His name to the world. The ideal of the nation was realised in Him. His brief stay in Egypt served the very same purpose in His life which their four hundred years there did in theirs—it sheltered Him from His enemies, and gave Him room to grow. Just as the infant nation was unawares fostered in the very lap of the country which was the symbol of the world hostile to God, so the infant Christ was guarded and grew there. The prophecy is a prophecy just because it is history; for the history was all a shadow of the future, and He is the true Israel and the Son of God.

II. The slaughter of the innocents, and the prophecy fulfilled therein.—Jer is still less a prophecy than was the passage in Hosea. Seeing that the prophet's words do not describe a fact, but are a poetical personification to convey simply the idea of calamity, which might make the dead mother weep, the word "fulfilled" can obviously be applied to them only in a modified and somewhat elastic sense, and is sufficiently defended if we recognise in the slaughter of these children a woe which, though small in itself, yet, when considered in reference to its inflicter, a usurping king of the Jews, and in reference to its occasion, the desire to slay the God-sent King, and in reference to its place as first of the tragic series of martyrdoms for Messiah, was heavy with a sorer burden of national disaster, when seen by eyes made wise by death, than even the captivity, which seemed to falsify the promises of God and the hopes of a thousand years.

III. The return to Nazareth, and the prophecy fulfilled therein.—Such prophecy was fulfilled in the very fact that He was all His life known as "of Nazareth," and the verbal assonance between that name, "the shoot," and the word "Nazarene" is a finger-post pointing to the meaning of the place of abode chosen for Him.—A. Maclaren, D.D.

Mat . The Divine Infant sent away.—

1. Our Lord was persecuted so soon as He was known in the world. He is sought to be slain who came to save men.

2. He who is the Ancient of days, the everlasting Father, is called a young child (Isa ).

3. The Lord will have ordinary means used when they may be had. He will save Christ by flight, and will do no miracle needlessly.

4. It is safe to wait for the Lord in all things, and to attend His providence. "Be thou there until I bring thee word."—David Dickson.

Mat . Joseph's speedy obedience.—

1. When our direction is clear, our obedience should be speedy.

2. When Christ is known He will be more dear than anything else. As the Child is first in Joseph's commission to take care of Him, so in his obedience. "The young Child and His mother."

3. Any place, if God send us there and if Christ be in our company, is good. Even Egypt.—Ibid.

Mat . The church's calling.—These words, spoken by the prophet Hosea, were not accommodated to Christ, but were most truly fulfilled in Him. They are evermore finding a spiritual fulfilment also in the church of the redeemed. If we have been called out of Egypt by the voice of God to be His children, what are some of the duties which flow out from our high vocation?

I. To leave Egypt altogether behind us.—To have no going back to it, even in thought, much less drawing back to it in deed.

II. Not to expect to enter the promised land at once.—There is a time and span between, in which our God will prove us and humble us, and show us what is in our hearts. This is also a sifting time; a separating of the true members of the church from the false.—R. C. Trench, D.D.

Mat . Goodness v. Selfishness.—

1. The power of goodness is moral; the power of selfishness is physical.

2. The spirit of goodness is preservative; the spirit of selfishness is destructive.

3. The result of goodness is "goodwill towards men"; the result of selfishness is "lamentation and mourning and great weeping."

4. See what the world would come to under a selfish rulership! Passion flies to the sword! Disappointment thirsts for blood! Say, who shall be king—Christ or Herod? The apparent blessings connected with the reign of Herod are connected with danger. It is always dangerous to be seeking flowers on the slopes of a volcano.—Joseph Parker, D.D.

Mat . The cruelty of the disappointed king.—

1. God turneth the wisdom of His enemies to folly. Herod found himself "mocked."

2. Wicked heads do take it hardly if every instrument whom they employ and abuse do not serve their base designs.

3. Enemies of Christ, when fraud doth fail them, do fall to open rage.

4. Satan and his instruments do labour to overthrow such as are likest unto Christ, if they cannot overtake Himself.

5. Wicked men do not reverence God's providence, but are incensed the more to do mischief.—David Dickson.


Verses 19-23

CRITICAL NOTES

Mat . Archelaus.—Succeeded to Judæa, Samaria and Idumea, but Augustus refused him the title of king till it should be seen how he conducted himself, giving him only the title of Ethnarch. Above this, however, he never rose. The people, indeed, recognised him as his father's successor; and so it is here said that he "reigned in the room of his father Herod." But after ten years' defiance of the Jewish law and cruel tyranny, the people lodged heavy complaints against him, and the Emperor banished him to Vienne in Gaul, reducing Judæa again to a Roman province. Then "the sceptre" clean "departed from Judah" (Brown). Galilee, where Antipas, brother of Archelaus, was ruling under the title of Tetrarch. He was a tyrant too, but not so savage as Archelaus (Morison).

Mat . Nazareth.—Said to signify "the Protectress" (Heb. natsar), a small town of central Galilee, on the edge of the plain of Esdraelon, beautifully situated on the side of a steep hill, within a sheltered valley. Nazarene.—The meaning of this passage was probably as clear to the contemporaries of St. Matthew as the other references to prophecy (Mat 2:15; Mat 2:17); for us it is involved in doubt.

1. Nazarene cannot = Nazarite: the word differs in form, and in no sense could Christ be called a Nazarite.

2. The quotation is probably not from a lost prophecy. One meaning of the word Nazorœus is an inhabitant of Nazareth, but the word either—

1. Recalls the Hebrew word netser a branch, a title by which the Messiah is designated, Isa ; or:

2. Connects itself in thought with the Hebrew natsar, to save or protect, and so has reference to the name and work of Jesus; or:

3. Is a synonym for "contemptible" or "lowly," from the despised position of Nazareth. The play upon words which 1 and 2 involve is quite characteristic of Hebrew phraseology. The sound of the original would be either—

1. He whom the prophet called the "Netser" dwells at "Netser" (see Smith's Bib. Dict.); or:

2. He who is called "Notsri" (my protector) dwells at "Natsaret" (the protectress) (Carr).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Mat

Settled obscurity.—The main idea of the last passage in comparison with the passage which preceded it was that of contrast. The main idea of the present passage in comparison with the last is that of continuation. Things are found to remain—things are meant to remain—notwithstanding some changes, very much as they were. What the infant Jesus was seen to become in the last story, He is seen to continue in this. We may see this exhibited:

1. In the circumstances of His return from Egypt.

2. In its immediate consequences.

3. In its final result.

I. In the circumstances of His return.—There is a clear correspondence between these—certain minor differences only excepted—and those of the previous flight. Take the differences first: Herod was alive on the former occasion. Not only is he now no longer alive, but the same is true also of all who had sought "the young Child's life" (Mat ). The word "flee," also, was used on the former occasion; the word "go" only on this—probably because the occasion was not an urgent one as before. Also, probably, for the same reason, we read nothing now of going "by night." But, these exceptions excepted, all else is very much as before. The same kind of messenger or "angel"; the same sphere of appearance, in a vision or "dream"; the same kind and style of injunction; the same gracious vouchsafing of reasons in support of it; and the same ready and implicit obedience thereto, are found here as before (Mat 2:19-21). In all respects the Child is to go back as it had previously come. With much care and clearness of injunction, there was nothing of the royal, in the first of these cases. There is neither less nor more, in either respect, in this last.

II. In the immediate consequences of this return.—

1. On their negative side.—The direct route from Egypt to "the land of Israel" (Mat ), would bring Joseph and his charges first to the territory of "Judæa" (Mat 2:22). Possibly, also, there were other reasons which would bring Joseph there first. He might naturally think of going back first to the exact locality he had left. He was connected with it, as we know (Luk 2:4), by his ancestry. Also by the way in which the story of Jesus had been connected with it so far. He might even be thinking, for the same reasons, of making that place his abode. If such were his intentions, they seem to account exactly for what we read of him next, viz. that "when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judæa in the room of his father Herod (Mat 2:22), he was afraid to go thither." He was afraid to do, that is to say, (so it seems to mean), what he had thought of doing before. Anyway we find that he was checked in this way from taking a step which would have had (if taken) a certain kind of kingly appearance about it. Going back to "Bethlehem" with its many associations, might not have amounted to much in the then lowly estate of the house of David; but it might also have looked like a tacit assertion of the royalty of their rights. Even so much as this, therefore, at that time, was not to be done.

2. On their positive side.—When thus checked, Joseph, of course, would be in some doubt. If not "thither," then "whither"? So he would ask. We know that he had connections in Galilee; as also that it was from Galilee, some time before, that he had come up to Bethlehem to be taxed (Luk ). Also we know from other sources (Jos., Ant., XVII. viii. 1), that Galilee was not included in the jurisdiction of this son of Herod—a man already distinguished for his cruelty (ibid., ix. 3)—but in that of his brother Antipas. If these things led Joseph, of themselves (as seems not improbable) to think of going to Galilee, the idea was confirmed—or may have been altogether suggested—by a fourth communication from heaven. "Being warned of God in a dream, he withdrew into the parts of Galilee," into that despised province, that is to say, that obscure locality, where he would be almost as much of an exile, and quite as far from anything kingly, as in Egypt itself. So directly did God thus order again, that Jesus should still be as He was.

III. The final result.—There is an air—

1. Of great deliberation in what we read about this. "He came and dwelt"—he took up his abode—he settled down—in that part of the world. He did so also—it is further noted—"in a city called Nazareth;" as though to bid us observe that he did so, notwithstanding its name; notwithstanding the well-known ill repute of its name (cf. Joh ). For all this the Evangelist would have us observe that this was the place which he "chose"—so far, but so far only, like him we read of in Gen 13:11. There is an air—

2. Of even greater deliberation in what accompanies this. To "dwell" in such a city—to be brought up in such a city—would either mean no distinction at all, or else distinction of a most unenviable description. Yet this, we are reminded, is just what God Himself had planned of old about the Messiah. The prophets had foretold in many places that He was to bear a name of special reproach. It was the fulfilment of such passages that God had in view in the choice of this place. He meant Jesus of Bethlehem not to be known as such, but as "Jesus of Nazareth" among men. He meant David's Son—for a time at any rate—to be lost in the crowd. He meant to continue, in a word, what He had begun to indicate, when He bade Joseph take that infant King, and "flee" for His life!

From the passage thus considered we see:

1. How deliberate sometimes are God's ways.—As with Moses who was forty years in the wilderness (Act ) before being sent to effect the deliverance of Israel; as with John the Baptist (Luk 1:80), so with that Greater than either whom we are told about here. He is purposely sent into, and left in obscurity for nearly thirty years of His life—nearly a "generation" in fact (Luk 3:23). The sudden blaze of Luk 2:46-47, only makes this the more strange. How was it that One who could speak so well on that occasion was afterwards in silence so long?

2. How significant they are here.—When we see a lamp of great brilliancy lit and rejoiced in, and then immediately taken down and hid "under a bushel," and afterwards kept there, though still unseen, with sedulous care, what do we expect if the master of the house is one who knows what he does? Evidently, that he has some great purpose in view! Most probably, also, that that purpose is of too profound a nature to be understood by us yet!

HOMILIES ON THE VERSES

Mat . Joseph.—

I. A pattern of self-abnegating submission.

II. An example of its rewards.—The angel ever comes again to those who have once obeyed and continue to wait.—A. Maclaren, D.D.

Mat . Joseph's new fear.—

1. No wonder the children of wicked parents are suspected till their regeneration appear. Joseph fears lest Archelaus should be father-like or father-worse.

2. When God will comfort a man He removeth one doubt as well as another. Cf. chap. Mat . The Lord's warrant and clear direction doth quiet the mind.—David Dickson.

Mat . The prophets mission.—The prophets are not primarily poets; poetry is not their professional office: they only happen by the way to be poetically gifted; they have another function to the purposes and uses of which they bend all their imaginative gifts.

I. They are intensely and supremely practical.—They have practical ends to serve, practical objects to achieve; they are statesmen directing, controlling the natural mind to political issues; they are furthering alliances, carrying out policies, making history.

II. They are preachers.—Aiming at the conscience rather than the imagination, claiming the will rather than the emotions.

III. They have an official commission to fulfil to which all their poetical capacities are directed—not merely exercising the gift of genius of singling out the truth implanted in them by God, that is the high mission of every poet; but a formal and certified commission to convey orders, to declare a Divine message, to promote a definite, deliberate counsel of God, to point forward to a certified and warranted goal of national history.—Canon Scott-Holland.

Prophecy.—What are the conditions and assumptions which are involved in prophecy?

I. It assumes one God, enduring, unchanging, supreme, who inhabiteth eternity.

II. The one God is holy.—He has a fixed spiritual character which constitutes His unity—a character which is consistent and true and rational, working by definite vital principles, a character of deliberate purpose, of certified aim, not wilfully wayward, not incalculably uncertain, but firm—loving for ever what He has once loved, and hating for ever what He has once hated.

III. He is a God who reveals Himself to man.—This revelation of Himself must be adapted to the measure of man's capacity; it must be progressive, educational, disciplinary. The "I am" can but gradually reveal what it will be, and yet all that it will reveal itself to be will be only an unveiling of the eternal "I am." And history is the medium of this unveiling.

IV. A specialised history.—God's purpose is definite and real; it cannot remain vague, primeval, tentative, and diffused. It must disentangle itself, sharpen its outlines, shape its materials, push its way forward.

V. As the mind of God opens it points more and more to a fixed fulfilment.—Ibid.

Jesus at Nazareth.—Equally rich was the present life on which the eyes of the boy Jesus looked out. Across Esdraelon, opposite to Nazareth, there emerged from the Samarian hills the road from Jerusalem, thronged annually with pilgrims, and the road from Egypt with its merchants going up and down. The Midianite caravans could be watched for miles coming up from the fords of Jordan; and the caravans from Damascus wound round the foot of the hill on which Nazareth stands. Or if the village boys climbed the northern edge of their home, there was another road almost within sight, where the companies were still more brilliant—that direct highway between Acre and the Decapolis, along which legions marched, and princes swept with their retinues, and all sorts of travellers from all countries went to and fro. The Roman ranks, the Roman eagles, the wealth of noblemen's litters and equipages cannot have been strange to the eyes of the boys of Nazareth, especially after their twelfth year, when they went up to Jerusalem, or with their fathers visited famous Rabbis, who came down from Jerusalem, peripatetic among the provinces. Nor can it have been the eye only which was stirred. For all the rumour of the Empire entered Palestine close to Nazareth—the news from Rome about the Emperor's health, about the changing influence of the great statesmen, about the prospects at court of Herod, or of the Jews, about Cæsar's last order concerning the tribute, or whether the policy of the procurator would be sustained. Many Galilæan families must have had relatives in Rome; Jews would come back to this countryside to tell of the life of the world's capital. Moreover, the scandals of the Herods buzzed up and down these roads; pedlars carried them, and the peripatetic Rabbis would moralise upon them. And the customs, too, of the neighbouring Gentiles—their loose living, their sensuous worship, their absorption in business, the hopelessness of the inscriptions on their tombs, multitudes of which were readable (and some are still) on the roads round Galilee—all this would furnish endless talk in Nazareth, both among men and boys. Here, then, He grew up and suffered temptation, who was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. The perfect example of His purity and patience was achieved—not easily as behind a wide fence which shut the world out—but amid rumour and scandal and every provocation to unlawful curiosity and premature ambition. A vision of all the kingdoms of the world was as possible from Nazareth as from the Mount of Temptation. The pressure and problems of the world outside God's people must have been felt by the youth of Nazareth as by few others; yet the scenes of prophetic missions to it—Elijah's and Elisha's—were also within sight. But the chief lesson which Nazareth has for us is the possibility of a pure home and a spotless youth in the very face of the evil world.—Professor G. A. Smith in Expositor.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Matthew 2:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/matthew-2.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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