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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Matthew 2:22

But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee,
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Archelaus (Archaelaus);   Dream;   Jesus, the Christ;   Joseph;   Miracles;   Thompson Chain Reference - Dreams;   Galilee;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Wine;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Archelatus;   Herod;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Galilee;   Herod;   Joseph the husband of mary;   Judea;   Mary;   Nazareth;   Zealot;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Sleep;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Hutchinsonians;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Archelaus;   Divination;   Herod Archelaus;   Herod the Great;   Jesus;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Archelaus;   Dream;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Archaeology and Biblical Study;   Archelaus;   District;   Herod;   Interest;   Joseph;   Matthew, the Gospel of;   Nazareth, Nazarene;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Archelaus;   Chronology of the New Testament;   Herod;   Interpretation;   Magi;   Magic, Divination, and Sorcery;   Mss;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Admonition;   Archelaus ;   Boyhood ;   Dates (2);   Dream (2);   Egypt;   Fear ;   Flight;   Infancy;   Joseph (2);   Portion ;   Turning;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Archelaus ;   Dreams;   Herod the Great;   Herod, Family of;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Archelaus;   Bethlehem;   Gospel;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Archela'us;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Archelaus;   Dream;   Go;   Herod;   Jesus Christ (Part 1 of 2);   Joseph, Husband of Mary;   Reign;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Archelaus;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Jesus of Nazareth;   Tetrarch;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Verse Matthew 2:22. When he heard that Archelaus did reign — Herod, having put Antipater his eldest son to death, altered his will, and thus disposed of his dominions: he gave the tetrarchy of Galilee and Petrea to his son Antipas; the tetrarchy of Gaulonitis, Trachonitis, Batanea, and Paneadis, to his son Philip; and left the kingdom of Judea to his eldest remaining son, Archelaus. This son partook of the cruel and blood-thirsty disposition of his father: at one of the passovers, he caused three thousand of the people to be put to death in the temple and city. For his tyranny and cruelty, Augustus deprived him of the government, and banished him. His character considered, Joseph, with great propriety, forbore to settle under his jurisdiction.

He turned aside into the parts of Galilee — Here Antipas governed, who is allowed to have been of a comparatively mild disposition: and, being intent on building two cities, Julias and Tiberias, he endeavoured, by a mild carriage and promises of considerable immunities, to entice people from other provinces to come and settle in them. He was besides in a state of enmity with his brother Archelaus: this was a most favourable circumstance to the holy family; and though God did not permit them to go to any of the new cities, yet they dwelt in peace, safety, and comfort at Nazareth.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Matthew 2:22". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

12. Return to Nazareth (Matthew 2:19-23; Luke 2:39-40)

Upon hearing of Herod’s death, Joseph and Mary returned with the infant Jesus to Palestine (Matthew 2:19-21). Since the new king Archelaus was as unjust and cruel as his father Herod, they considered it unsafe to stay in Judea, so went north to their home town of Nazareth. As the years of Jesus’ childhood passed, he developed in body, mind and spirit (Matthew 2:22-23; Luke 2:39-40).

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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Matthew 2:22". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

He heard that Archelaus did reign - Archelaus possessed a cruel and tyrannical disposition similar to his father. At one of the Passovers he caused 3,000 of the people to be put to death in the temple and city. For his crimes, after he had reigned 9 years, he was banished by Augustus, the Roman emperor, to Gaul, where he died. Knowing his character, and fearing that he would not be safe, Joseph hesitated about going there, and was directed by God to go to Galilee, a place of safety.

The parts of Galilee - The country of Galilee. At this time the land of Palestine was divided into three parts: Galilee, on the north; Samaria, in the middle; and Judea, on the south. Galilee was under the government of Herod Antipas, who was comparatively a mild prince, and in his dominions Joseph might find safety.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 2:22". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Chapter Two

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king ( Matthew 2:1 ),

This is Herod the Great, that little short monster. He was a little over four feet tall, and as really short little guys probably suffered a tremendous ego problem. And thus significantly everything he did was big. I mean, he built great fortresses out of great rocks. I stood next to a rock that is along the Western Wall in Jerusalem that Herod had built as a retaining wall, to build up the temple mount to place the temple on top. Back underneath where tourists can't go, I stood by a rock that was forty-seven feet long, ten feet high, and ten feet wide. It is estimated to weigh one hundred and seventy tons. This little Herod had that rock put there.

He was a genius at building. He built, of course, the Herodian. He built Masada. He built another fortress similar to the Herodian that has not yet really been excavated, the Alexandrian. He built, of course, the great temple in Jerusalem. He built the temple mount area. He built Caesarea, and tremendous building projects by this little genius; built the pools over near Bethlehem, and the whole water system for Jerusalem. Today you can still look at many of the building projects of Herod and stand in absolute amazement at the building genius of this little fellow.

He also was horribly cruel and paranoid. He thought that his sons and his wife, Miriam, were plotting against him, so he had them all put to death. Then he began to miss Miriam, so he built a big monument to Miriam because he missed her after he had killed her. They used to say, "It's safer to be Herod's pig than to be his son," because he was always paranoid that his sons were trying to take over his throne. So he was having them killed all the time and wiped out most of his sons because of his paranoia. He was a very insecure little fellow and that is why these big fortresses that he built, and would seek refuge in the fortresses.

Now in time, he realized that as the result of his own cruelty and meanness, no one would weep when he died. And he couldn't stand the thought of no one weeping when he died, so he gave orders that when he died all of his top officials were to be killed, executed, because he wanted people to mourn when he was dead. And he knew they wouldn't mourn for him, so in order that there would be mourning when he died, he ordered all these popular officials to be put to death when he died. Fortunately, when he died, they had enough sense to realize, well, why should we obey his order; he's dead? And the other officials were not executed and thus he went unmourned.

Now in those days when

Herod was king, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, and they said, Where is he that is born the King of the Jews? ( Matthew 2:1-2 ).

Can't you imagine what that would do to this little insecure Herod? These guys are asking. I'm the King of the Jews. What do you mean, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?" He was so threatened in his position that when these men came from the east to inquire of the birth of the King of the Jews, he really got shook.

They said,

for we have seen his star in the east, and we are come to worship Him ( Matthew 2:2 ).

Now there is an awful lot that has been written about the star of Bethlehem. They have said it was a conjunction of planets, and they have come up with many different speculations as to what astronomically constituted the star of Bethlehem. In the Griffith Observatory in December, they oftentimes have as that monthly lecture, the star of Bethlehem. And of course with that in the Planetarium there, they can adjust the lights in the ceiling to represent the skies in any period of history. They can take you back through the years to the time of the birth of Christ and show you the constellations, planet alignments, and so forth. They have a very interesting lecture on the star of Bethlehem.

But just exactly what did take place that constituted this special sign in the sky is a matter of many men's speculations. But that, at the present time, as valid as it is, it is the speculation of man, and we do not know for sure. And God did not call me to speculate. So we will just let that go.

we have seen his star in the East, and we have come to worship him ( Matthew 2:2 ).

If they were in the East and saw the star, then it evidently led them westward. So it was some kind of perhaps special and supernatural sign, as I'll point out in a moment.

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all of Jerusalem with him ( Matthew 2:3 ).

Because when Herod is troubled, everybody is troubled.

And when he had gathered all the chief priests and the scribes of the people together, he demanded [not he inquired] of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, [look these fellows know their Scriptures] in Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet [the prophet Micah], And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel ( Matthew 2:4-6 ).

They didn't finish the prophecy. But you go back to Micah and you read, "whose going forth is from everlasting" ( Micah 5:2 ). And he speaks about His sitting upon the throne and reigning. So Bethlehem's pinpointed as the birthplace.

So when Herod had privately called the wise men, he inquired of them diligently when they first saw the star ( Matthew 2:7 ).

So they told him when they first saw the star and began their journey. So

And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also ( Matthew 2:8 ).

Herod had a very perverted sense of worship.

When they had heard the king [that is king Herod], they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was ( Matthew 2:9 ).

It is hard to really explain then this star by some kind of a natural phenomenon, in that they saw it in the East. It led them west, but now it is leading them back east, because Bethlehem is actually south and east of Jerusalem.

"It stood", notice, "over where the young child was." Notice it didn't stand over the manger. It didn't stand over where the baby was, but it stood over where the "young child was". Here is where our Christmas cards and our Christmas pageants throw us off, because it makes such a glorious climax to the Christmas pageantry to have the wise men coming to the manger on their camels, and laying down their gifts before the baby in the manger, while the shepherds are peering on wild-eyed. It's something typical of Christmas cards, or of the Christmas pageantry, but the wise men were latecomers. By the time that they had arrived, Joseph and Mary had moved out of the manger and had moved into a house in Bethlehem. The wise men, I am sorry, did not come to the manger, but actually arrived later on, perhaps a year or as much as two years later. When the wise men finally arrived and they found the young child, by this time Jesus was probably walking around and saying a few words.

And when they were come into the house, [not into the manger, but into the house] they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold [befitting the king], and frankincense, and myrrh ( Matthew 2:11 ).

Myrrh was a spice for burial--quite significant that it would be given to "the young child."

Now being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way ( Matthew 2:12 ).

They didn't bother to go back to Jerusalem because God warned them not to.

And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph ( Matthew 2:13 ),

Now again, Joseph is really in contact with the Lord and the Spirit.

and the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word: for Herod is going to seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And there he was until the death of Herod: [in order] that it might be fulfilled ( Matthew 2:13-15 ),

Notice how Matthew over and over is showing that these aspects of the life of Christ were in reality a fulfillment of prophecy,

which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my Son. Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked by the wise men, was exceedingly angry, he sent forth, and killed all of the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the area around, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men ( Matthew 2:15-16 ).

Remember, they said, "when did you first see the star?" So they told him when they first saw the star and that's why he killed the children two years old and under, because they had first seen the star some two years earlier, which again shows Christ was not a baby in a manger when the wise men arrived.

Then Herod when he killed all the children,

Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, of lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, as Rachel was weeping for her children ( Matthew 2:17-18 ),

Now of course, it's significant that Rachel actually died there just on the outskirts of Bethlehem and her tomb is there at Bethlehem. She died in childbirth at the birth of Benjamin. You remember she called his name Benoni, because of the grief. And so the prophecy of Rachel who had died there in Bethlehem. The people, of course, around Bethlehem revere the place of her burial, her tomb there. "Rachel weeping for her children and would not be comforted because they are not," because they have been killed.

But when Herod was dead,[he died shortly thereafter], behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life. And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and they came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there: notwithstanding, he was warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the area of Galilee ( Matthew 2:19-22 ):

He went back up into the area where he originated from, actually in Galilee where Mary had first received the word from Gabriel that she was to become the mother of the Christ child.

And they came and they dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene ( Matthew 2:23 ).

All the way through, Matthew is showing you that Christ is the fulfillment of prophecy. Matthew is a prophecy buff.


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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Matthew 2:22". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

C. The King’s childhood ch. 2

There is nothing in chapter 2 that describes Jesus Himself. Therefore Matthew’s purpose was not simply to give the reader information about Jesus’ childhood. Rather he stressed the reception that the Messiah received having entered the world. The rulers were hostile, the Jewish religious leaders were indifferent, but the Gentiles welcomed and worshipped Him. These proved to be typical responses throughout Jesus’ ministry, as Matthew’s Gospel reveals. This literary device of presenting implication and then realization is common in the first Gospel. Also in this chapter there are several references to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies (Matthew 2:5-6; Matthew 2:15; Matthew 2:17-18; Matthew 2:23). Matthew wanted to continue to prove that Jesus was the promised Messiah who fulfilled what the prophets had predicted. In chapter 1 the emphasis is more on how Jesus’ identity fulfilled prophecy, but in chapter 2 it is more on how Jesus’ geographical connections fulfilled prophecy. To prove that Jesus was the Christ, Matthew had to show that Jesus was born where the Old Testament said Messiah would be born. Another purpose of this chapter was to show God’s providential care of His Son.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 2:22". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

3. The prophecies about Nazareth 2:19-23 (cf. Luke 2:39)

Matthew concluded his selective account of the events in Jesus’ childhood that demonstrated His messiahship and illustrated various reactions to Him with Jesus’ return to Israel.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 2:22". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Joseph obediently responded to the Lord’s command. However before he could do so, news reached him that Herod the Great’s son, Archelaus, had begun to rule as ethnarch over Judea, Samaria, and Idumea. The rest of Herod the Great’s kingdom went to his sons Antipas, who ruled as tetrarch over Galilee and Perea (4 B.C. - A.D. 39), and Philip. "Tetrarch" means Philip ruled over one-fourth of the kingdom of his father, Herod the Great. Philip became tetrarch of Iturea, Trachonitis, and some other territories (4 B.C. - A.D. 34). The title "ethnarch" was a more honorable title than "tetrarch." It meant ruler over a people. It was also a title inferior to "king," however.

"One of the first acts of Archelaus was to murder some three thousand people in the temple because some of their number had memorialized some martyrs put to death by Herod. Like father, like son." [Note: Walvoord, p. 24. See also Edersheim, 1:220.]

Archelaus proved to be a bad ruler. Caesar Augustus banished him for his poor record in A.D. 6. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 96.] Philip was the best ruler among Herod the Great’s sons.

Evidently God warned Joseph not to return to Archelaus’ territory. Joseph chose to settle in Nazareth in Galilee instead, on the northern border of Zebulun, undoubtedly guided there by God. This had been his and Mary’s residence before Jesus’ birth (Matthew 13:53-58; Luke 1:26-27; Luke 2:39). Matthew noted that this move was another fulfillment of prophecy (Matthew 2:23). Nazareth stood 70 miles north of Bethlehem, and archaeological evidence points to a population of about 480 at the beginning of the first century A.D. [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 91.]

". . . the ancient Via Maris [Sea Highway] led through Nazareth, and thence either by Cana, or else along the northern shoulder of Mount Tabor, to the Lake of Gennesaret-each of these roads soon uniting with the Upper Galilean. Hence, although the stream of commerce between Acco and the East was divided into three channels, yet, as one of these passed through Nazareth, the quiet little town was not a stagnant pool of rustic seclusion. . . . But, on the other hand, Nazareth was also one of the great centers of Jewish Temple-life. . . . The Priests of the ’course’ which was to be on duty always gathered in certain towns, whence they went up in company to Jerusalem, while those of their number who were unable to go spent the week in fasting and prayer. . . . Thus, to take a wider view, a double symbolic significance attached to Nazareth, since through it passed alike those who carried on the traffic of the world, and those who ministered in the Temple." [Note: Edersheim, 1:147-48.]

Careful attention to the terms Matthew used to describe this fulfillment helps us understand how Jesus fulfilled Scripture. First, Matthew said the prophecy came through "prophets," not a prophet. This is the only place in the first Gospel that he said this. Second, Matthew did not say that the prophets "said" or "wrote" the prediction. He said "what was said or spoken" through them happened. In other words, Matthew was quoting indirectly, freely. [Note: W. Barnes Tatum Jr., "Matthew 2:23," The Bible Translator 27 (1976):135-37.]

There is no Old Testament passage that predicted that the Messiah would come from Nazareth or that people would call Him a Nazarene. How then could Matthew say that Jesus fulfilled Scripture by living there? The most probable explanation seems to be that Nazareth was a specially despised town in the despised region of Galilee in Jesus’ day (John 1:46; John 7:42; John 7:52). Several of the Old Testament prophets predicted that people would despise the Messiah (Psalms 22:6-8; Psalms 22:13; Psalms 69:8; Psalms 69:20-21; Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 42:1-4; Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 53:2-3; Isaiah 53:8; Daniel 9:26). Matthew often returned to this theme of Jesus being despised (Matthew 8:20; Matthew 11:16-19; Matthew 15:7-8). The writer appears to be giving the substance of several Old Testament passages here rather than quoting any one of them. There may also be an allusion to the naser ("branch") in Isaiah 11:1 that the rabbis in Jesus’ day regarded as messianic. [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 994; Wiersbe, 1:16.] In that passage David’s heir appears to be emerging from a lowly, obscure place. One writer gave evidence that the Targums, as well as the New Testament writers, exegeted the Old Testament messianically. [Note: See Michael B. Shepherd, "Targums, The New Testament, and Biblical Theology of the Messiah," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51:1 (March 2008):45-58.]

"In the first century, Nazarenes were people despised and rejected and the term was used to reproach and to shame (John 1:46). The prophets did teach that the Messiah would be a despised and rejected individual (e.g. Isaiah 53:3) and this is summarized by the term, Nazarene." [Note: Fruchtenbaum, p. 845.]

Fruchtenbaum called this type of prophetic fulfillment "summation." [Note: Ibid.] Cooper preferred to call it "literal prophecy plus a summation." [Note: Cooper, pp. 177-78.]

"Jesus is King Messiah, Son of God, Son of David; but he was a branch from a royal line hacked down to a stump and reared in surroundings guaranteed to win him scorn. Jesus the Messiah, Matthew is telling us, did not introduce his kingdom with outward show or present himself with the pomp of an earthly monarch. In accord with prophecy he came as the despised Servant of the Lord." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 97.]

Less satisfying explanations of this prophecy and its fulfillment are the following. First, some connect "Nazarene" with "Nazirite" (cf. Judges 13:5). However, Jesus was never a Nazirite (Matthew 11:19). Furthermore the etymologies of these words do not connect. Second, some believe the Hebrew word translated "branch" (naser) in Isaiah 11:1 sounds enough like Nazareth to justify a connection. The problem with this view is that the Hebrew word and the town of Nazareth have nothing in common except similar sounding names. Also naser occurs in only one passage, but Matthew quoted the "prophets." Third, some writers have posited a pre-Christian sect and suggested that Matthew referred to this. There is no evidence to support this theory. Fourth, some believe Matthew was making a pun by connecting the names Nazareth and Nazarene. If this were true, how could he claim a fulfillment of prophecy? Fifth, some think the writer referred to prophecies not recorded in Scripture but known to and accepted by his original readers. Matthew gave no clue that this unusual meaning is what he intended. Furthermore later readers would not only reject such an authority but would charge Matthew with fabricating such a source to support his argument.

Matthew chapter 2 advances the writer’s argument significantly by making three major points.

"The first relates to the Gentiles. The Magi come from the East and worship the King of the Jews. A glimmering foreview of all the nations of the earth being blessed in Abraham is seen in this act. . . . The second point Matthew makes concerns the Jews. They are shown to be unconcerned and indifferent to any report concerning Him. Finally, Matthew, by his use of the Old Testament, proves that Jesus is the promised Messiah. He is the fulfillment of all that is anticipated in their Scriptures. These three things form the basis of Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus is presented as the Messiah prophesied and promised in the Old Testament. The Jews reject Him. Because of this rejection the King turns to the Gentiles and the kingdom program for the Jews is postponed.

"Chapter one declares the theanthropic character of the person of the Messiah. The reception which is to be given the claims of the Messiah is set forth in chapter two. Matthew three begins the narrative of the historical account of the presentation of Israel’s Messiah to that nation." [Note: Toussaint, pp. 57-58.]

"Matthew 1-2 serves as a finely wrought prologue for every major theme in the Gospel." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 73.]

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 2:22". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

But when he heard that Archelaus,.... This Archelaus was a son of Herod the great by Malthace Samaritan, and was appointed by him for his successor a little before his death, and was upon it declared king by the populace, the soldiers, and those that were in power; all which is affirmed by Josephus a, and confirms the account given by the Evangelist; with whose account agrees what the Jewish chronologer says b, that

"Archelaus, the second king of the family of Herod, reigned after his father's death: and a little after he says, Caesar Augustus caused Archelaus to reign תחת אביו הורדוס "in the room of Herod his father"'';

which is the very phrase used by Matthew. Now this man was like his father, a very cruel wicked man; and, as the above chronologer says c, he ordered his troops, and slew at the feast of the passover, in the temple of the Lord, "nine thousand persons": though perhaps Josephus's account is truest, who says d, that he sent in his whole army upon the people, who had raised a sedition, and slew, whilst they were sacrificing, about "three thousand"; and this happened at the beginning of his reign, and indeed before he had scarce mounted the throne. And now the news of this might have reached the ears of Joseph, and be the reason why he

was afraid to go thither, into Judea, where Archelaus reigned.

Notwithstanding being warned of God in a dream, who never failed to advise him when in difficulty and distress, he did not go back again to Egypt, but

turned aside into the parts of Galilee; where Herod Antipas, another of Herod's sons, was tetrarch or governor; who was a milder person, and not so cruel and tyrannical as Archelaus: besides, Galilee was an obscure place, where, Joseph might reasonably think, he should live with Mary and Jesus unobserved, and free from danger.

a Ib. c. 28. sect. 7. &c. 33. sect. 1. & l. 2. c. 1. sect. 1. b Ganz. Tzemach David, par. 1. fol 25. 1. c Ib. d De Bello Jud. l. 2. c. 1. sect. 5.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 2:22". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Christ's Return from Egypt.

      19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,   20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.   21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.   22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:   23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

      We have here Christ's return out of Egypt into the land of Israel again. Egypt may serve to sojourn in, or take shelter in, for a while, but not to abide in. Christ was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and therefore to them he must return. Observe,

      I. What it was that made way for his return-- the death of Herod, which happened not long after the murder of the infants; some think not above three months. Such quick work did divine vengeance make! Note, Herods must die; proud tyrants, that were the terror of the mighty, and the oppressors of the godly, in the land of the living, their day must come to fall, and down to the pit they must go. Who art thou then, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die? (Isaiah 51:12; Isaiah 51:13) especially considering that at death, not only their envy and hatred are perished (Ecclesiastes 9:6), and they cease from troubling (Job 3:17), but they are punished. Of all sins, the guilt of innocent blood fills the measure soonest. It is a dreadful account which Josephus gives of the death of this same Herod (Antiq. 17.146-199), that he was seized with a disease which burned him inwardly with an inexpressible torture; that he was insatiably greedy of meat; had the colic, and gout, and dropsy; such an intolerable stench attended his disease, that none could come near him: and so passionate and impatient was he, that he was a torment to himself, and a terror to all that attended him: his innate cruelty, being thus exasperated, made him more barbarous than ever; having ordered his own son to be put to death, he imprisoned many of the nobility and gentry, and ordered that as soon as he was dead they should be killed; but that execution was prevented. See what kind of men have been the enemies and persecutors of Christ and his followers! Few have opposed Christianity but such as have first divested themselves of humanity, as Nero and Domitian.

      II. The orders given from heaven concerning their return, and Joseph's obedience to those orders, Matthew 2:19-21; Matthew 2:19-21. God had sent Joseph into Egypt, and there he staid till the same that brought him thither ordered him thence. Note, In all our removes, it is good to see our way plain, and God going before us; we should not move either one way or the other without order. These orders were sent him by an angel. Note, Our intercourse with God, if it be kept up on our part, shall be kept up on his, wherever we are. No place can exclude God's gracious visits. Angels come to Joseph in Egypt, to Ezekiel in Babylon, and to John in Patmos. Now, 1. The angel informs him of the death of Herod and his accomplices: They are dead, which sought the young Child's life. They are dead, but the young Child lives. Persecuted saints sometimes live to tread upon the graves of their persecutors. Thus did the church's King weather the storm, and many a one has the church in like manner weathered. They are dead, to wit, Herod and his son Antipater, who, though there were mutual jealousies between them, yet, probably, concurred in seeking the destruction of this new King. If Herod first kill Antipater, and then die himself, the coasts are cleared, and the Lord is known by the judgments which he executes, when one wicked instrument is in the ruin of another. 2. He directs him what to do. He must go and return to the land of Israel; and he did so without delay; not pleading the tolerably good settlement he had in Egypt, or the inconveniences of the journey, especially if, as is supposed, it was in the beginning of winter that Herod died. God's people follow his direction whithersoever he leads them, wherever he lodges them. Did we but look upon the world as our Egypt, the place of our bondage and banishment, and heaven only as our Canaan, our home, our rest, we should as readily arise, and depart thither, when we are called for, as Joseph did out of Egypt.

      III. The further direction he had from God, which way to steer, and where to fix in the land of Israel, Matthew 2:22; Matthew 2:23. God could have given him these instructions with the former, but God reveals his mind to his people by degrees, to keep them still waiting on him, and expecting to hear further from him. These orders Joseph received in a dream, probably, as those before, by the ministration of an angel. God could have signified his will to Joseph by the Child Jesus, but we do not find that in those removes he either takes notice, or gives notice, of any thing that occurred; surely it was because in all things it behoved him to be made like his brethren; being a Child, he spake as a child, and did as a child, and drew a veil over his infinite knowledge and power; as a child he increased in wisdom.

      Now the direction given this holy, royal family, is, 1. That it might not settle in Judea, Matthew 2:22; Matthew 2:22. Joseph might think that Jesus, being born in Bethlehem, must be brought up there; yet he is prudently afraid for the young Child, because he hears that Archelaus reigns in Herod's stead, not over all the kingdom as his father did, but only over Judea, the other provinces being put into other hands. See what a succession of enemies there is to fight against Christ and his church! If one drop off, another presently appears, to keep up the old enmity. But for this reason Joseph must not take the young Child into Judea. Note, God will not thrust his children into the mouth of danger, but when it is for his own glory and their trial; for precious in the sight of the Lord are the life and the death of his saints; precious is their blood to him.

      2. That it must settle in Galilee, Matthew 2:22; Matthew 2:22. There Philip now ruled, who was a mild, quiet, man. Note, The providence of God commonly so orders it, that his people shall not want a quiet retreat from the storm and from the tempest; when one climate becomes hot and scorching, another shall be kept more cool and temperate. Galilee lay far north; Samaria lay between it and Judea; thither they were sent, to Nazareth, a city upon a hill, in the centre of the lot of Zebulun; there the mother of our Lord lived, when she conceived that holy thing; and, probably, Joseph lived there too, Luke 1:26; Luke 1:27. Thither they were sent, and there they were well known, and were among their relations; the most proper place for them to be in. There they continued, and from thence our Saviour was called Jesus of Nazareth, which was to the Jews a stumbling-block, for, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?

      In this is said to be fulfilled what was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene. Which may be looked upon, (1.) As a man of honour and dignity, though primarily it signifies no more than a man of Nazareth; there is an allusion or mystery in speaking it, speaking Christ to be, [1.] The Man, the Branch, spoken of, Isaiah 11:1. The word there is Netzar, which signifies either a branch, or the city of Nazareth; in being denominated from that city, he is declared to be that Branch. [2.] It speaks him to be the great Nazarite; of whom the legal Nazarites were a type and figure (especially Samson, Judges 13:5), and Joseph, who is called a Nazarite among his brethren (Genesis 49:26), and to whom that which was prescribed concerning the Nazarites, has reference, Numbers 6:2, c. Not that Christ was, strictly, a Nazarite, for he drank wine, and touched dead bodies but he was eminently so, both as he was singularly holy, and as he was by a solemn designation and dedication set apart to the honour of God in the work of our redemption, as Samson was to save Israel. And it is a name we have all reason to rejoice in, and to know him by. Or, (2.) As a name of reproach and contempt. To be called a Nazarene, was to be called a despicable man, a man from whom no good was to be expected, and to whom no respect was to be paid. The devil first fastened this name upon Christ, to render him mean, and prejudice people against him, and it stuck as a nickname to him and his followers. Now this was not particularly foretold by any one prophet, but, in general, it was spoken by the prophets, that he should be despised and rejected of men (Isaiah 53:2; Isaiah 53:3), a Worm, and no man (Psalms 22:6; Psalms 22:7), that he should be an Alien to his brethrenPsalms 69:7; Psalms 69:8. Let no name of reproach for religion's sake seem hard to us, when our Master was himself called a Nazarene.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Matthew 2:22". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.