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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Matthew 2:3

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Heathen;   Jerusalem;   Jesus, the Christ;   Magi;   Miracles;   Wisdom;   Wise Men;   Scofield Reference Index - Kingdom;   Thompson Chain Reference - Bible Stories for Children;   Children;   Herods of the New Testament;   Home;   Pleasant Sunday Afternoons;   Religion;   Stories for Children;   The Topic Concordance - Government;   Jesus Christ;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Prophecies Respecting Christ;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Herod;   Magi or Wise Men;   Miracle;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Bethlehem;   Edom;   Herod;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Foreigner;   Jerusalem;   Magic;   Micah, Theology of;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Hutchinsonians;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Herod the Great;   Jesus;   Magic;   Stars;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Archaeology and Biblical Study;   Bethlehem;   Epiphany;   Herod;   Antiochus IV;   Jesus, Life and Ministry of;   Matthew, the Gospel of;   Midrash;   Wisdom and Wise Men;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Herod;   Jesus Christ;   Magi;   Magic, Divination, and Sorcery;   Mss;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Augustus (2);   Dates (2);   Flight;   Star (2);   Temple (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Herod the Great;   Herod, Family of;   Magi ;   Star in the East;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Bethlehem;   Herodians;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Bethlehem;   Gospel;   Magi;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Ma'gi;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Cyrenius;   Eclipse;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Joseph, Husband of Mary;   Zoroastrianism;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Jesus of Nazareth;  
Unselected Authors

Adam Clarke Commentary

Verse Matthew 2:3. When Herod - heard these things, he was troubled — Herod's consternation was probably occasioned by the agreement of the account of the magi, with an opinion predominant throughout the east, and particularly in Judea, that some great personage would soon make his appearance, for the deliverance of Israel from their enemies; and would take upon himself universal empire.

SUETONIUS and TACITUS, two Roman historians, mention this. Their words are very remarkable:-

Percrebuerat Oriente toto, vetus et constans opinio, esse in fatis, ut eo tempore Judaea profecti rerum potirentur. Id de imperatare Romano, quantum eventu postea predictum patuit, Judaei ad se trahentes, rebellarunt. SUETON. VESP. "An ancient and settled persuasion prevailed throughout the east, that the fates had decreed some to proceed from Judea, who should attain universal empire. This persuasion, which the event proved to respect the Roman emperor, the Jews applied to themselves, and therefore rebelled."

The words of Tacitus are nearly similar:-

Pluribus persuasio inerat, antiquis sacerdotum literis contineri, eo ipso tempore fore, ut valesceret Oriens, profectique Judaea rerum potirentur. Quae ambages Vespasianum ac Titum praedixerant.

"Many were persuaded, that it was contained in the ancient books of their priests, that at that very time the east should prevail: and that some should proceed from Judea and possess the dominion. It was Vespasian and Titus that these ambiguous prophecies predicted." Histor. v.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Matthew 2:3". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/matthew-2.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

11. Herod and the Magi (Matthew 2:1-18)

It seems that after the ceremonies in Jerusalem, Joseph and Mary returned with Jesus to Bethlehem. Because most of the travellers had now gone, they were able to move into the house (see Matthew 2:11). Meanwhile, in a country to the east, men known as Magi (people who study the stars) had worked out that a new king was born in Judea and they came to Jerusalem looking for him (Matthew 2:1-2).

Herod the Great was ruler of Judea at the time, and he had no desire to see a rival Jewish king set up. From the Magi he learnt the time of the new king’s birth, and from the Jewish scholars he learnt the place of his birth. He urged the Magi to locate the child then report back to him so that he could go and pay homage (Matthew 2:3-8). The Magi found Jesus and worshipped him, but when they learnt that Herod planned to kill him, they returned home without first reporting to Herod (Matthew 2:9-12). Mary and Joseph also learnt of Herod’s planned treachery, and escaped with the child to the safety of Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15).

When, after some time, the Magi did not return, Herod saw that the only way to be certain of destroying the new king was to kill all male children under two years of age in the Bethlehem area. He fixed the age of the doomed children according to details given him by the Magi, which suggests that Jesus by this time was between one and two years old (Matthew 2:16-18). (For Herod and his family see earlier section, ‘The New Testament World’.)

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Matthew 2:3". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/matthew-2.html. 2005.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Herod's trouble was jealousy and rage, a rage that would finally vent itself in the slaughter of the innocents. Well, also, might the city of Jerusalem have been troubled with such a man upon the throne. Josephus related the circumstances attending the death of Herod, who, when he saw death was near, caused a large number of prominent persons to be put in prison with instructions that they should be put to death just as soon as Herod expired in order that (Herod said) "there should be real mourning" at his death![8]

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Matthew 2:3". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/matthew-2.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Had heard these things - Had heard of their coming, and of the star, and of the design of their coming.

He was troubled - Herod had obtained the kingdom by great crimes, and by shedding much blood. He was therefore easily alarmed by any remarkable appearances; and the fact that this star appeared, and that it was regarded as proof that a King of the Jews was born, alarmed him. Besides, it was a common expectation that the Messiah was about to appear, and he feared that his reign was about to come to an end. He therefore began to inquire in what way he might secure his own safety and the permanency of his government.

All Jerusalem - The people of Jerusalem, and particularly the friends of Herod. There were many in Jerusalem to whom the coming of the Messiah would be a matter of joy; but all of Herod’s friends would doubtless be alarmed at his coming.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 2:3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/matthew-2.html. 1870.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

3. Herod the king was troubled Herod was not unacquainted with the predictions, which promised to the Jews a King, who would restore their distressful and ruinous affairs to a prosperous condition. He had lived from a child among that nation, and was thoroughly acquainted with their affairs. Besides, the report was spread everywhere, and could not be unknown to the neighboring nations. Yet he is troubled, as if the matter had been new and unheard of; because he put no trust in God, and thought it idle to rely on the promises of a Redeemer; and particularly because, with the foolish confidence incident to proud men, he imagined that the kingdom was secure to himself and his descendants. But though, in the intoxication of prosperity, he was formerly accustomed to view the prophecies with scorn, the recollection of them now aroused him to sudden alarm. For he would not have been so strongly moved by the simple tale of the Magi, if he had not remembered the predictions, which he had formerly looked upon as harmless, (182) and of no importance. Thus, when the Lord has permitted unbelievers to sleep, he suddenly breaks their rest. (183)

And all Jerusalem with him This may be explained in two ways. Either the people were roused, in a tumultuous manner, by the novelty of the occurrence, though the glad tidings of a king who had been born to them were cordially welcomed. Or the people, accustomed to distresses, and rendered callous by long endurance, dreaded a change which might introduce still greater calamities. For they were so completely worn down, and almost wasted, by continued wars, that their wretched and cruel bondage appeared to them not only tolerable, but desirable, provided it were accompanied by peace. This shows how little they had profited under God’s chastisements: for they were so benumbed and stupified, that the promised redemption and salvation almost stank (184) in their nostrils. Matthew intended, I have no doubt, to express their ingratitude, in being so entirely broken by the long continuance of their afflictions, as to throw away the hope and desire of the grace which had been promised to them.

(182) “ Lusoria;” alluding to the phrase used by Seneca and others, lusoria fulmina , “harmless thunderbolts.”

(183) “ Il les resveille tout soudain, et leur fait bien sentir leur folie.” — “He awakes them all on a sudden, and makes them deeply feel their folly.”

(184) “ Quodammodo foeteret,”

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Matthew 2:3". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/matthew-2.html. 1840-57.

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 2:3". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/matthew-2.html. 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

1. The prophecy about Bethlehem 2:1-12

 

The Old Testament not only predicted how Messiah would be born (Matthew 1:18-25) but where He would be born (Matthew 2:1-12).

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 2:3". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-2.html. 2012.

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 2:3". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-2.html. 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

This news troubled Herod because he was very aware of the Jews’ desire to throw off the Roman yoke and his own rule in particular. Remember Pharaoh’s fear for his throne that also led to infanticide. Herod was an Edomite, a descendant of Esau, and the prospect of a Jewish Messiah’s appearance was one he could not ignore. The rest of Jerusalem’s citizens became disturbed because they realized that this news from the Magi might lead Herod to take further cruel action against them. This is what happened (Matthew 2:16). Already we begin to see the opposition of the people of Jerusalem to Jesus that would eventually result in His crucifixion.

Herod assembled Israel’s leaders to investigate the Magi’s announcement further (Matthew 2:4). The chief priests were mainly Sadducees at this time, and most of the scribes ("teachers of the law," NIV) were Pharisees. The chief priests included the high priest and his associates. The high priest obtained his position by appointment from Rome. The scribes were the official interpreters and communicators of the law to the people, the lawyers. Since these two groups of leaders did not get along, Herod may have had meetings with each group separately.

"The scribes were so called because it was their office to make copies of the Scriptures, to classify and teach the precepts of the oral law . . ., and to keep careful count of every letter in the O.T. writings. Such an office was necessary in a religion of law and precept, and was an O.T. function (2 Samuel 8:17; 2 Samuel 20:25; 1 Kings 4:3; Jeremiah 8:8; Jeremiah 36:10; Jeremiah 36:12; Jeremiah 36:26). To this legitimate work the scribes added a record of rabbinical decisions on questions of ritual (Halachoth); the new code resulting from those decisions (Mishna); the Hebrew sacred legends (Gemara, forming with the Mishna, the Talmud); commentaries on the O.T. (Midrashim); reasonings upon these (Hagada); and finally, mystical interpretations which found in Scripture meanings other than the grammatical, lexical, and obvious ones (the Kabbala), not unlike the allegorical method of Origen. In our Lord’s time, the Pharisees considered it orthodox to receive this mass of writing which had been superimposed upon and had obscured the Scripture." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 993. See also Edersheim, 1:93-94.]

The Jews of Jesus’ day regarded the Halekhah (from halakh, "to go," i.e., The Rule of the Spiritual Road) as having greater authority than the Hebrew Scriptures. [Note: Ibid., 1:11.]

Notice that Herod perceived the King the Magi had spoken of as the Messiah (Matthew 2:4). Some of the Jews-particularly the Essenes, whom Herod did not consult, but not the Sadducees and Pharisees-were expecting a Messiah to appear soon because of Daniel 9:24-27. [Note: Josephus, Antiquities of. . ., 20:8:8; and idem, The Wars . . ., 4:3:9.] Daniel had been a wise man in the East also.

"Matthew adroitly answers Jewish unbelief concerning Jesus Christ by quoting their own official body to the effect that the prophecy of His birth in Bethlehem was literal, that the Messiah was to be an individual, not the entire Jewish nation, and that their Messiah was to be a King who would rule over them." [Note: Walvoord, p. 22.]

"In the original context of Micah 5:2, the prophet is speaking prophetically and prophesying that whenever the Messiah is born, He will be born in Bethlehem of Judah. That is the literal meaning of Micah 5:2. When a literal prophecy is fulfilled in the New Testament, it is quoted as a literal fulfillment. Many prophecies fall into this category . . ." [Note: Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology, p. 843.]

Another writer called this, literal prophecy plus literal fulfillment. [Note: David L. Cooper, Messiah: His Historical Appearance, pp. 174-75.]

Matthew’s rendering of the Micah 5:2 prophecy adds the fact that the Ruler would shepherd the Israelites. This statement, from 2 Samuel 5:2, originally referred to David. Thus Matthew again showed the connection between the prophecies of Messiah and the Davidic line, a connection he also made in chapter 1. Perhaps the religious leaders put these passages together in their quotation. [Note: See Edersheim, 2:710-41, for a list of Old Testament passages messianically applied in ancient rabbinic writings, and talmucic discussion on the Messiah.] Such seems to have been the case. The quotation is free, not verbatim from either the Hebrew or the Greek (Septuagint) texts.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 2:3". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-2.html. 2012.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

When Herod the king had heard these things,.... That is, the report made by the wise men of the appearance of an unusual star, and of the birth of the king of the Jews, which they affirmed with all certainty, without any hesitation,

he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Herod was troubled, his mind was disturbed and made uneasy, fearing he should be deposed, and lose his kingdom, to which he knew he had no just right and claim, being a foreigner; and "all Jerusalem", i.e. all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who heard of this, were also troubled, and showed a concern at it with him; either feignedly, as knowing his jealousy, suspicion and cruelty; or in reality, because of tumults, commotions and wars, they might fear would arise upon this, having lost the true notion of the Messiah, as a spiritual king, saviour and redeemer. And hereby was fulfilled, in part, the famous prophecy in Genesis 49:10 according to the sense of one w of the Targumists on it, who paraphrases it after this manner;

"Kings and governors shall not cease from the house of Judah, nor scribes, who teach the law, from his seed, until the time that the king Messiah, the least of his sons, comes, "and because of him", יתימסון עממיא, "the people shall melt."''

that is, they shall be distressed and troubled, their hearts shall melt like wax within them; which was their present case, though perhaps the paraphrast may design the Gentiles.

w Jonathan ben Uzziel in loc.

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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 2:3". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-2.html. 1999.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Wise Men Come to Jerusalem.


      1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,   2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.   3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.   4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.   5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet,   6 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.   7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.   8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

      It was a mark of humiliation put upon the Lord Jesus that, though he was the Desire of all nations, yet his coming into the world was little observed and taken notice of, his birth was obscure and unregarded: herein he emptied himself, and made himself of no reputation. If the Son of God must be brought into the world, one might justly expect that he should be received with all the ceremony possible, that crowns and sceptres should immediately have been laid at his feet, and that the high and mighty princes of the world should have been his humble servants; such a Messiah as this the Jews expected, but we see none of all this; he came into the world, and the world knew him not; nay, he came to his own, and his own received him not; for having undertaken to make satisfaction to his Father for the wrong done him in his honour by the sin of man, he did it by denying himself in, and despoiling himself of, the honours undoubtedly due to an incarnate Deity; yet, as afterward, so in his birth, some rays of glory darted forth in the midst of the greatest instances of his abasement. Though there was the hiding of his power, yet he had horns coming out of his hand (Habakkuk 3:4) enough to condemn the world, and the Jews especially, for their stupidity.

      The first who took notice of Christ after his birth were the shepherds (Luke 2:15, c.), who saw and heard glorious things concerning him, and made them known abroad, to the amazement of all that heard them, Matthew 2:17; Matthew 2:18. After that, Simeon and Ann a spoke of him, by the Spirit, to all that were disposed to heed what they said, Luke 2:38. Now, one would think, these hints should have been taken by the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and they should with both arms have embraced the long-looked-for Messiah; but, for aught that appears, he continued nearly two years after at Bethlehem, and no further notice was taken of him till these wise men came. Note, Nothing will awaken those that are resolved to be regardless. Oh the amazing stupidity of these Jews! And no less that of many who are called Christians! Observe,

      I. When this enquiry was made concerning Christ. It was in the days of Herod the king. This Herod was an Edomite, made king of Judea by Augustus and Antonius, the then chief rulers of the Roman state, a man made up of falsehood and cruelty; yet he was complimented with the title of Herod the Great. Christ was born in the 35th year of his reign, and notice is taken of this, to show that the sceptre had now departed from Judah, and the lawgiver from between his feet; and therefore now was the time for Shiloh to come, and to him shall the gathering of the people be: witness these wise men, Genesis 49:10.

      II. Who and what these wise men were; they are here called Magoi--Magicians. Some that it in a good sense; the Magi among the Persians were their philosophers and their priests; nor would they admit any one for their king who had not first been enrolled among the Magi; others think they dealt in unlawful arts; the word is used of Simon, the sorcerer (Acts 8:9; Acts 8:11), and of Elymas, the sorcerer (Acts 13:6), nor does the scripture use it in any other sense; and then it was an early instance and presage of Christ's victory over the devil, when those who had been so much his devotees became the early adorers even of the infant Jesus; so soon were trophies of his victory over the powers of darkness erected. Well, whatever sort of wise men they were before, now they began to be wise men indeed when they set themselves to enquire after Christ.

      This we are sure of, 1. That they were Gentiles, and not belonging to the commonwealth of Israel. The Jews regarded not Christ, but these Gentiles enquired him out. Note, Many times those who are nearest to the means, are furthest from the end. See Matthew 8:11; Matthew 8:12. The respect paid to Christ by these Gentiles was a happy presage and specimen of what would follow when those who were afar off should be made nigh by Christ. 2. That they were scholars. They dealt in arts, curious arts; good scholars should be good Christians, and then they complete their learning when they learn Christ. 3. That they were men of the east, who were noted for their soothsaying,Isaiah 2:6. Arabia is called the land of the east (Genesis 25:6), and the Arabians are called men of the east,Judges 6:3. The presents they brought were the products of that country; the Arabians had done homage to David and Solomon as types of Christ. Jethro and Job were of that country. More than this we have not to say of them. The traditions of the Romish church are frivolous, that they were in number three (though one of the ancients says that they were fourteen), that they were kings, and that they lie buried in Colen, thence called the three kings of Colen; we covet not to be wise above what is written.

      III. What induced them to make this enquiry. They, in their country, which was in the east, had seen an extraordinary star, such as they had not seen before; which they took to be an indication of an extraordinary person born in the land of Judea, over which land this star was seen to hover, in the nature of a comet, or a meteor rather, in the lowers regions of the air; this differed so much from any thing that was common that they concluded it to signify something uncommon. Note, Extraordinary appearances of God in the creatures should put us upon enquiring after his mind and will therein; Christ foretold signs in the heavens. The birth of Christ was notified to the Jewish shepherds by an angel, to the Gentile philosophers by a star: to both God spoke in their own language, and in the way they were best acquainted with. Some think that the light which the shepherds saw shining round about them, the night after Christ was born, was the very same which to the wise men, who lived at such a distance, appeared as a star; but this we cannot easily admit, because the same star which they had seen in the east they saw a great while after, leading them to the house where Christ lay; it was a candle set up on purpose to guide them to Christ. The idolaters worshipped the stars as the host of heaven, especially the eastern nations, whence the planets have the names of their idol-gods; we read of a particular star they had in veneration, Amos 5:26. Thus the stars that had been misused came to be put to the right use, to lead men to Christ; the gods of the heathen became his servants. Some think this star put them in mind of Balaam's prophecy, that a star should come out of Jacob, pointing at a sceptre, that shall rise out of Israel; see Numbers 24:17. Balaam came from the mountains of the east, and was one of their wise men. Others impute their enquiry to the general expectation entertained at that time, in those eastern parts, of some great prince to appear. Tacitus, in his history (lib. 5), takes notice of it; Pluribus persuasio inerat, antiquis sacerdotum literis contineri, eo ipso tempore fore, ut valesceret oriens, profectique Judæa rerum potirentur--A persuasion existed in the minds of many that some ancient writings of the priests contained a prediction that about that time an eastern power would prevail, and that persons proceeding from Judea would obtain dominion. Suetonius also, in the life of Vespasian, speaks of it; so that this extraordinary phenomenon was construed as pointing to that king; and we may suppose a divine impression made upon their minds, enabling them to interpret this star as a signal given by Heaven of the birth of Christ.

      IV. How they prosecuted this enquiry. They came from the east to Jerusalem, in further quest of this prince. Wither shall they come to enquire for the king of the Jews, but to Jerusalem, the mother-city, whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord? They might have said, "If such a prince be born, we shall hear of him shortly in our own country, and it will be time enough then to pay our homage to him." But so impatient were they to be better acquainted with him, that they took a long journey on purpose to enquire after him. Note, Those who truly desire to know Christ, and find him, will not regard pains or perils in seeking after him. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord.

      Their question is, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? They do not ask, whether there were such a one born? (they are sure of that, and speak of it with assurance, so strongly was it set home upon their hearts); but, Where is he born? Note, Those who know something of Christ cannot but covet to know more of him. They call Christ the King of the Jews, for so the Messiah was expected to be: and he is Protector and Ruler of all the spiritual Israel, he is born a King.

      To this question they doubted not but to have a ready answer, and to find all Jerusalem worshipping at the feet of this new king; but they come from door to door with this question, and no man can give them any information. Note, There is more gross ignorance in the world, and in the church too, than we are aware of. Many that we think should direct us to Christ are themselves strangers to him. They ask, as the spouse of the daughters of Jerusalem, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth? But they are never the wiser. However, like the spouse, they pursue the enquiry, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? Are they asked, "Why do ye make this enquiry?" It is because they have seen his star in the east. Are they asked, "What business have ye with him? What have the men of the east to do with the King of the Jews?" They have their answer ready, We are come to worship him. They conclude he will, in process of time, be their king, and therefore they will betimes ingratiate themselves with him and with those about him. Note, Those in whose hearts the day-star is risen, to give them any thing of the knowledge of Christ, must make it their business to worship him. Have we seen Christ's star? Let us study to give him honour.

      V. How this enquiry was treated at Jerusalem. News of it at last came to court; and when Herod heard it he was troubled,Matthew 2:3; Matthew 2:3. He could not be a stranger to the prophecies of the Old Testament, concerning the Messiah and his kingdom, and the times fixed for his appearing by Daniel's weeks; but, having himself reigned so long and so successfully, he began to hope that those promises would for ever fail, and that his kingdom would be established and perpetuated in spite of them. What a damp therefore must it needs be upon him, to hear talk of this King being born, now, when the time fixed for his appearing had come! Note, Carnal wicked hearts dread nothing so much as the fulfilling of the scriptures.

      But though Herod, an Edomite, was troubled, one would have thought Jerusalem should rejoice greatly to hear that her King comes; yet, it seems, all Jerusalem, except the few there that waited for the consolation of Israel, were troubled with Herod, and were apprehensive of I know not what ill consequences of the birth of this new king, that it would involve them in war, or restrain their lusts; they, for their parts, desired no king but Herod; no, not the Messiah himself. Note, The slavery of sin is foolishly preferred by many to the glorious liberty of the children of God, only because they apprehend some present difficulties attending that necessary revolution of the government in the soul. Herod and Jerusalem were thus troubled, from a mistaken notion that the kingdom of the Messiah would clash and interfere with the secular powers; whereas the star that proclaimed him king plainly intimated that his kingdom was heavenly, and not of this lower world. Note, The reason why the kings of the earth, and the people, oppose the kingdom of Christ, is because they do not know it, but err concerning it.

      VI. What assistance they met with in this enquiry from the scribes and the priests, Matthew 2:4-6; Matthew 2:4-6. Nobody can pretend to tell where the King of the Jews is, but Herod enquires where it was expected he should be born. The persons he consults are, the chief priests, who were teachers by office; and the scribes, who made it their business to study the law; their lips must keep knowledge, but then the people must enquire the law at their mouth,Malachi 2:7. It was generally known that Christ should be born at Bethlehem (John 7:42); but Herod would have counsel's opinion upon it, and therefore applies himself to the proper persons; and, that he might be the better satisfied, he has them altogether, all the chief priests, and all the scribes; and demands of them what was the place, according to the scriptures of the Old Testament, where Christ should be born? Many a good question is put with an ill design, so was this by Herod.

      The priests and scribes need not take any long time to give an answer to this query; nor do they differ in their opinion, but all agree that the Messiah must be born in Bethlehem, the city of David, here called Bethlehem of Judea, to distinguish it from another city of the same name in the land of Zebulun, Joshua 19:15. Bethlehem signifies the house of bread; the fittest place for him to be born in who is the true manna, the bread which came down from heaven, which was given for the life of the world. The proof they produce is taken from Micah 5:2, where it is foretold that though Bethlehem be little among the thousands of Judah (so it is in Micah), no very populous place, yet it shall be found not the least among the princes of Judah (so it is here); for Bethlehem's honour lay not, as that of other cities, in the multitude of the people, but in the magnificence of the princes it produced. Though, upon some accounts, Bethlehem was little, yet herein it had the pre-eminence above all the cities of Israel, that the Lord shall count, when he writes up the people, that this man, even the man Christ Jesus, was born there,Psalms 87:6. Out of thee shall come a Governor, the King of the Jews. Note, Christ will be a Saviour to those only who are willing to take him for their Governor. Bethlehem was the city of David, and David the glory of Bethlehem; there, therefore, must David's son and successor be born. There was a famous well at Bethlehem, by the gate, which David longed to drink of (2 Samuel 23:15); in Christ we have not only bread enough and to spare, but may come and take also of the water of life freely. Observe here how Jews and Gentiles compare notes about Jesus Christ. The Gentiles know the time of his birth by a star; the Jews know the place of it by the scriptures; and so they are capable of informing one another. Note, It would contribute much to the increase of knowledge, if we did thus mutually communicate what we know. Men grow rich by bartering and exchanging; so, if we have knowledge to communicate to others, they will be ready to communicate to us; thus many shall discourse, shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

      VII. The bloody project and design of Herod, occasioned by this enquiry, Matthew 2:7; Matthew 2:8. Herod was now an old man, and had reigned thirty-five years; this king was but newly born, and not likely to enterprise any thing considerable for many years; yet Herod is jealous of him. Crowned heads cannot endure to think of successors, much less of rivals; and therefore nothing less than the blood of this infant king will satisfy him; and he will not give himself liberty to think that, if this new-born child should be indeed the Messiah, in opposing him, or making any attempts upon him, he would be found fighting against God, than which nothing is more vain, nothing more dangerous. Passion has got the mastery of reason and conscience.

      Now, 1. See how cunningly he laid the project (Matthew 2:7; Matthew 2:8). He privily called the wise men, to talk with them about this matter. He would not openly own his fears and jealousies; it would be his disgrace to let the wise men know them, and dangerous to let the people know them. Sinners are often tormented with secret fears, which they keep to themselves. Herod learns of the wise men the time when the star appeared, that he might take his measures accordingly; and then employs them to enquire further, and bids them bring him an account. All this might look suspicious, if he had not covered it with a show of religion: that I may come and worship him also. Note, The greatest wickedness often conceals itself under a mask of piety. Absalom cloaks his rebellious project with a vow.

      2. See how strangely he was befooled and infatuated in this, that he trusted it with the wise men, and did not choose some other managers, that would have been true to his interests. It was but seven miles from Jerusalem; how easily might he have sent spies to watch the wise men, who might have been as soon there to destroy the child as they to worship him! Note, God can hide from the eyes of the church's enemies those methods by which they might easily destroy the church; when he intends to lead princes away spoiled, his way is to make the judges fools.

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Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Matthew 2:3". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/matthew-2.html. 1706.