Matthew 2


Wise men come from the east to worship Christ, 1, 2.

Herod, hearing of the birth of our Lord, is greatly troubled, 3;

and makes inquiry of the chief priests and scribes, where the

Christ should be born, 4.

They inform him of the prophecy relative to Bethlehem, 5, 6.

The wise men, going to Bethlehem, are desired by Herod to bring

him word when they have found the child, pretending that he

wished to do him homage, 7, 8.

The wise men are directed by a star to the place where the young

child lay, adore him, and offer him gifts, 9-11.

Being warned of God not to return to Herod, they depart into

their own country another way, 12.

Joseph and Mary are divinely warned to escape into Egypt,

because Herod sought to destroy Jesus, 13, 14.

They obey, and continue in Egypt till the death of Herod, 15.

Herod, finding that the wise men did not return, is enraged, and

orders all the young children in Bethlehem, under two years of

age, to be massacred, 16-18.

Herod dies, and Joseph is divinely warned to return to the land

of Israel, 19-21.

Finding that Archelaus reigned in Judea in place of his father

Herod, he goes to Galilee, and takes up his residence at

Nazareth, 22, 23.


Verse 1. Bethlehem of Judea] This city is mentioned in

Jud 17:7, and must be distinguished from another of the same name

in the tribe of Zebulon, Jos 19:15. It is likewise called

Ephrath, Ge 48:7,

or Ephratah, Mic 5:2, and its inhabitants Ephrathites, Ru 1:2;

1Sa 17:12. It is situated on the declivity of a hill, about six

miles from Jerusalem. Beth-lechem, in Hebrew, signifies

the house of bread. And the name may be considered as very

properly applied to that place where Jesus, the Messiah, the true

bread that came down from heaven, was manifested, to give life to

the world. But lehem also signifies flesh, and is applied to

that part of the sacrifice which was burnt upon the altar.

See Le 3:11-16; 21:6. The word is also used to signify a

carcass, Zep 1:17.

The Arabic version has [Arabic] Beet lehem, and the Persic

[Persic] Beet allehem: but [Arabic] lehem, in Arabic, never

signifies bread, but always means flesh. Hence it is more proper

to consider the name as signifying the house of flesh, or, as some

might suppose, the house of the incarnation, i.e. the place where

God was manifested in the flesh for the salvation of a lost world.

In the days of Herod the king] This was HEROD, improperly

denominated the GREAT, the son of Antipater, an Idumean: he

reigned 37 years in Judea, reckoning from the-time he was

created-king of that country by the Romans. Our blessed Lord was

born in the last year of his reign; and, at this time, the sceptre

had literally departed from Judah, a foreigner being now upon the


As there are several princes of this name mentioned in the New

Testament, it may be well to give a list of them here, together

with their genealogy.

Herod, the Great, married ten wives, by whom he had several

children, Euseb. l. i. c. 9. p. 27. The first was Doris, thought

to be an Idumean, whom he married when but a private individual;

by her he had Antipater, the eldest of all his sons, whom he

caused to be executed five days before his own death.

His second wife was Mariamne, daughter to Hircanus, the sole

surviving person of the Asmonean, or Maccabean, race. Herod put

her to death. She was the mother of Alexander and Aristobulus,

whom Herod had executed at Sebastia, (Joseph. Antiq. l. xvi. c.

13.-De Bello, l. i. c. 17,) on an accusation of having entered

into a conspiracy against him. Aristobulus left three children,

whom I shall notice hereafter.

His third wife was Mariamne, the daughter of Simon, a person of

some note in Jerusalem, whom Herod made high priest, in order to

obtain his daughter. She was the mother of Herod Philippus, or

Herod Philip, and Salome. Herod or Philip married Herodias,

mother to Salome, the famous dancer, who demanded the head of John

the Baptist, Mr 6:22. Salome had been placed, in the will of

Herod the Great, as second heir after Antipater; but her name was

erased, when it was discovered that Mariamne, her mother, was an

accomplice in the crimes of Antipater, son of Herod the Great.

Joseph de Bello, lib. i. c. 18,19,20.

His fourth wife was Malthake, a Samaritan, whose sons were

Archelaus and Philip. The first enjoyed half his father's kingdom

under the name of tetrarch, viz. Idumea, Judea, and Samaria:

Joseph. Antiq. l. xvii. c. 11. He reigned nine years; but, being

accused and arraigned before the Emperor Augustus, he was banished

to Vienna, where he died: Joseph. Antiq. l. xvii. c. 15. This is

the Archelaus mentioned in Mt 2:22.

His brother Philip married Salome, the famous dancer, the

daughter of Herodias; he died without children, and she was

afterwards married to Aristobulus.

The fifth wife of Herod the Great was Cleopatra of Jerusalem.

She was the mother of Herod surnamed Antipas, who married

Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, while he was still

living. Being reproved for this act by John the Baptist,

Mt 14:3; Mr 6:17; Lu 3:19, and having imprisoned this holy

man, he caused him to be beheaded, agreeable to the promise he had

rashly made to the daughter of his wife Herodias, who had pleased

him with her dancing. He attempted to seize the person of Jesus

Christ, and to put him to death. It was to this prince that

Pilate sent our Lord, Lu 13:31, 32. He was banished to Lyons,

and then to Spain, where both he and his wife Herodias died.

Joseph. Antiq. l. xv. c. 14.-De Bello, l. ii. c. 8.

The sixth wife of Herod the Great was Pallas, by whom he had

Phasaelus: his history is no ways connected with the New


The seventh was named Phoedra, the mother of Roxana, who married

the son of Pheroras.

The eighth was Elpida, mother of Salome, who married another son

of Pheroras.

With the names of two other wives of Herod we are not

acquainted; but they are not connected with our history, any more

than are Pallas, Phoedra, and Elpida, whose names I merely notice

to avoid the accusation of inaccuracy.

ARISTOBULUS, the son of Herod the Great by Mariamne, a

descendant of the Asmoneans, left two sons and a daughter, viz.

Agrippa, Herod, and Herodias, so famous for her incestuous

marriage with Antipas, in the life-time of his brother Philip.

AGRIPPA, otherwise named Herod, who was imprisoned by Tiberius

for something he had inconsiderately said against him, was

released from prison by Caligula, who made him king of Judea:

Joseph. Antiq. l. xviii. c. 8. It was this prince who put St.

James to death, and imprisoned Peter, as mentioned in xii. of

Acts. He died at Caesarea, in the way mentioned in the Acts, as

well as by Josephus, Antiq. l. xix. c. 7. He left a son named

Agrippa, who is mentioned below.

HEROD, the second son of Aristobulus, was king of Chalcis, and,

after the death of his brother, obtained permission of the emperor

to keep the ornaments belonging to the high priest, and to

nominate whom he pleased to that office: Joseph. Antiq. l. xx. c.

1. He had a son named Aristobulus, to whom Nero gave Armenia the

lesser, and who married Salome, the famous dancer, daughter to


AGRIPPA, son of Herod Agrippa, king of Judea, and grandson to

Aristobulus and Mariamne; he was at first king of Chalcis, and

afterwards tetrarch of Galilee, in the room of his uncle Philip:

Joseph. Antiq. l. xx. c. 5. It was before him, his sister

Berenice, and Felix, who had married Drusilla, Agrippa's second

daughter, that St. Paul pleaded his cause, as mentioned Acts 26.

HERODIAS, the daughter of Mariamne and Aristobulus, is the

person of whom we have already spoken, who married successively

the two brothers Philip and Antipas, her uncles, and who

occasioned the death of John the Baptist. By her first husband

she had Salome, the dancer, who was married to Philip, tetrarch of

the Trachonitis, the son of Herod the Great. Salome having had no

children by him, she was married to Aristobulus, her cousin-german,

son of Herod, king of Chalcis, and brother to Agrippa and Herodias:

she had by this husband several children.

This is nearly all that is necessary to be known relative to the

race of the Herods, in order to distinguish the particular persons

of this family mentioned in the New Testament. See Basnage,

Calmet, and Josephus.

There came wise men from the east] Or, Magi came from the

eastern countries. "The Jews believed that there were prophets in

the kingdom of Saba and Arabia, who were of the posterity of

Abraham by Keturah; and that they taught in the name of God, what

they had received in tradition from the mouth of Abraham."-WHITBY.

That many Jews were mixed with this people there is little doubt;

and that these eastern magi, or philosophers, astrologers, or

whatever else they were, might have been originally of that class,

there is room to believe. These, knowing the promise of the

Messiah, were now, probably, like other believing Jews, waiting

for the consolation of Israel. The Persic translator renders the

Greek μαγοι by [Persic] mejooseean, which properly signifies a

worshipper of fire; and from which we have our word magician. It

is very probable that the ancient Persians, who were considered as

worshippers of fire, only honoured it as the symbolical

representation of the Deity; and, seeing this unusual appearance,

might consider it as a sign that the God they worshipped was about

to manifest himself among men. Therefore they say, We have seen

his star-and are come to worship him; but it is most likely that

the Greeks made their μαγοι magi, which we translate wise men,

from the Persian [Persian] mogh, and [Persian] moghan, which the

Kushuf ul Loghat, a very eminent Persian lexicon, explains by

[Persian] atush perest, a worshipper of fire; which the Persians

suppose all the inhabitants of Ur in Chaldea were, among whom the

Prophet Abraham was brought up. The Mohammedans apply this title

by way of derision to Christian monks in their associate

capacity; and by a yet stronger catachresis, they apply it to a

tavern, and the people that frequent it. Also, to ridicule in the

most forcible manner the Christian priesthood, they call the

tavern-keeper [Arabic], peeri Mughan, the priest, or chief of

the idolaters. It is very probable that the persons mentioned by

the evangelist were a sort of astrologers, probably of Jewish

extraction, that they lived in Arabia-Felix, and, for the reasons

above given, came to worship their new-born sovereign. It is

worthy of remark, that the Anglo-saxon translates the word μαγοι

by [Anglo-Saxon], which signifies astrologers, from [Anglo-Saxon]

a star or planet, and [Anglo-Saxon], to know or understand.

Verse 2. We have seen his star] Having discovered an unusual

luminous appearance or meteor in the heavens, supposing these

persons to have been Jews, and knowing the prophecies relative to

the redemption of Israel, they probably considered this to be the

star mentioned by Balaam, Nu 24:17. See the note there.

In the east] εντηανατολη, At its rise. ανατολη and δυσην

are used in the New Testament for east and west.

To worship him.] Or, To do him homage; προσκυνησαιαυτω. The

word προσκυνεω, which is compounded of προς, to, and κυων,

a dog, signifies to crouch and fawn like a dog at his master's

feet. It means, to prostrate oneself to another, according to the

eastern custom, which is still in use. In this act, the person

kneels, and puts his head between his knees, his forehead at the

same time touching the ground. It was used to express both civil

and religious reverence. In Hindostan, religious homage is paid

by prostrating the body at full length, so that the two knees, the

two hands, forehead, nose, and cheeks all touch the earth at the

same time. This kind of homage is paid also to great men. AYEEN

AKBERY, vol. iii. p. 227.

As to what is here called a star, some make it a meteor, others

a luminous appearance like an Aurora Borealis; others a comet!

There is no doubt, the appearance was very striking: but it seems

to have been a simple meteor provided for the occasion.

See Clarke on Mt 2:9.

Verse 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


"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.

Verse 4. The chief priests] Not only the high priest for the

time being, called cohen ha-rosh, 2Ki 25:18, and his

deputy, called cohen mishneh, with those who had

formerly borne the high priest's office; but also, the chiefs or

heads of the twenty four sacerdotal families, which David

distributed into so many courses, 1Ch 24. These latter are styled

sarey ha-cohanim, chief of the priests, 2Ch 36:14;

Ezr 8:24; and

roshey ha-cohanim, heads of the priests, Ne 12:7.

Josephus calls them by the same name as the writers of the New

Testament. In his Life, sect. 8, he mentions πολλουςτων

αρχιερεων, MANY of the chief priests. The word is used in the

singular in this last sense, for a chief of the priests, Ac 19:14.

Scribes] The word γραμματευς, in the Septuagint, is used for a

political officer, whose business it was to assist kings and civil

magistrates, and to keep an account in writing of public acts and

occurrences. Such an officer is called in Hebrew seper

hamelech, ογραμματευςτουβασιλεως, the king's scribe, or

secretary. See LXX. 2Ki 12:10.

The word is often used by the LXX. for a man of learning,

especially for one skilled in the Mosaic law: and, in the same

sense, it is used by the New Testament writers. γραμματευς is

therefore to be understood as always implying a man of letters, or

learning, capable of instructing the people. The derivation of

the names proves this to be the genuine meaning of the word

γραμμα: a letter, or character, in writing: or γραμματα,

letters, learning, erudition, and especially that gained from

books. The Hebrew or sopher, from saphar, to

tell, count, cypher, signifies both a book, volume, roll, &c., and

a notary, recorder, or historian; and always signifies a man of

learning. We often term such a person a man of letters.

The word is used Ac 19:35,

for a civil magistrate at Ephesus, probably such a one as we would

term recorder. It appears that Herod at this time gathered the

whole Sanhedrin, in order to get the fullest information on a

subject by which all his jealous fears had been alarmed.

Verse 5. In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the

prophet] As there have been several confused notions among the

Jews, relative not only to the Messiah, and his character, but

also to the time of his birth, it may be necessary to add, to what

has already been said on this subject, the following extracts from

the Talmudists and Gemarists, quoted by LIGHTFOOT. At the close

of a long dissertation on the year of our Lord's birth, (which he

places in the 35th of the reign of Herod, not the last or 37th as

above,) he says: "It will not be improper here to produce the

Gemarists themselves openly confessing that the Messias had been

born, a good while ago before their times. For so they write:

After this the children of Israel shall be converted, and shall

inquire after the Lord their God, and David their king: Ho 3:5.

Our rabbins say, That is King Messias, If he be among the living,

his name is David, or if dead, David is his name. R. Tanchum

said, Thus I prove it: He showeth mercy to David his Messiah.

(Ps 18:50.)

R. Joshua ben Levi saith, His name is tsemach, a Branch.

(Zec 3:8.)

R. Juban bar Arbu saith, His name is Menahem. (That is,

παρακλητος, the Comforter.) 'And that which happened to a certain

Jew, as he was ploughing, agreeth with this business. A certain

Arabian travelling, and hearing the ox bellow, said to the Jew at

plough, O Jew, loose thy oxen, and loose thy ploughs, for behold!

The temple is laid waste. The ox belloweth the second time; the

Arabian saith to him, O Jew, Jew, yoke thy oxen, and fit thy

ploughs: For behold! King Messiah is born.

But, saith the Jew, What is his name? Menahem, saith he (i.e.

the Comforter.) And what is the name of his Father? Hezekiah,

saith the Arabian. To whom the Jew, But whence is He? The other

answered, From the palace of the king of Bethlehem Judah. Away he

went, and sold his oxen and his ploughs, and became a seller of

infants' swaddling clothes, going about from town to town. When

he came to that city, (Bethlehem,) all the women bought of him,

but the mother of Menahem bought nothing. He heard the voice of

the women saying, O thou mother of Menahem, thou mother of

Menahem, carry thy son the things that are here sold. But she

replied, May the enemies of Israel be strangled, because on the

day that he was born, the temple was laid waste. To whom he said,

But we hoped, that as it was laid waste at his feet, so at his

feet it would be built again. She saith, I have no money. To

whom he replied, But why should this be prejudicial to him? Carry

him what you buy here, and if you have no money today, after some

days I will come back and receive it. After some days, he

returned to that city, and saith to her, How does the little

infant? And she said, From the time you saw me last, spirits and

tempests came, and snatched him away out of my hands. R. Bon

saith, What need have we to learn from an Arabian? Is it not

plainly written, And Lebanon shall fall before the powerful one?

(Isa 10:34.)

And what follows after? A branch shall come out of the root of

Jesse. (Isa 11:1.)

"The Babylonian doctors yield us a confession not very unlike

the former. R. Charinah saith: After four hundred years are

passed from the destruction of the temple, if any one shall say to

you, Take to thyself for one penny a field worth a thousand pence,

do not take it. And again, After four thousand two hundred thirty

and one years from the creation of the world, if any shall say to

you, Take for a penny a field worth a thousand pence, take it not.

The gloss is, For that is the time of redemption, and you shall be

brought back to the holy mountain, to the inheritance of your

fathers; why, therefore, should you misspend your penny?

"You may fetch the reason of this calculation, if you have

leisure, out of the tract Sanhedrin. The tradition of the school

of Elias, the world is to last six thousand years, &c. And a

little after, Elias said to Rabh Judah, The world shall last not

less than eighty-five jubilees: and in the last jubilee shall the

Son of David come. He saith to him, Whether in the beginning of

it, or in the end? He answered him, I know not. Whether is this

whole time to be finished first, or not? He answered him, I know

not. But Rabh Asher asserted, that he answered thus, Until then,

expect him not, but from thence expect him. Hear your own

countrymen, O Jew! How many centuries of years are passed by and

gone from the eighty-fifth jubilee of the world, that is, the year

MMMMCCL, and yet the Messias of your expectation is not yet come!

"Daniel's weeks had so clearly defined the time of the true

Messias, his coming, that the minds of the whole nation were

raised into the expectation of him. Hence, it was doubted of the

Baptist, whether he were not the Messias, Lu 3:15. Hence it was,

that the Jews are gathered together from all countries unto

Jerusalem, Acts 2:, expecting and coming to see, because at that

time the term of revealing the Messias, that had been prefixed by

Daniel, was come. Hence it was that there was so great a number

of false Christs, Mt 24:5, &c., taking the occasion of their

impostures hence, that now the time of that great expectation was

at hand, and fulfilled: and in one word, They thought the kingdom

of God should presently appear, Lu 19:11.

"But when those times of expectation were past, nor did such a

Messias appear as they expected, (for when they saw the true

Messias, they would not see him,) they first broke out into

various, and those wild, conjectures of the time; and at length,

all those conjectures coming to nothing, all ended in this curse

(the just cause of their eternal blindness) ,

May their soul be confounded who compute the times!" They were

fully aware that the time foretold by the prophets must be long

since fulfilled; and that their obstinacy must be confounded by

their own history, and the chronology of their own Scriptures;

and therefore they have pronounced an anathema on those who shall

attempt to examine, by chronological computations, the prophecies

that predict his coming. Who can conceive a state of wilful

blindness or determined obstinacy superior to this!

Verse 6. And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda] To

distinguish it from Bethlehem, in the tribe of Zebulon. Jos 19:15.

See Clarke on Mt 2:1.

Art not the least] In Mic 5:2,

it is read, Though thou be little- tsair lehayoth,

little to be. Houbigant, struck with the oddness of the

construction of the Hebrew, by dividing the last word, and making

a small change in two of the letters, makes the prophet agree with

the evangelist, tsair lo hayita, thou art not the

least. Several learned men are of opinion, that the copy from

which St. Matthew quoted, had the text in this way. However, some

MSS. of very good note, among which is the Codex Bezae, have μη

ελαχιστηει, for ουδαμωςελαχιστηει, Art thou not the least?

This reconciles the prophet and evangelist without farther

trouble. See the authorities for this reading in Griesbach and


Among the princes of Juda] In Mic 5:2,

it is, the thousands of Judah. There is much reason to believe

that each tribe was divided into small portions called thousands,

as in England certain small divisions of counties are called

hundreds. For the proof of the first, the reader is referred to

Jud 6:15,

where, instead of my FAMILY is poor in Manasseh, the Hebrew is, my

THOUSAND () is the meanest in Manasseh: and to 1Sa 10:19,

Present yourselves before the Lord by your TRIBES and by your

THOUSANDS: and to 1Ch 12:20, Captains of the THOUSANDS of

Manasseh. Now these THOUSANDS being petty governments, Matthew

renders them by the word ηγεμοσις, because the word princes or

governors was more intelligible in the Greek tongue than

thousands, though, in this case, they both signify the same. See


That shall rule my people Israel.] οστιςποιμανει, Who shall

FEED my people. That is as a shepherd feeds his flock. Among the

Greeks, kings are called, by Homer, λαωνποιμενες, shepherds of

the people. This appellation probably originated from the

pastoral employment, which kings and patriarchs did not blush to

exercise in the times of primitive simplicity; and it might

particularly refer to the case of David, the great type of Christ,

who was a keeper of his father's sheep, before he was raised to

the throne of Israel. As the government of a good king was

similar to the care a good shepherd has of his flock, hence ποιμην

signified both shepherd and king; and ποιμαινω, to feed and

to rule among the ancient Greeks.

Verse 8. That I may come and worship him also.] See Mt 2:2,

and on Ge 17:3, and Ex 4:31. What exquisite hypocrisy was here!

he only wished to find out the child that he might murder him; but

see how that God who searches the heart prevents the designs of

wicked men from being accomplished!

Verse 9. In the east] Or, at its rise.

See Clarke on Mt 2:2.

Stood over where the young child was.] Super caput pueri, Over

the head of the child, as the OPUS IMPERFECTUM, on this place, has

it. See Griesbach's Var. Lect. So it appears to have been a

simple luminous meteor in a star-like form, and at a very short

distance from the ground, otherwise it could not have ascertained

the place where the child lay. But the last quoted reading, from

the Opus Imperfectum, justifies the opinion that the luminous

appearance which had hitherto directed them now encompassed the

head of the child; and probably this gave the first idea to the

ancient painters, of representing Christ in the manger, with a

glory surrounding his head. This glory, or nimbus, is usually

given also to saints and eminent persons, especially in the Roman

Church, by all Roman Catholic painters.

Verse 11. They presented unto him gifts] The people of the

east never approach the presence of kings and great personages,

without a present in their hands. This custom is often noticed in

the Old Testament, and still prevails in the east, and in some of

the newly discovered South Sea Islands.

Gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.] Some will have these gifts

to be emblematic of the Divinity, regal office, and manhood of

Christ. "They offered him incense as their God; gold as their

king; and myrrh, as united to a human body, subject to suffering

and death." Aurum, thus, myrrham, regique, DEO, HOMINIQUE, dona

ferunt. JUVENCUS. Rather, they offered him the things which were

in most esteem among themselves; and which were productions of

their own country. The gold was probably a very providential

supply, as on it, it is likely, they subsisted while in Egypt.

Verse 13. Flee into Egypt] Many Jews had settled in Egypt; not

only those who had fled thither in the time of Jeremiah, see Jer.

48; but many others who had settled there also, on account of the

temple which Onias IV. had built at Heliopolis. Those who could

speak the Greek tongue enjoyed many advantages in that country:

besides, they had the Greek version of the Septuagint, which had

been translated nearly 300 years before this time. Egypt was now

a Roman province, and the rage of Herod could not pursue the holy

family to this place. There is an apocryphal work in Arabic,

called the Gospel of the infancy, which pretends to relate all the

acts of Jesus and Mary while in Egypt. I have taken the pains to

read this through, and have found it to be a piece of gross

superstition, having nothing to entitle it to a shadow of


Verse 15. Out of Egypt have I called my son.] This is quoted

from Ho 11:1, where the deliverance of Israel, and that only, is

referred to. But as that deliverance was extraordinary, it is

very likely that it had passed into a proverb, so that "Out of

Egypt have I called my son," might have been used to express any

signal deliverance. I confess, I can see no other reference it

can have to the case in hand, unless we suppose, which is

possible, that God might have referred to this future bringing up

of his son Jesus from Egypt, under the type of the past

deliverance of Israel from the same land. Midrash Tehillin, on

Ps 2:7,

has these remarkable words: I will publish a decree: this decree

has been published in the Law, in the Prophets, and in the

Hagiographia. In the Law, Israel is my first-born son: Ex 4:22.

In the Prophets, Behold, my servant shall deal prudently:

Isa 52:13.

In the Hagiographia, The Lord said unto my lord: Ps 110:1.

All these passages the Jews refer to the Messiah. See Schoetgen.

Verse 16. Slew all the children] This cruelty of Herod seems

alluded to in very decisive terms by Macrobius, who flourished

toward the conclusion of the fourth Century. In his chapter De

jocis Augusti in alios, et aliorum rursus in ipsum, he says, Cum

audisset inter pueros, quos in Syria Herodes, rex Judeorum, intra

bimatum jussit interfici, filium quoque ejus occisum, ait, Melius

est Herodis PORCUM esse, quam FILIUM. "When he heard that among

those male infants about two years old, which Herod, the king of

the Jews, ordered to be slain in Syria, one of his sons was also

murdered, he said: 'It is better to be Herod's HOG than his SON.'"

Saturn. lib. ii. c. 4. The point of this saying consists in this,

that Herod, professing Judaism, his religion forbade his killing

swine, or having any thing to do with their flesh; therefore his

hog would have been safe, where his son lost his life.

Verse 18. In Rama was there a voice heard] These words, quoted

from Jer 31:15, were originally spoken concerning the captivity

of the ten tribes; but are here elegantly applied to the murder of

the innocents at Bethlehem. As if he had said, Bethlehem at this

time resembled Rama; for as Rachel might be said to weep over her

children, which were slaughtered or gone into captivity; so in

Bethlehem, the mothers lamented bitterly their children, because

they were slain. The word θρηνος, lamentation is omitted by the

Codd. Vatic. Cypr. one of Selden's MSS. the Syriac, Arabic,

Persic, AEthiopic, all the Itala, (except that in the Cod. Bezae,)

Vulgate, and Saxon, several of the fathers, and above all

Jeremiah, Jer 31:15, from which it is quoted. Griesbach leaves

it in the text with a note of doubtfulness. This mourning may

refer to cases far from uncommon in the east, where all the

children have been massacred. The lamentations of a Hindoo mother

for her child are loud and piercing; and it is almost impossible

to conceive of a scene more truly heart-rending than that of a

whole town of such mothers wailing over their massacred children.


Verse 20. They are dead] Both Herod and Antipater his son;

though some think the plural is here used for the singular, and

that the death of Herod alone is here intended. But as Herod's

son Antipater was at this time heir apparent to the throne, and he

had cleared his way to it by procuring the death of both his elder

brothers, he is probably alluded to here, as doubtless he entered

into his father's designs. THEY are dead-Antipater was put to

death by his father's command, five days before this execrable

tyrant went to his own place. See Josephus, Antiq. xvi. 11; xvii.


Verse 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


Verse 23. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the

prophets] It is difficult to ascertain by what prophets this

was spoken. The margin usually refers to Jud 13:5, where the

angel, foretelling the birth of Samson, says, No razor shall come

upon his head; for the child shall be a NAZARITE ( nezir)

unto God from the womb. The second passage usually referred to is

Isa 11:1:

There shall come forth a rod from the stem of Jesse, and a BRANCH

( netser) shall grow out of his roots. That this refers to

Christ, there is no doubt. Jeremiah, Jer 23:5, is supposed to

speak in the same language-I will raise unto David a righteous

BRANCH: but here the word is tsemach, not netser; and

it is the same in the parallel place, Zec 3:8; 6:12; therefore,

these two prophets cannot be referred to; but the passages in

Judges and Isaiah may have been in the eye of the evangelist, as

well as the whole institution relative to the Nazarite (

nezir) delivered at large, Num. 6:, where see the notes. As the

Nazarite was the most pure and perfect institution under the law,

it is possible that God intended to point out by it, not only the

perfection of our Lord, but also the purity of his followers. And

it is likely that, before St. Matthew wrote this Gospel, those

afterwards called Christians bore the appellation of Nazarites, or

Nazoreans, for so the Greek word, ναζωραιος, should be written.

Leaving the spiritual reference out of the question, the Nazarene

or Nazorean here may mean simply an inhabitant or person of

Nazareth; as Galilean does a person or inhabitant of Galilee.

The evangelist evidently designed to state, that neither the

sojourning at Nazareth, nor our Lord being called a Nazarene, were

fortuitous events, but were wisely determined and provided for in

the providence of God; and therefore foretold by inspired men, or

fore-represented by significant institutions.

But how shall we account for the manner in which St. Matthew and

others apply this, and various other circumstances, to the

fulfilment of ancient traditions? This question has greatly

agitated divines and critics for more than a century. Surenhusius,

Hebrew professor at Amsterdam, and editor of a very splendid and

useful edition of the Mishna, in six vols. fol. published an

express treatise on this subject, in 1713, full of deep research

and sound criticism. He remarks great difference in the mode of

quoting used in the Sacred Writings: as, It hath been said-it is

written-that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the

prophets-the Scripture says-see what is said-the Scripture

foreseeing-he saith-is it not written?-the saying that is

written, &c., &c. With great pains and industry, he has collected

ten rules out of the Talmud and the rabbins, to explain and

justify all the quotations made from the Old Testament in the New.

RULE I. Reading the words, not according to the regular vowel

points, but to others substituted for them. He thinks this is

done by Peter, Ac 3:22, 23;

by Stephen, Ac 7:42, &c.;

and by Paul, 1Co 15:54; 2Co 8:15.

RULE II. Changing the letters, as done by St. Paul, Ro 9:33;

1Co 9:9, &c.; Heb 8:9., &c.; Heb 10:5.

RULE III. Changing both letters and vowel points, as he

supposes is done by St. Paul, Ac 13:40, 41; 2Co 8:15.

RULE IV. Adding some letters, and retrenching others.

RULE V. Transposing words and letters.

RULE VI. Dividing one word into two.

RULE VII. Adding other words to make the sense more clear.

RULE VIII. Changing the original order of the words.

RULE IX. Changing the original order, and adding other words.

RULE X. Changing the original order, and adding and retrenching

words, which he maintains is a method often used by St. Paul.

Let it be observed, that although all these rules are used by

the rabbins, yet, as far as they are employed by the sacred

writers of the New Testament, they never, in any case, contradict

what they quote from the Old, which cannot be said of the rabbins:

they only explain what they quote, or accommodate the passage to

the facts then in question. And who will venture to say that the

Holy Spirit has not a right, in any subsequent period, to explain

and illustrate his own meaning, by showing that it had a greater

extension in the Divine mind than could have been then perceived

by men? And has HE not a right to add to what he has formerly

said, if it seem right in his own sight? Is not the whole of the

New Testament, an addition to the Old, as the apostolic epistles

are to the narrative of our Lord's life and acts, as given by the


Gusset, Wolf, Rosenmuller, and others, give four rules, according

to which, the phrase, that it might be fulfilled, may be applied

in the New Testament.

RULE I. When the thing predicted is literally accomplished.

RULE II. When that is done, of which the Scripture has spoken,

not in a literal sense, but in a spiritual sense.

RULE III. When a thing is done neither in a literal nor

spiritual sense, according to the fact referred to in the

Scripture; but is similar to that fact.

RULE IV. When that which has been mentioned in the Old Testament

as formerly done, is accomplished in a larger and more extensive

sense in the New Testament.

St. Matthew seems to quote according to all these rules; and it

will be useful to the reader to keep them constantly in view. I

may add here, that the writers of the New Testament seem often to

differ from those of the Old, because they appear uniformly to

quote from some copy of the Septuagint version; and most of their

quotations agree verbally, and often even literally, with one or

other of the copies of that version which subsist to the

present day. Want of attention to the difference of copies, in

the Septuagint version, has led some divines and critics into

strange and even ridiculous mistakes, as they have taken that for

THE SEPTUAGINT which existed in the printed copy before them;

which sometimes happened not to be the most correct.

ON the birth-place of our Lord, a pious and sensible man has

made the following observations:-

"At the first sight, it seems of little consequence to know the

place of Christ's nativity; for we should consider him as our

Redeemer, whatever the circumstances might be which attended his

mortal life. But, seeing it has pleased God to announce,

beforehand, the place where the Saviour of the world should be

born, it became necessary that it should happen precisely in that

place; and that this should be one of the characteristics whereby

Jesus Christ should be known to be the true Messiah.

"It is also a matter of small importance to us where we may

live, provided we find genuine happiness. There is no place on

earth, however poor and despicable, but may have better and more

happy inhabitants than many of those are who dwell in the largest

and most celebrated cities. Do we know a single place on the

whole globe where the works of God do not appear under a thousand

different forms, and where a person may not feel that blessed

satisfaction which arises from a holy and Christian life? For an

individual, that place is preferable to all others where he can

get and do most good. For a number of people, that place is best

where they can find the greatest number of wise and pious men.

Every nation declines, in proportion as virtue and religion lose

their influence on the minds of the inhabitants. The place where

a young man first beheld the dawn and the beauty of renewed

nature, and with most lively sensations of joy and gratitude

adored his God, with all the veneration and love his heart was

capable of; the place where a virtuous couple first met, and got

acquainted; or where two friends gave each other the noblest

proofs of their most tender affection; the village where one may

have given, or seen, the most remarkable example of goodness,

uprightness, and patience; such places, I say, must be dear to

their hearts.

"Bethlehem was, according to this rule, notwithstanding its

smallness, a most venerable place; seeing that there so many pious

people had their abode, and that acts of peculiar piety had often

been performed in it. First, the patriarch Jacob stopped some

time in it, to erect a monument to his well-beloved Rachel. It

was at Bethlehem that honest Naomi, and her modest

daughter-in-law, Ruth, gave such proofs of their faith and

holiness; and in it Boaz, the generous benefactor, had his abode

and his possessions. At Bethlehem the humble Jesse sojourned, the

happy father of so many sons; the youngest of whom rose from the

pastoral life to the throne of Israel. It was in this country

that David formed the resolution of building a house for the Lord,

and in which he showed himself the true shepherd and father of his

subjects, when, at the sight of the destroying angel, whose sword

spread consternation and death on all hands, he made intercession

for his people. It was in Bethlehem that Zerubbabel the prince

was born, this descendant of David, who was the type of that Ruler

and Shepherd under whose empire Israel is one day to assemble, in

order to enjoy uninterrupted happiness. Lastly, in this city the

Son of God appeared; who, by his birth, laid the foundation of

that salvation, which, as Redeemer, he was to purchase by his

death for the whole world. Thus, in places which from their

smallness are entitled to little notice, men sometimes spring, who

become the benefactors of the human race. Often, an

inconsiderable village has given birth to a man, who, by his

wisdom, uprightness, and heroism, has been a blessing to whole


Sturm's Reflections, translated by A. C. vol. iv.

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