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1: Bethlehem of Judea - There was another Bethlehem in the
tribe of Zebulon. In the days of Herod - commonly called Herod
the Great, born at Ascalon. The sceptre was now on the point
of departing from Judah. Among his sons were Archelaus,
mentioned (Mt 2:22); Herod Antipas, mentioned (Mt 14:1); &c.,
and Philip, mentioned (Lu 3:19).
Herod Agrippa, mentioned (Ac 12:1); &c., was his grandson.
Wise men - The first fruits of the Gentiles. Probably they
were Gentile philosophers, who, through the Divine assistance,
had improved their knowledge of nature, as a means of leading to
the knowledge of the one true God. Nor is it unreasonable to
suppose, that God had favoured them with some extraordinary
revelations of himself, as he did Melchisedec, Job, and several
others, who were not of the family of Abraham; to which he never
intended absolutely to confine his favours. The title given them
in the original was anciently given to all philosophers, or men
of learning; those particularly who were curious in examining the
works of nature, and observing the motions of the heavenly bodies.
From the east - So Arabia is frequently called in Scripture.
It lay to the east of Judea, and was famous for gold, frankincense,
and myrrh. We have seen his star - Undoubtedly they had before
heard Balaam's prophecy. And probably when they saw this unusual
star, it was revealed to them that this prophecy was fulfilled.
In the east - That is, while we were in the east.
2: To do him homage - To pay him that honour, by bowing to the earth
before him, which the eastern nations used to pay to their monarchs.
4: The chief priests - That is, not only the high priest and his
deputy, with those who formerly had borne that office: but also
the chief man in each of those twenty - four courses, into which
the body of priests were divided, (1Ch 24:6-19).
The scribes were those whose peculiar business it was to explain
the Scriptures to the people. They were the public preachers, or
expounders of the law of Moses. Whence the chief of them were
called doctors of the law.
6: Thou art in nowise the least among the princes of Judah - That
is, among the cities belonging to the princes or heads of
thousands in Judah. When this and several other quotations from
the Old Testament are compared with the original, it plainly
appears, the apostles did not always think it necessary exactly
to transcribe the passages they cited, but contented themselves
with giving the general sense, though with some diversity of
language. The words of Micah, which we render, Though thou be
little, may be rendered, Art thou little? And then the
difference which seems to be here between the prophet and the
evangelist vanishes away. (Mic 5:2).
8: And if ye find him, bring me word - Probably Herod did not
believe he was born; otherwise would not so suspicious a prince
have tried to make sure work at once?
10: Seeing the star - Standing over where the child was.
11: They presented to him gifts - It was customary to offer some
present to any eminent person whom they visited. And so it is,
as travellers observe, in the eastern countries to this day.
Gold, frankincense, and myrrh - Probably these were the best things
their country afforded; and the presents ordinarily made to great
This was a most seasonable, providential assistance for a long
and expensive journey into Egypt, a country where they were
entirely strangers, and were to stay for a considerable time.
15: That it might be fulfilled - That is, whereby was fulfilled.
The original word frequently signifies, not the design of an
action, but barely the consequence or event of it. Which was
spoken of the Lord by the prophet - on another occasion: Out of
Egypt have I called my Son - which was now fulfilled as it were
anew; Christ being in a far higher sense the Son of God than
Israel, of whom the words were originally spoken.(Ho 11:1).
16: Then Herod, seeing that he was deluded by the wise men - So
did his pride teach him to regard this action, as if it were
intended to expose him to the derision of his subjects.
Sending forth - a party of soldiers: In all the confines
thereof - In all the neighbouring places, of which Rama was one.
17: Then was fulfilled - A passage of Scripture, whether prophetic,
historical, or poetical, is in the language of the New Testament
fulfilled, when an event happens to which it may with great
propriety be accommodated.
18: Rachel weeping for her children - The Benjamites, who inhabited
Rama, sprung from her. She was buried near this place; and is
here beautifully represented risen, as it were out of her grave,
and bewailing her lost children. Because they are not - that is,
are dead. The preservation of Jesus from this destruction, may
be considered as a figure of God's care over his children in
their greatest danger. God does not often, as he easily could,
cut off their persecutors at a stroke. But he provides a hiding
place for his people, and by methods not less effectual, though
less pompous, preserves them from being swept away, even when
the enemy comes in like a flood. (Jer 31:15).
22: He was afraid to go thither - into Judea; and so turned aside
into the region of Galilee - a part of the land of Israel not under
the jurisdiction of Archelaus.
23: He came and dwelt in Nazareth - (where he had dwelt before he
went to Bethlehem) a place contemptible to a proverb. So that
hereby was fulfilled what has been spoken in effect by several
of the prophets, (though by none of them in express words,) He
shall be called a Nazarene - that is, he shall be despised and
rejected, shall be a mark of public contempt and reproach.