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them. That light might have been visible from afar, and have been seen by the wise men in the east. In the east.' This does not mean that they had seen the star to the east of themselves, but that, when they were in the east, they had seen this star. As this star was in the direction of Jerusalem, it must have been west of them. It might be translated, We, being in the east, have seen this star.' It is called his star, because they supposed it to be intended to indicate the time and place of his birth. To worship him.' They regarded him as king of the Jews. They came to honour him as such. The original word means to prostrate one's self before another; to fall down and pay homage to another. This was the mode in which homage was paid to earthly kings. See the same meaning of the word in Matt. xx. 20; xviii. 26. Acts x. 25. Luke xiv. 10.
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
3.' 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 the king of the Jews was born, alarmed him. All Jerusalem.' The people of Jerusalem, and particularly the friends of Herod. There were many waiting for the consolation of Israel, and to whom the coming of the Messiah would be a matter of joy; but Herod's friends would doubtless be alarmed at his coming.
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.
4. The chief priests.' By the chief priests here are meant not only the high-priest and his deputy, but also the heads or chiefs of the twenty-four classes into which David had divided the sacerdotal families, 1 Chron. xxiii. 6; xxiv. 2 Chron. viii. 14; xxxvi. 14. Ezra viii. 24. 'Scribes. By the scribes, in the New Testament, are meant learned men, men skilled in the law, and members of the great council of the nation. They kept the records of the court of justice, the registers in the synagogues, wrote their articles of contract and sale, their bills of divorce, &c. They were also called lawyers, Matt. xxii. 35, and doctors of the law, Luke v. 17. They were called scribes from the fact of their writing the public records. By the chief priests and scribes here mentioned is denoted the sanhedrim or great council of the nation. This was composed of seventy-two men, and had the charge of the affairs of the nation. 'Demanded of them.' Inquired, or asked of them. As they were the learned men of the nation, and as it was their business to study and explain the Old Testament, they were presumed to know what the prophecies had declared on that point,
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.
5, 6. By the prophet. The sanhedrim answered without hesitation. It was settled by prophecy. This prophecy is found in Micah v. 2. In that prophecy both the place of his birth and the character of the Messiah are so clearly set forth, that there was no room to doubt. 'Art not the least.' In Micah, 'though thou be little.' Though a small place so far as population is concerned, yet it shall not be small, or least in honour; for the Messiah shall be born there. His birth gave the place an honour which could not be conferred on the larger cities by all their numbers, their splendour, and their wealth. A Governor.' A Ruler. This is one of the characters of the Messiah, who is the King of his people, John xviii. 36, 37. The word 'rule' here means to rule as a shepherd does his flock, in faithfulness and tenderness. Compare John x. 11. Isa. xl. 10, 11; ix. 7.
7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
7. Privily. Secretly, privately. Diligently. Accurately, exactly. He did this because he naturally concluded that the star appeared at the time of his birth, and he wished to know precisely now old the child was.
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.
8. Go and search diligently, &c. Herod took all possible means to obtain accurate information respecting the child, that he might be sure of destroying him. He not only ascertained the probable time of his birth, and the place where he would be born, but he sent the wise men that they might actually see him, and bring him word. All this might have looked suspicious if he had not clothed it with the appearance of religion. He said to them, therefore, that he did it that he might go and worship him also. 1. Wicked men often cloak their evil designs under the appearance of religion. They attempt to deceive those who are really good, and to make them suppose that they have the same design. But God cannot be deceived, and he will bring them to punishment. 2. Wicked men often attempt to make use of the pious to advance their evil purposes. Men like Herod will stop at nothing
if they can carry their ends. They endeavour to deceive the simple, allure the unsuspecting, and to beguile the weak, to answer their purposes of wickedness. 3. The plans of wicked men are often well laid. They occupy a long time. They make diligent inquiry. They often put on the appearance of religion. But God sees the design; and though men are deceived, yet God cannot be, Prov. xv. 3.
9 When they had heard the king, 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 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
9, 10. The star-went before them.' It is not unlikely that they lost sight of the star after they had commenced their journey from the east. It is probable that it appeared to them first in the direction of Jerusalem. They concluded that the expected King had been born, and immediately commenced their journey to Jerusalem. When they arrived there, it was important that they should be directed to the very place where he was, and the star again appeared. It was for this reason that they rejoiced. And this shows, 1. That the birth of Jesus was an affair of great moment, worthy of the Divine direction of these men to find the place of his nativity. 2. God will guide those who are disposed to find the Saviour. Even if for a time the light should be withdrawn, yet it will again appear, and direct us in the way to the Redeemer. 3. Devotion to Christ should fill us with joy. He is the way, the truth, and the life; the Saviour, the Friend, the all in all; there is no other way of life, and there is no peace to the soul till he is found. When we are guided to him, therefore, our hearts should overflow with joy and praise; and we should humbly and thankfully follow every direction that leads to the Son of God, John xii. 35, 36.
11 ¶¶ And when they were come 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, and frankincense, and myrrh.
11. Fell down, and worshipped him;' see on v. 2. They presented unto him gifts.' As King of the Jews, because they supposed he was to be a distinguished prince and conqueror. It was customary at the birth of a prince to show respect for him by making him presents, or offerings of this kind, and to approach a great personage with gifts. See Gen. xxxii. 14; xliii. 11. 1 Sam. x. 27. 1 Kings x. 2. Ps. lxxii. 10. 15. 'Frankincense.' This was a production of Arabia. It was obtained from a tree by
making incisions in the bark, and suffering the gum to flow out It was highly fragrant when burned, and was therefore used in worship, when it was burned as a pleasant offering. See Genviii. 21. Eph. v. 2. It is produced in the East Indies, but chiefly in Arabia; and it has been supposed probable that the wise mer came from Arabia. Myrrh. This was also a production o Arabia, and was obtained from a tree in the same manner as frankincense. The name denotes bitterness, and was given to it on account of its great bitterness. It was used chiefly in embalming the dead, because it had the property of preserving bodies from putrefaction. Compare John xix. 39. It was much used in Egypt and in Judea. These offerings were the most valuable things which their country produced. They evinced their high regard for Jesus, their belief that he was to be an illustrious prince: and the fact that their deed is recorded with approbation shows us, that we should offer our most valuable possessions, our all to the Lord Jesus Christ. Wise men came from far to do him homage, and bowed down, and presented their best gifts and offerings. It is right that we give to him also our hearts, our worship, our property, our all.
12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
12. If they had given Herod precise information where he was, it would have been easy for him to send forth and slay Jesus. Hence we learn that God will watch over those whom he loves; that he knows how to deliver his own out of the hands of those who would destroy them.
13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
13. The angel. See ch. i. 20. Flee into Egypt.' Egypt is situated to the south-west of Judea. It was at this time a Roman province. There were many Jews there, a temple and synagogues; Joseph would be among his own countrymen, and yet beyond the reach of Herod. The very land which was the land of bondage and groaning for the Jews, became now the land of refuge and safety for the new-born King of Judea. God can overturn nations and kingdoms, so that those whom he loves shall be safe any where.
14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15 And
was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
15. The death of Herod. The best chronologers have supposed that he died somewhere about two years after the birth of Christ. Nor can it be determined exactly at what age Jesus was taken into Egypt. It seems probable that he was supposed to be a year old, (see v. 16,) and of course the time that he remained in Egypt was not long. That it might be fulfilled,' &c. This language is recorded in Hosea xi. 1. It there evidently speaks of God's calling his people out of Egypt under Moses. See Ex. iv. 22, 23. It might be said to be fulfilled in his calling Jesus from Egypt, because the words in Hosea aptly expressed this also.
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
16. Mocked of the wise men.' When he saw that they did not return as he had expected. It does not mean that they did it for the purpose of mocking or deriding him, but that he was disappointed in their not returning. Exceeding wroth.' Very angry. He had been disappointed and deceived. He expected to send an executioner and kill Jesus alone. But since he was disappointed in this, he thought he should accomplish the same thing, and be sure to destroy him, if he sent forth and put all the children in the place to death. This is an illustration of the power of wickedness and anger. It stops at nothing. If it cannot accomplish just what it wishes, it does not hesitate to go much farther, and accomplish much more evil than it at first designed. He that has a wicked heart, and indulges in anger, knows not where it will end, and will commonly commit far more evil than he at first intended. Slew all the children.' That is, all the male children. This is implied in the original. In all the coasts thereof.' The word coast is commonly applied now to the regions around the sea, as the sea-coast; here it means the adjacent places, the settlements or hamlets around Bethlehem. All that were in that neighbourhood. We do not know how large a place Bethlehem was; nor, of course, how many were slain. But it was not a large place, and the number could not be very great. According to the time,' &c.
He had endeavoured to ascertain of the wise men the exact time of his birth. He supposed he knew the age of Jesus. He slew, therefore, all that were of his age; that is, all that were born about the time when the star appeared, perhaps from six months old to two years. Herod was an odious and bloody tyrant, and