Mat_2:1. Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, —
Probably from that Assyria which is joined with Israel and Egypt in the remarkable prophecy in Isa_19:24-25 : “In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria even a blessing in the midst of the land: Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance. “Behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,” —
Mat_2:2-3. 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. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
He was troubled about the kingship which he had no right to possess, for he thought that, if the “King of the Jews” was really coming, he would be dethroned. And all Jerusalem was troubled with him, for the people over whom he reigned never knew what mischief he might do when once his suspicions were excited, for he was a cruel, blood-thirsty tyrant.
Mat_2:4-6. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the prince of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
It was something to get a distinct declaration from the Jewish rulers that the Christ was to be born at Bethlehem, for Jesus was born there. Afterwards, they called him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Nazareth was the place where he was brought up, but Bethlehem was the place of his birth, in fulfillment of the prophecy given hundreds of years before the event.
Mat_2:7-8. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 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.
Pretty “worship” was that which he would render to the infant King! He intended to murder him, and, in like manner, how often, under the pretense of worshipping Christ, has the very truth of Christ been murdered. Men invent new sacraments, new doctrines, new forms and Romanies, all avowedly for the edification of the Church and for the glory of Jesus; but really that they may stab at the very heart of God’s gospel, and put to death the living truth.
Mat_2:9. 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 was.
Yet it was not a wandering star, nor a shooting star; but a traveling star such as they had never seen before.
Mat_2:10-12. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 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. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
Very providentially, the magi had brought the gold with which Joseph would be able to pay the expenses incurred in journeying to the land of Egypt, and in supporting his family there till he could return to his home and his business. God always takes care of his own children; and specially did he provide for his firstborn and only-begotten Son.
Mat_2:13-14. 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. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
How obedient Joseph was! He was a man of a docile spirit, who willingly did as God bade him. He has, perhaps, never had his character sufficiently well set forth in the Church of God, for he was eminently honoured by being the guardian of the young child and his mother; and he discharged his duty with singular humility and gentleness.
Mat_2:15. 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.
Which was true first of Israel, the nation, as God’s ion, and now again true of Jesus, the great Son of God. It is true also of all sons of God; we have to be called out of Egypt. By the blood of the Paschal Lamb we too are saved, and we are brought out of Egypt with a high hand and an outstretched arm, in the day when God delivers us from our sin.
Mat_2:16. 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 enquired of the wise men.
That was the light he put upon it: “that he was mocked of the wise men.” He was exceeding wroth, and when he was wroth, his anger was terrible. Augustus said of him that it would be better to be Herod’s sow than Herod’s son, which was true, for he would not kill a sow, as he held to the Jewish faith. He did not kill swine, but he would not mind killing anybody in his passion: “He 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 enquired of the wise men.” He took a wide range in order, so he thought, to make quite sure that he should kill the Child King whom he especially hated.
Mat_2:17-18. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, slaying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
It must have been a very sorrowful day in Bethlehem; you can imagine the grief that filled the hearts of the mothers there. There is Herod, who acts the hypocrite, and tries to slay Christ at the first, and there is Judas at the end, acts the hypocrite, too, and betrays his Lord. Thus is the life of Christ begun and ended in sorrow.
Mat_2:19-22. But when Herod was dead behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth 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 came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither:
Archelaus was another chip off the old block, and a chip of very hard wood, too, equally cruel, and without his father’s greatness of mind. He had all Herod’s vices without his mental vigor.
Mat_2:22. Notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:
He did not follow his own judgment. This man, thoroughly a servant of God, waits for orders; he has his fears, but he will not even act upon them, but he waits till he is warned of God in a dream, and then he turns aside into the parts of Galilee.
Mat_2:23. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth:
Galilee was despised, but Nazareth was thought to be the worst part of Galilee. Netzar is a word in the Hebrew signifying a sprout or branch, and Nazareth apparently comes from the same root.
Mat_2:23. That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
This is the name commonly given to our Lord in the Old Testament. “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Jesus was the sprout, or the shoot out of the withered stem of Jesse. When the dynasty of David was like the tree cut down, and only the stem of it left there sprang up out of it the Netzar, the Nazarene; so he is found dwelling in a city that is called by that name, and he also is called a Nazarene. And the name clings to him to this day, there are those who will call him by no name but “the Nazarene.” There was one who threatened to crush the Nazarene, but when he was dying he had to cry, “O Nazarene, thou hast triumphed;” and the Nazarene will always do so. He shall be crowned King of kings and Lord of lords, and he shall reign for ever and ever. Hallelujah!