Peoples New Testament
Peoples New Testament, Matthew 2
The Wise Men and the Flight into Egypt
1 When Jesus was born. Though the home of Joseph and Mary was Nazareth, prophecy had declared that Christ should be born at Bethlehem, the native place of David; and this was accomplished by the agency of the Roman emperor. See PNT "Lu 2:1". The pride of the Jews in their genealogies would lead them to the head cities of their families; thus, Mary traversed with her husband the length of the land, from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the city of David, to whose house they both belonged.
2 Where is he that is born King of the Jews? Their question shows two things: (1) That they partook of the general expectation that about this time there would appear in the East a Ruler divinely appointed to his mission. The works of profane writers of this period show that this expectation was general. (2) It is plain that the wise men misapprehended the mission of Christ, and expected him to be a secular king.
3 Herod ... was troubled. The trouble of Herod is easily accounted for. He was a usurper. This news seemed to portend a legitimate king, a rival for the throne, around whom the Jewish nation would rally.
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes together. Literally, "high priests". The high priests, and perhaps the heads of the twenty-four courses of priests, are included. See 1Ch 24:1-19. The "scribes" were the successors of Ezra, the official copyists of the Scripture, who naturally became its expounders, and were the theologians of the time of Christ. The priests, as the head of the Jewish religion, and the scribes, as the chief expounders of the Scriptures, were the proper persons to answer Herod's question.
6 And thou Bethlehem. The quotation is made freely from the Septuagint version (Greek), which was in common use, and from which the Savior and his apostles constantly quoted. The Hebrew is literally, "But thou Bethlehem Ephrata, too small to be among the thousands of Judah (i.e., the towns where the heads of thousands resided, the chief towns in the distribution of the tribes), out of thee shall come forth one who is to be the ruler of Israel", Mic 5:1,2.
7 Herod, when he had privily called the wise men. The crafty and cruel king had gained one point--he now knew where the Christ was to be born. He therefore asks another question of the wise men, by which he hopes to ascertain the age of the royal child.
9 They departed. They probably departed immediately after their interview with Herod, and as the appearance of the star as soon as they started indicates that it was right, they probably saw Herod in the evening.
10 And when they saw the star. This language shows that for a time, at least, they had not seen the star until they left Jerusalem for Bethlehem. Its reappearance caused them great rejoicing, because it showed them that their quest was not in vain.
11 And when they were come into the house. Not, probably, the stable where the Lord was born, but a temporary home obtained after the crowd had left Jerusalem. Many suppose that Joseph and Mary remained at Bethlehem until the forty days of purification were passed; that the young child was presented in the temple as recorded in Lu 2:22 that then they returned to Bethlehem; were visited shortly after by the wise man, and thence fled into Egypt. If this is correct, the young child must have been six or seven weeks old at the time of the visit.
12 Being warned of God in a dream. Probably they were suspicious of Herod, for they could not fail to know his character, and asked God to guide them. He did so by a dream, and hence they avoided Jerusalem on their return.
13 And when they were departed. It is probable that the Magi were led by the star to Bethlehem, offered their homage, departed, Joseph was warned, and the holy family started to Egypt, all the same night.
14 When he arose, he took the young child. The message came while he was sleeping; as soon as he arose from his bed he took the Child and his mother and departed at once. There was prompt obedience, as there should always be, to the divine commands.
15 Out of Egypt have I called my son. The prophecy here quoted is found in Ho 11:1. Israel, which was called out of Egypt, is spoken of a son. Israel, however, was a type, and the events portrayed in Israelitish history were typical prophecies. That was the dispensation of types and shadows. Hence, the great outlines were prophetic, and the calling of Israel out of Egypt a prophecy of the Leader of the true Israel being called out of that land.
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked. He had directed the wise men to report to him after their visit to Bethlehem. Their return to their own country without complying with his wishes seemed to Herod a mockery of his authority, and excited his rage.
17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet. The saying is found in Jer 31:15, and was first spoken with reference to the desolation of Israel by Nebuchadnezzar. The survivors of the Israelites were gathered by their conquerors as captives at Ramah. There the voice of lamentation was heard from the mothers bereft of their offspring. The prophet describes Rachel, the mother of two great tribes, as weeping and refusing to be comforted. It was still more appropriate to the bereaved mothers of Bethlehem. Within half a mile of that city was the tomb of Rachel, and hence the pathetic language of the prophet is again applied to the inconsolable mothers of Bethlehem, as though the Rachel that slept in the tomb were a mourner over her slain offspring. On the site of the tomb Rachel is now a Mohammedan mosque. For the burial of Rachel, see Ge 35:19.
19 But when Herod was dead. This event was the signal for the return to Judea. He died in the spring of the year 750 after the building of Rome, just before the passover. This would place his death nearly four years before the Christian era, the date from which we reckon our time. That was not fixed upon until five hundred years after the birth of Christ, and was fixed erroneously.
20 Arise ... go into the land of Israel. Notice that Joseph is not required to return to Bethlehem or to Judea, but simply to the land of Israel.
21 And he arose. and took the young child. He obeyed as promptly as before, waiting obediently upon the Divine will.
22 When he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea. Archelaus is one of the four sons of Herod, who are named in the New Testament. See PNT "Mt 2:1".
23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth. Matthew makes no mention of the previous residence at Nazareth, and he now names it first when it becomes the home of Christ. It was an obscure village, nestled in the hills about five hundred feet above the plain of Esdraelon, on the side of Galilee. It is not named in the Old Testament, was probably a small town in the time of Christ, but now has about 6,000 inhabitants.
The People's New Testament commentary by B.W. Johnson (1891), Public Domain
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