James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.Matthew 1:1-2:23
THE ADVENT OF OUR LORD
In this lesson there are four divisions:
1. The Genealogical Table (Matt. 1-1-17) 2. The Announcement to Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25) 3. The Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:1-18) 4. The Return to Nazareth (Matthew 2:19-23)
THE GENEALOGICAL TABLE (Matthew 1:1-17)
We learned the value of genealogical tables to Israel in the Old Testament. This value applied to the separation into families and tribes with reference to the possession of Canaan; but it had a peculiar application to the Messiah also. He must come in the line of Abraham through David (Matthew 1:1), and no Israelite could be interested in a so-called “messiah” of whom this was not true. That Matthew should lay stress on this, and give the “generation” in detail is one evidence that his Gospel was addressed to Jews rather than the Gentiles. Neither Mark nor John gives a genealogy, and Luke’s genealogy (Matt. 3:23-28) differs from Matthew’s, and for a special reason does not pause at Abraham, but extends back to God, through Adam.
Reference will be made to Matthew’s table again when we reach Luke’s Gospel, but Matthew 16 is important, showing that “Joseph the husband of Mary” was legal heir to the throne of David, for the genealogical table following David’s time is that of the kings. Although “the husband of Mary,” he was not the begetter of Jesus as in the preceding cases. The changed expression is significant, “Mary, of whom was born Jesus.” The child did not come from natural generation, but in the manner indicated in the next chapter.
The Mary in this instance is always identified in the New Testament as the mother of Jesus, but there are five other Marys:
1. Mary Magdalene” (Luke 8:2) 2. Mary, the mother of James the less and Joses, the wife of Alpheus and a sister of the Virgin (Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25) 3. Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus (Luke 10:39) 4. Mary the mother of John Mark (Acts 12:12) 5. A Mary associated with Paul in Rome (Romans 16:6).
Jesus is the family name of our Lord (Luke 1:31), the same as Joshua in the Old Testament, and means “Savior” (Matthew 1:21); but Christ or The Christ, is His official designation (not, as we sometimes treat it, His last name). Christos is the Greek form of the Hebrew Messiah (Daniel 9:25-26), and means “The Anointed One.” In the Old Testament, the prophet, the
priest and the king were all anointed with oil, but Jesus their great antitype was anointed with the Holy Spirit (3:16).
THE ANNOUNCEMENT TO JOSEPH (Matthew 1:18-25)
Under “the announcement to Joseph,” notice the testimony to the virgin birth (Matthew 1:18; Matthew 1:20). Had Jesus been begotten after the flesh He would have been a sinner like us, and incapable of being our Savior. And yet had He not been the legal descendant of Joseph, and heir to the throne, the Jews would have been justified in rejecting him. Behold the wisdom and power of God! Compare the predictions of the virgin birth: Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14; Jeremiah 31:22, and the corresponding account in Luke 1:28-35.
“His people” (Matthew 1:21) means in the first place the Jews, and then all who accept him as their Savior by faith.
Verses 22-23 are peculiar to Matthew, who, in writing distinctively for Israel, is careful to connect the events of Jesus’ life with the Old Testament in which they believed and which contained His credentials. Only Matthew refers to Emmanuel (“God with us”) as a name for Jesus, which ties to Jesus’ final words as recorded in this Gospel: “I am with you alway” (28:20).
THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT (Matthew 2:1-18)
“The flight into Egypt” is divisible into:
1. The visit of the wise men ((Matthew 2:1-2) 2. The testimony of the priests and scribes ((Matthew 2:3-6) 3. The worship of the babe in the manger ((Matthew 2:7-12) 4. The warning to Joseph ((Matthew 2:13-15) 5. The slaughter of the little children ((Matthew 2:16-18) This “Herod” is Herod the Great, an Edomite and appointee of Caesar. He was a cruel and despotic man, and his practical usurpation of the throne, and tyranny over the people, explain his apprehension ((Matthew 2:3), on hearing that a true King of the Jews was born.
The “wise men” (Magi in Greek) were Gentile astrologers, occupied with occult things, foretelling events from the stars, etc. (Daniel 2:48), and earnest seekers after truth. Kepler, the astronomer, thought the “star” was a constellation of Jupiter and Saturn, but it is more likely to have been a miraculous sign from God. Nor is it necessary to suppose that it led them all the way from their eastern home, because Matthew 2:9 indicates that when they started from Herod towards Bethlehem it reappeared to them. The way they came to expect a great king is suggested by their probable acquaintance with Balaam’s prophecy (Numbers 23-24) and the predictions of Daniel.
The conduct of the priests and scribes illustrates a common phenomenon, namely, the truth held in the mind but having no power in the life. They knew where the Messiah should be born, but lacked the interest to inquire whether this were He. Their quotation ((Matthew 2:6) is from Micah 5:2, although its rendering suggests that it was taken not from the Hebrew, or Greek Septuagint, but probably a Chaldaic paraphrase.
Herod’s interest ((Matthew 2:7-8) was the grossest hypocrisy, but what a contrast is borne to it by these Gentiles worshiping, not the child’s mother, but the child! Some find significance in their gifts: gold representing royalty; frankincense, purity; and myrrh, suffering.
“We three kings of Orient are,” is a line of a familiar hymn alluding to this visit, but is misleading, since there is nothing to indicate that they were kings, or that their number was limited to three. Another error is traceable to the picture representing them as worshiping a babe in a manger, whereas it is not unlikely that Jesus was a year old at this time. The reasons for thinking so are (1) that Luke 2:30 says, “when they had performed all things according to the law.., they returned.., to Nazareth,” while Matthew speaks of their going into Egypt after the departure of the wise men; and (2) The shepherds in Luke 2 found “the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger”; but the wise men “saw the young child with Mary” in “the house.”
Possibly His parents returned to Nazareth after His birth, and then at the recurrence of the Passover the next year came down to Bethlehem again.
In the subsection called “The warning to Joseph,” two prophecies find fulfillment. In Matthew 2:15, Hosea 11:1, and in Matthew 2:18, Jeremiah 31:15. The first found an approximate fulfillment in Israel, which in the Old Testament is sometimes called God’s Son (Exodus 4:22; Jet. 31:9); but, according to the law of double reference, it has here an ultimate fulfillment in Christ who is often identified with Israel. The second causes Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob, to personify Israel weeping for her children slain by Herod’s sword. This weeping, in a sense, has continued ever since, not to end until Israel at last looks “upon Him whom they pierced” and mourns because of Him.
THE RETURN TO NAZARETH (Matthew 2:19-23)
“The return to Nazareth” demands attention because of the words “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet He shall be called a Nazarene” ((Matthew 2:23). The meaning is not clear because no one of the prophets calls Him by this name. However, all the prophets speak of Him in one way or another, as the despised or rejected One, and this in the eyes of a Jew is what it meant to be a dweller in Nazareth. The whole of Galilee was despised by them because it held so many Gentiles, but Nazareth was despised even by Galileans themselves. (Compare John 1:46.)
1. Divide this lesson into four parts.
2. Name the twofold value of genealogies to Israel.
3. What two facts give importance to 1:16?
4. Give the list of the Marys of the New Testament.
5. What are the distinctions between the two names of our Lord?
6. How are the wisdom and power of God shown in His birth?
7. What is peculiar to Matthew as writing for the Jews?
8. Analyze chapter 2 into its main divisions.
9. How may the Magi have known of the coming King?
10. What does the conduct of the priests and scribes teach?
11. Why may we think that chapter 2 refers to Jesus when a year old?
12. How may the last verse of that chapter be explained?