Has not the scripture said, That Christ comes of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Hath not the scripture said . . .—Comp. the prophecies in Micah 5:1; Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5.
Where David was.—Comp. the history in 1 Samuel 16.
It has often been asked, sometimes in the spirit of objection, sometimes in the spirit of inquiry, how the Apostle, if he really knew the history of our Lord’s birth at Bethlehem, could record these questions without a correction. But in these verses he is giving the feelings and opinions of the multitude, and it is a mark of the truthfulness of his narrative that he gives them just as they really occurred. He, remembering the events as they took place, can with perfect historic fitness record the passing thoughts and words, erroneous as they were. A writer of the second century could not possibly have unintentionally made so great a mistake, with the earlier Gospels before him; nor could he have intentionally so thrown himself into the spirit of a Jewish multitude as to invent the question. (Comp. John 7:52, and references in Note there.)Matthew 2:4-6.
Where David was - 1 Samuel 16:1-4.Psalm 132:11, and the town, which was Bethlehem, Micah 5:2; which was David’s father’s town, where he lived also, till God called him out to the kingdom, 1 Samuel 17:15 20:6.
that Christ cometh out of the seed of David; that he should be a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots; that he should be one out of David's loins, and of the fruit of his body, referring to Isaiah 11:1, which was very true, and what was commonly known, and expected among the Jews, that the Messiah should be David's son, as Jesus of Nazareth was, Acts 13:23;
and out of the town of Bethlehem where David was? where his parents lived, and he was born; and, according to Jerom (k), he was buried here. The account he gives of this city, where he himself for some time lived,
"is Bethlehem, the city of David, in the lot of the tribe of Judah, in which our Lord and Saviour was born, is six miles from Aelia, (i.e. Jerusalem) to the south, by the way which leads to Hebron, where also is showed the sepulchre of Jesse and David.''
In which may be observed likewise the exact distance of this place from Jerusalem; which, according to Josephus (l), at least as he is generally understood, was but twenty furlongs: and, according to Justin (m), thirty five: but that this is the true distance, is clear from the old Jerusalem Itinerary (n), and which agrees with Jerom about the sepulchre of David; for not far from it is the monument of Ezekiel, Asaph, Job, Jesse, David, and Solomon: however, it is certain that David was born here, and therefore it is called his city; and from hence the Messiah was to come; and here Jesus, the true Messiah, was born, and which the Jews themselves own; See Gill on Matthew 2:1, See Gill on Luke 2:4; and in vain it is for them to expect the Messiah from thence, where none of their nation live, nor have lived, for many hundreds of years; being particularly forbid by Adrian, after he had subdued them, living in or near Jerusalem, and also Bethlehem. Tertullian (o) refers to this when he thus argues with them, and very justly, and strongly;
"if he is not yet born, who, it is said, shall come forth a ruler out of Bethlehem, of the tribe of Judah, he must come (says he) out of the tribe of Judah and from Bethlehem; but we now observe, that no one of the stock of Israel remains in Bethlehem, because it is forbidden that anyone of the Jews should continue on the border of that country--how shall the governor be born in Judea, come forth from Bethlehem, as the divine books of the Prophets declare, when there is none of Israel left there at this day, of whose lineage Christ can be born?--how shall he come out of Bethlehem, when there is none in Bethlehem of the stock of Israel?''
And the passage they had in view, is Micah 5:2. Now these very things they object to Jesus being the Messiah, were what were fulfilled in him, and proved him to be the person; for his supposed father, and real mother Mary, were of the house and lineage of David; and though he was conceived at Nazareth, and brought up there, yet by a remarkable providence, which brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, he was born there, Luke 2:4.
(k) De locis Hebraicis, fol. 89. E. (l) Antiqu. l. 7. c. 12. sect. 4. (m) Apolog. 2. p. 75. (n) In Reland. Palestina illustrata, l. 2. c. 4. p. 416. Vid. c. 9. p. 445. & l. 3. p. 645. (o) Adv. Judaeos, c. 13. p. 224, 225.Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)42. of the seed of David] Psalm 132:11; Jeremiah 23:5; Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 11:10.
out of the town of Bethlehem] Literally, from Bethlehem, the village where David was. Micah 5:2; 1 Samuel 16.John 7:42. Οὐχί, Hath not) And yet indeed this very prophecy was realised in the person of Jesus. Why had they not turned their attention to it? especially as they were admonished of the fact, Matthew 2:1. etc. Thirty-two years were not a time beyond memory, especially as there intervened in His twelfth year a new admonition, Luke 2:42 [His sitting among the doctors in the temple, and astonishing them with His understanding and answers].—ἀπὸ Βηθλεέμ, from Bethlehem) This John takes for granted as known from the other evangelists respecting Jesus.Verses 42, 43. - Hath not the Scripture said, That the Christ cometh of the seed of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was? Therefore a division arose in the multitude because of him. De Wette, Baur, Weisse, Keim, and others have tried to prove from this that the evangelist was ignorant of Christ's birth at Bethlehem. "Hilgenfeld candidly owns that this passage assumes the author's knowledge of this very fact" (Godet). It was unknown to the multitude, who were not at that moment aware how this argument would ultimately be pressed by the first preachers of the gospel. John leaves the objection unanswered, because he knew that all his readers, familiar with the synoptic narrative, would answer it for themselves. As respects the well known belief current in John's later years, and confirmed by the ecclesiastical tradition of Hegesippus (Eusebius, 'Hist. Eccl.,' 3:19, 20), that the relatives of Jesus were summoned, as descendants of David, into the Emperor Domitian's presence, it is clear that Jesus was believed to be the humble heir of David's throne and family, so that his readers would see that he fulfilled not only the prophecy of Micah 5:2, but those of Isaiah 11:1 and Jeremiah 23:5, passages which anticipate the Messiah's descent from David. These were minor points in the great tableau of John's Gospel. He who believed with overwhelming conviction that Jesus was the Logos made flesh, the Son of God, and the risen and glorified Lord, bestowing the Spirit of his own wondrous Person upon his Church, would not trouble much about these mistakes of the people concerning the ancillary details of his earthly career which, when he wrote, had become universally known. It was, however, instructive, half a century later, to see how flimsy, unveracious, and worthless the objections were which passed from lip to lip at this crisis in the life of our Lord. A Greek of the time of Hadrian would be surely very unlikely to have represented this condition of the Jerusalem mind. Now, some of those who believed that he was a great Prophet, the predicted Prophet, yet refused to agree with others who hailed him as the Christ. The division or violent party split (σχίσμα) in the crowd on that "last great day of the feast" may have had persons friendly to him on both sides; but on one side at least there were those who were ready to side with Pharisees and "Jews" and lay hands upon him.
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