Matthew 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,
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(1) In the days of Herod the king.—The death of Herod took place in the year of Rome A.U.C. 750, just before the Passover. This year coincided with what in our common chronology would be B.C. 4—so that we have to recognise the fact that our common reckoning is erroneous, and to fix B.C. 5 or 4 as the date of the Nativity.

No facts recorded either in St. Matthew or St. Luke throw much light on the season of the birth of Christ. The flocks and shepherds in the open field indicate spring rather than winter. The received day, December 25th, was not kept as a festival in the East till the time of Chrysostom, and was then received as resting on the tradition of the Roman Church. It has been conjectured, with some probability, that the time was chosen in order to substitute the purified joy of a Christian festival for the license of the Saturnalia which were kept at that season.

The time of the arrival of the wise men was probably (we cannot say more) after the Presentation in the Temple of Luke 2:22. The appearance of the star coincided with the birth. The journey from any part of the region vaguely called the East would occupy at least several weeks.

Wise men from the east.—The Greek word is Magi. That name appears in Jeremiah 39:3; Jeremiah 39:13, in the name Rab-Mag, “The chief of the Magi.” Herodotus speaks of them as a priestly caste of the Medes, known as interpreters of dreams (I. 101, 120). Among the Greeks the word was commonly applied with a tone of scorn to the impostors who claimed supernatural knowledge, and magic was in fact the art of the Magi, and so the word was commonly used throughout the Roman world when the New Testament was written, Simon Magus is Simon the sorcerer. There was however, as side by side with this, a recognition of the higher ideas of which the word was capable, and we can hardly think that the writer of the Gospel would have used it in its lower sense. With him, as with Plato, the Magi were thought of as observers of the heavens, students of the secrets of Nature. Where they came from we cannot tell. The name was too widely spread at this time to lead us to look with certainty to its original home in Persia, and that country was to the North rather than the East of Palestine. The watching of the heavens implied in the narrative belonged to Chaldea rather than Persia. The popular legends that they were three in number, and that they were kings, that they represented the three great races of the sons of Noah, and were named Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, are simply apocryphal additions, originating probably in dramatic representations, and perpetuated by Christian art.

Matthew 2:1. Now when Jesus was born — It is matter of great doubt when the following remarkable occurrence happened. The received time of celebrating the Epiphany imports that it was within thirteen days of the birth of Christ. But as it is not likely that the star made its appearance till he was born, so it does not seem at all probable that the wise men could have prepared for and accomplished so long a journey in so short a space of time, especially as they tarried some days, at the least, at Jerusalem, on their way to Bethlehem. Add to this that immediately after their departure, (Matthew 2:13,) Joseph, with his wife and the child, are sent away into Egypt, which could not have been before the end of the forty days of Mary’s purification. But although this visit of the wise men did not happen so soon after the birth of Christ as the calendar supposes, it might happen before Jesus was presented in the temple. For it is certain, when they came to Bethlehem they found Jesus and his mother there; but according to Luke 2:22, when the days of Mary’s purification were ended, they brought the child Jesus to present him to the Lord; and we never read of their returning with him to Bethlehem. On the contrary, we are told, when they had performed all things according to the law, they returned together to their own city Nazareth. According to this hypothesis, Jesus was brought to Jerusalem while Herod was waiting for the return of the wise men, and the angel appeared to Joseph there to command him to flee into Egypt with the young child and his mother, which they might do the very night after Jesus was presented in the temple.

In Bethlehem of Judea — Judea here means the district so named from the tribe of Judah, under which, however, the tribe of Benjamin was comprehended; and it is distinguished from Samaria, Peræa, Trachonitis, and both Galilees. It must be observed, there was another Bethlehem in the tribe of Zabulon, in the lower Galilee. In the days of Herod the king — Viz., Herod the Great, the son of Antipater, born at Ascalon, about 70 years before Christ. According to some, he was a native Jew; according to others, an Idumean by the father’s side, and by the mother’s an Arabian. The most probable opinion is, that he was originally an Idumean; but that his ancestors had, for some ages, been proselytes to the Jewish religion. The Jews being at that time in subjection to the Romans, he was made king of Judea by the Roman senate. At his death, which happened soon after this, he divided his dominions by his last will among his sons, appointing Archelaus, mentioned Matthew 2:22, to succeed him as king of Judea; Herod Antipas, mentioned chap. 14., to be tetrarch of Galilee and Peræa; and Philip, mentioned Luke 3., to be tetrarch of Trachonitis and the neighbouring countries. Herod Agrippa, mentioned Acts 12., was his grandson. It is to be observed, that the history of the New Testament begins with Herod the Great, and ends with Agrippa, the last king of the Jews. Behold! The evangelist calls our attention by this word to the following very memorable occurrence. There came wise men — Probably Chaldean or Arabian astronomers, who, by divine grace, had been led from the knowledge of nature, to that of nature’s God. Although they are termed in the original, μαγοι, magi, we must not imagine that they were what we call magicians, or sorcerers; for the appellation was by no means appropriated in ancient times to such as practised wicked arts, but was frequently given to philosophers, or men of learning, particularly those that were curious in examining the works of nature, and observing the motions of the heavenly bodies. Came from the east — It is impossible to determine absolutely from what part of the East they came; although it is probable it was from Arabia, rather than Chaldea, for it lay east of Judea, and is mentioned by Tacitus as its boundary eastward, and certainly was famous for gold, frankincense, and myrrh, commodities which (see Matthew 2:11) they brought with them. Myrrh, according to Grotius, is not produced save in Arabia, where, if we may believe Pliny, it is found in such abundance, with other spices, that no other kinds of wood are in use, not even to make fires of, but such as are odoriferous. Neither is frankincense found save among the Sabæans, a part of Arabia. And as to gold, another commodity which they brought, this is well known to be produced in such great abundance in Arabia Felix, that the furniture of the whole nation shines with it. David and Solomon, to whom the promise of the land of Canaan was fully made good, extended their dominions over those countries, even to the Euphrates, and the inhabitants of them were chiefly the seed of Abraham. Now it is more likely that these first fruits of the Gentiles should be brought to do homage to the King of the Jews, from a country that had done as much to David and Solomon, the types of Christ, than from a foreign and more remote nation; and that they should be of the seed of Abraham rather than of another race. Add to this, that Arabia abounded with magi, and was anciently so famous for wisdom, that, according to Porphyry, Pythagoras himself travelled thither to acquire it. Nay, if we may credit the learned Dr. Alix, the Jews were of opinion that there were prophets in the kingdoms of Saba and Arabia, and that they prophesied or taught successively, in the name of God, what they had received by tradition from the mouth of Abraham, of whose posterity they were, by Keturah. In the Old Testament it is frequently called the East, as Jdg 6:3; Job 1:3; whereas Chaldea lay not so properly to the east as to the north of Judea, and is often spoken of in Scripture in that light. See Jeremiah 1:14-15; Jeremiah 6:22; Joel 2:20. Had these wise men been, as some have supposed, a deputation from all the magi in Persia, Media, Arabia, and Chaldea; or had they been kings, as the papists fancy; so grand a circumstance as either of these would, in all probability, have been expressly recorded. To Jerusalem — The capital of the kingdom, and the seat of learning. For it seems these wise men did not suppose that so illustrious a king would be born in an ignoble village, but that he must be sought for in the royal city, in the palace itself, and in the family which then reigned. It was, however, no doubt, by the divine providence that they were directed to Jerusalem, as well that the Jews might be left without excuse, as that the birth of Christ the King might be announced by the Gentiles before he was acknowledged by the Jews, lest the testimony of the Jews concerning their own King should come under suspicion.

2:1-8 Those who live at the greatest distance from the means of grace often use most diligence, and learn to know the most of Christ and his salvation. But no curious arts, or mere human learning, can direct men unto him. We must learn of Christ by attending to the word of God, as a light that shineth in a dark place, and by seeking the teaching of the Holy Spirit. And those in whose hearts the day-star is risen, to give them any thing of the knowledge of Christ, make it their business to worship him. Though Herod was very old, and never had shown affection for his family, and was not himself likely to live till a new-born infant had grown up to manhood, he began to be troubled with the dread of a rival. He understood not the spiritual nature of the Messiah's kingdom. Let us beware of a dead faith. A man may be persuaded of many truths, and yet may hate them, because they interfere with his ambition, or sinful indulgences. Such a belief will make him uneasy, and the more resolved to oppose the truth and the cause of God; and he may be foolish enough to hope for success therein.When Jesus was born - See the full account of his birth in Luke 2:1-20.

In Bethlehem of Judea - Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ, was a small town about six miles south of Jerusalem. The word "Bethlehem" denotes "house of bread" - perhaps given to the place on account of its great fertility. It was also called Ephrata, a word supposed likewise to signify fertility, Genesis 35:19; Ruth 4:11; Psalm 132:6. It was called the city of David Luke 2:4, because it was the city of his nativity, 1 Samuel 16:1, 1 Samuel 16:18. It was called Bethlehem of Judea, to distinguish it from a town of the same name in Galilee, Joshua 19:15. The soil of Bethlehem was noted for its fertility. Ancient travelers frequently spoke of its productions. The town is situated on an eminence, in the midst of hills and vales. At present (circa 1880's) it contains about 200 houses, inhabited chiefly by Christians and Muslims, who live together in peace. About 200 paces east of Bethlehem the place is still shown where our Saviour is supposed to have been born. There is a church and a convent there; and beneath the church a subterranean chapel, which is lighted by 32 lamps, which is said to be the place where was the stable in which Jesus was born, though no certain reliance is to be placed on the tradition which makes this the birthplace of the Saviour.

Herod the king - Judea, where our Saviour was born, was a province of the Roman Empire. It was taken about 63 years before his birth by Pompey, and placed under tribute. Herod received his appointment from the Romans, and had reigned at the time of the birth of Jesus for 34 years. Though he was permitted to be called king, yet he was, in all respects, dependent on the Roman emperor. He was commonly called "Herod the Great" because he had distinguished himself in the wars with Antigonus and his other enemies, and because he had evinced great talents in governing and defending his country, in repairing the temple, and in building and ornamenting the cities of his kingdom. He was, however, as much distinguished for his cruelty and his crimes as he was for his greatness. At this time Augustus was Emperor of Rome. The world was at peace. A large part of the known nations of the earth was united under the Roman emperor. Contact between different nations was easy and safe. Similar laws prevailed. The use of the Greek language was general throughout the world. All these circumstances combined to render this a favorable time to introduce the gospel, and to spread it through the earth; and the providence of God was remarkable in preparing the nations in this manner for the easy and rapid spread of the Christian religion.

Wise men - The original word here is μάγοι magoi, from which comes our word magician, now used in a bad sense, but not so in the original. The persons here denoted were philosophers, priests, or astronomers. They lived chiefly in Persia and Arabia. They were the learned men of the Eastern nations. devoted to astronomy, to religion, and to medicine. They were held in high esteem by the Persian court, were admitted as counsellors, and followed the camps in war to give advice.

From the east - It is not known whether they came from Persia or Arabia. Both countries might be denoted by the word East that is, east from Judea.

Jerusalem - The capital of Judea. As there is frequent reference in the New Testament to Jerusalem; as it was the place of the public worship of God; as it was the place where many important transactions in the life of the Saviour occurred, and where he died; and as no Sunday school teacher can intelligently explain the New Testament without some knowledge of that city, it seems desirable to present, a brief description of it. A more full description may be seen in Calmet's Dictionary, and in the common works on Jewish antiquities. Jerusalem was the capital of the kingdom of Judah, and was built on the line dividing that tribe from the tribe of Benjamin. It was once called "Salem" Genesis 14:18; Psalm 76:2, and in the days of Abraham was the home of Melchizedek. When the Israelites took possession of the promised land, they found this stronghold in the possession of the Jebusites, by whom it was called Jebus or Jebusi, Joshua 18:28.

The name "Jerusalem" was probably compounded of the two by changing a single letter, and calling it, for the sake of the sound, "Jerusalem" instead of "Jebusalem." The ancient Salem was probably built on Mount Moriah or Acra - the eastern and western mountains on which Jerusalem was subsequently built. When the Jebusites became masters of the place, they erected a fortress in the southern quarter of the city, which was subsequently called Mount Zion, but which they called "Jebus"; and although the Israelites took possession of the adjacent territory Joshua 18:28, the Jebusites still held this fortress or upper town until the time of David, who wrested it from them 2 Samuel 5:7-9, and then removed his court from Hebron to Jerusalem, which was thenceforward known as the city of David, 2 Samuel 6:10, 2 Samuel 6:12; 1 Kings 8:1. Jerusalem was built on several hills Mount Zion on the south, Mount Moriah on the east, upon which the temple was subsequently built (see the notes at Matthew 21:12), Mount Acra on the west, and Mount Bezetha on the north.

Mount Moriah and Mount Zion were separated by a valley, called by Josephus the Valley of Cheesemongers, over which there was a bridge or raised way leading from the one to the other. On the southeast of Mount Moriah, and between that and Mount Zion, there was a bluff or high rock capable of strong fortification, called Ophel. The city was encompassed by hills. On the west there were hills which overlooked the city; on the south was the valley of Jehoshaphat, or the valley of Hinnom (see the notes at Matthew 5:22), separating it from what is called the Mount of Corruption; on the east was the valley or the brook Kedron, dividing the city from the Mount of Olives. On the north the country was more level, though it was a broken or rolling country. On the southeast the valleys of the Kedron and Jehoshaphat united, and the waters flowed through the broken mountains in a southeasterly direction to the Dead Sea, some 15 miles distant.

The city of Jerusalem stands in 31 degrees 50 minutes north latitude, and 35 degrees 20 minutes east longitude from Greenwich. It is 34 miles southeasterly from Jaffa - the ancient Joppa which is its seaport, and 120 miles southwesterly from Damascus. The best view of the city of Jerusalem is from Mount Olivet on the east (compare the notes at Matthew 21:1), the mountains in the east being somewhat higher than those on the west. The city was anciently enclosed within walls, a part of which are still standing. The position of the walls has been at various times changed, as the city has been larger or smaller, or as it has extended in different directions. The wall on the south formerly included the whole of Mount Zion, though the modern wall runs over the summit, including about half of the mountain. In the time of the Saviour the northern wall enclosed only Mounts Acra and Moriah north, though after his death Agrippa extended the wall so as to include Mount Bezetha on the north.

About half of that is included in the present wall. The limits of the city on the east and the west, being more determined by the nature of the place, have been more fixed and permanent. The city was watered in part by the fountain of Siloam on the east for a description of which, see the Luke 13:4 note, and Isaiah 7:3 note), and in part by the fountain of Gihon on the west of the city, which flowed into the vale of Jehoshaphat; and in the time of Solomon by an aqueduct, part of which is still remaining, by which water was brought from the vicinity of Bethlehem. The "pools of Solomon," three in number, one rising above another, and adapted to hold a large quantity of water, are still remaining in the vicinity of Bethlehem. The fountain of Siloam still flows freely (see the note at Isaiah 7:3)}}, though the fountain of Gihon is commonly dry. A reservoir or tank, however, remains at Gihon. Jerusalem had, probably, its highest degree of splendor in the time of Solomon. About 400 hundred years after, it was entirely destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. It lay utterly desolate during the 70 years of the Jewish captivity.

Then it was rebuilt, and restored to some degree of its former magnificence, and remained about 600 years, when it was utterly destroyed by Titus in 70 a.d. In the reign of Adrian the city was partly rebuilt under the name of AElia. The monuments of Pagan idolatry were erected in it, and it remained under Pagan jurisdiction until Helena, the mother of Constantine, overthrew the memorials of idolatry, and erected a magnificent church over the spot which was supposed to be the place of the Redeemer's sufferings and bruial. Julian, the apostate, with the design to destroy the credit of the prophecy of the Saviour that the temple should remain in ruins Matthew 24, endeavored to rebuild the temple. His own historian, Ammianus Marcellinus (see Warburton's Divine Legation of Moses), says that the workmen were impeded by balls of fire coming from the earth, and that he was compelled to abandon the undertaking.

Jerusalem continued in the power of the Eastern emperors until the reign of the Caliph Omar, the third in succession from Mohammed, who reduced it under his control about the year 640. The Saracens continued masters of Jerusalem until the year 1099, when it was taken by the Crusaders under Godfrey of Bouillon. They founded a new kingdom, of which Jerusalem was the capital, which continued eighty-eight years under nine kings. At last this kingdom was utterly ruined by Saladin; and though the Christians once more obtained possession of the city, yet they were obliged again to relinquish it. In 1217 the Saracens were expelled by the Turks, who have continued in possession of it ever since . Jerusalem has been taken and pillaged 17 times, and millions of people have been slaughtered within its walls. At present there is a splendid mosque - the mosque of Omar - on the site of the temple . The present population of Jerusalem (circa 1880's) is variously estimated at from 15,000 to 30,000 Turner estimates it at 26,000; Richard son, 20,000; Jowett, 15,000; Dr. Robinson at 11,000, namely, Muslims 4,500; Jews 3,000, Christians 3,500. - Biblical Researches, vol. ii. p. 83, 84.

The Jews have a number of synagogues. The Roman Catholics have a convent, and have the control of the church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Greeks have twelve convents; the Armenians have three convents on Mount Zion and one in the city; the Copts, Syrians, and Abyssinians have each of them one convent. The streets are narrow, and the houses are of stone, most of them low and irregular, with flat roofs or terraces, and with small windows only toward the street, usually protected by iron grates. The above description has been obtained from a great variety of sources, and it would be useless to refer to the works where the facts have been obtained.


Mt 2:1-12. Visit of the Magi to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

The Wise Men Reach Jerusalem—The Sanhedrim, on Herod's Demand, Pronounce Bethlehem to Be Messiah's Predicted Birthplace (Mt 2:1-6).

1. Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea—so called to distinguish it from another Bethlehem in the tribe of Zebulun, near the Sea of Galilee (Jos 19:15); called also Beth-lehem-judah, as being in that tribe (Jud 17:7); and Ephrath (Ge 35:16); and combining both, Beth-lehem Ephratah (Mic 5:2). It lay about six miles southwest of Jerusalem. But how came Joseph and Mary to remove thither from Nazareth, the place of their residence? Not of their own accord, and certainly not with the view of fulfilling the prophecy regarding Messiah's birthplace; nay, they stayed at Nazareth till it was almost too late for Mary to travel with safety; nor would they have stirred from it at all, had not an order which left them no choice forced them to the appointed place. A high hand was in all these movements. (See on [1206]Lu 2:1-6).

in the days of Herod the king—styled the Great; son of Antipater, an Edomite, made king by the Romans. Thus was "the sceptre departing from Judah" (Ge 49:10), a sign that Messiah was now at hand. As Herod is known to have died in the year of Rome 750, in the fourth year before the commencement of our Christian era, the birth of Christ must be dated four years before the date usually assigned to it, even if He was born within the year of Herod's death, as it is next to certain that He was.

there came wise men—literally, "Magi" or "Magians," probably of the learned class who cultivated astrology and kindred sciences. Balaam's prophecy (Nu 24:17), and perhaps Daniel's (Da 9:24, &c.), might have come down to them by tradition; but nothing definite is known of them.

from the east—but whether from Arabia, Persia, or Mesopotamia is uncertain.

to Jerusalem—as the Jewish metropolis.Matthew 2:1-2 Wise men from the east come to Jerusalem to inquire

after Christ.

Matthew 2:3-8 Herod is alarmed.

Matthew 2:9-12 The wise men are directed by a star to Christ, and

worship him, offering gifts.

Matthew 2:13-15 Joseph, warned by an angel, fleeth with the young

child and his mother into Egypt.

Matthew 2:16-18 Herod’s massacre of the children in Bethlehem and

round about.

Matthew 2:19-23 Upon the death of Herod Christ is brought out of

Egypt, and dwelleth at Nazareth.

That Joseph, the legal father of Jesus, was of Nazareth in Galilee, appears from Luke 2:4, where we are told that he went from thence unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David); to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife: for, it seems, so was the emperor’s decree, Luke 2:1, and Cyrenius the governor of Syria had ordered that every one should go to be taxed in his own tribe and city. Those words, of Judea, were added to distinguish the place from another Bethlehem, which was in the territories of Zebulun, Joshua 19:15. The verse further tells us, that this was

in the days of Herod the king: these words, the king, are added to distinguish him from Herod the tetrarch, Matthew 14:1, or other Herods. This was that Herod the Great, commonly called the Ascalonite, the son of Antipater. There are three opinions of learned men concerning him. Some think that he was by birth an Idumean, and that his mother was an Arabian, and say he was the first foreigner that ever reigned in Judea; and that in him the prophecy was fulfilled, Genesis 49:10, that the sceptre should not depart from Judah till Shiloh came. Others contend that he was a native Jew. A third sort say he was originally an Idumean, but that his predecessors had for some ages been proselyted to the Jewish religion: which last opinion is judged the most probable. Judea was at that time subject to the Romans, whose senate made him king over it. Christ being born at this time, it is said,

there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem. How long it was after he was born that they came the Scriptures tell us not. Some think they came presently; some think within thirteen days; some think it was two years after. It is certain they were directed to find Christ at Bethlehem, Matthew 2:8,9. There he was born, and circumcised the eighth day. There his mother accomplished the days of her purification, according to the law; which days were thirty-three, as may be seen Leviticus 12:2,3, &c. Luke tells us, Luke 2:22, that after the accomplishment of those days, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him (as their firstborn) to the Lord, Exodus 13:2, and to offer a sacrifice; and he tells us there of his meeting with Simeon and Anna, and of their prophecies, Luke 2:25, &c.; and it is said, Luke 2:39, When they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. It is not probable that these wise men came before our Lord was carried to Jerusalem, (which was about six weeks after he was born), for besides that they had a long journey to come, after such a noise made by the wise men’s coming, it is no way probable that Joseph and Mary would have carried him to Jerusalem, where the inquiry was first made; especially considering Herod’s trouble about it, and his sending messengers presently to slay all the children in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, Matthew 2:16. It is therefore most probable that it was near two years after the birth of Christ before they came; for though no such thing can be concluded from Herod’s decree, which was for the slaying those that were two years old and under, yet one would think the following words signify some such thing, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. He had then made inquiry about what time this child should be born; possibly they could not tell him the exact time, but if they said a year or a year and half before, Herod (to make sure) might make his decree for all to be slain from two years old and under; but had they said a month or six weeks, it is not probable Herod would have been so barbarous as to have slain all of two years old: so as, if we wisely consider the history of Scripture, it is no way probable that they came before Mary’s purification was over, and their offering him to the Lord, &c. mentioned Luke 2:22.

But then how should they find him at Bethlehem? For he went to Nazareth, Luke 2:39.

Answer: God might order some motion of Joseph to Bethlehem (of which the Scripture is silent); it was a city within the tribe to which he related, where probably he had kindred. So as, though it were a year or more after the birth of Christ before these wise men came, yet it is possible they might find him at Bethlehem, his parents being as guests there, though inhabitants at Nazareth. This is enough to have spoken of the time when these wise men came, viz. at what distance from the birth of Christ, considering that nothing can be in the case certainly determined. It is yet a greater question who these wise men were, and from what part of the world (here called the east) they came. The uncertainties of men’s conclusions in their points of curiosity, rather than profit, let us know how vainly men search for satisfaction when God hath hidden a thing from them. They cannot agree in the number of these men, some will have them twelve, some but three; and they undertake to tell us their names, though neither can they agree in it. Some will have them to be kings; and the papists make us believe they have their sepulchres with them to this day at Cologne; and by the number of the tombs they know their number; and that Church hath a festival for them, which is our Twelfth day. These and a hundred more fables there are about them. The Scripture saith no more than wise men, and telleth us nothing of their number. Whether they were mere astrologers, or such as were skilled in magical arts, or more generally philosophers, is vainly disputed; only we have their observation of this extraordinary star, together with what the Scripture tells us of the use those Eastern nations made of astrologers, to guide us to think they were such as were famous in their country for astrology: though others think them persons skilled in Divine and human laws. The Scripture only calls them

wise men. Whether they came from the eastern parts of the world, or that part of the world which lay eastward to the city of Jerusalem, is another unprofitable question: pagans they were, without doubt; whether Persians or Arabians, or of some other country, is of no great concern for us to know, and almost impossible to determine. These were the firstfruits of the Gentiles owning Christ as King of the Jews, whilst he came amongst his own, and they received him not; nor do I know any thing more worthy of our observation concerning them. Those that think it worth the while to read what more is said concerning them, may read enough in Spanhem, his Dub. Evang., Heinsius, his Exercitat. Sac. and Poli Critica, which I rather choose to name than the popish writers, because in some of these he will find the antidote together with the poison of those fabulous discourses, and be taught a pious wariness of obtruding old wives’ fables into canonical history, and lightly imposing upon the faith of ignorant people.

Now when Jesus was born,.... Several things are here related respecting the birth of Christ, as the place where he was born,

in Bethlehem of Judea; so called to distinguish it from another Bethlehem in the tribe of Zabulon, Joshua 19:15. Here Christ was to be born according to a prophecy hereafter mentioned, and accordingly the Jews expected he would be born here, Matthew 2:4 and so Jesus was born here, Luke 2:4 and this the Jews themselves acknowledge;

"Such a year, says a noted (l) chronologer of theirs, Jesus of Nazareth was born in Bethlehem Juda, which is a "parsa" and a half, i.e. six miles, from Jerusalem.''

Benjamin (m) Tudelensis says it is two parsas, i.e. eight miles, from it; and according to Justin Martyr (n) it was thirty five furlongs distant from it. Yea even they own this, that Jesus was born there, in that vile and blasphemous book (o) of theirs, written on purpose to defame him; nay, even the ancient Jews have owned that the Messiah is already born, and that he was born at Bethlehem; as appears from their Talmud (p), where we meet with such a passage.

"It happened to a certain Jew, that as he was ploughing, one of his oxen bellowed; a certain Arabian passed by and heard it, who said, O Jew, Jew, loose thy oxen, and loose thy ploughshare, for lo, the house of the sanctuary is destroyed: it bellowed a second time; he said unto him, O Jew, Jew, bind thy oxen, and bind thy ploughshare, for lo "the king Messiah is born". He said to him, what is his name? Menachem (the comforter); he asked again, what is his father's name? Hezekiah; once more he says, from whence is he? He replies "from the palace of the king of Bethlehem Judah"; he went and sold his oxen and his ploughshares, and became a seller of swaddling clothes for infants; and he went from city to city till he came to that city, (Bethlehem,) and all the women bought of him, but the mother of Menachem bought nothing.''

Afterwards they tell you, he was snatched away by winds and tempests. This story is told in much the same manner in another (q) of their writings. Bethlehem signifies "the house of bread", and in it was born, as an ancient writer (r) observes, the bread which comes down from heaven: and it may also signify "the house of flesh", and to it the allusion may be in 1 Timothy 3:16 "God manifest in the flesh". The time of Christ's birth is here expressed,

in the days of Herod the king. This was Herod the great, the first of that name: the Jewish chronologer (s) gives an account of him in the following manner.

"Herod the first, called Herod the Ascalonite, was the son of Antipater, a friend of king Hyrcanus and his deputy; him the senate of Rome made king in the room of Hyrcanus his master. This Herod whilst he was a servant of king Hyrcanus (so in the (t) Talmud Herod is said to be a servant of the family of the Asmonaeans) king Hyrcanus saved from death, to which he was sentenced by the sanhedrim of Shammai; that they might not slay him for the murder of one Hezekiah, as is related by Josephus, l. 6. c. 44. and Herod took to him for wife Miriam, the daughter of Alexander the son of Aristobulus, who was the daughter's daughter of king Hyrcanus.''

This writer tacitly owns afterwards (u) that Jesus was born in the days of this king; for he says, that in the days of Hillell and Shammai (who lived in those times) there was one of their disciples, who was called R. Joshua ben Perachiah, and he was, adds he, "the master of the Nazarene", or of Jesus of Nazareth. Herod reigned, as this same author observes, thirty seven years; and according to Dr. Lightfoot's calculation, Christ was born in the thirty fifth year of his reign, and in the thirty first of Augustus Caesar, and in the year of the world three thousand nine hundred and twenty eight, and the month Tisri, which answers to part of our September, about the feast of tabernacles; which indeed was typical of Christ's incarnation, and then it may reasonably be thought that "the word was made flesh", and "tabernacled among us", John 1:14. Another circumstance relating to the birth of Christ is, that

when Jesus was born--behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem; these wise men in the Greek text are called "Magi", a word which is always used in a bad sense in the sacred writings; hence they are thought by some to be magicians, sorcerers, wizards, such as Simon Magus, Acts 8:9 and Elymas, Acts 13:8 and so the Jewish writers (w) interpret the word a wizard, an enchanter, a blasphemer of God, and one that entices others to idolatry; and in the Hebrew Gospel of Munster these men are called "wizards". Some have thought this to be their national name. Epiphanius (x) supposes that these men were of the posterity of Abraham by Keturah, who inhabited a country in some part of Arabia, called Magodia: but could this be thought to be the name of their country, one might rather be induced to suppose that they were of the "Magi", a nation of the Medes mentioned by Herodotus (y); since both the name and country better agree with these persons; but the word seems to be rather a name of character and office, and to design the wise men, and priests of the Persians. An Eastern (z) writer says the word is of Persic original, and is compounded of two words, "Mije Gush", which signifies "a man with short ears"; for such was the first founder of the sect, and from whom they were so called. But in the Arabic Persic Nomenclator (a) it is rendered "a worshipper of fire", and such the Persian priests were; and to this agrees what Apuleius (b) says, that "Magus", in the Persian language, is the same as "priest" with us: and Xenophon (c) says, that the Magi were first appointed by Cyrus, to sing hymns to the gods, as soon as it was day, and to sacrifice to them. The account given of them by Porphyry (d) is, that

"among the Persians they that were wise concerning God, and worshipped him, were called "Magi", for so "Magus" signifies in their country dialect; and so august and venerable were this sort of men accounted with the Persians, that Darius, the son of Hystaspis, ordered this, among other things, to be inscribed on his monument, that he was the master of the Magi.''

From whence we may learn in some measure who these men were, and why the word is by our translators rendered "wise men"; since the Magi, as Cicero (e) says, were reckoned a sort of wise men, and doctors among the Persians: who further observes, that no man could be a king of the Persians before he understood the discipline and knowledge of the Magi: and the wisdom of the Persian Magi, as Aelianus (f) writes, among other things, lay in foretelling things to come. These came

from the east, not from Chaldea, as some have thought, led hereunto by the multitude of astrologers, magicians, and soothsayers, which were among that people; see Daniel 2:2 for Chaldea was not east, but north of Judea, as appears from Jeremiah 1:14 Jeremiah 6:22. Others have thought they came from Arabia, and particularly Sheba, induced hereunto by Psalm 72:10. But though some part of Arabia lay east, yet Sheba was south of the land of Israel, as is evident from the queen of that place being called the "queen of the south", Matthew 12:42. The more generally received opinion seems to be most right, that they came from Persia, which as it lies east of Judea, so was famous for this sort of men, and besides the name, as has been seen, is of Persic original. The place whither they came was Jerusalem, the "metropolis" of Judea, where they might suppose the king of the Jews was born, or where, at least, they might persuade themselves they should hear of him; since here Herod the king lived, to whom it seems they applied themselves in the first place. The time of their coming was, "when Jesus was born"; not as soon as he was born, or on the "thirteenth" day after his birth, the sixth of January, as it stands in our Calendar; or within the forty days before Mary's Purification; since this space of time does not seem to be sufficient for so long a journey, and which must require a considerable preparation for it; nor is it probable if they came so soon as this, that after such a stir at Jerusalem, after Herod's diligent search and inquiry concerning this matter, and his wrath and anger at being disappointed and deluded by the wise men, that Joseph and Mary should so soon bring the child into the temple, where, it was declared to be the Messiah by Simeon and Anna. Besides, immediately after the departure of the wise men, Joseph with his wife and child were ordered into Egypt, which could not be done before Mary's Purification. But rather this their coming was near upon two years after the birth of Christ; since it is afterwards observed, that "Herod sent 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", Matthew 2:16. This was the opinion of Epiphanius (g) formerly, and is embraced by Dr. Lightfoot (h), to whom I refer the reader for further proof of this matter.

(l) R. David Ganz. Zemach David, pars 2. fol. 14. 2.((m) Itinerarium, p. 48. (n) Apolog. 2. p. 75. (o) Toldos, p. 7. (p) Hieros. Beracot. fol. 5. 1.((q) Echa Rabbati, fol. 50. 1.((r) Hieron. Epitaph. Paulae. fol. 59. E. Tom. 1.((s) R. David Ganz. Zemach David, pars 1. fol. 24. 1.((t) T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 3. 2. Juchasin. fol. 17. 1. & 18. 1. & Seder Olam Zuta, p. 111. (u) Ib. Colossians 2. (w) T. Bab. Sabbat. fol. 75. 1. Gloss. in ib. & Sota, fol. 22. 1. & Sanhedrim, fol. 39. 1.((x) Contr. Haeres. l. 3. Haeres. 30. (y) Clio sive l. 1. c. 101. (z) Alfiranzabadius in Pocock. Specim. Hist. Arab. p. 146. (a) In Ibid. (b) Apolog. p. 204. (c) Cyropaedia, l. 8. sect. 6. (d) De Abstinentia, l. 4. sect. 16. (e) De Divinatione, l. i.((f) Hist. Var. l. 2. c. 17. (g) Contr. Haeres. l. 1. Haeres. 30. and l. 2. Haeres. 51. (h) Harmony, Vol. I. p. 205, 432, &c.

Now when {1} Jesus was born in Bethlehem of {a} Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came {b} wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

(1) Christ a poor child, laid down in a crib, and though given no attention by his own people, receives nonetheless a noble witness of his divinity from heaven, and of his kingly estate from strangers: which his own people unknowingly let happen, although they did not acknowledge him.

(a) For there was another in the tribe of Zebulun.

(b) Wise and learned men: It is a Persian word which they use frequently.

Matthew 2:1.[366] Γεννηθέντος] The star is to be considered as appearing contemporaneously with the birth (Matthew 2:7). But how long it was after the birth when the Magi came, is ascertained approximately from Matthew 2:16, according to which, even taking into account all the cruelty of Herod, and his intention to go to work with thorough certainty, the arrival of the Magi is most probably to be placed somewhat more than a year after the birth.

[366] See on the history of the Magi, Thilo, Eusebii Emeseni oratio περὶ ἀστρονόμων, praemissa de magis et stella quaestione, Hal. 1835; Münter, Stern der Weisen, 1827; Roth (Catholic), de stella a magis conspecta, 1865. In reference to chronology based upon astronomical observation, Ideler, Handb. d. Chronol. II. p. 339 ff.; Anger in the Zeitschr. f. histor. Theol. 1847, p. 347 ff.; Wieseler, chronol. Synopse u. Beiträge z. Würdigung d. Evang., 1869, p. 149 ff.; also in Herzog’s Encykl. XXI. p. 543 f.; Seyffarth, Chronol. sacr. 1846; Weigl, üb. d. wahre Geburts- u. Sterbejahr J. Chr. I., Sulzbach 1849; Keim, Gesch. J. I. p. 375 ff.

δέ is continuative, leading on to another history connected with the birth of Jesus which has just been related.

Βηθλεὲμ (house of bread) τῆς Ἰουδαίας, to distinguish it from Bethlehem in the tribe of Zabulon, Joshua 19:15. Our village (Bethlehem Ephrata, Genesis 35:16; Genesis 35:19), designated in John 7:42 as κώμη, was situated in the tribe of Judah (Jdg 17:9; Jdg 19:1; 1 Samuel 17:12), six miles to the south of Jerusalem, now the little manufacturing town Beit lachm. See Robinson, Pal. II. p. 379 ff.; Tobler, Bethl. in Paläst. 1849, and the relative articles in Herzog and Schenkel.

ἐν ἡμέραις] כִּימֵי, Genesis 26:1; 2 Samuel 21:1; 1 Kings 10:21.

Ἡρώδου] Herod the Great, son of Antipater, received in the year 714 U.C. from the Senate the dignity of king through the influence of Antony, by whom he had been not long before made tetrarch, but first came into the actual possession of his kingdom after the capture of Jerusalem by himself and Sosius in the year 717, and died, after a brilliant and flagitious reign, in 750. See concerning the whole family of Herod, Schlosser, Gesch. d. Fam. Herodes, Lpz. 1818; Ewald, Gesch. d. Volks Isr. IV., and Gesch. Chr. p. 95 ff. ed. 3; Gerlach in the Luther. Zeitschr. 1869, p. 13 ff.; Hausrath, neut. Zeitgesch. I. and II.

μάγοι] The Magi (מָגִים) constituted, amongst the Persians and the Medes, of whom they formed, according to Herod. i. 101, one of the six tribes, a distinguished priestly caste, and occupied themselves principally with the knowledge of the secrets of nature, astrology, and medicine. Herod. i. 32; Xen. Cyr. viii. 3. 6; Diog. Laert. i. 1–9; Aelian. V. H. ii. 17; Porphyry, de abst. an. iv. 16; Cic. de div. i. 41; Plin. N. H. xxiv. 29, xxx. 2; Curt. iii. 3. 8. Amongst the Babylonians also (Jeremiah 39:3) there was, at the time when the Chaldean dynasty was in power, such an order, of which Daniel became the president (Daniel 2:48). The name of Magi was then generally transferred, without distinction of country, to all those who had devoted themselves to those sciences, which, however, were frequently also accompanied with the practices of magic and jugglery (Acts 8:9; Acts 13:6; Acts 13:8). See Wetstein, and Müller in Herzog’s Encykl. VIII. p. 675 ff.

ἀπὸ ἀνατ.] belongs to μάγοι, Magi from the East—that is, Oriental Magi. The position of the words most naturally suggests this connection; but the article (οἱ ἀπὸ ἀνατ.) is not required, because μάγοι is without the article (in answer to Fritzsche, who connects it with παρεγένοντο). The indefinite expression, eastern lands (Matthew 8:11, Matthew 24:27; Luke 13:29; Revelation 21:13), is to be left in its indefiniteness, and in so doing we are to assume that the evangelist himself had no more precise information at his command. If Arabia has been thought of (Justin. c. Tr. 77 f.; Epiphanius, Tertullian, Maldonatus, Jansen, Cornelius a Lapide, Grotius, Lightfoot, Michaelis, Kuinoel, de Wette, Wieseler), or Persia (Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, Calvin, Beza, Calovius, Petavius, Casaubon, Wolf, Olshausen), or Parthia (Hydius), or Babylonia (Paulus), or even Egypt (Möller, neue Ansichten in loc.), yet we have no sure hold, even in a slight degree, either in the very indefinite ἀνατολῶν, or in the nature of the presents in Matthew 2:11. It was entirely baseless to determine their number from the threefold gifts, and to regard them as kings[367] on account of Psalm 68:30; Psalm 68:32; Psalm 72:10; Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 60:3; Isaiah 60:10 (especially since the fifth century; yet Tertullian, c. Marcion, already takes this view). Are we to think of heathens (so most expositors, including Olshausen, Krabbe, B.

Crusius, Lange, de Wette, Ewald, Hilgenfeld, Bleek, Keim), or of Jews (v. d. Hardt, Harenberg in the Bibl. Brem. VII. p. 470 ff.; Münter, Paulus, Hofmann, L. J. von Strauss geprüft, p. 249; Rettig in the Stud. u. Krit. 1838, p. 217)? In favour of the first, the question, Where is the new-born King of the Jews? is decisive. And how appropriate was it to the idea of Messiah, that the very first-fruits of the distant heathen appeared to do homage to the King of the Jews (Isaiah 60:3 ff.)! The expectation of the Jews, that their Messiah was to rule over the world, might at that period have been sufficiently disseminated throughout the foreign countries of the East (Sueton. Vesp. iv.; Tac. H. v. 13; Joseph. B. J. vi. 5. 4) to lead heathen astrologers, for the object in question, to the Jewish capital. Comp. Dio Cass. Hist. R. xlv. 1; Suet. Oct. xciv.

Ἱεροσόλυμα] In the capital they expected to find, if not the Babe Himself, at least the most certain information regarding Him.

[367] According to Bede, their names also have been commonly given as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar (see Petr. Comestor. Hist. schol. 8), but also differently. See Beza in loc., and Paulus, exeget. Handb. I. p. 204.

Matthew 2:1-12. Visit of the Magi.

Ch. Matthew 2:1-12. The Visit of the Magi. Recorded by St Matthew only

1. Jesus was born] The year 3 before the Christian Era has been fixed almost beyond a doubt as the date of the Nativity. The present year—1877—is therefore correctly a. d. 1880. The data on which the computation is founded are (1) the first rule of Quirinus (Luke 2:2), (2) the accession of Tiberius a. d. 14, (3) the Paschal full moon at the time of the crucifixion probably a. d. 33, (4) the reign of Herod, which began in b. c. 36 and ended in b. c. 1. The last-named date has been accurately determined in a paper read before the Society of Biblical Archæology by Mr J. W. Bosanquet,—which see for a learned discussion of the whole question.

in Bethlehem] St Matthew omits the circumstances which brought Mary to Bethlehem.

Bethlehem] (‘The House of Bread,’ cp. John 6:51), the city of David, situate on a limestone ridge a few miles S. of Jerusalem. The old name of Bethlehem was Ephrath or Ephratah; it is now called Beit-lahm. It is worthy of remark that no visit of Jesus or of His disciples to Bethlehem, His birthplace and the cradle of His race, is recorded.

Herod] Called afterwards, but not in his lifetime, Herod the Great; he was an Idumæan (Edomite) who, chiefly through the friendship of M. Antony, became king of Judæa. For date of reign see above. The title of King distinguishes him from the other Herods named in the gospels. Antipas, who tried in vain to obtain the title, is called King by courtesy, Mark 6:14.

Herod was not an absolute monarch, but subject to the Roman empire, much in the same way as some of the Indian princes are subject to the British government, or as Servia was till recently subject to the Porte.

behold] The use of this word in the original is a mark of the Hebrew style influencing the Greek.

wise men] Lit. Magi, originally the name of a Median tribe, who, according to Herodotus, possessed the power of interpreting dreams. Their religion consisted in the worship of the heavenly bodies and of the elements. At this date the name implied a religious caste—the followers of Zoroaster, who were the astrologers of the East. Their tenets had spread widely; and as the East is a vague term, it is difficult to determine from what country these Magi came. A theory, stated below, connects them with Egypt, or at least with an Egyptian system of chronology. The common belief that the Magi were three in number is a mere tradition, which has been perpetuated by great painters. It was probably an inference from Matthew 2:11. An equally groundless tradition has designated the Magi as kings, and has assigned names to them. Every reader of the Classics knows how common a failing it is with ancient annotators to state deductions from the text as proved facts.

Matthew 2:1. Ἐν Βηθλεὲμ τῆς Ιὀυδαίας, in Bethlehem of Judaea) It is thus distinguished from Bethlehem of the Zabulonites, mentioned in Joshua 19:15.—Ἡρώδου, of Herod) i.e. Herod the Great, a native of Ascalon, a foreigner by descent, the sceptre being just on the point of departing from Judah. Amongst his sons[74] were Archelaus, mentioned in Matthew 2:22, the Herods Antipas and Philip, mentioned in the 14th chapter of St Matthew and the 23d of St Luke, and Aristobulus, the father of Herod Agrippa, who is mentioned in Acts 12—ἰδοὺ, behold) This particle frequently points to a thing unexpected. The arrival of the Magi at Jerusalem had not been announced.—Μάγοι, Magi) Μάγος occurs frequently in the Septuagint version of Daniel for the Hebrew אשף, and signifies with the Persians a wise man or a philosopher. St Matthew considers it sufficient to denote them by this their condition; he does not define either the rest of their dignity or their number, nor whether or no they had ever been addicted to curious arts, nor in what part of the East they were born; by which last omission he intimates the unrestricted universality of this great salvation. Magus is a word of ambiguous signification and of wide extent in the East. These Magi appear to have been descendants of Abraham, but not of Jacob; for the name of Magi does not apply to Jews, and the mention of gold and frankincense directs our attention to Isaiah 60:6, where he speaks of the coming in of the Gentiles, so that in this place already are seen the preludes of the Messiah being received rather by the Gentiles than by His own people. (See Luke 4:26, etc.) The King of the Jews, they say, not, our king, showing thereby that they were not themselves Jews. If you make two classes, the one of those who received, the other of those who rejected our Lord, and observe the variety of men on either side, you will be able to draw many useful observations from the whole of the New Testament.—απὸ ἀνατολῶν, from the East) cf. ch. Matthew 8:11. The north and the south occur in Greek only in the singular number. The east and the west occur also in the plural. The rationale of this is clear: when we look either due north or due south, our eyes are always turned toward one precise spot, the North or South Pole, which is not the case when we look eastward or westward, since there is no stationary point of east or west longitude.—παρεγένοντο, arrived) After He had received the name “JESUS,” and, consequently after His circumcision.[75]—εἰς Ιἐροσόλυμα, at Jerusalem) It was natural to suppose, that the metropolis would be the place where the truth would be most easily ascertained, and they conceived, no doubt, that the King had been born there.

[74] The following genealogy of the Herodian Family, extracted from Lewin’s Life of St Paul will be useful to the student:—

[75] Nay even we have no reason to doubt, that the arrival of the Magi, and the flight into Egypt, which was intimately connected with it, took place after His παράστασις, presentation, as recorded in Luke 2:22-23. And, more over, this very order of events, whereby the παράστασις in the temple, the arrival of the Magi, and the departure to Egypt, are in continuous succession, affords us most useful consequences. For 1) the poverty of Jesus’ parents, (a fact, which is proved by their sacrifice in accordance with the law, Leviticus 12:6; Leviticus 12:8, concerning those unable to make the more costly offering) was relieved by the Fatherly providence of GOD, through the gifts of the Magi, so that they were thereby supplied with the means of livelihood during their exile.—2.) We may observe the various features of Propriety [“Decorum”] which characterise this series of events. First of all Jesus, as being the First-begotten, was presented to the Lord: then next, the first-fruits of the Gentiles presented themselves to Jesus Himself. In His παράστασις He was Himself made manifest to the Israelites of Jerusalem, and a short while afterwards to the Gentiles also. We may conjecture, from the words of the Magi, in which they draw the conclusion as to the birth of the King of the Jews, from the Star which they had seen, and also from the age of the little children slain by Herod, in accordance with the time which he had ascertained from the Magi—that the star was seen by them at the time of Christ’s conception, and that it was by it their long journey was directed; so that at the time most suitable, namely after the lapse of six months from the nativity, they arrived and paid their adorations.—3.) Simeon foretold of Jesus, that He was to be a Light to lighten the Gentiles, immediately subjoining the statement as to the Cross. Both truths were to His parents, at the time of presentation, as a communication strange, and such as they had not heretofore realised; therefore it was not till afterwards, though not long afterwards, that the one prophecy began to be fulfilled by the arrival of the Magi, the other by the flight into Egypt.—4.) The presentation was made in the temple on that very day of the week, which was subsequently called the Lord’s day.—5.) It is most easy to understand how it was that the King of the Jews remained unknown, all along from His birth to His presentation in the temple, to King Herod, inasmuch as that king was at the time aged, sick, torn with anguish on account of his sons, and hated by the Jews, and did not become known to him sooner than through the Magi. In fact, it was similarly that Herod the Tetrarch heard nothing of the miracles which Jesus performed before the beheading of John, notwithstanding the length of the interval from the beginning of the Lord’s miracles.—6.) If you place the departure into Egypt before the παράστασις, you must suppose the former to have been accomplished wholly in the winter: but the true order of events leads to the inference which is more in accordance with suitability of seasons, viz. that the flight occurred at the approach of spring, and the return at the spring season itself.—Harm, p. 53, 55, 56.

Verses 1-12. - Born at Bethlehem, according to prophecy, he receives there the homage of representatives of the, heathen world. Verse 1. - Now when Jesus; who has just been identified with Christ. But in this chapter the narrative employs only those terms ("Jesus," "young Child") which bystanders might have used. They are purely annalistic, not interpretative. Contrast Matthew 1:18 and Herod's statement of a thee-logical problem (ver. 4). Was born in Bethlehem. The First Gospel, if taken alone would give the impression that Joseph had had no previous connexion with Nazareth. But about the place where Joseph and Mary lived before the birth of Jesus the evangelist did not concern himself (cf ver. 23, note). Of Judaea. For the evangelist's purpose it was most important so to define it as to exclude Bethlehem of Zebulun (Joshua 19:15). The inhabitants of Bethlehem of Judaea, a market town of a fruitful (Ephratah) district, live chiefly by agriculture, but also for several centuries have manufactured images of saints, rosaries, and fancy articles. Since 1834: it has been almost exclusively occupied by Christians (Socin's Baedeker,' p. 243, seq.). From "the House of Bread" came forth" the true Bread." In the days of Herod the king. Herod the Great and Herod Agrippa II. (Acts 25:13) alone held the legal title of "king" for any time (but cf. Matthew 14:1, note) - the former as King of the Jews (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 1:14.4), or King "of the Idumaeans and Samaritans" (Appian, 'Civ., 5:75; vide Schurer, 1:1. 340), by a decree of an express meeting of the Roman senate, B.C. 40; the latter by Claudius's appointment, as king first of Chalcis (A.D. 48-53) and afterwards (A.D. 53-100) of the tetrarchies of Philip and Lysanias (Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 2:12. 8; 13. 2), although Herod Antipas was so spoken of by courtesy ( infra, Matthew 14:9). As the date of Agrippa II. is quite out of the question, we are almost compelled by this phrase alone to recognize the date of Christ's birth as falling in the lifetime of Herod the Great. Herod the Great died in the spring of A.U.C. 750, our B.C. 4 (Schiirer, 1:1. 466), and as our Lord was born at least forty days earlier, for the purification in the temple must have taken place before Herod's massacre of the innocents, he cannot have been born later than the very beginning of B.C. 4, or the end of B.C. 5. Indeed, upon the most natural deduction from ver. 16, he must have been born some months earlier. The Church, from the days of Justin Martyr ('Ap.,' 1:32), has loved to see in the abolition by Rome of the kingdom of the Jews at the death of Herod, of its native dynasty by Herod's usurnation (Origen, 'Genesis Hom.,' 17:6), the fulfilment of Jacob's prophecy (Genesis 49:10). Behold, there came Wise Men from the East. The true order, as given in the Revised Version, lays the emphasis on the office, and in a subordinate degree on the home of the strangers - Wise Men from the East came. This translation also hints at the full meaning of the verb ( παρεγένοντο) , of which the connotation is not of the place a quo, but of the publicity of their appearance at the place in quo (cf. Matthew 3:1). Wise Men (Μάγοι); "astromyens" (Wickliffe); "rages" (Rheims). On this word see especially Schrader ('Cuneiform Inscriptions and the Old Testament') on Jeremiah 39:3. He considers it to be in origin not Iranian (Medo-Persian), but Babylonian, and to have primarily meant either "one who is deep whether in power and reputation or in insight," or one who has fulness of power. It was, perhaps, at first used with special reference to astrologers and interpreters of dreams, and, passing from Babylonia to Media, it became the name of the Median priestly order. In the latter sense it is probably used here. In Acts 13:6-8 it, apparently by reversion, is used in its wider meaning. Of the number and rank of those who now came absolutely nothing is known. Of greater importance is Cicero's statement ('De Div.,' 1:41), "Nee quisquam rex Persarum potest esse, qui non ante magorum disciplinam scientiamque perceperit." These Magi spontaneously submit to the Babe. From the East. The proper home of the Magi would thus be Media, and, from the length of time employed on their journey (ver. 16), it is probable that by "the East" we must here understand Media or some other part of the kingdom, of Parthia, into which Media had been mostly absorbed, and in which, in fact, the Magi were now greatly honoured. Many, however (e.g. Lightfoot, 'Her. Hebr.'; and Edersheim, 'Life,' etc., 1:203, who points out that a Jewish kingdom of Yemen then existed), think that these Magi came from Arabia; and with this the tradition, evidently received by Justin Martyr and frequently referred to by him ( οἱ ἀπὸ Ἀρραβίας Μάγοι, 'Trypho,' §§ 77, 78, 88, 102; cf. Reseh, 'Agrapha,' p. 471), perhaps agrees. But Justin's own opinion was that they came from Damascus, which "was and is a part of the land of Arabia" (§ 78). It is noticeable that Justin's tradition is confirmed by the Jerusalem Talmud ('Ber.,' 2:4), which makes an "Arabian" tell a Jew that Messiah is born. The whole passage is worth quoting for its illustration of several details in this chapter. "After this the children of Israel shall be converted, and shall inquire after the Lord their God, and David their king (Hosea 3:5). Our rabbins say, 'That is King Messias, if he be among the living, his name is David, or if dead, David is his name.' Rabbi Tanchum said, 'Thus I prove it: He sheweth mercy to David his Messiah' (Psalm 18:50). Rabbi Josua ben Levi saith, 'His name is צמח, a Branch (Zechariah 3:8).' Rabbi Judah bar Aibu saith, ' His name is Menahem (that is, Para>klhtov, the Comforter).' And that which happened to a certain Jew, as he was ploughing, agreeth with this business. A certain Arabian travelling, and hearing the ox bellow, said to the Jew at plough, 'O Jew, loose thy oxen, and loose thy ploughs, for, behold, the temple is laid waste!' The ox bellowed the second time; the Arabian saith to him, 'O Jew, Jew, yoke thy oxen, and fit thy ploughs: for, behold, King Messiah is born!' But saith the Jew, 'What is his name?' 'Menahem,' saith he. 'And what is the name of his father?' 'Hezekiah,' saith the Arabian. To whom the Jew, 'But whence is he?' The other answered, ' From the palace of the King of Bethlehem-Judah.' Away he went, and sold his oxen, and his ploughs, and became a seller of infants' swaddling-clothes, going about from town to town. When he came to that city (Bethlehem) all the women bought of him, but the mother of Menahem bought nothing. He heard the voice of the women saying, 'O thou mother of Menahem, thou mother of Menahem, carry thy son the things that are here sold.' But she replied, 'May the enemies of Israel be strandded, because on the day that he was born the temple was laid waste.' To whom he said, 'But we hoped, that as it was laid waste at his feet, so at his feet it would be built again.' She saith, 'I have no money.' To whom he replied, 'But why should this be prejudicial to him? Carry him what you buy here, and if you have no money to-day, after some days I will come back and receive it.' After some days he returns to that city, and saith to her, 'How does the little infant?' And she said, 'From the time you saw me last, spirits [winds] and tempests came, and snatched him away out of my hands.' Rabbi Bon saith, 'What need have we to learn from an Arabian? Is it not plainly written, "And Lebanon shall fall before the Powerful One?" (Esa. 10:34). And what follows after? "A Branch shall come out of the root of Jesse" (Esa. 11:1)'" ('Hor. Hebr.,' in loc.) . To Jerusalem. The capital, where this King would reign, and where information about his birth would most naturally be obtained. Matthew 2:1Bethlehem

Hebrew, House of Bread, probably from its fertility. The birthplace of him who calls himself the Bread of Life (John 6:35), and identified with the history of his human ancestry through Ruth, who was here married to Boaz, and was the ancestress of David (Matthew 1:5, Matthew 1:6), and through David himself, who was born there, and anointed king by Samuel (compare Luke 2:11, city of David).

Wise men, or Magi (μάγοι)

Wycliffe renders kings. A priestly caste among the Persians and Medes, which occupied itself principally with the secrets of nature, astrology, and medicine. Daniel became president of such an order in Babylon (Daniel 2:48). The word became transferred, without distinction of country, to all who had devoted themselves to those sciences, which were, however, frequently accompanied with the practice of magic and jugglery; and, under the form magician, it has come to be naturalized in many of the languages of Europe. Many absurd traditions and guesses respecting these visitors to our Lord's cradle have found their way into popular belief and into Christian art. They were said to be kings, and three in number; they were said to be representatives of the three families of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and therefore one of them is pictured as an Ethiopian; their names are given as Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior, and their three skulls, said to have been discovered in the twelfth century by Bishop Reinald of Cologne, are exhibited in a priceless casket in the great cathedral of that city.

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