Matthew 2:11
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.
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(11) Opened their treasures.—The word points to caskets, or chests, which they had brought with them.

Gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.—These were natural enough as the traditional gifts of homage to a ruler. Compare the gifts sent by Jacob to Joseph (Genesis 43:11), and Psalm 45:8, for the myrrh and spices; Psalm 72:15, for the gold; Isaiah 60:6, for gold and incense. The patristic interpretation of the gifts as significant—the gold, of kingly power; the incense, of Divinity; the myrrh, of death and embalmment—interesting as it is, cannot be assumed to have been definitely present to the mind of the Evangelist. It is noticeable that there is here no mention of Joseph. Looking to his prominence in St. Matthew’s narrative, we must assume that his absence on the night of their arrival was accidental.

2:9-12 What joy these wise men felt upon this sight of the star, none know so well as those who, after a long and melancholy night of temptation and desertion, under the power of a spirit of bondage, at length receive the Spirit of adoption, witnessing with their spirits that they are the children of God. We may well think what a disappointment it was to them, when they found a cottage was his palace, and his own poor mother the only attendant he had. However, these wise men did not think themselves baffled; but having found the King they sought, they presented their gifts to him. The humble inquirer after Christ will not be stumbled at finding him and his disciples in obscure cottages, after having in vain sought them in palaces and populous cities. Is a soul busy, seeking after Christ? Would it worship him, and does it say, Alas! I am a foolish and poor creature, and have nothing to offer? Nothing! Hast thou not a heart, though unworthy of him, dark, hard, and foul? Give it to him as it is, and be willing that he use and dispose of it as it pleases him; he will take it, and will make it better, and thou shalt never repent having given it to him. He shall frame it to his own likeness, and will give thee himself, and be thine for ever. The gifts the wise men presented were gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Providence sent these as a seasonable relief to Joseph and Mary in their present poor condition. Thus our heavenly Father, who knows what his children need, uses some as stewards to supply the wants of others, and can provide for them, even from the ends of the earth.The house - The place where he was born, or the place where they lived at that time.

Fell down - This was the usual way of showing respect or homage among the Jews, Esther 8:3; Job 1:20; Daniel 3:7; Psalm 72:11; Isaiah 46:6.

Worshipped him - Did him homage as King of the Jews. See the notes at Matthew 2:2.

Had opened their treasures - The treasures which they had brought, or the boxes, etc., in which they had brought their gold, etc.

They presented unto him gifts - These were presented to him as King of the Jews, because they supposed he was to be a distinguished prince and conqueror. It was customary in the East to show respect for persons of distinction by making presents or offerings of this kind. See Genesis 32:14; Genesis 43:11; 1 Samuel 10:27; 1 Kings 10:2; Psalm 72:10-15. This custom is still common in the East, and it is everywhere there unusual to approach a person of distinguished rank without a valuable present.

Frankincense - Frankincense is a white resin or gum. It is obtained from a tree by making incisions in the bark, and suffering the gum to flow out. It is highly odoriferous or fragrant when burned, and was therefore used in worship, where it was burned as a pleasant offering to God. See Exodus 30:8; Leviticus 16:12. It is found in the East Indies, but chiefly in Arabia; and hence it has been supposed probable that the wise men came from Arabia.

Myrrh - This was also a production of Arabia, and was obtained from a tree in the same manner as frankincense. The name denotes bitterness, and was given to it on account of its great bitterness. It was used chiefly in embalming the dead, because it had the property of preserving dead bodies from putrefaction. Compare John 19:39, it was much used in Egypt and in Judea. It was obtained from a thorny tree, which grows 8 or 9 feet high. It was at an early period an article of commerce Genesis 37:25, and was an ingredient of the holy ointment, Exodus 30:23. It was also used as an agreeable perfume, Esther 2:12; Psalm 45:8; Proverbs 7:17. It was also sometimes mingled with wine to form an article of drink. Such a drink was given to our Saviour, when about to be crucified, as a stupefying potion, Mark 15:23; compare Matthew 27:34. The offerings here referred to were made because they were the most valuable which the country of the Magi or wise men produced. They were tokens of respect and homage which they paid to the new-born King of the Jews. They evinced their high regard for him, and their belief that he was to be an illustrious prince; and the fact that their deed is recorded with approbation shows us that we should offer our most valuable possessions, our all, to the Lord Jesus Christ. Wise men came from far to do him homage, and bowed down, and presented their best gifts and offerings. It is right that we give to him also our hearts, our property, our all.

11. And when they were come into the house—not the stable; for as soon as Bethlehem was emptied of its strangers, they would have no difficulty in finding a dwelling-house.

they saw—The received text has "found"; but here our translators rightly depart from it, for it has no authority.

the young child with Mary his mother—The blessed Babe is naturally mentioned first, then the mother; but Joseph, though doubtless present, is not noticed, as being but the head of the house.

and fell down and worshipped him—Clearly this was no civil homage to a petty Jewish king, whom these star-guided strangers came so far, and inquired so eagerly, and rejoiced with such exceeding joy, to pay, but a lofty spiritual homage. The next clause confirms this.

and when they had opened their treasures they presented—rather, "offered."

unto him gifts—This expression, used frequently in the Old Testament of the oblations presented to God, is in the New Testament employed seven times, and always in a religious sense of offerings to God. Beyond doubt, therefore, we are to understand the presentation of these gifts by the Magi as a religious offering.

gold, frankincense, and myrrh—Visits were seldom paid to sovereigns without a present (1Ki 10:2, &c.; compare Ps 72:10, 11, 15; Isa 60:3, 6). "Frankincense" was an aromatic used in sacrificial offerings; "myrrh" was used in perfuming ointments. These, with the "gold" which they presented, seem to show that the offerers were persons in affluent circumstances. That the gold was presented to the infant King in token of His royalty; the frankincense in token of His divinity, and the myrrh, of His sufferings; or that they were designed to express His divine and human natures; or that the prophetical, priestly, and kingly offices of Christ are to be seen in these gifts; or that they were the offerings of three individuals respectively, each of them kings, the very names of whom tradition has handed down—all these are, at the best, precarious suppositions. But that the feelings of these devout givers are to be seen in the richness of their gifts, and that the gold, at least, would be highly serviceable to the parents of the blessed Babe in their unexpected journey to Egypt and stay there—that much at least admits of no dispute.

How long the virgin Mary and her holy Child had been there is not expressed; those that think these wise men came within six weeks or two months, judge that Joseph and Mary came thither from Jerusalem after that he had been there offered, to the Lord, of which you read Luke 2:22; but they are forced, to uphold this, to interpret Luke 2:39, which saith that after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth, of a considerable time after they had performed these things, which seemeth something hard and needless, especially considering Nazareth was Joseph’s own city, i.e. the city where his fixed habitation was. It is most probable that they, after so long absence, went right home, and if the wise men (which is said) found them in Bethlehem, they were gone thither again to visit some relations.

They saw the young child with Mary his mother; under what other circumstances the Scripture saith not, but questionless they were very poor and mean, which is a very strong inducement to us to believe that they had a spiritual Divine revelation, that this was a King whose kingdom was not of this world, the true Messiah and Saviour of the world; they would hardly else have treated a poor infant, in an ordinary house and no more attended, at the rate they did, for the text saith they

fell down and worshipped him; a usual homage indeed which the Eastern nations paid to princes, but they used then to have better evidences of their royal state and dignity than these wise men seemed to have had, if they had not, besides the star, a Divine revelation what manner of King this was to be. We may therefore rather judge that their revelation extended not only to the birth of a King, but of such a King as indeed he was, the eternal Son of God clothed with human flesh; and that their falling down and worshipping him is to be understood of a Divine worship they paid to him, as the Saviour of the world: and so they were the first fruits of the Gentiles, owning and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. And that their following offerings to him were upon that account, for opening

their treasures, they presented to him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The guesses of those who think that they offered him gold as to a King, frankincense as a High Priest, and myrrh to sweeten the place where he was, I take to be but the product of luxuriant fancies. It is most certain that those Eastern people seldom came to their princes without some presents, and that their presents were usually of the most choice things their country afforded. This is plain from Genesis 43:11; and if what naturalists tell us be true, that myrrh was only to be found in Arabia, and frankincense in Sabea, (a part of Arabia) and that country also had gold, which it is plain that it had from 2 Chronicles 9:14, it makes a very probable argument, that these wise men came from Arabia, which was full of men that were astrologers. The providence of God was wonderfully seen in these presents, by them providing for the sustenance of Joseph, and Mary, and Jesus in that exile which they were soon after to endure. For other allegorical and mystical significations of these presents, they are but conjectures, and the exuberances of men’s fancies.

And when they were come into the house,.... Which they entered without making any inquiry, being fully assured by the star's standing right over it, that this was the house, and here was the king of the Jews, whom they were come to worship; and having entered in "they saw" some copies read

they found the young child, with Mary his mother; in her lap, or arms, or in the house with her, for by this time he might go alone. Joseph perhaps was not at home, but about his business; and which might be so ordered by the providence of God, that so these men might only see the mother of Christ, who had no real father as man; who had they seen Joseph, might have took him to be his proper father. Upon the sight of the young child,

they fell down on their knees or faces to the ground, agreeably to the custom of their country,

and worshipped him as a king; giving him the same civil honour and respect, as they were wont to do to their own kings and princes; which custom began with Cyrus: for so Xenophon (c) says, that

"when the people saw him, , they all worshipped him; either because some were ordered to begin this custom; or else being amazed at the apparatus; or because he seemed to appear so great and beautiful; for before that time none of the Persians worshipped Cyrus.''

And when they had opened their treasures, that is, their purses, bags or boxes, in which they put those things they brought with them necessary for their journey;

they presented, or offered to him

gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh: such things as they had; it being usual, not only with the Persians, but other eastern nations, to make presents to kings and great persons, when they made any addresses to them; which generally, among other things, consisted of gold, spices, myrrh, and the like, see Genesis 43:11. Which last passage referred to, being a prophecy of the Messiah, has been thought by some now to have had its accomplishment, together with Isaiah 60:6 where frankincense as well as gold is mentioned, "they shall bring gold and incense" or frankincense; upon which a noted Jewish writer (d) observes, that gold and frankincense shall be brought privately as a present to the king Messiah. According to the Ethiopians, these wise men were three, whose names they give us; the name of him that offered the gold, was Annoson; he that offered the frankincense, was Allytar; and he that offered the myrrh, Kyssad (e). The Papists call them the three kings of Colen, and say they lie buried in that place.

(c) Cyropaedia, l. 8. sect. 23. (d) R. David Kimchi. (e) Ludolph. Lex. Ethiop. p. 539, 542, 543.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and {h} fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their {i} treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

(h) A kind of humble and lovely reverence.

(i) The rich and costly presents, which they brought him.

Matthew 2:11. Εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν] As the Magi did not arrive till some time after the birth (Matthew 2:1), it does not follow indeed from εἰς τ. οἰκ. in and by itself that the evangelist makes Jesus be born not in the stable of a friend (Luke), or in a cave (Justin and Apocrypha), but in Joseph’s house. Certainly, however, the latter follows from this, that, according to Matthew, Bethlehem is the dwelling-place of Joseph; see Remark after Matthew 2:23.

τὸ παιδίον μετὰ Μαρίας] The non-mention of Joseph is not to be ascribed to any design.

τοὺς θησαυρούς] the chests which held their treasures, Xen. Anab. v. 4. 27; 1Ma 3:29; 4Ma 4:4. See Wetstein and Valckenaer, ad Herod. iv. 162. To find symbolical references in the individual presents is arbitrary. Tertullian and Chrysostom: Incense and myrrh they presented to Him as to a God; Irenaeus, Origen (in answer to Celsus, who ridiculed the divine worship of a νήπιος), Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, Erasmus, Luther: as a king, they presented Him with gold; as a God, with incense and with myrrh, ὡς μέλλοντι γεύσασθαι θανάτου. Comp. the Christian Adamsbuch in Ewald, Jahrb. V. p. 81, which makes the three gifts and their meaning to be derived from Adam.

It was and still is the Eastern custom not to approach princes without presents, Genesis 43:11; 1 Samuel 10:27; 1 Kings 10:2; Aelian, V. H. i. 31; Harmar, Beobacht. üb. d. Orient, II. p. 1 f. That the gifts of the Magi are said to have enabled the poor parents to make out their journey to Egypt (Wetstein, Olshausen, and others), is a strange conceit.

Matthew 2:11. The Magi enter and do homage.—καὶ ε. ε. τ. οἰκίαν: the house. In Luke the shepherds find the holy family in a stable, and the holy child lying in a manger; reconcilable by assuming that the Magi arrived after they had found refuge in a friend’s house (Epiphan. Theophy.).—εἶδον τ. π.… αὐτοῦ: εἶδον better than εὗρον, which seems to have been introduced by the copyists as not only in itself suitable to the situation, but relieving the monotony caused by too frequent use of εἶδον (Matthew 2:9-10). The child with His mother, Joseph not mentioned, not intentionally, that no wrong suspicions might occur to the Gentiles (Rabanus in Aquin. Cat. Aur.).—καὶ πεσόντεςσμύρναν. They come, eastern fashion, with full hands, as befits those who enter into the presence of a king. They open the boxes or sacks (θησαυροὺς, some ancient copies seem to have read πήρας = sacculos, which Grotius, with probability, regards as an interpretative gloss that had found its way into the text, vide Epiphanius Adv. Haer. Alogi., c. 8), and bring forth gold, frankincense and myrrh, the two latter being aromatic gums distilled from trees.—λίβανον: in classic Greek, the tree, in later Greek and N. T., the gum, τὸ θυμιώμενον = λιβανωτός, vide Phryn. ed. Lobeck, p. 187. The gifts were of three kinds, hence the inference that the Magi were three in number. That they were kings was deduced from texts in Psalms and Prophecies (e.g., Psalm 72:10, Isaiah 60:3), predicting that kings would come doing homage and bringing gifts to Messiah. The legend of the three kings dates as far back as Origen, and is beautiful but baseless. It grew with time; by-and-by the kings were furnished with names. The legendary spirit loves definiteness. The gifts would be products of the givers’ country, or in high esteem and costly there. Hence the inference drawn by some that the Magi were from Arabia. Thus Grotius: “Myrrha nonnisi in Arabia nascitur, nec thus nisi apud Jabaeos Arabum portionem: sed et aurifera est felix Arabia”. Gold and incense (λίβανος) are mentioned in Isaiah 60:6 among the gifts to be brought to Israel in the good time coming. The fathers delighted in assigning to these gifts of the Magi mystic meanings: gold as to a king, incense as to God, myrrh as to one destined to die (ὡς μέλλοντι γεύσασθαι θανάτου). Grotius struck into a new line: gold = works of mercy; incense = prayer; myrrh = purity—to the disgust of Fritzsche, who thought such mystic interpretations beneath so great a scholar.

11. the house] St Matthew gives no hint that “the house” was an inn, or that the babe was lying in a manger. Perhaps here as in other places we are misled by the ideas suggested by great pictures; and in truth the visit of the Magi should be placed at least some days after the events recorded in Luke 2:1-38.

their treasures] Properly caskets or chests in which treasures were placed. Such offerings to kings were quite in accordance with Eastern usage. Seneca says “No one may salute a Parthian king without bringing a gift;” cp. Psalm 68:29; Psalm 72:10.

frankincense and myrrh were products of Arabia, and, according to Herodotus, of that country only. They were both used for medicinal purposes and for embalming; cp. John 19:39.

Matthew 2:11. Εἶδον, they saw) Sweetly is expressed the increase and progress of their joy from that of seeing the star to that of seeing the KING Himself. The inferior reading, εὗρον[94] (they found), corresponds with the words of Herod, “Enquire diligently, and when ye have found,” etc. But the star, by becoming stationary, spared the Magi the labour of enquiring. They did not so much find as see. Cf. Luke 2:17; Luke 2:20; Luke 2:26; Luke 2:30.—προσεκύνησαν Αὐτῷ, they worshipped Him) Mary was not an object of worship to the Magi. If she had been conceived without sin, as the greater portion of the Roman Church has now decided, why should she not then have been worshipped as well as now? for she was then already the Mother of the King, who was to be worshipped.—τοὺς θησαυροὺς αὐτῶν, their treasures) or receptacles of treasures. The Hebrew אוצר, which is rendered by the LXX. θησαυρὸς; in Proverbs 8:21, etc., signifies a storehouse, a repository, even a portable chest or casket.—προσήνεγκαν, they offered) as to a King. They were not offended by His present poverty.—ΧΡΥΣῸΝ, ΚΑῚ ΛΊΒΑΝΟΝ, ΚΑῚ ΣΜΎΡΝΑΝ, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh) from the productions of their own country. There was a prediction concerning gold and frankincense in Isaiah 60:6. These first fruits showed that all things were to belong to Christ, even in the mineral and vegetable kingdoms, etc.—See Haggai 2:8.

[94] BCDa read εἷδον. bc, Vulg. and Rec. Text, with less authority, εὗρον.—ED.

Verse 11. - And when they were come into the house. For after the enrolment the caravanserai would not be so crowded (Luke 2:7). But whether it was now the caravanserai or a private house, we have no evidence to show. They saw (εϊδον, with the uncials and most of the versions). The translators in this case followed the text of the Complutensian (1514) and of Colinaeus' edition (1534), rejecting the false εῦρον of the Vulgate and the Received Text. The young Child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him (ver. 2, note). In this latter clause Mary is not mentioned. And when they had opened. Neither the Authorized Version nor the Revised Version brings out the exact correlation of the six aorists in this verse. Their treasures (so the Revised Version); perhaps, more strictly, treasuries, coffers. There is the same ambiguity about "treasure" in old English (cf. Jeremiah 10:13; Jeremiah 51:16; Eeclus. 43:14) as in the Greek. They presented unto him gifts. Thus fulfilling in germ the predictions of offerings being made to Messiah and Messiah's people by the Gentile nations (Isaiah 60; Haggai 2:7; Psalm 72:10). Presented; offered (Revised Version). The verb used ( προσφέρω) seems to lay stress on the persons to whom and by whom the offering is made, the personal relation in which they stand to each other; ἀναφέρω (cf. Bishop Westcott, on Hebrews 7:27) and παρίστημι on the destination and use of the offering (James 2:21; Romans 6:13). Observe the three stages in this verse - vision, submission, consecration. Gifts; without which one does not approach an Eastern monarch (cf. 1 Kings 10:2). Gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. Wealth and delights, the material and the aesthetic. Matthew 2:11
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