Matthew 2:2
Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
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(2) Where is he . . .?—The Magi express here the feeling which the Roman historians, Tacitus and Suetonius, tell us sixty or seventy years later had been for a long time very widely diffused. Everywhere throughout the East men were looking for the advent of a great king who was to rise from among the Jews. The expectation partly rested on such Messianic prophecies of Isaiah as Isaiah 9, 11, partly on the later predictions of Daniel 7. It had fermented in the minds of men, heathens as well as Jews, and would have led them to welcome Jesus as the Christ had He come in accordance with their expectations. As it was, He came precisely as they did not expect Him, shattering their earthly hopes to pieces, and so they did not receive Him.

We have seen his star in the east.—Here again we enter on questions which we cannot answer. Was the star (as Kepler conjectured) natural—the conjuncture of the planets Jupiter and Saturn appearing as a single star of special brightness—or supernatural; visible to all beholders, or to the Magi only? Astronomy is against the first view, by showing that the planets at their nearest were divided by the apparent diameter of the moon. The last hypothesis introduces a fresh miracle without a shadow of authority from Scripture. We must be content to remain in ignorance. We know too little of the astrology of that period to determine what star might or might not seem to those who watched the heavens as the precursor of a great king. Any star (as e.g., that which was connected with the birth of Cæsar) might, under given rules of art, acquire a new significance. Stories, not necessarily legends, of the appearances of such stars gathered round the births of Alexander the Great and Mithridates as well as Cæsar. The language of Balaam as to “the Star that was to rise out of Jacob” (Numbers 24:17) implied the existence of such an association of thoughts then, and tended to perpetuate it. As late as the reign of Hadrian, the rebel chief who headed the insurrection of the Jews took the name of Bar-cochab, the “Son of a Star.” Without building too much on uncertain data, we may, however, at least believe that the “wise men” were Gentiles. They do not ask for “our king,” but for the king of the Jews; and yet, though Gentiles, they were sharers in the Messianic hopes of the Jews. They came to worship, i.e., to do homage, as subjects of the new-born King. They were watchers of the signs of the heavens, and when they saw what they interpreted as the sign that the King had come, they undertook a four months’ journey (if they came from Babylon, Ezra 7:9; more, if they came from Persia), partly, perhaps, led by the position of the star (though this is not stated), partly naturally making their way to Jerusalem, as certain to hear there some tidings of the Jewish King.

Matthew 2:2. Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews — That is, their lawful and hereditary sovereign, Herod not being such. The wise men are under no kind of doubts in their inquiry; but being fully persuaded that he was born, and believing that this was known to all there, they only inquire where he was born. By this inquiry the birth of Christ was more publicly declared to the Jews, and more fully attested; the coming of these grave and understanding persons from a distant country in consequence of what they believed to be supernatural direction, being a very extraordinary occurrence. It is to be observed, that, according to Tacitus and Suetonius, historians of undoubted credit, it was expected through the whole East that about that time a king was to arise in Judea who should rule all the world. What gave birth to that expectation might be this: From the time of the Babylonish captivity, the Jews were dispersed through all the provinces of the Persian monarchy: and that in such numbers, that they were able to gather together and defend themselves against their enemies in those provinces. See Esther 3:8; Esther 8:17; Esther 9:2; Esther 9:16; and many of the people of the land became Jews. After their return into their own land they increased so mightily that they were soon dispersed over Asia, Africa, and many parts of Europe, and, as Josephus assures us, wherever they came they made proselytes to their religion. Now it was one principal article of their faith, and branch of their religion, to believe in and expect the appearance of the promised Messiah. Wherever they came, therefore, they would spread this faith and expectation; so that it is no wonder it became so general. Now these wise men, living at no very great distance from Judea, the seat of this prophecy, and conversing with the Jews among them, who were everywhere expecting the completion of it at that time; being also skilled in astronomy, and seeing this star or light appearing in Judea, might reasonably conjecture that it signified the completion of that celebrated prophecy touching the king of the Jews, over the centre of whose land, they, being in the east, saw it hang. For it is not at all probable that this star appeared to the eastward of them, in which case it would have denoted something among the Indians, or other eastern nations, rather than among the Jews; but that it was seen to the west of themselves, and over the very place where the king was to be born.

We have seen his star — Which points him out, and is the token of his nativity. These wise men, learned in astronomy, and curious in marking the rising and setting and other phenomena of the heavenly bodies, observed at this time a star which they had never seen before, and were amazed at it as at a new, portentous appearance which did certainly forebode something of great consequence to the world, and the Jews in particular, over whose country it seemed to hang. But how could they know that this was his star, or that it signified the birth of a king? Many of the ancient fathers answer, that they learned this from the words of Balaam, Numbers 24:17, There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre, &c. And though, it is certain, these words properly speak not of a star that should arise at any prince’s birth, but of a king who should be glorious and resplendent in his dominions, as stars are in the firmament, and should vanquish and possess these nations; yet considering that, according to the hieroglyphics of the East, and the figurative language of prophecy, stars are emblems of princes, it was very natural for them to consider the rising of a new star as foretelling the rise of a new king. And as Balaam’s prophecy signified that the king should arise in Judea, and the new and extraordinary star they had seen appeared over that country, it was quite natural for them to conclude, that the king whose rise was foretold, was now born there. And though we know of no record in which this prophecy was preserved but the books of Moses, yet are we not sure there was no other; nor is it certain the books of Moses were unknown in Arabia. It seems more probable, considering its bordering upon Judea, and David and Solomon’s extending their dominions over, at least, a part of it, as well as from the intercourse the Arabians had with the Jews, certainly greater than the Ethiopians had with them, to whom, nevertheless, it appears from Acts 8:26, &c. that the Old Testament was not unknown; it seems likely, from these considerations, that they were not unacquainted with the divine Oracles, and particularly with this delivered by one of their own country. But if, after all, this should seem improbable, then we need make no scruple at all of believing that they were favoured by a divine revelation touching this matter, by which it is plain they were guided in their return. To worship him — Or to do him homage by prostrating ourselves before him, an honour which the Eastern nations were accustomed to pay their monarchs.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.Where is he ... - There was at that time a prevalent expectation that some remarkable personage was about to appear in Judea. The Jews were anxiously looking for the coming of the Messiah. By computing the time mentioned by Daniel Dan 9:25-27, they knew that the period was approaching when he would appear. This personage, they supposed would be a temporal prince, and they were expecting that he would deliver them from Roman bondage. It was natural that this expectation should spread into other countries. Many Jews at that time lived in Egypt, in Rome, and in Greece; many, also, had gone to Eastern countries, and in every place they carried their sacred writings, and diffused the expectation that some remarkable person was about to appear. Suetonius, a Roman historian, speaking of this rumor. says: "An ancient and settled persuasion prevailed throughout the East that the Fates had decreed some one to proceed from Judea who should attain universal empire." Tacitus, another Roman historian, says: "Many were persuaded that it was contained in the ancient books of their priests, that at that very time the East should prevail, and that some one should proceed from Judea and possess the dominion." Josephus also, and Philo, two Jewish historians, make mention of the same expectation. The fact that such a person was expected is clearly attested. Under this expectation these wise men came to do him homage, and inquired anxiously where he was born?

His star - Among the ancients the appearance of a new star or comet was regarded as an omen of some remarkable event. Many such appearances are recorded by the Roman historians at the birth or death of distinguished men. Thus they say that at the death of Julius Caesar a comet appeared in the heavens and shone seven days. These wise men also considered this as an evidence that the long-expected Prince was born. It is possible that they had been led to this belief by the prophecy of Balaam, Numbers 24:17, "There shall come a star out of Jacob," etc. What this star was is not known. There have been many conjectures respecting it, but nothing is revealed concerning it. We are not to suppose that it was what we commonly mean by a star. The stars are vast bodies fixed in the heavens, and it is absurd to suppose that one of them was sent to guide the wise men. It is most probable that it was a luminous appearance, or meteor, such as we now see sometimes shoot from the sky, which the wise men saw, and which directed them to Jerusalem. It is possible that the same thing is meant which is mentioned by Luke 2:9; "The glory of the Lord shone round about them;" i. e., (see the note on this place), a great light appeared shining around them. That light might have been visible from afar, and might have been seen by the wise men in the East.

In the East - This does not mean that they had seen the star to the east of themselves, but that, when they were in the East, they had seen this star. As this star was in the direction of Jerusalem. it must have been west of them. It might be translated, "We, being in the East, have seen his star." It is called his star, because they supposed it to be intended to indicate the time and place of his birth.

To worship him - This does not mean that they had come to pay him religious homage, or to adore him They regarded him as the King of the Jews, but there is no evidence that they supposed that he was divine. They came to honor him as a Prince, or a king, not as God. The original word implies no more than this. It means to prostrate oneself before another; to fall down and pay homage to another. This was the mode in which homage was paid to earthly kings, and this they wished to pay to the new-born King of the Jews. See the same meaning of the word in Matthew 20:20; Matthew 18:26; Acts 10:25; Luke 14:10. The English word "worship" also meant formerly "to respect, to honor, to treat with civil reverence'" (Webster).

2. Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews?—From this it would seem they were not themselves Jews. (Compare the language of the Roman governor, Joh 18:33, and of the Roman soldiers, Mt 27:29, with the very different language of the Jews themselves, Mt 27:42, &c.). The Roman historians, Suetonius and Tacitus, bear witness to an expectation, prevalent in the East, that out of Judea should arise a sovereign of the world.

for we have seen his star in the east—Much has been written on the subject of this star; but from all that is here said it is perhaps safest to regard it as simply a luminous meteor, which appeared under special laws and for a special purpose.

and are come to worship him—to do Him homage, as the word signifies; the nature of that homage depending on the circumstances of the case. That not civil but religious homage is meant here is plain from the whole strain of the narrative, and particularly Mt 2:11. Doubtless these simple strangers expected all Jerusalem to be full of its new-born King, and the time, place, and circumstances of His birth to be familiar to every one. Little would they think that the first announcement of His birth would come from themselves, and still less could they anticipate the startling, instead of transporting, effect which it would produce—else they would probably have sought their information regarding His birthplace in some other quarter. But God overruled it to draw forth a noble testimony to the predicted birthplace of Messiah from the highest ecclesiastical authority in the nation.

Jerusalem was the metropolis of Judea; thither they come, as to the most likely place where to receive satisfaction. Of whom they inquired the Scripture saith not, but it is observable that they took notice that there was a person born who was to be an illustrious King of the Jewish nation, they speak not at all doubtfully as to that. This information they doubtless had from a Divine revelation, for although there was an extraordinary star appeared, which might let them know that God had produced, or was producing, so extraordinary a work of providence in the world, yet without a supernatural interpreter they could not have made so true and particular interpretation of it, as upon the sight of it to have come with such a confidence to Jerusalem, affirming that there was a King of the Jews born, and that this was his star, a light which God had put forth to direct that part of the world to the true Messiah. All guesses at the nature of this star, and the means how the wise men came to know that the King of the Jews was born upon the sight of it, and its motion, are great uncertainties; God undoubtedly revealed the thing unto them, and caused this extraordinary star, as at first to appear to confirm what he told them, so at last to appear directing them to the very house in which the young Child with his mother were.

And are come to worship him: whether worshipping here signifieth only a civil honour, which those Eastern nations ordinarily gave unto great princes, or that religious homage and adoration which was due unto the Messias, is variously opened by interpreters. It is said, Matthew 2:11, they fell down and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This might be upon a civil or upon a religious account; and doubtless was according to the revelation which they had, concerning which nothing can be certainly determined. Saying, where is he that is born king of the Jews?.... These words were spoken to the Jews, or rather to Herod the king, or his ministers and courtiers, or to each of them, as the wise men had the opportunity of speaking to them; who make no scruple of his being born, of this they were fully assured; nor did they in the least hesitate about his being king of the Jews, who was born; but only inquire where he was, in what city, town, village, house, or family. The reason of their asking this question is,

for we have seen his star in the east. By the star they saw, some understand an angel, which is not likely. The learned Lightfoot (i) is of opinion that it was the light or glory of the Lord, which shone about the shepherds, when the angel brought them the news of Christ's birth, and which at so great a distance appeared as a star to these wise men; others, that it was a comet, such as has been thought to portend the birth or death of some illustrious person: but it seems to be properly a star, a new and an unusual one, such as had never been seen, nor observed before; and is called his star, the star of the king born, because it appeared on his account, and was the sign of his birth, who is "the root and offspring of David, and the bright and morning star", Revelation 22:16. This they saw "in the east"; not in the eastern part of the heavens, but they saw it when they were in the east, that is, in their own country; and according to the best observations they were able to make, it was in that part of the heavens right over the land of Judea; from whence they concluded that the king of the Jews was born; but the question is how they should hereby know and be assured that such a person was born? To this it maybe replied, that there is a prophecy of Balaam's which is thus expressed, "there shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel", Numbers 24:17 which is owned by some Jewish writers (k) to be a prophecy of the Messiah; though the star there mentioned is considered by them as one of the Messiah's titles; hence one who set up himself, and for a while was by some received as the Messiah, was called by them "the son of a star"; but when he was discovered to be an impostor, they called him "the son of a lie": but I rather take it to be a sign of the Messiah's coming, and the meaning is, when a star shall "walk" or steer its course from Jacob, or above, or over the land of Israel, then a sceptre, or sceptre bearer, that is, a king, shall rise out of Israel. Now this prophecy of Balaam, who lived in the east, might be traditionally handed down to this time, and be well known by these men; and who, observing such a star appear over the land of Judea, might conclude that now the sceptre bearer or king was born (l). Besides, Zerdusht or Zoroastres, the author of the sect of the Magi or wise men, and who appears to be a Jew by birth, and to be acquainted with the writings of the Old Testament, and with this prophecy, spoke of the birth of Christ to his followers; and told them when he should be born, a star would appear, and shine in the day, and ordered them to go where that directed, and offer gifts, and worship him. An Eastern writer, who affirms (m) what I have now mentioned, relates (n) the following speech as spoke by the wise men to Herod, when in conversation with him, about this matter:

"A certain person, say they, of great note with us, in a book which he composed, warned us in it, mentioning these things; a child that shall descend from heaven, will be born in Palestine, whom the greatest part of the world shall serve, and the sign of his appearance shall be this; ye shall see a strange star, which shall direct you where he is; when ye shall see this, take gold, myrrh and frankincense, and go and offer them to him, and worship him, and then return, lest a great calamity befall you. Now the star has appeared unto us, and we are come to perform what was commanded us.''

If this be true, we are not at a loss how they come by their knowledge, nor for a reason of their conduct. That the Jews have expected that a star should appear at the time of the Messiah's coming, is certain, from some passages in a book of theirs of great value and esteem among them, in which are the following things: in one place it is said (o).

"The king Messiah shall be revealed in the land of Galilee, and lo a star in the east shall swallow up seven stars in the north, and a flame of red fire shall be in the firmament six days;''

and in another place, (p).

"When the Messiah shall be revealed, there shall rise up in the east a certain Star, flaming with all sorts of colours--and all men shall see it:''

once more it is affirmed as a tradition (q) that

"The holy blessed God hath determined to build Jerusalem, and to make a certain (fixed) star appear sparkling with seven blazing tails shining from it in the midst of the firmament--and then shall the king Messiah be revealed in all the world.''

Now this expectation of the appearing of such a star at the coming of the Messiah takes its rise from and is founded upon the above mentioned prophecy. It is said (r) that Seth the son of Adam gave out a prophecy, that a star should appear at the birth of the Messiah; and that a star did appear at the birth of Christ is certain from the testimony of the Evangelist, and seems to have some confirmation from the writings of the Heathens themselves. Some have thought that the star which Virgil speaks of, and calls (s) "Caesaris Astrum", "Caesar's star", is this very star, which he in complaisance to that monarch ascribes to him. Pliny (t) makes mention

"of a bright comet with a silver beard, which was so refulgent that it could scarce be looked upon, showing in itself the effigies of God in human form.''

If the testimony of Chalcidius, a Platonic philosopher, taken notice of by many learned men, is genuine, and he not a Christian, (u) it is much to the purpose, and is as follows:

"There is also a more venerable and sacred history, which speaks of the rising of a certain unusual star; not foretelling diseases and deaths, but the descent of a venerable God, born for the sake of human conversation, and the affairs of mortals; which star truly, when the wise men of the Chaldeans saw in their journey by night, and being very expert in the consideration of celestial things, are said to inquire after the birth of the new Deity, and having found the infant majesty, to worship him, and pay their vows worthy of such a God.''

The end proposed by them in taking such a journey is expressed,


Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
Matthew 2:2. Γάρ] Reason of the question. “De re deque tempore ita certi sunt, ut tantum quaerant ubi,” Bengel.

αὐτοῦ τὸν ἀστέρα] that is, the star which indicates Him. We are to think of a strange star, which had not previously been seen by them, from the rising of which they had inferred the birth of the new King of the Jews, in accordance with their astrological rules. Here we must observe the emphasis on the αὐτοῦ, which is placed first, the star which refers to Him, and to no other. From the word ἀστήρ (not ἄστρον) it is indisputably certain, Matthew 2:8, that it is not a constellation which is meant. This is in answer to Kepler, de J. Chr. servator. nostri vero anno natalitio, 1605; Münter, Ideler, Paulus, Neander, Olshausen (with hesitation), Krabbe, Wieseler, Ebrard, who think of a very close conjunction, which occurred in the year 747 U.C., of Jupiter and Saturn in the sign of the fishes; where Ebrard, however, keeping more closely to the word ἀστήρ, is of opinion that it is not that constellation itself, but the new star of the first magnitude, which Kepler saw appear in the year 1604 at the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, and again disappear in 1605; whilst Wieseler summons to his aid a comet which was observed in China in 750. The Jew Abarbanel in his Commentary on Daniel (1547) inferred, from a similar conjunction in the year 1463, that the birth of the Messiah was at hand, and indicates the sign of the fishes as that which is of importance for the Jews. If Matthew 2:9, however, points only to a miraculous star, to one that went and stood in a miraculous manner, then it is evident that neither a comet (Origen, Michaelis, Rosenmüller), nor a fixed star, nor a planet, nor even a meteor, is what is meant, which ἀστήρ by itself might signify (Schaefer, ad Apoll. Rh. II. p. 206). The Fathers of the church (in Suicer, sub ἀστήρ) thought even of an angel. The glory of the star is wonderfully portrayed in Ignatius, Eph. 19 (sun, moon, and stars, illuminated by it, surround it as a choir), Protev. Jac. xxi. See Thilo, ad Cod. apocr. I. p. 390 f. The universal belief of antiquity was, that the appearance of stars denoted great changes, and especially the birth of men of importance. Wetstein in loc. The Jews in particular believed, in accordance with the Messianic passage, Numbers 24:17 (see Baur, alttest. Weissag. I., 1861, p. 346 ff.), in a star of the Messiah; Bertholdt, Christolog. Jud. p. 55 ff.

ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ] Several commentators (Hammond, Paulus, Fritzsche, Ebrard, Wieseler, Ewald) translate: in the rising. Comp. Luke 1:78; Wis 16:28; 2Ma 10:28; 2 Maccabees 3 Esdr. Matthew 5:47; Plat. Polit. p. 269 A; Locr. p. 96 D; Stob. Ecl. Phys. i. 20; Polybius, xi. 22. 6. In this way the ἀνατολή corresponds to the τεχθείς. And as the ordinary explanation, “in the East” (Luther), in accordance with Matthew 2:1, and especially with the current usage of the word, which in the singular only rarely denotes the East (as in Herodian, iii. 5. 1, ii. 8. 18), would lead us to expect the plural (Genesis 2:8; Jdg 8:11; Ezekiel 11:1; Ezekiel 47:8; Bar 4:36 f.; 3Ma 4:15; Herod. iv. 8; Polyb. xi. 6. 4, ii. 14. 4), the first rendering is to be preferred. Comp. regarding the use of the word to denote the rising of stars, Valckenaer, ad Eur. Phoen. 506.

προσκυνεῖν] הִשְׁתַּחֲוָה, to show reverence and submission to any one by bowing down with the face toward the ground. Genesis 19:1; Genesis 18:2; Genesis 42:6; Genesis 48:12; Herod. i. 134; Nep. Con. iii.; Curtius, v. 2, vi. 6. See Hoelemann, Bibelstud. I. p. 96 ff. To connect it with the dative (instead of the accus.) is a usage of the later Greek. Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 463.Matthew 2:2, ποῦἸουδαίων: the inquiry of the Magi. It is very laconic, combining an assertion with a question. The assertion is contained in τεχθεὶς. That a king of the Jews had been born was their inference from the star they had seen, and what they said was in effect thus: that a king has been born somewhere in this land we know from a star we have seen arising, and we desire to know where he can be found: “insigne hoc concisae orationis exemplum,” Fritzsche. The Messianic hope of the Jews, and the aspiration after world-wide dominion connected with it, were known to the outside world, according to the testimony of non-Christian writers such as Josephus and Tacitus. The visit of the Magi in quest of the new-born king is not incredible.—εἴδομενἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ, we saw His star in its rising, not in the east, as in A. V[4], the plural being used for that in Matthew 2:1. Always on the outlook, no heavenly phenomenon escaped them; it was visible as soon as it appeared above the horizon.—ἀστέρα, what was this celestial portent? Was it phenomenal only? an appearance in the heavens miraculously produced to guide the wise men to Judaea and Bethlehem; or a real astronomical object, a rare conjunction of planets, or a new star appearing, and invested by men addicted to astrology with a certain significance; or mythical, neither a miraculous nor a natural phenomenon, but a creation of the religious imagination working on slender data, such as the Star of Jacob in Balaam’s prophecies? All these views have been held. Some of the fathers, especially Chrysostom, advocated the first, viz., that it were a star, not φύσει, but ὄψει μόνον. Harons were such as these: it moved from north to south; it appeared in the daytime while the sun shone; it appeared and disappeared; it descended down to the house where the child lay, and so indicated the spot, which could not be done by a star in the sky (Hom. vi.). Some modern commentators have laid under contribution the investigations of astronomers, and supposed the ἀστήρ to have been one of several rare conjunctions of planets occurring about the beginning of our era or a comet observed in China. Vide the elaborate note in Alford’s Greek Testament. The third view is in favour with students of comparative religion and of criticism, who lay stress on the fact that in ancient times the appearance of a star was expected at the birth of all great men (De Wette), and who expect mythological elements in the N. T. as well as in the Old. (vide Fritzsche, Strauss, L. J., and Holtzmann in H. C.) These diverse theories will probably always find their abettors; the first among the devout to whom the miraculous is no stumbling-block, the second among those who while accepting the miraculous desire to reduce it to a minimum, or at least to avoid its unnecessary extension, the third among men of naturalistic proclivities. I do not profess to be able to settle the question. I content myself with expressing general acquiescence in the idea thrown out by Spinoza in his discussion on prophecy in the Tractatus theologico-politicus, that in the case of the Magi we have an instance of a sign given, accommodated to the false opinions of men, to guide them to the truth. The whole system of astrology was a delusion, yet it might be used by Providence to guide seekers after God. The expectation of an epochmaking birth was current in the east, spread by Babylonian Jews. That it might interest Magians there is no wise incredible; that their astrological lore might lead them to connect some unknown celestial phenomenon with the prevalent expectation is likewise credible. On the other hand, that legendary elements might get mixed up in the Christian tradition of the star-guided visit must be admitted to be possible. It remains to add that the use of the word ἀστήρ, not ἀστρόν, has been supposed to have an important bearing on the question as to the nature of the phenomenon. ἀστήρ means an individual star, ἀστρόν a constellation. But in the N. T. this distinction is not observed. (vide Luke 21:25; Acts 27:20; Hebrews 11:12; and Grimm’s Lexicon on the two words.)

[4] Authorised Version.2. King of the Jews] A title unknown to the earlier history of Israel and applied to no one except the Messiah. It reappears in the inscription over the Cross (ch. Matthew 27:37).

his star in the east] The simplest explanation of this is that a Star or Meteor appeared in the sky to guide the Magi on their way first to Jerusalem, then to Bethlehem. It is, however, quite possible that the Magi were divinely led to connect some calculated phenomenon with the birth of the “King of the Jews.” Among many conjectures may be mentioned one recently propounded by Prof. Lauth of Munich. It appears to be proved that the dog-star Sirius rose heliacally, i. e. appeared at sunrise, on the first of the Egyptian month Mesori, for four years in succession, viz. 5, 4, 3, 2 before our era. The rising of this star of special brilliance on the first of this special month (Mesori=birth of the prince) would have a marked significance. By the Magi it might well be connected with the prophecy of “the star of Jacob,” and become the cause of their journey to Jerusalem. This theory explains Herod’s edict, Matthew 2:16, for the destruction of all male children “from two years old and under,” for, as according to the date assigned to the Nativity of Christ, the arrival of the Magi at Jerusalem would coincide with the year 3 before the Christian era, the star had appeared for two years.

The theory, supported by Alford, which identifies this “star” with a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, forces the meaning of the word “star,” is inconsistent with the latest chronological results, and is shown to be scientifically impossible by Prof. Pritchard in Dict. of the Bible, sub voc. “Star of the Magi.”

The connection of the birth of the Messiah with the appearance of a Star is illustrated by the name Barchochab (“Son of a Star”), assumed by a false Messiah who appeared in the year 120 a. d. It has also been noticed that in the Cartouche or Egyptian royal symbol of Vespasian, the word “God” is for the first time expressed by a Star. (Dr Lauth, Trans. Bib. Arch. Soc. iv. 2.)Matthew 2:2. Ποῦ, where?) They are so sure of the event and the time, that they only ask where? The Scribes only knew the place. It was incumbent on them to learn the time from the Magi, or to avail themselves of the opportunity of learning it. The knowledge of time and of place are both necessary in this instance.—ὁ τεχθεὶς βασιλεὺς, He who is born king) They affirm His birth as having already taken place, and His right to the kingdom combined with it, and contrary to their expectation, find it to be a subject of terror to Herod. One is said to be born, who from His very birth is King. As in the Septuagint version of 1 Chronicles 7:21, we read οἱ τεχθέντες ἐν τῇ γῇ, who were born in the land.—τῶν Ἰουδάιων, of the Jews) The name of Jews after the Babylonian Captivity included all the children of Israel, being opposed to Greeks or Gentiles. Whence it is given also to Galileans in Luke 7:3; John 2:6; Acts 10:28, etc. The Jews, however, or Israelites, called Christ the king of Israel, the Gentiles the king of the Jews. See Matthew 27:29; Matthew 27:37; Matthew 27:42; John 1:50; John 12:13; John 18:33.—εἴδομεν γὰρ κ.τ.λ., for we have seen, etc.) Prognostics both true and false occur, especially in the case of nativities.—Αὐτοῦ τὸν ἀστερα, His star) His own. In proportion as the Magi were better acquainted with the ordinary course of the stars, so much the more easily were they able to appreciate the character of the extraordinary phenomenon, and the reference of the star which was seen to this King who was born. What was their principle in either case, who can now decide? The star was either in itself new, or in a new situation, or endued with a new or perhaps even a various motion. Whether it still exists or be destined to appear again, who knows? The Magi must have undoubtedly had either an ancient revelation from the prophecies of Balaam, Daniel, etc., or a new one by a dream, cf. Matthew 2:12.—[76]The Magi are led by a star; the fishermen by fishes, to the knowledge of Christ. Chalcidius,[77] in his Commentaries on Plato, has mentioned a tradition concerning this star.—ἘΝ Τῂ ἈΝΑΤΟΛῇ, in the East) They mean to indicate the quarter from whence they have come; for the article τῂ shows that the east country is intended. These words should therefore be construed with ΕἼΔΟΜΕΝ (we have seen), for whilst they were in the east they had seen the star to the west, over the geographical situation (clima) of Palestine. See Matthew 2:9.—προσκυνῆσαι Αὐτῷ, to worship Him) The verb προσκυνεῖν (to worship) in the New Testament as well as with profane authors, governs mostly a dative, though it sometimes admits an accusative. The Magi acknowledged Jesus as the King of Grace, and as their Lord. See Luke 1:43. All things must however be interpreted according to the analogy of these beginnings. It was certainly not on any political grounds, that after having undertaken and performed so long and arduous a journey, and being so soon about to return home, they worshipped[78] a King distant and an infant, and that too without paying the same homage to Herod: nor did Herod (in Matthew 2:8) profess an intention of paying Him political homage. That the Magi actually did worship Him, we learn from Matthew 2:11.

[76] The methods of Divine revelations not unfrequently are disclosed only to those to whom they are vouchsafed.—Vers. Germ.

[77] He flourished in the third or fourth century, and wrote a commentary on the Timæus of Plato. Considerable doubt exists as to his religious opinions.—(I. B.)

[78] The verb προσκυνέω signifies either religious worship, civil homage, or any other lowly manifestation of extreme respect. Cf. the various meanings of the English word “worship”—(I. B.)Verse 2. - Saying. The inquiry was on their lips at the moment of their appearance. Where is? Not "whether there is." The Magi show no signs of doubt. He that is born King of the Jews; i.e. he that is born to be King of the Jews. Whether he is king from the very moment of his birth is not stated. The rendering of the Revised Version margin, "Where is the King of the Jews that is born?" would imply this. With either form the bystanders could hardly help contrasting him with their then ruler, who had acquired the kingship after years of conflict, and who was of foreign extraction. King of the Jews. Notice:

(1) This was, perhaps, Herod's exact title (ver. 1, note).

(2) They do not say king of the world. They accept the facts that the Jews alone expected this king, and that according to the more literal interpretation of the Jewish prophecies the homage of the world would be rendered to him as the Head of the Jewish nation.

(3) The title is not used of our Lord again until the Passion, where it is only used by heathen (Pilate and the soldiers, Matthew 27:11, 29, 37, and parallel passages, Mark, Luke, John, and especially John 19:21). The Magi and the Roman, learning and administration, East and West, acknowledge, at least in form, the King of the Jews.

(4) The Jews themselves preferred the term, "King of Israel" (Matthew 27:42; Mark 15:32, to which passages Luke 23:37, placing the gibe in the soldiers' mouth, forms a significant contrast). The term "Jews" made them only one of the nations of the earth; "Israel" reminded them of their theocratic privileges. For. They state the reason of their certainty. We have seen ( we saw, Revised Version); at home. His star. In the way of their ordinary pursuits they learned of Christ. The observation of nature led them to nature's Bond (Colossians 1:17). What this star really was has been the subject of much consideration without any very satisfactory result. The principal theories are:

(1) It was the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, which took place in May to July and again in September, B.C. 7.

(2) It was the rising of Sirius on the same day in the fifth, fourth, third, and second years B.C.

(3) It was some strange evanescent star such as Kepler saw in 1603-4.

(4) Astronomy can suggest nothing which satisfies all the conditions, and the appearance must have been strictly miraculous. Since Professor Pritchard's article in the 'Dictionary of the Bible,' this last has been generally accepted in England. A further question is - How came they to identify the star as "his"? i.e. What made the Magi connect the coming of the King of the Jews with a star? and what made them consider that this particular appearance was the one they expected? The latter part of the question can hardly be answered, except on the supposition that the star that they saw was in itself so extraordinary as to convince them that no greater star could be looked for. To the former part various answers have been given.

(1) Balaam's prophecy (Numbers 24:17) was understood literally, and the knowledge of it, with its misinterpretation, had spread to the Magi. For this literal interpretation, cf. the 'Pesikta Zutarta' ('Lekah Tob') on Numbers 24:17 (p. 58, Venice edit.), where it says that in the fifth year of the heptad before Messiah "the star" shall shine forth from the east,, and this is the star of the Messiah (cf. also Edersheim, 'Life,' etc., 1:212). Similarly we find the false Messiah of the second century applying the term to himself - "Barcochab."

(2) They had learned, by intercourse with Jews (cf. the influence of the Jewish Sibylline oracles on the fourth eclogue), that these latter expected a great King, and they had applied to his coming, as to all events, the science that they themselves practised. They believed fully in astrology, and the Divine ordering that a star should appear to them was a condescension to the then state of human knowledge. In the East (ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ). Ellicott points out ('Hist. Lects.,' p. 73) that to translate this "at its rising" seems to be at needless variance with the use of the same words in ver. 9, where they seem to stand in a kind of local antithesis to "where the young Child was." For the phrase as referring to the Eastern part of the earth, cf. Clem. Romans, § 5. It is more definite than the plural of ver. 1. And are come. "We saw... and came" (εἴδομεν... ἤλθομεν) without delay. To Worship him. Not as God, but as Lord and King (Matthew 4:9, note). The prostration of themselves bodily before him (προσκυνῆσαι; cf. also ver. 11) was not a Greek or Roman, but an Eastern, and it is said especially a Persian, form of homage. The east (ἀνατολή)

Literally, the rising. Some commentators prefer to render at its rising, or when it rose. In Luke 1:78, the word is translated dayspring, or dawn. The kindred verb occurs in Matthew 4:16, "light did spring up" (ἀνέτειλεν)

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