Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)They are dead.—The use of the plural is noticeable, as Herod alone had been named. Possibly, however, others may have been implicated in the scheme; or the turn of the phrase may have been suggested to the reporter of the dream by the parallel language of Exodus 4:19, in reference to Moses.Matthew 2:20. They are dead which sought the young child’s life — It has been conjectured by some, that Antipater, the son of Herod, who died but five days before his father, might also be referred to in these words, They are dead, &c. At the time when Christ was born, he was heir apparent to the crown, and was a prince so cruel and ambitious, that he had procured the death of his two elder brothers, to clear his way to the succession, and no doubt he would be an active counsellor and instrument in seeking the destruction of the new-born Jesus, and in advising the slaughter of the infants.
for they are dead which sought the young child's life—a common expression in most languages where only one is meant, who here is Herod. But the words are taken from the strikingly analogous case in Ex 4:19, which probably suggested the plural here; and where the command is given to Moses to return to Egypt for the same reason that the greater than Moses was now ordered to be brought back from it—the death of him who sought his life. Herod died in the seventieth year of his age, and thirty-seventh of his reign.Matthew 2:13, to tell him by an angel, (as before), let Joseph know he might safely return. It is probable this apparition was not immediately upon the death of Herod, for Archelaus was reigning, who must be allowed some time to go to Rome, and to have this dignity conferred on him; but soon after he was dead this apparition was, with a command to him to return into the land of Israel, to which he soon yieldeth obedience.
and go into the land of Israel. He does not bid him go to Bethlehem or Nazareth, or any particular place, but the land of Israel, where he might go even into any part of it, without fear; and gives this reason for it,
for they are dead which sought the young child's life; meaning either Herod only, the plural number being put for the singular; or including Antipater his son with him, who might be equally concerned in seeking the life of Christ; since he was next heir, and whom Herod (z) ordered to be slain about five days before his death; or else designing with him many of the executioners of the infants at Bethlehem, and thereabout; who might have been, as well as he, miserable instances of divine vengeance, for their concern in that barbarous tragedy.Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 2:20-21. Τεθνήκασι … ζητοῦντες] is to be understood simply of Herod. The plural is very often used where the conception of a species is to be expressed, and then denotes the subject, not according to number, but chiefly according to the category to which it belongs. Reisig, ad Soph. Oed. C. 966, and Conject. in Aristoph. p. 58; Wunder, ad Soph. O. R. 361; Elwert, Quaestion. ad philolog. sacr. 1860, p. 10 f.; Winer, p. 165 [E. T. 219]. Frequently, particularly in the tragic writers, it contains a special emphasis, Hermann, ad Viger. p. 739, which also announces itself in the present passage. Others (Euth. Zigabenus) regard it as including Herod and his councillors or servants. Matthew 2:19 is decisive against this view. Others (Gratz, B. Crusius, de Wette): the plural is put, because the words are taken from Exodus 4:19. But there the plural is required not only by the πάντες, which stands in the text, but likewise by the whole connection. The resemblance to Exodus 4:19 is either accidental, or, more probably, intentionally selected in the consciousness of being a historical parallel.
εἰς γ. Ἰσρ.] Note the extent and indefiniteness of the designation; Joseph could thus afterwards turn his steps to Galilee without acting in opposition to the instruction. Comp. 1 Samuel 13:19; Ezekiel 11:17.
ζητεῖν τὴν ψυχήν] בַּקֵּשׁ אֶח־נֶפֶשׁ, seek the soul—that is, seek after one’s life (Romans 11:3). The present participle with the article used as a substantive, see Winer, p. 103 f. [E. T. 219]. Comp. Dissen, ad Dem. de cor. p. 238.
Herod died in Jericho (according to Gerlach, in Jerusalem) in the year 750, his genitals and bowels being eaten up of worms (Joseph. Bell. i. 33. 1, 5; Antt. xvii. 6. 5; Euseb. H. E. i. 68), in the thirty-seventh year of his reign, and in the seventieth of his age, Josephus, Antt. xvii. 8. 1, xvii. 9. 3. The tyrant became a prey to despair at his death, an attempt at suicide having failed in his last extremity.Matthew 2:20. Ἐγερθεὶς … Ἰσραήλ: it is expressed in the same terms as those of the message directing flight to Egypt, except of course that the land is different, and the order not flee but return. “Arise, take the child and His mother.” The words were as a refrain in the life of Joseph in those critical months.—τεθνήκασι γὰρ: in this general manner is the death of Herod referred to, as if in studious avoidance of the dreaded name. They are dead. The plural here (οἱ ζητοῦντες), as often, expresses a general idea, a class, though only a single person is meant (vide Winer, § 27, 2, and Exodus 4:19). But the manner of expression may indicate a desire to dissipate completely Joseph’s apprehensions. There is nothing, no person to fear: go! Matthew 2:21. ὁ δὲ ἐγερθεὶς … Ἰσραήλ: prompt obedience follows, but νυκτός (Matthew 2:14) is omitted this time. Joseph may wait till day; the matter is not so urgent. Then the word was φεῦγε. It was a flight for life, every hour or minute important.19–21. The Return from Egypt
20. they] Plural by a euphemism, the reference being to Herod alone.Matthew 2:20. Εἰς γῆν Ἰσραήλ, into the land of Israel) Joseph was allowed to choose the town or district, but not the country of their abode; since it behoved that Emmanuel should come to years of manhood (adolescere) in His own land.—τεθνήκασι, they are dead) The plural concisely signifies, that Herod is dead, and that there are not any others who entertain evil designs.—οἱ ζητοῦντες τὴν ψυχὴν, who sought the life) literally, who sought the soul. A phrase employed by the LXX.
 What a vast host of enemies rising against Christ, from then till now, has perished utterly.—B. G. V.Verse 20. - Saying, Arise, and take the young Child and his mother (so far verbally equivalent to ver. 13). And go into the land. of Israel; any part of the holy and promised land (1 Samuel 13:19; Ezekiel 11:17). For they are dead which sought the young Child's life. The plural is difficult, and is perhaps best explained as an adaptation of the historic parallel of Exodus 4:19.
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