Matthew 2:23
And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
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(23) He shall be called a Nazarene.—For an account of Nazareth, see Note on Luke 1:26. Here it will be enough to deal with St. Matthew’s reference to the name as in itself the fulfilment of a prophetic thought. He does not, as before, cite the words of any one prophet by name, but says generally that what he quotes had been spoken by or through the prophets. No such words are to be found in the Old Testament. It is not likely that the Evangelist would have quoted from any apocryphal prophecy, nor is there any trace of the existence of such a prophecy. The true explanation is to be found in the impression made on his mind by the verbal coincidence of fact with prediction. He had heard men speak with scorn of “the Nazarene,” and yet the very syllables of that word had also fallen on his ears in one of the most glorious of the prophecies admitted to be Messianic—“There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Netzer (Branch) shall grow out of his roots” (Isaiah 11:1). So he found in the word of scorn the nomen et omen of glory. The town of Nazareth probably took its name from this meaning of the word, as pointing, like our -hurst and -holt, to the trees and shrubs for which it was conspicuous. The general reference to the prophets is explained by the fact that the same thought is expressed in Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12, though there the Hebrew word is Zemach, and not Netzer. A like train of thought is found in the language of Tertullian and other early Christian writers to their heathen opponents—“You call us Christians,” they say,” worshippers of Christos, but you pronounce the words Chrestiani and Chrestos, i.e., you give us a name which in your own language (Greek) means ‘good,’ and so you unconsciously bear testimony to the life we really lead.” This seems the only tenable explanation of the passage. It is hardly likely that the Evangelist should have referred to the scorn with which Nazareth was regarded. Any reference to the Nazarite vow is out of the question, (1) because the two words are spelt differently, both in Greek and Hebrew, and (2) because our Lord’s life represented quite a different aspect of holiness from that of which the Nazarite vow was the expression. That vow, as seen pre-eminently in the Baptist, represented the consecration which consists in separation from the world. The life of Christ manifested the higher form of consecration which is found in being in the world but not of it, mingling with the men and women who compose it, in order to purify and save.

Matthew 2:23. He dwelt in a city called Nazareth — Where he had formerly resided before he went to Bethlehem. Nazareth, as appears from Luke 4:29, was built upon a rock, not far from mount Tabor. The country about it, according to Antoninus the martyr, was like a paradise, abounding in wheat and fruits of all kinds. Wine, oil, and honey, of the best kind, were produced there: but it was a place so very contemptible among the Jews, that it was grown into a proverb with them, That no good thing could be expected from thence; so that by Jesus’s returning to Nazareth, and being brought up and educated in it, a way was further opened by the providence of God, for the fulfilment of the many Scriptures which foretold that he should appear in mean and despicable circumstances, and be set up as a mark of public contempt and reproach. This seems to be the most probable solution of this difficult text. He shall be called a Nazarene — That is, he shall be reputed vile and abject, and shall be despised and rejected of men, an event which many of the prophets had particularly foretold. And it is to be observed, that St. Matthew does not cite any particular prophet for these words, as he had done before, Matthew 1:22; and here, Matthew 2:15; Matthew 2:17, and in other places, but only says, this was spoken by the prophets, viz., in general, whereby, as Jerome observes, he shows that he took not the words from the prophets, but only the sense. See Psalm 69:9-10; Isaiah 53:3. Now it is certain the Nazarene was a term of contempt and infamy put upon Christ, both by the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles, and that because he was supposed to come out of this very city. There was, among the Jews, a celebrated thief, called Ben-Nezer, and in allusion to him, they gave the name to Christ. His very going to dwell at Nazareth, was an occasion of his being despised and rejected by the Jews. Thus, when Philip said to Nathanael, We have found Jesus of Nazareth, of whom Moses spake, Nathanael answered, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? And when Nicodemus seemed to favour him, the rest of the council said to him, Search and look, for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. Here then we have a plain sense of these words. He was sent to this contemptible place that he might there have a name of infamy and contempt put upon him, according to the frequent intimations of the prophets. If, after all, this interpretation is not acquiesced in, we may, with many of the ancient Christians, particularly Chrysostom, suppose, that the evangelist may refer to some writings of the prophets, which were then extant, but are now lost, or to some writings not put into the Sacred Canon, or to some paraphrases upon the writings. As to the interpretations which refer this to Christ’s being called Netzer, the Branch, Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; or Nazir, one Separated, or, the Holy One, they all fail in this, that they give no account how this was fulfilled by Christ’s living at Nazareth, he being as much the Branch, the Holy One, when he was born at Bethlehem, and before he went to Nazareth, as after.

2:19-23 Egypt may serve to sojourn in, or take shelter in, for awhile, but not to abide in. Christ was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, to them he must return. Did we but look upon the world as our Egypt, the place of our bondage and banishment, and heaven only as our Canaan, our home, our rest, we should as readily arise and depart thither, when we are called for, as Joseph did out of Egypt. The family must settle in Galilee. Nazareth was a place held in bad esteem, and Christ was crucified with this accusation, Jesus the Nazarene. Wherever Providence allots the bounds of our habitation, we must expect to share the reproach of Christ; yet we may glory in being called by his name, sure that if we suffer with him, we shall also be glorified with him.And he came and dwelt - That is, he made it his permanent residence. The Lord Jesus, in fact, resided there until he entered on the work of his ministry until he was about 30 years of age.

In a city called Nazareth - This was a small town, situated in Galilee, west of Capernaum, and not far from Cana. It was built partly in a valley and partly on the declivity of a hill, Luke 4:29. A hill is yet pointed out, to the south of Nazareth, as the one from which the people of the place attempted to precipitate the Saviour. It was a place, at that time, proverbial for wickedness, John 4:46. It is now (circa 1880's) a large village, with a convent and two churches. One of the churches, called the Church of the Annunciation, is the finest in the Holy Land, except that of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

A modern traveler describes Nazareth as situated upon the declivity of a hill, the vale which spreads out before it resembling a circular basin encompassed by mountains. Fifteen mountains appear to meet to form an inclosure for this beautiful spot, around which they rise like the edge of a shell, to guard it against intrusion. It is a rich and beautiful field, in the midst of barren mountains.

Another traveler (circa 1880's) speaks of the streets as narrow and steep. The houses, which are flat-roofed, are about 250 in number, and the inhabitants he estimates at 2,000. The population of the place is variously stated. though the average estimate is 3,000, of whom about 500 are Turks, and the rest are nominal Christians.

As all testimony to the truth and fidelity of the sacred narrative is important, I will here introduce a passage from the journal of Mr. Jowett, an intelligent modern traveler, especially as it is so full an illustration of the passage of Luke already cited.

"Nazareth is situated on the side, and extends nearly to the foot, of a hill, which, though not very high, is rather steep and overhanging. The eye naturally wanders over its summit in quest of some point from which it might probably be that the people of this place endeavored to cast our Saviour down Luke 4:29, but in vain; no rock adapted to such an object appears here. At the foot of the hill is a modest, simple plain, surrounded by low hills, reaching in length nearly a mile; in breadth, near the city, 150 yards; but farther south, about 400 yards. On this plain there are a few olive and fig trees, sufficient, or rather scarcely sufficient, to make the spot picturesque. Then follows a ravine, which gradually grows deeper and narrower toward the south; until, after walking about another mile, you find yourself in an immense chasm, with steep rocks on either side, from whence you behold, as it were beneath your feet and before you, the noble plain of Esdraelon. Nothing can be finer than the apparently immeasurable prospect of this plain, bounded on the south by the mountains of Samaria. The elevation of the hills on which the spectator stands in this ravine is very great; and the whole scene, when we saw it. was clothed in the most rich mountain-blue color that can be conceived.

At this spot, on the right hand of the ravine, is shown the rock to which the men of Nazareth are supposed to have conducted our Lord for the purpose of throwing him down. With the New Testament in our hands we endeavored to examine the probabilities of the spot; and I confess there is nothing in it which excites a scruple of incredulity in my mind. The rock here is perpendicular for about 50 feet, down which space it would be easy to hurl a person who should be unawares brought to the summit, and his perishing would be a very certain consequence. That the spot might be at a considerable distance from the city is an idea not inconsistent with Luke's account; for the expression. thrusting Jesus out of the city, and leading him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, gives fair scope for imagining that in their rage and debate the Nazarenes might, without originally intending his murder, press upon him for a considerable distance after they had left the synagogue. The distance, as already noticed, from modern Nazareth to the spot is scarcely two miles; a space which, in the fury of persecution, might soon be passed over. Or, should this appear too considerable, it is by no means certain but that Nazareth may at that time have extended through the principal part of the plain, which I have described as lying before the modern town. In this case, the distance passed over might not exceed a mile. I can see, therefore, no reason for thinking otherwise than that this may be the real scene where our divine prophet Jesus received so great a dishonor from the people of his own country and of his own kindred."

Mr. Fisk, an American missionary, was at Nazareth in the autumn of 1823. His description corresponds generally with that of Mr. Jowett. He estimates the population to be from 3,000 to 5,000, namely, Greeks, 300 to 400 families; Turks, 200 families; Catholics, 100 families; Greek Catholics, 40 to 50 familis; Maronites, 20 to 30 families; say, in all, 700 families.

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken ... - The words here are not found in any of the books of the Old Testament, and there has been much difficulty in ascertaining the meaning of this passage. Some have supposed that Matthew meant to refer to Judges 13:5, to Samson as a type of Christ; others that he refers to Isaiah 11:1, where the descendant of Jesse is called "a Branch;" in the Hebrew נצר Nêtzer. Some have supposed that he refers to some prophecy which was not recorded, but handed down by tradition. But these suppositions are not satisfactory. It is much more probable that Matthew refers not to any particular place, but to the leading characteristics of the prophecies respecting him. The following remarks may make this clear:

1. He does not say "by the prophet," as in Matthew 1:22; Matthew 2:5, Matthew 2:15, but "by the prophets," meaning no one particularly, but the general character of the prophecies.

2. The leading and most prominent prophecies respecting him were, that he was to be of humble life; to be despised and rejected. See Isaiah 53:2-3, Isaiah 53:7-9, Isaiah 53:12; Psalm 22.

3. The phrase "he shall be called" means the same as he shall be.

4. The character of the people of Nazareth was such that they were proverbially despised and contemned, John 1:46; John 7:52. To come from Nazareth, therefore, or to be a Nazarene, was the same as to be despised, or to be esteemed of low birth; to be a root out of dry ground, having no form or comeliness. This was what had been predicted by all the prophets. When Matthew says, therefore, that the prophecies were "fulfilled," his meaning is, that the predictions of the prophets that he would be of a low and despised condition, and would be rejected, were fully accomplished in his being an inhabitant of Nazareth, and despised as such.

23. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth—a small town in Lower Galilee, lying in the territory of the tribe of Zebulun, and about equally distant from the Mediterranean Sea on the west and the Sea of Galilee on the east. Note—If, from Lu 2:39, one would conclude that the parents of Jesus brought Him straight back to Nazareth after His presentation in the temple—as if there had been no visit of the Magi, no flight to Egypt, no stay there, and no purpose on returning to settle again at Bethlehem—one might, from our Evangelist's way of speaking here, equally conclude that the parents of our Lord had never been at Nazareth until now. Did we know exactly the sources from which the matter of each of the Gospels was drawn up, or the mode in which these were used, this apparent discrepancy would probably disappear at once. In neither case is there any inaccuracy. At the same time it is difficult, with these facts before us, to conceive that either of these two Evangelists wrote his Gospel with that of the other before him—though many think this a precarious inference.

that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene—better, perhaps, "Nazarene." The best explanation of the origin of this name appears to be that which traces it to the word netzer in Isa 11:1—the small twig, sprout, or sucker, which the prophet there says, "shall come forth from the stem (or rather, 'stump') of Jesse, the branch which should fructify from his roots." The little town of Nazareth, mentioned neither in the Old Testament nor in Josephus, was probably so called from its insignificance: a weak twig in contrast to a stately tree; and a special contempt seemed to rest upon it—"Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (Joh 1:46)—over and above the general contempt in which all Galilee was held, from the number of Gentiles that settled in the upper territories of it, and, in the estimation of the Jews, debased it. Thus, in the providential arrangement by which our Lord was brought up at the insignificant and opprobrious town called Nazareth, there was involved, first, a local humiliation; next, an allusion to Isaiah's prediction of His lowly, twig-like upspringing from the branchless, dried-up stump of Jesse; and yet further, a standing memorial of that humiliation which "the prophets," in a number of the most striking predictions, had attached to the Messiah.

It appeareth by Luke 2:4, that Joseph dwelt in Nazareth before our Saviour was born; and, Luke 2:39, after Mary’s purification it is said, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth; and, Luke 4:16, he was there brought up. Hence, John 1:45, he is called by Philip, Jesus of Nazareth. But the following words of this verse afford as great difficulties as any other in holy writ.

1. How Christ could be called a Nazarene, who apparently was born at Bethlehem.

2. How the evangelist saith that was fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet,

He shall be called a Nazarene; whereas there is no such saying in all the prophets.

There is a strange variety of opinions as to these questions. Spanhemius acquiesceth in that which seemeth least liable to exception, viz. That Christ was to put a period to that order of Nazarites amongst the Jews, whose rules we have Numbers 6:2,3; of which order Samson was, as appears by Judges 13:7, and Joseph was called ryzn Genesis 49:26, the very same word which is used Judges 13:7. Both Joseph and Samson were eminent types of Christ. And it was spoken of Christ by the prophets, (the holy men of God who wrote the Scriptures), that Christ should be called ryzn Nezir, as it is in the Hebrew, in that it was spoken of those that were his types; who are both expressly so called. The word signifieth a holy person, one separated to God, and from ordinary converse with men. Christ was to be such a Nazarite, separated to God, for the accomplishment of our redemption, and, like Joseph, separated from his brethren: Isaiah 53:3, he was rejected of men:—we hid as it were our faces from him, and we esteemed him not. God by his singular providence so ordered it, that he who was the antitype to all the Nazarites, and the true Nezir, or person separated, should be educated at Nazareth, a poor contemptible town: John 1:46, Nathanael said, Can there any good come out of Nazareth? That while his education there gave the Jews an occasion to reproach him, as a Nazarene, because born at Nazareth, believers amongst the Jews might understand him to be the true Nazarite, understood in Joseph and Samson called by this name, as types and figures of him who was to come, separated by God to a more excellent end, and from men in a more eminent manner. So that what the prophets spake of this nature concerning Christ, they spake of those who were the true types of Christ. Those who will read Spanhemius, and Poli Critica, will find large discourses about the difficulties of this text, but this seemeth to be Spanhemius’s opinion, improving the notion of Mr. Calvin.

And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth,.... Which was a city of Galilee, and where Joseph and Mary had both dwelt before, Luke 1:26 here they came and fixed their habitation,

that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet. This affair of going into Galilee, and settling at Nazareth, was brought about with this view, to accomplish what had been foretold by the prophets, or prophet, the plural number being used for the singular, as in John 6:45. And indeed it is so rendered here in the Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions; and designs the prophet Isaiah, and respects that prophecy of his in Isaiah 11:1 "and there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and "a branch shall grow out of his roots"; a prophecy owned by the Jews (e) themselves to belong to the Messiah, and which was now fulfilled in Jesus; who as he was descended from Jesse's family, so by dwelling at Nazareth, he would appear to be, and would be "called a Nazarene, or Netzer, the branch"; being an inhabitant of Natzareth, or Netzer, so called from the multitude of plants and trees that grew there.

A Nazarene, as David de Pomis says (f),

"is one that is born in the city Netzer, which is said to be in the land of Galilee, three days journey distant from Jerusalem.''

Now though Christ was not born, yet because he dwelt at Nazareth, and was educated there; hence the Jews frequently call him , "Jesus, the Nazarene (g)"; and sometimes only "the Nazarene" (h). They also design him by , "Ben Netzer" (i), of whom they say a great many evil things: and that Christ is often called Jesus of Nazareth, or the Nazarene, and his followers Nazarenes, from the place of his habitation, is known to everyone. One of Christ's disciples is called Netzer in the Talmud (k), and made to plead for his life, because his name signified a branch, according to Isaiah 11:1. Surenhusius observes (l), that the form "to fulfil what is said", used by the Talmudists, and which he takes to be the same with this here, is used by them, when they allege not the very words of Moses, or the prophets, but their sense, which is deduced as a certain axiom from them; and thinks it is applicable to the present case.

(e) Targum, Jarchi, Aben Ezra & Kimchi in loc. (f) Lexic Heb. fol. 141. 2.((g) T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 17. 1. Ganz. par. 2. fol. 14. 2. Abarbinel in Dan. fol. 44. 1.((h) Ganz. par. 1. fol. 24. 2.((i) T. Bab. Cetuboth, fol. 51. 2. & Gloss. in ib. Bereshith Rabba, fol. 67. 2. Abarbinel in Dau. fol. 44. 1.((k) T. Bab. Sanhedrim, fol. 43. 1.((l) Biblos Katallages, p, 2, 3, 4, 197, &c.

And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
Matthew 2:23. Ἐλθών] to Galilee.

εἰς πόλιν] εἰς does not belong to ἐλθών (Fritzsche, Olshausen), but to κατῴκησεν, beside which it stands in Genesis 13:18; κατῴκ. includes the movement connected with the settlement, and that in such a way that the latter was the predominating element in the thought of the writer: he went and settled at Nazareth. Comp. Matthew 4:13; Acts 7:4; 2 Chronicles 19:4. See Kühner, I. p. 471.

Nazareth[373]] in Lower Galilee, in the tribe of Zabulon, situated on a hill (Luke 4:20), with pleasant environs. Robinson, Paläst. III. p. 419 ff.; Ritter, Erdk. XVI. p. 739 ff.; Furer, Wander, durch Paläst. p. 267 ff.; Tobler, Nazar. in Paläst., 1868. Mentioned neither in the O. T. nor in Josephus.

ὅπως] in order that. See Matthew 1:22.

διὰ τῶν προφ.] not the plural of category (Matthew 2:20, so Fritzsche), according to which Isaiah only could be meant, but the prophets generally, Luke 18:31; Romans 1:2.

ὅτι] not the Recitativum, although its use in the Gospel of Matthew cannot be denied, Matthew 7:23, Matthew 9:18, Matthew 14:26, Matthew 27:43; Matthew 27:47, but “that,” as no individual express statement is quoted.

Ναζωραῖος] of Nazareth, Matthew 26:71. In Isaiah 11:1, the Messiah, as the offspring of David, is called נֵצֶר, shoot, with which, in the representation of the evangelist, this designation was identified, only expressed by another word, namely, צֶמַח (Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12; Isaiah 4:2); therefore he wrote, διὰ τῶν προφητῶν. In giving this prophetic title of נצר to the Messiah, he entirely disregards the historical meaning of the same (LXX. Isaiah 11:1 : ἄνθος), keeps by the relationship of the name Nazareth to the word נצר, and recognises, by virtue of the same, in that prophetic Messianic name Nezer, the typical reference to this, that Jesus, through His settlement in Nazareth, was to become a ΝΑΖΩΡΑῖΟς; the translator therefore, rightly apprehending this typical reference, expressed the Hebrew נצר by ΝΑΖΩΡΑῖΟς, although he may have also found in the original Hebrew draft of the Gospel בן נצר, or, more probably, נצרי. The evangelist must in any case have derived the name Nazareth from נצר, and it is likewise probable in itself; see Hengstenberg, Christol. II. p. 124 ff. “Eruditi Hebraei” already referred the ΝΑΖΩΡ. ΚΛΗΘ. back to the נצר; see Jerome on Isaiah 11:1, and, more recently, Piscator, Casaubon, Jansen, Maldonatus, Surenhusius, Bauer (bibl. Theol. I. p. 163), Fritzsche, Gieseler, Kern, Krabbe, de Wette, B. Crusius, Köstlin, Bleek, Hengstenberg, Kahnis, Anger, formerly also Hilgenfeld. But others (Chrysostom, Theophylact, Clericus, Grätz) regard the words as a quotation from a lost prophetical book. But always, where in the N. T. the prophets are quoted, those in the completed canon are meant. Others (Michaelis, Paulus, Kuinoel, Gersdorf, Kaüffer, Olshausen, Ebrard, Lange) are of opinion that Ναζωραῖος refers to the despised and melancholy position of the Messiah depicted by the prophets in accordance with Psalms 22, Isaiah 53. For Nazareth was despised, see John 1:47; John 7:52. But the question here is not as to a prophetic description (of the lowliness of the Messiah), but as to the definite prophetic name (κληθήσεται), to which the settlement in Nazareth may correspond; and, indeed, the evangelist must have found the name itself in the prophets, and not have inserted it ex eventu, namely, because Nazareth served to make the Messiah an object of misapprehension (in answer to Hofmann, Weissag. u. Erfüll. p. 66). For that reason also the opinion of others is to be rejected (Erasmus, Beza, Calvin, Grotius, Wetstein, Hilgenfeld), who, after Tertullian and Jerome, take Ναζ. for the Hebrew נָזִיר, that it might be fulfilled … that He shall be (called) a Nazarite. Jesus had neither represented Himself to be such a consecrated person, Matthew 11:19, nor can any passage in the prophets be pointed out as referring to this; therefore Ewald, in opposition to διὰ τῶν προφ., assumes the statement to be taken from an Apocryphal book, in which the Messiah, on His first appearance, was represented as a Nazarite, so that the evangelist was led, from the similarity of the word, to infer a reference to Nazareth. If, however, in Ναζωραῖος the Hebrew נֹצֵר, Preserver, has been supposed to be contained, and that in such a way that it had as its basis either Exodus 34:6 f. (Zuschlag in Guericke’s Zeitschr. 1854, III. p. 417 ff.) or Psalm 31:24 (Riggenbach in the Stud. u. Krit. 1855, p. 606 f.), then something entirely foreign is thus imported, as in those passages there is to be found neither a designation of the Messiah nor any prophetic declaration. Still more arbitrary is the reference of Hitzig in the theol. Jahrb. 1842, p. 410, to Isaiah 49:6, where נְצוּרֵי has been taken as singular, and explained as a predicate of the Messiah, as the leader of those who are saved. Delitzsch has referred to Isaiah 42:6; so that Christ is predicted as He who is preserved in dangers (נָצוּר, Isaiah 49:6), whilst Nazareth was His place of concealment.

[373] Upon the form of the name Ναζαρά, which, although attested as ancient in many ways, is yet found only in a few passages in the Mss. of the N. T., and very unequally supported (Tischendorf, 8th ed., has received it into the text in Matthew 4:13, and in Luke 4:16), see Keim, I. p. 319; comp. also Delitzsch, Jesus u. Hillel, p. 13. In the passage before us it is without any support, as well as in Matthew 21:11, and in the remaining passages of the other evangelists, except Luke 1:26; Luke 4:16. The form Ναζαράθ is often found in Mss., as also Ναζαράτ. But it is the admission of Ναζαρέτ (or Ναζαρέθ) alone into the text that can be justified, and that as the standing reading, all the more that even in Matthew 4:13 and in Luke 4:16 there is by no means a decisive predominance of testimony for Ναζαρά, which has no support, moreover, in Acts 10:38. Although Nazara was the original form of the name (see in answer to Ewald’s doubts, Keim, II. p. 421 f.), which is probable, it must notwithstanding have been strange to the evangelists.


The evangelist expresses himself in Matthew 2:23 in such a manner that throughout the narrative Nazareth cannot appear to the reader as the original dwelling-place of Joseph and Mary. Bethlehem rather, according to his account, appears to be intended as such (Matthew 2:22), whilst Nazareth was the place of sojourn under the special circumstances which occurred after the death of Herod. The account given by Luke is quite different. This variation is to be admitted, and the reconciliation of both accounts can only be brought about in an arbitrary manner,[374] which is all the more inadmissible that, on the whole, the narratives of Matthew and Luke regarding the birth and early infancy of Jesus in important points mutually exclude each other. Amid all their other variations, however, in the preliminary history in which they are independent of one another, they agree in this, that Bethlehem was the place of birth, and it is in opposition to the history to relegate this agreement to the sphere of dogmatic reflection, and to transport the birth of Jesus to Nazareth (Strauss, Hilgenfeld, Keim), since the designation of Jesus as belonging to Nazareth (Matthew 2:23. κατῳκησεν. κατοικεῖν in Sept[11] is used regularly for יָשַׁב in the sense of to dwell, and with ἐν in Luke and Acts (Luke 13:4; Acts 1:20, etc.) in the same sense. Here with εἰς it seems to mean going to settle in, adopting as a home, the district of Galilee, the particular town called Nazareth.—εἰς πόλιν is to be taken along with κατῴ. not with ἐλθὼν. Arrived in Galilee he transferred his family to Nazareth, as afterwards Jesus migrated to Capernaum to carry on there His ministry (Matthew 4:13, where the same form of expression recurs).—Ναζαρέτ, a town in lower Galilee, in the tribe of Zebulon, nowhere mentioned in O. T. or Josephus.—ὅπως πληρωθῇ, etc.: a final prophetic reference winding up the history of the infancy. ὅπως not ἵνα, as usual, but with much the same meaning. It does not necessarily imply that a prophetic oracle consciously influenced Joseph in making his choice, but only that the evangelist saw in that choice a fulfilment of prophecy. But what prophecy? The reference is vague, not to any particular prophet, but to the prophets in general. In no one place can any such statement be found. Some have suggested that it occurred in some prophetic book or oracle no longer extant. “Don’t ask,” says Euthy. Zig., “in what prophets; you will not find: many prophetic books were lost” (after Chrys.). Olearius, in an elaborate note, while not adopting, states with evident sympathy this view as held by others. Jerome, following the Jewish scholars (eruditi Hebraeorum) of his time, believed the reference to be mainly to Isaiah 11, where mention is made of a branch (נָצֶר) that shall spring out of Jesse’s root. This view is accepted by most modern scholars, Catholic and Protestant, the name of the town being viewed as a derivative from the Hebrew word (a feminine form). The epithet Ναζωραῖος will thus mean: “the man of Nazareth, the town of the off-shoot”. De Wette says: “In the spirit of the exegetical mysticism of the time, and applying what the Jews called Midrasch, deeper investigation, the word is used in a double sense in allusion at once to נֵצֶר, Isaiah 11:1, sprout, and to the name of Nazareth”. There may be something in the suggestion that the reference is to Jdg 13:7 : ὅτι Ναζιραῖον θεοῦ ἔσται, and the idea: one living apart in a secluded town. (So Furrer in Die Bedeutung der bibl. Geographie für d. bib. Exegese, p. 15.)

[11] Septuagint.

This final prophetic reference in the history of the infancy is the weakest link in the chain. It is wasted effort to try to show its value in the prophetic argument. Instead of doing this, apologists would act more wisely by frankly recognising the weakness, and drawing from it an argument in favour of historicity. This may very legitimately be done. Of all the incidents mentioned in this chapter, the settlement in Nazareth is the only one we have other means of verifying. Whether it was the original or the adopted home of Jesus may be doubtful, but from many references in the Gospels we know that it was His home from childhood till manhood. In this case, therefore, we certainly know that the historic fact suggested the prophetic reference, instead of the prophecy creating the history. And the very weakness of the prophetic reference in this instance raises a presumption that that was the nature of the connection between prophecy and history throughout. It is a caveat against the critical theory that in the second chapter of Matthew we have an imaginary history of the infancy of Jesus, compiled to meet a craving for knowledge on the subject, and adapted to the requirements of faith, the rudiments of the story consisting of a collection of Messianic prophecies—the star of Jacob, princes bringing gifts, Rachel weeping for her children, etc. The last of the prophetic references would never have occurred to any one, whether the evangelist or any other unknown source of the tradition, unless there had been a fact going before, the settlement in Nazareth. But given the fact, there was a strong desire to find some allusion to it in the O. T. Faith was easily satisfied; the faintest allusion or hint would do. That was in this ease, and presumably in most cases of the kind, the problem with which the Christian mind in the Apostolic age was occupied: not creating history, but discovering in evangelic facts even the most minute, prophetic fulfilments. The evangelist’s idea of fulfilment may provoke a smile, but it might also awaken a feeling of thankfulness in view of what has been stated. It is with the prophetic references in the Gospels as with songs without words. The composer has a certain scene or state of mind in his view, and writes under its inspiration. But you are not in his secret, and cannot tell when you hear the music what it means. But let the key be given, and immediately you find new meaning in the music. The prophecies are the music; the key is the history. Given the prophecies alone and you could with difficulty imagine the history; given the history you can easily understand how religious fancy might discover corresponding prophecies. That the prophecies, once suggested, might react on the facts and lead to legendary modifications is of course not to be denied.

23. a city called Nazareth] St Matthew gives no intimation of any previous residence of Mary and Joseph at Nazareth.

Nazareth] Said to signify “the Protectress” (Hebr. natsar), a small town of central Galilee, on the edge of the plain of Esdraelon, beautifully situated on the side of a steep hill within a sheltered valley.

He shall be called a Nazarene] The meaning of this passage was probably as clear to the contemporaries of St Matthew, as the other references to prophecy Matthew 2:15; Matthew 2:17; for us it is involved in doubt. First, it may be said Nazarene cannot = Nazarite: the word differs in form, and in no sense could Christ be called a Nazarite. Secondly, the quotation is probably not from a lost prophecy. One meaning of the word Nazoræus is an inhabitant of Nazareth, but the word either (1) recalls the Hebrew word netser a Branch, a title by which the Messiah is designated Isaiah 11:1, or (2) connects itself in thought with the Hebr. natsar, to save or protect (see above), and so has reference to the name and work of Jesus, or (3) is a synonym for “contemptible” or “lowly,” from the despised position of Nazareth. Of these (3) is perhaps the least probable explanation. The play upon words which (1) and (2) involve is quite characteristic of Hebrew phraseology. The sound of the original would be either (1) He whom the prophet called the “Netser” dwells at “Netser”—(for this form of Nazareth see Smith’s Bib. Dict.), or (2) He who is called “Notsri” (my protector) dwells at “Natsaret” (the protectress).

In any case the passage gains fresh interest from the fact that the early Christians were called Nazarenes in scorn. Cp. Acts 24:5. For them it would be a point of triumph that their enemies thus unconsciously connected them with a prophetic title of their Master.

Matthew 2:23. Ἑλθὼν κατῴκησεν εἰς, he came to and took up his abode at) [E. V., he came and dwelt at], i.e., he came to dwell at, or he dwelt at. The same mode of expression occurs at ch. Matthew 4:13. Thus, IN Genesis 13:18, the LXX. have ἐλθὼν κατώκησε περὶ τὴν δρῦν, he came and dwelt by the oak.—Ναζαρέτ, Nazareth) In Hebrew, נזרת. The final ת is rendered in Greek by T.—Ναζωραῖος, a Nazarene) Our Lord spent His private life—that is, by far the greatest portion of His years—in the town of Nazareth, from whence the surname of Nazarene was given to Him in the common speech of men, whether devoted or hostile to Him, and in the title on the cross. This is what the prophecy here cited by St Matthew had long ago intimated. Some seek for the whole force of this prediction in an allegorical interpretation of the etymology of the word Nazareth; and this indeed should clearly be sought for in נזר, a diadem, etc., not from נצר, to keep or hide,[105] which Jewish animosity employs maliciously; for the Hebrew צ (Tzade) is always rendered by the Greek Σ (Sigma), whereas the Greek Ζ (Zeta) universally corresponds to the Hebrew ז (Zayin), as it does also in the word Ναζωραῖος. This rule is universal, which no one can rightly oppose without bringing forward examples to the contrary. Consider what the sound and learned Hiller says on this subject, Syntagm. hermen. p. 347, etc., and Onom. Sacr., pp. 695, 701, 893; and compare his remarks with I. H., a Seelen,[106] medit. exeg., p. 632. This belongs to the etymology of the name Nazareth; it does not, however, establish the allegory. For neither is there any reason why we should ascribe the character of a Levitical Nazarite to Christ (see Matthew 11:19), nor why we should think that the scope of the prophecy is exhausted by any signification of the word NZR, נזר.

[105] See Proverbs 7:10, where a harlot is spoken of as נְצורַת לֵב, subtle of heart.—(I. B.)

[106] JOHN HENRY A SEELEN, an historian and philologist of the Academy of Lubeck, born in the year 1688. He published his Meditationes Exegeticœ at Lubeck, 1732.—(I. B.)

It was predicted by Micah, that Christ should go forth from Bethlehem: Bethlehem, בֵּית לֶחֶם, signifies house of bread, and Christ is the Bread of Life. But who would have said that the prophecy of Micah was fulfilled by Christ being the bread of life? We know that the town where Christ was born was intended by the prophecy; in like manner, the town where He grew up; and the common surname which thence arose was indicated by the prediction, Ναζωραῖος κληθήσεται,” “He shall be called a Nazarene:” and therefore the particle ὅτι[107] is prefixed by the evangelist, as is the custom in citing testimonies. Although at what time that prophet flourished by whom this prediction was uttered; whether the town of Nazareth, of which no other mention occurs in the Old Testament, was then of any account or not; whether that prophet was himself a Nazarene, and deposited this remarkable verse at Nazareth, or whether he left it to posterity, conveyed by word of mouth alone, or also committed to writing,[108] whence St Matthew obtained it, who knows? what signifies it to know? In heaven, some stars illumine either hemisphere, some both, some have various risings and settings; on earth, rivers sometimes withdraw themselves from the sight of men, until by hidden ways they reach the place where they again burst forth. Thus the Divine Oracles are dispensed with admirable variety; a singular example of which is afforded by the passage in St John, concerning the three who bear witness in heaven, of which the Eastern Church was for many ages in ignorance, whilst the Western and African Churches maintained it always, though not everywhere. This prediction, indeed, He shall be called a Nazarene, was not known or understood by most persons; otherwise Galilee and Nazareth itself would not have been so much despised (see John 1:47; John 7:52). And, rightly, many have long since denied that this verse exists in the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Its condition, therefore, is the same as that of the prophecy of Enoch, introduced at length by St Jude into the Scriptures of the New Testament, and thus stamped with the seal of inspiration; the same as that of the apothegm, which, though delivered by our Lord, does not occur in the Gospels, but is quoted by the mouth of St Paul, and the pen of St Luke, Acts 20:35. Nor have the Jews any ground of accusation, because anything is quoted in the New Testament which does not exist in the Old; for they relate many ancient things which equally are not to be found there. Where lay hid the Proverbs of Solomon from ch. Matthew 25:1; the prophecy of Azariah (2 Chronicles 15:2, etc.); the epistle of Elijah (2 Chronicles 21:12), until they were inserted in the books of the Old Testament, many ages after they were delivered? Certainly, there was no sufficient reason why St Matthew should frame[109] this, if it had been a perfect novelty in his own time. By such a proceeding, he would have more injured than advantaged the whole Christian cause. He had sufficiently numerous examples of prophecies fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth without this. Those who interpret this important verse more vaguely, so as to make out that it is contained here or there in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, in truth take away one from the ancient prophecies; whereas those who consider ΤῸ ΡΗΘῈΝ (that which was uttered), “He shall he called a Nazarene,” to have been expressly uttered of old, recognise a homogeneous portion of the entire testimony of prophecy, and thus in truth maintain the integrity and defend the simplicity of Scripture (Cf. Calovius’s Biblia Illustrata, and Rus’s[110] Harmonia Evangelistarum, p. 284). WHO was to have the surname of Nazarene, is not added in the verse: for wherever anything occurs in the prophecies which is not foreign to the Messiah, that should be understood of the Messiah, although there be no express mention of His name. It is, however, probable that more words than these two may have existed together with them in a very short prediction. The long concealment of this monument of antiquity was agreeable to the manner of Christ’s private life, spent in the retirement of Nazareth, and calculated to try the faith of saints, and condemn the falsehood of sinners. (See John 1:46, etc., and John 7:41, etc.)

[107] The literal meaning of ὅτι is that; but in cases like the present it has, by the Greek idiom, merely the force which inverted commas have in English.—(I. B.)

[108] For the prophets have uttered many things which were not inserted in their public writings.—B. G. V.

[109] i.e., It would serve no purpose to insert this prediction, if it had been a mere figment.—(I. B.)

[110] JOHN REINHARD RUS, a learned Lutheran divine of the eighteenth century. The title of the work is “Harmonia Evangelistarum, ita adornata, ut investigatâ, sedulò textus cohærentiâ, nullus versus, sive trajiciatur, sive prætereatur sine brevi ac succinctâ explicatione, quæ justi commentarii loco esse queat.” Jenæ 1727–1730.—(I. B.)

Now that we have proved that the peculiar and primary force of the name Nazarene, is to be found in the town itself of Nazareth, we proceed to lay down as a corollary, that the etymology of the country, and surname of Christ thence derived, is not unimportant. Christ, the Son of David the Bethlehemite, was not called a Bethlehemite: therefore, in the etymology of the town of Bethlehem, a mystery is not equally sought for. Christ was called a Nazarene. This was indeed effected by the discourse of men; but not without the overruling providence of God. It was not by mere accident that Pilate inscribed categorically, in the three cardinal languages, Jesus, King of the Jews, and retained what he had written: it did not by mere accident happen that Pilate at the same time inscribed “THE NAZARENE,” and that others, both before and after, used the expression with reference to our Lord. The names, “JESUS,” “CHRIST,” “EMMANUEL,” etc., intimate, that that which is implied by their sound is actually being exhibited: you would rightly deny that the surname, “Nazarene,” alone should be without a mystical meaning:נזר, a diadem, is the token of a king’s head, and נזרת is, according to Hiller, a town which crowns the summit of a mountain; the name, therefore, of Nazarene, may thus be expressed in German, “ZU CRONBERG HAT DER GECRONTE GEWOHNET,”—“The crowned one hath dwelt on the summit of a hill.”—See Psalm 132:18. The names of places are frequently put for the thing itself which is signified: we pass by the Veronenses, Placentini, Laudiceni, of the Latins. The meaning of Scripture is deeper: Simon the Canaanite was also called Zelotes, both from his country and his distinguishing virtue.—See Matthew 10:4, and Luke 6:15. See especially Isaiah 63:1.[111]

[111] Bengel, J. A. (1860). Vol. 1: Gnomon of the New Testament (M. E. Bengel & J. C. F. Steudel, Ed.) (J. Bandinel & A. R. Fausset, Trans.) (81–138). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

Verse 23. - And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth. En-Nasira, now of from five thousand to six thousand souls, in the hills on the northern edge of the Plain of Esdraelon, not mentioned in the Old Testament or by Josephus. "Nazareth is a rose, and, like a rose, has the same rounded form, enclosed by mountains as the flower by its leaves" (Quaresimus, in Stanley, 'Sinai and Palestine,' p. 365). Observe the (:) in the Revised Version, showing that the following "fulfilment" is not to be considered as part of Joseph's intention. Dwelt; settled down after the exile life (cf Acts 7:4). That (ὅπως). The purpose lay in the Divine overruling of Joseph's action, ὄπως with πληρωθῇ, Matthew 8:17 and Matthew 13:35 only. In each case it is used with reference to general statements, i.e. it marks a less close connection than that implied by ἵνα. It might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets. He shall be called (Revised Version, that he should be called; ὅτι κληθήσεται; cf. also the Geneva) a Nazarene. The Revised Version expresses the fact that the quotation is not of words, but of substance, for although the recitative ὅτι is found in St. Matthew (Matthew 7:23; Matthew 9:18; Matthew 14:26; Matthew 27:43, 47) and even before verbal citations from Scripture after γέγραπται (Matthew 4:6) and ἀνέγνωετε (Matthew 21:16, contrast 42), yet it does not occur after the formula τὸ ῤηθέν κ.τ.λ. By the prophets. Not "in the prophets" (Acts 13:40), which might have preferred (yet cf. Hebrews 1:1) only to the book containing their writings, and then would not in itself have implied more than one passage there. The present phrase (διὰ τῶν προφητῶν) suggests personality rather than writing, and implies either that two or more prophets were the agents by whom the words were spoken, or, better, that in some way the whole company of the prophets (cf. Acts 3:25; Hebrews 1:1) spoke the message now summarized. In this way the phrase will indicate that even if the following words are found in the utterances of only one prophet, they also represent a phase of teaching common to all. A Nazarene. Those interpretations which connect this with נזר (nzr) ,

(1) in the sense of "separated" (Lightfoot, 'Hor. Hebr.'),

(a) generally (cf. Psalm 69:7);

(b) specifically as "Nazarite" (נזיר, Ναζηραῖος, so Tyndale to Rheims); or

(2) in the sense of "diadem" (נֵזֶר, "Zu Cronberg [נזרת] hat der Gekronte gewohnet," Bengel); are inadmissible in the light of the fact that, in Jewish writings, both "Nazareth" (נַצְרָת, Neub., 'Geogr.,' p. 190) and "Nazarene" (נוצרי) are from נצר (ntsr). Thus the reference to the prophets requires that they speak of Messiah by some term belonging to this root, and not to נזר (nzr). What this term is may be gathered from the true text of Talm. Bab., 'Sanh.,' 43a (cf. 'Levy,' s.v. נצר, and for the passage in full, Rabbinowicz, 'Var. Leer.'), where, after enumerating five disciples of Jesus the Nazarene (ישו הנוצרי), among them Netzer, a summary is given of their trial and condemnation. Of Netzer it is said, "They brought Netzer up for trial. He said to the judges, Shall Netzer be slain? It is written, 'A branch (netzer, נצר) out of his roots shall bear fruit (Isaiah 11:1).'They answered him, Yea, Netzer shall be slain. For it is written, 'But thou art cast forth away from thy sepulchre like an abominable branch'" (netzer, Isaiah 14:19). It does not now concern us to inquire which, if any, of the twelve disciples is here spoken of by the name of Netzer. But it is evident that the Jews

(1) connected this name closely with Jesus the Nazarene just before mentioned, and

(2) saw a connexion between it and "the Branch" of Isaiah 11:1. True that they rejected the disciple's application of the passage, but they did not reject the identity of the expressions. The application which was made, even according to the Talmud, is fully expressed by the evangelist here. There, as we may see if we read between the lines, the disciple claimed for his Christianity that it corresponded to the promise of Isaiah; here the evangelist more definitely claims a correspondence between that promise and Jesus. He is not concerned with deeper points of similarity, though they could not fail to suggest themselves both to him and to his readers, but merely notices that the very dwelling-place of Jesus answers to the promise of Messiah. Netzer he was to be; the Divine working brought it about that this, though in adjectival form, was his common appellation. Observe that

(1) to netzer in Isaiah 11:1 the word tsemah, corresponds in Jeremiah 23:5 and Zechariah 3:8;

(2) the fulfilment consists, not in carrying out a definite statement to its logical issue in history, but in the existence of a strange correspondence which implies Divine foresight and arrangement. Why Joseph settled at Nazareth rather than at any other spot in Galilee, St. Matthew gives no hint. The reason is found in the fact recorded by St. Luke that Mary (Luke 1:26) and Joseph (Luke 2:4) had lived there before the Birth. It is true that St. Matthew's account taken alone gives the impression that this was not the case, but the impression is not so strong as to warrant even the assertion that St. Matthew was ignorant of the earlier residence, much less that his account in fact contradicts St. Luke's. The mutual independence and the general trustworthiness of the two accounts of the Birth and Infancy is shown by the fact that in their less important details they cannot always be reconciled. (On our present difficulties in arranging the events recorded in Matthew 1:2 and Luke 1:2, cf. Ellicott, 'Lects.,' p. 70; Godet, 'Luke,' transl., 1. pp. 153-156.)

Matthew 2:23The prophets

Note the plural, as indicating not any one prediction in particular, but a summary of the import of several prophetic statements, such as Psalm 22:6, Psalm 22:8; Psalm 69:11, Psalm 69:19; Isaiah 53:2, Isaiah 53:3, Isaiah 53:4.

A Nazarene

A term of contempt (compare John 1:46, and John 7:52). The very name of Nazareth suggested insignificance. In Hebrew it meant sprout or shoot. The name is prophetically given to the Messiah (Isaiah 11:1). In Isaiah 10:33, Isaiah 10:34, the fate of Assyria is described under the figure of the felling of a cedar forest. The figure of the tree is continued at the opening of ch. 11 concerning the Jewish state. The cedar throws out no fresh suckers, but the oak is a tree "in which, after the felling, a stock remaineth" (Isaiah 6:13; compare Job 14:9). There is a future then for Israel, represented by the oak. "There shall come forth a shoot from the stock of Jesse, and a twig from his roots shall bear fruit." As David sprang from the humble family of Jesse, so the Messiah, the second David, shall arise out of great humiliation. The fact that Jesus grew up at Nazareth was sufficient reason for his being despised. He was not a lofty branch on the summit of a stately tree; not a recognized and honored son of the royal house of David, now fallen, but an insignificant sprout from the roots of Jesse; a Nazarene, of an upstart sprout-town.

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