Then Herod, when he had privately called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)When he had privily called.—True to his nature to the last—himself probably a believer in astrology, and haunted by fears of what the star portended—the king’s next measure is to ascertain the limits of his danger. The English “what time the star appeared” is not quite accurate. Literally, the time of the star that was appearing—i.e., at what time the star, which was still visible (Matthew 2:9), had first appeared.
Enquired of them diligently.—Better, ascertained exactly.Matthew 2:7. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, &c. — He thought it prudent to keep the matter as close as possible, lest the Jews, understanding the time of the birth of the Messiah, should, from thence, take occasion to rebel: for not having an hereditary right to the kingdom, and having been guilty of many acts of cruelty among them, he had no reason to presume upon their good-will toward him. He feared, likewise, lest, if it should be noised abroad that the Messiah was born, his purpose of destroying him should be prevented. But there is no wisdom or counsel against the Most High! He inquired of them diligently — Or, as the words ηκριβωσε παρ’ αυτων, more properly signify, inquired of them the exact time, or, got exact information from them, what time the star appeared — That is, at what time it began to appear, judging, as probably the fact was, that the star first appeared at the time the child was born. His view in this was, that he might thereby form some conjecture concerning the age of the child to whose birth it referred. For on the one hand, it seems, he did not wish to destroy more children than the accomplishment of his design appeared to require; and on the other, not to leave this child alive.
Diligently - Accurately, exactly. He took pains to learn the precise time when the star appeared. He did this because he naturally concluded that the star appeared just at the time of his birth, and he wished to know precisely how old the child was.
inquired of them diligently—rather, "precisely."
what time the star appeared—presuming that this would be the best clue to the age of the child. The unsuspecting strangers tell him all. And now he thinks he is succeeding to a wish, and shall speedily clutch his victim; for at so early an age as they indicate, He would not likely have been removed from the place of His birth. Yet he is wary. He sends them as messengers from himself, and bids them come to him, that he may follow their pious example.Matthew 2:16; only that he might be able to govern himself in his bloody decree, that he might neither destroy more children than would serve his present design, nor yet leave this Child behind.
inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. He took a good deal of pains in examining them, he sifted them, and inquired of them with much accuracy, and exactness, the precise time of the star's appearing to them, how long ago it was when it was first observed by them; that hereby he might exactly know the age of Christ, and the better execute the bloody design he had formed, should the wise men disappoint him; and the better detect an impostor, should another afterwards arise, and set up himself for the king of the Jews.Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 2:7 f. Λάθρα] Inconsistently enough, as that could only arouse suspicion; but to adopt secret measures is natural to wickedness!
The question after the time of the appearance [of the star] has its reason in this, that the mistrustful Herod already thinks of the possibility of his not seeing the Magi again, and that he will then still have a hold for taking further proceedings against the mysterious child (Matthew 2:16).
ἠκρίβωσε] with the accusative does not mean: he investigated minutely (ἀκριβόω περί τινος may mean this), but: after he had made them come to him secretly, he obtained from them a minute knowledge, and so on. Vulgate appropriately says: “Diligenter didicit.” Comp. Plat. Charm. p. 156 A; Xen. Mem. iv. 2. 10; Eur. Hec. 1192; Lucian, Jov. trag. 27, Piscat. xx.; Herodian, i. 11. 14. But the passages where it means to make exact (Aquila, Isaiah 49:16; Simonides, lxxxiv.; Xen. Cyr. ii. 1. 26) do not apply here. Euth. Zigabenus rightly says: προσεδόκησε γὰρ, ὅτι ὅτε οὗτος (the star) ἐφάνη, τότε πάντως ἐγεννήθη καὶ ὁ Χριστός.
τοῦ φαινομένου ἀστέρος] Grotius: “Non initium, sed continuitas.” Herod asked: How long does the star appear? how long does it make itself visible? namely, since its rising in the east, where ye saw it arise (Matthew 2:9). Thus the present is not to be taken either in the sense of the aorist or of the imperfect (de Wette, Bleek).
πέμψας] not contemporaneous with the εἶπε (de Wette), but prior to it; comp. Matthew 11:2. After he had directed them to Bethlehem (in consequence of Matthew 2:5 f.), he added the commission, etc. Otherwise it would have been ἔπεμψεν … εἰπών.Matthew 2:7-8. Herod’s next step.—τότε Ἡρώδης … ἀστέρος: τότε, frequent formula of transition with our evangelist, cf. Matthew 2:16-17; Matthew 4:1; Matthew 4:5; Matthew 4:11, etc. Herod wished to ascertain precisely when the child the Magi had come to worship was born. He assumed that the event would synchronise with the ascent of the star which the Magi had seen in its rising, and which still continued to be seen (φαινομένου). Therefore he made particular inquiries (ἠκρίβωσε) as to the time of the star, i.e., the time of its first appearing. This was a blind, an affectation of great interest in all that related to the child, in whose destinies even the stars were involved.7. inquired of them diligently] Rather, having accurately ascertained; the word is used of scientific exactness. The reason of this inquiry appears in Matthew 2:16.
what time the star appeared] Literally, the time of the star which was appearing, i. e. when it first appeared and how long it would continue.Matthew 2:7. Αάθρα, privily) lest anything should transpire. This argues insidious designs on the part of Herod.—ἠκρίβωσε, enquired diligently) even to the smallest particle of time. Hence we perceive the craft of Herod, and the simplicity of the Magi.—φαινομένου, appearing) The Present Tense. Herod enquired the time at which the star which was now visible, had first become so.
 So great enmities did that monarch indulge in and foster, although he did not esteem as a fable the doctrine concerning Christ, but was by this time aware of the time and place of His nativity.—Vers. Germ.
 In the original the passage stands thus—“Præsens tempus, quo conspici cœpta esset stella, quœ appareret, quaesivit Herodes.” This is evidently a misprint for—“Præsens. Tempus quo conspici cœpta esset stella, quœ appareret, quaesivit Herodes.”
In his German Version Bengel renders the passage “und vernahm von ihnen die Zeit, da der Stern erschienen,” i.e. “and ascertained accurately from them the Time when the Star appeared.” In his Harmony he renders it—“und erlernte mit fleis von ihnen wann der Stern erschienen wäre,” i.e. “and learnt with diligence from them, when the star made its appearance.”—(I. B.)Verse 7. - Then Herod, when he had privily called the Wise Men. Secrecy was doubly necessary. He would not publicly commit himself to acknowledging the rights of the new King, and he would give no opportunity for others to warn the Child's parents of the dangerous interest that Herod was taking in him. Duplicity was very characteristic of Herod; cf. his assassination of Aristobulus the high priest (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 15:03. 3), and his alluring his son Antipater home to death (ibid., 17:5. 1). Inquired of them diligently; learned of them carefully (Revised Version); "lerned of hem bisili" (Wickliffe); ἠκρίβωσεν παρ αὐτῶν. The stress is not upon Herod's careful questioning, but on the exact information that he obtained. What time the star appeared. Although this is not the literal translation, it may, perhaps, represent the sense of the original ( τὸν χρόνον τοῦ φαινομένου ἀστέρος) , the participle characterizing the star in its most important relation - its appearance, and the words being treated as a compound expression (cf. John 12:9, 12). Herod supposed that the birth of the Babe was synchronous with the first appearance of the star. The translation, however, of the Revised Version margin, "the time of the star that appeared," better suits the exact wording ( χρόνον, not καιρόν;φαινομένου, not φανέντος) , the phrase thus including both the first appearance and also the period of continuance (cf. Grotius, "non initium, sed continuitas"). But it is difficult to see What Herod would have learned from this latter particular. Some even think that the star was still visible (Plumptre; Weiss, 'Matthew'), but in this case the joy of the Magi in ver. 10 is not satisfactorily explained.
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