When they had heard the king, they departed; and, see, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Which they saw. . . .—The words would seem to imply that they started in the evening, and, as they started, saw the star in the direction of Bethlehem. In popular language it served to guide them, and so led them on. We need not suppose that they found the child whom they sought in the “manger” described by St. Luke. There had been time for the crowds that had been gathered by the census to disperse, and Joseph and Mary may have found a house in which they could lodge. The expectations that connected Bethlehem with the coming of the Christ might naturally lead them to remain there at least for a season,Matthew 2:9. When they had heard the king, they departed — Viz., from Jerusalem, without the least suspicion, it seems, of his treacherous and cruel designs. As these sages came from a distant country into Judea upon such an important discovery, and Bethlehem was so near, it is matter of wonder that none of the Jews attended them on their journey. But it is probable they were afraid of Herod. Or, perhaps, the dismission of the wise men might be kept a secret in Jerusalem; so that if any of the Jews had had an inclination to have gone with them, they might not have had an opportunity. And Herod might avoid sending any one with them, lest he should raise suspicion in the minds of the parents or relations of the child; or lest the Jews suspecting a plot, should contrive to bring about a revolt, or raise sedition. Or rather, the whole matter is to be referred to the providence of God, so ordering it that they should go unaccompanied, that the child might not be discovered to Herod. The Lord, however, prepared these illustrious strangers a better guide. For, lo, the star which they saw in the east — In their own country, went before them — This intimates that it had not been their guide in their journey from their own country. Nor was it needful they should have a guide, Jerusalem being sufficiently known. It had shone, it seems, on the night of his nativity, and then had disappeared till the present time. By its not appearing for a time, occasion was given for their inquiries at Jerusalem, which gave notice to the Jews of the birth of Christ; an event of which, it is likely, they would have had no information, if the star had led the wise men first to Bethlehem. And the reappearance of the star was probably intended of God to prevent their being discouraged at their not only not finding the king they sought in the royal city, but not being able to learn that any thing was known there concerning his birth, and especially in perceiving that when they had brought intelligence of it, all ranks seemed to be troubled, and not a single person of those whose native king he was offered himself as a companion to them, though come from a foreign land to worship him. Thus, also, their taking offence at the low condition in which they found Christ and his parents, was prevented. At the same time, it was a great confirmation of their faith, to be thus miraculously conducted to the very town pointed out in the Scriptures as the place of the birth of the Messiah. It left them not till it came and stood over where the young child was — Thus pointing out the very house, lest if they should have been obliged to make anxious inquiry concerning the child, there should be some who might have carried the matter to Herod, and have discovered him and his parents. Here, therefore, the star stopped, and proceeded no further, and not long after, viz., as soon as the wise men arrived at the place, as is most probable, entirely vanished. Hence it appears, that this star was not in the higher heavens, but in the lower regions of the air; for no star in the heavens could have exactly pointed out a particular house. Nothing is said here concerning a ray descending from the star to the top of the house, or concerning the descent of the body of the star. It is therefore probable it was a meteor, which to them had the appearance of a star, as meteors frequently have. This appears, further, from its moving by intervals, sometimes moving and sometimes standing still, which the stars, properly so called, never do. Dr. Whitby conjectures that what the wise men saw in the east might be that very light which shone upon the shepherds at Bethlehem, when the angel came to impart unto them the tidings of our Saviour’s birth. This light certainly was exceeding great, as is clear from its being styled the glory of the Lord, and it was a light from heaven, hanging over their heads, and shining round about them. Now such a light, at a great distance, would appear as a star: or, as it ascended up from the shepherds it might be formed into the likeness of a star. A similar body of light, when they journeyed from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, was formed into the same likeness in which it had formerly appeared, and went before them in the air to the latter city, and then sunk down so low as to point out the very house where the babe lay. In this case the star must have been seen by the wise men on the very day of Christ’s nativity.
1. That the birth of Jesus was an event of great moment, worthy of the divine interposition in directing these men to find the place of his nativity.
2. God will guide those who are disposed to find the Saviour. Even if for a time the light should be withdrawn, yet it will again appear, and direct us in the way to the Redeemer.
3. Our being led to Christ should fill us with joy. He is the way, the truth, and the life; the Saviour, the friend, the all in all; there is no other way of life, and there is no peace to the soul until he is found. When we are guided to him, therefore, our hearts should overflow with joy and praise; and we should humbly and thankfully follow every direction that leads to the Son of God, John 12:35-36.
and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east—implying apparently that it had disappeared in the interval.
went before them, and stood over where the young child was—Surely this could hardly be but by a luminous meteor, and not very high.They departed toward Bethlehem Judah; how long their journey was we cannot tell: some wonder that none of the Jews did attend them in their journey, coming out of their own country upon such a discovery, and impute it either to the Jews’ fear of the tyrant under which they were, or to the blindness and hardness of their hearts, for St. John tells us he came amongst his own, and they received him not; but it is possible that the wise men’s immediate applications were to the court, as thinking that the most probable place to hear of one that should be born King of the Jews; and it may be questioned whether Herod, though he called the scribes and the priests together, told them that his summoning of them was occasioned by the coming of the wise men, for the only question he propounded to them was where Christ was to be born, which they might understand without any relation to the wise men’s question. Nor is it probable that Herod should be more open than needed in publishing the coming of these wise men, or their errand. Yet the text saying that not only Herod, but all Jerusalem, was troubled, suggests to us, that both their coming, and the occasion of it, was noised abroad, more than probably Herod could have wished; but it is like their dismission was so private, that if any of the Jews had had a heart and courage enough to have gone with them, yet they might not have had opportunity. It is more admirable that Herod sent none that he could securely trust with them. But the hand of God was in this thing. They shall be hid whom he will hide. The Lord had prepared them a better guide.
The star, which probably had disappeared for a good time while they were upon their journey to Jerusalem, (for they needed no star to guide them to so famous a place), as soon as they were out of Jerusalem it appeared again,
and went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was: probably the star appeared in the lower region, and though it could not point so directly that they should know the very house, yet it might point so near as by inquiry they might easily find it, especially by the influence of God upon their spirits, which doubtless they did not want. Whether these wise men were of the posterity of Balaam, who prophesied of a sceptre that should rise out of Israel, that should smite the corners of Moab, one that should have dominion, & c., Numbers 24:17,19, or this star had any relation to the star mentioned there, Numbers 24:17 is very uncertain: it is more probable that these wise men came a much further journey, and that the star there mentioned was not to be understood in a literal sense, but better expounded by Simeon, Luke 2:32, A light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of his people Israel.
they departed; took their leave of Herod and his court, and set forward on their journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem:
and lo, to their great surprise and joy,
the star, which they saw in the east, then appeared; for, it seems, it had for some time disappeared: it looks as if it had been only seen at the time of Christ's birth, and when they were in their own country; for both here, and in Matthew 2:2 they are only said to have seen it "in the east", that is, when they were in the east country; so that it seems from that time they had had no sight of it, not while they were on their journey, nor at Jerusalem; nor was it necessary they should. When they saw it in their own country, according to their best observation, it was over the land of Judea, and they were persuaded of it, that it was a certain sign that the king of the Jews was born: they therefore determine upon and prepare for a journey to Jerusalem, the metropolis of the nation, and where the king kept his court, to inquire for him; nor needed they the guidance of the star to direct them to a place so well known; but being in quest of him in an obscure place, and without any guide, this star appears to them; and, which is something very extraordinary,
went before them, till it came, and stood over, where the young child was. This star had a motion, kept pace with them, and was a guide unto them, till it and they came to the place where Christ was; and then it stood directly over the house, so that they had no need to inquire of any person for him. It is certain from hence, that this star was indeed a very unusual one; its being seen in the daytime, its motion and standing still, its situation, which must be very low, and its use to point out the very house where Christ was, show it to be so; but though it was an unusual appearance, it should not be thought incredible. (a) Varro relates, that
"from the time Aeneas went from Troy, he saw the star Venus in the daytime, day after day, till he came to the field of Laurentum, where he saw it no more, by which he knew that those lands were fatal.''
The appearing of this star, and then its disappearing for a time, agree, in some measure, with the account the Jews give of the star which they expect will be seen at the coming of the Messiah; for they (b) say,
"after seven days that star shall be hid, and the Messiah shall be hid for twelve months--when he shall descend, the pillar of fire shall be seen as before, in sight, and afterwards the Messiah shall be revealed, and many people shall be gathered to him.''When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 2:9. Ἀκούσαντες τοῦ βασιλ.] After they had heard the king, they set off on their journey. Description of their unsuspicious behaviour. Comp. Theophylact.
καὶ ἰδοὺ, ὁ ἀστήρ, κ.τ.λ.] They travelled by night, in accordance with Eastern custom. See Hasselquist, Reise nach Paläst. p. 152. Bengel appropriately remarks on ἰδού: “Toto itinere non viderant stellam.”
ὃν εἶδον] The aorist in the relative sentence, where we use the pluperfect. See Kühner, II. 1, p. 145; Winer, p. 258 [E. T. 343].
προῆγεν] is the descriptive imperfect, not praecesserat (Hermann, Süskind, Paulus, Kuinoel), as if the star had again first shone upon them after they had come to Bethlehem. This explanation is ungrammatical (Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 173 [E. T. 200]), and serves only to help to diminish the miraculous element, which is quite opposed to the character of the narrative. The common view alone is in keeping with the words: the star, which they had seen in its rising, went before them on their journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and took up a position over the place (the house) where the child was. Amongst the Greeks also stars are mentioned as extraordinary guides, Elsner, p. 5 f.; Wetstein on the passage.
ἐπάνω οὗ ἦν] See Matthew 2:11, τὴν οἰκίαν. The going and standing of the star is miraculous; hence also the manner in which the particular house is indicated is left undetermined.Matthew 2:9-10. The Magi go on their errand to Bethlehem. They do not know the way, but the star guides them. ἰδοὺ ὁ ἀστὴρ: looking up to heaven as they set out on their journey, they once more behold their heavenly guide.—ὃν εἶδον ἐ. τ. ἀνατολῇ: is the meaning that they had seen the star only at its rising, finding their way to Jesus without its guidance, and that again it appeared leading them to Bethlehem? So Bengel, and after him Meyer. Against this is φαινομένου, Matthew 2:7, which implies continuous visibility. The clause ὃν εἶδον, etc., is introduced for the purpose of identification. It was their celestial guide appearing again.—προῆγεν: it kept going before them (imperfect) all the way till, arriving at Bethlehem, it took up its position (ἐστάθη) right over the spot where the child was. The star seemed to go before them by an optical illusion (Weiss-Meyer); it really, in the view of the evangelist, went before and stopped over the house (De Wette, who, of course, regards this as impossible in fact). Matthew 2:9. Οἱ δὲ ἀκούσαντες, τοῦ βασιλέως, But when they had heard the king) The king ought rather to have heard and assisted them. The Magi, however, obtained the answer which they desired.—καὶ ἰδοὺ ὁ ἀστὴρ, κ.τ.λ., and, lo, the star, etc.) During the whole of their journey, they had not seen the star.—ἐλθὼν, having come) It may be conjectured, from the use of this verb, that the star was subject to the guidance of an intelligent cause.—Cf. ἐλθὼν, in Matthew 2:8.
 Nor were they at all affected by the torpor and apathy of the scribes or of the Jews.—Vers. Germ.Verse 9. - When they had heard the king. There is a slight contrast in the Greek, but they [for their part] having heard the King. They departed; went their way (Revised Version). Took their journey ( ἐπορεύθησαν) . And lo, the star, which they saw in the East. They would, in accordance with Eastern custom, probably travel by night. Observe that the joy they felt at seeing the star (ver. 10) implies that it had not continued visible (ver. 7, note). They had fully used all means; now they receive fresh Divine guidance. In the East (ver. 2, note). Went before them. Continuously ( τροῆγεν); "taking them by the hand and drawing them on" (Chrysostom). Not to show them the way to Bethlehem, for the road was easy, but to assure them of guidance to the Babe, over whose temporary home it stayed. The road to Bethlehem is, and from the nature of the valley must always have been, so nearly straight (until the last half-mile, when there is a sudden turn up the hill) that the star need have moved but slightly. Bethlehem itself is seen soon after passing Mar Elias, a monastery rather more than half-way from Jerusalem (Socin's 'Baedeker,' p. 242). Till it came and stood over where the young Child was. Does the true reading ( ἐστάθη) suggest the unseen hand by which this star was itself guided and stationed (Matthew 27:11)? or is it used with a kind of reflexive force, indicating that it was by no chance that it stood still there - "took its stand" (cf. σταθείς, Luke 18:11, 40; Luke 19:8; Acts 2:14, et al.; cf. also Revelation 8:3; 12:18)?
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