« PreviousContinue »
son, and thou shalt call his name it might be fulfilled which was JESUS: for he shall save his spoken of the Lord by the prophet,3 people from their sins. saying,
23 Behold a virgin shall be with
22 Now all this was done, that lie. Saviour. Acts v. 31; xiii. 23, 38.
3 Isa.vil. 14.
heart, and purifying the soul, and preparing his people for a pure and holy heaven. And from this we may learn: 1. That Jesus had a design in coming into the world; he came to save his people and that design will surely be accomplished. It is impossible that in any part of it he should fail. 2. We have no evidence that we are his people, unless we are saved from the power and dominion of sin. A mere profession of being his people will not answer. Unless we give up our sins: unless we renounce the pride, pomp, and pleasure of the world, and all our lusts, and crimes, we have no evidence that we are the children of God. It is impossible that we should be Christians if we indulge in sin and live in the practice of any known iniquity. 3. That all professing Christians should feel that there is no salvation unless it is from sin, and that they can never be admitted to a holy heaven hereafter, unless they are made pure, by the blood of Jesus, here.
22, 23. The prophecy here quoted is recorded in Isa. vii. 14. It was delivered about seven hundred and forty years before Christ, in the reign of Ahaz, king of Judah. The land of Judea was threatened with an invasion by the united armies of Syria and Israel, under the command of Rezin and Pekah. Ahaz was alarmed, and seems to have contemplated calling in aid from Assyria to defend him. Isaiah was directed to go to Ahaz in his consternation, and tell him to ask a sign from God, ver. 10,11; that , to look to God rather than to Assyria for aid. This he refused to do. He had not confidence in God; but feared that the land would be overrun by the armies of Syria ver. 12, and relied only on the ad which he hoped to receive from Assyria. Isaiah answered that, in these circumstances, the Lord would himself give a sign, or a pledge, that the land should be delivered. The sign was, that a virgin should have a son, and before that son would arrive to years of discretion, the and would be forsaken by these hostile The prophecy was, therefore, designed originally to denote to Ahaz that the
land would certainly be delivered from its calamities and dangers, and that the deliverance would not be long delayed. The united land of Syria and Israel, united now in confederation, would be deprived of both their kings, and thus the land of Judah be freed from the threatening dangers. This appears to be the literal fulfilment of the passage in Isaiah. ¶ Might be fulfilled. It is more difficult to know in what sense this could be said to be fulfilled in the birth of Christ. To understand this, it may be remarked that the word fulfilled is used in the scriptures, and in other writings, in many senses, of which the following are some: 1. When a thing is clearly predicted, and comes to pass: as the destruction of Babylon, foretold in Isa. xiii. 19-22; and of Jerusalem, in Matt. xxiv. 2. When one thing is testified, or shadowed forth by another, the type is said to be fulfilled. This was the case in regard to the types and sacrifices in the Old Testament, which were fulfilled by the coming of Christ. See Heb. ix. -3. When prophecies of future events are expressed in language more elevated and full than the particular thing, at first denoted, demands. Or, when the language, though it may express one event, is also so full and rich as appropriately to express other events in similar circumstances, and of similar import. Thus, e. g. the last chapters of Isaiah, from chap. xl. foretel the return of the Jews from Babylon; and every circumstance mentioned occurred in their return. But the language is more expanded and sublime than was necessary to express their return. It will also express appropriately a much more important and magnificent deliverance-that of the redeemed under the Messiah, and the return of the people of God to him, and the universal spread of the gospel; and therefore it may be said to be fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, and the spread of the gospel. So if there were any other magnificent and glorious events, still, in similar circumstances and of like character, it might be said also that these prophecies were fulfilled in all of them. The language is
child, and shall bring forth a son, | Lord had bidden him, and took and they shall call his name Em- unto him his wife : manuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. o
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep3 did as the angel of the
1 Or, his meme shall be called. John i. 14. 32 Kin. v. 11-14. Heb. xi. 7, 8.
so full and rich, and the promises so grand, that they appropriately express all these deliverances. This may be the sense in which the prophecy now under consideration may be said to have been fulfilled. 4. Language is said to be fulfilled when, though it was used to express one event, yet it may be used also to express another. Thus a fable may be said to be fulfilled when an event occurs similar to the one concerning which it was first spoken. A parable has its fulfilment in all the cases to which it is applicable; and so of a proverb, or a declaration respecting human nature. The declaration, "There is none that doeth good," Ps. xiv. 3, was at first spoken of a particular race of wicked men. Yet it is applicable to others, and in this sense may be said to have been fulfilled. See Rom. iii. 10. In this use of the word fulfilled, it means, not that the passage was at first intended to apply to this particular thing, but that the words aptly or appropriately express the thing spoken of, and may be applied to it. We may say of this, as was said of another thing, and thus the words express both, or are fulfilled. The writers of the New Testament seem occasionally to have used the word in this sense. A virgin shall be with child. Matthew clearly understands this as applying literally to a virgin. Compare Luke i. 34. It thus implies that the conception of Christ was entirely miraculous, or that the body of the Messiah was created directly by the power of God, agreeably to the declaration in Heb. x. 5,-"Wherefore, when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me." ¶ Emmanuel. This is a Hebrew word, and means literally God with us. Matthew, doubtless, understands this word as denoting that the Messiah was really "God with us," or that the divine nature was united to the human. He does not affirm that this was its meaning when
25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn✦ son: and he called his name JESUS.5
Exod. xiii. 2. Luke ii. 21.
used in reference to the child to whom it was first applied; but this was its meaning as applicable to the Messiah. It was fitly expressive of his character; and in this sense it was fulfilled. When first used by Isaiah, it denoted simply that the birth of the child was a sign that God was with the Jews, to deliver them. The Hebrews often used the name of Jehovah, or God, in their proper names. Thus, Isaiah means "the salvation of Jehovah ;" Eleazer, "help of God;" Eli, "my God," &c. But Matthew evidently intends more than was denoted by the simple use of such names. He had just given an account of Christ's miraculous conception; of his being begotten by the Holy Ghost. God was, therefore, his Father. He was divine as well as human. His appropriate name was "God with us." And though the mere use of such a name would not prove that he had a divine nature, yet as Matthew uses it, and meant evidently to apply it, it does prove that Jesus was more than a man; And it that he was God as well as man. is this which gives glory to the plan of redemption. It is this which is the wonder of angels. It is this which makes the plan so vast, so grand, so full of instruction and comfort to Christians, see Phil. ii. 6— 8. It is this which sheds such peace and joy into the sinner's heart; which gives him such security of salvation; and renders the condescension of God in redemption so great, and his character so lovely.
"Till God in human flesh I see,
My thoughts no comfort find;
My hope, my joy begins;
His grace removes my slavish fears,
Eastern wise men inquire after Christ, 1, 2. Herod's consternation and inquiry, 3-8. The wise men find Jesus, 9-12. The flight of Joseph to Egypt,
very important to be believed. But the
scriptures do not affirm that she had no children afterwards. Indeed all the accounts in the New Testament lead us to suppose that she had. See notes on ch. xiii. 55, 56. The language here evidently implies that she lived as the wife of Joseph after the birth of Jesus.
Her first-born son. Her eldest son, or he that by the law had the privilege of birth-right. This does not of necessity imply that she had other children, though it seems probable. It was the name given to the son which was first born, whether there were others or not.
His name Jesus. This was given by divine appointment, ver. 21. It was conferred on him on the eighth day, at the time of his circumcision. Luke, ii. 21.
1. When Jesus was born. See the full account of his birth in Luke ii. 1-20.
In Bethlehem of Judea. Bethlehem, the birth-place of Christ, was a small town about six miles south of Jerusalem. The word Bethlehem means, house of bread-perhaps the name was given to the place on account of its great fertility. It was also called Ephrata, a word supposed likewise to signify fertility. Gen. xxxv. 19; Ruth iv. 11; Psalm exxxii. 6. It was called the city of David, Luke ii. 4, because it was the city of his nativity. 1 Sam. xvi. 1, 18. It was called Bethlehem of Judea, to distinguish it from a town of the same name in Galilee; Josh. xix. 15. The soil of Bethlehem was noted for its fertility. Ancient travellers frequently spoke of its productions. The town is situated on an eminence, in the midst of hills and vales. At present it contains about two hundred houses, inhabited chiefly by Christians and Mohammedans, who live together in peace. About two hundred paces east of Bethlehem, the place is still shown where our Saviour is supposed to have been born. There is a church and a convent there; and beneath the church, a subterranean chapel, which is lighted by thirty-two lamps, which is said to be
13-15. Herod's cruelty, 16-18. Joseph's return from Egypt on Herod's death, 19–23.
OW when Jesus was born1 in
14th year before the account called A.D. the place where was the stable in which Jesus was born. No reliance is, however, to be placed on this tradition. ¶ Herod the king. Judea, where our Saviour was born, was a province of the Roman empire. It was taken about sixty-three years before, by Pompey, and placed under tribute. Herod received his appointment from the Romans, and had reigned at the time of the birth of Jesus thirty-four years. Though he was permitted to be called king, yet he was in all respects dependent on the Roman emperor. He was commonly called Herod the Great, because he had distinguished himself in the wars with Antigonus, and his other enemies, and because he had evinced great talents, as well as great cruelties and crimes, in governing and defending his country, in repairing the temple, and in building and ornamenting the cities of his kingdom. At this time Augustus was emperor of Rome. The world was at peace. All the known nations of the earth were united under the Roman emperor. Intercourse between different nations was easy, and safe. Similar laws prevailed. The use of the Greek language was general throughout the world. All these circumstances combined to render this a favourable time to introduce the gospel, and to spread it through the earth; and the providence of God was remarkable in fitting the nations, in this manner, for the easy and rapid spread of the christian religion among all nations. Wise men. The original word here is magoi, from which comes our word magician, now used in a bad sense, but not so used in the original. The persons here denoted were philosophers, priests, or astronomers, They dwelt chiefly in Persia and Arabia. They were the learned men of the castern nations, devoted to astronomy, to religion, and to medicine. They were held in high esteem by the Persian court, were admitted as counsellors, and followed the camps in war to give advice. From the east. It is unknown whether they came from Persia or Arabia. Both countries might be denoted by the word
of Herod the king, behold, there leading from the one to the other. On the south-east of Mount Moriah, and between that and mount Zion, there was a bluff or high rock capable of strong fortification, called Ophel. The city was encompassed by hills. On the west there were hills which overlooked the city; on the south was the valley of Jehoshaphat, or the valley of Hinnom, see Notes on Matt. v. 22, separating it from what is called the Mount of Corruption; on the east was the valley of the brook Kedron, dividing the city from the Mount of Olives; and on the north the country was more level, though it was a broken or rolling country. To the south-east the valleys of the Kedron and Jehoshaphat united, and the waters flowed through the broken mountains in a south-east direction to the Dead Sea, some fifteen miles distant. The city of Jerusalem stands in 31° 50′ north latitude, and 35° 20′ east longitude from Greenwich. It is thirty-four miles southeasterly from Jaffa―the ancient Joppawhich is its sea-port, and one hundred and twenty miles south-westerly from Damascus. The best view of the city of Jerusalem is from Mount Olivet on the east, see Notes on ch. xxiv.; the mountains in the east being somewhat higher than those on the west. The city was anciently enclosed within walls-a part of which are still standing. The position of the walls has been at various times changed -as the city has been larger or smaller, or as it has extended in different directions. The wall on the south formerly included the whole of Mount Zion, though the modern wall runs over the summit, including about half of the mountain. In the time of the Saviour, the northern wall enclosed only Mounts Acra and Moriah north-though after that time Agrippa extended the wall so as to include Mount Bezetha on the north. About half of that mount is included in the present wall. The limits of the city on the east and the west being more determined by the nature of the place, have been more fixed and permanent. The city was watered in part by the fountain of Siloam on the east, for a description of which, see Notes on Luke xiii. 4, and on Isa. vii. 3; and in part by the fountain of Gihon, on the west of the city, which flowed into the vale of Jehoshaphat; and in the time
Bethlehem of Judæa in the days
east-that is, east from Judea. ¶ Jerusalem. The capital of Judea. As there is frequent reference in the New Testament to Jerusalem, as it was the place of the public worship of God, as it was the place where many important transactions in the life of the Saviour occurred, and the place where he died; and as no sabbath school teacher can intelligently explain the New Testament without some knowledge of that city, it seems desirable to present a brief description of it. A more full description may be seen in Calmet's Dictionary, and in the common works on Jewish Antiquities.-Jerusalem was the capital of the kingdom of Judah, and was built on the line dividing this tribe from the tribe of Benjamin. It was once called Salem, Gen. xiv. 18; Ps. lxxvi. 2, and in the days of Abraham it was the abode of Melchizedek. When the Israelites took possession of the promised land. they found this stronghold in the possession of the Jebusites, by whom it was called Jebus or Jebusi, Josh. xviii. 28. The name Jerusalem was compounded, probably, of the two, by changing a single letter, and calling it, for the sake of the sound, Jerusalem instead of Jebusalem. The ancient Salem was probably built on Mount Moriah or Acra-the eastern and western mountains on which Jerusalem was subsequently built. When the Jebusites became masters of the place, they erected a fortress in the southern quarter of the city, which was subsequently called Mount Zion, but which they called Jebus; and although the Israelites took possession of the adjacent territory, Josh. xviii. 28, the Jebusites still held this fortress or upper town until the time of David, who wrested it from them, 2 Sam. v. 7-9, and then removed his court from Hebron to Jerusalem, which was thenceforward known as the city of David, 2 Sam. vi. 10, 12; 1 Kin. viii. 1. Jerusalem was built on several hills-Mount Zion on the south, Mount Moriah on the east-on which the temple was subsequently built, see Notes on ch. xxi. 12, Mount Acra on the west, and Mount Bezetha on the north. Mount Moriah and Mount Zion were separated by a valley called by Josephus the Valley of Cheesemongers, over which there was a bridge or raised way
came wise men from the east' to Jerusalem,
2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we
Zech. ix. 9.
11 Kin. iv. 30.
of Solomon by an aqueduct, part of which is still remaining, by which water was brought from the vicinity of Bethlehem. The pools of Solomon, three in number-one rising above another-and adapted to hold a large quantity of waterare still remaining in the vicinity of Bethlehem. The fountain of Siloam sull flows freely, see Note on Isa. vii. 3, though the fountain of Gihon is commonly dry. A reservoir or tank, however, remains at Gihon. Jerusalem had, perhaps, its highest splendour in the time of Solomon. About four hundred years after, it was wholly destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. It lay utterly desolate during the seventy years of the Jewish captivity. Then it was rebuilt, and restored to some degree of its former magnificence, and remained about six hundred rears, when it was utterly destroyed by Titus, A.D. 70. In the reign of Adrian, the city was partly rebuilt under the name of Elia. Monuments of pagan idolatry were erected in it, and it remained under pagan jurisdiction until Helena, the mother of Constantine, overthrew the memorials of idolatry, and erected a magnificent church over the spot which was supposed to be the place of the Redeemer's sufferings and burial. Julian, the apostate, attempting to destroy the credit of the prophecy of the Saviour that the temple should remain in ruins, Matt. xxiv., endeavoured to rebuild the temple. His own historian, Ammianus Marcellinus (see Warburton's Divine Legation of Moses), says that the workmen were impeded by balls of fire coming from the earth, and that he was compelled to abandon the undertaking. Jerusalem continued in the power of the eastern emperors till the reign of the caliph Omar, the third in succession from Mohammed, who reduced it under his control about the year 640. The Saracens continued masters of Jerusalem until the year 1099, when it was taken by the crusaders under Godfrey of Boullon. They founded a new kingdom of which Jerusalem was the capital, which lasted eighty-eight years under nine kings. At last this kingdom was utterly ruined by Saladin; and though the Christians
once more obtained possession of the city, yet they were obliged again to relinquish it. In 1217 the Saracens were expelled by the Turks, who have ever since continued in possession of it. Jerusalem has been taken and pillaged seventeen times, and millions of men have been slaughtered within its walls. At present there is a splendid mosque-the mosque of Omar-on the site of the temple. It is a city containing a population variously estimated at from fifteen to fifty thousand, though probably not far from twenty thousand, comprising Jews, Turks, Arabs, Armenians, Greeks, and Papists. The Jews have a number of synagogues. The catholics have a convent, and have the control of the church of the Holy Sepulchre. The Greeks have twelve convents; the Armenians have three convents on Mount Zion, and one in the city; the Copts, Syrians, and Abyssinians have each of them one convent. The streets are narrow, and the houses are of stone, most of them low and irregular with flat roofs or terraces, and with small windows only towards the street, usually protected by iron grates. The above description has been obtained from a great variety of sources, and it would be useless to refer to the works where the facts have been obtained. [As a reference to Jerusalem often occurs in the New Testament, and as it will be useful to Sunday school teachers and others to have a correct knowledge of the ancient site, the editor strongly recommends a plan of it, as it was in the time of Christ, engraved by W. Dickes from a model by G. D. Brunetti, Esq. It may be had of the publisher of this work.-S.G.]
2. Where is he, &c. There was, at this 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, ch. ix. 25-27, they knew that the period was approaching when the Messiah should 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