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have seen his stark in the east, and 3 When Herod 3 the king are come to worship’ him. had heard these things, he was 1 Num. xxiv. Isa. Ix. 3. * Jno. v. 23.
$ This was Herod the Great. countries. Many Jews, at that time, appears stationary, which the wise men dwelt in Egypt, in Rome, and in Greece; saw, and which directed them to Jerumany, also, had gone to eastern coun- salem. It is possible that the same thing tries, and in every place they carried is meant which is mentioned by Luke i. their scriptures, and diffused the ex- 9: “The glory of the Lord shone round pectation that some remarkable person about them," i. e. see Note on this was about to appear. Suetonius, a Ro- place, a great light appeared shining man historian, speaking of this rumour, around them. That light might have says: “ An ancient and settled persuasion been visible from afar, and have been prevailed throughout the east, that the seen by the wise men in the east. | In Fates had decreed some one to proceed the east. This does not mean that they from Judea, who should attain universal had seen the star to the east of themempire."* Tacitus, another Roman his selves, but that, when they were in the torian, says : “Many were persuaded east they had seen this star. As this that it was contained in the ancient books star was in the direction of Jerusalem, it of their priests, that at that very time the must have been west of them. It might east should prevail, and that some one be translated, “We, being in the east, should proceed from Judea, and possess have seen his star. It is called his star, the dominion.”+ Josephus, also, and because they supposed it to be intended Philo, two Jewish historians, make men- to indicate the time and place of his tion of the same expectation. The fact birth. [To worship him. This does that such a person was expected is clearly not mean that they had come to pay him attested. Under this expectation these religious homage, or to adore him. They wise men came to do homage to Jesus, and regarded him as the king of the Jews. inquired anxiously where he was born ? There is no evidence that they supposed 9 His star. Among the ancients, the he would be divine. They came to appearance of a star or comet was honour him as a prince or a king, not as regarded as an omen of some remarkable God. The original word implies no more event. Many such appearances are than this. It meant to prostrate one's recorded by the Roman historians at the self before another ; to fall down and birth or death of distinguished men. pay homage to another. This was the Thus, they say, that at the death of mode in which homage was paid to Julius Cæsar a comet appeared in the earthly kings, and this they wished to pay to heavens, and shone seven days. These the new-born king of the Jews. See the wise men also considered this as an evi- same meaning of the word in Matt. xviñ. dence that the long-expected Prince was 26 ; xx. 20 ; Luke xiv. 10 ; Acts x. born. It is possible that they had been 25. The English word worship also led to this belief by the prophecy of meant formerly,“ to respect, to honour, Balaam, Num. xxiv. 17: “There shall to treat with civil reverence.” come a star out of Jacob," &c. What 3. Had heard these things. Had heard this star was, is not known. There have of their coming, and of the star, and of been many conjectures respecting it, but the design of their coming. | He was nothing is revealed concerning it. We troubled. Herod had obtained the kingare not to suppose that it was what we dom by great crimes, and by shedding commonly mean by a star. The stars are much blood. He was, therefore, easily vast bodies fixed in the heavens, and it is alarmed by any remarkable appearances ; absurd to suppose that one of them was and the fact that this star appeared, and sent to guide the wise men. It is most that it was regarded as proof that the probable that it was a luminous appear- king of the Jews was born, alarmed him. ance, or meteor, such as we now see Besides, it was a common expectation sometimes shoot from the sky, or such as
that the Messiah was about to appear,
and he feared that his reign was about to * Vit. Vespas, cap. iv. Annal. v. 13.
come to an end. He, therefore, began to # Josephus, Hist. Bell. Jud. lib. yii. cap. 16. inquire in what way he might secure his
troubled, and all Jerusalem with | Bethlehem of Judæa for thus it is him.
written by the prophet, 4 And when he had gathered 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the all the ehief priests and scribes of land of Juda, art not the least the people together, he demanded among the princes of Juda ; for out of them where Christ should be of thee shall come a Governor, that bom.
shalls rulet my people Israel. 5 And they said unto him, In
3 Or, feed. Isa.
| Mic. v. 2. John vii. 42. xl. 11. + Rev. ii. 27.
1 Acts 1. 24. xvi. 20.
own safety, and the permanency of his His object was to ascertain from progovernment. f All Jerusalem. The phecy where he was born, that he might people of Jerusalem, and particularly strike an effectual blow. He seems not the friends of Herod. There were many to have had any doubt about the time waiting for the Consolation of Israel, to when he should be born. He was satiswbom the coming of the Messiah would fied that the time had come be a matter of joy ; but all of Herod's 5, 6. By the prophet. The sanhedrim friends would doubtless be alarmed at his answered without hesitation. It was settled coming.
by prophecy. This prophecy is found in 4. The chief priests. By the chief Mie. v. 2. In that prophecy, both the priests here are meant not only the high place of his birth and the character of the priest and his deputy, but also the heads Messiah are so clearly set forth, that there or chiefs of the twenty-four classes into was no room to doubt. It will be observed which David had divided the sacerdotal that there is a considerable difference befamilies. 1 Chron. xxi. 6, xxiv. ; 2 tween the passage as quoted by the sanheChron. vi. 14 ; xxxvi. 14 ; Ezra viï. drim, and as it stands in Micah. The 24. Scribes. By the scribes, in the main point, however, is retained -- the New Testament, are meant learned men, place of his birth. We are not concerned, men skilled in the law, and members of therefore, in showing how these passages the great council. They were probably can be reconciled. Matthew is not rethe learned men, or the lawyers of the sponsible for the correctness of the quotanation. They kept the records of the tion. He affirms only that they gave this court of justice, the registers of the answer to Herod, and that Herod was synagogues, wrote their articles of con- satisfied. Admitting that they did not tract and sale, their bills of divorce, &c. quote the passage correctly, it does not They were also called lawyers, Matt. prove that Matthew has not reported their IX. 35 ; and doctors of the law, Luke v. answer as they gave it, and this is all that 17. They were called scribes from the he pretends to give. q Art not the least. fact of their writing the public records. In Micah, though thou be little. Though They were not, however, a religious sect, a small place so far as population is conbat might be either Pharisees or Saddu- cerned, yet it shall not be small, or least, ces. By the chief priests and scribes in honour ; for the Messiah shall be born here mentioned, is denoted the sanhedrim there. His birth gave the place an honour or great council of the nation. This was which could not be conferred on the larger composed of seventy-two men, who had cities by all their numbers, their splenthe charge of the civil and religious dour, and their wealth. The birth of a affairs of the Jews. On this occasion, distinguished personage was always supHerod, in alarm, called them together, posed to give honour and importance to professedly to make inquiry respecting a city or country. Thus seven cities conthe birth of the Messiah. Demanded tended for the honour of giving birth to of them. Inquired, or asked of them. Homer; Stratford-upon-Avon is distinAs they were the learned men of the guished as the birth-place of Shakspeare ; mation, and as it was their business to and Corsica as the birth-place of Napoleon. Cady and explain the Old Testament, T A governor. A ruler. This is one of they were presumed to know what the the characters of the Messiah, who is the prophecies had declared on that point. king of his people, John xviii. 37. The
7. Then Herod, when he had 9 When they had heard the privily called the wise men, in king, they departed; and lo, the quired of them diligently what time star, which they sawo in the east, the star appeared.
went before them, till it came and 8 And he sent them to Bethle- stood over where the young child hem, and said, Go and search dili. was. gently for the young child ; and 10 When they saw the star, they when ye have found him, bring me rejoiceds with exceeding great joy. word again, that I may comel and 11 | And when they were come worship him also.
into the house, they saw the young
I Prov. xxvi. 24. Isa. i. 15.
* Ver. 2. 3 Ps, lxvii. 4.
word rule here means to rule as a shep- quiry. And all of it has the appearance herd does his flock, in faithfulness and of religion. But God sees the design ; tenderness. Compare John x. 11. Isa. and though men are deceived, yet God ix. 7 ; xl. 10, 11.
cannot be. Prov. xv. 3. 7. Privily. Secretly, privately. He 9. 10. The star-went before them. did this to ascertain the time when Jesus From this it appears that the star was was born. | Diligently. Accurately, a luminous meteor, perhaps at no great exactly. He took pains to learn the pre- distance from the ground. It is not uncise time that the star appeared. He did likely that they lost sight of the star after this because he naturally concluded that they had commenced their journey from the star appeared just at the time of his the east. It is probable that it appearbirth, and he wished to know precisely ed to them first in the direction of Jeruhow old the child was.
salem. They concluded that the ex8. Go, and search diligently, &c. pected King had been born, and immeHerod took all possible means to obtain diately commenced their journey to accurate information respecting the child, Jerusalem. When they arrived there, that he might be sure of destroying him. it was important that they should be He not only ascertained the probable directed to the very place where he time of his birth, and the place, but he was, and the star again appeared. It sent the wise men that they might ac- was for this reason that they rejoiced. tually see him, and bring him word. All They felt assured that they were under this might have looked suspicious if he a heavenly guidance, and would be conhad not clothed it with the appearance of ducted to the new-born King of the religion. He said to them, therefore, Jews. And this shows, 1. That the birth that he did it that he might go and wor- of Jesus was an affair of great moment, ship him also. From this we may learn, worthy of God's directing these men to 1. That wicked men often cloak their tind the place of his nativity. 2. God evil designs under the appearance of reli- will guide those who are disposed to find gion. They attempt to deceive those the Saviour. Even if for a time the light who are really good, and to make them should be withdrawn, yet it will again apsuppose that they have the same design. pear, and direct inquirers in the way to the But God cannot be deceived, and he Redeemer. 3. Direction to Christ should will bring them to punish, ment. 2. fill us with joy. He is the way, the truth, Wicked men often attempt to make use and the life; the Saviour, the friend, the of the pious to advance their evil pur- all in all; there is no other way of life, poses. Men like Herod will stop at and there is no peace to the soul till he is nothing if they can carry their ends. found. When we are guided to him They endeavour to deceive the simple, therefore, our heart should overflow allure the unsuspecting, and to beguile with joy and praise ; and we should the weak, to answer their purposes of humbly and thankfully follow every diwickedness. 3. The plans of wicked rection that leads to the Son of God. men are often well laid. They occupy John xii. 35, 36 a long time. They make diligent in- 11. The house. The piace where he
child with Mary his mother, and 12 And being warned of God3 fell down, and worshipped him : in a dream that they should not and when they had opened their return to Herod, they departed treasures, they presented' unto him into their own country another way. gifts ; gold, and frankincense, and 13 And when they were demyrrh.
parted, behold, the angel of the Or, offered. * Ps. lxxii. 10. Isa. lx. 6.
3 ch. i. 120.
was born, or the place where his parents commerce, Gen. xxxvii. 25; and was an were staying at that time. Fell down. | ingredient of the holy ointment, Exod. This was the usual way of showing respect xxx. 23. It was also used as an agreeable or homage among the Jews. Esther viji. perfume, Esther ii. 12; Ps. xlv. 8; Prov. 3; Job i. 20; Ps. lxxii. 11; Isa, xlvi. 6 ; vii. 17. It was, also, sometimes mingled Dan. ii. 7. Worshipped him. Did with wine to form an article of drink. him homage as King of the Jews. See Such a drink was given to our Saviour, in ver. 2. Had opened their treasures. when about to be crucified, as a stupifyThe treasures which they had brought, or ing potion, Mark xri. 23. Compare the boxes, &c., in which they had brought Matt. xxvii. 34. These offerings were their gold, &c. [They presented unto made because they were the most valuhun gifte. These were presented to him able which their country produced. They as king of the Jews, because they sup- were tokens of respect and homage which posed he was to be a distinguished prince they paid to the new-born King of the and conqueror. It was customary at the Jews. They evinced their high regard bath of a prince to show respect for him for him, and their belief that he was to by making him presents or offerings of be an illustrious prince : and the fact this kind. See Gen. xxxii. 14, xliii. 11 ; that their deed is recorded with approba1 Sam. x. 27; 1 Kings x. 2; Psa. lxxii. tion, shows us that we should offer our 10-15. This custom is still common most valuable possessions, our all, to the in the east ; and it is everywhere unusual Lord Jesus Christ. Wise men came from there to approach a person of distin- far to do him homage, and bowed down, rushed rank without a valuable present. and presented their best gifts and offerPrankincense. This was a production ings. It is right that we give to him, of Arabia. It was a white resin or gum. also, our hearts, our propety, our all. It was obtained from a tree by making 12. Warned of God, &c.
This was incisions in the bark, and suffering the done doubtless because if they had given gum to tow out. It was highly odo- Herod precise information where he was, riferous or fragrant when burned, and was, it would have been easy for him to send therefore, used in worship, where it was forth and slay him. And from it we burned as a pleasant offering to God. See learn that God will watch over those Exod. xxx. 8; Lev. xvi. 13. It is pro- whom he loves, that he knows how to duced, also, in the East Indies, but foil the purposes of the wicked, and to chiefly in Arabia ; and hence it has been deliver his own out of the hands of those supposed probable that the wise men who would destroy them. | In a dream. came from Arabia, | Myrrh. This See Note on ch, i. 20. was also a production of Arabia, and was 13. The angel. See ch, i. 20. | Flee obtained from a tree in the same manner into Egypt. Egypt is situated to the *frankincense. The name denotes south-west of Judea, and is dietant from bitterness, and was given to it on account Bethlehem perhaps about sixty miles. of its great bitterness. It was used It was at this time a Roman province. chiefly in embalming the dead, because The Greek language was spoken there. it bad the property of preserving from There were many Jews there, who had a putrefaction Compare John xix. 39. temple and synagogues; and Joseph, thereIt was much used in Egypt and in Judea. fore, would be among his own country. It was obtained from a thorny tree, men, and yet beyond the reach of Herod. which grows eight or nine feet high. It The jurisdiction of Herod extended only FoS at an carly period an article of to the river Sihon, or river of Egypt, and
Lord appeareth to Joseph in a young child and his mother by dream, saying, Arise, and take the night, and departed into Egypt: young child and his mother, and 15 And was there until the flee into Egypt, and be thou there death of Herod: that it might be until I bring thee word: for Herod1 fulfilled which was spoken of the will seek the young child, to de- Lord by the prophet, saying, " Out
of Egypt have I called my son. 14 When he arose, he took the 16 | Then Herod when he saw
1 Job xxxiii. 15, 17.
! Hos. xi. 1.
of course, beyond that, Joseph was safe also, the place in Hosea became a profrom his designs. For a description of verb, to express any great deliverance Egypt, see my notes on Isa. xix. It is from danger; and thus it could be said to remarkable, that this is the only time in be fulfilled in Christ, as other proverbs which our Saviour was out of Palestine, are in cases to which they are applicable. and that this was in the land where the It cannot be supposed that the passage in children of Israel had suffered so much Hosea was a prophecy of the Messiah, and so long under the oppression of the but was only used by Matthew approEgyptian kings. The very land which priately to express the event. was the land of bondage and groaning 16. Mocked of the wise men. When for the Jews, became now the land of he saw that he had been deceived by refuge and safety for the new-born King them, that is, that they did not return of Judea. God can overturn nations and as he had expected. It does not mean kingdoms, so that those whom he loves that they did it for the purpose of mockshall be safe anywhere.
ing or deriding him ; but that he was dis15. The death of Herod. Herod died appointed in their not returning. Exin the thirty-seventh year of his reign. It ceeaing wroth. Very angry. He had is not certainly known in what year he been disappointed and deceived. He exbegan his reign, and hence it is impossible pected to send an executioner and kill to determine the time that Joseph re- Jesus alone. But since he was disappointmained in Egypt. The best chronologers ed in this, he thought he would accomhave supposed that he died somewhere plish the same thing, and be sure to between two and four years after the birth destroy him, if he sent forth and put all of Christ ; but at what particular time the children in the place to death. This cannot now be determined. Nor can it is an illustration of the power of anger. be determined at what age Jesus was It stops at nothing. If it cannot accomtaken into Egypt. It seems probable plish just what it wishes, it does not that he was supposed to be a year old, see hesitate to go much farther, and accomver. 16, and of course the time that he plish much more evil than it at first remained in Egypt was not long. Herod designed. He that has a wicked heart, died of a most painful and loathsome and indulges in anger, knows not where disease in Jericho. See Note on ver. 16; it will end, and will commonly commit also Josephus, Ant. xvii. 10. 9 That il far more evil than he at first intended. mnight be fulfilled, &c. This language is 4 Slew all the children. That is all the recorded in Hos. xi. ). It there evi- male children. This is implied in the dently speaks of God's calling his people original. The design of Herod was to cut out of Egypt under Moses. See Exod. off him that had been born King of the iv. 22, 23. It might be said to be ful- Jews. His purpose, therefore, did not refilled in his calling Jesus from Egypt, quire that he should slay all the female because the words in Hosea aptly ex- children ; and though he was cruel, yet pressed this also. The same love which we have no right to think that he attemptled him to deliver his people Israel from ed here any thing except what he thought the land of Egypt, now led him also to to be for his own safety, and to secure deliver his Son from that place. The himself from a rival. q In all the coasts words used by Hosea would express both thereof. The word coast is commonly events. See Note on ch. i. 22. Perhaps, applied now to the regions around the