Page images

that he was mocked of the wise that were in Bethlehem, and in all men, was exceeding wroth, and the coasts thereof from two years sent forth, and slew all the children old and under, according to the time

sea, as the sea coast. Here it means the be drawn from the silence of the jewish adiacent places, the settlements or hamlets historian. No reason can be given why around Bethlehem-all that were in that Matthew should not be considered to be neighbourhood. We do not know how as fully entitled to credit as Josephus. large a place Bethlehem was ; nor, of Yet there is no improbability in the accourse, how many were slain. But it was count given by Matthew. Herod was an not a large place, and the number could odious and bloody tyrant, and the facts of not be very great. It is not probable his reign prove that he was abundantly that it contained more than one or two capable of this wickedness. The followthousand inhabitants; and in this case the ing bloody deeds will show that the number of children slain was not probably slaying of the infants was in perfect accordover twenty or thirty. ( From two years ance with his character. The account is old and under. Some writers have said taken from Josephus, as arranged by Dr. that in the original this does not mean | Lardner. Aristobulus, brother of his wife that they had completed two years; but Mariamne, was murdered by bis direction that they had entered on the second year, at eighteen years of age, because the or had completed about one year, and en- | people of Jerusalem had shown some tered on the second. But the meaning of affection for his person. In the seventh the word is doubtful. It is quite pro- year of his reign he put to death Hyrcanus, bable that they would not be particular grandfather of Mariamne, then eighty about the exact age, but slew all that years of age, and who had formerly saved were about that age. According to Herod's life; a man who, in every revothe time, &c. He had endeavoured | lution of fortune, had shown a mild and to ascertain of the wise men the exact peaceable disposition. His beloved and time of his birth. He supposed he beautiful wife, Mariamne, was publicly knew the age of Jesus. He slew, there. executed, and her mother Alexandra fore, all that were of his age; that is, soon after. Alexander and Aristobulus, his all that were born about the time when two sons by Mariamne, were strangled in the star appeared, perhaps from six prison by his orders upon groundless susnonths old to two years. There is no picions, as it seems, when they were at reason to think that he would command man's estate, were married, and had those to be slain who had been born after children. In his last sickness, a little bethe star appeared.

fore he died, he sent orders throughout This destruction of the infants is not Judea, requiring the presence of all the mentioned by Josephus, but for this chief men of the nation at Jericho. His anission three reasons may be given. 1. orders were obeyed, for they were enforced Josephus, a jewish historian, and a Jew, with no less penalty than that of death. would not be likely to record any thing When they were come to Jericho, he had that would appear to confirm the truth of them all shut up in the circus; and calling Christianity. 2. This act of Herod was for his sister Salome, and her husband xally so small compared with his other Alexis, he said to them: “My life is crimes, that the historian might not think now short. I know the jewish people, and it worthy of record. Bethlehem was a nothing will please them better than my small and obscure village, and the other death. You have them now in your cusCrimes of Herod were so great and so tody. As soon as the breath is out of publie, that it is not to be wondered at my body, and before my death can be that the jewish historian has passed over known, do you let in the soldiers upon this. 3. The order was probably given them, and kill them. Ali Judea, then, in secret, and might not have been known and every family, will, though unwillingly, so Josephus. It pertained to the christian mourn at my death.” Nay, Josephus history; and if the evangelists had not says, that with tears in his eyes he written, it might have been unknown or conjured them, by their love to him forgotten. Besides, no argument can and their fidelity to God, not to fail of

which he had diligently inquired" | was spoken by Jeremyo the prophet, of the wise men.

saying, 17 Then was fulfilled that which 18 In Rama was there a voice 1 Ver. 7.

Jer. xxxi. 15.

doing him this honour. What objection, was at Rama-now called Romba-in after this, can there be to the account of 18:24; and Mr. Whiting, another Amerihis murdering the infants at Bethlehem? can missionary, was there in 1835. He Surely there could be no cruelty, barbar says, "the situation is exceedingly beauity, and horrid crime, which such a man tiful. It is about two hours distant from was not capable of perpetrating.

Jerusalem to the north-west, on an emi17. 18. Jeromy. Jeremiah. This quo- nence commanding a view of a wide extent tation is taken from Jer. xxxi. 15. The of beautiful, diversified country. Hills, word fulfilled here, is taken evi- | plains, and valleys, highly cultivated fields dently in the sense that the words in of wheat and barley, vineyards and oliveJeremiah aptly express the event which yards are spread out before you as on a Matthew was recording. The original map; and numerous villages are scattered design of this prophecy was to describe | here and there over the whole view. To the sorrowful departure of the people the west and north-west, beyond the hillinto captivity, after the conquest of Jeru-country, appears the vast plain of Sharon, salem by Nebuzaradan. The captives and farther still you look out upon the were assembled at Rama, Jeremiah him- | great and wide sea. It occurred to me as self being in chains, and there the fate of not improbable that in the days of David those who had escaped in the destruction and Solomon, this place may have been of the city, was decided at the will of the a favourite retreat during the heat of conqueror, Jer. xl. 1. The nobles had summer; and that here the former may been slain, and the eyes of their king put have often struck his sacred lyre. Some out after the murder of his sons before his of the psalms, or at least one of them, see sight, and the people were then gathered Ps. civ. 25, seem to have been composed at Rama in chains, whence they were to in some place which commanded a view start on their mournful journey, slaves to of the Mediterranean; and this is the a cruel monarch, leaving bchind them all only place, I believe, in the vicinity of that was dear in life. The sadness of such Jerusalem, that affords such a view.". a scene is well expressed in the language Rama was once a strongly fortified city, of the prophet, and no less beautifully but there is no city here at present. A and fitly applies to the melancholy event half-ruined Mohammedan mosque, which which the evangelist records, and there was originally a christian church, stands could be no impropriety in his using it as over the tomb of the prophet; besides a quotation.

which, a few miserable dwellings are the Rama was a small town in the tribe of only buildings that remain on this once Benjamin, not far from Bethlehem. celebrated spot. Rachel was the mother of Benjamin, and | There is a town about thirty miles was buried near to Bethlehem, Gen. xxxv. north-west of Jerusalem, on the road to 7-19. Rama was about six miles north- Joppa, now called Ramla, or Ramle, west of Jerusalem, near Bethel. The which is described by many geographers, name Rama signifies an eminence, and and some of the best maps, as the Rama was given to the town because it was of Samuel, and the Arimathea of Joseph. situated on a hill. Rama is commonly It commanded a view of the whole valley supposed to be the same as the Arima- of Sharon, from the mountains of Jerusathea of the New Testament, the place lem to the sea, and from the foot of where Joseph lived, who begged the body Carmel to the hills of Gaza. of Jesus; see Matt. xxvii. 57. This is By a beautiful figure of speech, the also the same place in which Samuel was prophet introduces the mother weeping born, where he resided, died, and was over the tribe. her children. and buried. and where he anointed Saul as king: them weeping over the 1 Sam. i. 1, 19; ü. 11; viii. 4 ; xix. 18; xxv. Israel, and over the calamities about to 1. Mr. King, an American missionary, come upon the land. Few images could

beard, lamentation, and weeping, behold, an angel of the Lord ap. and great mourning, Rachel weep-peareth in a dream to Joseph in ing for her children, and would not Egypt, be comforted, because they are not. 20 Saying, Arise, and take the

19 G But when Herod was dead, young child and his mother, and go

he more striking than thus to introduce a the narrative, that they might gratify Inother, long dead, whose sepulchre was malice, in making free with a very bad near, weeping bitterly over the terrible character. What was to their purpose, calamities that befel her descendants. they record; what was not, they left to The language and the image aptly and others. This is the nature of religion. It beautifully expressed the sorrows of the does not speak evil of others, except when mothers in Bethlehem, when Herod slew necessary, nor then does it take pleasure their infant children. Under the cruelty in it. of the tyrant almost every family was a 19. Herod was dead. See Note on family of tears; and well might there be ver. 15. Herod left three sons, and the latnentation, and weeping, and great kingdom at his death was divided between mourning.

them. To Archelaus was given Judea, We may reinark here, that the sacred Idumea, and Samaria; to Philip, Batanea, writers were cautious of speaking of the Trachonitis, &c.; to Antipas, Galilea and characters of wicked men. Here was Perea. Each of the sons of Herod was also one of the worst men in the world, com-called Herod, and these are the individuals mitting one of the most awful crimes, and who are so frequently referred to in the Yet there is not a single mark of exclama-New Testament during the ministry of the tion; not a single reference to any other Saviour and the labours of the apostles part of his conduct; nothing that could The following table will show at a glance lead to the knowledge that his other the chief connexions of this family, as far conduct was not upright. There is no as they are mentioned in the sacred ranton and malignant dragging him into history.

[blocks in formation]

20. They are dead which sought, &c. , and his son Antipater. He was of the This either refers to Herod alone, as is same cruel disposition as his father and not uncommon, using the plural number was put to death by his father about five for the singular; or it may refer to Herod days before his own death.

into the land of Israel: for they are, chelaus did reign in Judæa in the dead? which sought the young child's room of his father Herod, he was life.

i afraid to go thither: notwithstand21 And he arose, and took the ing, being warned of God in a young child and his mother, and dream, he turned aside into the came into the land of Israel. parts of Galilee :? 22 But when he heard that Ar- 23 And he came and dwelt in a 1 Exod. iv. 19.

• Ch. iii, 13. Luke ii. 39.

22. He heard that Archelaus did reign. Another traveller speaks of the streets Archelaus possessed a cruel and tyrannical as narrow and steep, the houses, which disposition, similar to his father. At ones are flat-roofed, are about two hundred of the passovers he caused three thousand and fifty in number, and the inhabitants of the people to be put to death in the he estimates at two thousand. The poputemple and city. After he had reigned lation of the place is variously stated, nine years he was banished for his crimes though the average estimate is three to Gaul, where he died. Joseph, knowing thousand ; of whom about five hundred the character of Archelaus, and fearing are Turks, and the residue nominal that he could not be safe in his do- | Christians. minions, went as he was directed by God As all testimony to the truth and into Galilee. The parts of Galilee. fidelity of the sacred narrative is imThe country of Galilee. At this time the | portant, we have thought ourselves justiland of Palestine was divided into three fied in connecting with this article a parts : Galilee, on the north; Samaria, passage from the journal of Mr. Jowett, in the middle; and Judea, on the south. | an intelligent modern traveller ; espeGalilee was under the government of cially as it is so full an illustration of the Herod Antipas, who was comparatively a passage of Luke already cited. mild prince; and in his dominions Joseph “Nazareth is situated on the side, and might find safety.

extends nearly to the foot, of a hill, 23. Nazareth. This was a small town, which, though not very high, is rather situated in Galilee, west of Capernaum, steep and overhanging. The eye natuand not far from Cana. It was built | rally wanders over its summit, in quest of partly in a valley, and partly on the some point from which it might probably declivity of a hill; Luke iv. 29. A hill be that the men of this place endeais yet pointed out, to the south of Naza voured to cast our Saviour down, Luke reth, as the one from which the people iv. 29, but in vain : no rock adapted to of the place attempted to precipitate such an object appears here. At the foot the Saviour. It was a place, at that of the hill is a modest, simple plain, surtime, proverbial for wickedness ; John rounded by low hills, reaching in length iv. 46. It is now a large village, with a nearly a mile ; in breadth, near the city, convent and two churches. One of the a hundred and fifty yards ; but farther churches, called the church of the An- south, about four hundred yards. On nunciation, the finest in the Holy Land, this plain there are a few olive and fig except of the holy sepulchre in Jeru- trees, sufficient, or rather scarcely suffisalem.

cient, to make the spot picturesque. A modern traveller describes Naza- | Then follows a ravine, which gradually reth as situated upon the declivity of a grows deeper and narrower towards the hill, the vale which spreads out before it south ; till, after walking about another resembling a circular basin, encompassed | mile, you find yourself in an immense by mountains. Fifteen mountains appear | chasm, with steep rocks on either side, to meet to form an enclosure for this from whence you behold, as it were beautiful spot, around which they rise beneath your feet, and before you, the like the edge of a shell, to guard it noble plain of Esdraelon. Nothing can against intrusion. It is a rich and beauti | be finer than the apparently immeasurful field in the midst of barren moun | able prospect of this plain, bounded on

city called Nazareth :1 that it might the prophets, He shall be called a be fulfilled which was spoken by Nazarene.

" John i. 45.

1 Sam. i. 11.

Nam vi. 13. Judg. xiii. 5.
Am. ii. 10-12. Acts xxiv. 5.

The elevation of the hills on which the the population to be from three thousand spectator stands in this ravine is very to five thousand, viz. Greeks, three hungreat ; and the whole scene, when we dred or four hundred families ; Turks, sw it, was clothed with the most rich two hundred ; Catholics, one hundred ; mountain blue colour that can be con- Greek Catholics, forty or fifty ; Maroceived. At this spot, on the right hand nites, twenty or thirty ; say in all seven of the ravine, is shown the rock to which hundred houses. That it might be fulthe men of Nazareth are supposed to filled-by the prophets, &c. The words have conducted our Lord, for the pur- here are not found in any of the books pose of throwing him down. With the of the Old Testament ; and there has Testament in our hands, we endeavoured | been much difficulty in ascertaining the to examine the probabilities of the spot ; meaning of this passage. Some have and I confess there is nothing in it which supposed that Matthew meant to refer to excites a scruple of incredulity in my Judg. xii. 5, to Samson as a type of mind. The rock here is perpendicular Christ; others that he refers to Ísa. xi. for about fifty feet, down which space it 1, where the descendant of Jesse is called would be easy to hurl a person who a Branch ; in the Hebrew Netzer. Some should be unawares brought to the have supposed that Matthew refers to summit ; and his perishing would be a some prophecy which was not recorded, Tery certain consequence. That the spot but handed down by tradition. But these might be at a considerable distance from suppositions are not satisfactory. It is a the city is an idea not inconsistent with great deal more probable that Matthew St. Luke's account ; for the expression, refers not to any particular place, but to “thrusting Jesus out of the city, and the leading characteristics of the propheleading him to the brow of the hill on cies respecting him. The following rewhich their city was built,” gives fair | marks inay make this clear. 1. He

enpe for imagining that in their rage and does not say, by the prophet, as in ch. i. debate, the Nazarenes might, without 22 ; ü. 5, 15, but, by the prophets, meanoriginally intending his murder, press | ing no one particularly, but the general upon him for a considerable distance character of the prophecies. 2. The after they had quitted the synagogue. leading and most prominent prophecies The distance, as already noticed, from respecting him were, that he was to be of modern Nazareth to the spot, is scarcely humble life; to be despised, and rejected. two miles ; a space, which, in the fury of See Ps. xxii. Isa. lüü., 2 3, 7, 8, 9, 12. persecution, might soon be passed over. | 3. The phrase he shall be called, means Or, should this appear too considerable, the same as he shall be. 4. The chait is by no means certain but that Naza- racter of the people of Nazareth was reth may at that time have extended such that they were proverbially despised through the principal part of the plain, and contemned. John i. 46 ; vii. 52. To which I have described as lying before come from Nazareth, therefore, or to be the modern town. In this case, the dis a Nazarene, was the same as to be detance passed over might not exceed a spised, and esteemed of low birth ; to be mile. I can see, therefore, no reason for a root out of dry ground, having no form thinking otherwise, than that this may be or comeliness. And this was the same the real scene where our divine prophet as had been predicted by the prophets. Jesus received so great a dishonour from When Matthew says, therefore, that the the men of his own country and of his prophecies were fulfilled, it means that own kindred."

the predictions of the prophets that he Mr. Fisk, an American missionary, should be of humble life, and rejected, was at Nazareth in the autumn of 1823. were fully accomplished in his being an His description corresponds generally inhabitant of Nazareth, and despised as with that of Mr. Jowett. He estimates such.

« PreviousContinue »