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gently. Accurately, exactly. Ile took pains to learn the precise time that the star appeared. IIe
young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I
may come and worship him also.
they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where
exceeding great joy.
with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when
| Or, if red.
k Ps. lxxii. 10: Isa. Ix. 6.
unusual to approach a person of distinguished rank without a valuable present. I Frankincense. This was a production of Arabia. It was a white resin, or gum. It was obtained from a tree by making incisions in the bark, and suffering the gum to flow out. It was highly odoriferous or fragrant when burned, and was therefore used in worship, where it was burned as a pleasant offering to God. See Exod. xxx. 8; Lev. xvi. 12. It is produced also in the East Indies, but chiefly in Arabia ; and hence it has been supposed probable that the wise men came from Arabia. q Myrrh. This was also a production of Arabia, and was obtained from a tree in the same manner as frankincense. The name denotes bitterness, and was given to it on account of its great bitterness. It was used chiefly in embalming the dead, because it had the property of preserving them from putrefaction. Compare John xix. 39. It was much used in Egypt and in Judea. It was obtained from a thorny tree, which grows eight or nine feet high. It was at an early period an article of commerce (Gen. xxxvii. 25), and was an ingredient of the holy ointment. Exod. xxx. 23. It was also used as an agreeable perfume. Esther ii. 12; Ps. xlv. 8; Prov. vii. 17. It was also sometimes mingled with wine, to form an article of drink. Such a drink was given to our Saviour, when about to be crucified, as a stupifying potion. Mark xv. 23; compare Matt. xxvii. 34. These offerings were made because they were the most valuable which their country produced. They were tokens of respect and homage which they paid to the new-born King of the Jews. They evinced their high regard for him, and their belief that he was to be an illustrious Prince: and the fact that their deed is recorded with approbation, shows us that we should offer our most valuable possessions, our all, to the Lord Jesus Christ. Wise men came from far to do him homage, and bowed down, and presented their best gifts and offerings. It is right that we give to him also our hearts our property -our all.
12 And being warned of God 'in a dream that they should not return to
Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
1 Chap. i. 20.
12. Warned of God, &c. This was done, doubtless, because if they had given Herod precise information where he was, it would have been easy for him to send forth and slay him. And from it we learn that God will watch over those whom he loves,—that he knows how to foil the purposes of the wicked, and to deliver his own out of the hands of those who would destroy them. 1 In a dream. See Note on chap. i. 20. 13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth
to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and fee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word:
for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 13. The angel. See chap. i. 20. q Flee into Egypt. Egypt is situated to the south-west of Judea, and is distant from Bethlehem perhaps about 60 miles. It was at this time a Roman province. The Greek language was spoken there. There were many Jews there, who had a temple and synagogues ; and Joseph, therefore, would be among his own countrymen, and yet beyond the reach of Herod. The jurisdiction of Herod extended only to the river Sihon, or river of Egypt, and of course, beyond that, Joseph was safe from his designs. It is remarkable, that this is the only time in which our Saviour was out of Palestine, and that this was in the land where the children of Israel had suffered so much and so long, under the oppression of the Egyptian kings. The very land which was the land of bondage and groaning for the Jews, became now the land of refuge and safety for the new-born King of Judea. God can overturn nations and kingdoms, so that those whom he loves shall be safe any where. 14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and
departed into Egypt: 15 And was there until the death of Herod : that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, "Out of Egypt have I called my son.
m Hos. xi. 1.
15. The death of Herod. Herod died in the 37th year of his reign. It is not certainly known in what year he began his reign, and hence it is impossible to determine the time that Joseph remained in Egypt. The best chronologers have supposed that he died somewhere between two and
four years after the birth of Christ ; but at what particular time cannot now be determined. Nor
ceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in
according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. 16. Mocked of the wise men. When he saw that he had been deceived by them; that is, that they did not return as he had expected. It does not mean that they did it for the purpose of mocking or deriding him; but that he was disappointed in their not returning. 9 Exceeding wroth, Very angry. He had been disappointed and deceived. He expected to send an executioner and kill Jesus alone ; but since he was disappointed in this, he thought he would accomplish the same thing, and be sure to destroy him, if he sent forth and put all the children in the place to death. This is an illustration of the power of anger. It stops at nothing. If it cannot accomplish just what it wishes, it does not hesitate to go much farther, and to accomplish much more evil than it at first designed. He that has a wicked heart, and indulges in anger, knows not where it will end, and will commonly commit far more evil than he at first intended. I Slew all the children. That is, all the male children. This is implied in the original. The design of Herod was, to cut off him that had been born King of the Jews. His purpose, therefore, did not require that he should slay all the female children ; and though he was cruel, yet we have no right to think that he attempted here any thing except what he thought to be for his own safety, and to secure himself from a rival. 1 In all the coast thereof. The word coast is commonly applied now to the regions around the sea, as the sea coast. Here it means the adjacent places, the settlements or hamlets around Bethlehem -all that were in that neighbourhood. We do not know how large a place Bethlehem was—nor, of course, how many were slain; but it was not a large place, and the number could not be very great. It is not probable that it contained more than 1000 or 2000 inhabitants; and in this case, the number of children slain was not probably over 20 or 30. I From two years old and under. Some writers have said that this does not mean, in the original, that they had completed two years, but that they had entered on the second year, or had completed about one year, and entered on the second; but the meaning of the word is doubtful. It is quite probable that they would not be particular about the exact age, but slew all that were about that age. 9 According to the time, &c. He had endeavoured to ascertain of the wise men the exact time of his birth—he supposed he knew the age of Jesus; he slew, therefore, all that were of his age; that is, all that were born about the time when the star appeared-perhaps from six months old to two years. There is no reason to think that he would command those to be slain who had been born after the star appeared.
This destruction of the infants is not mentioned by Josephus, but for this omission three reasons may be given :-1. Josephus, a Jewish historian, and a Jew, would not be likely to record any thing that would appear to confirm the truth of Christianity. 2. This act of Herod was really so small
, compared with his other crimes, that the historian might not think it worthy of record. Bethlehem was a small and obscure village, and the other crimes of Herod were so great and so public, that it is not to be wondered at that the Jewish historian has passed over this. 3. The order was probably given in secret, and might not have been known to Josephus. It pertained to the Christian history; and if the evangelists had not written, it might have been unknown or forgotten. Besides, no argument can be drawn from the silence of the Jewish historian. No reason can be given why Matthew should not be considered to be as fully entitled to credit as Josephus. Yet there is no improbability in the account given by Matthew. Herod was an odious and bloody tyrant, and the facts of his reign prove that he was abundantly capable of this wickedness. The following bloody deeds will show that the slaying of the infants was in perfect accordance with his character. The account is taken from Josephus, as arranged by Dr Lardner :- Aristobulus, brother of his wife Mariamne, was murdered by his direction at 18 years of age, because the people of Jerusalem bad shown some affection for his person. In the seventh year of his reign he put to death Hyrcanus, grandfather of Mariamne, then 80 years of age, and who had formerly saved Herod's life;
a man who had, in every revolution of fortune, shown a mild and peaceable disposition. His beloved and beautiful wife, Mariamne, he publicly executed; and her mother, Alexandra, met with the same fate soon after. Alexander and Aristobulus, his two sons by Mariamne, were strangled in prison by his orders, upon groundless suspicions, as it seems, when they were at man's estate, were married, and had children. In his last sickness, a little before he died, he sent orders throughout Judea, requiring the presence of all the chief men of the nation at Jericho. His orders were obeyed
-for they were enforced with no less penalty than that of death. When they were come to Jericho, he had them all shut up in the circus ; and calling for his sister Salome, and her husband Alexis, he told them,—“My life is now short. I know the Jewish people, and nothing will please them better than my death. You have them now in your custody. As soon as the breath is out of my body, and before my death can be known, do you let in the soldiers upon them, and kill them. Ail Judea, then, and every family, will, though unwillingly, mourn at my death." Nay, Josephus says, that with tears in his eyes he conjured them, by their love to him and their fidelity to God, not to fail of doing him this honour. What objection, after this account, can there be to the account of his murdering the infants at Bethlehem? Surely there could be no cruelty, barbarity, and horrid crime, which such a man was not capable of perpetrating.
17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by "Jeremy the prophet, saying,
18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
n Jer. xxxi. 15.
17, 18. Jeremy. Jeremiah. This quotation is taken from Jer. xxxi. 15. The word “ fulfilled," here, is taken, evidently, in the sense that the words in Jeremiah aptly express the event which Matthew was recording. The original design of this prophecy was, to describe the sorrowful departure of the people into captivity, after the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuzaradan. The captives were assembled at Rama, Jeremiah himself being in chains, and there the fate of those who had escaped in the destruction of the city was decided, at the will of the conqueror. Jer. xl. 1. The nobles had been slain, and the eyes of their king put out, after the murder of his sons before his sight; and the people were then gathered at Rama in chains, whence they were to start on their mournful journey, slaves to a cruel monarch, leaving behind them all that was dear in life. The sadness of such a scene is well expressed in the language of the prophet, and no less beautifully and fitly applies to the melancholy event which the evangelist records.
Rama was a small town in the tribe of Benjamin, not far from Bethlehem. Rachel was the mother of Benjamin, and was buried near to Bethlehem. Gen. xxxv. 17-19. Rama was about six miles north-west of Jerusalem, near Bethel. The name Rama signifies an eminence, and was given to the town because it was situated on a hill. Rama is commonly supposed to be the same as the Arimathea of the New Testament—the place where Joseph lived who begged the body of Jesus. See Matt. xxvii. 57. This is also the same place in which Samuel was born, where he resided, died, and was buried, and where he anointed Saul as king. 1 Sam. i. 1, 19, ii. 11, viii. 4, xix. 18, xxv. 1. Mr King, an American missionary, was at Rama (now called Romba) in 1824; and Mr Whiting, another American missionary, was there in 1835. He says,- “ The situation is exceedingly beautiful. It is about two hours distant from Jerusalem to the north-west, on an eminence commanding a view of a wide extent of beautiful diversified country. Hills, plains, and valleys, highly cultivated fields of wheat and barley, vineyards and oliveyards, are spread out before you, as on a map; and numerous villages are scattered here and there over the whole view. To the west and north-west, beyond the hill-country, appears the vast plain of Sharon, and farther still, you look out upon the great and wide sea. It occurred to me, as not improbable, that in the days of David and Solomon, this place may have been a favourite retreat during the heat of summer; and that here the former may have often struck his sacred lyre. Some of the psalms, or at least one of them (see Ps. civ. 25), seem to have been composed in some place which commanded a view of the Mediterranean ; and this is the only place, I believe, in the vicinity of Jerusalem, that affords such a view.” Rama was once a strongly fortified city, but there is no city here at present. A half-ruined Mohammedan mosque, which was originally a Christian church, stands over the tomb of the prophet; besides which, a few miserable dwellings are the only buildings that remain on this once celebrated spot.
There is a town about 30 miles north-west of Jerusalem, on the road to Joppa, now called Ramla, or Ramle, which is described by many geographers, and some of the best maps, as the Rama of Samuel, and the Arimathea of Joseph. It commanded a view of the whole valley of Sharon, from the mountains of Jerusalem to the sea, and from the foot of Carmel to the hills of Gaza.-Universal Biblical Dictionary.
By a beautiful figure of speech, the prophet introduces the mother weeping over the tribe, her children—and with them weeping over the fallen destiny of Israel, and over the calamities about to come upon the land. Few images could be more striking than thus to introduce a mother, long dead, whose sepulchre was near, weeping bitterly over the terrible calamities that befell her descendants. The language and the image aptly and beautifully expressed the sorrows of the mothers in Bethlehem, when Herod slew their infant children. Under the cruelty of the tyrant, almost every family was a family of tears; and well might there be lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning.
We may remark here, that the sacred writers were cautious of speaking of the characters of wicked men. Here was one of the worst men in the world, committing one of the most awful crimes, and yet there is not a single mark of exclamation not a single reference to any other part of his conduct—nothing that could lead to the knowledge that his other conduct was not upright. There is po wanton and malignant dragging him into the narrative, that they might gratify malice, in making free with a very bad character. What was to their purpose, they record; what was not, they left to others. This is the nature of religion : it does not speak evil of others, except when necessary-nor then does it take pleasure in it. 19 But when Herod was dead,|| behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in
a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
| The Third Year before the Aceount called Anno Domini.
19. Herod was dead. See Note on ver. 15. Herod left three sons, and the kingdom was at his death divided between them. To Archelaus was given Judea, Idumea, and Samaria
; to Philip, Batanea, Trachonitis, &c.; to Antipas, Galilee and Perea. Each of these was also called Herod, and these are the individuals who are so frequently referred to in the New Testament, during the ministry of the Saviour and the labours of the apostles. 20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the
land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life. 20. They are dead who sought, &c. This either refers to Herod alone, as is not uncommon, using the plural number for the singular; or, it may refer to Herod and his son Antipater. He was of the same cruel disposition as his father, and was put to death by his father about five days before his own death. 21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into
the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside °into the parts of Galilee :
o Chap. ill. 13; Luke ii. 39. 22. He heard that Archelaus did reign. Archelaus possessed a cruel and tyrannical disposition, similar to his father. At one of the passovers, he caused 3000 of the people to be put to death in the temple and city. For his crimes, after he had reigned nine years, he was banished by Augustus, 'the Roman emperor, to Gaul, where he died. Knowing his character, and fearing that he would not be safe there, Joseph hesitated about going to Judea, and was directed by God to go to Galilee, a place of safety. q The parts of Galilee. The country of Galilee. At this time the land of Palestine was divided into three parts,—Galilee, on the north ; Samaria, in the middle; and JUDEA, on the south. Galilee was under the government of Herod Antipas, who was comparatively a mild prince; and in his dominions Jeseph might find safety. 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called 'Nazareth : that it might be ful
filled 'which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
23. Nazareth. This was a small town situated in Galilee, west of Capernaum, and not far from Cana. It was built partly in a valley, and partly on the declivity of a hill
. Luke iv. 29. A hill is yet pointed out, to the south of Nazareth, as the one from which the people of the place attempted to precipitate the Saviour. It was a place, at that time, proverbial for wickedness. John i. 46. It is