Matthew 2:1-23 - Outline of Matthew (Book Notes menu page)
2:1. Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king,
behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2:2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews?
for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
Herod the king- ie., Herod the Great, appointed as king of Judea in about 40 BC.
He rebuilt the Temple and restored the city of Jerusalem.
Wise men {GK=magoi, magi} - This is a Persian word, referring to scholars with expertise in astrology.
The word is used in the LXX, in Dan 2:2,10 (translated 'astrologers' in KJV).
Daniel was among the 'wise men' of his day. Dan 2:13
the King of the Jews- was first worshipped by gentiles.
Only Matthew records the visit of the magi. He is emphasizing Jesus as the King of Israel.
-- They came seeking the King of the Jews (v.2).
-- They sought Him at a king's palace (v.3).
-- They brought gifts fit for a King (v.11).
How would Persian magi know to look for Israel's King?
  • From the Hebrew Scriptures.
    Apparently, they did not possess the entire OT. Since, they would have known the birth place of the Messiah, if Micah's prophecy had been available to them (v.4-6; Mic 5:2).
    They would have been familiar with Scripture that predated the Babylonian captivity, and also with those books written in Babylon during the captivity (eg., Daniel and Ezekiel). It is possible that they did not have copies of the post-exilic prophetic books (Haggai, Zechariah and Micah). They must have considered the following:
  • Daniel's prophecies.
    At one time, Daniel had been chief among the 'wise men' of Babylon (Dan 2:48).
    They would have given his writings special respect.
    Dan 9:24-27 provides a specific timetable regarding the coming(s) of the Messiah, counting from "the command to restore and to build Jerusalem" following the Babylonian captivity. By calculation, they would have known that the time for Messiah to be 'cut-off' was near, and would therefore be anticipating His birth.
  • Balaam's prophecy, which speaks of a 'star' and 'sceptre' rising out of Israel. Num 24:15-19
    Note that Balaam also was from the region of Mesopotamia. Num 22:5; Deu 23:4
What was the 'star in the east' that they saw?
Being star gazers, they connected some heavenly phenomenon with the approaching time of fulfillment of Daniel's prophecies. What did they see?
  • In Scripture, the word 'star' is sometimes used of the Person of the Messiah.
    Examples: Num 24:15-19; Mal 4:2; 2Pet 1:19; Rev 22:16
    Notice that most of the above references refer to the 'rising' of that star.
  • 'We have seen His star in the east' (v.2) -
    The phrase 'in the east' can be translated 'at its rising.' It may refer to both:
    • The birth of the King whom they sought.
    • The location from which they viewed the light in the sky. They were in the east. They traveled to the west to find the King of Israel.
  • The language of Matthew ch.2 suggests that this star was not a natural astrological phenomenon (such as a nova, or a conjunction of planets) since such remote objects could not have led them nor stood over the house (v.9).
  • A visible manifestation of the Glory of God would fit the scriptural record...
    Examples: the pillar of cloud and fire, the Glory above the Mercy Seat, the Glory of the Lord at the angelic announcement of Christ's birth.
    eg., Ex 16:10; 24:16-17; 40:34; Ezek 11:23; Luk 2:9,32
2:3 When Herod the king had heard [these things],
he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
2:4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together,
he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
2:5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea:
for thus it is written by the prophet,
{Mic 5:2}
2:6 And thou Bethlehem, [in] the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda:
for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
thus it is written...- The Scriptures lead to Christ. John 5:39
How tragic that these, who knew the text, were not seeking for Him. Instead they were troubled, overcome with a sense of dread and foreboding, by the quest of foreigners in search of the Jewish Messiah (Isa 65:1,2). They did not want the King to come. They feared disruption to their lives, loss of power and of their positions of self-importance.
     We also hold God's Word. But are we seeking the One of whom it speaks? Is our heart's desire to behold Him? Are we seeking to know Him, and watching for His coming? Or, are our hearts focused on the passing things of this world?
2:7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men,
enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
2:8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said,
Go and search diligently for the young child;
and when ye have found [him], bring me word again,
that I may come and worship
{ie., bow down before} him also. {cp. Psa 12:1-8}
2:9 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.
2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
{Rom 15:8-13}
2:11 And when they were come into the house,
they saw the young child with Mary his mother,
and fell down, and worshipped him:
and when they had opened their treasures,
they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
the house... the young child...- Several months have passed since the events of Luke ch.2.
The family no longer lives in a stable. Jesus has grown from an infant to a toddler.
The wisemen presented gifts of significance.-
  • gold- A gift of homage to the King, in recognition of His Royalty and Deity. Psa 72:10,11;
  • frankincense- A gift of worship, in association with the sweet savor of prayer. Psa 72:15
  • myrrh- A gift of faith, in prophetic anticipation of His death and burial. Mark 15:23; Joh 19:39,40
    At Christ's second coming, gentile kings will present similar gifts, but myrrh is not mentioned (Isa 60:1-6). At His first coming, He came to die for our sins. At His second coming, He will reign in righteousness, with a rod of iron.
2:12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod,
they departed into their own country another way.
2:13 And when they were departed,
behold, the
{an} angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying,
Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt,
and be thou there until I bring thee word:
for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
2:14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night,
and departed into Egypt:
2:15 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.
an angel... appeareth... to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise... flee into Egypt...-
Joseph was quick to obey, enabled by God's timely provision for the family's travel and living expenses. Joseph, who was not a wealthy man, would have no work for an extended period. The treasures of the wisemen would not be stored away as symbolic keepsakes.
Out of Egypt have I called my son.- quotes Hosea 11:1, referring to 'Israel' as God's son. cp. Ex 4:22,23
But here, it is applied to God's greater Son, the Messiah.
     Israel and the Messiah are often seen in the same view, and spoken of in identical terms. Compare Isa 41:8-10; 42:1-4; 52:13-15, where God calls both the nation of Israel and the Messiah 'my servant.' In the latter passage, the reference can only apply to a man (not to a nation). The nation served God, even while in a state of unbelief, in that it was through Israel that God's Servant, His Son, came (Rom 9:4,5). That Son will 'sprinkle many nations' (including Israel) to purge their sin by His blood (Heb 9:13,14).
An important principle of interpreting prophecy is that of the 'dual view,' where two things overlap in the same passage (like one transparency held up behind another). Examples:
Remember that the prophets themselves did not understand the full meaning of the words which the Holy Spirit gave through them. cp. 2Pet 1:19-21; 1Pet 1:10-12
2:16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth,
and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof,
from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.
2:17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,
2:18 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.
Rachel- wife of Jacob (Israel) died in childbirth on the outskirts of Bethlehem. Gen 35:16-20
Her tomb is there to this day. In the agony of a childbirth, which took her life, she spoke prophetically of Christ.
As she died, she named her son 'Benoni' meaning 'son of my sorrow.' cp. Isa 53:3
But Jacob renamed him 'Benjamin,' 'son of my right hand.' cp. Psa 118:15,16; Mat 26:64
In those two names, there is a vivid picture of God's Bethlehem born Son, whom Herod sought to kill.
Rama- a town 8 miles north of Jerusalem. Bethlehem is 8 miles south of Jerusalem.
Herod took no chances. His slaughter encompassed a wide area and a broad time span. His anger was driven by Satan's hatred for God's Son, who came into the world through Israel. Rev 12:1-6
Rachel weeping [for] her children...- quotes Jeremiah 31:15.
Jeremiah 31 (and the surrounding context) speaks of Israel's sorrows prior to their national restoration under the Messiah. Israel's weeping under Herod's 'slaughter of the innocents,' at Christ's first coming, foreshadows events at the end of the age, prior to His second coming. Following a time of great trouble, the King will come, and Israel will be restored (Jer 30:1-9).
     In the days of Christ's earthly reign, Israel and Judah will enter into the New Covenant, which He has already prepared for them (Jer 31:31-33; Mat 26:28,29). In that day, they will receive the Truth, whom they rejected. Until then, Israel will be troubled by men, even more evil than Herod.
2:19 But when Herod was dead,
behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
2:20 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.
2:21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
2:22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea 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:
2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth:
that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
when Herod was dead...- Herod the Great died in March of 4 BC.
Archelaus - succeeded his father as ruler in Judea (reigned 4 BC - 6 AD).
His brother, Herod Antipas had authority over Galilee from 4 BC to 39 AD. Herod Antipas is the Herod mentioned in the gospel records as interacting with both John the Baptist and Jesus.
He shall be called a Nazarene. - This may be inferred from Isaiah 11:1...
'...a Branch (HB= netzer) shall grow out of [Jesse's] roots.'
Nazareth (meaning 'branch') is the place where Jesus grew from childhood to manhood.
The record moves rapidly from a brief mention of Jesus' childhood, to His baptism by John and His entrance into ministry, as the Branch (see the introductory Notes at Matthew ch.1). This transition occurs suddenly, with the opening of the next chapter (cp. Luk 2:51,52 - 3:1-f).

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