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literally, God with us. Matthew doubtless understood this word as denoting that the Messiah was really God with us,' or that the Divine nature was united to the human. But this was its meaning as applicable to the Messiah. It was fitly expressive of his character; and in this sense it was fulfilled. Matthew had just given an account of his 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 as was common in the Old Testament, would not prove that he had a Divine nature, as it did not in the case of Isaiah, yet as Matthew uses it, and meant evidently to apply it, it does prove that Jesus was more than a man; that he was God as well as man. And it 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 removes the sense of sin; and saves from death; and renders the condescension of God in redemption so great, and his character so lovely.
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son: and he called his name JESUS.
25. The scriptures do not affirm that she had no children afterwards. The accounts in the New Testament lead us to suppose that she had. See Matt. xiii. 55, 56. Her first-born son.' Her eldest son, or he that by the law had the privilege of birthright. It was the name given to the son first born, whether there were others or not. His name Jesus.' This was given by Divine appointment, v. 21. It was conferred on him on the eighth day. at the time of his circumcision, Luke ii. 21.
1 NOW when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.
1. See the full account of his birth in Luke ii. 1-20. Bethlehem, the birth-place of Christ, was a small town about six miles southwest of Jerusalem. The word 'Bethlehem', denotes 'house of bread,' perhaps 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 cxxxii. 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 aistinguish it from a town of the same name in
Galilee, Josh. xix. 15. The town is situated on an eminence, in the midst of hills and vales. At present it contains about 200 houses. 'Herod the king.' Judea, where our Saviour was born, was a province of the Roman empire. It was, about 63 years before, placed under tribute by Pompey. Herod received his appointment from the Romans, and had reigned at the time of the birth of Jesus 34 years. Though he was permitted to be called king, yet he was in all respects dependent on the Roman emperor. 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 one language, the Greek, was general throughout the world. 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 persons here mentioned were philosophers, priests, or astronomers. They dwelt chiefly in Persia and Arabia. They were the learned men of the eastern nations. They were held in high esteem, 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 'east'—that is, east from Judea.
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.
2. 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, chap. 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. Many Jews, at that time, dwelt in Egypt, in Rome, and in Greece; many also had gone to eastern countries, and in every place they carried their scriptures, and diffused the expectation that some remarkable person was about to appear. His star.' A star or comet was regarded as an omen of some remarkable event. These wise men considered this as an evidence that the long expected Prince was born. It is possible that they had been led to this thought by the prophecy of Balaam, Numb. xxiv. 17, There shall come a star out of Jacob, &c. What this star was, is not known. It is most probable that it was a luminous appearance, or meteor. sible that the same thing is meant which is mentioned by Luke ii. 9, The glory of the Lord shone round about them,' (see note on this place, a great splendid light appeared shining around
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them. That light might have been visible from afar, and have been seen by the wise men in the east. In the east.' This does not mean that they had seen the star to the east of themselves, but that, when they were in the east, they had seen this star. As this star was in the direction of Jerusalem, it must have been west of them. It might be translated, 'We, being in the east, have seen this star.' It is called his star, because they supposed it to be intended to indicate the time and place of his birth. To worship him.' They regarded him as king of the Jews. They came to honour him as such. The original word means to prostrate one's self before another; to fall down and pay homage to another. This was the mode in which homage was paid to earthly kings. See the same meaning of the word in Matt. xx. 20; xviii. 26. Acts x. 25. Luke xiv. 10.
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
3.' He was troubled.' Herod had obtained the kingdom by great crimes, and by shedding much blood. He was therefore easily alarmed by any remarkable appearances; and the fact that this star appeared, and that it was regarded as proof that the king of the Jews was born, alarmed him. All Jerusalem.' The people of Jerusalem, and particularly the friends of Herod. There were many waiting for the consolation of Israel, and to whom the coming of the Messiah would be a matter of joy; but Herod's friends would doubtless be alarmed at his coming.
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.
4. The chief priests.' By the chief priests here are meant not only the high-priest and his deputy, but also the heads or chiefs of the twenty-four classes into which David had divided the sacerdotal families, 1 Chron. xxiii. 6; xxiv. 2 Chron. viii. 14; xxxvi. 14. Ezra viii. 24. 'Scribes. By the scribes, in the New Testament, are meant learned men, men skilled in the law, and members of the great council of the nation. They kept the records of the court of justice, the registers in the synagogues, wrote their articles of contract and sale, their bills of divorce, &c. They were also called lawyers, Matt. xxii. 35, and doctors of the law, Luke v. 17. They were called scribes from the fact of their writing the public records. By the chief priests and scribes here mentioned is denoted the sanhedrim or great council of the nation. This was composed of seventy-two men, and had the charge of the affairs of the nation. 'Demanded of them. Inquired, or asked of them. As they were the learned men of the nation, and as it was their business to study and explain the Old Testament, they were presumed to know what the prophecies had declared on that point.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea. for thus it is written by the prophet, 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.
5, 6. By the prophet. The sanhedrim answered without hesitation. It was settled by prophecy. This prophecy is found in Micah v. 2. In that prophecy both the place of his birth and the character of the Messiah are so clearly set forth, that there was no room to doubt. 'Art not the least.' In Micah, though thou be little. Though a small place so far as population is concerned, yet it shall not be small, or least in honour; for the Messiah shall be born there. His birth gave the place an honour which could not be conferred on the larger cities by all their numbers, their splendour, and their wealth. A Governor.' A Ruler. This is one of the characters of the Messiah, who is the King of his people, John xviii. 36, 37. The word 'rule' here means to rule as a shepherd does his flock, in faithfulness and tenderness. Compare John x. 11. Isa. xl. 10, 11; ix. 7.
7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
7. Privily. Secretly, privately. Diligently. Accurately, exactly. He did this because he naturally concluded that the star appeared at the time of his birth, and he wished to know precisely now old the child was.
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 him also.
8. Go and search diligently, &c. ( Herod took all possible means to obtain accurate information respecting the child, that he might be sure of destroying him. He not only ascertained the probable time of his birth, and the place where he would be born, but he sent the wise men that they might actually see him, and bring him word. All this might have looked suspicious if he had not clothed it with the appearance of religion. He said to them, therefore, that he did it that he might go and worship him also. 1. Wicked men often cloak their evil designs under the appearance of religion. They attempt to deceive those who are really good, and to make them suppose that they have the same design. But God cannot be deceived, and he will bring them to punishment. 2. Wicked men often attempt to make use of the pious to advance their evil purposes. Men like Herod will stop at nothing
if they can carry their ends. They endeavour to deceive the simple, allure the unsuspecting, and to beguile the weak, to answer their purposes of wickedness. 3. The plans of wicked men are often well laid. They occupy a long time. They make diligent inquiry. They often put on the appearance of religion. But God sees the design; and though men are deceived, yet God cannot be, Prov. xv. 3.
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. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
9, 10. The star-went before them. It is not unlikely that they lost sight of the star after they had commenced their journey from the east. It is probable that it appeared to them first in the direction of Jerusalem. They concluded that the expected King had been born, and immediately commenced their journey to Jerusalem. When they arrived there, it was important that they should be directed to the very place where he was, and the star again appeared. It was for this reason that they rejoiced. And this shows, 1. That the birth of Jesus was an affair of great moment, worthy of the Divine direction of these men to find the place of his nativity. 2. God will guide those who are disposed to find the Saviour. Even if for a time the light should be withdrawn, yet it will again appear, and direct us in the way to the Redeemer. 3. Devotion to Christ should fill us with joy. He is the way, the truth, and the life; the Saviour, the Friend, the all in all; there is no other way of life, and there is no peace to the soul till he is found. When we are guided to him, therefore, our hearts should overflow with joy and praise; and we should numbly and thankfully follow every direction that leads to the Son of God, John xii. 35, 36.
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.
11. Fell down, and worshipped him; see on v. 2. 'They presented unto him gifts.' As King of the Jews, because they supposed he was to be a distinguished prince and conqueror. It was customary at the birth of a prince to show respect for him by making him presents, or offerings of this kind, and to approach a great personage with gifts. See Gen. xxxii. 14; xliii. 11. 1 Sam. x. 27. 1 Kings x. 2. Ps. lxxii. 10. 15. Frankincense.' This was a production of Arabia. It was obtained from a tree by