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Verse 7. Then Herod, when he had privily called || ter in one sentence, or even in one word, and that, the wise men, &c.—He thought it prudent to keep by the by, when they are pursuing another object. the matter as close as possible, lest the Jews, under- An instance of this we have in verse 3, where the standing the time of the birth of the Messiah, should, || from thence, take occasion to rebel: for not having an hereditary right to the kingdom, and having been guilty of many acts of cruelty among them, he had no reason to presume upon their good-will to- | ward him. He feared, likewise, lest, if it should be noised abroad that the Messiah was born, his purpose of destroying him should be prevented. || But there is no wisdom or counsel against the Most High! He inquired of them diligently-Or, as the words ŋkpɩbwaɛ waр' аντwν, more properly signify, inquired of them the exact time, or, got exact information from them, what time the star appeared-| That is, at what time it began to appear, judging, as probably the fact was, that the star first appeared at || the time the child was born. His view in this was,|| that he might thereby form some conjecture concerning the age of the child to whose birth it referred. For on the one hand, it seems, he did not|| wish to destroy more children than the accomplish- || his body a very splendid and expensive funeral. ment of his design appeared to require; and on the other, not to leave this child alive.

evangelist mentions Herod's being troubled at the tidings brought by the wise men, an expression which exactly marked his character. Here again his disposition is perfectly developed; deep, crafty, subtle; pretending one thing but intending another; professing to have a design of worshipping Jesus, when his purpose was to murder him! In like manner having, according to Josephus, lib. xv. cap. 3, out of pretended friendship invited Aristobulus to an entertainment at Jericho, he contrived after dinner to have him drowned in a fish-pond, in which he was persuaded to bathe along with several of Herod's attendants. For they, by Herod's direction, as if in play and sport, dipped him so often, and kept him so long under water, that he died in their hands. And then, as if his death had been an unfortunate accident, which had happened without any previous design, Herod pretended great sorrow for it, shed abundance of tears, and bestowed upon

Verse 9. When they had heard the king, they departed—Viz., from Jerusalem, without the least susVerse 8. When ye have found him, bring me word | picion, it seems, of his treacherous and cruel deagain—Viz., concerning the young child, his con- signs. As these sages came from a distant country dition, and that of his parents, and all circumstan- || into Judea upon such an important discovery, and ces. It seems probable that Herod did not believe Bethlehem was so near, it is matter of wonder that he was born, otherwise it is amazing that so suspi- none of the Jews attended them on their journey. cious and artful a prince as he was should put this But it is probable they were afraid of Herod. Or, important affair on so precarious a footing. How perhaps, the dismission of the wise men might be easily might he, if he had not himself accompanied || kept a secret in Jerusalem; so that if any of the these learned strangers, under pretence of doing|| Jews had had an inclination to have gone with honour to them, have sent a guard of soldiers with them, they might not have had an opportunity. them, who might, humanly speaking, without any|| And Herod might avoid sending any one with them, difficulty have slaughtered the child and his parents | lest he should raise suspicion in the minds of the on the spot. But, perhaps, he might be unwilling parents or relations of the child; or lest the Jews to commit such an act of cruelty in the presence of || suspecting a plot, should contrive to bring about a these sages, lest their report of it should render him|| revolt, or raise sedition. Or rather, the whole matinfamous abroad. Or rather, we must refer his con- ter is to be referred to the providence of God, so orduct, in this matter, to that secret influence with dering it that they should go unaccompanied, that which God, whenever he pleases, can infatuate the || the child might not be discovered to Herod. The most sagacious of mankind, and disappoint their || Lord, however, prepared these illustrious strangers designs. See Doddridge. That I may come and worship him also-That I also, who would permit no interest of mine to interfere with the decrees of Heaven, may come with my family and court to pay homage to this new-born king; a duty to which I || look upon myself as peculiarly obliged. Mark the sufficiently known. It had shone, it seems, on the hypocrisy of this perfidious tyrant! We may ob- night of his nativity, and then had disappeared till the serve here, it is a peculiar excellence in the sacred present time. By its not appearing for a time, ocwriters, that they often describe a person's charac- casion was given for their inquiries at Jerusalem, VOL. I (3) 33

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a better guide. For, lo, the star which they saw in the east-In their own country, went before them— This intimates that it had not been their guide in their journey from their own country. Nor was it needful they should have a guide, Jerusalem being

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by a star to Bethlehem.

10 When they saw the star, they A. M. 4000 rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

11 ¶ And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his

Verses 10, 11. When they saw the star-Thus standing over where the child was, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy-The original expression, exapnoav xapav μɛyaλnv opodpa, is remarkably emphatical, ησαν χαραν μεγάλην σφοδρα, and might be rendered, They joyed a great joy, very much, a translation which, though very bad English, as Dr. Doddridge observes, comes near to a

which gave notice to the Jews of the birth of Christ; an event of which, it is likely, they would have had no information, if the star had led the wise men || first to Bethlehem. And the reappearance of the star was probably intended of God to prevent their being discouraged at their not only not finding the || king they sought in the royal city, but not being able to learn that any thing was known there con-literal version. They thus rejoiced because they cerning his birth, and especially in perceiving that were now confirmed in the certainty of the child's when they had brought intelligence of it, all ranks being born, and also because they saw themselves seemed to be troubled, and not a single person of in so remarkable a manner under the divine directhose whose native king he was offered himself astion, and conducted with such certainty to the gloa companion to them, though come from a foreign ||rious person whom they came to seek. And when land to worship him. Thus, also, their taking of- they were come into the house-Mary, it seems, was fence at the low condition in which they found now better accommodated than at the time of her Christ and his parents, was prevented. At the same delivery: she was now in a house, (though probably time, it was a great confirmation of their faith, to a poor one,) and not in a stable. Some think that be thus miraculously conducted to the very town Joseph had now changed the place of his abode, and pointed out in the Scriptures as the place of the birth || taken up his residence at Bethlehem, but this is not of the Messiah. It left them not till it came and stood clear from the story. They saw the young child over where the young child was-Thus pointing out || with Mary his mother-And how different soever the very house, lest if they should have been obliged the condition in which they found them might be to make anxious inquiry concerning the child, there from what they had expected, they were not ofshould be some who might have carried the matter || fended at its meanness, but, falling down on their to Herod, and have discovered him and his parents. faces before him, they worshipped him-That is, Here, therefore, the star stopped, and proceeded no they did him honour after the manner of the East, further, and not long after, viz., as soon as the wise whose inhabitants were wont to prostrate themselves men arrived at the place, as is most probable, en- before their kings. They wisely considered, that tirely vanished. Hence it appears, that this star || such miraculous honours as the star gave him were was not in the higher heavens, but in the lower re- || far beyond any external circumstance, and theregions of the air; for no star in the heavens could || fore paid him, though a child in a poor cottage, have exactly pointed out a particular house. No- without attendants, or any mark of royal descent, thing is said here concerning a ray descending from their homage, as readily as if they had found him the star to the top of the house, or concerning the in the most splendid palace, surrounded with servdescent of the body of the star. It is therefore pro- ants and guards. "An amiable example this, of bable it was a meteor, which to them had the ap- that humble, ingenuous temper, which fits a man for pearance of a star, as meteors frequently have. This the reception of the gospel!" And when they had appears, further, from its moving by intervals, some-opened their treasures-Which they had brought times moving and sometimes standing still, which along with them for this purpose, they presented to the stars, properly so called, never do. Dr. Whitby|| him gifts—It was customary in those countries for conjectures that what the wise men saw in the east || persons to offer some present to any illustrious permight be that very light which shone upon the shepherds at Bethlehem, when the angel came to impart unto them the tidings of our Saviour's birth. This light certainly was exceeding great, as is clear from its being styled the glory of the Lord, and it was a light from heaven, hanging over their heads, and shining round about them. Now such a light, at a great distance, would appear as a star: or, as it ascended up from the shepherds it might be formed into the likeness of a star. A similar body of light, when they journeyed from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, was formed into the same likeness in which it had formerly appeared, and went before them in the air to the latter city, and then sunk down so low as to point out the very house where the babe lay. In this case the star must have been seen by the wise men on the very day of Christ's nativity.

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sonage whom they came to visit, as appears from many passages of the Old Testament; and Maundrell, Chardin, and many other modern writers of the best credit assure us, that the custom is yet retained, and that no person of rank is approached without a present. In this instance the gifts, consisting of the most valuable productions of their country, constituted a present very proper to the occasion. Perhaps this was all that these wise men intended by their offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; and that there is no need to have recourse to allegory. "Nevertheless, if we will have it," says Grotius," that the Divine Wisdom intended something mysterious here, it would not displease me to hear it intimated, that those three things, which we now offer to God through Christ, in consequence of the abolition of the ancient sacrifices,

Joseph warned in a dream

CHAPTER II.

to flee into Egypt. A. M. 4000. mother, and fell down, and worship-|| 13 And when they were departed, A. M. 4000. ped him and when they had opened behold, the angel of the Lord appear

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their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; || eth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 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.*

12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

k Psa. lxxii. 10; Isa. lx. 6.——————2 Or, offered. Chap. i. 20.

* Innocents' Day; gospel, verse 13 to verse 19.

may be signified by these gifts, viz., works of mercy, || while Joseph and Mary slept secure, enriched by Phil. iv. 18; bodily purity, Rom. xii. 1; and prayers, || the presents of the wise men, God watches for their Psa. cxli. 2; Rev. v. 8. The two texts last quoted safety, and makes them acquainted with the danger manifestly show that prayers may be signified by || which hung over them. They are commanded to frankincense; gold is, as it were, the common mea- flee into Egypt, which was situated so near to sure of the good things of this life, wherewith we || Bethlehem, that they could easily arrive there in a relieve the wants of others. And, as we learn from few days. And the same divine providence also Pliny, and St. John, ch. xix. 39, there is hardly any superintends and preserves all that have an eye other use of myrrh than to preserve bodies from thereto, and confide therein, and are God's true peocorruption." But if we may believe the ancient ple. Only they must obey his voice, and use the fathers, the wise men, by these gifts which they of means he has appointed for their preservation. Even fered, showed who he was that was worshipped by Jesus, the only begotten and beloved Son of the them; offering myrrh, says Irenæus, because he Father is not preserved without being taken into was to die for mankind; gold, because he was a a foreign country. The command given by the anking, whose kingdom should have no end; thus, gel to Joseph and Mary, to flee into Egypt, shows, as it were, paying him tribute; and frankincense, that this vision happened before their return to because he was God, and God was wont to be ho- Nazareth. For otherwise, it is much more probable noured with the smoke of incense. To the same they would have been ordered to flee into Syria, purpose speak Tertullian and Origen. Perhaps, which was much nearer to Nazareth than Egypt; however, there is more of fancy than truth in this to which they could not have passed from thence doctrine. Be this as it may, we cannot but acknow-without going through the very heart of Herod's ledge the providence of God in sending the holy dominions, unless they had taken a very large cirfamily such a seasonable supply in their low circuit with great expense and danger. For Herod cumstances, especially as they were to take so long will seek the young child to destroy him-Being and expensive a journey as that into Egypt; a coun- alarmed by the extraordinary circumstances which try where they were entirely strangers, and were had lately taken place, and fearing lest this child to stay for a considerable time. should, in time, be a formidable rival to his family. Verse 12. And being warned of God in a dream, || For when the wise men had come so far to pay that they should not return to Herod-Which, it is || their homage to a new-born prince, the several reprobable, in the simplicity of their hearts, they were|| ports of what had lately happened would, upon this preparing to do, they departed into their own coun- || occasion, be revived; and the behaviour of two such try another way-Not at all solicitous as to the consequences of Herod's resentment. Thus did the || providence of God watch over these devout Gentiles, as well as over Jesus and his parents, and would || not suffer their honest simplicity to be abused, and made a prey of by the crafty designs of Herod. For into what grief and perplexity would they have|| been brought, had they been made even the innocent instruments of an assault on the holy child! But God delivered them, and guided their way. For while he was waiting for their return, they had|| time to get out of his reach, before his passion rose, which might have been fatal to them.

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celebrated persons as Simeon and Anna, on the presentation of Christ in the temple, which might at first be only taken notice of by a few pious persons, would, probably, be now reported to Herod, and must add to the alarm which the inquiry of the sages gave him. Respecting Egypt, to which the holy family was commanded to flee, we may here observe, that after the death of Antony and Cleopatra it became a Roman province, and many Jews fixed their abode there, who, speaking the Greek language, made use of the Greek version of the Scriptures, and had even a temple there, which Onias had built them. These circumstances, doubtVerse 13. And when they were departed-Proba- || less, would make the abode of Joseph and Mary in bly very soon after; for Bethlehem being only about that country more comfortable to them than it two hours' journey from Jerusalem, no doubt Herod otherwise would have been; yet it is natural to supwould have speedy intelligence of the motions of pose, that this information and command from the the wise men: the angel of the Lord appeared to|| angel would be a great trial of their faith. To say Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, take the young nothing of the concern it must give them to learn child, &c.-How watchful was the providence of that the life of this divine child was threatened by God over this holy child and his righteous parents: so crafty, powerful, and bloody a prince as Herod

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Herod orders the children

ST. MATTHEW.

in Bethlehem to be slain.

A. M. 4000. 14 When he arose, he took the || the Lord by the prophet, saying, "Out A. M. 4000. young child and his mother by night, of Egypt have I called my son.

and departed into Egypt;

15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of

m Hosea xi. 1.

Joseph was but a carpenter, and therefore, we may suppose, in low circumstances; and Egypt was a strange land, and a land where, it is likely, he had few, if any, acquaintances, and no visible way of subsistence. But, no doubt, he was able to trust || that God whose beloved Son was given him in charge, and who had appeared in so signal and manifest a manner for the redemption of his people, and for the child's protection.

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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

in a fit of diabolical rage killed his firstborn son, and afterward himself perished, suffering the greatest tortures.-Wetstein.

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Verse 16. Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men—The word ɛveñaixon, here rendered, was mocked, "properly signifies was played with, and well expresses the view in which the pride of Herod taught him to regard this action, as if it were intended to expose him to the derision of his subjects, and to treat him as a child, rather than as a prince of sc great experience and re

Verses 14, 15. When he arose-Viz., from his bed, he took the young child, &c.—He immediately obeyed the heavenly vision, and departed into Egypt-nown." Dr. Campbell reads, deceived, observing, With as hasty a flight as their circumstances would that, "in the Jewish style, any treatment which allow. And was there until the death of Herod appeared disrespectful, came under the general apWhich happened a few months after. That it might pellation of mockery. Thus, Potiphar's wife, in the be fulfilled-That is, fulfilled again, which was spoken false accusation she preferred against Joseph, of by the prophet-Viz., Hosea, on another occasion, || making an attempt upon her chastity, says, that he Out of Egypt have I called my son―These words came in to mock her, Gen. xxxix, 17;" where the of Hosea, without doubt, were primarily spoken of same word is employed by the LXX. which is here God's bringing Israel out of Egypt under the con- used. "Balaam accused his ass of mocking him, duct of Moses, the prophet referring to God's mes- when she would not yield to his direction, Num. sage to Pharaoh, recorded Exod. iv. 22, 23, Israel xxii. 29. And Delilah said to Samson, Judges xvi. is my son, even my firstborn; let my son go that|| 10, Thou hast mocked (i. e., deceived) me, and told he may serve me. Now this deliverance of the me lies. As one who deceived them appeared to Israelites, God's adopted son, was a type of his treat them contemptuously, they were naturally led bringing Christ his real son from thence, and the to express the former by the latter." Was exceedmeaning here is, that the words were now, as it ing wroth-Very highly incensed and enraged; and were, fulfilled anew, and more eminently than be-in order to make the destruction of this unknown fore, Christ being in a far higher sense the son of infant as sure as possible, sent forth-Not immeGod than Israel, of whom the words were originally diately, it seems, but a little time after the departure spoken. For as a prophetical prediction is then ful- of the wise men, a party of soldiers, and slew all filled when what was foretold has come to pass, so the children-The male children, as т85 ñaidas proa type is fulfilled when that is accomplished in the || perly signifies. From two years old and under— antitype, which was done in the type before. If Or, as the words añо dieтöç Kai KATWTɛрw are rendered the reader will consult the note on Hosea xi. 1, he by the last-mentioned writer, From those entering will find this passage fully, and, it is hoped, satis- || the second year, down to the time whereof he had factorily explained and vindicated; and the con- procured exact information from the magians. sistency of the evangelist's words with those of the "There can be no doubt," as the doctor observes, prophet clearly shown. It may not, however, be “that in this direction, Herod intended to specify improper to add here to what is there advanced, || both the age above which and the age under which that the lot of the Messiah in Egypt was now af- || infants were not to be involved in this massacre. flictive, like that of his ancestors formerly in the But there is some scope for inquiry into the import same country. And the same love of God which || of the description given. Were those of the second induced him to deliver Israel out of Egyptian bond- || year included or excluded by it? By the common age, was the cause also why he would not leave || translation they are included, by the other excluded. Christ in Egypt, but bring him back to his own|| Plausible things may be advanced on each side.” people, whom he was about to enlighten with his || Dr. Campbell, however, for divers reasons, which heavenly doctrine, and redeem by his sufferings and he assigns, adopts the latter, and thinks that the imdeath. Nor would it be absurd to carry the alle-port of the direction was, "that they should kill gory still further, and to compare Herod to Pha- none above twelve months old, or under six." It raoh. For, as by the just judgment of God, both is probable that Herod, in his passion, ordered the the firstborn of Pharaoh, the enemy of the Jews, || slaughter of the infants as soon as he perceived that was slain, and a little after Pharaoh himself perish- || he was disappointed in his expectation of the reed; so Herod, not long after he had formed the turn of the wise men, lest otherwise the child he wicked but vain design of putting Christ to death, I was so jealous of should be removed. Some have

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considered that the Jews who were carried captive were not slain, but lived many of them to return again, as the Prophet Jeremiah foretold, to their own border, it must be allowed, that the prediction was much more literally fulfilled on this latter than on the former occasion. This application of the prophecy by the evangelist affords a sure proof that a passage of Scripture, whether prophetical, historical, or poetical, may, in the language of the New Testament, be said to be fulfilled, when an event happens to which it may with great propriety be accommodated.

inferred from hence, that it was not till some considerable time after the birth of Christ, that he was visited by the wise men. But there is little account to be given of the actions of a tyrant who slew three of his own sons, and who, it is reasonable to sup- || pose, would wish to make sure work in this case, || and therefore would, no doubt, extend the slaughter to those born before the first appearance of the star, thinking, perhaps, that it might not appear immediately upon the conception or birth of the child, but some time after. Accordingly, though the scribes told him the child was to be born in Bethlehem, he is not content to slay the infants there, but added thereto the slaughter of those in all the coasts. Who can avoid reflecting here on the horrible wickedness manifested in slaying these infants, who could neither hurt others nor defend themselves, and whom the king, as the guardian of the || laws, was bound to have defended against the in- | juries of all lawless persons? But the wrath of wicked princes is usually extravagant and destruc- || tive. Thus Saul, when David had escaped, not only commanded Abimelech, with eighty-five priests, to be slaughtered, but also all the people of the city, not excepting even the women and children. This action of Herod was no less impious than unjust and cruel; for, to endeavour to make void the counsel of the Almighty God, declared by prophecies, by the appearance of a star, and by the consent of scribes and priests; what was it else but directly || and designedly to oppose and fight against God? What cause we have to be "thankful that we are not under the arbitrary power of a tyrant, whose sallies of distracted fury might spread desolation || through houses and provinces. Let us not say, Where was the great Regent of the universe when such horrible butchery was transacted? His allwise counsels knew how to bring good out of all the evil of it. The agony of a few moments trans-honour to which they are advanced infinitely re mitted these oppressed innocents to peace and joy, while the impotent rage of Herod only heaped on his own head guilt, infamy, and horror.”—Doddridge.

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Verse 18. In Rama was a voice heard-Rachel weeping for her children-Benjamin, it is well known, was the son of Rachel: his posterity, therefore, who inhabited Ramah and the parts adjacent, sprung from her, and, according to the Scripture language, were her children. The slaughter of the inhabitants of Bethlehem, also, might with propriety enough be termed the slaughter of her children; she being buried there, Gen. xxxv. 19, and the Bethlehemites being the offspring of her husband and sister. It is by a very striking and beautiful figure of speech, by which she is here represented as awaked by the cries of the infants, and as rising out of her grave, and bitterly bewailing her little ones, who lie slaughtered in heaps around her. Because they are not-That is, are not among men, are taken away from the land of the living, are dead. The same phrase is frequently used in the same sense in the Old Testament. Now, as it was not true of those that were carried into captivity in Jeremiah's days, that they were not, in this sense, why should it be thought strange that so literal a completion of the prophecy as took place in the days of Herod, should be referred to by the Holy Ghost? Here observe, The first crown of martyrdom for Jesus was won by these infant sufferers, and the

pays the short pains they endured. Some have questioned the authenticity of the evangelist's nar rative of the slaughter of these infants, on account Verse 17. Then was fulfilled that which was of the diabolical wickedness of the action; but the spoken by Jeremy-The words of Jeremiah here following account, given by Prideaux, of Herod's referred to (chap. xxxi. 15, where see the notes) last deed and purpose, will convince any one that were primarily meant of the Jews carried captive there was nothing too bad for that miserable man by Nebuchadnezzar, Ramah being the place where to perpetrate:-"Knowing the hatred the Jews had they were assembled to be led away to Babylon. || for him, he concluded aright, that there would be But, as this cruel execution here related by the no lamentations at his death, but rather gladness evangelist, extended itself to all the neighbouring || and rejoicing all the country over. To prevent places, and in particular to this same Ramah, a town || this, he framed a project and resolution in his mind, of Benjamin, which lay near to Bethlehem, the which was one of the most horrid and wicked, per prophet's words are, with great propriety, applied chance, that ever entered into the heart of man to this melancholy event likewise, and are repre- || For, having issued out a summons to all the prinsented as receiving a second accomplishment in the || cipal Jews of his kingdom, commanding their apbloody slaughter of these infants. And when it is ||pearance at Jericho, (where he then lay,) on pain

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