Announcement: Before I start this study I have come to a realization I am going to need to detail out some other studies in the process; to save you from the suffering through massive amounts of reading on a single chapter. I hope that this method will allow me to have background information shared and along side that things like the Magi (Modern Magician) explained in more detail. So there are going to be supplementary studies added to this one as I write them. I got a few on my list already and I will be doing them as soon as I find the time. I will place them as links throughout the study to click on. It will redirect you to that study on a separate tab.
Now that that is out of the way let’s continue with our study. As I always begin in prayer before writing these studies I suggest you ask God to show you wisdom while reading and seek the things I say to be true. Please, please, I make mistakes just as anyone else. While I take this with seriousness I want to stress to everyone reading this never to take ANYONE’S word for 100% truth unless you have come to know it as true yourself. Now I am done rambling. Let’s begin for real this time.
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 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.
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
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.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: 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.Matthew 2:1-6 KJV
So, Herod, Herod the Great, Herodes Magnus, is told by “wise men” that Jesus was born, most likely proclaiming him to be King of the Jews or of some sort of title like that. Herod was appointed the position of ruler over Jerusalem by Rome. His position was not one of actual Kingship recognized by the Jewish people. Think more like governor in modern terms. He presided over the land but had no familial background. So hearing news of a King being born and one that the Jews held as a prophesier event, well that spelt a lot of trouble for him.
Herod is from the region south of the dead sea called Indumea. He is also known for building a great number of fortresses, aqueducts, theaters, and other public buildings. Generally he raised the prosperity in his land during his early years but over time Herod grew to become a tyrant, valuing and fearing a loss of power. Most likely that is why he built as many fortresses as he did. He had fled his homeland during a civil war in the region to Rome which may explain a bit of his behavior as well.
If you look into the history of Herod he is a pretty corrupt guy. He had bribed his way into his position and clearly he abused it as his nature toward unjust actions shows quite clearly in the text. The Jewish people hated this man, most likely because he was an Arab. Even during those times there was enmity between the two.
The Wise Men
Now the wise men are strange characters in the context. The wise men or Magi are magic practitioners, most likely of the Persian school of arts. This meant that these men were no kind of imposters like Babylonian magicians. You can assume that the Wise Men were very intelligent men. The term wise here means that they held a secret wisdom, “magic” studies. The idea of these men wanting to pay homage to the foretold “King of the Jews” is an interesting notion. The fact that they called him that in front of Herod suggest they were slighting him, this also demonstrates their position.
Believe it or not that small detail is part of prophecy too and this is most likely why the Magi used such words. Let’s turn to Micah 5:2.
2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.Micah 5:2
So you can see what the scribes most likely presented to Herod. Now this verse has an even more troubling portion for Herod. Not only is this guy going to be a king and ruler of all Israel but he is a from of old. An entity who is both man and God. Herod of course would shrug this off as silly superstitious views from a conquered people but hope like that causes uprisings.
7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
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.
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.Matthew 2:7-10 KJV
Now in the text it is easy to get the impression Herod was happy to hear this news and that he was going to join in on the celebration. After all he is sending the “wise men” to go and find this child. Perhaps he was at first. However, I strongly suspect that it was a ploy to find Christ.
Now this is something else to mention. The star, this star is leading this group of Magi. That cannot be a “star” as we know stars but rather most likely is some form of light in the sky. We have seen wayward moving lights in the Bible before. No I am not suggesting UFOs or anything weird like that. However, there is something in Hebrew tradition called the Shekhinah. It literally means the dwelling. Often noted as being the upper sky in some way shape or form. This thing is said to give off light and they call this the Shekhinah Glory.
So examples of places we have seen this light appear is things such as the burning bush Moses saw, the pillar of fire that lead the Hebrews in the desert at night, the flames at Pentecost, and some other spots. So I am of the view that this was some sort of light from God directly leading these “Wise Men”. Some naysayers will suggest it was planets aligning at the right time or certain stars being followed. However, this text clearly states the star lead them. Perhaps not in a direct approach either. God has a funny way of making a short trip much longer than it should take, but I have a feeling he does this to forge us. It might have also been because they are being watched by Herod’s goons.
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.Matthew 2:11 KJV
First thing to point out, this was not soon after Christ was born. It is clear that some time had passed. So all these manger scenes are incorrect in their depiction of the three wise men. It states they had a house. Most likely one that was recently built by Joseph; as he was a carpenter and a mason. So enough time had to have passed that they had a home. It might also not have been in Bethlehem. It could have been anywhere in the surrounding area. The prophecy only states he was born to Bethlehem not that he grows up there. Next thing to note to further support this Jesus is not an infant but a young child.
Now upon seeing him these “Wise Men” fell and worshiped him. Now, this is a pretty important note. Only one being is allowed to be worshiped, that is God and him alone. The fact that Jesus allows himself to be worshiped is showing that he and God are as one. Any angel that experiences this would have told them to stand and not to do that. However, Jesus allows it.
Further showing his deity we can look at the treasures given. Gold; gold while valuable as money it also is an item denoting deity or kingship as well. Frankincense is an article that denotes a priesthood. Myrrh, that is a burial item. The “Wise Men’s” gifts pre-tell of Jesus’s ministry, legacy, and his life and battle with death. Now there could have been other gifts but the Bible only chooses to mention these three. Also, there could have been more or less than three “Wise Men”, the Bible never mentions their numbers.
Another note on the gifts…
6 The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord.Isaiah 60:6 KJV
In the coming kingdom, the gifts presented to the Lord will be Gold and Incense (Frankincense) but no Myrrh. The sacrifice is complete and his death is behind him. The same with us, let us not carry Myrrh for our death as Christian’s too is behind us. Now let’s continue.
12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.Matthew 2:12 KJV
So after finding Jesus, God had warned the Magi not to return to Herod and I suspect God would not have allowed them to. So instead of heading back to him they returned to their own country without crossing his path. No doubt Herod would have people looking for them to give a report of what they had found. This also shows that God had direct communications with the Magi through dreams; a form of knowledge they are familiar with.
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 flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.Matthew 2:13 KJV
Now God in his mercy allowed Herod to act. This leaves us with no doubts as to the character and nature of Herod. It also shows God’s dominance once again over the time domain displaying his ability to know the end from the beginning.
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.Matthew 2:14-15 KJV
Now we can see that Matthew is interjecting into the details of the narrative and is trying to tell us something. He is making a summary before he explains the events that take place. Whenever you see this in the bible it is like the text is calling you to pay attention. That you have heard something about this.
11 When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.Hosea 11:1 KJV
Now just to make this more potent I am going to show you the verse before this and after this because the bible chapters don’t exist in the original text, we divided it for convince. So showing this as a stand alone verse is important.
15 So shall Bethel do unto you because of your great wickedness: in a morning shall the king of Israel utterly be cut off.Hosea 10:15 KJV
2 As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.Hosea 11:2 KJV
So this comment from Hosea 11:1 is kind of odd. It is a statement that is just slotted in there on its own with no real context to the rest of the text. Yes, it is a reminder that Israel was captured early in its history and God called them from Egypt. However, look more closely at this text.
“When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called MY SON out of Egypt.” It is almost as if this is not much to do about Israel and more to do with THE SON OF GOD! Jesus being called out of Egypt. This was written about 700 years before these events took place by the way. Starting to get the picture he knows the end from the beginning?
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 inquired of the wise men.Matthew 2:16 KJV
So here we have a suggestion of age. Herod knew that Jesus was going to be under two which suggests that the wise men appeared within a short time frame to that. So he was confident that the child could be no older than two years of age. We are not given any indication when Herod figured out the Wise Men had left. This passage makes me really sad. We are looking at an atrocity. The text does not paint an image of this.
However we are talking about the open slaughter of infants and young children. The soldiers who carried this out no doubt killed parents defending their children as well, maybe even entire families. This is further emphasized in the next verses.
17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah 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.Matthew 2:17-18 KJV
So Matthew mentions this is spoken of by Jeremiah. So searching the scriptures we come upon Jeremiah 31:15, which is quoted above in verse 18.
15 Thus saith the Lord; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.Jeremiah 31:15 KJV
Very similar. Once again Matthew is having to rely on memory for this most likely. So spelling is going to be phonetic rather than what the original text had. So who is Rachael and what is this referring to?
Rachael is the mother of Israel. She was the favored wife of Abraham; the love of his life. Rachael died giving birth to Benjamin. We can read about this in Genesis Chapter 35. I won’t go into a long thing of this but I wanted to give the source so you could look this up on your own.
So why is this so idiomatic of this moment in time. Rachael’s tomb was in Bethlahem. So this is mentioned as a shadow. Most likely attempting to show this as a prophecy or at least symbolic of this moment. In a lot of ways Christ is mirroring Israel. Driven into Egypt much like Israel was. Likewise he will be called out of Egypt. So for our purposes we will just keep this image in mind, Matthew felt it was important enough to include.
19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
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.
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 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:
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.Matthew 19-23 KJV
So Herod has died and God sent his angel to Joseph to fill him in. However it seems either along the journey or before he left God gave him another dream warning of Archelaus taking the throne. Instead Joseph is to take Jesus to Nazareth, a gentile village. Nazarene in the local region is slang for an ignorant person, basically saying someone is stupid. Kind of like how in American slang people say the deep south (pardon me my southern friends). This is also a pun at the same time. It can also mean to grow out of. So in a way God is using the area to let the reader know Christ will grow out from this region. Which for a fun little set of studies look up how many times Jesus is idiomatically imaged as a branch.
I hope you enjoyed this study and come here for the next one. Like always go in peace, and spread the word of God. Our King has won the victory, we are only the clean up crew. Let’s save as many from the wreckage while we can.