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in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod
ferent minds may feel differently as to the tencies with the above explanation are no answer to this question. And, seeing that more than the report of the magi themmuch has been said and written on this selves, and the general belief of the age note in no friendly spirit, I submit that would render unavoidable. If this subit is not for any man to charge another, servience of the superstitions of astrology who is as firm a believer in the facts to the Divine purposes be objected to, we related in the sacred text as he himself may answer with Wetstein, “ We must can be, with weakening that belief, because infer therefore that these men came to he feels an honest conviction that it is here their conclusion from the rules of their relating, not a miracle, but a natural ap- art: which though beyond all doubt futile, pearance. It is, of course, the far safer vain, and delusive, might yet be sometimes way, as far as reputation is concerned, to perunitted to hit on a right result. Hence introduce miraculous agency wherever pos- appears the wonderful wisdom of God, who sible: but the present Editor aims at truth, used the wickedness of men to bring Joseph not popularity.
into Egypt,—who sent the King of BabyNow we learn from astronomical calcu- lon against the Jews by auguries and lations, that a remarkable conjunction of divinations (Ezek. xxi. 21, 22), and in this the planets of our system took place a instance directed the magi to Christ by short time before the birth of our Lord. astrology." In the year of Rome 747, on the 29th of It may be remarked that Abarbanel the May, there was a conjunction of Jupiter Jew, who knew nothing of this conjuncand Saturn in the 20th degree of the tion, relates it as a tradition, that no conconstellation Pisces, close to the first point junction could be of mightier import than of Aries, which was the part of the that of Jupiter and Saturn, which planets heavens noted in astrological science as were in conjunction A.M. 2365, before that in which the signs devoted the great- the birth of Moses, in the sign of Pisces; est and most noble events. On the 29th and thence remarks that that sign was of September, in the same year, another the most significant one for the Jews. conjunction of the same planets took place, From this consideration he concludes that in the 16th degree of Pisces : and on the the conjunction of these planets in that 5th of December, a third, in the 15th sign, in his own time (A.D. 1463), bedegree of the same sign. Supposing the tokened the near approach of the birth of magi to have seen the first of these the Messiah. And as the Jews did not conjunctions, they saw it actually in the invent astrology, but learnt it from the East; for on the 29th of May it would Chaldæans, this idea, that a conjunction rise 31 hours before sunrise. If they then in Pisces betokened some great event in took their journey, and arrived at Jerusa- Judæa, must have prevailed among Challem in a little more than five months (the daan astrologers. journey from Babylon took Ezra four It is fair to notice the influence on the months, see Ezra vii. 9), if they performed position maintained in this note of the the route from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in fact which seems to have been substanthe evening, as is implied, the December tiated, that the planets did not, during conjunction, in 15° of Pisces, would be the year B.c. 7, approach each other so as before them in the direction of Bethlehem, to be mistaken by any eye for one star : 11 hour east of the meridian at sunset. indeed not “ within double the apparent These circumstances would seem to form a diameter of the moon.” I submit, that remarkable coincidence with the history in even if this were so, the inference in the our text. They are in no way inconsistent note remains as it was. The conjunction with the word star, which cannot surely of the two planets, complete or incom(see below) be pressed to its mere literal plete, would be that which would bear sense of one single star, but understood in astrological significance, not their looking its wider astrological meaning: nor is this like one star. The two bright planets explanation of the star directing them to seen in the east, the two bright planets Belhlehem at all repugnant to the plain standing over Bethlehem,--these would words of vv. 9, 10, importing its motion on each occasion have arrested the attenfrom s.E. towards' s.w., the direction of tion of the magi ; and this appearance Bethlehem. We may further observe, that would have been denominated by them his no part of the text respecting the star, star. in the east] i.e. either in the asserts, or eren implies, a miracle ; and Eastern country from which they came, that the very slight apparent inconsis- or in the Eastern quarter of the heavens.
c here only in
the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all
Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the Wir mac chief priests and scribes of the people together, he de
manded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they
said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa : for thus it is a Micau v. 2. written by the prophet, 6 d And thou Bethlehem, 8 [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. 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired 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
child was. 10 When they saw the star,
8 not expressed in the original. to worship him] i. e. to do homage It must be remembered that though the to him, in the Eastern fashion of prostra- words are the answer of the Sanhedrim tion. 3. was troubled] Josephus repre
to Herod, and not a citation of the prosents these troubles as raised by the Phari- phet by the Evangelist, yet they are sees, who prophesied a revolution. Herod, adopted by the latter as correct. as a foreigner and usurper, feared one was princes] or thousands (LXX). The tribes born King of the Jews: the people, worn were divided into thousands, and the away by seditions and slaughters, feared names of the thousands inscribed in the fresh tumults and wars. There may also public records of their respective cities. be a trace of the popular notion that the In Judges vi. 15 Gideon says “ Behold my times of the Messiah would be ushered in thousand is weak in Manasseh ” (see by great tribulations.
4. when English version, margin), on which Rabbi he had gathered] i. e. says Lightfoot, Kimchi annotates,
“ Some understand he assembled the Sanhedrim. For the Alphi to
my father,' as if it Sanhedrim consisting of seventy-one mem- were Alluph, whose signification is 'prince bers, and comprising Priests, Levites,
And thus, it appears, did the and Israelites, under the term chief Sanhedrim understand the word (which priests” are contained the two first of is the same) in Micah v. 2. The word, these, and under “scribes of the people” without points, may mean either “ among the third. the chief priests are the thousands," or among the princes.” most likely the High Priest and those
out of thee shall come] It has of his race,-any who had served the been remarked that the singular expres. office, and perhaps also the presidents sion, which occurs both in Tacitus and of the twenty-four courses (1 Chron.
Suetonius (see above), “ there should go xxiv. 6). the scribes consisted of the forth from Judæa,” may have been derived teachers and interpreters of the Divine from these words of the LXX.
9.] law, the lawyers of St. Luke. But the stood over may mean 'over that part of elders of the people are usually men. Bethlehem where the young child was,' tioned with these two classes as making which they might have ascertained by enup the Sanhedrim. See ch. xvi. 21; xxvi. quiry. Or it may even mean, 'over the whole 3, 59. Possibly on this occasion the chief town of Bethlehem. If it is to be underpriests and scribes only were summoned, stood as standing over the house, and thus the question being one of Scripture learn- indicating to the magi the position of the ing. 6. And thou] This is a free object of their search, the whole incident paraphrase of the prophecy in Micah v. 2. must be regarded as miraculous. But this
they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 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 e presented unto him egifts ; 'gold, and 'frankincense, y psa, darli. 10. and myrrh. 12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
13 And when they were departed, behold, h 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. 1+ 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
is not necessarily implied, even if the Purification, which itself may have taken words of the text be literally understood; place in the interval between their de. and in a matter like astronomy, where parture and Herod's discovery that they popular language is so universally broad, had mocked him. No objection can be and the Scriptures so generally use popular raised to this view from the “ two years language, it is surely not the letter, but old” of ver. 16: see note there. The genethe spirit of the narrative with which we ral idea is, that the Purification was preare concerned. 11. with Mary] No vious to the visit of the magi. Being stress must be laid on the omission of persuaded of the historic reality these Joseph here. In the parallel account as narratives of Matt. and Luke, we shall regarded the shepherds, in Luke ii. 16, he find no difficulty in also believing that, is mentioned. I would rather regard the were we acquainted with all the events as omission here as indicating a simple matter they happened, their reconcilement would of fact, and contributing to shew the be an easy matter ; whereas now the two truthfulness of the narrative:--that Joseph independent accounts, from not being happened not to be present at the time. aware of, seem to exclude one another. If the meaning of the house is to be pressed This will often be the case in ordinary life; (as in a matter of detail I think it should), e. g. in the giving of evidence. And noit will confirm the idea that Joseph and thing can more satisfactorily shew the Mary, probably under the idea that the veracity and independence of the narchild was to be brought up at Bethlehem, rators, where their testimony to the main dwelt there some time after the Nativity. facts, as in the present case, is consenEpiphanius supposes that Mary was at tient. treasures] chests or bales, in this time on a visit to her kindred at which the gifts were carried during their Bethlehem (possibly at a Passover) as journey:
The ancient Fathers were fond much as two years after our Lord's birth. of tracing in the gifts symbolical meanBut if Mary had kindred at Bethlehem, ings: “as to the king, the gold: as to one how could she be so ill-provided with who was to die, the myrrh : as to a god, lodging, and have (as is implied in Luke the frankincense.” Origen, against Celsus; ii. 7) sought accommodation at an inn ? and similarly Irenæus. We cannot conAnd the supposition of two years having clude from these gifts that the magi came elapsed, derived probably from the “ two from Arabia, - as they were common to years old” of ver. 16, will involve us in all the East. Strabo says that the best considerable difficulty. There seems to be frankincense comes from the borders of
reason why the magi may not have Persia. come within the forty days before the 13--23.] FLIGHT INTO EGYPT.
g Hos. xi. 1.
the prophet, saying, : Out of Egypt have I called my son. 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 i coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.
17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the h JER. xxxi. 15. prophet, saying, 18 h In Rama was there a voice heard,
* (lamentation and] weeping, and great mourning, Rachel i render, borders :
: see ch. iv. 13, where the word in the original is the same. 13.] The command was immediate; and at once.- Besides, there might have been Joseph made no delay. He must be un- a reason for not making enquiry, but derstood, on account of “by night" below, rather taking the course he did, which as having arisen the same night and de- was sure, as he thought, to answer the parted forthwith. Egypt, as near, as a end, without divulging the purpose. The Roman province and independent of Herod, word "privily” in ver. 7 seems to favour and much inhabited by Jews, was an easy
this view. was mocked] The Evanand convenient refuge. 15. Out of gelist is speaking of Herod's view of the Egypt] This citation shews the alınost matter. the borders thereof] The universal application in the N. T. of the word coasts is the common rendering of prophetic writings to the expected Mes- the Greek horia in the A. V. It does not siah, as the general antitype of all the imply any bordering on a sea shore, but events of the typical dispensation. We is an old use for parts, or neighbourhood, shall have occasion to remark the same as côte in French. See margin of A. V. again and again in the course of the Gos
the borders thereof will betoken the els. It seems to have been a received insulated houses, and hamlets, which beaxiom of interpretation (which has, by its longed to the territory of Bethlehem. adoption in the N. T., received the sanc- from two years old] This expression must tion of the Holy Spirit Himself, and now not be taken as any very certain indication stands for our guidance), that the subject of the time when the star did actually of all allusions, the represented in all appear. The addition and under implies parables and dark sayings, was He who was that there was uncertainty in Herod's to come, or the circumstances attendant mind as to the age pointed out; and if so, on His advent and reign.—The words why might not the jealous tyrant, alare written in Hosea of the children of though he had accurately ascertained the Israel, and are rendered from the Hebrew. date of the star's appearing, have taken a -A similar expression with regard to range of time extending before as well Israel is found in Exod. iv. 22, 23. that as after it, the more surely to attain it might be fulfilled must not be ex- his point ?
17. that which was plained away: it never denotes the event spoken by Jeremy] Apparently, an accomor mere result, but always the purpose. modation of the prophecy in Jer. xxxi. 15,
16.] Josephus makes no mention which was originally written of the Babyof this slaughter; nor is it likely that he lonish captivity. We must not draw any would have done. Probably no great
fanciful distinction between “then was number of children perished in so small a fulfilled” and that might be fulfilled,” place as Bethlehem and its neighbourhood. but rather seek our explanation in the The modern objections to this narrative acknowledged system of prophetic intermay be answered best by remembering pretation among the Jews, still extant in the monstrous character of this tyrant, their rabbinical books, and now sanctioned of whom Josephus asserts, “a dark choler to us by N. T, usage; at the same time seized on him, inaddening him against remembering, for our caution, how little all.” Herod had marked the way to his even now we understand of the full bear. throne, and his reign itself, with blood; ing of prophetic and typical words and had murdered his wife and three sons acts. None of the expressions of this pro(the last just about this time); and was phecy must be closely and literally pressed. likely enough, in blind fury, to have made The link of connexion seems to be Rachel's no enquiries, but given the savage order sepulchre, which (Gen, xxxv. 19: see also
weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. 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 l in Judæa in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: m 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, i He shall be called a Nazarene.
i see note.
m render, and.
1 Sam. x. 2) was in the way to Beth- In the ninth year of his government Arche. lehem;' and from that circumstance, per. laus was dethroned, for having governed haps, the inhabitants of that place are cruelly the Jews and Samaritans, who sent called her children. We must also take an embassy to Rome against him, and he was into account the close relation between banished to Vienne, in Gaul. This account the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, which gives rise to some difficulty as compared had long subsisted. Ramah was six miles with St. Luke's history. It would certo the north of Jerusalem, in the tribe of tainly, on a first view, appear that this Benjamin (Jer. xl. 1: “ Er-Ram, inarked Evangelist was not aware that Nazareth by the village and green patch on its had been before this the abode of Joseph summit, the most conspicuous object from and Mary. And it is no real objection to a distance in the approach to Jerusalem this, that he elsewhere calls Nazareth “His from the South, is certainly · Ramah of country,” ch. xiii. 54, 57. It is perhaps just Benjamin.'” Stanley, Sinai and Pales. possible that St. Matthew, writing for tine, p. 213; so that neither must this Jews, although well aware of the previous part of the prophecy be strictly taken. circumstances, may not have given them
20. for they are dead] The plural a place in his history, but made the birth here is not merely idiomatic, nor for at Bethlehem the prominent point, seeing lenity and forbearance, in speaking of that bis account begins at the birth (ch. i. the dead; but perhaps a citation froin 18), and does not localize what took place Exod. iv. 19, where the same words are before it, which is merely inserted as subspoken to Moses, or betokens, not the num- servient to that great leading event. If ber, but the category. Herod the Great this view be correct, all we could expect died of a dreadful disease at Jericho, in the is, that his narrative would contain noseventieth year of his age, and the thirty- thing inconsistent with the facts related in eighth of his reign, A.U.c. 750.
Luke; which we find to be the case.-I ARCHELAUS was the son of Herod by should prefer, however, believing, as more Malthace, a Samaritan woman : he was consistent with the fair and conscientious brought up at Rome; succeeded his father, interpretation of our text, that St. Mat. but never had the title of king, only that thew himself was not aware of the events of Ethnarch, with the government of Idu- related in Luke i. ii., and wrote under the mæa, Judæa, and Samaria, the rest of his impression that Bethlehem was the original father's dominions being divided between dwelling-place of Joseph and Mary. Cer. his brothers Philip and Antipas. But, tainly, had we only his Gospel, this infer(1) very likely the word reign is here used ence from it would universally be made. in the wider meaning :-(2) Archelaus did, turned aside must not be pressed into the in the beginning of his reign, give ont and service of reconciling the two accounts by regard himself as king : (3) in ch. xiv. 9, being rendered 'returned;' for the same Herod the Tetrarch is called the King.- word is used (ver. 14) of the journey to