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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Matthew 2



Other Authors
Verse 1

1. τοῦ δὲ Ἰησοῦ γεννηθέντος. The year 3 before the Christian era has been fixed almost beyond a doubt as the date of the Nativity. The present year—1881—is therefore correctly A.D. 1884. The data on which the computation is founded are: [1] The first rule of Quirinus (Luke 2:2), which should probably be placed between the years B. C. 4 and A.D. 1 of the common era. Josephus mentions Quirinus as Governor in A.D. 6—nine or ten years after the true date of the nativity. The conjecture of a previous first governorship of Quirinus was made and ably supported by A. W. Zumpt. His conclusions are generally accepted. [2] The accession of Tiberius A.D. 14; thus the fifteenth year of Tiberius, in which Jesus was baptized (Luke 3:1-2) ended Aug. 19, A.D. 29. [3] The Paschal full moon; which fell on a Friday, 15th Nisan in A.D. 30 and also in A.D. 33. On one of these two dates the Crucifixion must have taken place. If the second be adopted as agreeing best with the other chronological notes in the gospels, Jesus was crucified on April 3 [o.s.], A.D. 33, when he may have been between 34 and 35 years of age. [4] The reign of Herod; which began in B.C. 36 and ended in B.C. 1. The last-named date has been accurately determined in a paper read before the Society of Biblical Archæology (June, 1871) by Mr J. W. Bosanquet,—which see for a learned discussion of the whole question.

ἐν Βηθλεέμ. St Matthew omits the circumstances which brought Mary to Bethlehem.

Βηθλεέμ (‘The House of Bread,’ cp. John 6:51), the city of David, situate on a limestone ridge a few miles S. of Jerusalem. The old name of Bethlehem was Ephrath or Ephratah; it is now called Beit-lahm. It is worthy of remark that no visit of Jesus or of his disciples to Bethlehem, his birthplace and the cradle of his race, is recorded.

Ἡρώδου τοῦ βασιλέως. Called afterwards, but not in his lifetime, Herod the Great; he was an Idumæan (Edomite) who, chiefly through the friendship of M. Antony, became king of Judæa. For date of reign see above. The title of βασιλεὺς distinguishes him from the other Herods named in the gospels. Antipas, who tried in vain to obtain the title, is called King by courtesy, Mark 6:14.

Herod was not an absolute monarch, but subject to the Roman empire, much in the same way as some of the Indian princes are subject to the British government, or as Servia was till recently subject to the Porte.

ἰδού. See note ch. Matthew 1:20.

μάγοι, originally the name of a Median tribe, who, according to Herodotus, possessed the power of interpreting dreams. Their religion consisted in the worship of the heavenly bodies and of the elements. At this date the name implied a religious caste—the followers of Zoroaster, who were the astrologers of the East. Their tenets had spread widely; and as the East is a vague term, it is difficult to determine from what country these Magi came. A theory, stated below, connects them with Egypt, or at least with an Egyptian system of chronology. The common belief that the Magi were three in number is a mere tradition, which has been perpetuated by great painters. It was probably an inference from Matthew 2:11. Every reader of the Classics knows how common a failing it is with ancient annotators to state deductions from the text as proved facts. An equally groundless tradition has designated the Magi as kings, and has assigned names to them. The first part of this tradition is probably due to the words of Psalms 68:29; Psalms 72:11; Isaiah 49:23 and other passages. The special names Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior are supposed to indicate the three countries of Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt.

ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν, plural, as always in later Greek (Polyb. and Plut.) in the sense of ‘the East,’ i.e. the quarter in which the sun rises, cp. αἱ δυσμαί, αἱ ἄρκτοι (Schweighäuser). Here for ‘the Eastern lands,’ cp. Anglo-French ‘the levant.’ This use is later, the classical meaning is ‘the rising,’ of the sun, moon, or stars, see note on next verse. By another later use ἀνατολὴ = ‘a branch’ or ‘shoot,’ hence ‘The Branch’ as a Messianic title.

Verses 1-12


Recorded by St Matthew only.

Verse 2

2. τεχθείς. This form is rarely if ever found in classical Attic; see Veitch sub voc. τίκτω and cp. Luke 2:11—the only other passage where this tense-form occurs in N.T.

ὁ τεχθεὶς βασιλεύς. One who was born king—whose title was hereditary—would bring special fear to Herod.

βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων. A title unknown to the earlier history of Israel and applied to no one except the Messiah. It reappears in the inscription over the Cross (ch. Matthew 27:37).

In estimating the Jewish conception of the ‘kingdom of heaven’ and of the Messiah who is the central figure of that thought, account should be taken of the awe with which the Oriental regarded the person of a king, who was far more highly exalted above his subjects than Western ideas admit (cp. Rawlinson’s Herod. VII. 13). The βασιλεὺς in this sense is to be distinguished from the petty prince or regulus who, like Herod, assumed the imperial title of βασιλεύς.

εἴδομενἤλθομεν, keep the strict aoristic force ‘we saw’ … ‘we came.’

αὐτοῦ τὸν ἀστέρα. The simplest explanation of this is that a star or meteor appeared in the sky to guide the Magi on their way first to Jerusalem, then to Bethlehem. It is, however, quite possible that the Magi were divinely led to connect some calculated phenomenon with the birth of the ‘King of the Jews.’ Among many conjectures may be mentioned one recently propounded by Prof. Lauth of Munich. It appears to be proved that the dog-star Sirius rose heliacally, i.e. appeared at sunrise, on the first of the Egyptian month Mesori, for four years in succession, viz. 5, 4, 3, 2 before our era. The rising of this star of special brilliance on the first of this special month (Mesori = birth of the prince) would have a marked significance. By the Magi it might well be connected with the prophecy of ‘the star of Jacob’ (Numbers 24:17), and become the cause of their journey to Jerusalem. This theory explains Herod’s edict, Matthew 2:16, for the destruction of all male children ‘from two years old and under,’ for, as according to the date assigned to the Nativity of Christ, the arrival of the Magi at Jerusalem would coincide with the year 3 before the Christian era, the star had appeared for two years.

The theory, supported by Alford, which identifies this ‘star’ with a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, forces the meaning of the word ‘star,’ is inconsistent with the latest chronological results, and is shown to be scientifically impossible by Prof. Pritchard in Dict. of the Bible, sub voc. ‘Star of the Magi.’

The connection of the birth of the Messiah with the appearance of a star is illustrated by the name Barcochab (‘Son of a Star’), assumed by a false Messiah who appeared in the year 120 A.D. It has also been noticed that in the Cartouche or Egyptian royal symbol of Vespasian (see note ch. Matthew 2:6 ad fin.), the word ‘God’ is for the first time expressed by a star. (Dr Lauth, Trans. Bib. Arch. Soc. IV. 2.)

ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ. Probably ‘at its rising.’ If the ordinary interpretation ‘in the East’ be adopted, it would be an unusual, perhaps an unexampled, instance of the singular in this sense. The suggested rendering suits the technical language of the astrologers.

προσκυνῆσαι. A favourite word with St Matthew as with St John. Its occurrence thus early in the Gospel strikes the note of the Gospel of the Great King. προσκυνεῖν is used of the servile prostration before an Oriental monarch. Cp. Herod. VII. 13, where a striking instance of this subservience is recorded: οἱ Πέρσαι μὲν ὡς ἤκουσαν ταῦτα (views entirely opposed to their own) κεχαρηκότες προσεκύνεον. This connection gives point to the word as used ch. Matthew 20:20, where see note.

Verse 3

3. ἐταράχθη. Herod, with the instincts of a tyrant, would be alarmed for his throne. His subjects (πᾶσα Ἱεροσόλυμα) had learnt to dread his outbreaks of passion. μετʼ αὐτοῦ not σὺν αὐτῷ, they did not sympathise in his alarm.

πᾶσα Ἱεροσόλυμα. The feminine form which occurs here and possibly ch. Matthew 3:5, is remarkable. Elsewhere Ἱεροσόλυμα is a neuter plural. St Matthew uses this form in preference to Ἱερουσαλήμ, except in one passage, ch. Matthew 23:37, where see note. St Luke, both in his Gospel and in the Acts and St Paul, each with few exceptions, adopt the Hebraic form in -ήμ. St John has the Greek termination only in his Gospel, the Hebrew only in the Apocalypse.

For a similar variety of gender in the name of a town, cp. Verg. Æn. VII. 682 altum Præneste, with Æn. VIII. 511 Præneste sub alta, and Thuc. II. 99 τόν τε Ἀνθεμοῦντα, with Dem. Phil. II. 20 Ἀνθεμοῦντα ἧς ἀντεποιοῦντο.

Verse 4

4. πάντας τοὺς ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ γραμματεῖς τοῦ λαοῦ, i.e. summoned a meeting of the Sanhedrin. But from the omission of τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους, who are generally included in the designation of the Sanhedrin it is contended by some that this was an irregular meeting of the chief priests and learned men. With this view it is difficult to explain πάντας.

For an account of the Sanhedrin see note ch. Matthew 26:3, for γραμματεῖς see notes on ch. Matthew 7:29, and for ἀρχιερεῖς, note ch. Matthew 21:15.

ποῦ ὁ Χριστὸς γεννᾶται. Lit. ‘where the Christ or Messiah is born.’ Where do your sacred writings represent him to be born? For this use of the pres. indic. cp. ἐκ τῆς Γαλ. προφ. οὐκ ἐγείρεται, John 7:52.

Verse 5

5. Βηθλεὲμ τῆς Ἰουδαίας. To distinguish this Bethlehem from the Bethlehem in the tribe of Zebulun (Joshua 19:15).

γέγραπται, well expressed by Luther’s translation, stehet geschrieben. The tense marks the continued validity of a law or a prophecy; so also in the classics, ἐν τοῖς φονικοῖς γέγραπται νόμοιςκαὶ ἄτιμος τεθνάτω. Dem. Phil. 3. 44.

διὰ τοῦ προφήτου, ‘by means of,’ ‘through’—the prophet is regarded as the instrument. In Matthew 2:17 and Matthew 3:3, some MSS. have the preposition signifying personal agency (ὑπό), instead of the instrumental preposition (διά); but the usual formula is as in Matthew 2:15, ὑπὸ Κυρίου διὰ τοῦ προφήτου.

Verse 6

6. καὶ σὺ Βηθλεέμ κ.τ.λ., Micah 5:2. The quotation (as usually in passages cited by St Matthew alone) nearly corresponds with the Hebrew text, the literal translation of which is: ‘But thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little to be among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall come forth unto me he that is to be ruler in Israel.’

A note of interrogation in the Hebrew would entirely reconcile the quotation with the original passage. Others have conjectured the loss of a negative in the Hebrew text, which seems to have been cited by some of the fathers with the negative. See Bp Jebb, Sacr. Lit. p. 99.

The LXX. differs widely both in words and construction—an indication of a Hebrew original of this gospel; for the Greek translation of the prophecy is evidently independent of the LXX. It stands thus in A. καὶ σὺ Βηθλεέμ, οἶκος τοῦ Ἐφραθά, ὀλιγοστὸς εἶ τοῦ εἶναι ἐν χιλιάσιν Ἰοῦδα· ἐκ σοῦ μοι ἐξελεύσεται ἡγούμενος, τοῦ εἶναι εἰς ἄρχοντα ἐν τῷ Ἰσραήλ. Note here the greater excellence of the Gospel version and the poetical touch in ποιμανεῖ (cp. the Homeric ποιμένα λαῶν) not found in the Hebrew original or in the LXX. ὀλιγοστὸς appears to be used in the LXX. as superlative of ὀλίγος for ὀλίγιστος· the classical meaning ‘one of few,’ i.e. ‘among the mightiest,’ ‘considerable’ (see Campbell’s note on Soph. Ant. 625 and cp. πολλοστός) would bring the LXX. more nearly in accord with St Matthew’s citation. The substitution of ἡγεμόσιν for the technical word χιλιάσιν may mark the form in which the message was actually conveyed to Herod, or it may be an adaptation for the sake of clearness. ἡγούμενος, modern Greek, in this sense, see Geldart, Mod. Greek, p. 103.

A reflection of this prophecy became prevalent in the East. Accordingly the Roman historians designate the Emperor Vespasian as the Eastern Prince who was destined to rule the world: ‘Percrebuerat Oriente toto vetus et constans opinio esse in fatis ut eo tempore Judæa profecti rerum potirentur. Id de Imperatore Romano quantum postea eventu paruit prædictum Judæi ad se trahentes rebellarunt.’ Suet. Vesp. IV. Similarly Tac. Hist. Matthew 2:13. Comp. Joseph. B. J. VI. 5. 4. See above, Matthew 2:2.

Verse 7

7. τότε, a favourite word of transition with St Matthew. It occurs more frequently in this gospel alone than in all the rest of the N.T. The modes of transition in the several Evangelists are interesting as notes of style. Thus τότε is characteristic of St Matthew, εὐθὺς (εὐθέως) of St Mark, καὶ ἐγένετο of St Luke, καὶ ἰδοὺ is about equally common in Luke and Matthew.

ἠκρίβωσεν, ‘accurately ascertained,’ used of scientific exactness, σοφοὶ μὲν οὖν εἰσʼ οἱ τάδʼ ἠκριβωκότες, Eur. Hec. 1192. The reason of Herod’s enquiry appears in Matthew 2:16.

τὸν χρόνον τοῦ φαιν. ἀστ. Literally, ‘the time of the star which was appearing,’ i.e. when it first appeared and how long it would continue. The χρόνος was astrologically important.

Verse 8

8. πέμψας αὐτοὺς εἰς Βηθλεέμ. Up to this time the Magi are not said to have been guided by the star; they go to Bethlehem in accordance with Herod’s directions, which were based on the report of the Sanhedrin; as they went the star again appeared in the East.

ἐξετάζειν, ‘to enquire into the reality or essence of a thing’ (ἐτεός, ἐτός, εἰμί.) Used by Plato of the Socratic Elenchus: φιλοσοφοῦντά με ζῆν καὶ ἐξετάζοντα ἐμαυτὸν καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους. (Apol. Socr.)

Verse 9

9. ἐστάθη for ἔστη (א BCD). The passive implies agency, here divine agency: see ch. Matthew 27:11.

Verse 10

10. ἐχάρησαν χαρὰν κ.τ.λ. The cognate noun becomes far more frequent in Hellenistic Greek under the influence of Hebrew expression. Observe the intensity of the joy expressed by the combination of cognate noun, adjective and adverb. To them it was a triumph at once of science and religion.

Verse 11

11. εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν. St Matthew gives no hint that ‘the house’ was an inn, or that the babe was lying in a manger. Perhaps here as in other places we are misled by the ideas suggested by great pictures; and in truth the visit of the Magi should be placed at least some days after the events recorded in Luke 2:1-38.

τοὺς θησαυρούς. ‘Caskets’ or ‘chests’ in which treasures were placed. Such offerings to kings were quite in accordance with Eastern usage: Reges Parthos non potest quisquam salutare sine munere. Sen. Ep. XVII. Cp. Psalms 68:29; Psalms 72:10.

λίβανον καὶ σμύρναν. Frankincense and myrrh were products of Arabia, and, according to Herodotus, of that country only. They were both used for medicinal purposes and for embalming; cp. John 19:39.

Verse 12

12. χρηματισθέντες κατʼ ὄναρ, ‘divinely warned by a dream.’ χρηματίζειν. [1] ‘To transact business,’ ‘to deal or act or confer’ with any one. [2] Of divine dealings with men, ‘to answer,’ ‘warn’ or ‘command,’—a late use frequent in Diod. Sic., Plutarch and Polyb., e.g. θεοὺς αὐτοῖς ταῦτα κεχρηματικέναι. Diod. Sic., I. 177. Hence ὁ χρηματισμός (Romans 11:4), ‘the divine word,’ ‘the oracle.’ With Diod. Sic. who retains the classical use of χρησμός, χρηματισμὸς = ‘a judicial decree.’ [3] From the notion of transacting business under a particular name χρηματίζειν has the meaning of ‘to assume a title,’ ‘to be named,’ τὸ λοιπὸν ἐχρημάτισε βασιλεύς. Diod. Sic. XX. 789. βασιλεὺς ἐτόλμιζε χρηματίζειν. Polyb. 2:57. 5. χρηματίσαι τε πρώτως ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ τοὺς μαθητὰς Χριστιανούς. Acts 11:26. Hence still later χρηματισμὸς means ‘a name.’ [4] In modern Greek χρηματίζειν is used for the substantive verb ‘to be.’

κατʼ ὄναρ. See ch. Matthew 1:20.

Verse 13

13. τὸ παιδίον. Named first as the most precious charge and the most exposed to danger.

εἰς Αἴγυπτον. Egypt was at all times the readiest place of refuge for the Israelites, whether from famine or from political oppression. It had sheltered many thousands of Jews from the tyranny of the Syrian kings. Consequently large settlements of Jews were to be found in various cities of Egypt and Africa. In Alexandria the Jews numbered a fifth of the population. Wherever therefore the infant Saviour’s home was in Egypt, it would be in the midst of his brethren according to the flesh.

At this time Egypt was a Roman province. This incident of Christ’s stay in Egypt would be regarded as a precious memory by the African Church—the church of Cyprian, Origen and Augustine.

τοῦ ἀπολέσαι, ‘in order to slay it.’ A classical idiom which became frequent in the N.T. especially with St Paul and St Luke; it is still more frequent in the LXX.

[1] Denoting purpose, as here. Cp. εἰσῆλθεν τοῦ μεῖναι σὺν αὐτοῖς, Luke 24:29. τοῦ μηκέτι δουλεύειν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ, Romans 6:6. These instances are best referred to the use of the partitive genitive with verbs signifying aim or striving for, or to the genitive of cause denoting that from which the action springs. Comp. the final use of the genitive of the gerund and gerundive in Latin.

[2] Result—a usage closely connected with the last, as the ideas of purpose and result are nearly related, particularly according to the Hebraic modes of thought. (See note ch. Matthew 1:22 on ἵνα.) Cp. ἐλευθέρα ἐστὶν ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου τοῦ μὴ εἶναι αὐτὴν μοιχαλίδα, Romans 7:2. Possibly ἐκρίθη τοῦ ἀποπλεῖν ἡμᾶς (Acts 27:1) belongs to this head,—the decision resulted in sailing—cp. πέραςτοῦ ἀπαλλάσσεσθαι, ‘an end that consisted or resulted in escape.’ See also Gossrau’s note on aram sepulchri, Verg. Æn. VI. 177.

[3] In many cases τοῦ with the infinitive is regularly used after words requiring a genitive, as ἐὰν ᾖ ἄξιον τοῦ κἀμὲ πορεύεσθαι, 1 Corinthians 16:4.

[4] In some passages it appears (α) as the object of verbs where the accusative would be required in Classical Greek, as οὐ γὰρ ἔκρινα τοῦ εἰδέναι τι ἐν ὑμῖν, 1 Corinthians 2:2. Or (β) as the subject of the verb: ὡς δὲ ἐγένετο τοῦ εἰσελθεῖν τὸν Πέτρον, Acts 10:25. These and similar expressions may indeed be explained as extensions of recognised genitival uses, but it is better to regard them as illustrating the gradual forgetfulness in language of the origin of idioms. In illustration of this, comp. the use in French of the infinitive with de either as subject or as object; e.g. il est triste de vous voir,—on craint d’y aller; the adoption of the (Latin) accusative in the same language as the sole representative of the Latin cases; and the extension of ἵνα (νὰ) with the subjunctive in modern Greek to the various uses of the infinitive.

Hebrew scholars also note the widely-extended use of לְ as influencing this formula. See Winer 407–412. Jelf 492. 678. 3 . Arnold’s Thuc. VIII. 14.

Verses 13-15


Verse 14

14. ἀναχωρεῖν [1] ‘to retire’ from danger as here, and chs. Matthew 4:12, Matthew 12:16, and elsewhere; [2] in the later Classics ‘to retire from business or public life;’ [3] in Ecclesiastical writers ‘to retire from the world,’ ‘become a hermit, or anchoret’ (ἀναχωρητής).

This word, which occurs much more frequently in this Gospel than elsewhere in N.T. seems to connect itself with two points in the traditional life of St Matthew 1. His stay in Egypt—the cradle of the anchoret life. 2. His asceticism, to which the notion of ‘retirement’ is closely related.

Verse 15

15. ἕως τῆς τελευτῆς Ἡρώδου. According to the chronology adopted above this would be for a space of less than two years.

ἴνα πληρωθῇ. See note on ch. Matthew 1:22.

ἐξ Αἰγύπτου ἐκάλεσα τὸν υἱόν μου. The history of Israel is regarded as typical of the Messiah’s life. He alone gives significance to that history. He is the true seed of Abraham. In him the blessing promised to Abraham finds its highest fulfilment. (See Lightfoot on Galatians 3:16.) Even particular incidents in the Gospel narrative have their counterpart in the O.T. history. Accordingly St Matthew, who naturally reverts to this thought more constantly than the other Evangelists, from the very nature of his gospel, recognises in this incident an analogy to the call of Israel from Egypt.

The quotation is again from the original Hebrew of Hosea 11:2, and again the LXX. differs considerably. It runs ἐξ Αἰγύπτου μετεκάλεσα τὰ τέκνα αὐτοῦ. Cp. Exodus 4:22-23 υἱὸς πρωτότοκός μου Ἰσραήλ εἶπα δέ σοι ἐξαπόστειλον τὸν λαόν μου ἵνα μοι λατρεύσῃ, where τὸν υἱόν μου would be a closer rendering of the Hebrew than τὸν λαόν μου.

Verse 16

16. ἀνεῖλεν, ‘slew.’ The verb occurs here only in Matthew. It is frequent in the Acts, occurring rarely elsewhere. Out of a great variety of classical meanings the Hellenistic usage nearly confines the word to its force here. The two instances of a different meaning in N.T. are Acts 7:21 and Hebrews 10:9.

πάντας τοὺς παῖδας, ‘all the male children.’

ἀπὸ διετοῦς. Either [1] there is an ellipse of παιδός, or [2] more probably διετοῦς is neuter. If we adopt the hypothesis regarding the star mentioned above, a satisfactory explanation is given for Herod’s directions, which otherwise it is difficult to explain. Even if the above theory is not the true one, the two years mentioned in the text are clearly connected with the astronomical appearances described by the Magi, in answer to Herod’s ‘diligent enquiries.’

Profane history passes over this atrocity in silence. But Josephus may well have found his pages unequal to contain a complete record of all the cruel deeds of a tyrant like Herod. Macaulay relates that the massacre of Glencoe is not even alluded to in the pages of Evelyn, a most diligent recorder of passing political events. Besides, the crime was executed with secrecy, the number of children slain was probably very inconsiderable, for Bethlehem was but a small town; and though it was possibly crowded at the time (Luke 2:7), the number of very young children would not have been considerably augmented by those strangers.

The whole scene must have been very different from that which is presented to us on the canvas of the great mediæval artists.

Verse 17

17. τότε ἐπληρώθη. This turn of expression may be regarded as identical with the more usual ‘that it might be fulfilled.’

Verse 18

18., Jeremiah 31:15, in LXX. Jeremiah 38:15. In a singularly touching passage, Rachel, the mother of the tribe of Benjamin (whose tomb was close to Bethlehem; Genesis 35:19), is conceived of as weeping for her captive sons at Ramah—some of whom were possibly doomed to die; cp. Jeremiah 40:1.

The Evangelist pictures Rachel’s grief re-awakened by the slaughter of the infants at Bethlehem.

The Ramah alluded to by Jeremiah, generally identified with the modern Er-Rama, was about five miles N. of Jerusalem, and in the tribe of Benjamin. There is no proof of another Ramah near Bethlehem. The analogy therefore must not be pressed.

As the text now stands emended St Matthew’s citation agrees with the Hebrew (the repetition of ‘for her children’ in the last line in the Hebrew text is doubtful), and preserves the beauty of the parallelism. In the quatrain each couplet is in cognate parallelism [see Introduction, p. xxxviii.]; the second line advancing on the first, and further there is a parallel relation between lines 1 and 3 and 2 and 4. In the LXX. this beauty is lost; the reading of the Vatican codex is: φωνὴ ἐν Ῥαμὰ ἠκούσθη | θρήνου καὶ κλαυθμοῦ καὶ ὀδυρμοῦ | Ῥαχὴλ ἀποκλαιομένη [codex A. -ης ἐπὶ τῶν υἱῶν αὐτῆς] | οὐκ ἤθελε παύσασθαι ἐπὶ τοῖς υἱοῖς αὑτῆς [codex A. παρακληθῆναι and om. ἐπὶ τ. υἱ. αὐ.] ὅτι οὐκ εἰσίν |.

Observe here the loss of the parallelism by the genitive cases, line 2. It is an interesting example of St Matthew’s sense of poetical form, and of the greater excellence and beauty of his version as compared with the LXX.

Verses 19-21


Verse 20

20. οἱ ζητοῦντες. Plural used sometimes where there is no need or no wish to individualise. Others however joined Herod in his design to slay the young child; but with the death of Herod the whole plot would fall to the ground.

Verse 22

22. Ἀρχέλαος. A son of Herod the Great. His mother was Malthaké, a Samaritan. After a cruel and disturbed reign (under the title of Ethnarch) of about eight years he was banished to Vienna in Gaul—the modern Vienne. His dominions, including Samaria, Judæa, and Idumæa, then passed into the direct government of Rome. See note, ch. Matthew 14:1, and Introduction, p. xxix.

ἐκεῖ for ἐκεῖσε, as in English there for thither: cp. Soph O. C. 1019, ὁδοῦ κατάρχειν τῆς ἐκεῖ. Hdt. VII. 147, καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐκεῖ πλέομεν.

τὰ μέρη τῆς Γαλιλαίας. Now under the government of Herod Antipas, full brother of Archelaus. For the extent of his dominions see Map.

Verse 23

23. εἰς πόλιν λεγομένην Ναζαρέθ. St Matthew gives no intimation of any previous residence of Mary and Joseph at Nazareth.

If the Son of David, full of wisdom and of grace, had continued to live on at Bethlehem, the home of his ancestors, hopes and schemes, and therefore dangers, might have gathered round him, rendering impossible such quiet life as he led at Nazareth.

Ναζαρέθ. Said to signify ‘the Protectress’ (Hebr. natsar), a small town of central Galilee, on the edge of the plain of Esdraelon, beautifully situated on the side of a steep hill within a sheltered valley.

Ναζωραῖος κληθήσεται. The meaning of this passage was probably as clear to the contemporaries of St Matthew, as the other references to prophecy Matthew 2:15; Matthew 2:17; for us it is involved in doubt. First, it may be said Nazarene cannot = Nazarite: the word differs in form, and in no sense could Christ be called a Nazarite. Secondly, the quotation is probably not from a lost prophecy. One meaning of the word Nazoræus is an inhabitant of Nazareth, but the word either [1] recalls the Hebrew word netser a Branch, a title by which the Messiah is designated Isaiah 11:1, or [2] connects itself in thought with the Hebr. natsar, to save or protect (see above), and so has reference to the name and work of Jesus, or [3] is a synonym for ‘contemptible’ or ‘lowly,’ from the despised position of Nazareth. Of these [3] is perhaps the least probable explanation. The play upon words which [1] and [2] involve is quite characteristic of Hebrew phraseology. The sound of the original would be either [1] He whom the prophet called the ‘Netser’ dwells at ‘Netser’—(for this form of Nazareth see Smith’s Bib. Dict.), or [2] He who is called ‘Notsri’ (my protector) dwells at ‘Natsaret’ (the protectress).

In any case the passage gains fresh interest from the fact that the early Christians were called Nazarenes in scorn. Cp. Acts 24:5. For them it would be a point of triumph that their enemies thus unconsciously connected them with a prophetic title of their Master.


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"Commentary on Matthew 2:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

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