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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

Matthew 2



Other Authors
Verses 1-23

THE OPENING VERSES of chapter 2 throw a strong and searching light upon the conditions that prevailed in those days amongst the Jews found in Jerusalem, the descendants of those who had returned under Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah. The King of the Jews was born in Bethlehem and yet for weeks they knew nothing about it. That Herod the king should be in ignorance was not at all surprising, for he was no Israelite but an Idumean.

But of all people the chief priests should have been apprized of this great event for which they had been professedly waiting—the birth of the Messiah. We find in Luke 2:1-52 that the event was made known from heaven, within a few hours at the most, to humble souls who feared the Lord. The Psalmist has told us that, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him” (Psalms 25:14), and this is exemplified in the shepherds and others; but the religious leaders in Jerusalem were not among these, but among “the proud” whom men called “happy.” (See Malachi 3:15, Malachi 3:16). Consequently they were as much in the dark as the wicked Herod.

But there is worse than this. It is not surprising, again we say, that Herod should be troubled when he heard the news, for here was apparently a rival claimant for his throne. We read however that “he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” So the advent of the Saviour produced not jubilation but consternation amongst the very people who professed to be waiting for Him! Evidently then something was terribly wrong, since it was as yet just the recoil of their perverted instincts. They had not seen Him; He had as yet done nothing: they just sensed that His advent would mean the spoiling of their pleasures instead of the fulfilment of their hopes.

Yet these men were well versed in their Scriptures. They were able to give a prompt and correct reply to Herod’s enquiry, quoting Micah 5:2. They had the knowledge that puffs up, and so they knew nothing as they ought to know it (see 1 Corinthians 8:1, 1 Corinthians 8:2), and they placed their knowledge at the service of the adversary. The “great red dragon” (Revelation 12:3-5) of the Roman Empire, the power of which was vested locally in Herod, was ready to devour the “Man Child,” and they were ready to help him to do so. Theirs was the wrong kind of Scripture knowledge, and they serve as a beacon of warning for us.

The scripture they quoted presents the Lord to us as “Governor,” who should rule. In Micah only Israel is in view, but we know that His rule will be universal; and this is the third way in which He is presented to us. In JESUS we see God come forth to save. In EMMANUEL we see God come forth to dwell. In GOVERNOR we see God come forth to rule. It was ever His thought to dwell with men, governing everything according to His pleasure, and to accomplish that He had to come forth to save.

When the Young Child was found in Bethlehem there was the pledge that all three things would come to pass, and though Jerusalem was ignorant and hostile there were Gentiles from the east drawn to His rising, and they recognized the King of the Jews in Him. Do we realize how terribly they condemned the religious leaders in Jerusalem? The shepherds of Luke 2:1-52 knew of His birth within a few hours; these eastern astronomers within a few days, or weeks at the most; whereas several months must have elapsed before the priests and scribes had the smallest inkling of what had come to pass. First by a star and then by a dream God spoke to the wise men, but to the religionists in Jerusalem He did not speak at all, and there had been days when the high priest in their midst had been in touch with God by means of the Urim and Thummin. Now God was silent to them. Their state was as is portrayed in Malachi, and probably worse.

In Herod we see unscrupulous power allied with craft. When thwarted by the action of the wise men, he took, as he thought, no chances in his murderous onslaught on the children of Bethlehem. The fact that he fixed the limit of exemption at two years would indicate that the period between the appearing of the star and the arrival of the wise men at Jerusalem must have run into months. His ruthless and wicked action brought about a fulfilment of Jeremiah 31:15. If that verse be read with its context it will be seen that its final and complete fulfilment will be in the last days, when God will finally cause Rachel’s weeping to cease by bringing her children back from the land of the enemy. Nevertheless what took place at Bethlehem was the same kind of thing on a smaller scale.

Herod however was fighting against God, who defeated his purpose by sending His angel to Joseph in a dream for the second time. The Young Child was taken into Egypt, and thus Hosea 11:1 found a remarkable fulfilment, and Jesus began to retrace Israel’s history. How easily did God frustrate Herod’s wicked design, and just as easily not long after did He deal with Herod himself. Matthew does not waste words in describing his end: he simply tells us that “when Herod was dead,” for the third time the angel of the Lord spoke to Joseph in a dream, instructing him to return to the land for death had removed the would-be murderer.

Joseph’s first intention evidently was to return to Judaea; but tidings as to Archelaus succeeding his father having reached him, fear made him hesitate. Then for the fourth time God instructed him by a dream. Thus he, Mary and the Young Child were shepherded back to Nazareth, whence he had originally come, as Luke tells us. It is instructive to see how God guided all these early movements; partly by circumstances, such as the decree of Augustus and the tidings about Archelaus; and partly by dreams. Thus the schemes of the adversary were foiled. The “porter” held open the door into the “sheepfold” in order that the true Shepherd might enter, in spite of all that he could do. Also the scriptures were fulfilled: not only was Jesus brought out of Egypt but He became known as the Nazarene.

No Old Testament prophet predicted that He should be “a Nazarene,” in so many words, but more than one said that He would be despised and an object of reproach. So in verse Matthew 2:23 it is “the prophets,” and not one particular prophet. They had said He should be an object of contempt, which in our Lord’s time was expressed in the epithet, “a Nazarene.” In Darby’s New Translation—large edition with full notes—there is an illuminating comment on this verse, as to the exact phrase used regarding the fulfilment, as contrasted with the earlier expression in Matthew 1:22, and Matthew 2:17; showing the accuracy with which quotations from the Old Testament are made. It is a note well worth reading.

Nazarene is the fourth name given to our Lord in this opening Gospel. He is, as we have seen, Jesus, Emmanuel, Governor; but He is also the Nazarene. God may come amongst men to save, to dwell, to rule; but alas! He will be “despised and rejected of men.”


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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Matthew 2:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

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