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Bible Commentaries

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Matthew 2

 

 

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Verse 1

Matthew 2:1. ἐν βηθλεὲμ τῆς ιὀυδαίας, in Bethlehem of Judaea) It is thus distinguished from Bethlehem of the Zabulonites, mentioned in Joshua 19:15.— ἡρώδου, of Herod) i.e. Herod the Great, a native of Ascalon, a foreigner by descent, the sceptre being just on the point of departing from Judah. Amongst his sons(74) were Archelaus, mentioned in Matthew 2:22, the Herods Antipas and Philip, mentioned in the 14th chapter of St Matthew and the 23d of St Luke, and Aristobulus, the father of Herod Agrippa, who is mentioned in Acts 12— ἰδοὺ, behold) This particle frequently points to a thing unexpected. The arrival of the Magi at Jerusalem had not been announced.— ΄άγοι, Magi) ΄άγος occurs frequently in the Septuagint version of Daniel for the Hebrew אשף, and signifies with the Persians a wise man or a philosopher. St Matthew considers it sufficient to denote them by this their condition; he does not define either the rest of their dignity or their number, nor whether or no they had ever been addicted to curious arts, nor in what part of the East they were born; by which last omission he intimates the unrestricted universality of this great salvation. Magus is a word of ambiguous signification and of wide extent in the East. These Magi appear to have been descendants of Abraham, but not of Jacob; for the name of Magi does not apply to Jews, and the mention of gold and frankincense directs our attention to Isaiah 60:6, where he speaks of the coming in of the Gentiles, so that in this place already are seen the preludes of the Messiah being received rather by the Gentiles than by His own people. (See Luke 4:26, etc.) The King of the Jews, they say, not, our king, showing thereby that they were not themselves Jews. If you make two classes, the one of those who received, the other of those who rejected our Lord, and observe the variety of men on either side, you will be able to draw many useful observations from the whole of the New Testament.— απὸ ἀνατολῶν, from the East) cf. ch. Matthew 8:11. The north and the south occur in Greek only in the singular number. The east and the west occur also in the plural. The rationale of this is clear: when we look either due north or due south, our eyes are always turned toward one precise spot, the North or South Pole, which is not the case when we look eastward or westward, since there is no stationary point of east or west longitude.— παρεγένοντο, arrived) After He had received the name “JESUS,” and, consequently after His circumcision.(75)εἰς ιἐροσόλυμα, at Jerusalem) It was natural to suppose, that the metropolis would be the place where the truth would be most easily ascertained, and they conceived, no doubt, that the King had been born there.


Verse 2

Matthew 2:2. ποῦ, where?) They are so sure of the event and the time, that they only ask where? The Scribes only knew the place. It was incumbent on them to learn the time from the Magi, or to avail themselves of the opportunity of learning it. The knowledge of time and of place are both necessary in this instance.— τεχθεὶς βασιλεὺς, He who is born king) They affirm His birth as having already taken place, and His right to the kingdom combined with it, and contrary to their expectation, find it to be a subject of terror to Herod. One is said to be born, who from His very birth is King. As in the Septuagint version of 1 Chronicles 7:21, we read οἱ τεχθέντες ἐν τῇ γῇ, who were born in the land.— τῶν ἰουδάιων, of the Jews) The name of Jews after the Babylonian Captivity included all the children of Israel, being opposed to Greeks or Gentiles. Whence it is given also to Galileans in Luke 7:3; John 2:6; Acts 10:28, etc. The Jews, however, or Israelites, called Christ the king of Israel, the Gentiles the king of the Jews. See Matthew 27:29; Matthew 27:37; Matthew 27:42; John 1:50; John 12:13; John 18:33.— εἴδομεν γὰρ κ. τ. λ., for we have seen, etc.) Prognostics both true and false occur, especially in the case of nativities.— αὐτοῦ τὸν ἀστερα, His star) His own. In proportion as the Magi were better acquainted with the ordinary course of the stars, so much the more easily were they able to appreciate the character of the extraordinary phenomenon, and the reference of the star which was seen to this King who was born. What was their principle in either case, who can now decide? The star was either in itself new, or in a new situation, or endued with a new or perhaps even a various motion. Whether it still exists or be destined to appear again, who knows? The Magi must have undoubtedly had either an ancient revelation from the prophecies of Balaam, Daniel, etc., or a new one by a dream, cf. Matthew 2:12.—(76)The Magi are led by a star; the fishermen by fishes, to the knowledge of Christ. Chalcidius,(77) in his Commentaries on Plato, has mentioned a tradition concerning this star.— ἐν τῂ ἀνατολῇ, in the East) They mean to indicate the quarter from whence they have come; for the article τῂ shows that the east country is intended. These words should therefore be construed with εἴδο΄εν (we have seen), for whilst they were in the east they had seen the star to the west, over the geographical situation (clima) of Palestine. See Matthew 2:9.— προσκυνῆσαι αὐτῷ, to worship Him) The verb προσκυνεῖν (to worship) in the New Testament as well as with profane authors, governs mostly a dative, though it sometimes admits an accusative. The Magi acknowledged Jesus as the King of Grace, and as their Lord. See Luke 1:43. All things must however be interpreted according to the analogy of these beginnings. It was certainly not on any political grounds, that after having undertaken and performed so long and arduous a journey, and being so soon about to return home, they worshipped(78) a King distant and an infant, and that too without paying the same homage to Herod: nor did Herod (in Matthew 2:8) profess an intention of paying Him political homage. That the Magi actually did worship Him, we learn from Matthew 2:11.


Verse 3

Matthew 2:3. ἐταράχθη, was troubled) The king, now seventy years old, might be troubled all the more easily, because the Pharisees, a short time before, had foretold (as we learn from Josephus, Antiquities xvii. 3), that the kingdom was about to be taken from the family of Herod. The trouble of the king is a testimony against the carelessness of the people. If Herod fears, why do not the Jews inquire? why do they not believe?— πᾶσα, all) sc. πόλις, the city(79)μέτʼ αὐτοῦ, with him) The people, who had been long accustomed to the king, followed his lead. Men are frequently overset by the sudden announcement of even good tidings.


Verse 4

Matthew 2:4. πάντας, all) i.e., all who were in Jerusalem at that time.— ἀρχιερεῖς, chief priests) The writers of the New Testament seldom speak of ἰερεῖς, priests, but generally of ἀρχιερεῖς, chief priests. This word had distinct significations in the singular and plural number: the singular ἀρχιερεὺς signifies the High Priest; the plural ἀρχιερεῖς, either with or without the definite article, signified those priests who were more nearly related to the High Priest, and had from that circumstance greater influence than the rest.—See Acts 4:6.— γραμματεῖς τοῦ λαοῦ, scribes of the people) With the LXX. γραμματεὺς (scribe) corresponds to the Hebrew שטר ;(80) in which sense τοὺς γρα΄΄ατεῖς τοῦ λαοῦ (the scribes of the people), occurs in 1 Maccabees 5:42, cf. also Deuteronomy 20:5. They render also ספר (81) by γραμματεὺς. And that signification suits also the present passage, where a Theological Reply is spoken of. The scribes of the people are spoken of in contradistinction to the chiefs of the priests: and were private men or doctors, well versed in the Scriptures; cf. note on ch. Matthew 22:35.— ἐπυνθάνετο, inquired. He ought to have done so before.— ποῦ χριστὸς γεννᾶται, where Christ is born) He makes the question of the Magi his own. The present tense of the verb γεννᾶται (is born), accords with the general expectation of the coming of the Messiah, which prevailed at that time.


Verse 5

Matthew 2:5. βηθλεὲμ, Bethlehem) The knowledge which the scribes, who do not go themselves, have derived from their ancestors, is of service to the Magi, who are seeking for Christ.— οὓτω γὰρ γέγραπται διὰ τοῦ προφήτου, for thus it is written by the prophet) This reason was alleged by the council; but St Matthew has stamped it with his approval.


Verse 6

Matthew 2:6. καὶ σὺ βηθλεὲμ κ. τ. λ., and thou Bethlehem, etc.) The passage referred to is in Micah 5:2, thus rendered by the LXX., καὶ σὺ βηθλεὲμ οἶκος εὐφραθᾶ, ὀλιγιστὸς εἶ τοῦ εἶναι ἐν χιλιάσιν ἰούδα· ἐκ σοῦ μοι ἐξελεύσεται, τοῦ εἶναι εἰς ἄρχοντα τοῦ ἰσραήλ. On which passage see Hallet’s Notes.(82) Let the following be accepted as a paraphrase of both the Prophet and the Evangelist. And thou Bethlehem Ephrata, or district in the tribe of Judah, art small, להיות, to be, in other words, inasmuch as thou art (quæ sis) (consult on ל Noldii(83) Concordantiæ Particularum, p. 458), among the thousands of Judah, if this dignity which is not otherwise to be despised, and which far exceeds thy proportion and measure, be compared with that dignity exclusively thine own, by virtue of which thou art by no means the least, but altogether the greatest among the princes and thousands of Judah, sc., that from thee shall go forth for Me, להיות, one who is to be (qui sit) the Ruler in Israel. A similar mode of expression occurs in 2 Samuel 7:19 ; Isaiah 49:6. The greater honour obscures and absorbs the less.— γῆ ἰούδα, a land of Judah. The land or district is put by Synechdoche,(84) for the township, as in Luke 9:12, fields for cantons: Judah was the tribe of the Messiah. Both words supply the place of Ephrata in the Hebrew. The LXX. have in Joshua 15, either between Joshua 15:58 and Joshua 15:59, or between Joshua 15:59 and Joshua 15:60, the following passage: θεκὼ καὶ ἐφραθά· αὕτη ἐστὶ βηθλεὲμ κ. τ. λ.—Theko and Ephrata, which is Bethlehem, etc. If this passage (instead of having fallen out of the Hebrew text from coming between two which have the same ending), be redundant in the Septuagint, it affords a proof, that, at the time when the land of Canaan was divided amongst the tribes of Israel, Bethlehem was not even reckoned among the cities; Cf. John 7:42. It must, however, have been so reckoned as early at any rate as the reign of Rehoboam, as we learn from 2 Chronicles 11:6. Micah addresses it in the masculine gender, with an implied reference to אלפים, thousands, families, Cf. אַלְפִי, κιλιάς μου, my thousand, i.e., my family, in Judges 6:15. Wherefore St Matthew, after putting ἐλαχίστη, least, in the feminine gender (to agree with γῆ, land, understood), mentions, instead of the thousands themselves, the princes of thousands (for אלף a thousand, family, etc., and אלוף, a chief, leader, etc., are cognate words) over whom he places one prince ( ἡγου΄ένον ), even Christ: nor does he so much give the preference to this city or thousand over the other cities or thousands of Judah, as to the Prince who came forth thence, over the other Princes of Thousands.— ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ ἐξελεύσεται, FOR from thee shall go forth) The LXX., as we have seen, have, from the Hebrew ἐκ σοῦ ΄οι ἐξελεύσεται, from thee shall go forth FOR ME, a reading which is followed by the Codex Basiliensis β,(85) and the Aldine reprint of Erasmus’ first edition.(86) Others combine both readings thus, ἐκ σοῦ γαρ ΄οι ἐξελεύσεται—FOR from thee shall go forth FOR ME.(87) The pronoun MOI (to, or for, ME) evidently represents God the Father, speaking of Christ as His Son.—See Luke 1:32, and Cf., Matthew 2:13. But the conjunction γαρ (for or because) points out the birthplace of Christ more significantly. The word γεννᾶται, shall be born (nascetur), which occurs in Matthew 2:4, is synonymous with the ἐξελεύσεται, shall go forth, of the present passage. The יצא of the Hebrew; the derivative of which מוצאת (rendered by the LXX., ἔξοδοι, goings forth) ought also to be understood of birth or generation, and that from everlasting: Cf. מוצא in Job 38:27, and Numbers 30:13. The LXX. render צאצאים more than once by τέκνα, children.— ἡγούμενος ὅστις ποιμανεῖ, a prince who shall shepherd) In 1 Chronicles 11:2, concerning David, the LXX. have σὺ ποι΄ανεῖς τὸν λαόν ΄ου, τὸν ἰσραήλ· καὶ σὺ ἔσῃ ἐις ἡγοὺ΄ενον ἐπὶ τὸν λαόν ΄ου τὸν ἰσραήλν, thou shalt shepherd My people Israel, and thou shalt be for a prince over My people Israel. Concerning the expression to shepherd, see Psalms 78:71-72. It is indeed a word worthy the kingly office, and at the same time according with the pastoral youth of David at Bethlehem. By the word ποι΄ανεῖ (He shall shepherd) the evangelist includes also and condenses the third [fourth] verse of the chapter of Micah already cited, where the LXX. have the same expression.— τὸν λαόν ΄ου, MY people) which corresponds with the expression in Micah, ΄οὶ ἐξελέυσεται, shall go forth for ME, i.e., GOD.— τὸν ἰσραὴλ, Israel) The article is added to the name of a man, when put for that of a people. Israel, i.e., all the tribes of Israel. In the subsequent narrative no further mention occurs of Bethlehem, so that it may be doubted whether our Lord ever returned thither.


Verse 7

Matthew 2:7. αάθρα, privily) lest anything should transpire. This argues insidious designs on the part of Herod.— ἠκρίβωσε, enquired diligently) even to the smallest particle of time. Hence we perceive the craft of Herod,(88) and the simplicity of the Magi.— φαινομένου, appearing) The Present Tense. Herod enquired the time at which the star which was now visible, had first become so.(89)

In his German Version Bengel renders the passage “und vernahm von ihnen die Zeit, da der Stern erschienen,” i.e. “and ascertained accurately from them the Time when the Star appeared.” In his Harmony he renders it—“und erlernte mit fleis von ihnen wann der Stern erschienen wäre,” i.e. “and learnt with diligence from them, when the star made its appearance.”—(I. B.)


Verse 8

Matthew 2:8. ἐξετάσατε ἀκριβῶς, enquire diligently) others read ἀκριβῶς ἐξετάσατε,(90) diligently enquire.(91) The variation is of no consequence, especially as it occurs in the words of Herod. Let us pass by such things without comment. The same phrase occurs in the Septuagint Version of Deuteronomy 19:18 [where we read “ καὶ ἐξετάσωσιν οἱ κριταὶ ἀκριβῶς,” “and the judges shall enquire diligently.”]— ἐπὰν δὲ, but if)(92) The use of the particle gives an antithetical force to the succeeding words.—See Luke 11:22; Luke 11:34. Herod did not accept the intelligence of the Magi as true, though he considered it as possible; it is not, therefore, to be wondered at that he did not immediately go with them to worship.


Verse 9

Matthew 2:9. οἱ δὲ ἀκούσαντες, τοῦ βασιλέως, But when they had heard the king) The king ought rather to have heard and assisted them. The Magi, however, obtained the answer which they desired.(93)καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀστὴρ, κ. τ. λ., and, lo, the star, etc.) During the whole of their journey, they had not seen the star.— ἐλθὼν, having come) It may be conjectured, from the use of this verb, that the star was subject to the guidance of an intelligent cause.—Cf. ἐλθὼν, in Matthew 2:8.


Verse 10

Matthew 2:10. ἰδόντες, κ. τ. λ., when they saw) It must have been night.— τὸν ἀστέρα, the star) Both Scripture and the star show them the time and the place: Scripture, indeed, indicates the time with some latitude, in accordance with the general way in which the expectation of the Messiah’s coming then universally prevailed.


Verse 11

Matthew 2:11. εἶδον, they saw) Sweetly is expressed the increase and progress of their joy from that of seeing the star to that of seeing the KING Himself. The inferior reading, εὗρον(94) (they found), corresponds with the words of Herod, “Enquire diligently, and when ye have found,” etc. But the star, by becoming stationary, spared the Magi the labour of enquiring. They did not so much find as see. Cf. Luke 2:17; Luke 2:20; Luke 2:26; Luke 2:30.— προσεκύνησαν αὐτῷ, they worshipped Him) Mary was not an object of worship to the Magi. If she had been conceived without sin, as the greater portion of the Roman Church has now decided, why should she not then have been worshipped as well as now? for she was then already the Mother of the King, who was to be worshipped.— τοὺς θησαυροὺς αὐτῶν, their treasures) or receptacles of treasures. The Hebrew אוצר, which is rendered by the LXX. θησαυρὸς ; in Proverbs 8:21, etc., signifies a storehouse, a repository, even a portable chest or casket.— προσήνεγκαν, they offered) as to a King. They were not offended by His present poverty.— χρυσὸν, καὶ λίβανον, καὶ σ΄ύρναν, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh) from the productions of their own country. There was a prediction concerning gold and frankincense in Isaiah 60:6. These first fruits showed that all things were to belong to Christ, even in the mineral and vegetable kingdoms, etc.—See Haggai 2:8.


Verse 12

Matthew 2:12. χρηματισθέντες, being warned of God) sc. either each of them separately, or all of them through one of their number. Thus they had wished or prayed: for χρηματισμὸς signifies an oracular answer, [and an answer implies a preceding question.] The same word occurs at Matthew 2:22.— μὴ ἀνακάμψαι, not to return) They had therefore thought of doing so.— ἀνεχώρησαν, they departed) by a road, which led in another direction.


Verse 13

Matthew 2:13. ἐγερθεὶς, rising) i.e. immediately.— τὸ παίδιον, the child) Greater regard is paid to Him than to His mother.(95)ἑώς ἄν, κ. τ. λ., until, etc.) Thus the faith of Joseph was exercised; all things were not revealed to him at once; he was to await the time of returning [till it should please God to direct him to do so]: nor did the angel speak to him in the meanwhile.— ἠρώδης, Herod) of whom Joseph appears to have hoped well from the discourse of the Magi.


Verse 14

Matthew 2:14. νυκτὸς, by night) The benefit of night is great in times of persecution.


Verse 15

Matthew 2:15. αέγοντος, saying) This must be construed with τοῦ προφήτου, the prophet, and so also in Matthew 2:17.— ἐξ αἰγύπτου ἐκάλεσα τὸν υἱόν ΄ου, out of Egypt have I called my Son) Thus Hosea 11:1, in the original Hebrew, though the LXX. render it, ἐξ αἰγύπτου μετεκάλεσα τὰ τέκνα αὐτοῦ, out of Egypt have I called for (summoned) his children. Aquila,(96) however, renders it ἀπὸ αἰγύπτου ἐκάλεσα τὸν υἱὸν ΄ου, From Egypt have I called [him] My son. The meaning of the passage in Hosea is, “Then when Israel was a child, I loved him: and from the time that he was in Egypt, I called him my son.” This is evident from the parallelism of either clause. And the expression, “from the land of Egypt,” occurs in the same sense in Hosea 12:9; Hosea 13:4; and from the Egyptian era, Israel began to be called the son of God; see Exodus 4:22, etc. And God is always said to have led forth, never to have called, His people out of Egypt. In like manner, St Matthew also. when interpreting the passage of the Messiah, and that, too, of Him when a child, connects the quotation with His sojourn in, rather than His return from, Egypt.—Cf. Isaiah 19:19. Jesus, from His birth, was the Son of God; and immediately after His nativity, He dwelt in Egypt. It behoved, however, that the Messiah, as well as the people, should return from Egypt into the land of promise, for the same reason, viz., because God loved each of them, and called him His Son. The sojourn of Christ in Egypt was the prelude to the Christianization of that country; see Deuteronomy 23:7. In the first ages of Christianity, the Egyptian Church was greatly distinguished: perhaps it will be so again hereafter: cf. Isaiah 19:24-25. Concerning the double fulfilment of the single meaning of a single prophecy, cf. Gnomon on ch. Matthew 1:22. In short, God embraced in one address, as with one love, both the Messiah Himself, in whom is all His good pleasure, and His people for His sake. The Messiah resembles His people in His adversity; His people resembles the Messiah in its prosperity. The head and the body are the whole Christ. Moreover, when His people was in Egypt, Jesus Christ was there also in one of those patriarchs who are enumerated in ch. Matthew 1:4.—Cf. Hebrews 7:10.


Verse 16

Matthew 2:16. ἐνεπαίχθη, was mocked) Such was the king’s impression, entirely at variance with the spirit of the Magi. They did, however, hold the royal authority at nought in comparison with the Divine. Herod did not know what might be doing [and he, therefore, became anxious and infuriated].— ἀποστείλας, having sent) sc. murderers, and that suddenly.— ἀνεῖλε, he slew) This was a sin crying to Heaven for vengeance; cf. Matthew 2:18.— πάντας, all) “Of whom,” says Feu-Ardent(97) on Irenæu(98) . 3:18,—“Christ, whilst yet Himself a child, consecrated fourteen thousand as martyrs, by the unutterable cruelty of Herod, as the Ethiopians record in the Liturgy left to them by St Matthew, and the Greeks preserve in their calendar.”— τοὺς παῖδας, the boys) not girls; cf. Exodus 1:16.— ἀπὸ διετοῦς, from two years old) The adjective is put in the masculine, as τριετοῦς in 2 Chronicles 31:16; cf. the Hebrew original. κατὰ τὸν χρόνον, κ. τ. λ., according to the time, etc.) The time indicated by the Magi was, perhaps, a little beyond a year: and Herod laid down, therefore, two years as the limit of massacre.


Verse 18

Matthew 2:18. φωνὴ ἐν ῥαμᾶ ἠκούσθη, θρῆνος καὶ κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὁδυρμὸς πολὺς, ῥαχὴλ κλαίουσα τὰ τέκνα αὐτῆς· καὶ οὐκ ἤθελε παρακληθῆναι, κ. τ. λ.—A voice was heard in Rama, lamentation and weeping and much mourning: Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, etc.) The passage is thus rendered by the LXX., Jeremiah 31(38):15:— φωνὴ ἐν ῥαμᾶ (Cod. Alex. ἐν τῆ ὑψηλῇ) ἠκούσθη θρήνου καὶ κλαυθμοῦ καὶ ὀδυρμοῦ· ραχηλ αποκλαιομένη ἐπὶ τῶν υἱῶν αὑτῆς· καὶ οὐκ ἠθέλησε παρακληθῆναι, κ. τ. λ.—A voice was heard in Rama (Cod. Al. on high) of lamentation and weeping and mourning: Rachel bewailing herself on account of her sons, and would not be comforted, etc.— ἠκούσθη, was heard) so that it reached the Lord. Jeremiah both prefixes and subjoins, Thus saith the Lord.— θρῆνος καὶ κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὀδυρμὸς πολὺς,(99) lamentation and weeping and much mourning) The LXX. have θρῆνου καὶ κλαυθμοῦ καὶ ὀδυρμοῦ, of weeping, and of lamentation, and of mourning. The original Hebrew, however, is נהי בכי תמרורים lamentation, weeping of bitternesses, (i.e., lamentation and bitter weeping). The shorter(100) reading of St Matthew, supported by so many versions, viz.,(101) κλαυθ΄ὸς καὶ ὀδυρ΄ὸς πολὺς, weeping and much mourning, agrees with this so as to express the Hebrew plural תַּמְרוּרִים, bitternesses, by the Greek epithet πολὺς, much. I used to suspect that the translators who omitted θρῆνος καὶ, lamentation and, had done so from the poverty of their language: but you might, with equal justice, say that the Greek copyists added these words from the LXX., from not duly weighing the force of the adjective πολυς, much, which is not found in the LXX.

The Hebrew words(102) and accents(103) declare the matter more gradually (rem gradatim magis declarant), and exhibit successively,—(1.) Shrill grief indefinitely: her who mourns, and those whom she mourns, (2.) refusing the consolation offered to her; and the cause why she refused it.—The thirty-first chapter of Jeremiah is prospective to a great degree of the times of the New Testament; and so does this passage refer to this event in the New Testament history, whether Jeremiah regarded at the same time the Babylonian Captivity or not; a greater and less event of distinct periods may correspond with the single meaning of a single prediction, until the prophecy is exhausted.— ῥαχὴλ, Rachel) put antonomatically for the individual daughters of Rachel and other mothers, who thus had sons of pangs [Benoni].—Cf. Genesis 35:18. The sons of Rachel are named: the sons of other mothers are understood at the same time, as in 1 Corinthians 10:1, the Gentiles are also included under the fathers of the Jews. The infants of Bethlehem might also be called “sons of Rachel,” on account of the tomb of Rachel mentioned in Genesis 35:19, as being near that town: just as the Samaritans (John 4:12) called Jacob their father, because they lived in the same place where he had formerly dwelt. But Rama did also belong to the tribe of Benjamin (see Joshua 18:25), who was the son of Rachel. It is quite conceivable that the assassins despatched so suddenly by Herod to Bethlehem, may have proceeded even as far as Rama, as the towns were very near together: see Judges 19:2; Judges 19:9; Judges 19:13; Ezra 2:21; Ezra 2:26 : from which circumstance Jeremiah, a priest from the land of Benjamin, pointed it out as the limit of the massacre.— κλαίουσα, weeping) i.e., κλαίει, weeps, a Hebraism.— οὐκ ἤθελε παρακληθῆναι, refused to receive consolation) A phrase which expresses intense grief.— οὐκ εἰσί, they are not) Thus, in the S. V. of Genesis 42:36, we read ἰωσὴφ οὐκ ἔστι, συμεὼν οὐκ ἔστι, Joseph is not, Simeon is not); and in 1 Kings 20:40, οὗτος οὐκ ἦν, he was not) in the Hebrew איננו, he is not, in the singular number used distributively. The mothers mourn each especially their own, or even their only sons; for even only children would, in this case, be expressed in the plural number: the slaughtered infants were of two years old, or a little under, so that a single mother could not easily be deprived of more than one. The event was accurately foretold. Others refer the singular number to the Messiah, whom they suppose the women to have imagined slain, or mourned as banished.


Verse 20

Matthew 2:20. εἰς γῆν ἰσραήλ, into the land of Israel) Joseph was allowed to choose the town or district, but not the country of their abode; since it behoved that Emmanuel should come to years of manhood (adolescere) in His own land.— τεθνήκασι, they are dead) The plural concisely signifies, that Herod is dead, and that there are not any others who entertain evil designs.(104)οἱ ζητοῦντες τὴν ψυχὴν, who sought the life) literally, who sought the soul. A phrase employed by the LXX.


Verse 22

Matthew 2:22. βασιλεύει, is reigning) Archelaus was reigning, whether with or without the name of king.— ἐφοβήθη, was afraid) Anxious about the child, fearful lest Archelaus should emulate his father’s hatred.— ἐκεῖ, thither) The Hebrew שמה, thither, is frequently rendered ἐκεῖ by the LXX.— ἀπελθεῖν, to depart) Mary and Joseph also, without doubt, had previously dwelt at Nazareth.— εἰς τὰ μέρη, into the parts) From hence may be inferred the poverty of Joseph, who had not a fixed abode which he could return to as a matter of course.— τῆς γαλιλαίας, of Galilee) This did not prevent attentive souls from knowing the real birthplace of Christ.


Verse 23

Matthew 2:23. ἑλθὼν κατῴκησεν εἰς, he came to and took up his abode at) [E. V., he came and dwelt at], i.e., he came to dwell at, or he dwelt at. The same mode of expression occurs at ch. Matthew 4:13. Thus, IN Genesis 13:18, the LXX. have ἐλθὼν κατώκησε περὶ τὴν δρῦν, he came and dwelt by the oak.— ναζαρέτ, Nazareth) In Hebrew, נזרת . The final ת is rendered in Greek by T.— ναζωραῖος, a Nazarene) Our Lord spent His private life—that is, by far the greatest portion of His years—in the town of Nazareth, from whence the surname of Nazarene was given to Him in the common speech of men, whether devoted or hostile to Him, and in the title on the cross. This is what the prophecy here cited by St Matthew had long ago intimated. Some seek for the whole force of this prediction in an allegorical interpretation of the etymology of the word Nazareth; and this indeed should clearly be sought for in נזר, a diadem, etc., not from נצר, to keep or hide, לֵב, subtle of heart.—(I. B.)">(105) which Jewish animosity employs maliciously; for the Hebrew צ (Tzade) is always rendered by the Greek σ (Sigma), whereas the Greek ζ (Zeta) universally corresponds to the Hebrew ז (Zayin), as it does also in the word ναζωραῖος. This rule is universal, which no one can rightly oppose without bringing forward examples to the contrary. Consider what the sound and learned Hiller says on this subject, Syntagm. hermen. p. 347, etc., and Onom. Sacr., pp. 695, 701, 893; and compare his remarks with I. H., a Seelen,(106) medit. exeg., p. 632. This belongs to the etymology of the name Nazareth; it does not, however, establish the allegory. For neither is there any reason why we should ascribe the character of a Levitical Nazarite to Christ (see Matthew 11:19), nor why we should think that the scope of the prophecy is exhausted by any signification of the word NZR, נזר .

It was predicted by Micah, that Christ should go forth from Bethlehem: Bethlehem, בֵּית לֶחֶם, signifies house of bread, and Christ is the Bread of Life. But who would have said that the prophecy of Micah was fulfilled by Christ being the bread of life? We know that the town where Christ was born was intended by the prophecy; in like manner, the town where He grew up; and the common surname which thence arose was indicated by the prediction, ναζωραῖος κληθήσεται,” “He shall be called a Nazarene:” and therefore the particle ὅτι(107) is prefixed by the evangelist, as is the custom in citing testimonies. Although at what time that prophet flourished by whom this prediction was uttered; whether the town of Nazareth, of which no other mention occurs in the Old Testament, was then of any account or not; whether that prophet was himself a Nazarene, and deposited this remarkable verse at Nazareth, or whether he left it to posterity, conveyed by word of mouth alone, or also committed to writing,(108) whence St Matthew obtained it, who knows? what signifies it to know? In heaven, some stars illumine either hemisphere, some both, some have various risings and settings; on earth, rivers sometimes withdraw themselves from the sight of men, until by hidden ways they reach the place where they again burst forth. Thus the Divine Oracles are dispensed with admirable variety; a singular example of which is afforded by the passage in St John, concerning the three who bear witness in heaven, of which the Eastern Church was for many ages in ignorance, whilst the Western and African Churches maintained it always, though not everywhere. This prediction, indeed, He shall be called a Nazarene, was not known or understood by most persons; otherwise Galilee and Nazareth itself would not have been so much despised (see John 1:47; John 7:52). And, rightly, many have long since denied that this verse exists in the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Its condition, therefore, is the same as that of the prophecy of Enoch, introduced at length by St Jude into the Scriptures of the New Testament, and thus stamped with the seal of inspiration; the same as that of the apothegm, which, though delivered by our Lord, does not occur in the Gospels, but is quoted by the mouth of St Paul, and the pen of St Luke, Acts 20:35. Nor have the Jews any ground of accusation, because anything is quoted in the New Testament which does not exist in the Old; for they relate many ancient things which equally are not to be found there. Where lay hid the Proverbs of Solomon from ch. Matthew 25:1; the prophecy of Azariah (2 Chronicles 15:2, etc.); the epistle of Elijah (2 Chronicles 21:12), until they were inserted in the books of the Old Testament, many ages after they were delivered? Certainly, there was no sufficient reason why St Matthew should frame(109) this, if it had been a perfect novelty in his own time. By such a proceeding, he would have more injured than advantaged the whole Christian cause. He had sufficiently numerous examples of prophecies fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth without this. Those who interpret this important verse more vaguely, so as to make out that it is contained here or there in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, in truth take away one from the ancient prophecies; whereas those who consider τὸ ρηθὲν (that which was uttered), “He shall he called a Nazarene,” to have been expressly uttered of old, recognise a homogeneous portion of the entire testimony of prophecy, and thus in truth maintain the integrity and defend the simplicity of Scripture (Cf. Calovius’s Biblia Illustrata, and Rus’s(110) Harmonia Evangelistarum, p. 284). WHO was to have the surname of Nazarene, is not added in the verse: for wherever anything occurs in the prophecies which is not foreign to the Messiah, that should be understood of the Messiah, although there be no express mention of His name. It is, however, probable that more words than these two may have existed together with them in a very short prediction. The long concealment of this monument of antiquity was agreeable to the manner of Christ’s private life, spent in the retirement of Nazareth, and calculated to try the faith of saints, and condemn the falsehood of sinners. (See John 1:46, etc., and John 7:41, etc.)

Now that we have proved that the peculiar and primary force of the name Nazarene, is to be found in the town itself of Nazareth, we proceed to lay down as a corollary, that the etymology of the country, and surname of Christ thence derived, is not unimportant. Christ, the Son of David the Bethlehemite, was not called a Bethlehemite: therefore, in the etymology of the town of Bethlehem, a mystery is not equally sought for. Christ was called a Nazarene. This was indeed effected by the discourse of men; but not without the overruling providence of God. It was not by mere accident that Pilate inscribed categorically, in the three cardinal languages, Jesus, King of the Jews, and retained what he had written: it did not by mere accident happen that Pilate at the same time inscribed “THE NAZARENE,” and that others, both before and after, used the expression with reference to our Lord. The names, “JESUS,” “CHRIST,” “EMMANUEL,” etc., intimate, that that which is implied by their sound is actually being exhibited: you would rightly deny that the surname, “Nazarene,” alone should be without a mystical meaning: נזר, a diadem, is the token of a king’s head, and נזרת is, according to Hiller, a town which crowns the summit of a mountain; the name, therefore, of Nazarene, may thus be expressed in German, “ZU CRONBERG HAT DER GECRONTE GEWOHNET,”—“The crowned one hath dwelt on the summit of a hill.”—See Psalms 132:18. The names of places are frequently put for the thing itself which is signified: we pass by the Veronenses, Placentini, Laudiceni, of the Latins. The meaning of Scripture is deeper: Simon the Canaanite was also called Zelotes, both from his country and his distinguishing virtue.—See Matthew 10:4, and Luke 6:15. See especially Isaiah 63:1.(111)

 


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Bibliography Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Matthew 2:4". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/matthew-2.html. 1897.

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