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23 Behold, a virgin shall be | Emmanuel, which being interpre with child, and shall bring forth a ted is, God with us. son, and they shall call his name
24 Then Joseph, being raised
That it might be fulfilled. "Liter- pure virgin shall bring forth a son, ally, that it might be verified. The before the house of David perish.'" conjunction, in all such cases, denotes This was accomplished at the Savio ir's no more than that there was as exact a birth. And it is remarkable, that alconformity between the event and the though the kingdom and house of passage quoted, as there could have David continued, in form at least, until been, if the former had been effected that event occurred, yet it then permerely for the accomplishment of the ished. The nation was utterly delatter. God does not bring about an stroyed and scattered to the four winds event because some prophet has fore- of heaven, by the Romans, and no one told it; but the prophet was inspired to pretends now to identify a single indiforetell it, because God had previously vidual of the posterity of David. ¶ Emdecreed the event."-Campbell. Be-manuel. God with us. This, like hold, a virgin, &c. When this proph- most Jewish names, is significant. See ecy was uttered, the Jewish nation, note on ver. 21. Thus, Elijah signifies under Ahaz, was in apparent danger of God the Lord; Eli, my Lord; Eleazar, atter destruction. The prophet Isaiah help of God; Isaiah, the salvation of was sent to encourage the people, in the Lord; Lemuel, God with them. their distress; and he then spake of this For the manner in which names were miraculous conception. Much differ- given to Jewish children, and the cirence of opinion has been expressed in cumstances to which they referred, see regard to the primary import of the Gen. xxx. 6, &c.; 1 Sam. iv. 21. Diprediction; some understanding it to vine assistance being foretold by the refer to an event which should be wit-prophet, he might well designate the nessed by Ahaz, as a sign of deliver-child, who was the promised sign, by ance, and others understanding it to re- the name of Emmanuel, God with us, fer directly and only to the manner of or God helpeth us, and this in strict our Saviour's birth. The latter opinion, accordance with Jewish usage. Neverwhich on the whole appears the more theless, whether Jesus were human, reasonable, is thus expressed by Light- superhuman, or divine, is a question foot. "King Ahaz was afraid lest the which cannot be determined by the enemies, that were now upon him, name alone. If the name were sufmight destroy Jerusalem, and utterly ficient proof, it would be easy to find in consume the house of David. The the Old Testament a multitude of divin Lord meets this fear by a signal and ities; literally, lords many, and gods most remarkable promise,-namely, many. 1 Cor. viii. 5. Being interthat sooner should a pure virgin bring preted. This expression is considered, forth a child, than the family of David by many, as sufficient proof that Mat. perish.' And the promise yields a thew did not write his gospel in the double comfort; namely, of Christ here- Hebrew language. If he wrote in He. after to be born of a virgin, and of their brew, to Hebrews, for what reason, it security from the imminent danger of is pertinently inquired, should he give the city and house of David. So that, interpretations of Hebrew names? But although that prophecy, of a virgin's this he does, frequently; hence it is bringing forth a son, should not be ful- concluded that he wrote, not in Hebrew, filled till many hundreds of years after, but in some other language, probably yet, at that present time, when the proph- the Greek, in which such interpretaecy was made, Ahaz had a certain and tions were necessary, that the signifi notable sign that the house of David cant names of persons and places might should be safe and secure from the be fully understood. But if he wrote danger that hung over it, as much as first in Hebrew and afterwards in if the prophet had said, 'Be not so Greek, as others suppose, perhaps these troubled, O Ahaz; does it not seem an explanations were added only in the impossible thing to thee, and that never Greek copy, which is doubtless the will happen, that a pure virgin should original of all the existing versions of ecome a mother? But I tell thee, a his gospel.
from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son and he called his name JESUS.
24. Joseph manifested a truly filial spirit. He believed his heavenly Father, and obeyed his command. He took to his house his espoused wife, and sheltered her from the storms of obloquy and derision which she would else have encountered. He sought no further proof of her innocence; but, believing the divine testimony, he received her cheerfully, and thenceforth hoped and quietly waited for the salvation of the Lord. Lam. iii.
25. Her first-born son. The perpetual virginity of Mary is an article of faith in the Romish church; and many Protestants have cherished the same belief. That she remained a virgin until Jesus was born, having no matrimonial connexion with her husband, seems to be distinctly asserted by the evangelist, and necessary to the fulfilment of the prediction. But that she continued so until the end of life, is not so clear. Matt. xiii. 55, 56, and other passages, as well as the phraseology in this verse, would seem to imply the contrary. It is not, I conceive, a question of very great importance. It is sufficient for us that the Saviour was born of a virgin. We may safely leave the subsequent condition of the mother, where the Scriptures have left it, in doubt and obscurity. Jesus. The name before required to be given, ver. 21. Before this name was publicly given, at the circumcision on the eighth day, other circumstances occurred, some of them marvellous, and all very interesting, which are recorded by Luke, ii.
Two general observations may not be out of place, at the close of this subject. (1.) When God brought his well-beloved Son into this world, he did not cause him to spring from the noble, or rich, or powerful. On the contrary, although his mother and his reputed father were of the house of David, they were in humble life; and even the Pharisees afterwards taunted him, on
when Jesus born
Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
this account. Mark vi. 3; John vi. 42. Not even the most determined infidel, therefore, can allege that Jesus was presented to the Jewish nation as the promised Messiah, by a stratagem of state or ecclesiastical policy; for the rulers of both church and state were his most determined opposers continually. It remains to be considered by what power he accomplished the work, of which the Christian church is a monument, even to this day. If he were an impostor, let this mystery be satisfactorily solved. But if he were truly the Christ, the Son of God, there is no mystery in this matter. God helped him, and therefore he could do all things. I regard this fact as one of the strong proofs that the Lord Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah. (2.) He, who was appointed to save all others from sin, should himself be pure. A mere man, born in the ordinary manner, might have been absolutely and entirely sanctified, from his birth; but this would be no less a miracle, than the conception of Jesus by the divine energy. He partook of humanity so far as to be subject to pain and acquainted with grief. He was even subject to temptation. Yet he was without sin; holy, harmless, undefiled. Such a high priest became us; and such was the necessary qualification of one appointed to such a high and holy ministry. Heb. vii. 25-28.
1. When Jesus was born. That is, after the birth of Jesus. This adverb is often used in a similar indefinite sense; not indicating that two events were simultaneous, nor defining the precise interval between them. Bethlehem of Judea. Bethlehem signifies the house of bread. There were two towns of this name; one, in the inheritance of Zebulun, Josh. xix. 15; and one, in the land of Judah, Judg. xv. 7. The latter was the birth-place of our Lord.
2 Saying, Where is he that | is born King of the Jews? for
It was also called Ephratah. Ruth iv. Herod was called king, though in fact 11; Micah v. 2. This name also de- he was no more than a king's deputy or notes abundance or fruitfulness. It viceroy. Judea had been conquered by may have been originally applied, and the Romans, and was at this time a Bethlehem also, on account of the fer- province of that mighty empire, which, tility of the soil. This place was about under Augustus Cæsar, extended over six miles southerly from Jerusalem, the known world. Herod held his apwhere there still remains a village con-pointment from the emperor, and exertaining about ten or twelve hundred cised this delegated authority about inhabitants, Christians and Mahomet- thirty-seven years. It may be remarkans, who are said to live quietly to- ed, however, that he actually exercised gether. It is on elevated ground, and a power of such a tyrannous and defrom the eastward may be seen at a spotic nature, as would now be scarcely very considerable distance. Here Da- tolerated under even an absolute mon vid was born; and hence it is called the archy. Of this, there is sufficient evicity of David. Luke ii. 4. Tradition dence in this chapter alone. ¶ Wise points out the exact spot where Jesus men from the east. Campbell transwas born, over which stands a monas- lates, Eastern magians; and observes, tery. The tradition may be correct, that the magians "were a particular and it may not. Little reliance can be class, party, or profession, among the placed on the accuracy of minute details, orientals, as much as Stoics, Peripateat such a distance of time, when they tics, and Epicureans, were, among the are afforded by tradition alone. Greeks;" hence the term, wise men, is would be gratifying, doubtless, to know too indefinite. "The studies of the the precise spot where the birth, labors, magians seem to have been princimiracles, sufferings, crucifixion, burial, pally in astronomy, natural philosophy resurrection, and ascension, of our Lord and theology. It is from them we occurred. But it should be remem- derive the terms, magic and magician; bered, that his mission was not of a words which were doubtless used origi. local nature; it was designed, not for nally in a good, but are now always the exclusive benefit of any particular used in a bad, sense." Some have supcity or country, but for the general posed that these wise men or magians, good of the whole human race. If, who came to seek for the newly born therefore, we were not informed even child, were Jews, who had long lived in on what continent he was born, still the eastern regions, and had attached his precepts and promises would be themselves to this sect; but retaining equally important and precious. And their faith in the Hebrew Scriptures, we may well suppose that what is and believing that the ancient prophecies revealed, in regard to localities, was were about to be fulfilled, they hailed so revealed, not because these cir- the appearance of the star as an omen cumstances were of great importance of fulfilment. ¶ Jerusalem. The capiin themselves, but rather to convince tal city of Judea; a city distinguished men, especially the Jews, that the an- above all others, by the memorable cient prophecies had their fulfilment events which occurred in it, by being circumstantially as well as generally; the place where God peculiarly man and thus to confirm their faith both in fested his presence in the temple, by the predictions and their accomplish- the glories and miseries of its inhabi ment. In the days. In the time, tants, and by the circumstances con or, during the reign; a form of speech nected with its destruction. not yet entirely obsolete, but seldom used at present. ¶ Herod the king. This was the Herod, generally denomrated the Great. So far as greatness depends on notorious wickedness, this appellation might justly belong to Herod. Yet we shall do well to remember that there is a vast differ⚫nce between the Great and the Good.
2. King of the Jews. At this period a very general opinion prevailed in the east, that a remarkable person was about to appear in Judea, who should obtain the empire of the world. It was natural that the Jews should entertain this opinion; because their prophets had so accurately defined the period when the Messiah should appear, and
we have seen his star in the | heard these things, he was troubled, east, and are come to worship and all Jerusalem with him. him.
3 When Herod the king had
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of
designed to render any other worship than was customarily paid to such princes.
had spoken of his reign in language similar to that which is used in describing earthly power and glory. Josephus, the Jewish historian, in describing the violent opposition of his countrymen against the Romans, says, "What did the most elevate them, in undertaking this war, was an ambiguous oracle that was found also in their sacred writings, how about that time one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth." That the same opinion was entertained by others, besides Jews, is evident from the testimony of the Roman historians, Tacitus, Suetonius, and others. It is very probable that these eastern magians cherished the same expectation. And when they witnessed the sign in the heavens, they supposed this powerful prince had appeared. They naturally went to the chief city of the Jews, to inquire for him. His star. The ancients had much regard to astrology, and believed that new stars often appeared at the birth or death of eminent men. The comet which blazed forth, about the time when Julius Cæsar was assassinated, was supposed to have some mysterious connexion with that event. And it is related that a new star or comet appeared when Augustus became emperor, which he called the star of his na-all Jerusalem with him. The excitetivity. The magians made astronomy ment was very general. Herod's friends, (which was then intimately connected those who were dependent on him for with astrology) one of their principal places of honor and profit, were parstudies, and probably entertained the takers of his fears. His opposers, and common opinion of their class in regard those who had been oppressed and to new stars. In the east. That is, afflicted by him, rejoiced in hope of while we were in the east, we saw his deliverance, and perhaps feared that he star. They came from the east; had would be guilty of renewed iniquity, in they seen the star eastward from them- consequence of the prevailing exciteselves, and followed it, they would have ment. The whole city was disturbed; travelled from Jerusalem, not towards some being agitated by hope, some bý To worship him. To reverence, fear, and some by both together. or honor him. The honors paid to sovereigns were anciently denominated worship. The original indicates merely prostration in token of honor and submission. Whether or not divine honor, such as the word worship now implies, ought to be rendered to Christ by his disciples, there is no evidence that the magians supposed him to be more han an earthly prince, or that they
3. Had heard these things.-He had not yet seen the wise men. But their inquiries concerning such a subject, at such a time, would doubtless occasion much excitement, and Herod could not long remain ignorant of it. ¶ Was troubled. Herod had been guilty of much wickedness, and knew that he was hated by his subjects. They hated him, because he was appointed by the Romans, their conquerors and oppressors, to rule over them; they hated him, for his own oppressions; they hated him, for his cruel and sanguinary disposition. They were ready to rebel against him at any moment. All this Herod well knew. He also knew that they were in constant expectation of a deliverer, who should break the Roman yoke, and exalt their nation to the highest dignity. He was greatly agitated, therefore, at the intelligence, that wise men had seen the sign of this expected monarch, and that they were inquiring publicly concerning him. The least he could reasonably expect was a violent outbreak or insurrection among the Jews, which might perhaps shake the foundation of his throne. T And
4. Chief priests and scribes of the people. The Jewish Sanhedrim is probably here meant. This was the highest tribunal among the Jews, having both civil and ecclesiastical power. It was composed of priests and others, to the number of seventy or seventy-two, the high priest being always one of them. When the Sanhedrim consisted of Priests, Levites, and Israelites,
the people together, he demanded | Bethlehem of Judea for thus it is of them where Christ should be written by the prophet,
6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least
5 And they said unto him, In
as Maimonides teacheth, under the word chief priests, are comprehended the two former, namely, whosoever of the clergy were members of the Sanhedrim; and under the scribes of the people, are comprehended all those of the Sanhedrim who were not of the clergy."Light foot. The scribes were so called, from the fact that their occupation was altogether of a literary character. They were much engaged in writing. They kept the public registers, wrote contracts and divorces, and expounded the law. Especially they were the "fathers of the traditions," held in as much reverence by them, and by the Jews generally, as the written law. They were not a religious sect, but only a distinct class or profession. Some of them were Pharisees, some Sadducees. They are called lawyers, Luke vii. 30, and doctors of the law, Luke v. 17. Of this class and of the priests, the Sanhedrim was composed; and hence this body was considered competent to decide any question, civil or spiritual. Herod therefore appealed to this assembly for information, in this season of perplexity; calling them together for the special purpose of hearing and answering his question. Where. It is observable that Herod did not inquire when the Messiah or Christ should be born. He well knew it was the settled opinion of the priests and scribes, and all who professed to understand and believe the prophecies, that the time had come; and all were in daily expectation of his appearance. The only question which remained was, where he should be born; and this question only was proposed. Herod doubtless concealed from the Sanhedrim his intention; else he could not have expected to receive a true answer. He could not suppose them ignorant of the circumstances which had troubled him; and there is no evidence that they were less anxious than others for the accession and reign of the promised deliverer. Like many other wicked men, he assumed the guise of sanctity and endeavored to persuade the Sanhedrim, as afterwards the magian 3, that he desired to know the place
where Christ should be born, that he might be among the first to pay him due homage.
5. They said. There was no hesitation in answering Herod's question. The language of the prophecy was so plain, and the subject had already been considered with such frequency and interest, that the answer was ready at once. The prophet. Micah v. 2. The prophecy is very express, both as to the character of Christ, and the place of his birth. It was well understood, even among the common people, that Christ should be born in Bethlehem; insomuch, that some were unwilling to believe that Jesus was the Christ, notwithstanding his mighty works, merely because they thought he was not born in that place. John vii. 42.
6. The quotation from the prophet is by no means exact. The difference of phraseology is even greater than usual. But the main point, so far as it had reference to Herod's question, is preserved; the place is distinctly indicated. And it has been observed, that Matthew is not responsible for the inaccuracy of the quotation. He reports the answer as given by the Sanhedrim. This is all he professes to do. He does not pronounce their quotation accurate or inaccurate. This was the answer they gave; and it seems to have been satisfactory to Herod. Art not the least. Or, though thou be little. This place had not been altogether obscure and undistinguished; for here David was born, and his name had given honor to it. It was called the city of David. But it was destined to yet higher honor. It was to become the birth-place of a greater than David,-even David's Lord. Ps. cx. 1; Luke xx. 44. The birth of a distinguished individual, or the occurrence of an important event, was always supposed to confer honor on the place. Witness the pilgrimages of Christians
to Jerusalem, and of Mahometans to Mecca. And, in the present age, what American does not feel an unusual thrill of emotion, when he stands in Faneuil Hall, or on Bunker Hill, and remembers that the birth of his political freedom