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if they can carry their ends. They endeavour to deceive the simple, allure the unsuspecting, and to beguile the weak, to answer their purposes of wickedness. 3. The plans of wicked men are often well laid. They occupy a long time. They make diligent inquiry. They often put on the appearance of religion. But God sees the design; and though men are deceived, yet God cannot be, Prov. xv. 3.
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 young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
9, 10. 'The star—went before them.' It is not unlikely that they lost sight of the star after they had commenced their journey from the east. It is probable that it appeared to them first in the direction of Jerusalem. They concluded that the expected King had been borr., and immediately commenced their journey to Jerusalem. When they arrived there, it was important that they should be directed to the very place where he was, and the star again appeared. It was for this reason that they rejoiced. And this shows, 1. That the birth of Jesus was an affair of great moment, worthy of the Divine direction of these men to find the place of his nativity. 2. God will guide those who are disposed to find the Saviour. Even if for a time the light should be withdrawn, yet it will again appear, and direct us in the way to the Redeemer. 3. Devotion to Christ should fill us with joy. He is the way, the truth, and the life; the Saviour, the Friend, the all in all; there is no other way of life, and there is no peace to the soul till he is found. When we are guided to him, therefore, our hearts should overflow with joy and praise; and we should humbly and thankfully follow every direction that leads to the Son of God, John xii. 35, 36.
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 presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
11. 'Fell down, and worshipped him;' see on v. 2. 'They presented unto him gifts.' As King of the Jews, because they supposed he was to be a distinguished prince and conqueror. It was customary at the birth of a prince to show respect for him by making him presents, or offerings of this kind, and to approach a great personage with gifts.. See Gen. xxxii. 14; xliii. 11. 1 Sam. x. 27. 1 Kings x. 2. Ps. Ixxii. 10. 15. 'Frankincense.' This was. a production of Arabia. It was obtained from a tree by making incisions in the bark, and suffering the gum to flow out It was highly fragrant when burned, and was therefore used in worship, .when it was burned as a pleasant offering. Sec Oenviii. 21. Eph. v. 2. It is produced in the East Indies, but chief) j in Arabia; and it has been supposed probable that the wise men came from Arabia. 'Myrrh. This was also a production oi Arabia, and was obtained from a tree in the same manner as frankincense. The name denotes bitterness, and was given to ii on account of its great bitterness. It was used chiefly in embalming the dead, because it had theproperty of preserving bodies from putrefaction. Compare John xix. 39. It was much used in Egypt and in Judea. These offerings were the most valuable things which their country produced. They evinced their high regard for Jesus, their belief that he was to be an illustrious prince: and the fact that their deed is recorded with approbation shows us, that we should offer our most valuable possessions, our all to the Lord Jesus Christ. Wise men came from far to do him homage, and bowed down, and presented their best gifts and offerings. It is right that we give to him also our hearts, our worship, our property, our all.
12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
12. If they had given Herod precise information where he was, it would have been easy for him to send forth and slay Jesus. Hence we learn that God will watch over those whom he loves; that he knows how to deliver his own out of the hands of those who would destroy them.
13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to. Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and tiee into Egypt, and be thou there until 1 bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
13. 'The angel.' See ch. i. 20. 'Flee into Egypt.' Egypt is situated to the south-west of Judea. It was at this time a Roman province. There were many Jews there, a temple and synagogues; Joseph would be among his own countrymen, and yet beyond the reach of Herod. The very land which was the land of bondage and groaning for the Jews, became now the land of refuge and safety for the new-born King of JuJea. God can overturn nations and kingdoms, so that those whom he loves shall be safe any where.
14 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 the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
15. The death of Herod.' The best chronologers have supposed that he died somewhere about two years after.the birth of Christ. Nor can it be determined exactly at what age Jesus was taken into Egypt. It seems probable that he was supposed to be a year old, (see v. 16,) and of course tne time that he remained in Egypt was not long. 'That it might be fulfilled,' &c. This language is recorded in Hosea xi. 1. It there evidently speaks of God's calling his people out of Egypt under Moses. See Ex. iv. 22, 23. It might be said to be fulfilled in his calling Jesus from Egypt, because the words in Hosea aptly expressed this also.
16 ^f 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 coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
16. * Mocked of the wise men.' When he saw that they did not return as he had expected. It does not mean that they did it for the purpose of mocking or deriding him, but that he was disappointed in their not returning. 'Exceeding wroth.' Very angry. He had been disappointed and deceived. He expected to send an executioner and kill Jesus alone. But since he was disappointed in this, he thought he should accomplish the same thing, and be sure to destroy him, if he sent forth and put all the children in the place to death. This is an illustration ofthe power of wickedness and anger. It stops at nothing. If it cannot accomplish just what it wishes, it does not hesitate to go much farther, and accomplish much more evil than it at first designed. He that has a wicked heart, and indulges in anger, knows not where it will end, and will commonly commit far more evil than he at first intended. * Slew all the children.' That is, all the male children. This is implied in the original. 'In all the coasts thereof.' The word coast is commonly applied now to the regions around the sea, as the sea-coast; here it means the adjacent places, the settlements or hamlets around Bethlehem. AH that were in that neighbourhood. We do not know how large a place Bethlehem was; nor, of course, how many were slain. But it was not a large place, and the number could not be very great. * According to the time,' &c. He had endeavoured to ascertain of the wise men the exact time of his birth. He supposed he knew the age of Jesus. He slew, therefore, all that were of his age; that is, all that were born about the time when the star appeared, perhaps from six months old to two years. Herod was an odious and bloody tyrant, and the facts of his reign prove that he was abundantly capable ct this wickedness. The following bloody deeds will show that the slaying of the infants was in perfect accordance with his character. Aristobulus, brother of his wife Mariamne, was murdered by his directions at eighteen years of age, because the people of Jerusalem had shown some affection for his person. In the seventh year of his reign he put to death Hyrcanus, grandfather of Mariamne, then eighty years of age, and who had formerly saved Herod's life; a man who had, in every revolution of fortune, shown a mild and peaceable disposition. His beloved and beautiful wife, Mariamne, was publicly executed, and her mother Alexandra followed soon after. Alexander and Aristobulus, his two sons by Mariamne, were strangled in prison by his orders, upon groundless suspicions, when they were at man's estate, were married, and had children. In his last sickness, he sent orders throughout Judea, requiring the presence of all the chief men of the nation at Jericho. When they were come he had them all shut up in the circus; and calling for his sister Salome, and her husband Alexas, he told them—' My life is now short. I know the Jewish people, and nothing will please them better than my death. You have them now in your custody. As soon as the breath is out of my body, and before my death can be known, do you let in the soldiers upon them, and kill them. All Judea, then, and every family, will, though unwillingly, mourn at my death.' Surely there could be no cruelty which such a man was not capable of perpetrating.
17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, IS In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping/or her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
17, 18. 'Jeremy.' Jeremiah. This quotation is taken from Jeremiah xxxi. 15. The word ' fulfilled, here is taken evidently in the sense that the words in Jeremiah aptly express the event which Matthew was recording. The original design of this prophecy was to descFibe the sorrowful departure of the people into captivity, after the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuzaradan. The captives were assembled at Rama, Jeremiah himself beihg in chains, and there the fate of those who had escaped in the destruction of the city was decided at the will of the conqueror, Jer. xl. 1. The sadness of such a scene is well expressed in the language of the prophet, and no less beautifully and fitly applies to the melancholy event which the evangelist records. Rama was a small town in the tribe of Benjamin, not far from Bethlehem. Rachel was the mother of Betijamin, and was buried near to Rama, Gen. xxxv. 16—19. By a beautiful figure of speech, the prophet introduces the mother weeping over the tribe, her children, and over the fallen destiny of Israel, and the calamities about to come upon the land. The language and the image aptly and beautifully expressed the sorrows of the mothers in Bethlehem, when Herod slew their infant children. We may remark here, that the sacred writers were cautious of speaking of characters. Here was one of the worst men in the world, committing one of the most awful crimes, and yet there is not a single mark of exclamation; not a single reference to any other part of his conduct. What was to their purpose they record; what was not, they left to others. This is the nature of religion. It does not speak evil of others, except when necessary, nor then take pleasure in it.
19 % But, when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt.
19. * Herod was dead.' See note on v. 15. Herod left three sons, and the kingdom was at his death divided between them. To Archelaus was given Judea, Idumea, and Samaria; to Philip, Batanea, Trachonitis, &c.; to Antipas, Galilee and Peraea. Each of these was also called Herod, and these are the Herods who are mentioned commonly in the New Testament,
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 in Judea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:
22. Archelaus possessed a cruel and tyrannical disposition similar to his father. At one of the passovers he caused three thousand of the people to be put to death in the temple and city. Knowing his character, and fearing that he would not be safe there, Joseph hesitated about going there. * The parts of Galilee.' The country of Galilee. At this time the land of Palestine was divided into three parts: Galilee, on the north ; Samaria, in the middle; and Judea, on the south. Galilee was under the government of Herod Antipas, who was comparatively a mild prince; and in his dominions Joseph might find safety.
23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
23. Nazareth was a small town, situated in Galilee, west oi Capernaum, and not far from Cana. It was built partly in a valley, and partly on the declivity of a hill, Luke iv. 29. A bill