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in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod
ferent minds may feel differently as to the answer to this question. And, seeing that much has been said and written on this note in no friendly spirit, I submit that it is not for any man to charge another, who is as firm a believer in the facts related in the sacred text as he himself can be, with weakening that belief, because he feels an honest conviction that it is here relating, not a miracle, but a natural appearance. It is, of course, the far safer way, as far as reputation is concerned, to introduce miraculous agency wherever possible: but the present Editor aims at truth, not popularity.
Now we learn from astronomical calculations, that a remarkable conjunction of the planets of our system took place a short time before the birth of our Lord. In the year of Rome 747, on the 29th of May, there was a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the 20th degree of the constellation Pisces, close to the first point of Aries, which was the part of the heavens noted in astrological science as that in which the signs denoted the greatest and most noble events. On the 29th of September, in the same year, another conjunction of the same planets took place, in the 16th degree of Pisces: and on the 5th of December, a third, in the 15th degree of the same sign. Supposing the magi to have seen the first of these conjunctions, they saw it actually in the East; for on the 29th of May it would rise 34 hours before sunrise. If they then took their journey, and arrived at Jerusalem in a little more than five months (the journey from Babylon took Ezra four months, see Ezra vii. 9), if they performed the route from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in the evening, as is implied, the December conjunction, in 15° of Pisces, would be before them in the direction of Bethlehem, 14 hour east of the meridian at sunset. These circumstances would seem to form a remarkable coincidence with the history in our text. They are in no way inconsistent with the word star, which cannot surely (see below) be pressed to its mere literal sense of one single star, but understood in its wider astrological meaning: nor is this explanation of the star directing them to Bethlehem at all repugnant to the plain words of vv. 9, 10, importing its motion from S.E. towards s.w., the direction of Bethlehem. We may further observe, that no part of the text respecting the star, asserts, or even implies, a miracle; and that the very slight apparent inconsis
tencies with the above explanation are no more than the report of the magi themselves, and the general belief of the age would render unavoidable. If this subservience of the superstitions of astrology to the Divine purposes be objected to, we may answer with Wetstein, "We must infer therefore that these men came to their conclusion from the rules of their art which though beyond all doubt futile, vain, and delusive, might yet be sometimes permitted to hit on a right result. Hence appears the wonderful wisdom of God, who used the wickedness of men to bring Joseph into Egypt,-who sent the King of Babylon against the Jews by auguries and divinations (Ezek. xxi. 21, 22), and in this instance directed the magi to Christ by astrology."
It may be remarked that Abarbanel the Jew, who knew nothing of this conjunction, relates it as a tradition, that no conjunction could be of mightier import than that of Jupiter and Saturn, which planets were in conjunction A.M. 2365, before the birth of Moses, in the sign of Pisces; and thence remarks that that sign was the most significant one for the Jews. From this consideration he concludes that the conjunction of these planets in that sign, in his own time (A.D. 1463), betokened the near approach of the birth of the Messiah. And as the Jews did not invent astrology, but learnt it from the Chaldæans, this idea, that a conjunction in Pisces betokened some great event in Judæa, must have prevailed among Chaldæan astrologers.
It is fair to notice the influence on the position maintained in this note of the fact which seems to have been substantiated, that the planets did not, during the year B.C. 7, approach each other so as to be mistaken by any eye for one star: indeed not "within double the apparent diameter of the moon." I submit, that even if this were so, the inference in the note remains as it was. The conjunction of the two planets, complete or incomplete, would be that which would bear astrological significance, not their looking like one star. The two bright planets seen in the east,-the two bright planets standing over Bethlehem, these would on each occasion have arrested the attention of the magi; and this appearance would have been denominated by them his star. in the east] i. e. either in the Eastern country from which they came, or in the Eastern quarter of the heavens.
c here only in
the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the N.T. I Mace. chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is d MICAH V. 2. written by the prophet, 6 d And thou Bethlehem, & [in the] land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. 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,
E not expressed in the original.
to worship him] i. e. to do homage
he had gathered] i. e. says Lightfoot,
It must be remembered that though the
out of thee shall come] It has been remarked that the singular expression, which occurs both in Tacitus and Suetonius (see above), "there should go forth from Judæa," may have been derived from these words of the LXX. 9.] stood over may mean over that part of Bethlehem where the young child was,' which they might have ascertained by enquiry. Or it may even mean, 'over the whole town of Bethlehem.' If it is to be understood as standing over the house, and thus indicating to the magi the position of the object of their search, the whole incident must be regarded as miraculous. But this
they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 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
f Isa. lx. 6.
* presented unto him gifts; 'gold, and frankincense, e PSA. lxxii. 10. and myrrh. 12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. 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 flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 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
h render, an.
stress must be laid on the omission of Joseph here. In the parallel account as regarded the shepherds, in Luke ii. 16, he is mentioned. I would rather regard the omission here as indicating a simple matter of fact, and contributing to shew the truthfulness of the narrative:-that Joseph happened not to be present at the time. If the meaning of the house is to be pressed (as in a matter of detail I think it should), it will confirm the idea that Joseph and Mary, probably under the idea that the child was to be brought up at Bethlehem, dwelt there some time after the Nativity. Epiphanius supposes that Mary was at this time on a visit to her kindred at Bethlehem (possibly at a Passover) as much as two years after our Lord's birth. But if Mary had kindred at Bethlehem, how could she be so ill-provided with lodging, and have (as is implied in Luke ii. 7) sought accommodation at an inn? And the supposition of two years having elapsed, derived probably from the "two years old" of ver. 16, will involve us in considerable difficulty. There seems to be no reason why the magi may not have come within the forty days before the
Purification, which itself may have taken place in the interval between their departure and Herod's discovery that they had mocked him. No objection can be raised to this view from the "two years old" of ver. 16: see note there. The general idea is, that the Purification was previous to the visit of the magi. Being persuaded of the historic reality of these narratives of Matt. and Luke, we shall find no difficulty in also believing that, were we acquainted with all the events as they happened, their reconcilement would be an easy matter; whereas now the two independent accounts, from not being aware of, seem to exclude one another. This will often be the case in ordinary life; e. g. in the giving of evidence. And nothing can more satisfactorily shew the veracity and independence of the narrators, where their testimony to the main facts, as in the present case, is consentient. treasures] chests or bales, in which the gifts were carried during their journey. The ancient Fathers were fond of tracing in the gifts symbolical meanings: "as to the king, the gold: as to one who was to die, the myrrh: as to a god, the frankincense." Origen, against Celsus; and similarly Irenæus. We cannot conclude from these gifts that the magi came from Arabia,- as they were common to all the East. Strabo says that the best frankincense comes from the borders of Persia.
13-23.] FLIGHT INTO EGYPT.
g Hos. xi. 1.
the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. 16 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 i coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the h JER. xxxi. 15. prophet, saying, 18 h In Rama was there a voice heard, [lamentation and] weeping, and great mourning, Rachel i render, borders: see ch. iv. 13, where the word in the original is the same. komit.
13.] The command was immediate; and Joseph made no delay. He must be understood, on account of "by night" below, as having arisen the same night and departed forthwith. Egypt, as near, as a Roman province and independent of Herod, and much inhabited by Jews, was an easy and convenient refuge. 15. Out of Egypt] This citation shews the almost universal application in the N. T. of the prophetic writings to the expected Messiah, as the general antitype of all the events of the typical dispensation.
shall have occasion to remark the same
16.] Josephus makes no mention of this slaughter; nor is it likely that he would have done. Probably no great number of children perished in so small a place as Bethlehem and its neighbourhood. The modern objections to this narrative may be answered best by remembering the monstrous character of this tyrant, of whom Josephus asserts, "a dark choler seized on him, maddening him against all." Herod had marked the way to his throne, and his reign itself, with blood; had murdered his wife and three sons (the last just about this time); and was likely enough, in blind fury, to have made no enquiries, but given the savage order
at once. Besides, there might have been
weeping for her children, and would not be comforted,
1 render, over.
1 Sam. x. 2) was 'in the way to Bethlehem; and from that circumstance, perhaps, the inhabitants of that place are called her children. We must also take into account the close relation between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, which had long subsisted. Ramah was six miles to the north of Jerusalem, in the tribe of Benjamin (Jer. xl. 1: "Er-Ram, marked by the village and green patch on its summit, the most conspicuous object from a distance in the approach to Jerusalem from the South, is certainly Ramah of Benjamin."" Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, p. 213; so that neither must this part of the prophecy be strictly taken.
20. for they are dead] The plural here is not merely idiomatic, nor for lenity and forbearance, in speaking of the dead; but perhaps a citation from Exod. iv. 19, where the same words are spoken to Moses, or betokens, not the number, but the category. Herod the Great died of a dreadful disease at Jericho, in the seventieth year of his age, and the thirtyeighth of his reign, A.U.c. 750.
ARCHELAUS was the son of Herod by Malthace, a Samaritan woman he was brought up at Rome; succeeded his father, but never had the title of king, only that of Ethnarch, with the government of Idumæa, Judæa, and Samaria, the rest of his father's dominions being divided between his brothers Philip and Antipas. But, (1) very likely the word reign is here used in the wider meaning:-(2) Archelaus did, in the beginning of his reign, give out and regard himself as king: (3) in ch. xiv. 9, Herod the Tetrarch is called the King.
m render, and.
i see note.
In the ninth year of his government Arche-