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among the princes of Juda: for | hem, and said, Go, and search dilout of thee shall come a Gov-igently for the young child; and ernor, that shall rule my people when ye have found him, bring me Israel. word again, that I may come and worship him also.

7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

8 And he sent them to Bethle

and religious liberty was so intimately connected with events that there transpired. Much more should the place be honored which gave birth to Him who redeems us from spiritual bondage, and bestows on us the liberty of the children of God. Rom. viii. 21. Rule. This word, in the original, signifies to rule or govern as a shepherd governs his flock. It is a government of love and mercy. Our Saviour adopts the same figure, in describing the relation between himself and his people. John x. 1-18. There is nothing oppressive or tyrannical in the government of our heavenly King. God sent him not to destroy, but to preserve. He gave him power over all, that he might give them eternal life. Luke ix. 56; John xvii. 2.

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


8. Search diligently. Make a thorough examination. The plan of Herod was deeply laid; and he omitted nothing which worldly wisdom indicated as necessary. He sent the very men who were most anxious to ascertain the fact, and encouraged them to be diligent and careful in their investigation. Ånd, lest he should be suspected of some evil design, he professed an earnest desire to render homage to the new prince. It is the fate of wicked men to be suspicious. They fear that others see through the cloak by which they endeavor to hide their sinfulness. They imagine themselves suspected. And, not unfrequently, they create the very suspicions they fear, by their efforts to avoid or counteract them. Herod adopted_a 7. Privily called. Herod seems to course very usual in similar cases. have formed his resolution at once, and professed a deep interest in a matter in to have determined on the preservation which good men were engaged, and of his power by an act of atrocious employed good men in a labor, good in wickedness. But to accomplish this, it itself, but intended to be converted to an was necessary to conceal his purpose, evil purpose. T Worship him also. lest it should be counteracted. Hence Rather, that I also may come and worhe called these wise men, and conferred ship him. Heroa professed the utmost with them secretly and privately. Yet submission and loyalty. One might there was one who discerned the intent suppose he was entirely destitute of of his heart, and to whom the inmost ambition, or was weary of the cares recesses of all hearts are distinctly visi- of government. He seemed perfectly ble. 1 John iii. 20. Diligently. ready to abdicate in favor of the newCarefully; particularly. He made a born prince, and to lay all his honors at close examination, to guard against his feet. His subsequent conduct, howmistake or deception. What time. ever, reveals the true state of his heart, He naturally supposed the star appeared a sample of many others. Ps. lv. at the time when the birth of this new king occurred. He had now approached towards the consummation of his pur1 pose. He had ascertained the time and place. It only remained to identify the individual, that he might, by one blow, crush his rival, and secure the peaceable possession of the throne to himself and his posterity. Had he taken counsel of the wise, instead of his own passions, he might have pursued a more judicious course. 38, 39.

Acts v.


9. The star. Of course, we are not to understand that this was what we generally denominate a star. The stars are large bodies, almost the smallest (if we include the planets) being much larger than the earth. It is absurd, therefore, to suppose that one of these, or one like these, was placed so near the earth as to point out the way to a particular city or village. Probably what the wise men saw was a meteoric or other luminous body, prepared for

stood over where the young child


10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother,

that purpose, of proper size and brilliancy to guide them on their way. Some have supposed that the light which they saw, while they were yet in the east, had some connexion with the event recorded, Luke ii. 9. It has been suggested, also, that after this luminous body appeared in the direction of Jerusalem, which induced the wise men to direct their steps thither, it was seen no more, until, upon their departure from that city, its light again became necessary for their guidance. T Stood over the place. This affords additional proof that the star was no more than a meteor, or other small luminous body, at no great distance from the earth. But whatever it may have been, it was appointed as the guide to the place where the young child was, and to the individual himself. It may not be entirely fanciful to remark, that the wise men found Christ bodily, as all others must find him spiritually, by divine assistance. John vi. 44, 65. Short-sighted and erring as we are, we could not of ourselves trace our way through the wilderness of sin to the footstool of the blessed Saviour. But the eye which never slumbers will watch over us, and the light which shineth continually will guide us, until we feel the sanctifying influence of Christ's presence. Under such guidance we may walk with confidence, trusting that, in due time, we shall behold our Saviour, and be conformed to his glorious image. 1 John iii. 2; Rom. viii.


10. Great joy. Their joy, at again beholding the guiding light, indicates the earnestness of their search, and the value they attached to the object sought. If they thus rejoiced in hope of finding an earthly king, for such they supposed him to be, much more should we rejoice in believing that we shall be guided to our spiritual ruler, the Shepherd of our souls.

11. Fell down and worshipped. See

and fell down, and worshipped him and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed

note on ver. 2. The token of homage or worship, as rendered to princes and others in authority, was prostration of the body. "In this act, the person kneels, and puts his head between his knees, his forehead at the same time touching the ground." The same custom still prevails in the east. ¶ Gifts. It was usual then, and in many places now, to offer rich gifts to the great and powerful, as a means of securing favor. See Gen. xxxii. 13-20, and xxxiii. 3. We also should offer a gift to our spiritual ruler; not perishable goods, as gold and spices, but our own hearts. This, and this only, is required of Christ's disciples. Anything short of this is comparatively vain and useless. Gold. The offerings which they presented were valuable. And it was mercifully ordered that these presents should be bestowed at a time when the family had so much need, being about to depart into the land of Egypt. ¶ Frankincense. "An odoriferous gum, anciently much burnt in the temples, and now used in medicine. It exudes from incisions made in the tree during the heat of summer; the largest and best trees are called male incense. Some frankincense is still brought from the East Indies, but that of Arabia or Syria is much preferred to it. The form of the tree, from which it is extracted, does not appear to be distinctly ascertained." -Jones. Myrrh. "A gum yielded by a tree, common in Arabia; which is about five cubits high, its wood hard, and its trunk thorny. Scripture notices two kinds; one, which runs of itself, without incision; the other, a kind which was employed in perfumes, and in embalming, to preserve the body from corruption."-Calmet. For this last named purpose, it was used by the disciples of our Lord, after his crucifixion. John xix. 39.

12. Warned of God. Jesus declares that all righteousness, or all righteous ordinances were to be fulfilled in him.

into their own country another | seek the young child to destroy


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

Matt. iii. 15. See also Isa. xlii. 21. Hence it was proper that he should be circumcised, and be presented in the temple, at the times and with the ceremonies prescribed in the law. But this could not have been done, nor even could his life have been preserved, without a miracle, had Herod received immediate information where he was. This information, therefore, was not given, by divine direction. Thus does God watch over and preserve his children from harm, yet not interposing miraculously, except in extraordinary cases. In a dream. This was, in some sense, miraculous; yet less so, perhaps, than any other method of accomplishing the same result. It was sufficient, that a strong impression should be made upon the minds of the magians, that it would be injudicious, dangerous, or wrong, to return home by the way of Jerusalem, or to have any further conference with Herod; and this could as easily be made in a dream as otherwise. See note, Matt. i. 20.

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13. Flee into Egypt. The boundary of Egypt was not more than about sixty miles from Bethlehem; it was, therefore, a convenient place of retreat. It afforded a secure refuge, because it was beyond the power and jurisdiction of Herod. Many Jews resided there, and enjoyed many privileges; having places of worship, and liberty to profess and practise their own religion. Joseph was among his kindred, even while in a land of strangers. It is remarkable that this is the only time in which our Saviour was out of Palestine, and that this was in the land where the children of Israel had suffered so much and so long under the oppression of the Egyptian kings. The very land, which was the land of bondage and groaning for the Jews, became now the land of safety and refuge for the new-born king of the Jews."-Barnes. It may be added, as a coincidence not less striking, that the land, to which


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, God sent Joseph of old, that he might escape perils among his own brethren, and might save much people alive,Gen. 1. 20,-was the same to which he now sent his well-beloved Son, that he might escape the impending danger, fulfil his mission, and give life to the world. To destroy him. To kill him. The extent of the danger was communicated to Joseph, that he might be the more powerfully moved. The prediction was fulfilled, as is evident from the subsequent account.

14. By night. In this case, as in others, Joseph manifested an obedient spirit. He was ready to obey God, so far as his will was made known. Thus doing, he found that prosperity, protection, and peace, which are ever the portion of the obedient. He departed by night, not waiting even for the morning. It is the interest as well as the duty of men, to obey the divine commands readily and promptly. It was so in this case. Herod was less likely to be informed of his departure, than if he had gone publicly, and less able to prevent his escape, by making immediate pursuit.

15. Until the death of Herod. The precise duration of this residence in Egypt, is not known; nor is there any authentic account of the events which occurred there. No reliance can be placed on those apocryphal stories which have been published, concerning the infancy of our Lord. Herod is supposed to have died before Jesus had attained the age of four years; and some fix the date even earlier. He died of a most painful and loathsome disease, after enduring such horrible torture and anguish, as induced the beholders to say, "that God inflicted this punishment on the king, on account of his great impiety."-Josephus. See note on ver. 16. That it might be fulfilled. The language here quoted from the prophet,-Hosea xi. 1,-undoubtedly

Out of Egypt have I called my | and sent forth, and slew all the


16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth,

had primary reference to the great deliverance of the Israelites by the hand of Moses. It is said to be fulfilled, in the case of Jesus, in that accommodated sense, in which the prophets are frequently quoted by the New Testa ment writers. The meaning is, that the event was so strikingly similar to the one anciently predicted, that the prophecy seemed as actually fulfilled in the one case as in the other. The prophet referred to an event already past. Yet the evangelist, by accommodation, applied his language to an event which occurred some centuries subsequently. The same remarks are applicable to many other cases, in which similar phraseology occurs. This manner of applying ancient predictions, or proverbs, was not unusual among the orientals, as has been proved by Dr. Wiseman. I quote a portion of his remarks from the Universalist Expositor, Vol. III. (N. S.) p. 250,- (1,) The phrase, to be fulfilled, is so used, and that in a declaratory form, and not merely as in the instance given by Wetstein. In a fuller life of St. Ephrem than the one he quotes, we have this remarkable passage: And in him was fulfilled the word which was spoken concerning Paul to Ananias, He is a vessel of election to me. Acts ix. 15.' The author is here speaking of St. Ephrem, and clearly expresses himself, that the words, which he applies to him, were really spoken of another. But the saint himself, (St. Ephrem,) the oldest writer extant in that language, uses this phrase in a more remarkable manner. For he thus speaks of Aristotle: In him was fulfilled that which was written concerning Solomon the wise; that of those who were before or after, there has not been one equal to him in wisdom. 1 Kings iii. 12.' (2.) The expression, as it is written, or, as the prophet says, is used precisely in the same manner. St. Ephrem uses it manifestly to introduce a mere adaptation of a scriptural text,- Those who are in error have hated the source of assistance; as it is written, The Lord |

children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he


awoke like one who slept. Ps. lxxviii. 65.' To see the force of this application, the entire passage (in Ephrem) must be read. (3.) Even the strongest of all such expressions, this is he of whom it is written, is used with the same freedom by these early oriental writers. the Acts of St. Ephrem, which I have more than once quoted, it is so applied. For example, speaking of the saint, (i. e. of St. Ephrem,)-This is he of whom our Saviour said, I came to cast fire upon the earth. Luke xii. 49.' another place the same text is applied to him by St. Basil in still more definite terms."-Wiseman's Lectures, &c., pp. 342-345.


16. Mocked. Deceived; or, rather, slighted or treated with contempt. He had commanded them to return to him, when they had found the child; and they had disobeyed him. He was not only disappointed in his expectations, but he felt that his power and authority had been disregarded and contemned. A proud, haughty monarch, like Herod, who neither feared God nor regarded man, would naturally consider himself mocked or treated with contempt, when disobeyed, even though such disobedience were expressly commanded by God. This is one of the miseries of greatness. Exceeding wroth. Exceedingly angry. He was furious, at the idea that any should presume to disregard his authority. It was fortunate for the wise men, that they were beyond his reach; for most severely would he have avenged their supposed insult, if we may credit the account which Josephus has given of his ungovernable passions. Slew all the children. We have here a striking illustration of the progressive nature of wickedness. Herod, at first, designed to slay Jesus alone. He was willing to be guilty of murder, as oftentimes before, to secure his own power. But the murder of one was considered sufficient. The removal of his rival would render him safe. Hence he endeavored to identify the individual. Failing in this, he did not hesitate to commit still greater iniquity.

had diligently inquired of the wise


17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,

18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

had entered upon the second year, as the eldest age indicated. The object, however, is evident; to destroy all those who were born about the time when the star appeared, and thus to insure the destruction of the child whose birth had occasioned so much agitation and alarm. Which he had diligently inquired. Herod had closely questioned the wise men, concerning the exact time when the star appeared; he thought he had obtained correct information; and he intended to allow somewhat both before and after that period, so that he might be certain to include the individual whom he feared as a competitor for the throne.

17. Fulfilled. See note on ver. 15. The scene described by Matthew reminded him of that mentioned by the prophet; and he quoted the language as appropriate and applicable. ¶Jeremy. Jeremiah. The words quoted were used by the prophet concerning the captivity of the Israelites, when they, and he with them, were led away into Babylon. See Jer. xxxi. 15.

If the murder of one would not suffice, the number should be increased; and if the family could not be ascertained, the whole city should suffer. Thus true it is, that one sinful purpose, cherished in the heart, prepares the way for others even more sinful. How many were destroyed by Herod, at this time, does not appear. It is not probable that he slew any females, as he apprehended no danger from them. And the number of males under the age of two years, in a village like Bethlehem, could not have been very great. The principle, however, is the same, whether the number were five, or five thousand. Herod had resolved that the slaughter should be effectual, and that his own power should be secured, at whatever expense of blood, and by whatever accumulation of guilt. This was in perfect accordance with his general character. He had not hesitated, before, to put his relatives, even his own sons, to death, when he considered himself to be in any danger on their account. And at the close of life, while enduring such horrible torments that he would even have 18. Rama. A town, within the borcommitted suicide, had he not been pre-ders of Benjamin, not far from Bethlevented by others, he commanded that the principal men of the nation should be slaughtered as soon as he should die, so that his death might be signalized by a general national mourning. It need occasion no surprise that such a man should be guilty of the atrocious wickedness described in the text. It was among the least of his iniquities. And perhaps for this very reason Josephus omits all notice of it, considering it scarcely of sufficient magnitude and enormity to be included in the catalogue of his crimes. T Coasts. Environs, or borders. The word now generally refers to lands bordering on the sea; but formerly it was used to indicate places adjoining or lying near cities and villages; and such is its meaning here. Thoo years old and under. This phrase is somewhat ambiguous. Some understand it to include those who had fully completed two years, while others suppose it to embrace only those who

hem of Judah. Some suppose this to
have been the place where Rachel was
buried. She was certainly buried near
Bethlehem. Gen. xxxv. 19; xlviii. 7.
The vicinity of the two places rendered
the use of the prophet's language the
more strikingly appropriate. It would
call up afresh to the mind of a Jew that
touching lamentation, and almost cause
him to feel that the same calamity had
been again experienced. ¶ Lamenta-
tion, and weeping, and great mourn-
ing. By an accumulation of words
descriptive of sorrow, the intensity of
suffering is indicated.
¶ Rachel weep-
ing. As if the sorrows and lamenta-
tions of the living were not sufficient,
the prophet represents Rachel, the
favorite wife of Jacob, as aroused from
the slumber of the tomb by the calami-
ties of her children, and mingling her
tears with theirs. A description of
such maternal anguish might well be
applied to those mothers in Bethlehem,

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