- The Ancient Path, Matthew Chapter 1, Gaebelein Intro

The Gospel of Matthew
"The Visit of the Wise Men" - Genealogy


J. Deering,


The Book of MATTHEW



The Visit of the Wise Men

Matthew 2:1

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in the time of King Herod, wise men  from the East came to Jerusalem


Bethlehem was just a small hamlet south west of Jerusalem. Once called Ephrath or Ephratah. Its claim to fame was that it was the birthplace of King David, and after David became the King of Judah (and then the whole nation of Israel), Bethlehem was to be called, "the city of David."


Micah 5:2 proclaims that this little town would be the birthplace of the "promised one."


"But thou, Bethlehem, Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."


Bethlehem, Ephratah (Ephrath)


The name of a Biblical place and personal name meaning "fruitful".


The first mention of Ephrath occurs in Genesis, in reference to where Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin and is buried on the road from Bethel. A very old tradition is that Ephrath refers to Bethlehem, and thus that she died on the way there, reflected by the ancient Tomb of Rachel at the city's entrance.


Some modern scholars have placed this location closer to Bethel, in the vicinity of Ramallah, based on verses in Samuel and Jeremiah. A prime candidate according to this view is a site known in Arabic as "kubur beni israil" ("burial of the Children of Israel"), and is adjacent to the "Farah" wadi, whose name recalls "Ephrath".


Throughout much of the Bible, Ephrath is a description for members of the Israelite tribe of Judah, as well as for the possible founders of Bethlehem. The birth of Jesus in nearby Bethlehem in the territory of or "towards Ephrata" (Bethlehem Ephrata) has always been accounted by Christians a fulfillment of the prophecy in Micah 5:2.[1]



With the civil war that divided the nation of Israel, at the end of the reign of King David, came two distinct governmental states. The larger, and more secular, Northern Kingdom was made up of all the tribes of the Hebrews with the exception of Benjamin and Judah.


The Northern Kingdom had its seat of power in Samaria. The North was conquered by Assyria, and at the end of their captivity period the general area where they had come from was just called Samaria and largely the population there became known as Samarians.


The Southern Kingdom had its seat of power in Jerusalem. The South was conquered by Babylonia, and at the end of their captivity period the general area where they had come from, and now many returned, was known as Judea - as the Hebrew people who returned there from both captivities. By the time of the writing of the New Testament the land where the Hebrew people called home was called Judea, and the people themselves were called "Jews" by the Romans - because they came from Judea. The term "Jews" has stuck with them ever since.


The Wisemen

The "wise men from the East," were likely Persians. While studying Chapter 1 we made reference to the Magi. We'll take time here to expand on some possibilities.


The first major possibility is that these Magi were perhaps from what is now called Northern Iraq. It is possible that these men who came to find the one "Born King of the Jews," were Jews or descendants of Jews themselves. Both the nation of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and Judah (the Southern Kingdom) were taken into captivity about 400 years before Christ. The nation of Israel was first taken by the Assyrians. This would mean that many who were living in Samaria and the other Northern tribe areas would have been walked from there to the land of the Assyrians. The Assyrians were a Semitic people who lived in the northern Mesopotamian Fertile Crescent. Pretty much from the land that Abram first journeyed from. They were, in fact, distant relatives of the Israelites.


Not long after they had been taken captive the Macedonian (Greek) hero Alexander the Great had died in the land of Assyria after his troops forced him to abandon his efforts to conquer India. With his death came the destruction of his power base and Persia came into power to replace him.


Meanwhile, Babylonia, the land just South-East of Assyria (see map), was also coming into power and they beat back the Assyrians in Judah and took the nation of Judah into captivity - walking them to Babylon. Then the Persians overthrew the Babylonians.


This meant that Persia, which is now the lands of Iraq and Iran, was also full of captive Jews. This makes it reasonable that some of these Jews, or their descendants, were those who had the Hebrew Scriptures, had studied them, and also gained other astrological knowledge. These who knew the Hebrew Scriptures and would have been looking for the "Sign of the King," could have been Jews themselves.


Many scholars believe these Magi could have been just Persians, and the preceding hypothesis would have placed the Hebrew Scriptures in the right place and time.


Other theories have been put forth and in the end, without proof, we can not know the full story for sure.

The First Appearance of the Star
Q.  When did the wise men's visit take place?
 Certainly not on the night of our Lord's birth! No, very probably about 3 to 6 months later. This answer comes in three parts.


A. Here is how we arrive at that figure.
Our Lord began His public ministry when He was about 30 (Luke 3:23). This about six months after the ministry of John the Baptist began, because Jesus was six months younger than John (Luke 1:36). From Luke 3:1, we find John began his ministry in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar.


No matter what chronological scheme we adopt, we cannot allow more than 30 years between Jesus' birth and the beginning of His public ministry (Luke 3:23) (remembering also that one is thirty years old for a whole year). Many authorities place the beginning of Tiberius's reign around AD 11 or 12 at the earliest (he shared the throne for the first two years of his reign). Add 15 years to that and we get AD 26 or 27.


Deduct 30 years from AD 26 and we arrive at around 4 or 5 BC.


Now we know that Herod the Great, who received the wise men and later sought Jesus' life, died in late March or early April, 4 BC. Evidently shortly after the Bethlehem massacre. The wise men of necessity arrived before the massacre, hence before late March or early April, 4 BC, but just as obviously after Jesus was presented at the temple when He was 40 days old (Luke 2:22-24; Leviticus 12:1-4; Numbers 8:17). We say this because it would have been fatal for Joseph and Mary to take Jesus up to the temple after Herod's jealousy and fury had been aroused by the possibility of a rival king.


So, how long after Jesus was 40 days old and how long before the massacre, we do not know. But the time area is restricted by the time of Herod's death.


B. But because of the time of the death of Herod (late March or early April, 4 BC) and the time of the beginning of John's ministry (AD 26 or 27), and hence Jesus' ministry, the period between Jesus' birth and the incidents of the arrival of wise men and the massacre, the death of Herod could not have been more than ten months later than Jesus' birth and possibly less. At any event the family was no longer in the inn's grotto or stable but in a "house" (V. 11).


C. A common fallacy in the this matter has been the assumption that the FIRST appearance of the star signaled the time at which Jesus was born. The Scripture nowhere says this. Certainly Herod assumed this, but Herod is not a safe guide! Now, it is evident that the time the wise men first saw the star (V. 7) was the guiding factor in Herod's decision to slay all male children two years old and under (V. 16).


But it is apparent from the dates cited in the paragraph above that the appearance of the star could not have been the time of the birth of Jesus, for that would have made His birth take place in 6 BC or after, and AD 26 would have been when He was 32 years of age instead of 30 when He began His public ministry (Luke 3:23). That would also throw in an extra monkey wrench making Jesus at least two years of age at the time of the Bethlehem massacre, thus allowing too narrow a margin for error in the selection of children at two years of age.


So, it becomes evident that the star's first appearance was God's way of alerting the wise men. First, they had to decide what it meant (according to Numbers 24:17). Then, they had to choose those who would make the journey and prepare for it. Finally, they would have to travel the long distance, at least from Persia ("magus" [singular], "magi" [plural] means "great" and is a Persian title for teachers or wise men), visit Herod at Jerusalem, and go to Bethlehem. Then, Herod would have to wait for them to return, discover his command was ignored, and order and carry out the massacre.


This would take a substantial amount of time and account for perhaps 1 to 1 1/2 years. Since Herod was cunning and eager to destroy any possible rival to the throne, he no doubt added a margin of perhaps six months to the time the wise men said the star had appeared (V. 16) as a safety precaution to be sure to include Jesus in the slaughter. This would obviously be necessary both because it is difficult to distinguish a child's exact age at 18 months to 2 years (especially for an 14 to 19 year old soldier), and mothers would certainly lie about a son's age. Thus a sufficient margin would be necessary to assure success of his plan.[2]

This would place Jesus at about the age of ten months when Herod had all the children of Bethlehem slaughtered. Since Herod's troops would be from fourteen years of age and up, you can see why he placed an age limit at two years. Any child whose age wasn't easy to ascertain would be killed.


Now would perhaps be a good time to consider the purposes of the slaying of the children. Was it only the rage of an earthly king who was protective of his throne? Of course not. It was clearly the rage of the "Prince of darkness" who sought to destroy the Savior of mankind before He could mature and complete His mission.


It was only the intervention of God Himself, through His archangels that prevented the Son of God from being slain amongst the others. Instead He was sent away to Egypt with his family. The gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh were well used for providing His family's financial needs while in Egypt. Oh, the provision of God. How wonderful He is, indeed.


Place the blame for this massacre upon Satan himself, and consider the lengths he has gone, as in this instance, the murdering of hundreds of innocent children, to prevent the lost from knowing their Savior. Never forget Satan's power, his motivation, or his hatred for our precious savior.


The Wise men somewhere in the East studied the Scriptures.
1.  A Star in the night sky (supra natural, probably) appeared (upon the Birth of Jesus the King)
2.  An Angel notifies the Shepherds of His birth and they visit Him.
3.  The Wise men made the connection between the two.
4.  The Star probably disappeared.
5.  They prepared their journey and their gifts.
6.  Time passes and Jesus & Family move from stable to House.
6.  They traveled to Jerusalem (2 months?) - expecting the King to have been born there.
7.  The Met with officials in Jerusalem and they left looking for birthplace.
8.  The Miraculous Star appeared locally to guide them to the HOUSE.

9.  They visit, give gifts, and return home by a different route.



2:2 saying, “Where is the one who is born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”


The question they asked and the comment they make demonstrate the power of the Word of God in the hearts of those who have been sensitized to it by the Holy Spirit. If they were of Jewish descent or Gentiles with the "Circumcised Heart" the word "worship" could indicate their trusting belief in the coming messiah of the People of God. If they were just enlightened pagan astronomers their comment would only indicate they had traveled from afar to do "obeisance" to a new king in that area. It's also possible that they may have come this distance just to add another deity to their pagan collection. While I lean on the "believer" side of this issue, who they really were and why they came doesn't change the fact that they knew the scriptures and according to those scriptures the fact of the birth of this King was long foretold and is now accomplished in human history. God's word is true and accurate right down to the smallest details.


When they arrived they went right to the main administration building and asked "Where is he?" Their full expectation was that he would be known by all those there. It must have really confused them when no one there knew anything about their revelation.


Herod's Response


When King Herod heard this he was alarmed, and all Jerusalem with him.


King Herod was more than a little alarmed[3] at this news of The Messiah, the Christ of the Jews. The Greek word used here was historically used to describe an event that was confused and frightened, like a rebellion. Mix this with Herod's murderous paranoia and you have a really frightening event for all involved.


Apparently the news of the arrival of the inquisitive wise men caused a great stir amongst the people of Jerusalem as it had with Herod. News of a new "born king" should have brought forth a renewed hope in the hearts of the Jews of the city - but instead it brought confusion, fright, and a fear of what Herod might do when he found out about a new "born King of the Jews" (Herod's official title granted by Caesar Augustus of Rome).


We make reference here to Chapter 1 and our note on being the "born King." This descriptive term that denotes that Jesus is born as that person who was to be King. He was in the right place in the genealogies. His destiny throughout prophecy is to be King. When He is born, it is expected that this child will be the new King of Israel.


Looked East and saw the Star - NO!
While in the East, we looked and saw His star !

It is an interesting fact that the people whom God was preparing for their Savior, namely the Nation of Israel, did not recognize the signs or the times for the coming of their Messiah. Instead, men who were searchers of truth, and not just the Hebrew Scriptures, from far away in the East (Asians or Oriental) knew enough about the signs and times to understand that something of great significance was either happening or about to happen. They were acquainted with the scriptures enough to know of the coming of the King of Israel. And God's very own people did not. What a sad commentary on the spiritual condition of that nation.


See also Numbers 24:10-17 and Daniel 9:24-26a.

But in like manner, how many of us know the scriptures well enough to put our finger on the prophecies concerning His first coming? Or, perhaps even more important, how many of us know the Scriptures well enough to put our fingers on the prophecies of His Second coming? How many of us will He find unprepared? Or will His second coming be totally unknown and appreciated by the Church like His first coming was by Israel?

Now, hearing this Herod the king was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

No king wants to hear of the birth of a new king in his own land. Especially when this new king is not of your family. And not only is he not of your family but he is Born King of the Jews. Rome had just finished conquering this land and this people. The last thing Herod would want is for these conquered people to have a Rightful King Born unto them. And again, especially a Born King who has come through the prophecies. "My job, my position, my kingdom!"


But, what about "all of Jerusalem?" Why are they so troubled? Wouldn't you think the city would be shouting for joy? The only answers I can think of have to do with human greed. Who wants a new king, when prices are down, interest rates are high, and big business is booming. Who wants national struggle, change, revolution, etc., when things are pretty good right now. Who wouldn't want a Messiah King? Big business, Big money, and Big government, that's who.


Distinguishing between the different "Herods" in the New Testament?
The rulers who went by the name of "Herod" were descended from the Idumaeans, the ancient Edomite people who had been forcibly converted to Judaism around 200 B.C.

Herod The Great, who ruled Judea from 37-4 B.C., was the most famous of the Herodian dynasty. He was the great builder of theatres, hippodromes, and temples -- the most famous of which was the great Temple at Jerusalem. In his latter years he became very afraid of usurpers to his throne, and, therefore, he murdered many of his family members. this attitude fits in well with his infamous act of slaughtering the innocent children of Bethlehem for fear that the "King of the Jews" would depose him (Matthew 2:1-12).


The other "Herod" in the Gospels is Herod Antipas, who ruled areas of Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C. - 39 A.D. He was responsible for the beheading of John the Baptist, who had condemned his adulterous marriage (Matthew 14:3-12). Jesus referred to Herod Antipas as "that fox" (Luke 13:31-33), and it was this Herod who "tried" Jesus (Luke 23:6-12).


The next "Herod" in the New Testament was Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great, who ruled as King from about 37 - 44 A.D. He is known for his persecution of the early church by killing the Apostle James and imprisoning Peter (Acts 12:1-19). He died a horrible death in Caesarea, described both by Luke in Acts 12:20-23 and the historian Josephus (Antiquities 19.8.2)


The last of the "Herods" was Herod Agrippa II, the great grandson of Herod the Great, who ruled from 50 - 100 A.D. He is the "Agrippa" before whom Paul preached in Acts 26. He was notorious for his incestuous relationship with his sister, Bernice, and for his rejection of the Gospel presented by Paul.


Each of the "Herods" mentioned figures prominently in the story of the New Testament. It is striking that each of them faced the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and having rejected it, died shameful deaths, in spite of all the "glory" of their reigns.[4]


2:4 After assembling all the chief priests and experts in the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.


Quickly Herod draws together a panel of those who ought to know the details of such a one. Herod, now months after the birth, asks these Jewish leaders for the place "where the Christ was to be born." These men knew of Herod's treachery with his family. They must have thought that they were going to be put to death for hiding this information. How could have it been that He was not told of this birth? This meeting would have been like the inquisition for them. I can see them pouring over the books of the Scriptures looking for the words that the Magi found. Then suddenly there it was, the Prophet Micah had revealed the place for the birth of the one who would come.


2:5  “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they said, “for it is written this way by the prophet:


2:6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are in no way least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” [5]


In God's eyes this little hamlet was a seat of power in the land of Judah. He had Micah write down that Bethlehem was in no way least among the rulers of Judah. Like the honor that was placed upon Mary to be the mother of Jesus, so Bethlehem the city that was home to Boaz, Naomi, and Ruth, where King David was born was once again blessed with great honor - The place where the Christ would be born.


The Holy Spirit led Micah to record that this ruler who was to be born was to be the "The shepherd" of God's people Israel. The shepherd is the one who is in charge of the care, feeding, and protection of his flock.


The last three words of this verse point to the importance of knowing to whom this Messiah-King was to be born - to Israel, to the people who were the generations of Abraham - through Isaac - through Jacob. Although called "Jews" (a derivative of Judah) since the captivity of the last tribes of Israel (Judah and Benjamin) they are actually of a much broader heritage. They are the descendants of the 12 tribes of Jacob. The nation had been divided since Solomon's son Rehoboam - but it was still "the People of God." The family through which the King was promised was Judah but the kingdom would be all of Israel reunited. It was to them that Jesus had come to be "King."


2:7 Then Herod  privately summoned the wise men and determined from them when the star had appeared.


Herod brings the wise men together in a "private" meeting. Herod could not allow this news of a "Born King of the Jews" to become public knowledge.


2:8 He  sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and look carefully for the child. When you find him, inform me so that I can go and worship him as well.”

Herod tells the Magi a simple, but guarded, request. "Go and inquire carefully... that I too may come and worship Him." He must have put on quite a show for them. And what a craftsman. These learned men arrive unannounced and find an audience with "Herod the Great," and he doesn't loose his cool when he hears of the birth of one who is "born King of the Jews." But why did he want to know. Certainly it was not that he should humble himself down in the position of worship (Gr.-Prosekuntasan: prostrated himself). No it was to gain evidence of His birth that he (Herod) might try to destroy Him (Jesus).


Now that Herod knew in what city the child would be born he instructs the wise men to find this new king - then come right back here and tell him where he is, "so that I can go and worship him." To know Herod's heart you have to look at the end of verse 13. Gabriel returns to Joseph and warns him in a dream, "Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy him."


2:9 After listening to the king they left, and once again the star they saw when it rose led them until it stopped above the place where the child was. 2:10 When they saw the star they shouted joyfully.


We are not told when the Magi saw the first appearance of the star and they were in a land East of Jerusalem when they saw it. They understood its import (Numbers 24:17). Herod assumed that they saw it on the night of His birth, however nothing in the Scriptures tells us for sure. What we do know is that the first star event signaled to them that there was a new-born King.


The beginning of their journey to Israel could have been a few months earlier. They would have seen the star, and considered its meanings, searched the Scriptures, gathered their gifts and entourage, and headed West for Jerusalem. While they were ignorant of the city of birth for they expected the King, "The Scepter of Israel" would be born in Jerusalem the "capital city" of the Kingdom of the Jews.


That evening the star returned. It seems to have been absent during their journey - if that were the case their journey would have been made upon great faith. This second appearing of the star is a miraculous event, they shouted joyfully at its appearance. This star not only rose up in the sky but also parked itself in such a location that they were able to determine the very dwelling place of the child King.


The star led them only when they left Jerusalem to go to Bethlehem. It apparently reappeared when they left Jerusalem to go down to Bethlehem, in accordance with what the scribes had told them by quoting Micah 5:2. The star NOW led them (for the first time). (or perhaps even two different stars, one supernatural one very supernatural, one which sent them to their studies to find its meaning, and one which hung very low so as to point out the exact house of our Lord). This is why they rejoiced (V. 10). What had begun to look like a "wild goose chase," when they came to the Jew's capital city and found no one knew about the king being born (V. 3-6), is now confirmed as God's leading by the star's reappearance, even guiding them to Bethlehem.


2:11 As they came into the house and saw the child with Mary his mother, they bowed down [6]  and worshiped him. They opened their treasure boxes and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense,[7]  and myrrh.[8]


At least forty days has passed since the birth of Jesus. Since forty days after His birth Mary brought offerings for her purification to the temple, the offerings she brought were the offerings of a poor person, "a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons" (Luke 2:22-24).


When we come to this verse we read that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus are now living in a house. The text clearly uses the Greek word for a house, not a stable or cave. We are not told what plans Joseph had made for his family as to where they would set up their home or why they were still in Bethlehem. We can surmise that the Magi took a few, to several, weeks to make their journey from first seeing the star that the shepherds had seen. It is the order of events that should hold our attention not the duration.


When the Magi arrived and saw the child they bowed down and worshiped him. The word here suggests that they went down upon their whole body on the ground (or floor) as they would for great majesty or deity. They were prostrate - a universal pose for absolute worship.


They also brought gifts that befitted this new King according to the scriptures. The very earliest church fathers understood the significance of these gifts.


The Gold - a worthy gift for Christ the King.


The Frankincense - a key element in Hebrew worship as one of the essentials on the "Table of Incense" in the "Holy Place" of the Tabernacle and the Temple - a worthy gift for Christ the Intercessor.


The Myrrh - a key element in the preparation of the body after death - a worthy gift for Christ the Sacrificial Lamb.


These gifts also were Divine financial provisions for Jesus and His family for their escape to Egypt.


Having entered, the wise men see "the little child with Mary his mother)" Note that whenever mother and infant are mentioned together (vs. 11, 13, 14, 20, and 21) the infant is always mentioned first. It is that little child upon whom the main interest is concentrated. This is as it should be.


2:12 After being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back by another route to their own country.

Joseph and Mary must have been greatly comforted by the coming to the wise men and by what they did. It was a confirmation of all the wonderful things that had been spoken previously concerning the child: by an angel to Joseph (Matt. 1:20, 21), by the angel Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:26-35), by Elizabeth to Mary (Luke 1:42), by the shepherds when they reported to Mary and Joseph what they had heard from the angels in a field near Bethlehem (Luke 2:8-19), and by Simeon addressing Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:25-33).


It would have certainly been on Herod's murderous heart to do away with the evidence of the Magi visit - including the Magi themselves. God preserves their lives by warning them in a dream to flee home, and by a different route (Gk. Allas: Another way of a different kind, as opposed to another way of the same kind). So Herod is not told by the Magi about either the fact of the birth or the location of this child King.



The Escape to Egypt

2:13 After they had gone, an angel of the Lord [9]  appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to look for the child to kill him.”


Jesus was of the House of David and therefore Bethlehem would be the center of Herod's search and wrath. The prophecies said this king would be born in the House of David and in the city of Bethlehem - Certainly this paranoid/psychotic ruler who murdered most of his own family would not hesitate to murder all those who could claim the direct descendancy of that house regardless of their age.


Many Hebrews and Gentiles would have fled from the terribleness of Herod and Egypt was not far, only a few days' journey. Jesus, Joseph, and Mary would have found acceptance and an established Hebrew community at the end of their journey.


2:14 Then he got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and went to Egypt. 2:15 He stayed there until Herod died. In this way what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet was fulfilled:


“I called my Son out of Egypt.” [10]


Matthew makes reference to a prophecy of Hosea, "I called my Son out of Egypt." Hosea was in the middle of writing about how God yearns over His people Israel even in the midst of their constant disobedience. It is good to remember that the whole book of the Bible is about Jesus, the Son of God. How wonderful it is to find verses written concerning Him hidden among the thorns.


We also need to see and remember that Joseph obeyed the instructions of the Angel. Joseph has learned to trust the word of God delivered to him.


Just as God, through his forefather Joseph, had been the provider of the Egyptian refuge for the people of God two thousand years before, now God provides Egypt again as refuge for Joseph, Mary, and His own beloved Son.


We have no way of knowing just how long Joseph, Mary, and Jesus stayed in Egypt. Herod's death, remember the chart, could have been anywhere from a few days to approx. two years after Jesus' birth.


Herod, and the Slaughter of the Boys

2:16 When Herod [11]  saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he became enraged. He sent men [12]  to kill all the children in Bethlehem and throughout the surrounding region from the age of two and under, according to the time he had learned from the wise men.


Wicked Herod! Killer of much of his family out of jealousy for his crown. Time has passed since the Magi had left the East. Various scholars put forth times of their arrival from the Birth to two years after the birth. The soldiers at Herod's command would have been young men - probably from 17-20. Herod gives them the guideline of two years old and under, for what 17 year old can tell the age of a very young child. "Kill all the boys born in the last two years!" Bethlehem was a relatively small community - however much swollen in population during the census, and we don't know how long that process took. The surrounding region was included in Herod's dictate. The slaughter of the children may have been small or quite large.


2:17 Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 2:18 A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud wailing, Rachel weeping for her children, and she did not want to be comforted, because they were gone. [13]


How very sad. Jeremiah, speaks of those who never come out of the captivities because they have died there. The bitterness of a mother whose children have all gone into death before her. Matthew takes this verse and applies it to the mothers of these children slain at the sword of Herod. Such pain and suffering for these women - "Rachel is weeping for her children, because they are no more."


The report of the slaughtering of the children must have come as a great shock to the Holy family. Estimates of the number of children slain run from 15 to the thousands. But more probably, Bethlehem at that time was more or less a small town. Perhaps the total population was several thousand. In my home town with a resident population hovering between five and seven thousand, there is ample population to support twenty to forty infants from birth to two years old. Certainly hundreds to thousands would be totally out of proportion.


The Return to Nazareth - Luke 2:19-23

2:19 After Herod had died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 2:20 saying, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 2:21 So he got up and took the child and his mother and returned to the land of Israel.


Herod died soon after the slaughter of the children. He was a vassal King, appointed by Caesar of Rome, but all of Herod's authority rested upon Caesar. Upon Herod's death August Caesar re-distributed the power structure amongst Herod's three surviving sons. Herod was so paranoid that he would not leave a will. He was sure that a named son as King would lead to his own murder. The end result was that there would no longer be any King. Archelaus, a son of Herod, powerful and treacherous, became Ethnarch (like in ethnic) over all of the Jewish people in the Bethlehem / Jerusalem areas. Once again we see Joseph acting by faith and being obedient to the call of God - even during very troubled times.


2:22 But when he heard that Archelaus [14]  was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. After being warned in a dream, he went to the regions of Galilee. 2:23 He came to a town called Nazareth [15]  and lived there. Then what had been spoken by the prophets was fulfilled, that Jesus would be called a Nazarene.


It seems that while Joseph was returning he heard that Herod's son was ruling and became fearful. Once again Joseph is encouraged through a dream and is given a final destination of Mary's home town for his travels. We should not see God as changing His mind here. We see Joseph getting more information as God leads him by faith.


While it would seem that to grow up near Jerusalem might have been the better choice for this most holy child, God saw fit to have Him brought up in the "half-heathen" area of Nazareth outside the reach of Archelaus. Knowing the story from the "end to the beginning" is was well that Jesus, who would turn over the Gospel of God to the "Nations, the heathen, the Pagan," was brought up among all the people.


Jesus would live here in Nazareth and grow up like any other child. We know from Philippians 2 that The Son of God laid aside much of His "God attributes" in order to fully accomplish the will of His Father as the "Suffering Servant who was acquainted" with the pains and troubles of human life[16].


Jesus was a Nazarene, an inhabitant of Nazareth. Not a Nazirite, which is a person who voluntarily takes a vow to Abstain from all grape products, never to cut their hair, and to avoid any contact with the things of the dead.

Of interest also is the fact that Herod's oldest son Antipater, at the time of Jesus' birth (or at least just before the time of Herod's death) had been jailed on suspicion of trying to poison Herod. Herod, near death himself due to illness (perhaps Antipater was poisoning him !!!) tried to commit suicide with a knife as he peeled an apple with it. An alert cousin screamed out an alarm. Antipater, hearing the screams, thought that Herod had finally died and tried to bribe his jailor to get out and seize the kingship. Later when Herod heard of this he had his son put to death. Five days later, Herod himself died.


If you are interested in the History of Herod, try this on for size. In the year 198 B.C. Palestine had become subject to Syria. Syria had been ruled by Rome for some time and was having trouble collecting and paying tribute. Syria's answer was to place a heavy tribute upon the Jews.


About 175 B.C. Antiochus Ephiphanes became King of Syria. While he was leading an expedition into Egypt the Jews rejoiced when a false rumor of the king's death gained currency. When Antiochus returned he massacred thousands and sold others into slavery for their mockery.


With several of his next attempts to take Alexandria he again returned and slaughtered thousands of Jews in his anger. It was Antiochus Ephiphanes who sacrificed swine on the Altar of God, defiling it, and they burned every copy of the Holy Writings they could find.


In return the Jews mounted the "Maccabean Revolt", a civil war against their occupiers. Two great names come to mind for their military genius, Mattathias and his son Judas. Through their efforts, and the lives of many thousands, their lands were once again returned to them. It was then that the temple was cleansed and rededicated to the Lord. Celebrated as "The Festival of Lights," or commonly, Chanukah.


The leaders who followed were (and some may be missing):
    Jonathan - eventually outwitted by the Syrians and put to death.

    Simon - Slain by his son-in-law
    John Hyrcanus - was also the high priest and very secular
    Alexander Janneus - was far worse 
    he appointed Antipas as governor, Antipas had a son Antipater, and Antipater had a son ... Herod !!

Alexander's widow Alexandra

At Alexandra's death, her son Hyrcanus II, and her son Aristobulus, and a third party of anti monarchists appealed to Rome to arbitrate who would take the throne.

Aristobulus tried to force Rome into a decision and encouraged Pompey to invade Judea and capture Jerusalem in 63 B.C.


Now Judea came under Roman rule and under the governorship of Antipas (Herod's father). When the Jews became unable to rule themselves (Roman style) Rome made Antipas Procurator of Judea. He then appointed his son Herod as tetrarch of Galilee. This happened in the year 47 B.C.


In 40 B.C. Palestine was invaded by the Parthians and Herod fled to Rome. Later the Roman senate proclaimed Herod "King of Judea." Herod was 69 or 70 when the wise men came to Jerusalem.

Somewhere around 37 B.C. Roman Emperor Augustus increased Herod's territory until it included all of Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. He had indeed become "The King of the Jews."


Remember Alexandra, she had two children. Hyrcanus II and a boy named Aristobulus. Hyrcanus II had a girl named Alexandra named after her Grandmother. Aristobulus had a boy named Alexander after his Grandfather. The Grandchildren, cousins, married each other and had two children Mariamme and Aristobulus (Lost yet ?).


Mariamme marries Herod.


Aristobulus was comely and was appointed to the office of High Priest. Herod saw this move as a threat to his kingship, and had Aristobulus drowned at a party throne for him. Herod, of course, publicly mourned his passing.


Alexandra writes a letter to Queen Cleopatra, the Egyptian, informing her about the murder of Aristobulus. Cleopatra, in turn, tells Mark Antony (they were married in 31 A.D.) (Mark Antony, 83?-30 B.C.. Roman orator, politician, and soldier. His love affair with Cleopatra split the triumvirate he had formed with Octavian and Lepidus and led to war. In 31 B.C. the forces of Antony and Cleopatra were defeated by Octavian at Actium, and both subsequently committed suicide), who orders Herod to meet him and give an account. Before departing he tells his servants to kill Alexandra if he doesn't return.


Herod has Alexandra's grandfather, Hyrcanus II, put to death, as he sees him as a threat to his throne. By this time Mariamme has lost whatever love she had for Herod, for she saw him now as the murderer of her brother Aristobulus and of her grandfather Hyrcanus II.


In September of the year 31 B.C. Anthony marries Cleopatra (the former mistress of Julius Caesar). By August 30 B.C. Both Antony and Cleopatra have committed suicide. These deaths were a severe blow to Herod, as he had consistently taken their side of every dispute. Herod again flees to Rome to lobby for his throne rights and when he goes he again instructs his servants to kill Mariamme and Alexandra in the event that he, the king, should not return. But this time she learns of his wicked plot against her and that he had her grandfather and brother killed. Herod finds all this out and has her put to death in 29 B.C. In 8 B.C. he had two more of his sons put to death (possible threats to his throne), and finally five days before his own death, he has his last son murdered.




Matthew 2:1-23 - "The Visit of the Magi, The Flight to Egypt, The Slaughter of the Babies"

Matthew 2:1-12

THE MAGI Magi in the East, 
Magi visit Herod, 
Magi visit Jesus, 
Magi flee, 
The Scriptures are fulfilled

Matthew 2:13-15

Joseph's dream, 
The flight to Egypt, 
The Scriptures are fulfilled

Matthew 2:16-18

The Slaughter, 
The Scriptures are fulfilled


Matthew 2:19-23

To Galilee, To Nazareth



[1] Wikipedia, Ephrath, internet resource 2013-09-12

[2] Mason, Dr. Clarence E. Jr. Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Professor Emeritus, Philadelphia College of Bible, (c.1971) New Testament History: The Book of Matthew. Class Notes

[3] (Gk. Etaraxthay, from tarassow aor, pass ind. - Stirred up, like stirred water, shaken together, disturbed, unsettle, thrown into confusion, frightened, terrified.) (taraxay - a disturbance or rebellion).

[4] Question and Answer column, Israel My Glory, Published by the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Bellmawr, NJ

[5] Mic 5:2.

[6] “they fell down.” “fall down, throw oneself to the ground as a sign of devotion, before high-ranking persons or divine beings.”

[7] Frankincense refers to the aromatic resin of certain trees, used as a sweet-smelling incense (L&N 6.212).

[8] Myrrh consisted of the aromatic resin of certain shrubs (L&N 6.208). It was used in preparing a corpse for burial.

[9] Or “the angel of the Lord.”

[10] sn A quotation from Hos 11:1.

[11] sn Note the fulfillment of the prophecy given by the angel in 2:13.

[12] tn Or “soldiers.”

[13] sn A quotation from Jer 31:15.

[14] sn Archelaus took after his father Herod the Great in terms of cruelty and ruthlessness, so Joseph was afraid to go there. After further direction in a dream, he went instead to Galilee.

[15] sn Nazareth was a very small village in the region of Galilee (Galilee lay north of Samaria and Judea). The town was located about 15 mi (25 km) west of the southern edge of the Sea of Galilee. According to Luke 1:26, Mary was living in Nazareth when the birth of Jesus was announced to her.

[16] Isaiah Chapter 53

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