Though in God’s mysterious providence it was ordained that Jesus should be born of humble parentage, and in the lowest of places, yet He would not permit such a grand part of His purpose to pass without notice.  In Luke we find that His birth was announced by an angel, followed by a song of praise from the heavenly choir before the eyes of terrified shepherds.  Here in Matthew, we find that our Lord’s birth was not only announced to shepherds, but also by another sign to wise men from the east.  Who precisely these wise men were it is impossible to say with certainty.  Some have reasoned that they were part of the Jewish dispersion, who were familiar with Messianic prophecy, and saw the star as a message that He had come.  If so, they could well have been tipped off by the prophecy of Balaam in Numbers 24:17, “There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel.”  This would fit well with their description of Him as “King of the Jews.”  However, it could be argued with equal plausibility that, if these men were Jews, they would have called Him “our King,” rather than speaking of “the Jews” as a foreign people.  Regardless, they were somehow familiar with the promise of God that He would raise up a glorious King from among the Jewish people.  By some means they were given to know that this strange star in the sky portended His birth.  The happiest thing to observe of these wise men is their true, heaven-borne wisdom.  Whatever stores of knowledge they may have acquired would long be forgotten if they had not sought after Him Who is “the Wisdom of God.”  They were willing to search high and low to find Jesus Christ, and worship Him.  How admirable is this spirit, which so well demonstrates the heart of a true seeker!

Far less admirable was the reaction of Herod, that wicked king, the record of whose cruelties and murders are enough to make one’s skin crawl.  This man maintained a pretended respect for the Jews’ religion, but in reality was only interested in securing his own dominion.  He would brook no rival to his throne, and therefore sought to exterminate the Lord Christ, no matter how much innocent blood must be spilled in the process.  Having learned from the chief priests and scribes that Christ must be born in Bethlehem, he demanded the wise men tell him where the child was found, intending to use them to lead him to his prey.  How often is the civil magistrate an enemy of the cause of Christ!  We do not despise government, because God ordained it to maintain order and peace in society.  But man’s wretched, sinful heart being what it is, the civil ruler too often attempts to usurp the place of God, and would slay God Himself, if possible, in order to maintain his own throne.  Herod would rather the Jews’ Messiah be slain than that there arise a threat to his power.  It is to the great praise of God that he warned these wise men to neglect the king’s command, and to their credit that they obeyed the divine command.  It is to the great shame of Herod that he added to all his other wicked deeds the murder of the little children of Bethlehem.  Through God’s miraculous intervention, and Joseph’s prompt obedience, the child Jesus was saved, and Christ the Son of God was nourished up in Egypt in his youth, just as the nation had been from the time of Joseph till the deliverance in the days of Moses.  In this we see how that prophecy often contains more than a single meaning, for the prophecy in Hosea 11:1 has clear reference to the days of the exodus; but Matthew applies it to Christ Himself, Who Himself is far greater than Israel considered as a nation.  We see then, that in the growth of the Israelite nation in Egypt, there would be a parallel in the life experience of the Saviour.  Both were called out of Egypt; to both of them, then, the prophecy of Hosea rightly applies.

Fulfillment of prophecy is a key to this chapter.  Not all the prophecies could be clearly seen to be Messianic, until the inspired author informed us they were such.  The voice of Rachel weeping in Rama for her children is such an example.  So also is the perplexing statement at the end of the chapter, when Matthew says it was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”  The most important thing to note there is that Matthew does not specify a particular prophet, or quote a particular passage.  An acquaintance with the Old Testament will show us there is no such direct prophecy.  Since Matthew speaks of plural prophets, then this must mean that there was a general consensus among the prophets on this point.  The issue is not precisely that Jesus would live in Nazareth, but that He would be a man of humble origins, from a town commonly despised by those who knew it.  The attitude towards Nazareth is best seen in Nathanael, who asked when told of Christ, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”  Matthew then is here showing that the prophets indicated Christ would have a common, low, despised origin, such as Isaiah foretold at the beginning of chapter 53.

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