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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

v. 42.



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
to him, in the Eastern fashion of prostra-
tion. 3. was troubled] Josephus repre-
sents these troubles as raised by the Phari-
sees, who prophesied a revolution. Herod,
as a foreigner and usurper, feared one was
born King of the Jews: the people, worn
away by seditions and slaughters, feared
fresh tumults and wars. There may also
be a trace of the popular notion that the
times of the Messiah would be ushered in
by great tribulations.
4. when

he had gathered] i. e. says Lightfoot,
he assembled the Sanhedrim. For the
Sanhedrim consisting of seventy-one mem-
bers, and comprising Priests, Levites,
and Israelites, under the term " 'chief
priests" are contained the two first of
these, and under "scribes of the people"
the third.
the chief priests are
most likely the High Priest and those
of his race,-any who had served the
office, and perhaps also the presidents
of the twenty-four courses (1 Chron.
xxiv. 6).
the scribes consisted of the
teachers and interpreters of the Divine
law, the lawyers of St. Luke. But the
elders of the people are usually men-
tioned with these two classes as making
up the Sanhedrim. See ch. xvi. 21; xxvi.
3, 59. Possibly on this occasion the chief
priests and scribes only were summoned,
the question being one of Scripture learn-
6. And thou] This is a free
paraphrase of the prophecy in Micah v. 2.

It must be remembered that though the
words are the answer of the Sanhedrim
to Herod, and not a citation of the pro-
phet by the Evangelist, yet they are
adopted by the latter as correct.
princes] or thousands (LXX). The tribes
were divided into thousands, and the
names of the thousands inscribed in the
public records of their respective cities.
In Judges vi. 15 Gideon says "Behold my
thousand is weak in Manasseh" (see
English version, margin), on which Rabbi
Kimchi annotates, "Some understand
Alphi to mean my father,' as if it
were Alluph, whose signification is 'prince
or lord.'" And thus, it appears, did the
Sanhedrim understand the word (which
is the same) in Micah v. 2. The word,
without points, may mean either " among
the thousands," or "among the princes."

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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.

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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.


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
again and again in the course of the Gos-
pels. It seems to have been a received
axiom of interpretation (which has, by its
adoption in the N. T., received the sanc-
tion of the Holy Spirit Himself, and now
stands for our guidance), that the subject
of all allusions, the represented in all
parables and dark sayings, was He who was
to come, or the circumstances attendant
on His advent and reign.-The words
are written in Hosea of the children of
Israel, and are rendered from the Hebrew.
-A similar expression with regard to
Israel is found in Exod. iv. 22, 23.
it might be fulfilled must not be ex-
plained away: it never denotes the event
or mere result, but always the purpose.


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
a reason for not making enquiry, but
rather taking the course he did, which
was sure, as he thought, to answer the
end, without divulging the purpose. The
word "privily" in ver. 7 seems to favour
this view.
was mocked] The Evan-
gelist is speaking of Herod's view of the
matter. the borders thereof] The
word coasts is the common rendering of
the Greek horia in the A. V. It does not
imply any bordering on a sea shore, but
is an old use for parts, or neighbourhood,
as côte in French. See margin of A. V.
the borders thereof will betoken the
insulated houses, and hamlets, which be-
longed to the territory of Bethlehem.
from two years old] This expression must
not be taken as any very certain indication
of the time when the star did actually
appear. The addition and under implies
that there was uncertainty in Herod's
mind as to the age pointed out; and if so,
why might not the jealous tyrant, al-
though he had accurately ascertained the
date of the star's appearing, have taken a
range of time extending before as well
as after it, the more surely to attain
his point?
17. that which was
spoken by Jeremy] Apparently, an accom-
modation of the prophecy in Jer. xxxi. 15,
which was originally written of the Baby-
lonish captivity. We must not draw any
fanciful distinction between "then was
fulfilled" and "that might be fulfilled,"
but rather seek our explanation in the
acknowledged system of prophetic inter-
pretation among the Jews, still extant in
their rabbinical books, and now sanctioned
to us by N. T, usage; at the same time
remembering, for our caution, how little
even now we understand of the full bear-
ing of prophetic and typical words and
acts. None of the expressions of this pro-
phecy must be closely and literally pressed.
The link of connexion seems to be Rachel's
sepulchre, which (Gen. xxxv. 19: see also

weeping for her children, and would not be comforted,
because they are not.
19 But when Herod was dead, be-
hold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph
in Egypt, 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 Arche-
laus did reign 1in Judæa 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 Gali-
lee: 23 and he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth :
that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the pro-
phets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

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.

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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-
laus was dethroned, for having governed
cruelly the Jews and Samaritans, who sent
an embassy to Rome against him, and he was
banished to Vienne, in Gaul. This account
gives rise to some difficulty as compared
with St. Luke's history. It would cer-
tainly, on a first view, appear that this
Evangelist was not aware that Nazareth
had been before this the abode of Joseph
and Mary. And it is no real objection to
this, that he elsewhere calls Nazareth "His
country," ch. xiii. 54, 57. It is perhaps just
possible that St. Matthew, writing for
Jews, although well aware of the previous
circumstances, may not have given them
a place in his history, but made the birth
at Bethlehem the prominent point, seeing
that his account begins at the birth (ch. i.
18), and does not localize what took place
before it, which is merely inserted as sub-
servient to that great leading event.
this view be correct, all we could expect
is, that his narrative would contain no-
thing inconsistent with the facts related in
Luke; which we find to be the case.-I
should prefer, however, believing, as more
consistent with the fair and conscientious
interpretation of our text, that St. Mat-
thew himself was not aware of the events
related in Luke i. ii., and wrote under the
impression that Bethlehem was the original
dwelling-place of Joseph and Mary. Cer-
tainly, had we only his Gospel, this infer-
ence from it would universally be made.
turned aside must not be pressed into the
service of reconciling the two accounts by
being rendered returned;' for the same
word is used (ver. 14) of the journey to


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