The Wise Men Visit
1Jesus was born in Bethlehem # 2:1 Bethlehem, or Byt-lehem, means “house of bread,” the prophesied birthplace of Messiah. However, the Hebrew word lehem can also mean “fighters.” Jesus was born in “the House of Fighters!” This is the city of David, one of the greatest fighters in the entire Bible. Perhaps this is why the people of Jesus’ day expected him to fight the Romans and free their land from foreign occupation. Jesus fulfilled both aspects of the meaning of Bethlehem in Gethsemane and on the cross, where he fought the “Goliath” of our souls and won, becoming Bread for the world. God controls all events, proven by the prophecy that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem even though his parents were living in Nazareth. See Mic. 5:2; Luke 2:1–19. near Jerusalem # 2:1 Or “in the land of Judea.” during the reign of King Herod. # 2:1 Herod died in 4 BC, which helps in dating the birth of Christ. After Jesus’ birth a group of spiritual priests # 2:1 Or “astrologers,” known as dream interpreters. These wealthy priests would have traveled with an entourage for protection as officials from the East. The Greek word magos is taken from the Mede language and means “spiritual advisors” or simply “priests.” They were appointed by Darius over the state religion as priests of Persia, which is modern-day Iran, and served as official advisors to the king. By the time of Jesus’ birth, Persia had been conquered and was being governed by successors to Alexander the Great. It is possible these Magos came from the Mesopotamian region of Seleucia. See also Dan. 2 and 5:11, where the prophet Daniel is given the title of “Chief of the Magio.” It is probable that these Magos were descendants of those who had been taught by Daniel, and because of his prophecy of the Messiah being “cut off,” they may have been able to decipher the date of his birth along with the interpretation of his star rising. from the East came to Jerusalem 2and inquired of the people, “Where is the child who is born king of the Jewish people? We observed his star rising in the sky # 2:2 Or “his star in the east” or “shooting star” or possibly “comet.” Note that it is also called “his star,” not the star of Bethlehem. and we’ve come to bow before him in worship.” # 2:2 With the visit of the wise men coming to bow in worship before Jesus, we see a preview of the nations one day worshiping our King. See Ps. 72:8–11.
3King Herod was shaken to the core when he heard this, and not only he, but all of Jerusalem was disturbed when they heard this news. # 2:3 Although we are not told how many “wise men” came to visit Bethlehem, it was likely quite a large entourage. It is doubtful that three men from Persia would cause such an uproar and commotion in the city. There were possibly over one hundred who traveled in the caravan from the East arriving in Jerusalem. 4So he called a meeting of the Jewish ruling priests and religious scholars, demanding that they tell him where the promised Messiah was prophesied to be born.
5“He will be born in Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,” they told him. “Because the prophecy states:
6And you, little Bethlehem,
are not insignificant among the clans of Judah,
for out of you will emerge
the Shepherd-King # 2:6 As translated from the Aramaic. The Greek is “the Leader who will shepherd my people Israel.” of my people Israel!” # 2:6 See Mic. 5:2. Both the Septuagint and the Hebrew Matthew have “out of you will come to me a Ruler who will be King of Israel.” The Septuagint adds, “He will shepherd my people in the strength of the Lord.”
7Then Herod secretly summoned the spiritual priests from the East to ascertain the exact time the star first appeared. 8And he told them, “Now go to Bethlehem and carefully look there for the child, and when you’ve found him, report to me so that I can go and bow down and worship him too.”
9And on their way to Bethlehem, the same star they had seen in the East suddenly reappeared! Amazed, they watched as it went ahead of them and stopped directly over the place where the child was. 10And when they saw the star, they were so ecstatic that they shouted and celebrated with unrestrained joy. # 2:10 The Greek is hard to translate since it contains so many redundant words for joy in this one verse. It is literally “They rejoiced with a great joy exceedingly.” They were ecstatic! 11When they came into the house and saw the young child with Mary, his mother, they fell to the ground at his feet and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests # 2:11 These “wise men” were extremely wealthy. They presented gifts that totaled a great sum of money—not tiny presents wrapped with bows, but treasure chests full of financial wealth. Although we are not given the monetary value of each type of gift, we know that frankincense and myrrh were extremely costly. These gifts would have financed Joseph and Mary and Jesus’ exodus to Egypt and supplied their living expenses for a number of years, even after returning to Israel. Gold is an often-used symbol of the deity of Christ. Frankincense points to his perfect life of holiness, excellence, and devotion. Myrrh, an embalming spice, speaks to us of the suffering love that would lead him to the death on the cross. full of gifts and presented him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12Afterward they returned to their own country by another route because God had warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod.
They Escape to Egypt
13After they had gone, Joseph had another dream. An angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Get up now and flee to Egypt. Take Mary and the little child and stay there until I tell you to leave, for Herod intends to search for the child to kill him.”
14So that very night he got up and took Jesus and his mother and made their escape to Egypt 15and remained there until Herod died. All of this fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through his prophet:
I summon my Son out of Egypt. # 2:15 See Hos. 11:1. Both Jesus and the nation of Israel came up out of Egypt. Jesus applies Hos. 11:1 to himself and, in a sense, takes it out of context. There is a deeper level of understanding for every verse, for the Bible points us continually to Jesus.
16When Herod realized that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated. So he sent soldiers with orders to slaughter every baby boy two years old and younger in Bethlehem and throughout the surrounding countryside, based on the time frame he was given from interrogating the wise men. 17This fulfilled the words of the prophet Jeremiah:
18I hear the screams of anguish,
weeping, and wailing in Ramah.
Rachel is weeping uncontrollably for her children. # 2:18 As translated from the Septuagint. Rachel becomes a metaphor for all of Israel.
And she refuses to be comforted,
because they are dead and gone. # 2:18 See Jer. 31:14–15.
They Return to Nazareth
19After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared again to Joseph in a dream while he was still in Egypt, 20saying, “Go back to the land of Israel and take the child and his mother with you, for those who sought to kill the child are dead.”
21So he awoke and took Jesus and Mary and returned to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus, Herod’s son, had succeeded him as ruler over all of the territory of Judah, he was afraid to go back. Then he had another dream from God, warning him to avoid that region and instructing him instead to go to the province of Galilee. 23So he settled his family in the village of Nazareth, fulfilling the prophecy that he would be known as the “Branch.” # 2:23 Or “a Nazarene.” The Hebrew Scriptures give us a wonderful truth about the Branch (Sprout) of the Lord that would come and establish righteousness. The word for “branch” or sprout is netzer, the root word for Nazareth and Nazarene. The teaching of the Branch of the Lord is a concept taught throughout the Bible, from the Tree of Life, to the seven branches of the Lampstand, to Jesus the Vine calling us his branches. Jesus is a Scion, a Branch that can be transplanted and grafted into a human life. Another variant form of this amazing word netzer can be translated “keeper, watchman, one who keeps secrets, guardian, one who keeps watch.” All of these words are true of Jesus, the Branch who was raised in the village of the Branch (Nazareth). Additionally, the Aramaic word for Nazareth means “heir of a powerful family” or “victorious one.” So it is entirely possible to translate this “he will be called the Victorious Branch (of Nazareth).” See Dan. 11:7; Isa. 11:1; 60:21. See also Isa. 4:2; Jer. 23:5; Zech. 6:12, which use a Hebrew synonym for Branch, tsemach.