Matt 2

2:1 The events of ch. 2 probably took place some months after Jesus’ birth. Several reasons may be offered to support this conclusion: (1) Joseph and Mary were living in a house (v. 11); (2) Jesus is referred to as a child, not an infant (v. 11); (3) Herod murdered all the male children two years old and under (v. 16); and (4) it would have been strange for Joseph and Mary to offer the sacrifice of the poor, a pair of turtledoves or pigeons (see Lev. 12:8; Luke 2:24), if the wise men had just given them gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Thus the wise men must have arrived after the ritual sacrifice described in Luke 2:22-24, 39. Herod the king is Herod the Great, who reigned over Palestine from 37 B.C. until his death in 4 B.C.. A crafty ruler and lavish builder, Herod had a reign marked by cruelty and bloodshed. The word translated wise men can refer either to fraudulent sorcerers (see Acts 8:9, 11; 13:6, 8) or, as here, to a more honorable class of astrologers.

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The Prophecies of Jesus’ Birth

Jesus fulfilled hundreds of Old Testament prophecies. Many of these prophecies involved the circumstances surrounding His birth. Below is a list of several such prophecies. Note the irrefutable similarities between the Old Testament predictions and their New Testament fulfillment.

Prophecy

Old Testament Prediction

New Testament Fulfillment

The Messiah would be the seed of a woman.

Gen. 3:15

Gal. 4:4

The Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham.

Gen. 12:3

Matt. 1:1

The Messiah would be a descendant of Isaac.

Gen. 17:19

Luke 3:34

The Messiah would be a descendant of Jacob.

Num. 24:17

Matt. 1:2; 2:2

The Messiah would be from the tribe of Judah.

Gen. 49:10

Luke 3:33

The Messiah would be an heir to the throne of David.

Is. 9:7

Luke 1:32, 33

The Messiah would be anointed and eternal.

Ps. 45:6, 7; 102:25-27

Heb. 1:8-12

The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

Mic. 5:2

Luke 2:4, 5, 7

The Messiah would be born of a virgin.

Is. 7:14

Luke 1:26, 27, 30, 31

The Messiah’s birth would trigger a slaughter of children.

Jer. 31:15

Matt. 2:16-18

The Messiah would also come from Egypt.

Hos. 11:1

Matt. 2:14, 15

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2:2 born King of the Jews: These words would have struck both terror and fury into the heart of Herod. His star in the East may refer to a star supernaturally introduced into the heavens, discernible only to students of the sky. The star reappeared to guide the wise men to where Christ was (v. 9). The fact that it was called “His star” indicates that the wise men identified the star with the arrival of the King of the Jews.

2:4 chief priests: This first mention of the Jewish council- “all the chief priests and scribes of the people”-reveals that the Jewish leaders were alerted early to the coming of the Messiah. Their quick recital of Mic. 5:2 showed their prophetic astuteness concerning the messianic prophecies (v. 6).

2:5 Matthew clearly records how the Jewish religious authorities, who became Christ’s enemies later, unintentionally affirmed that Jesus had fulfilled a messianic prophecy in His birth. God sometimes uses the words of His opponents to speak the truth (see John 11:49-52).

2:10 The wise men undoubtedly would have been discouraged by their failure to find the King in Jerusalem, by the lack of knowledge concerning the birth of the Messiah among the leaders, by the disinterest among Israel, and by the weariness from the long journey. The reappearance of the star must have brought great joy and encouragement to them.

2:11 Gold symbolized royalty; frankincense was a fragrance; myrrh was the ointment of death. These gifts provided the financial resources for Mary and Joseph’s flight to Egypt.

2:12 warned in a dream: Five dreams of divine guidance emphasize God’s orchestration of these perilous events (1:20; 2:12, 13, 19, 22).

2:15 fulfilled: This is the second fulfillment of prophecy recorded in ch. 2. The first, in v. 6, is a direct fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy about the birthplace of Jesus; this is a typological fulfillment. The prophecy quoted here, from Hos. 11:1, refers to the nation of Israel as God’s son coming out of Egypt in the Exodus. Jesus is the genuine Son of God, and, as Israel’s Messiah, is the true Israel (see John 15:1); therefore, He gives fuller meaning to the prophecy of Hos. 11:1.

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The Journeys of Jesus’ Birth


The decree of Caesar Augustus required Mary and Joseph, who were from Nazareth, to register for the census in the Judean city of Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-5). After the wise men from the East had visited to worship the Child, Joseph heeded the warning of the angel of the Lord and took his family to Egypt, where they remained until the death of Herod the Great.

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2:18 This prophecy comes from Jer. 31:15, in which Rachel, who had been entombed near Bethlehem some 13 centuries before the Babylonian captivity, is seen weeping for her children as they were led away to Babylon in 586 B.C.. In the slaughter of the male infants at the time of Christ’s birth, Rachel once again is pictured as mourning the violent loss of her sons.

2:22 When Herod died, his kingdom was parceled out to his three sons: Archelaus, who ruled over Judea where Bethlehem was; Antipas, who became tetrarch of Galilee, Perea, Samaria, and Idumea; and Philip, who was tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis (see Luke 3:1). Like his father, Archelaus was violent and cruel. The Romans tolerated his savagery for ten years and finally deposed him in A.D. 6. after a Jewish delegation took their protest to Rome. Joseph, aware of Herod Archelaus’s reputation and guided by God in a dream, turned north to Galilee.

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The Wise Men

The Greek word for wise men in this account (magoi) is rendered as “astrologers” where it occurs in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the OT (Dan. 1:20; 2:2) and as “sorcerer” in its other occurrences in the NT (Acts 13:6, 8). The Greek historian Herodotus, writing in the fifth century B.C., identified the magi as a caste of Medes who had a priestly function in the Persian Empire. In the Book of Daniel the “astrologers” (magoi) are grouped with magicians, sorcerers, and Chaldeans as advisers to the court of Babylon with responsibility for interpreting dreams.

The role of the star in Matthew 2 suggests a connection with astrology. These astrologers, pursuing their observations of the stars in the heavens, encountered a sign of God, who broke through their misguided system to make the great event known.

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2:23 Nazareth was the location of the Roman garrison in northern Galilee. Those who lived there were suspected of compromise with the enemy.