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a son, and they shall call his ing interpreted, is, God with name Emmanuel; which, be- us.
sion was singularly applicable to the circumstances which he was relating; it might be applied to them with a greater fulness and particularity, than to the occasion which first called it forth. It was spoken by Isaiah (7: 14) to king Ahaz, when the king and all his people were filled with terror, in view of an invasion threatened by the confederated kings of Israel and Syria. Isaiah was directed by the Lord to go to Ahaz, and bid him dismiss his fears, because the design of the confederated kings should not be accomplished. He was commissioned, moreover, to assure Ahaz, that Syria had already arrived to the height of its power; that it would be allowed to make no such addition to its power as the conquest of Jerusalem would be; and that the kingdom of Israel was already on the wane, and within sixtyfive years would be wholly broken up. Ahaz might, therefore, set his mind at rest, and place unshaken confidence in God. It was then proposed to him to ask some particular token from the Lord, as an assurance of what God had promised. On his declining to select a sign, the prophet himself was directed by the Lord to mention one; namely, that a certain virgin should soon become the mother of a son, and should call his name Emmanuel; and that before this child should be old enough to refuse the evil and to choose the good, the kings of Israel and Syria should both be cut off.
The language, then, here quoted from Isaiah, had reference, probably, at first, to the deliverance of Jerusalem from the threatened invasion. The history of those times, as related in the Old Testament, agrees with this view. In 2 Kings 15: 29, 30, it is related that "in the days of Pekah, king of Israel [the same as mentioned by Isaiah], came Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abel-bethmaacha, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried
them captive to Assyria. And Hoshea, the son of Elah, made a conspiracy against Pekah, the son of Remaliah, and smote him, and slew him." In the 16th chapter of the same book, it is also related, that Tiglath-pileser, "king of Assyria, went up against Damascus [the chief city of Syria], and took it, and carried the people of it captive to Kir, and slew Rezin" [who is mentioned by Isaiah]. The death of these kings occurred shortly after their attempt upon Jerusalem. Thus the language of Isaiah appears to have had reference to events that were speedily to take place; and, thus understood, it was happily adapted to the circumstances of Ahaz and his people.
But it may be asked, How could the name Emmanuel be given to the son whose birth was predicted, if there was nothing uncommon in his nature' This inquiry is answered by referring to a usual practice, among the ear Jews, of giving to children names significant of some circumstance or event, and of employing the name of God in compounding names for children. In the case spoken of by Isaiah, the nation was in dread of an invasion from powerful confederated foes; and in view of their danger, their hearts trembled like the leaves of a forest. But they were encouraged to be quiet, because God was on their side; and to the child whose birth was foretold, a name was to be given significant of the promised interposition of God. Other names in the Jewish nation were compounded of some common word, and of the name of God; as, for instance, Joshua, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, &c.
use which Matthew has made of this passage, has led to the belief that Isaiah really predicted in those words the birth of Jesus Christ; and the language of Matthew does certainly, at first sight, appear to favor this belief. It is proper, then, to inquire whether the language of Mat
24 Then Joseph, being raised | the Lord had bidden him, and from sleep, did as the angel of took unto him his wife:
this last instance, there is so striking a resemblance, that the language employed by Jeremiah might be regarded as more applicable to the event related by Matthew, than to the event spoken of by Jeremiah; that is, the language might be considered as more fully and exactly adapted to the event related by Matthew. And yet the connection in which Jeremiah has introduced it, clearly shows that he did not have in mind, nor predict, the event to which Matthew applies it.
The verse under consideration is another instance of very striking resemblance; so striking, indeed, is the resemblance, that what was done in the Old Testament times might be represented as done again in a more full and exact manner. And the language used in reference to the event in the Old Testament might be re
thew necessarily leads to this view of the passage quoted from Isaiah. In prosecuting this inquiry, we must consider in what ways the sacred writers employ the word fulfil. In reading the Scriptures, we are prone to regard this word, as used in its strict sense, to express an accomplishment of a direct prophecy. But it is also employed with a wider signification, and is as extensive in meaning as our word fulfil, used in common conversation, or in ordinary books. Now, we often use the word as expressing a remarkable similarity in one event to another, or a striking similarity in certain events to certain language with which we are familiar. Such an event, we may say, fulfils such a saying; while yet, when the saying was first expressed, that event was not thought of. In some passages of the New Testament, this word does express the real accom-garded as applicable, in a more full plishment of a direct prophecy. In and striking manner, to the event reother passages, it merely expresses lated in the New; so that the event resemblance, more or less exact, be- related in the New Testament might tween two events, or between lan- be considered as verifying, or filling guage in the Old Testament and an up, the language used in the Old. event recorded in the New; so that the Some points of this resemblance may language employed in the Old Testa- be stated. 1. The Jews were in ment with reference to a particular great distress on account of the imevent, might also be happily applied to minent danger to which they were a different event recorded in the New. exposed. So the whole human race Sometimes the resemblance between were regarded as in imminent peril, the event spoken of in the Old Tes- in respect to their eternal welfare. tament and that related in the New, 2. For the deliverance of the Jews, is so striking, and the resemblance God was about to interpose. So, for between accompanying circumstances the spiritual deliverance of men, in each event is so remarkable, that the God's remarkable interposition was language employed in the Old Testa- about to be manifested. 3. As a ment would seem to be more fully pledge of the interposition for the and exactly applicable to the event Jews, a son was soon to be born to recorded in the New. Among the one who was then a virgin, and to instances of these different meanings this son was to be given a of the word fulfil, Mark 15: 28, com- significant of God's protection. So, pared with Isaiah 53: 12, may be as the pledge and the agent of the mentioned, as an accomplishment of spiritual deliverance for the human a direct prophecy. As instances of family, a son was to be born, miracresemblance, see Matt. 2: 15, com- ulously conceived, and to whom a pared with Hos. 11: 1; and Matt. 2: name was assigned, expressive of 17, 18, compared with Jer. 31: 15. In his being the divinely-appointed Sa
25 And knew her not till
she had brought forth her first- in Bethlehem of Judea, in
OW when Jesus was born
born son and he called his name JESUS.
the days of Herod the king,
viour. 4. As the son promised in token of the Jews' deliverance from their temporal distress was to be named Emmanuel, a name expressing the presence of God among his people, so to the son miraculously conceived, and designed to be the spiritual Saviour of men, was to belong what was really contained in the meaning of the name Emmanuel; to him, that name, in all its fulness, would be applicable; and when he should appear on his benevolent errand, most truly and strikingly might he be called "Emmanuel, which, being interpreted, is, God with us.' Compare 1 Tim. 3: 16.
25. Her first-born son. This term does not necessarily imply that the mother of Jesus had other children afterwards. That she had, however, is a natural construction; and it agrees well with such statements as occur in Matthew 12: 46, John 2: 12. The words brother and sister were indeed sometimes used in a wider signification among the Jews than among us, and included the near relatives of a person; so that nothing certain can be stated on this topic.
1. Bethlehem of Judea. Bethlehem was a town about six miles south of Jerusalem. It was called Bethlehem of Judea, to distinguish it from a town of the same name in the tribe of Zebulun, in the north part of the country. Josh. 19: 15. Judges 12: 10. Judea was the name, in the time of Christ and some time before, of the southern part of the country. The name Bethlehem literally signifies house of bread; and was probably indicative of the fertility of the region around. Volney, in his Travels, says, "The soil [of Bethlehem] is the best in all these districts; fruits, vines, olives, and sesamum, succeed here extremely well." It still retains substantially its ancient name, and contains about two hundred houses. It was also named Ephrath (Gen. 35: 19. 48: 7), a name also indicative of fertility. It was the birthplace of king David (1 Sam. 17: 12); hence in Luke 2: 4, 11, it is called the city of David. How it happened that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, while his mother's residence was Nazareth in Galilee, Luke explains in 2: 1-7. || Herod the king. At the time when Jesus was born, the whole country of the Jews, as well as the neighboring regions, was under the dominion of the Romans. The family to which Herod
4. God frequently honors the low-belonged stood high in favor with the Roman government, and at last he was established king of the Jewish nation, though he was not a Jew by birth. His power was very considerable, yet he was dependent on the Roman em
PRACTICAL HINTS suggested by this chapter.
1. God is faithful in fulfilling his promises. "When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son."
2. How lovely is a kind and merciful disposition! v. 19.
3. In cases of distressing doubt, if we wait patiently, and commit our affairs to God, the path of duty will be made known. Compare Ps. 37: 5, 6.
ly in spirit, and makes them instruments of distinguished good to their race. Mary, an obscure Jewish female, becomes the mother of Jesus Christ.
5. Jesus Christ is the Saviour from the dominion and practice of sin, as well as from its consequences. See Titus 2: 11-14. Do we trust in him as our deliverer from sin, endeavoring to regulate our hearts and lives by his precepts, and to follow his example? See 1 Pet. 2: 21-25.
behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
peror. The name Herod was borne by some others, his descendants, who had rule, after him, over parts of his territory. The one here mentioned is distinguished by being called Herod the Great. Wise men from the east. A more exact representation of the word translated wise men, would have been Magi, or Magians. It was a word appropriated to a certain class of men among the people east of Palestine, such as priests, philosophers, &c., who devoted themselves to the study of astronomy, astrology, and medicine, and were held in high estimation among their countrymen. The Magians here spoken of probably came from Arabia; the presents which they brought agree better with this opinion than with any other. To Jerusalem; the chief city of the Jews. Such was the business on which they went, that they would most naturally go immediately to the metropolis.
2. King of the Jews. It is the testimony of ancient credible historians, that, about the time of our Lord's birth, there prevailed very generally in the eastern parts of the world an expectation of some illustrious king, who was shortly to appear. This expectation is, probably, to be traced to the belief which the Jews universally cherished of the coming of the Messiah. The Jews had been widely dispersed, and wherever they went, they carried their Bacred books, and adhered firmly to the belief of the nation. His star in the east. That is, we, being in the east, have seen his star. They noticed a new celestial luminary; being attracted by its appearance, and noticing the particular quarter of the heavens in which it appeared, and its apparent motion,they connected it with the current expectation of some illustrious king, and were induced to direct their steps to Jerusalem. What this star was, we
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and have no means of determining. It was an uncommon luminous appearance in the heavens, prepared by the special providence of God for this particular occasion, and just such an appearance as was suited to call the attention of these men, and guide them to the newborn king. To worship him. There is no evidence that the Magians had correct notions respecting the real character of the new-born king of the Jews, or of the design of God in his birth. They probably regarded him as one who was destined to acquire most extensive sway, and they came, on the first intimation of his appearance, to pay him respect. They were impelled, perhaps, by the desire so common among men, to see any thing remarkable,or to bespeak, by this early homage, his favor, in future, for their nation. The word worship was applicable, when our translation was made, to men as well as to God, and, in reference to men, signified the respect and courtesy paid by an inferior to a superior. For this meaning of the word worship, see Luke 14: 10.
3. He was troubled, and all Jerusalem. Herod was at this time about seventy years of age. But the unsubdued jealousy of his temper led him to forebode evil to himself, or to his son who should succeed him. The expression "all Jerusalem was troubled," means, just as such language would mean among us, that there was in the city a general excitement. This excitement was of a painful character. Herod's friends and adherents were disturbed for the same reasons which excited anxiety in his mind; and others feared the commission of new cruelties on the part of Herod, for he was one of the most unreasonable and cruel tyrants that ever occupied a throne."
4. Chief priests and scribes of the peo
scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea; for thus it is written by the prophet,
ple; probably that collection of chief priests and scribes who composed the Sanhedrim. The Sanhedrim was the highest ecclesiastical and civil court of the Jews, and was believed to combine the wisdom of the nation. The chief priests who belonged to it, were, besides the acting high priest, those who had previously exercised the high priesthood, and those who were heads of the twenty-four classes into which the priests had long before been divided. See Luke 1: 5. The scribes were men esteemed for their acquaintance with the law of Moses, and the traditions that had been handed down, to the study and teaching of which they devoted themselves. See INTRODUCTORY EXPLANATIONS, III. 3. page xvi. On a question pertaining peculiarly to the Jewish nation, this was the body of men whom Herod would of course consult. | Christ, more properly, the Christ; that is, the Messiah. The distinguished personage whom the Jews were expecting, they called the Messiah. This is a title of office, not a proper name, originally, of an individual. Its meaning is, the anointed one. The term arose from the practice of anointing with oil the high priests (see Ex. 29: 4-7. Lev. 8: 12. 21: 10), and the kings, at least those who were the first in their family that bore the office, or those whose right to the succession could be disputed. See 1 Kings 1:34. 2 Kings 11:12. Now, to the Hebrew term, the Messiah, the Greek term, the Christ, corresponds exactly, as to its radical signification; and the Jewish title of office, the Messiah, might have been happily used in this verse. The name Jesus, we have seen, had a signification, besides being a proper name; so the word Christ, which afterwards came to be applied
6 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.
to our Lord as a proper name, had a significancy pointing to his official dignity, and to the interesting relation which he was to sustain to his people as king (John 18: 37) and high priest (Heb. 7: 24-28).
5, 6. By the prophet; Micah 5: 2. The name Bethlehem Ephratah, employed by Micah, is explained by the note on the first verse of this chapter; Ephratah being the same as Ephrath. || Princes of Judah; that is, officers, distinguished men. The prophet Micah uses the term thousands of Israel; the word thousands having reference to a civil division of the people, such as is meant in 1 Sam. 10: 19. 23: 23. The heads, or chief officers, of such divisions, were called heads of thousands. Num. 1: 16. 10: 4. We may understand Micah, then, as speaking directly of these divisions, while Matthew speaks of the heads of such divisions; that is, officers or rulers. || My people Israel. Until the time of Rehoboam, the name Israel was applied to the twelve tribes regarded as one people. From that time till the captivity, the ten tribes which seceded and followed Jeroboam, were called, by way of distinction, Israel (1 Kings 12: 16, &c.); the two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, were called Judah. But after the Babylonian captivity, the original practice was resumed, and the general appellation Israel was given to those who acknowledged Jacob, that is, Israel, as their common ancestor.
There is a slight verbal difference between the verse as given by Matthew and as originally written by Micah. This is sufficiently explained by the fact, that Matthew doubtless intended merely to give the idea conveyed by the prophet. Micah speaks