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p. 48.) to Jerusalem, 2. saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? or rather, Where is the king of the Jerus that is born? Where is the king of the Jews whom the world has long been expecting, agreeably to the traditions and prophecies current concerning him, and who we are certain is now born--for
we have seen his star in the east; in our own country we have
çast, that it was written in the books of the Fates, that some coming out of Judea at that time should obtain the empire of the world. This, which as the event afterward shewed was foretold of a Roman emperor, the Jews applying to themselves, rebelled.” In like manner, "Tacirus Hidt. B. v. 4:13..“ Many were persuaded, that it was written in the ancient books of the priests, that at that very time the east should recover strength, and that certain coming out of Judca should obtain the empire of the world; which mysterious prediction foretold Vespasian and Titus. But the common people, (he is speaking of the Jews) according to the usual bias of luman passions, interpreting this mighty fortune as designed for themselves, could not be brought to understand the truth by their calamities." Josephus also, Bell. B. vi. c. 5.0 4. has these remarkable words: “ But that which chiefly pushed them on to the war, was an ambiguous oracle found in their sacred books, that at that time one from their own country should rule the world."
What the original was of this uncommon e pection, which now prevailed among such different and widely distant nations, is not difficult to ascertain. Among the Jews it took its rise from the prophecies concerns ing the Messiah, contained in their sacred books, as Josephus and Tacitus insinuate. Among the Arabians it was derived from the promise made to Abraham, whose descendents they were by Ishmael. Of this promise they preserved a traditional knowledge, as is evident from the words of the Arabian prophet Balaam, Nums. xxiv. 17. There shall come a Star out of Jacob, &c. which the I.XX. interpret thus : E&EALUTETAI 9w Tos 78 σπερματος αυτε, και κυριευσει εθνoν πολλων', και υψωθησεται η Γωγ βασιλεία αυτε, και αυξηθησεται η βασιλεια ; i. e. A man shall come forth of his (Jacob's) seed, and shall rule many nations, and his kingdom shall be exalted above Gog, (the name of the kings of the Scythick nations) and it sball be increased. And even in later times tủe words of this prophecy hy most interpreters are applied to the Messiah. Among the other eastern nati.ns, the expecta
. tion above mentioned owed its original to their commerce with the Jew's and Arabians, but especially with the Jews, who in their several captivities being dispersed through the east, spread the knowledge of their prophecies, together with their religion, wherever they came; and begat that expectation, which was so universal, that it merited to be taken notice of even by the Roman historians. To conclude, we are told that Zoroastres or Zero dusht, the celebrated reformer of the magian discipline and worship in Persia, was servant to the prophet Daniel, who had particular revelations made to him concerning the coming of the Messiah. If so, it will not seem at all improbable, that the expectation of his arising in Judéa, should have remained so strongly imprinted in the belief of the disciples of Zoroastres, that on the appearing of a new star, three of them should have been moved to undertake this journey, in order to be witnesses of the truth of its ac complishment.
• Ver. 2. We have seen bis star.] That the heathens thought the rise of a new star, or the appearance of a comet, portended the birth of a great pere son, has been proved by Origen, contra Cels. lib. 1. See likewise Grotius. Farther, it appears from Virgil, that it was commonly imagined the Gods sent stars to point out the way to their favourites, in difficult and
perplexed seen a new star, which we know portends his birth, and which has directed us hither,-and are come to worship him: to prostrate ourselves before him, to do him homage, and to offer him gifts. It was the opinion of some of the ancients, that the star which the Magi saw in their own country was the Holy Spirit ; others suppose it was an angel; others a new star in the firmament; others a comet; others some luminous appearance in the air. Lightfoot thinks it was the glory that shone round the angels who appeared to the Bethlehem shepherds on the night of the nativity. Probably it was a bright meteor, which at its first appearance was high in the air ; afterwards it descended so low as to conduct the magi to Bethlehem. But whatever this star was, both the thing signified by it, and the course which the philosophers were to pursue, seem to have been explained to them by revelation. See verse 12.
The arrival of the wise men, and their errand, being quickly noised abroad in Jerusalem, soon reached Herod's ears. Or these strangers may have got themselves introduced at court imme. diately upon their coming. Whatever way it happened, the news which they brought, and the enquiry which they made, gave great uneasiness to Herod and to the whole of the people in Jerusalem. 3. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and * all Jerusalem with him. In the midst of this general consternation, the tyrant, who was more deeply concerned than them all, concealing his uneasiness, seemed to hear the magi with pleasure, and shewed them abundance of respect : for that he might return a proper answer to their question, he assem
perplexed cases; and that the ancients called globes of fire appearing in the air stars:
subitoque fragore Intonuit lavum, & de cælo lapsa per umbras Stella facem ducens multu cum luce cucurrit, &c. Æneid, ii. ver. 692. 3.
oll Yerusalem, &c.] If by all Jerusalem is meant the courtiers, the officers, the dependents, the friends, and the well-wishers of Herod, their trouble was of the same kind with his ; but if the inhabitants of Je-? rusalem in general are meant, their trouble proceeded from a different cause. The advent of their king could not be disagreeable to the Jews in itself considered ; only being ignorant of what had actually happened, they had no proof of his being born ; and dreaded the consequences of a rumour of this kind, which, considering the jealous and cruel disposition of their sovereign who was alarmed at it, might prove fatal to the children of many families. Thus Herod was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him, in the strictest propriety of the expression; for their emotion, though proceeding from a different cause, was an emotion of fear and grief, as his was. Some however affix a middle sense to the word etagex In in this passage, according to its frequent use in the Greek language. For tagattu denotes any commotion of mind proceeding whether from good or bad news. Ac. cording to this sense of the word the Evangelist's meaning will be, that all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were moved ; some with one kind of passion, others with another, agreeably to the views which they had of this mighty cvent.
bled the supreme council of the nation, and enquired of them where the Messiah should be born. 4. And when he had gather. ed all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. The chief priests were either those who had enjoyed the dignity of the high priesthood, which was now become elective and temporary, or the chiefs of the sacerdotal classes, the head of the courses of priests appointed by David. The scribes were the interpreters of the law, and the public teachers of the nation. (See $ 87.) All these being illustrious for their learning and station, were consulted upon this important question. They replied, that the ancient prophecies had assigned the honour of Messiah's nativity to Bethlehem of Judea. And by their answer they have shewed what the general opinion of the nation at this time was, concerning the place of Messiah's nativity. 5. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet; 6. * And thou Bethlehem in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah, for out of the shall come a governor that shall rule my people Israel. Though the quality of thy inhabitants is such, that thou canst not be reckoned as one of the principal thousands of Judah, thou art by no means among the least of these thousands. On the contrary, thou art, in point of
dignity, * Ver. 6. And thou Bethlehem, &c.] Seeing the Evangelist professedly gives here the answer, which the chief pri-sts and scribes returned to He. rod's question concerning the place of Messiah's nativity, the words which he set down are theirs, not his. Nor is this unworthy of our notice. It is one of the many instances which prove, that not the Evangelists' only, but the most learned of the Jews, in making citations from the Old Testa. ment, regarded the sense rather than the words of the passages which they quoted. In Micah v. 2. whence the citation under examination is made, the original words are 3x3 nrnb guys, i.e. Little to be among the thousands. In the Evangelist, the words are soapws en.cx150 51 EV 1065 vyepestov, i. e. Tisou art by no means the least among the leaders. But the sense of both passages is the same. In the prophery the words are elliptical, and must be sup. plied thus : Art thou little to be numbered among the thousands Art thou 100 small in respect of people to make one of the thousands of Israel? an interrogation which implies a strong negation; and therefore it is well rendered by the scribes, Thou art by no means the least. Farther, what the prophet calls the thousands of Judah, the scribes call the leaders of Judah. But the meaning here likewise is the same. I he Israelites fit to bear arms were classed into tens, hundreds, and thousands, each of which divisions had proper officers who coinmanded them. But each thousand being formed of the inhabitants of a particular district, it naturally followed that of these thousands, some were more remarkable than others for their power, courage, riches, and inanence in the state. For example, the thousands formed out of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, or any other chief city, were of much more consideration than those furnished by small remote villages. The thousands composed of persons of greatest rank and influence, were called leading or ruling thousands. It is evident, therefore, that the scribes in their citation gave a just representation of the prophets meaning, Tbou art by no means the least among the leaders; thou art rather the grcatest in point of dignity, even among the principal thousands of Judah.
dignity, one of the greatest cities; for thou shalt give birth to the governor of my people, whose going forth hath been of old : thou shalt give birth to Messiah. This answer of the Jewish senate was acquiesced in by Herod as indubitable; for he immediately sent the magi to Bethlehem. 7. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise mnen, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared first: For by that circumstance he could form a probable conjecture, how long it was since the child, concerning whom they enquired, was born. He naturally judged that Messiah's parents would conceal him, for which reason he formed a project of killing all the children of Bethlehem of such an age, that there might be no possibility of his escaping. In the mean time, to hide his bloody purpose from the wise men, he desired them as soon as they found the child to let him know, that he also might have an opportunity of worshipping him, professing great respect for this infant king. 8. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and suid, Go, and search diligently for the young child, and when ye have found him, bring ine word again, that I may come and qvorship him also. (See verse 2.)
The magi having received these instructions, departed by themselves under the guidance of the star, which had led them all the way from their own country, but had stood still, or disappeared, on their arrival in Judea. 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 10. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. The disappearing of the star, or even its standing still, laid the strangers under a necessity of going to the capital for farther information, which the wisdom of God thus brought about, in order that their errand might be the better published. Accordingly, when that end was obtained, and they were departing from Jerusalem, the star appeared again, or began to move, going before them till it came to Bethlehem, where, to their exceeding joy, it stood over the house in which the new born king was lodged. They straightway entered, and falling down before him
with Ver. 8. That I may come and worship him also.] This profession of respect was mere dissimulation ; Herod's intention, as afrerwards appeared, being to kill the intant king, who he imagined was to be a temporal priace, and was to wrest the crown from hiin or his descendents. For he had no notion that the Messiah's empire was of a spiritual na:ure.--The wisdom and power of the divine Providence ar pared conspicuously on this occasion in the preservation of Christ. Herod neither accorpanied the magi in person, nor yet under pretence of doing honour to these learned strangers, did he send a guard to escort i hem, with secret orders 1o kill the chil! and his parents; but he acted a'together carek sy n the asiair, quite contiary to his kilown character. Perhaps he imagined thai if he had gone in person, o se't a guard, it might have alarned the Missiali's parents, and made them fice with their infant son to some disant region, whicst his power could not reach them.
with the most profound reverence, offered him gifts of consider-
child with Mary his mother, and fell down prostrate on the ground, according to the custom of the east, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, * they presented unto him gifts, gold, frankincense, 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.
This visit which the magi, under the divine direction, made to the Son of God at his entrance into the world, answered several valuable purposes.
1. The principal thing was to shew succeeding generations what expectations of him were entertained at this very time among the Gentiles, and thereby to confirm in latest ages, the existence of those prophecies which had raised such a general hope in the breasts of mankind. 2. It is far from being absurd to suppose, that these philosophers, by the tidings which they carried home concerning the king of the Jews, might prepare their countrymen for becoming his subjects in due time. For if their report was remembered by the succeeding generation, it must have contributed not a little to their cheerful reception of the gospel when it was preached to them. 3. The coming of the magi occasioned the answer of the Sanhedrim, wherein it was declared to be the unanimous opinion of the most learned Jewish doctors then living, that, by the designation of heaven, Bethlehem was to be the place of their Messiah's nativity. 4. The seasonable beneficence of those learned strangers, put Joseph in a condition to subsist his family in Egypt, whither he was soon to be sent from the wrath of the king to
But • Ver. 11. They presented unto him gifts] The eastern people never came into the presence of their prince without offering hin gifts, which generally were the choicest productions of their country. From the three sorts of things which ths wise men offered, it has been conjectured that they were three in number: hut without the least foundation. And that they were kings is a notion equally unsupported. If they had been persons of this dignity, the Evangelists probably would have inentioned it; and Herod would have treated them with more ceremony.
+ The time of the coming of the magi has been much disputed by har. mony-writers; some fixing it within the forty days of the purification, which Joseph and Mary passed at Bethlehem immediately after Christ's birth; others supposing that they did not come till he was more than a year old. Those who espouse the former opinion, think that the year of Herod's deathi, compared with our Lord's age at his baptism, (I ukt in. 23.) determines the coming of the magi to the period of the purification. But as this difficulty arises from a wrong sense of the pass.ige quoici, nothing can be concludd fiom ii. Luke docs not say that lives began to le