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But to return, though Herod's real designs with respect to the king of the Jews where hid from men, they did not elude the knowledge of God, who, foreseeing what the tyrant's cruelty
would about thirty years of age when he was baptized; but that be began, namely his ministry, when he was about thirty. ` And therefore Luke's account of Christ's age is a just one, although at his baptism he was thirty-two or thirty three complete ; which is the oldest he could be, even on supposition that the magi did not come till a year after the birth, and all the most unfavourable daies of the several events, to be considered in this question, should be adapted. Since therefore we are under no necessity of fixing the coming of the magi to the period of the purification, we may suppose that they came to Bethiehem about a year after, while Joseph and his family were there the second time. This date has a peculiar advantage, as being more agreeable to the general tenor of the history than the other dates pr posed: particularly it corresponds with Herod's order for slaying the children of Bethlehem from two years old and under, according to the time enquired of the wise men ; which by verse 7. seems to have been the time of the star's first appearance. For the magi imagined the child was born then, as is evident from their question, Where is the king of the Jews! not that is to be born, but that is born already, for we have seen his star in the east. Yet because Herod was not absolutely certain that the star apo peared just when this infant was born, he ordered not only the children of two years old, but all under that age, to be killed.
Allowing the star to have appeared at the birth, some considerable time must have been spent by the philosophers in preparing for, and performing their journey into Judéa. Izra spent full five munths in travelling between Babylon' and Jerusalem, (Ezra vii. 9.) a journey not much above half the length of what the philosophers had to make if they came from Persia. It is true, Ezra carried with him a multitude of people, and for that reason must have made shorter journeys, than two or three persons in company may be supposed to have done, notwithstanding they travelled on foot. Yet their deliberation about this journey, their preparations for it after they had resolved upon it, and their execution of it, could not take up less than eight or ten months. That they came from Persia is credible, not only from their name, but from their office. For the magi being principal officers of state in Persia, they may have come by appointment of the king their master, to do homage to the new-born greater king ; that when he should conquer all countries, he might be favourable to theirs. The philosophers therefore coming from Persia, we may reasonably fix their arrival eight or ten months after the birth. Herod's order does not ohlige us to fix it later, because it is not to be thought that he would confine it precisely to the time when the star first appeared, any more than he confined it precisely to the place mentioned in the prophecy. To make sure work, he would not only extend his order beyond the city to the territory of Bethlehem, but in respect of time also would go back as far as he judge ed necessary, He knew that through favour or mistake, the persons sent upon the bloody errand might take some latitude in determining the ages of the children they were to slay. And therefore tò leave as little in their power as possible, he commanded them to put all the children under two years old io death, that the infant, for whose sake the rest were destroyed, might have no chance of escaping.
Yet it may be urged against this method of harmony, that the discovery which was made of the Messiah at his presentation in the temple, must soon have reached Herod's ears, especially as Anna spoke of him to all her acquaintance in Jerusalem ; and that if it did, Joseph and his family could not with safety have staid in any part of Herod's dominions a whole year
would lead him to do, warned Joseph by an angel to flee with his family into Egypt. 13. And when they were departed, behold the angel of the Lord appeared 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 the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my Son.
till the magi came; much less have dwelt in Bethlehem, in the very neigh-
Ver. 13. Flee into Egypt.] Egypt was pitched upon as the place of Christ's refuge, rather than Syria, for two reasons: 1. It was nearer to Bethlehem than Syria: 2. Hero had not such influence with the governors of Egypt, as he had with those of Syria, whose dependent he was, Besides, there were many Jews in Egypt, particularly at Alexandria, among whom Joseph and his family might reside in perfect safety.
† Ver. 15. That it might be fulfilled.] This prophecy as it stands Has. xi. 1. seems to have been spoken originally of the Israelites. Nevertheless, the application, which the evangelist has made of it to Christ is just, as will appear from what follows. The bringing of people into Egypt, was a proverb for laving them under great hardships; and took its rise from the afflictions which the Israelites sustained in that country. The threatening, Deut. xxviii. 68. that the Israelites should be sent back again into Egypt, affords a proof of this proverbial use of the expression. For we do not find the Israelites carried back into Egypt, as the punishment of the first instances of their rebellion, but into Assyria and Babylon; captivities which have ever been looked upon as the execution of that threatening. But if the carrying of people into Egypt, was a proverbial expres sion for laying them under great hardships, by parity of reason any singular interposition of Providence in behalf whether of a person or nation, might be termed a calling them out of Egypt; the Israelites having been delivered from the Egyptian bondage, by visible and most astonishing exertions of the divine power. Agreeably to this remark, we find the return of the Jews from Assyria and Babylon, represented by the prophet Zachariah x. 10, 11. under the figure of bringing them again out of Egypt. But that no reader might mistake his meaning, he adds, I will gather them out of Assyria. At the same time he adumbrates the interpositions of the divine providence for accomplishing their deliverance from Assyria, by the miracles that were formerly wrought to bring about the ancient deliverance from Egypt. And be shall pass through the sea with affliction, and shall smite the suaves in the sea, and all the depths of the river shall dry up. And the pride of Assyria shall be brought doren, and the sceptre of Egypt shall depart away. See likewise Psal. Ixviii. 22. It is replied, indeed, that in latter times the Jeus were carried captives into Egypt by the Ptolemics, and that this is a pre
diction of their deliverance from thence. But the answer is, that if the on part of the prophecy is to be understood literally, the other must be so likewise. Nevertheless, we do not find the Jews in latter times brought out of Egypt by any signal interposition of Providence at all, as was the case when they were made to return from the eastern captivities; much less were they brought out by God's smiting the waves of the sea and dry. ing up the deeps of the river, and making the sceptre of Egypt to depart away. It is much more proper, therefore, to interpret this prophecy of the deliverance from the Babylonish captivity, effected by the destruction of the Babylonish empire, to accomplish which Cyrus was raised up. I so, the prophecy in this sense affords is a proverbial use of God's bringing or calling his people out of Egypt, applicable to the present case. For as Christ's flying into Egypt, from the wrath of Herod, happened in conseq!ience of a message from heaven, and was the means of saving his life, it might fitly have the prophetical and proverhial expression, Out of Egypt have I called my sm, applied to it. And what confirms this remark is, that we find the prophecy, or proverb rather, applied not to Chrisi's coming out of Egypt, but to his going thither. ♡ XII. The infants of Bethlehem are killed. Herod dies; and Joseph returns from Egypt.
from Egypt. Matt. ii. 16,-23. HEROD, whose cruelty and jealousy were boundless, finding his project for murdering the Messiah defeated, was so enraged that he instantly slaughtered all the children of Bethlehem and its territory, from two years old and under. 16. Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wrath, and sent forth and slow all the children that were in Bethlehem, and all the coast thereaf, from two yeurs old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise
Josephus indeed has not mentioned this horrid action ; but the other barbarities committed by Herod, which that historian has related, prove him to have been abundantly capable of it; and, therefore, considering that Josephus was no friend to Christianity, his omitting a fact of this kind cannot be thought any diminution of its credibility.--The Evangelist, to shew the cruelty of it, quotes the prophecy, Jer. xiii. 13, 17. * Then was
Ver. 17. Then svas fulfilled, &c.] This prophecy and its application differ in two particulars: 1. The persons spoken of in the prophery were not put to death as in the history; for jer. xxxi. 16, 17. we find them coming again from the land of the enemy to their own border : Thus saith the Lord, Refrain thy voice froin iureping, &c. 2. The lamentation described by the prophet was in Ramah, whereas that mentioned by the evangelist was in Bethlchem. Now we learn from Judges xix. 2. 10. 13. that Ramah was at a considerable distance from Bethlehem. Jerusalem lying between them. Wherefore the application of the prophecy to the slaughter of the infants in Bethlehem, is made rather by way of accommodation than com. pletion ; that is to say, it is an application of the expressions and figures of the prophecy, rather than of the prophecy itself. From Jer. xl. 1. it appears that when Nebuzaradan was going to carry the Jews away to Babylon, he gathered them together in the plains of Ramah. But as the Babylonish captivity was the most terrible disaster that ever befel the Israelites, Jeremiah predicting it, beautifully introduces Rachel their mother crying bitterly in Ramah, when she saw her children driven out of their country, slaves to heathens. It was not, however, his intention to affirm that this circumstance would actually happen; for Rachel did not rise from the dead to bewail the Babylonish captivity. But he meant it as a poetical figure, to shew the greatness of the desolation that was then to be made. It is plain, therefore, that Matthew uses the prophets words in their genuine meaning, when he applies them to the slaughter of the in. fants, though that cre:t was not predicted by Jeremiah. For as in the prophecy, so in the histu.y, the mother of the Israelites is figuratively introduced weening at the calamity of her children ; a liberty taken by all ani. mated writ: rs, when they have a mind to heighten their descriptions. In the mean time, the figure as it is made use of by the evangelist, has a pe. culiar beauty which is wanting in the prophet. Rachel being buried in the fields of Bethlehem, (Gen. xlviii. 7.) where the infants were slain, she is awakened with their cries, rises out of her grave, and bitterly bewails her little who lie slaughtered in heaps around her.
fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, 18. In Ramah was their a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning ; Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
Soon after this barbarous action Herod died, upon which an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in Egypt, commanding him to return. 19. But when Hered was dead, behold 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: Perhaps it was the angel who before had ordered him to take home his wife. At least he formed the same judgment of this vision as of that. They were both divine, and manifested a peculiar care of Providence towards him, which he thankfully acknowledged by obeying without delay the admonitions which were thus given him from heaven ;--for they are dead which sought the young child's life. If the plural number here is not an Hebraism, (see on Matt. xxvii. 44. 5 146.) but signifies more persons than one, Antipater, Herod's son, is probably joined with his father.
He was a person of such ambition and cruelty, that to clear his way to the crown he had procured the deaths of his two elder brothers. We may therefore suppose, that he was active in seeking the destruction of Messiah, and advised the slaughter of the infants. But he was put to death by his father, for conspiring to take away his life. And five days after this execution Herod himself died-Joseph obeyed the angel, and would gladly have gone into Judea, probably to Bethlehem, because, from his own knowledge of the prophecies, as well as from the decision of the scribes, an account of which he might have received from the magi, he fancied his son's education in Bethlehem was as necessary to his being acknowledged the Messiah as his birth, which had been so providentially ordered to happen there. Nevertheless, when he heard that Archelaus reigned in Judea, he was afraid to go thither, knowing the jealous and cruel disposition of that prince. He went home,
therefore, to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, under the dominion of Herod Antipas, who had obtained from Augustus the government of Galilee taken from Archelaus, and was a man of a sweet disposition, as appears from the mildness with which he received the Baptist's rebuke. (Mark vi. 19, 20.) 21. And he arose and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22. But when he heard, viz. on his arrival, that Archelaus did reign in Judea, i. e. the southern parts of the land of Israel, (see on Matt. xix. 1. § 75.) in the room of his father Herod, (see the first note, ” 14.) he was afraid to go thither ; notwithstanding being warned of God in a dream: it seems he was favoured a third time with a vision from heaven; wherefore, in obedience . to the divine admonition, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee. 23. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene *.
• The words, be shall be called a Nazarene, are not to be found in the writings of the prophets; yet as the thing meant thereby often occurs in them, the application is made with sufficient propriety. The Israelites despised the Galileans in general, but especially the Nazarenes, who were so contemptible as to be suhjects of ridicule, even to the Galileans themselves. Hence, a Nazarene was a term of reproach, proverbially given to any despicable worthless fellow whatever. Wherefore, since the prophets in many places of their writing bave foretold, that the Messiah should be rejected, despised, and traduced; for example, Psal. xxii. 6. lxix. 9, 10. Isa. liii. 3. Zech. xi. 12, 13. they have in reality predicted that he should be called a Nazarene, And the evangelist justly reckons Christ's dwelling in Nazareth, among other things, a completion of these predictions; because, in the course of his public life, his having been educated in that town was frequently objected to him as matter of scorn, and was one principal reason why his countrymen would not receive him. John i. 46. and vii. 41, 52. Nor was it without especial direction, that the historian has thus mentioned the prophecies which foretold the contempt wherein Messiah was held by his countrymen, hecause it prevents the reader from forming any disadvantageons notion of Jesus on that account, or on account of the meanness of his family and fortune. $ XIII. The history of Christ's childhood and private life.
Luke ii. 40,-52. During the years of his childhood, Jesus grew remarkably in stature of body. At the same time the faculties of his mind adyanced in proportion. For he had a strength of understanding, and a quickness of penetration far surpassing his years, together with such a degree of wisdom as would have been an ornament to the most advanced age. Moreover, the comeliness of his person was extraordinary, being a fit indication of the gracious dispositions of his heart. Luke ii. 40. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. (See the note at the end of this sect.) The evangelist, to shew how eminent Jesus was for wisdom, even in his childhood, gives the following remarkable instance. When he