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  • VINCENT'S NEW TESTAMENT
    WORD STUDIES - MATTHEW 2

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    CHAPTER II

    1. Bethlehem. Hebrew, House of Bread, probably from its fertility. The birthplace of him who calls himself the Bread of Life (John vi. 35), and identified with the history of his human ancestry through Ruth, who was here married to Boaz, and was the ancestress of David (i. 5, 6), and through David himself, who was born there, and anointed king by Samuel (compare Luke ii. 11, city of David).

    Wise men, or Magi (magoi). Wycliffe renders kings. A priestly caste among the Persians and Medes, which occupied itself principally with the secrets of nature, astrology, and medicine. Daniel became president of such an order in Babylon (Dan. ii. 48). The word became transferred, without distinction of country, to all who had devoted themselves to those sciences, which were, however, frequently accompanied with the practice of magic and jugglery; and, under the form magician, it has come to be naturalized in many of the languages of Europe. Many absurd traditions and guessed respecting these visitors to our Lord's cradle have found their way into popular belief and into Christian art. They were said to be kings, and three in number; they were said to be representatives of the three families of Shem, Ham, and Japhet, and therefore one of them is pictured as an Ethiopian; their names are given as Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior, and their three skulls, said to have been discovered in the twelfth century by Bishop Reinald of Cologne, are exhibited in a priceless casket in the great cathedral of that city.

    2. The east (anatolh). Literally, the rising. Some commentators prefer to render at its rising, or when it rose. In Luke i. 78, the word is translated dayspring, or dawn. The kindred verb occurs in Matt. iv. 16, "light did spring up" (aneteilen).

    4. All the chief priests. We should expect only one chief priest to be mentioned; but the office had become a lucrative one, and frequently changed hands. A rabbit is quoted as saying that the first temple, which stood about four hundred and ten years, had only eighteen high-priests from first to last; while the second temple, which stood four hundred and twenty years, had more than three hundred high-priests. The reference here is not to a meeting of the Sanhedrim, since the elders, who are not mentioned, belonged to this; but to an extraordinary convocation of all the high-priests and learned men. Besides the high-priest in actual office, there might be others who had been this predecessors, and who continued to bear the name, and in part the dignity. It may possibly have included the heads of the twenty-four courses of priests.

    6. Land of Judah. To distinguish it from Bethlehem in the territory of Zebulon.

    Shall be shepherd of (poimanei), from poimhn, a shepherd. So Rev., rightly, instead of shall rule. The word involves the whole office of the shepherd - guiding, guarding, folding, as well as feeding. Hence appropriate and often applied to the guides and guardians of others. Homer calls kings "the shepherds of the people." To David the people said, "The Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed (as a shepherd) my people Israel" (2 Sam. v. 2, compare Ps. lxxviii. 70-72). God is often called a shepherd (Gen. xlviii. 15; Ps. xxiii. 1; lxxvii. 20; lxxx. 1; Isa. xl. 11; Ezekiel xxxiv. 11-31). Jesus calls himself the good shepherd (John x. 11). Peter, who is bidden by Jesus to shepherd his sheep (John xxi. 16, poimaine, Rev., tend), calls him the Shepherd of Souls (1 Pet. ii. 25), and the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. v. 4); and in the Epistle to the Hebrews (xiii. 20), he is styled the great Shepherd of the sheep. In Apoc. ii. 27, rule is literally to shepherd (compare xix. 15); but Christ will shepherd his enemies, not with the pastoral crook, but with a sceptre of iron. Finally, Jesus will perpetuate this name and office in heaven among his redeemed ones, for "the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall be their shepherd (Apoc. vii. 17, Rev.). In this verse the word governor is in harmony with the idea of shepherding, since the word hJgoumenov originally means one who goes before, or leads the way, and suggests Christ's words about the good shepherd in John x. 3, 4. "He calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.... He goeth before them, and the sheep follow him."

    Inquired diligently (hkribwsen). Better learned accurately. The verb is formed from akrov, at the point or end. The idea is, therefore, he ascertained to the last point; denoting the exactness of the information rather than the diligence of the search for it. Compare ver. 8, "Search out carefully (akribwv). So the Rev. for diligently.

    What time the star appeared (ton cronon tou fainomenou). Lit., the time of the appearing star. Herod asks, "How long does the star make itself visible since its rising in the East? rather than "At what time did it appear?"

    12. Being warned (crhmatisqentev). The verb means to give a response to one who asks or consults: hence, in the passive, as here, to receive an answer. The word therefore implies that the wise men had sought counsel of God; and so Wycliffe, "And answer taken in sleep."

    16. The children (touv paidav). Male children, as is indicated by the masculine form of the article, and so Rev. 23. The prophets. Note the plural, as indicating not any one prediction in particular, but a summary of the import of several prophetic statements, such as Ps. xxii. 6, 8; lxix. 11, 19; Isa. liii. 2, 3, 4.

    A Nazarene. A term of contempt (compare John i. 46, and vii. 52). The very name of Nazareth suggested insignificance. In Hebrew it meant sprout or shoot. The name is prophetically given to the Messiah (Isa. xi. 1). In Isa. x. 33, 34, the fate of Assyria is described under the figure of the felling of a cedar-forest. The figure of the tree is continued at the opening of ch. 11 concerning the Jewish state. The cedar throws out no fresh suckers, but the oak is a tree "in which, after the felling, a stock remaineth" (Isa. vi. 13; compare Job xiv. 9). There is a future then for Israel, represented by the oak. "There shall come forth a shoot from the stock of Jesse, and a twig from his roots shall bear fruit." As David sprang from the humble family of Jesse, so the Messiah, the second David, shall arise out of great humiliation. The fact that Jesus grew up at Nazareth was sufficient reason for his being despised. He was not a lofty branch on the summit of a stately tree; not a recognized and honored son of the royal house of David, now fallen, but an insignificant sprout from the roots of Jesse; a Nazarene, of an upstart sprout-town.

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