Saturday, February 21, 2009

Matthew 2:1–12

Matthew 2:1–12: The Visit of the Wise Men

Synopsis

This passage describes the visit of the Wise Men—a.k.a. the Magi—to Jesus. They end up in Jerusalem, because they’ve followed a star to the area, and start asking around about “the king of the Jews” (verse 2 (ESV)), wondering where they can find him.

Herod hears about this, and gets “troubled,” and “all Jerusalem with him” (verse 3 (ESV)), so he decides to pretend to help the Magi. He brings together the scribes, asks them where the Christ is supposed to be born, and they tell him that he’s supposed to be born in Bethlehem, based on a prophecy in Micah 5:2 (ESV). So Herod tells this to the Magi, and tells them that when they find this child, they should let him know, so that he can go and worship him too. (Spoiler alert: Herod doesn’t really want to worship the Christ.)

They go to Bethlehem, and find that the star they’ve been following is right above the place where Jesus is. They fall down to worship him, and then, as we’ve all heard, offer him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But, having been warned in a dream, they don’t return to Herod in Jerusalem; they go home via another route.

Thoughts

We are told in verse 3 that when Herod is troubled, all of Jerusalem is troubled with him. Why would this be? I assume it’s because people know that when the king is unhappy, they’re going to be miserable too. But based on this, it means that the Magi must spend quite a bit of time in Jerusalem, looking for the Christ, if there is time for the king to hear about it, and then for the people to hear about the fact that he’s troubled by it.

I don’t think it’s giving anything away to say that Herod is troubled by news of a new “King of the Jews” because he doesn’t want some Jewish troublemaker coming along, trying to lead the Jews militarily. Kings don’t tend to like competition for rule.

According to the ESV Study Bible, “scribes” were the “official interpreters of the Old Testament.” (I doubt I’ll keep explaining that every time we encounter the word.)