The Wise Men Render Homage to the Messiah.[a] 1 After Jesus had been born in Bethlehem[b] of Judea during the reign of King Herod, wise men traveled from the east and arrived in Jerusalem, 2 inquiring, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw the rising of his star, and we have come to pay him homage.”
3 On hearing about their inquiry, King Herod was greatly troubled, as was true of the whole of Jerusalem. 4 Therefore, he summoned all the chief priests[c] and the scribes and questioned them about where the Christ was to be born. 5 They replied, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus has the prophet written:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah,
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”[d]
7 Then Herod secretly summoned the wise men, and he ascertained from them the exact time of the star’s appearance, 8 after which he sent them on to Bethlehem, saying: “Go forth and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, so that I can go and pay him homage.”
9 After receiving these instructions from the king, the wise men set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising proceeded ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 The sight of the star filled them with great joy, 11 and when they entered the house they beheld the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they paid him homage. Then they opened their treasure chests and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.[e] 12 And since they had been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their own country by another route.
13 The Flight into Egypt. After the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and instructed him, “Arise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt. Remain there until I tell you. Herod seeks the child to kill him.” 14 Therefore, he got up, took the child and his mother, and departed that night for Egypt, 15 where they remained until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”[f]
16 The Slaughter of the Innocents at Bethlehem. When Herod realized that the wise men had deceived him, he flew into a rage and issued an order to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and the surrounding area who were two years old or less, in accordance with the information that he had obtained from the wise men. 17 [g]Thus were fulfilled the words that had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
lamenting and sobbing bitterly:
Rachel weeping for her children,
and refusing to be consoled,
because they were no more.”
19 The Return to the Land of Israel.[h] After the death of Herod, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Arise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought to kill the child are dead.”[i] 21 He got up, took the child and his mother, and returned to the land of Israel.
22 But when Joseph learned that Archelaus[j] had succeeded his father Herod in Judea, he was afraid to go there. After he had been warned in a dream concerning this, he withdrew to the region of Galilee. 23 He settled in a town called Nazareth,[k] so that what had been spoken through the Prophets might be fulfilled: “He shall be called a Nazorean.”
- Matthew 2:1 We shall never be able to identify with certainty these men of study and prayer, who may also have been astrologers (called by a Persian name, “Magi”). Orientals thought that a new star appeared at the birth of great persons (Num 24:17). In any case, the hour has come for pagans to share in the joy of encounter with God. This Gospel also confirms the expectation of Israel and cites the Prophets (Mic 5:1; 2 Sam 5:1-3): the new future of the People of God originates in the dynasty of David and in his native place, Bethlehem (1 Sam 16), but the mission of the Messiah goes beyond religious and national frontiers. The Messianic age is beginning (see Ps 72:10-11; Isa 9:1, 5; 49:23; 60:1-5; Lk 2:30-34).
- Matthew 2:1 Bethlehem: about five miles south of Jerusalem.
- Matthew 2:4 Chief priests: in the plural signifies the high priest now in office and his predecessors and members of their respective families. Herod’s act of consulting with the chief priests and teachers of the Law has some affinity with a Jewish legend about the child Moses in which Pharaoh is warned by sacred scribes about the coming birth of a deliverer of Israel from Egypt and plots to destroy the deliverer.
- Matthew 2:6 This prophecy of Micah (5:1) had been pronounced seven centuries earlier.
- Matthew 2:11 Because of the Old Testament texts of Ps 72:11, 16; Isa 60:6, the wise men were thought to be kings. House: indicates that the wise men did not visit Jesus on the night of his birth as did the shepherds. Although there are three gifts, this does not mean there were three wise men.
- Matthew 2:15 The citation from Hos 11:1, which originally referred to God’s calling Israel (God’s son) out of Egypt, is here applied to Jesus. Just as Israel was called out of Egypt at the time of the Exodus, so Jesus, the Son of God, will be called out of Egypt at the New Exodus.
- Matthew 2:17 The citation of Jer 31:15 originally referred to Rachel, the wife of Jacob, weeping for her children taken into exile in 721 B.C. Matthew applies it to the mourning for the Holy Innocents.
- Matthew 2:19 Herod died in 4 B.C. We do not know for sure to which prophecies (note the plural “Prophets”) v. 23 is alluding. Some believe Matthew is here thinking of the Old Testament declarations that the Messiah would be despised (e.g., Ps 22:6; Isa 53:3), for “Nazorean” was a synonym for “despised” (see Jn 1:45f). Or he may be saying that according to the plan of God Jesus was to live his childhood and youth in Nazareth and begin his ministry there. Some think “Nazorean” fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah (11:1): Jesus is the “shoot” (nezer in Hebrew) of the race of Abraham and David.
- Matthew 2:20 For those who sought to kill the child are dead: another subtle reference to the Moses-Christ parallel. After fleeing from Egypt because the Pharaoh sought to kill him, Moses was told to return in similar words: “for all the men who wanted to kill you are dead” (Ex 4:19).
- Matthew 2:22 Archelaus: son of Herod who ruled Judea and Samaria for ten years (4 B.C. to A.D. 6) and was deposed because of his cruelty. After him Judea became a Roman province administered by “procurators” appointed by the Emperor. Galilee: the northern part of Palestine, whose principal cities were: Capernaum, Cana, Nazareth, and Tiberias. Its people were not very highly esteemed by the Jews of Jerusalem and Judea (see Jn 1:46; 7:52) probably because of the strong Hellenization of the region and the mixed (Jew-Gentile) population there. It was the primary region of Jesus’ public ministry and is viewed as a providential indicator of his Messianic mission to the Gentiles (see Isa 66:18f; Am 9:11f).
- Matthew 2:23 Nazareth: a town that stands on the last spurs of the Galilean hills, some 87 miles north of Jerusalem.