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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW - Chapter 2 - Verse 2
Verse 2. Where is he, etc. There was, at this time, a prevalent expectation that some remarkable personage was about to appear in Judea. The Jews were anxiously looking for the coming of the Messiah. By computing the time mentioned by Daniel, (Da 9:25-27,) they knew that the period was approaching when the Messiah should appear. This personage, they supposed, would be a temporal prince, and they were expecting that he would deliver them from Roman bondage. It was natural that this expectation should spread into other countries. Many Jews, at that time, dwelt in Eypt, in Rome, and in Greece; many, also, had gone to eastern countries, and in every place they carried their Scriptures, and diffused the expectation that some remarkable person was about to appear. Suetonius, a Roman historian, speaking of this rumour, says :—"An ancient and settled persuasion prevailed throughout the East, that the Fates had decreed some one to proceed from Judea, who should attain universal empire." Tacitus, another Roman historian, says:—-
"Many were persuaded that it was contained in the ancient
books of their priests, that at that very time the East
should prevail, and that some one should proceed from
Judea and possess the dominion."
Josephus also, and Philo, two Jewish historians, make mention of the same expectation. The fact that such a person was expected is clearly attested. Under this expectation these wise men came to do him homage, and inquired anxiously where he was born?
His star. Among the ancients, the appearance of a star or comet was regarded as an omen of some remarkable event. Many such appearances are recorded by the Roman historians at the birth or death of distinguished men. Thus, they say, that at the death of Julius Caesar a comet appeared in the heavens, and shone seven days. These wise men also considered this as an evidence that the long-expected Prince was born. It is possible that they had been led to this belief by the prophecy of Balaam, Nu 24:17, "There shall come a star out of Jacob," etc. What this star was, is not known. There have been many conjectures respecting it, but nothing is revealed concerning it. We are not to suppose that it was what we commonly mean by a star. The stars are vast bodies fixed in the heavens, and it is absurd to suppose that one of them was sent to guide the wise men. It is most probable that it was a luminous appearance, or meteor, such as we now see sometimes shoot from the sky, or such as appear stationary, which the wise men saw, and which directed them to Jerusalem. It is possible that the same thing is meant which is mentioned by Lu 2:9—"The glory of the Lord shone round about them," i.e., (See Barnes "Lu 2:9"
on this place) a great light appeared shining around them. That light might have been visible from afar, and have been seen by the wise men in the East.
In the East. This does not mean that they had seen the star to the east of themselves, but that, when they were in the East, they had seen this star. As this star was in the direction of Jerusalem, it must have been west of them. It might be translated, "We, being in the East, have seen his star." It is called his star, because they supposed it to be intended to indicate the time and place of his birth.
To worship him. This does not mean that they had come to pay him religious homage, or to adore him. They regarded him as the King of the Jews. There is no evidence that they supposed he would be Divine. They came to honour him as a prince, or a king, not as God. The original word implies no more than this. It meant to prostrate one's self before another; to fall down and pay homage to another. This was the mode in which homage was paid to earthly kings; and this they wished to pay to the new-born King of the Jews. See the same meaning of the word in Mt 20:20; 18:26; Ac 10:25; Lu 14:10.
The English word worship also meant, formerly, "to respect, to honour, to treat with civil reverence." (Webster.)
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