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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW - Chapter 2 - Verse 23

Verse 23. Nazareth. This was a small town, situated in Galilee, west of Capernaum, and not far from Cana. It was built partly in a valley, and partly on the declivity of a hill, Luke 4:29. A hill is yet pointed out, to the south of Nazareth, as the one from which the people of the place attempted to precipitate the Saviour. It was a place, at that time, proverbial for wickedness, Joh 1:46. It is now a large village, with a convent and two churches. One of the churches, called the church of the Annunciation, is the finest in the Holy Land, except that of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

A modern traveller describes Nazareth as situated upon the declivity of a hill, the vale which spreads out before it resembling a circular basin, encompassed by mountains. Fifteen mountains appear to meet to form an enclosure for this beautiful spot, around which they rise like the edge of a shell, to guard it against intrusion. It is a rich and beautiful field in the midst of barren mountains.

Another traveller speaks of the streets as narrow and steep; the houses, which are fiat-roofed, are about two hundred and fifty in number, and the inhabitants he estimates at 2000. The population of the place is variously stated, though the average estimate is 3000; of whom about five hundred are Turks, and the residue nominal Christians.

As all testimony to the truth and fidelity of the sacred narrative is important, we have thought ourselves justified in connecting with this article a passage from the journal of Mr. Jowett, an intelligent modern traveller; especially as it is so full an illustration of the passage of Luke already cited:

 

"Nazareth is situated on the side, and extends nearly to

the foot, of a hill, which, though not very high, is rather

steep and overhanging. The eye naturally wanders over its

summit, in quest of some point from which it might probably

be that the men of this place endeavoured to east our

Saviour down, (Lu 4:29) but in vain: no rock adapted

to such an object appears here. At the foot of the hill

is a modest, simple plain, surrounded by low hills,

reaching in length nearly a mile; in breadth, near the

city, a hundred and fifty yards; but farther south, about

four hundred yards. On this plain there are a few olive and

fig trees, sufficient, or rather scarcely sufficient, to

make the spot picturesque. Then follows a ravine, which

gradually grows deeper and narrower towards the south;

till, after walking about another mile, you find yourself

in an immense chasm, with steep rocks on either side,

from whence you behold, as it were beneath your feet, and

before you, the noble plain of Esdraelon. Nothing can be

finer than the apparently immeasurable prospect of this

plain, bounded on the south by the mountains of Samaria.

The elevation of the hills on which the spectator stands

in this ravine is very great; and the whole scene, when

we saw it, was clothed in the most rich mountain-blue

colour that can be conceived. At this spot, on the right

hand of the ravine, is shown the rock to which the men of

Nazareth are supposed to have conducted our Lord, for the

purpose of throwing him down. With the Testament in our

hands, we endeavoured to examine the probabilities of the

spot; and I confess there is nothing in it which excites

a scruple of incredulity in my mind. The rock here is

perpendicular for about fifty feet, down which space it

would be easy to hurl a person who should be unawares

brought to the summit; and his perishing would be a

very certain consequence. That the spot might be at

considerable distance from the city is an idea not

inconsistent with St. Luke's account; for the expression,

thrusting Jesus out of the city, and leading him to the

brow of the hill, on which their city was built, gives

fair scope for imagining, that in their rage and debate

the Nazarenes might, without originally intending his

murder, press upon him for a considerable distance after

they had quitted the synagogue. The distance, as already

noticed, from modern Nazareth to the spot, is scarcely

two miles; a space which, in the fury of persecution,

might soon be passed over. Or, should this appear too

considerable, it is by no means certain but that Nazareth

may at that time have extended through the principal part

of the plain, which I have described as lying before the

modern town. In this case, the distance passed over might

not exceed a mile. I can see, therefore, no reason for

thinking otherwise, than that this may be the real

scene where our Divine Prophet, Jesus, received so great

a dishonour from the men of his own country and of his

own kindred."

Mr. Fisk, an American missionary, was at Nazareth in the autumn of 1823. His description Corresponds generally with that of Mr. Jowett. He estimates the population to be from 3000 to 5000, viz., Greeks, three hundred or four hundred families; Turks, two hundred; Catholics, one hundred; Greek Catholics, forty or fifty; Maronites, twenty or thirty; say in all seven hundred houses.

That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, etc. The words here are not found in any of the books of the Old Testament; and there has been much difficulty in ascertaining the meaning of this passage. Some have supposed that Matthew meant to refer to Jud 13:5, to Samson as a type of Christ; others that he refers to Isa 11:1, where the descendant of Jesse is called "a Branch;" in the Hebrew Netzer. Some have supposed that Matthew refers to some prophecy which was not recorded, but handed down by tradition. But these suppositions are not satisfactory. It is a great deal more probable that Matthew refers not to any particular place, but to the leading characteristics of the prophecies respecting him. The following remarks may make this clear:

1st. He does not say, "by the prophet, as in Mt 1:22; 2:5,15; but "by the prophets," meaning no one particularly, but the general character of the prophecies.

2nd. The leading and most prominent prophecies respecting him were, that he was to be of humble life, to be despised, and rejected. See Isa 53:2,3,7-9,12; Ps 22:1.

 

3rd. The phrase "he shall be called," means the same as he shall be.

4th. The character of the people of Nazareth was such that they were proverbially despised and contemned, Joh 1:46; 7:52. To come from Nazareth, therefore, or to be a Nazarene, was the same as to be despised, and esteemed of low birth; to be a root out of dry ground, having no form or comeliness. And this was the same as had been predicted by the prophets. When Matthew says, therefore, that the prophecies were fulfilled, it means, that the predictions of the prophets that he should be of humble life, and rejected, were fully accomplished in his being an inhabitant of Nazareth, and despised as such.

 

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