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2. Visit of the Magi and Flight to Egypt
1Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, Wise-men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, 2Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we saw his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ should be born. 5And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written through the prophet,
6And thou Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Art in no wise least among the princes of Judah:
For out of thee shall come forth a governor,
Who shall be shepherd of my people Israel.
7Then Herod privily called the Wise-men, and learned of them exactly what time the star appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search out exactly concerning the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word, that I also may come and worship him. 9And they, having heard the king, went their way; and lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11And they came into the house and saw the young child with Mary his mother; and they fell down and worshipped him; and opening their treasures they offered unto him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
13Now when they were departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I tell thee: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14And he arose and took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt; 15and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt did I call my son.
16Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the Wise-men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the male children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had exactly learned of the Wise-men. 17Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, saying,
18A voice was heard in Ramah,
Weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children;
And she would not be comforted, because they are not.
19But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, 20Arise and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead that sought the young child's life. 21And he arose and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither; and being warned of God in a dream, he withdrew into the parts of Galilee, 23and came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophets, that he should be called a Nazarene.
13. And when they had departed How many days elapsed from the departure of the Magi, till Joseph was ordered to flee into Egypt, is not known, nor is it of much importance to inquire: only it is probable that the Lord spared Mary, till she was so far recovered from childbirth as to be able to perform the journey. It was a wonderful purpose of God, that he chose to preserve his Son by flight. The mind of Joseph must have been harassed by dangerous temptations, when he came to see that there was no hope but in flight: for in flight there was no appearance of divine protection. Besides, it was very difficult to reconcile the statement, that he who was to be the Savior of all, could not be preserved without the exertion of a mortal man. But, in preserving the life of his Son, God maintained such reserve, as to give some indications of his heavenly power, and yet not to make it so manifest as to prevent it from being concealed under the appearance of weakness: for the full time of glorifying Christ openly was not yet come. The angel predicts an event which was hidden, and unknown to men. That is an evident proof of divine guidance. But the angel orders him to defend the life of the child by flight and exile. This belongs to the weakness of flesh, to which Christ was subjected.
We are here taught, that God has more than one way of preserving his own people. Sometimes he makes astonishing displays of his power; while at other times he employs dark coverings or shadows, from which feeble rays of it escape. This wonderful method of preserving the Son of God under the cross teaches us, that they act improperly who prescribe to God a fixed plan of action. Let us permit him to advance our salvation by a diversity of methods; and let us not refuse to be humbled, that he may more abundantly display his glory. Above all, let us never avoid the cross, by which the Son of God himself was trained from his earliest infancy. This flight is a part of the foolishness of the cross, but it surpasses all the wisdom of the world. That he may appear at his own time as the Savior of Judea, he is compelled to flee from it, and is nourished by Egypt, from which nothing but what was destructive to the Church of God had ever proceeded. Who would not have regarded with amazement such an unexpected work of God?
Joseph immediately complies with the injunction of the Angel. This is another proof of the certainty of the dream: for such promptitude of obedience plainly shows, that he had no doubt whatever, that it was God who had enjoined him to take flight. This eager haste may wear somewhat of the aspect of distrust: for the flight by night had some appearance of alarm. But it is not difficult to frame an excuse. He saw that God had appointed a method of safety which was low and mean: and he concludes that he is at liberty to take flight in such a state of alarm as is commonly produced by extreme danger. Our fear ought always to be regulated by the divine intimations. If it agrees with them, it will not be opposed to faith.
Be thou there until I have told thee By these words the Angel declares, that the life of the child will, even in future, be the object of the divine care. Joseph needed to be thus strengthened, so as to conclude with certainty, that God would not only conduct him in the journey, but that, during his banishment, God would be his constant protector. And in this way God was pleased to allay many anxieties, with which the heart of the good man must have been perplexed, so that he enjoyed serenity of mind during his sojourn in Egypt. But for this, not a moment would have passed without numerous temptations, when he saw himself excluded not only from the inheritance promised by God to all his saints, — but from the temple, from sacrifices, from a public profession of his faiths, — and was living among the worst enemies of God, and in a deep gulf of superstitions. He carried with him, indeed, in the person of the child, all the blessings which the Fathers had hoped to enjoy, or which the Lord had promised to them: but as he had not yet made such proficiency in faith, and in the knowledge of Christ, he needed to be restrained by this injunction, Be thou there until I have told thee, that he might not be displeased at languishing in banishment from his country among the Egyptians.