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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 is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”


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6. And thou, Bethlehem The scribes quoted faithfully, no doubt, the words of the passage in their own language, as it is found in the prophet. But Matthew reckoned it enough to point out the passage; and, as he wrote in Greek, he followed the ordinary reading. This passage, and others of the same kind, readily suggest the inference, that Matthew did not compose his Gospel in the Hebrew language. It ought always to be observed that, whenever any proof from Scripture is quoted by the apostles, though they do not translate word for word, and sometimes depart widely from the language, yet it is applied correctly and appropriately to their subject. Let the reader always consider the purpose for which passages of Scripture are brought forward by the Evangelists, so as not to stick too closely to the particular words, but to be satisfied with this, that the Evangelists never torture Scripture into a different meaning, but apply it correctly in its native meaning. But while it was their intention to supply with milk children and “novices” (1 Timothy 3:6) in faith, who were not yet able to endure strong meat,” (Hebrews 5:12,) there is nothing to prevent the children of God from making careful and diligent inquiry into the meaning of Scripture, and thus being led to the fountain by the taste which the apostles afford.

Let us now return to the prediction. Thus it stands literally in the Prophet:

“And thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little
among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall
he come forth to me, who is Ruler in Israel,” (Micah 5:2.)

For Ephratah Matthew has put Judah, but the meaning is the same; for Micah only intended, by this mark, to distinguish the Bethlehem of which he speaks, from another Bethlehem, which was in the tribe of Zebulun. There is greater difficulty in what follows: for the Prophet says, that Bethlehem is little, when reckoned among the governments of Judah, while Matthew, on the contrary: speaks highly of its rank as one of the most distinguished: thou art by no means the least among the princes of Judah This reason has induced some commentators to read the passage in the prophet as a question, Art thou little among the thousands of Judah? But I rather agree with those who think that Matthew intended, by this change of the language, to magnify the grace of God in making an inconsiderable and unknown town the birth-place of the highest King. Although Bethlehem received this distinguished honor, it was of no advantage to its inhabitants, but brought upon them a heavier destruction: for there an unworthy reception was given to the Redeemer. For he is to be Ruler, Matthew has put he shall feed, (ποιμανεῖ) But he has expressed both, when he says, that Christ is the leader, (ἡγούμενος,) and that to him is committed the office of feeding his people.




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