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The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah

 1

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, 4and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6and Jesse the father of King David.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

 

The Birth of Jesus the Messiah

18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

23

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means, “God is with us.” 24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

 

The Visit of the Wise Men

 2

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

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.’ ”

7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

The Escape to Egypt

13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

The Massacre of the Infants

16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

18

“A voice was heard in Ramah,

wailing and loud lamentation,

Rachel weeping for her children;

she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

The Return from Egypt

19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20“Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

 


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As all are not agreed about these two genealogies, which are given by Matthew and Luke, we must first see whether both trace the genealogy of Christ from Joseph, or whether Matthew only traces it from Joseph, and Luke from Mary. Those who are of this latter opinion have a plausible ground for their distinction in the diversity of the names: and certainly, at first sight, nothing seems more improbable than that Matthew and Luke, who differ so widely from each other, give one and the same genealogy. For from David to Salathiel, and again from Zerubbabel till Joseph, the names are totally different.

Again, it is alleged, that it would have been idle to bestow so great pains on a thing of no use, in relating a second time the genealogy of Joseph, who after all was not the father of Christ. “Why this repetition,” say they, “which proves nothing that contributes much to the edification of faith? If nothing more be known than this, that Joseph was one of the descendants and family of David, the genealogy of Christ will still remain doubtful.” In their opinion, therefore, it would have been superfluous that two Evangelists should apply themselves to this subject. They excuse Matthew for laying down the ancestry of Joseph, on the ground, that he did it for the sake of many persons, who were still of opinion that he was the father of Christ. But it would have been foolish to hold out such an encouragement to a dangerous error: and what follows is at total variance with the supposition. For as soon as he comes to the close of the genealogy, Matthew points out that Christ was conceived in the womb of the virgin, not from the seed of Joseph, but by the secret power of the Spirit. If their argument were good, Matthew might be charged with folly or inadvertence, in laboring to no purpose to establish the genealogy of Joseph.

But we have not yet replied to their objection, that the ancestry of Joseph has nothing to do with Christ. The common and well-known reply is, that in the person of Joseph the genealogy of Mary also is included, because the law enjoined every man to marry from his own tribe. It is objected, on the other hand, that at almost no period had that law been observed: but the arguments on which that assertion rests are frivolous. They quote the instance of the eleven tribes binding themselves by an oath, that they would not give a wife to the Benjamites, (Judges 21:1.) If this matter, say they, had been settled by law, there would have been no need for a new enactment. I reply, this extraordinary occurrence is erroneously and ignorantly converted by them into a general rule: for if one tribe had been cut off, the body of the people must have been incomplete if some remedy had not been applied to a case of extreme necessity. We must not, therefore, look to this passage for ascertaining the common law.

Again, it is objected, that Mary, the mother of Christ, was Elisabeth’s cousin, though Luke has formerly stated that she was of the daughters of Aaron, (Luke 1:5.) The reply is easy. The daughters of the tribe of Judah, or of any other tribe, were at liberty to marry into the tribe of the priesthood: for they were not prevented by that reason, which is expressed in the law, that no woman should “remove her inheritance” to those who were of a different tribe from her own, (Numbers 36:6-9.) Thus, the wife of Jehoiada, the high priest, is declared by the sacred historian to have belonged to the royal family, —

“Jehoshabeath, the daughter of Jehoram,
the wife of Jehoiada the priest,”
(2 Chronicles 22:11.)

It was, therefore, nothing wonderful or uncommon, if the mother of Elisabeth were married to a priest. Should any one allege, that this does not enable us to decide, with perfect certainty, that Mary was of the same tribe with Joseph, because she was his wife, I grant that the bare narrative, as it stands, would not prove it without the aid of other circumstances.

But, in the first place, we must observe, that the Evangelists do not speak of events known in their own age. When the ancestry of Joseph had been carried up as far as David, every one could easily make out the ancestry of Mary. The Evangelists, trusting to what was generally understood in their own day, were, no doubt, less solicitous on that point: for, if any one entertained doubts, the research was neither difficult nor tedious.8585     “Il, leur estoit aise de le monstrer comme au doigt, et sans long ropos.” — “It was easy for them to point it out, as with the finger, and without a long story.” Besides, they took for granted, that Joseph, as a man of good character and behavior, had obeyed the injunction of the law in marrying a wife from his own tribe. That general rule would not, indeed, be sufficient to prove Mary’s royal descent; for she might have belonged to the tribe of Judah, and yet not have been a descendant of the family of David.

My opinion is this. The Evangelists had in their eye godly persons, who entered into no obstinate dispute, but in the person of Joseph acknowledged the descent of Mary; particularly since, as we have said, no doubt was entertained about it in that age. One matter, however, might appear incredible, that this very poor and despised couple belonged to the posterity of David, and to that royal seed, from which the Redeemer was to spring. If any one inquire whether or not the genealogy traced by Matthew and Luke proves clearly and beyond controversy that Mary was descended from the family of David, I own that it cannot be inferred with certainty; but as the relationship between Mary and Joseph was at that time well known, the Evangelists were more at ease on that subject. Meanwhile, it was the design of both Evangelists to remove the stumbling-block arising from the fact, that both Joseph and Mary were unknown, and despised, and poor, and gave not the slightest indication of royalty.

Again, the supposition that Luke passes by the descent of Joseph, and relates that of Mary, is easily refuted; for he expressly says, that Jesus was supposed to be the son of Joseph, etc. Certainly, neither the father nor the grandfather of Christ is mentioned, but the ancestry of Joseph himself is carefully explained. I am well aware of the manner in which they attempt to solve this difficulty. The word son, they allege, is put for son-in-law, and the interpretation they give to Joseph being called the son of Heli is, that he had married Heli’s daughter. But this does not agree with the order of nature, and is nowhere countenanced by any example in Scripture.

If Solomon is struck out of Mary’s genealogy, Christ will no longer be Christ; for all inquiry as to his descent is founded on that solemn promise,

“I will set up thy seed after thee; I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son,”
(2 Samuel 7:12-14.)

“The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne,”
(Psalm 132:11.)

Solomon was, beyond controversy, the type of this eternal King who was promised to David; nor can the promise be applied to Christ, except in so far as its truth was shadowed out in Solomon, (1 Chronicles 28:5.) Now if the descent is not traced to him, how, or by what argument, shall he be proved to be “the son of David”? Whoever expunges Solomon from Christ’s genealogy does at the same time, obliterate and destroy those promises by which he must be acknowledged to be the son of David. In what way Luke, tracing the line of descent from Nathan, does not exclude Solomon, will afterwards be seen at the proper place.

Not to be too tedious, those two genealogies agree substantially with each other, but we must attend to four points of difference. The first is; Luke ascends by a retrograde order, from the last to the first, while Matthew begins with the source of the genealogy. The second is; Matthew does not carry his narrative beyond the holy and elect race of Abraham,8686     “Matthieu, en sa description, ne passe point plus haut qu'Abraham, qui a este le pere du peuple sainct et esleu.” — “Matthew, in his description, does not pass higher than Abraham, who was the father of the holy and elect people.” while Luke proceeds as far as Adam. The third is; Matthew treats of his legal descent, and allows himself to make some omissions in the line of ancestors, choosing to assist the reader’s memory by arranging them under three fourteens; while Luke follows the natural descent with greater exactness. The fourth and last is; when they are speaking of the same persons, they sometimes give them different names.

It would be superfluous to say more about the first point of difference, for it presents no difficulty. The second is not without a very good reason: for, as God had chosen for himself the family of Abraham, from which the Redeemer of the world would be born, and as the promise of salvation had been, in some sort, shut up in that family till the coming of Christ, Matthew does not pass beyond the limits which God had prescribed. We must attend to what Paul says,

“that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers,”
(Romans 15:8)

with which agrees that saying of Christ, “Salvation is of the Jews,” (John 4:22.) Matthew, therefore, presents him to our contemplation as belonging to that holy race, to which he had been expressly appointed. In Matthew’s catalogue we must look at the covenant of God, by which he adopted the seed of Abraham as his people, separating them, by a “middle wall of partition,” (Ephesians 2:14,) from the rest of the nations. Luke directed his view to a higher point; for though, from the time that God had made his covenant with Abraham, a Redeemer was promised, in a peculiar manner, to his seed, yet we know that, since the transgression of the first man, all needed a Redeemer, and he was accordingly appointed for the whole world. It was by a wonderful purpose of God, that Luke exhibited Christ to us as the son of Adam, while Matthew confined him within the single family of Abraham. For it would be of no advantage to us, that Christ was given by the Father as “the author of eternal salvations” (Hebrews 5:9,) unless he had been given indiscriminately to all. Besides, that saying of the Apostle would not be true, that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever,” (Hebrews 13:8,) if his power and grace had not reached to all ages from the very creation of the world. Let us know; therefore, that to the whole human race there has been manifested and exhibited salvation through Christ; for not without reason is he called the son of Noah, and the son of Adam. But as we must seek him in the word of God, the Spirit wisely directs us, through another Evangelist, to the holy race of Abraham, to whose hands the treasure of eternal life, along with Christ, was committed for a time, (Romans 3:1.)

We come now to the third point of difference. Matthew and Luke unquestionably do not observe the same order; for immediately after David the one puts Solomon, and the other, Nathan; which makes it perfectly clear that they follow different lines. This sort of contradiction is reconciled by good and learned interpreters in the following manner. Matthew, departing from the natural lineage, which is followed by Luke, reckons up the legal genealogy. I call it the legal genealogy, because the right to the throne passed into the hands of Salathiel. Eusebius, in the first book of his Ecclesiastical History, adopting the opinion of Africanus, prefers applying the epithet legal to the genealogy which is traced by Luke. But it amounts to the same thing: for he means nothing more than this, that the kingdom, which had been established in the person of Solomon, passed in a lawful manner to Salathiel. But it is more correct and appropriate to say, that Matthew has exhibited the legal order: because, by naming Solomon immediately after David, he attends, not to the persons from whom in a regular line, according to the flesh, Christ derived his birth, but to the manner in which he was descended from Solomon and other kings, so as to be their lawful successor, in whose hand God would “stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever,” (2 Samuel 7:13.)

There is probability in the opinion that, at the death of Ahaziah, the lineal descent from Solomon was closed. As to the command given by David — for which some persons quote the authority of Jewish Commentators — that should the line from Solomon fail, the royal power would pass to the descendants of Nathan, I leave it undetermined; holding this only for certain, that the succession to the kingdom was not confused, but regulated by fixed degrees of kindred. Now, as the sacred history relates that, after the murder of Ahaziah, the throne was occupied, and all the seed-royal destroyed “by his mother Athaliah, (2 Kings 11:1,) it is more than probable that this woman, from an eager desire of power, had perpetrated those wicked and horrible murders that she might not be reduced to a private rank, and see the throne transferred to another. If there had been a son of Ahaziah still alive, the grandmother would willingly have been allowed to reign in peace, without envy or danger, under the mask of being his tutor. When she proceeds to such enormous crimes as to draw upon herself infamy and hatred, it is a proof of desperation arising from her being unable any longer to keep the royal authority in her house.

As to Joash being called “the son of Ahaziah,” (2 Chronicles 22:11,) the reason is, that he was the nearest relative, and was justly considered to be the true and direct heir of the crown. Not to mention that Athaliah (if we shall suppose her to be his grandmother) would gladly have availed herself of her relation to the child, will any person of ordinary understanding think it probable, that an actual son of the king could be so concealed by “Jehoiada the priest,” as not to excite the grandmother to more diligent search? If all is carefully weighed, there will be no hesitation in concluding, that the next heir of the crown belonged to a different line. And this is the meaning of Jehoiada’s words,

Behold, the king’s son shall reign, as the Lord hath said of the sons of David,”
(2 Chronicles 23:3.)

He considered it to be shameful and intolerable, that a woman, who was a stranger by blood, should violently seize the scepter, which God had commanded to remain in the family of David.

There is no absurdity in supposing, that Luke traces the descent of Christ from Nathan: for it is possible that the line of Solomon, so far as relates to the succession of the throne, may have been broken off. It may be objected, that Jesus cannot be acknowledged as the promised Messiah, if he be not a descendant of Solomon, who was an undoubted type of Christ But the answer is easy. Though he was not naturally descended from Solomon, yet he was reckoned his son by legal succession, because he was descended from kings.

The fourth point of difference is the great diversity of the names. Many look upon this as a great difficulty: for from David till Joseph, with the exception of Salathiel and Zerubbabel, none of the names are alike in the two Evangelists. The excuse commonly offered, that the diversity arose from its being very customary among the Jews to have two names, appears to many persons not quite satisfactory. But as we are now unacquainted with the method, which was followed by Matthew in drawing up and arranging the genealogy, there is no reason to wonder, if we are unable to determine how far both of them agree or differ as to individual names. It cannot be doubted that, after the Babylonish captivity, the same persons are mentioned under different names. In the case of Salathiel and Zerubbabel, the same names, I think, were purposely retained, on account of the change which had taken place in the nation: because the royal authority was then extinguished. Even while a feeble shadow of power remained, a striking change was visible, which warned believers, that they ought to expect another and more excellent kingdom than that of Solomon, which had flourished but for a short time.

It is also worthy of remark, that the additional number in Luke’s catalogue to that of Matthew is nothing strange; for the number of persons in the natural line of descent is usually greater than in the legal line. Besides, Matthew chose to divide the genealogy of Christ into three departments, and to make each department to contain fourteen persons. In this way, he felt himself at liberty to pass by some names, which Luke could not with propriety omit, not having restricted himself by that rule.

Thus have I discussed the genealogy of Christ, as far as it appeared to be generally useful. If any one is tickled8787     “Si quem titillat major curiositas.” — “S'il y a quelqu'un chatouille de curiosite qui en demande d'avantage.” — “If any one is tickled by a curiosity, which asks for more of it.” by a keener curiosity, I remember Paul’s admonition, and prefer sobriety and modesty to trifling and useless disputes. It is a noted passage, in which he enjoins us to avoid excessive keenness in disputing about “genealogies, as unprofitable and vain,” (Titus 3:9.)

It now remains to inquire, lastly, why Matthew included the whole genealogy of Christ in three classes, and assigned to each class fourteen persons. Those who think that he did so, in order to aid the memory of his readers, state a part of the reason, but not the whole. It is true, indeed, that a catalogue, divided into three equal numbers, is more easily remembered. But it is also evident that this division is intended to point out a threefold condition of the nation, from the time when Christ was promised to Abraham, to “the fullness of the time” (Galatians 4:4) when he was “manifested in the flesh,” (1 Timothy 3:16.) Previous to the time of David, the tribe of Judah, though it occupied a higher rank than the other tribes, held no power. In David the royal authority burst upon the eyes of all with unexpected splendor, and remained till the time of Jeconiah. After that period, there still lingered in the tribe of Judah a portion of rank and government, which sustained the expectations of the godly till the coming of the Messiah.

1. The book of the generation Some commentators give themselves unnecessary trouble, in order to excuse Matthew for giving to his whole history this title, which applies only to the half of a single chapter. For this ἐπιγραφή, or title, does not extend to the whole book of Matthew: but the word βίβλος, book, is put for catalogue: as if he had said, “Here follows the catalogue of the generation of Christ.” It is with reference to the promise, that Christ is called the son of David, the son of Abraham: for God had promised to Abraham that he would give him a seed, “in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed,” (Genesis 12:3.) David received a still clearer promise, that God would “stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever,” (2 Samuel 7:13;) that one of his posterity would be king “as long as the sun and moon endure,” (Psalm 72:5;) and that “his throne should be as the days of heaven,” (Psalm 89:29.) And so it became a customary way of speaking among the Jews to call Christ the son of David

2. Jacob begat Judah and his brethren While Matthew passes by in silence Ishmael, Abraham’s first-born, and Esau, who was Jacob’s elder brother, he properly assigns a place in the genealogy to the Twelve Patriarchs, on all of whom God had bestowed a similar favor of adoption. He therefore intimates, that the blessing promised in Christ does not refer to the tribe of Judah alone, but belongs equally to all the children of Jacob, whom God gathered into his Church, while Ishmael and Esau were treated as strangers.8888     “Quum essent extranei.” — “En lieu qu'Ismael et Esau en avoyent este rejettez et bannis comme estrangers.” — “Whereas Ishmael and Esau were thrown out and banished from it as strangers.”

3. Judah begat Pharez and Zarah by Tamar This was a prelude to that emptying of himself,8989     ᾿Αλλ ᾿ ἑαυτὸν ἐχένωσε, — but he emptied himself. Such is the literal import of the words which are rendered in the English version, But made himself of no reputation. Ed. of which Paul speaks, (Philippians 2:7). The Son of God might have kept his descent unspotted and pure from every reproach or mark of infamy. But he came into the world to

“empty himself, and take upon him the form of a servant,”
(Philippians 2:7)

to be

“a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people,”
(Psalm 22:6)

and at length to undergo the accursed death of the cross. He therefore did not refuse to admit a stain into his genealogy, arising from incestuous intercourse which took place among his ancestors. Though Tamar was not impelled by lust to seek connection with her father-in-law, yet it was in an unlawful manner that she attempted to revenge the injury which she had received. Judah again intended to commit fornication, and unknowingly to himself, met with his daughter-in-law.9090     “In nurum suam incidit.” — “Judas a commis sa meschancete avec sa bru, pensant que ce fust une autre.” — “Judah committed his wickedness with his daughter-in-law, supposing her to be a different person” But the astonishing goodness of God strove with the sin of both; so that, nevertheless, this adulterous seed came to possess the scepter.9191     “Afin que neantmoins ceste semence bastarde vint a avoir un jour en main le scepter Royal.” — “So that nevertheless this bastard seed came to have one day in its hand the Royal scepter.”

6. Begat David the King In this genealogy, the designation of King is bestowed on David alone, because in his person God exhibited a type of the future leader of his people, the Messiah. The kingly office had been formerly held by Saul; but, as he reached it through tumult and the ungodly wishes of the people, the lawful possession of the office is supposed to have commenced with David, more especially in reference to the covenant of God, who promised that “his throne should be established for ever,” (2 Samuel 7:16.) When the people shook off the yoke of God, and unhappily and wickedly asked a king, saying, “Give us a king to judge us,” (1 Samuel 8:5,) Saul was granted for short time. But his kingdom was shortly afterwards established by God, as a pledge of true prosperity, in the hand of David. Let this expression, David the King, be understood by us as pointing out the prosperous condition of the people, which the Lord had appointed.

Meanwhile, the Evangelist adds a human disgrace, which might almost bring a stain on the glory of this divine blessing. David the King begat Solomon by her that had been the wife of Uriah; by Bathsheba, whom he wickedly tore from her husband, and for the sake of enjoying whom, he basely surrendered an innocent man to be murdered by the swords of the enemy, (2 Samuel 11:15.) This taint, at the commencement of the kingdom, ought to have taught the Jews not to glory in the flesh. It was the design of God to show that, in establishing this kingdom, nothing depended on human merits.

Comparing the inspired history with the succession described by Matthew, it is evident that he has omitted three kings.9292     “Assavoir Ochozias fils de Joram, Joas, et Amazias.” — “Namely, Ahaziah son of Jehoram, Joash, and Amaziah,” (2 Chronicles 22, 23, 24, 25.) Those who say that he did so through forgetfulness, cannot be listened to for a moment. Nor is it probable that they were thrown out, because they were unworthy to occupy a place in the genealogy of Christ; for the same reason would equally apply to many others, who are indiscriminately brought forward by Matthew, along with pious and holy persons. A more correct account is, that he resolved to confine the list of each class to fourteen kings, and gave himself little concern in making the selection, because he had an adequate succession of the genealogy to place before the eyes of his readers, down to the close of the kingdom. As to there being only thirteen in the list, it probably arose from the blunders and carelessness of transcribers. Epiphanius, in his First Book against Heresies, assigns this reason, that the name of Jeconiah had been twice put down, and unlearned9393     “Indocti;” — “quelques gens n'entendans pas le propos,” — “some peope not understanding the design.” persons ventured to strike out the repetition of it as superfluous; which, he tells us, ought not to have been done, because Jehoiakim, the father of king Jehoiakim, had the name Jeconiah, in common with his son, (1 Chronicles 3:17; 2 Kings 24:15; Jeremiah 27:20; 28:4.) Robert Stephens quotes a Greek manuscript, in which the name of Jehoiakim is introduced.9494     “Robert Etienne a ce propos allegue un exemplaire Grec ancien, ou il y a ainsi, Josias engendra Joacim, et Joacim engendra Jechonias.”— “Robert Stephens, with this view, quotes an ancient Greek manuscript, which runs thus: Josiah begat Jehoiakim, and Jehoiakim begat Jeconiah.”

12. After the Babylonish exile That is, after the Jews were carried into captivity: for the Evangelist means, that the descendants of David, from being kings, then became exiles and slaves. As that captivity was a sort of destruction, it came to be wonderfully arranged by Divine providence, not only that the Jews again united in one body, but even that some vestiges of dominion remained in the family of David. For those who returned home submitted, of their own accord, to the authority of Zerubbabel. In this manner, the fragments of the royal scepter9595     “Qui avoit este mis bas, et comme rompu;” — “which had been thrown down, and, as it were, broken.” lasted till the coming of Christ was at hand, agreeably to the prediction of Jacob, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come,” (Genesis 49:10.) And even during that wretched and melancholy dispersion, the nation never ceased to be illuminated by some rays of the grace of God. The Greek word μετοικεσία, which the old translator renders transmigration, and Erasmus renders exile, literally signifies a change of habitation. The meaning is, that the Jews were compelled to leave their country, and to dwell as “strangers in a land that was not theirs,” (Genesis 15:13.)

16. Jesus, who is called Christ By the surname Christ, Anointed, Matthew points out his office, to inform the readers that this was not a private person, but one divinely anointed to perform the office of Redeemer. What that anointing was, and to what it referred, I shall not now illustrate at great length. As to the word itself, it is only necessary to say that, after the royal authority was abolished, it began to be applied exclusively to Him, from whom they were taught to expect a full recovery of the lost salvation. So long as any splendor of royalty continued in the family of David, the kings were wont to be called χριστοί, anointed.9696     Every reader of the Bible is familiar with the phrase, the Lord's anointed, as applied to David and his successors, (2 Samuel 19:21; Lamentations 4:20.) — Ed. But that the fearful desolation which followed might not throw the minds of the godly into despair, it pleased God to appropriate the name of Messiah, Anointed, to the Redeemer alone: as is evident from Daniel, (9:25, 26.) The evangelical history everywhere shows that this was an ordinary way of speaking, at the time when the Son of God was “manifested in the flesh,” (1 Timothy 3:16.)

18. Now the birth of Jesus Christ Matthew does not as yet relate the place or manner of Christ’s birth, but the way in which his heavenly generation was made known to Joseph. First, he says that Mary was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit Not that this secret work of God was generally known: but the historian mixes up, with the knowledge of men,9797     (“Qui voyoyent bien par signes externes que Marie estoit enceinte.”) —(“Who saw well by outward marks that Mary was pregnant.”) the power of the Spirit, which was still unknown. He points out the time: When she was espoused to Joseph, and before they came together So far as respects conjugal fidelity, from the time that a young woman was betrothed to a man, she was regarded by the Jews as his lawful wife. When a “damsel betrothed to an husband” was convicted of being unchaste, the law condemned both of the guilty parties as adulterers:

“the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city;
and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbor’s wife,”
(Deuteronomy 22:23, 24.)

The phrase employed by the Evangelist, before they came together, is either a modest appellation for conjugal intercourse, or simply means, “before they came to dwell together as husband and wife, and to make one home and family.” The meaning will thus be, that the virgin had not yet been delivered by her parents into the hands of her husband, but still remained under their roof.

19. As he was a just man Some commentators explain this to mean, that Joseph, because he was a just man, determined to spare his wife:9898     “Que Joseph a voulu pardonner a sa femme, et couvrir la faute, d'autant qu'il estoit juste.” — “That Joseph intended to forgive his wife, and conceal her offense, because he was just.” taking justice to be only another name for humanity, or, a gentle and merciful disposition. But others more correctly read the two clauses as contrasted with each other: that Joseph was a just man, but yet that he was anxious about the reputation of his wife. That justice, on which a commendation is here bestowed, consisted in hatred and abhorrence of crime. Suspecting his wife of adultery, and even convinced that she was an adulterer, he was unwilling to hold out the encouragement of lenity to such a crime.9999     “Il ne vouloit point nourrir le mal en dissimulant et faisant semblant de n'y voir rien.” — “He did not wish to encourage wickedness, by dissembling and pretending that he did not see it.” And certainly he is but a pander100100     “Leno;” — “macquereau.” to his wife, who connives at her unchastity. Not only is such wickedness regarded with abhorrence by good and honorable minds, but that winking at crime which I have mentioned is marked by the laws with infamy.

Joseph, therefore, moved by an ardent love of justice, condemned the crime of which he supposed his wife to have been guilty; while the gentleness of his disposition prevented him from going to the utmost rigor of law. It was a moderate and calmer method to depart privately, and remove to a distant place.101101     “Le moyen le plus doux et le moins scandaleux estoit, que secretement il departist du lieu, et la laissast sans faire aueun bruit.” — “The mildest and least scandalous method was, that he should depart secretly from the place, and leave her without making any noise.” Hence we infer, that he was not of so soft and effeminate a disposition, as to screen and promote uncleanness under the pretense of merciful dealing: he only made some abatement from stern justice, so as not to expose his wife to evil report. Nor ought we to have any hesitation in believing, that his mind was restrained by a secret inspiration of the Spirit. We know how weak jealousy is, and to what violence it hurries its possessor. Though Joseph did not proceed to rash and headlong conduct, yet he was wonderfully preserved from many imminent dangers, which would have sprung out of his resolution to depart.

The same remark is applicable to Mary’s silence. Granting that modest reserve prevented her from venturing to tell her husband, that she was with child by the Holy Spirit, it was not so much by her own choice, as by the providence of God that she was restrained. Let us suppose her to have spoken. The nature of the case made it little short of incredible. Joseph would have thought himself ridiculed, and everybody would have treated the matter as a laughing-stock: after which the Divine announcement, if it had followed, would have been of less importance. The Lord permitted his servant Joseph to be betrayed by ignorance into an erroneous conclusion, that, by his own voice, he might bring him back to the right path.

Yet it is proper for us to know, that this was done more on our account than for his personal advantage: for every necessary method was adopted by God, to prevent unfavorable suspicion from falling on the heavenly message. When the angel approaches Joseph, who is still unacquainted with the whole matter, wicked men have no reason to charge him with being influenced by prejudice to listen to the voice of God. He was not overcome by the insinuating address of his wife. His previously formed opinion was not shaken by entreaties. He was not induced by human arguments to take the opposite side. But, while the groundless accusation of his wife was still rankling in his mind, God interposed between them, that we might regard Joseph as a more competent witness, and possessing greater authority, as a messenger sent to us from heaven. We see how God chose to employ an angel in informing his servant Joseph, that to others he might be a heavenly herald, and that the intelligence which he conveyed might not be borrowed from his wife, or from any mortal.

The reason why this mystery was not immediately made known to a greater number of persons appears to be this. It was proper that this inestimable treasure should remain concealed, and that the knowledge of it should be imparted to none but the children of God. Nor is it absurd to say, that the Lord intended, as he frequently does, to put the faith and obedience of his own people to the trial. Most certainly, if any man shall maliciously refuse to believe and obey God in this matter, he will have abundant reason to be satisfied with the proofs by which this article of our faith is supported. For the same reason, the Lord permitted Mary to enter into the married state, that under the veil of marriage, till the full time for revealing it, the heavenly conception of the virgin might be concealed. Meanwhile, the knowledge of it was withheld from unbelievers, as their ingratitude and malice deserved.

20. And while he was considering these things We see here how seasonably, and, as we would say, at the very point, the Lord usually aids his people. Hence too we infer that, when he appears not to observe our cares and distresses, we are still under his eye. He may, indeed, hide himself, and remain silent; but, when our patience has been subjected to the trial, he will aid us at the time which his own wisdom has selected. How slow or late soever his assistance may be thought to be, it is for our advantage that it is thus delayed.

The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream This is one of two ordinary kinds of revelations mentioned in the book of Numbers, where the Lord thus speaks:

“If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speechess,”
(Numbers 12:6-8.)

But we must understand that dreams of this sort differ widely from natural dreams; for they have a character of certainty engraven on them, and are impressed with a divine seal, so that there is not the slightest doubt of their truth. The dreams which men commonly have, arise either from the thoughts of the day, or from their natural temperament, or from bodily indisposition, or from similar causes: while the dreams which come from God are accompanied by the testimony of the Spirit, which puts beyond a doubt that it is God who speaks.

Son of David, fear not This exhortation shows, that Joseph was perplexed with the fear of sharing in the criminality of his wife, by enduring her adultery. The angel removes his suspicion of guilt, with the view of enabling him to dwell with his wife with a safe conscience. The appellation, Son of David, was employed on the present occasion, in order to elevate his mind to that lofty mystery; for he belonged to that family, and was one of the surviving few,102102     “Quia esset ex ea familia, et quidem superstes cum paucis;” — “d'autant qu'il estoit de cette famille, et mesmes que d'icelle il estoit quasi seul vivant, avec quelques autres en bien petit nombre;” — “because he was of that family, and even of that he was almost sole survivor, with some others in very small number.” from whom the salvation promised to the world could proceed. When he heard the name of David, from whom he was descended, Joseph ought to have remembered that remarkable promise of God which related to the establishment of the kingdom, so as to acknowledge that there was nothing new in what was now told him. The predictions of the prophets were, in effect, brought forward by the angel, to prepare the mind of Joseph for receiving the present favor.

21. And thou shalt call his name JESUS. I have already explained briefly, but as far as was necessary, the meaning of that word. At present I shall only add, that the words of the angel set aside the dream of those who derive it from the essential name of God, Jehovah; for the angel expresses the reason why the Son of God is so called, Because he shall SAVE his people; which suggests quite a different etymology from what they have contrived. It is justly and appropriately added, they tell us, that Christ will be the author of salvation, because he is the Eternal God. But in vain do they attempt to escape by this subterfuge; for the nature of the blessing which God bestows upon us is not all that is here stated. This office was conferred upon his Son from the fact, from the command which had been given to him by the Father, from the office with which he was invested when he came down to us from heaven. Besides, the two words ᾿Ιησοῦς and יהוה, Jesus and Jehovah, agree but in two letters, and differ in all the rest; which makes it exceedingly absurd to allege any affinity whatever between them, as if they were but one name. Such mixtures I leave to the alchymists, or to those who closely resemble them, the Cabalists who contrive for us those trifling and affected refinements.

When the Son of God came to us clothed in flesh, he received from the Father a name which plainly told for what purpose he came, what was his power, and what we had a right to expect from him. for the name Jesus is derived from the Hebrew verb, in the Hiphil conjugation, הושיע, which signifies to save In Hebrew it is pronounced differently, Jehoshua; but the Evangelists, who wrote in Greek, followed the customary mode of pronunciation; for in the writings of Moses, and in the other books of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word יהושוע, Jehoshua, or Joshua, is rendered by the Greek translators ᾿Ιησοῦς, Jesus But I must mention another instance of the ignorance of those who derive — or, I would rather say, who forcibly tear — the name Jesus from Jehovah They hold it to be in the highest degree improper that any mortal man should share this name in common with the Son of God, and make a strange outcry that Christ would never allow his name to be so profaned. As if the reply were not at hand, that the name Jesus was quite as commonly used in those days as the name Joshua Now, as it is sufficiently clear that the name Jesus presents to us the Son of God as the Author of salvation, let us examine more closely the words of the angel.

He shall save his people from their sins The first truth taught us by these words is, that those whom Christ is sent to save are in themselves lost. But he is expressly called the Savior of the Church. If those whom God admits to fellowship with himself were sunk in death and ruin till they were restored to life by Christ, what shall we say of “strangers” (Ephesians 2:12) who have never been illuminated by the hope of life? When salvation is declared to be shut up in Christ, it clearly implies that the whole human race is devoted to destruction. The cause of this destruction ought also to be observed; for it is not unjustly, or without good reason, that the Heavenly Judge pronounces us to be accursed. The angel declares that we have perished, and are overwhelmed by an awful condemnation, because we stand excluded from life by our sins. Thus we obtain a view of our corruption and depravity; for if any man lived a perfectly holy life, he might do without Christ as a Redeemer. But all to a man need his grace; and, therefore, it follows that they are the slaves of sin, and are destitute of true righteousness.

Hence, too, we learn in what way or manner Christ saves; he delivers us from sins This deliverance consists of two parts. Having made a complete atonement, he brings us a free pardon, which delivers us from condemnation to death, and reconciles us to God. Again, by the sanctifying influences of his Spirit, he frees us from the tyranny of Satan, that we may live “unto righteousness,” (1 Peter 2:24.) Christ is not truly acknowledged as a Savior, till, on the one hand, we learn to receive a free pardon of our sins, and know that we are accounted righteous before God, because we are free from guilt; and till, on the other hand, we ask from him the Spirit of righteousness and holiness, having no confidence whatever in our own works or power. By Christ’s people the angel unquestionably means the Jews, to whom he was appointed as Head and King; but as the Gentiles were shortly afterwards to be ingrafted into the stock of Abraham, (Romans 11:17,) this promise of salvation is extended indiscriminately to all who are incorporated by faith in the “one body” (1 Corinthians 12:20) of the Church.

22. Now all this was done It is ignorant and childish trifling to argue, that the name Jesus is given to the Son of God, because he is called Immanuel For Matthew does not confine this assertion to the single fact of the name, but includes whatever is heavenly and divine in the conception of Christ; and that is the reason why he employs the general term all We must now see how appropriately the prediction of Isaiah is applied. It is a well-known and remarkable passage, (Isaiah 7:14,) but perverted by the Jews with their accustomed malice; though the hatred of Christ and of truth, which they thus discover, is as blind and foolish as it is wicked. To such a pitch of impudence have many of their Rabbins proceeded, as to explain it in reference to King Hezekiah, who was then about fifteen years of age. And what, I ask, must be their rage for lying, when, in order to prevent the admission of clear light, they invert the order of nature, and shut up a youth in his mother’s womb, that he may be born sixteen years old? But the enemies of Christ deserve that God should strike them with a spirit of giddiness and insensibility, should

“pour out upon them a spirit of deep sleep and close their eyes,”
(Isaiah 29:10.)

Others apply it to a creature of their own fancy, some unknown son of Ahaz, whose birth Isaiah predicted. But with what propriety was he called Immanuel, or the land subjected to his sway, who closed his life in a private station and without honor? for shortly afterwards the prophet tells us that this child, whoever he was, would be ruler of the land. Equally absurd is the notion that this passage relates to the prophet’s son. On this subject we may remark, that Christian writers have very strangely misapprehended the prediction contained in the next chapter, by applying it to Christ. The prophet there says, that, instructed by a vision, he “went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son,” and that the child whom she bore was named by Divine command, ”Maher-shalal-hash-baz,” “Making speed to the spoil, hasten the prey,” (Isaiah 8:3.) All that is there described is approaching war, accompanied by fearful desolation; which makes it very manifest that the subjects are totally different.

Let us now, therefore, investigate the true meaning of this passage. The city of Jerusalem is besieged. Ahaz trembles, and is almost dead with terror. The prophet is sent to assure him that God will protect the city. But a simple promise is not sufficient to compose his agitated mind. The prophet is sent to him, saying,

“Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God;
ask it either in the depth, or in the height above,”
(Isaiah 7:11.)

That wicked hypocrite, concealing his unbelief, disdains to ask a sign. The prophet rebukes him sharply, and at length adds,

“The Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,”
(Isaiah 7:14.)

We expound this as relating to Christ in the following manner: “You, the whole posterity of David, as far as lies in your power, endeavor to nullify the grace which is promised to you;” (for the prophet expressly calls them, by way of disgrace, the house of David, Isaiah 7:13;) “but your base infidelity will never prevent the truth of God from proving to be victorious. God promises that the city will be preserved safe and unhurt from its enemies. If his word is not enough, he is ready to give you the confirmation of such a sign as you may demand. You reject both favors, and spurn them from you; but God will remain steady to his engagement. For the promised Redeemer will come, in whom God will show himself to be fully present to his people.”

The Jews reply, that Isaiah would have been at variance with everything like reason or probability, if he had given to the men of that age a sign, which was not to be exhibited till after the lapse of nearly eight hundred years. And then they assume the airs of haughty triumph,103103     “Faisant grand cas de leur argument;” — “setting great store by their argument.” as if this objection of the Christians had originated in ignorance or thoughtlessness, and were now forgotten and buried. But the solution, I think, is easy; provided we keep in view that a covenant of adoption was given to the Jews, on which the other acts of the divine kindness depended. There was then a general promise, by which God adopted the children of Abraham as a nation, and on which were founded all the special promises. Again, the foundation of this covenant was the Messiah. Now we hold, that the reason for delivering the city was, that it was the sanctuary of God, and out of it the Redeemer would come. But for this, Jerusalem would a hundred times have perished.

Let pious readers now consider, when the royal family had openly rejected the sign which God had offered to them, if it was not suitable that the prophet should pass all at once to the Messiah, and address them in this manner: “Though this age is unworthy of the deliverance of which God has given me a promise, yet God is mindful of his covenant, and will rescue this city from its enemies. While he grants no particular sign to testify his grace, this one sign ought to be deemed more than sufficient to meet your wishes. from the stock of David the Messiah will arise.” Yet it must be observed that, when the prophet reminds unbelievers of the general covenant, it is a sort of reproof, because they did not accept of a particular sign. I have now, I think, proved that, when the door was shut against every kind of miracle, the prophet made an appropriate transition to Christ, for the purpose of leading unbelievers to reflect, that the only cause of the deliverance was the covenant that had been made with their fathers. And by this remarkable example has God been pleased to testify to all ages, that he followed with uninterrupted kindness the children of Abraham, only because in Christ, and not through their own merits, he had made with them a gracious covenant.

There is another piece of sophistry by which the Jews endeavor to parry our argument. Immediately after the words in question, the prophet adds:

“Before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings,”
(Isaiah 7:16.)

Hence they infer, that the promised birth of the child would be delayed for a very short time; otherwise, it would not agree with the rapidly approaching change of the kingdoms, which, the prophet announeed, would take place before that child should have passed half the period of infancy. I reply, when Isaiah has given a sign of the future Savior, and declared that a child will be born, who is the true Immanuel, or — to use Paul’s language — God manifest in the flesh, (1 Timothy 3:16,) he proceeds to speak, in general terms, of all the children of his own time. A strong proof of this readily presents itself; for, after having spoken of the general promise of God, he returns to the special promise, which he had been commissioned to declare. The former passage, which relates to a final and complete redemption, describes one particular child, to whom alone belongs the name of God; while the latter passage, which relates to a special benefit then close at hand, determines the time by the childhood of those who were recently born, or would be born shortly afterwards.

Hitherto, if I mistake not, I have refuted, by strong and conclusive arguments, the calumnies of the Jews, by which they endeavor to prevent the glory of Christ from appearing, with resplendent luster, in this prediction. It now remains for us to refute their sophistical reasoning about the Hebrew word עלמה, virgin104104     “Le mot Hebrieu Alma, pour lequel l'Evangeliste a use du mot de Vierge;” — “the Hebrew word Alma, for which the Evangelist has used the word Virgin.” They wantonly persecute Matthew for proving that Christ was born of a virgin,105105     “Le blamant de ce qu'il pretend prouver Jesus Christ estre nay d'une Vierge;” — “blaming him for offering to prove Jesus Christ to be born of a Virgin.” while the Hebrew noun merely signifies a young woman; and ridicule us for being led astray by the wrong translation106106     “Abusez par un mot mal tourne;” — “deceived by a word ill translated.” of a word, to believe that he was born by the Holy Spirit, of whom the prophet asserts no more than that he would be the son of a young woman. And, first, they display an excessive eagerness for disputation, by laboring107107     “Urgent;” — “ils veulent a toute force;” — “they attempt with their whole strength.” to prove that a word, which is uniformly applied in Scripture to virgins, denotes here a young woman who had known a man. The etymology too agrees with Matthew’s translation of the word: for it means hiding,108108     עלמה is derived from עלם, to hide,a verb not found in Kal, but so frequently in Niphal, (נעלם,) Hiphil, (העלים,) Hithpahel, (התעלם,) that its meaning is fully ascertained. — Ed. which expresses the modesty that becomes a virgin.109109     “Car il emporte Retraitte ou Cachette, qui est pour denoter ceste honte honeste qui doit estre es vierges;” — “for it signifies Retreat or Concealment, which serves to denote that becoming shame which ought to be in virgins.” They produce a passage from the book of Proverbs, “the way of a man with a maids,” בעלמה, (Proverbs 30:19.) But it does not at all support their views. Solomon speaks there of a young woman who has obtained the affections of a young man: but it does not follow as a matter of course, that the young man has seduced the object of his regard; or rather, the probability leans much more strongly to the other side.110110     “C'est bien autrement: car il y a plus d'apparence au contraire;”— “it is quite otherwise: for there is more probability on the opposite side.

But granting all that they ask as to the meaning of the word, the subject demonstrates, and compels the acknowledgment, that the prophet is speaking of a miraculous and extraordinary birth. He exclaims that he is bringing a sign from the Lord, and not an ordinary sign, but one superior to every other.

The Lord himself shall give you a sign.
Behold, a virgin shall conceive,
(Isaiah 7:14.)

If he were only to say, that a woman would bear a child, how ridiculous would that magnificent preface have been? Thus we see, that the insolence of the Jews exposes not only themselves, but the sacred mysteries of God, to scorn.

Besides, a powerful argument may be drawn from the whole strain of the passage. Behold, a virgin shall conceive Why is no mention made of a man? It is because the prophet draws our attention to something very uncommon. Again, the virgin is commanded to name the child. Thou shalt call his name Immanuel In this respect, also, the prophet expresses something extraordinary: for, though it is frequently related in Scripture, that the names were given to children by their mothers, yet it was done by the authority of the fathers. When the prophet addresses his discourse to the virgin, he takes away from men, in respect to this child, that authority which is conferred upon them by the order of nature. Let this, therefore, be regarded as an established truth, that the prophet here refers to a remarkable miracle of God, and recommends it to the attentive and devout consideration of all the godly, — a miracle which is basely profaned by the Jews, who apply to the ordinary method of conception what is said in reference to the secret power of the Spirit.

23. His name Immanuel The phrase, God is with us, is no doubt frequently employed in Scripture to denote, that he is present with us by his assistance and grace, and displays the power of his hand in our defense. But here we are instructed as to the manner in which God communicates with men. For out of Christ we are alienated from him; but through Christ we are not only received into his favor, but are made one with him. When Paul says, that the Jews under the law were nigh to God, (Ephesians 2:17,) and that a deadly enmity (Ephesians 2:15) subsisted between him and the Gentiles, he means only that, by shadows and figures, God then gave to the people whom he had adopted the tokens of his presence. That promise was still in force, “The Lord thy God is among you,” (Deuteronomy 7:21,) and, “This is my rest for ever,” (Psalm 132:14.) But while the familiar intercourse between God and the people depended on a Mediator, what had not yet fully taken place was shadowed out by symbols. His seat and residence is placed “between the Cherubim,” (Psalm 80:1,) because the ark was the figure and visible pledge of his glory.

But in Christ the actual presence of God with his people, and not, as before, his shadowy presence, has been exhibited.111111     “Mais quand Christ est apparu en sa personne, le peuple a eu une presence de Dieu veritable, et non pas ombratile comme paravant.”— “But when Christ appeared in his person, the people had a real presence of God, and not shadowy, as before.” This is the reason, why Paul says, that “in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” (Colossians 2:9.) And certainly he would not be a properly qualified Mediator, if he did not unite both natures in his person, and thus bring men into an alliance with God. Nor is there any force in the objection, about which the Jews make a good deal of noise, that the name of God is frequently applied to those memorials, by which he testified that he was present with believers.

For it cannot be denied, that this name, Immanuel, contains an implied contrast between the presence of God, as exhibited in Christ, with every other kind of presence, which was manifested to the ancient people before his coming. If the reason of this name began to be actually true, when Christ appeared in the flesh, it follows that it was not completely, but only in part, that God was formerly united with the Fathers.

Hence arises another proof, that Christ is God manifested in the flesh, (1 Timothy 3:16.) He discharged, indeed, the office of Mediator from the beginning of the world; but as this depended wholly on the latest revelation, he is justly called Immanuel at that time, when clothed, as it were, with a new character, he appears in public as a Priest, to atone for the sins of men by the sacrifice of his body, to reconcile them to the Father by the price of his blood, and, in a word, to fulfill every part of the salvation of men.112112     “Somme, pour faire et accomplir toutes choses requises au salut du genre humain;” — “in a word, to do and accomplish all things requisite for the salvation of the human race.” The first thing which we ought to consider in this name is the divine majesty of Christ, so as to yield to him the reverence which is due to the only and eternal God. But we must not, at the same time, forget the fruit which God intended that we should collect and receive from this name. For whenever we contemplate the one person of Christ as God-man, we ought to hold it for certain that, if we are united to Christ by faith, we possess God.

In the words, they shall call, there is a change of the number. But this is not at all at variance with what I have already said. True, the prophet addresses the virgin alone, and therefore uses the second person, Thou shalt call But from the time that this name was published, all the godly have an equal right to make this confession, that God has given himself to us to be enjoyed in Christ.113113     “Il appartient a tous fideles d'advouer et confesser que Dieu s'est communique et baille a nous en Christ;” — “it belongs to all believers to own and confess that God has communicated and made over himself to us in Christ.”

24. Joseph, being raised from sleep The ready performance, which is here described, serves not less to attest the certainty of Joseph’s faith, than to commend his obedience. For, if every scruple had not been removed, and his conscience fully pacified, he would never have proceeded so cheerfully, on a sudden change of opinion, to take unto him his wife, whose society, he lately thought, would pollute him.114114     “Laquelle un peu auparavant il ne vouloit recevoir, et lui sembloit qu'il se fust pollue en conversant avec elle;” — “whom a little before he refused to receive, and seemed to him that he would be polluted by conversing with her.” The dream must have carried some mark of Divinity, which did not allow his mind to hesitate. Next followed the effect of faith. Having learned the will of God, he instantly prepared himself to obey.

25. And knew her not This passage afforded the pretext for great disturbances, which were introduced into the Church, at a former period, by Helvidius. The inference he drew from it was, that Mary remained a virgin no longer than till her first birth, and that afterwards she had other children by her husband. Jerome, on the other hand, earnestly and copiously defended Mary’s perpetual virginity. Let us rest satisfied with this, that no just and well-grounded inference can be drawn from these words of the Evangelist, as to what took place after the birth of Christ. He is called first-born; but it is for the sole purpose of informing us that he was born of a virgin.115115     “Il est nomme Premier nay, mais non pour autre raison, sinon afin que nous sachions qu'il est nay d'une mere vierge, et qui jamais n'avoit eu enfant;” — “he is called First-born, but for no other reason than that we may know that he was born of a pure virgin, and who never had had a child.” It is said that Joseph knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son: but this is limited to that very time. What took place afterwards, the historian does not inform us. Such is well known to have been the practice of the inspired writers. Certainly, no man will ever raise a question on this subject, except from curiosity; and no man will obstinately keep up the argument, except from an extreme fondness for disputation.

1. Now when Jesus had been born How it came about that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Matthew does not say. The Spirit of God, who had appointed the Evangelists to be his clerks,177177     “Scribas;” — “greffiers.”Clerks, not Authors in the ordinary meaning of that term, but persons who wrote to the dictation of another. This conveys the idea of what is frequently called plenary inspiration. If such a term as Clerk, or Penman, may be supposed to lower the sacred writers, it is not by a comparison of them with uninspired historians, the ablest of whom cannot, without arrogance, aspire to an equal level with those who wrote by inspiration. But when man is brought into a comparison with God, no language can express too strongly the infinite distance between the parties. The Evangelists do not ask the praise of invention, or judgment, or of anything else which would imply that the work was their own production. But they lay claim to a loftier and peculiar distinction, that they faithfully committed to writing that history which they were honored to receive from its Divine Author. Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, (2 Peter 1:21.) — Ed. appears purposely to have regulated their style in such a manner, that they all wrote one and the same history, with the most perfect agreement, but in different ways. It was intended, that the truth of God should more clearly and strikingly appear, when it was manifest that his witnesses did not speak by a preconcerted plan, but that each of them separately, without paying any attention to another, wrote freely and honestly what the Holy Spirit dictated.

This is a very remarkable narrative. God brought Magi from Chaldea, to come to the land of Judea, for the purpose of adoring Christ, in the stable where he lay, amidst the tokens, not of honor, but of contempt. It was a truly wonderful purpose of God, that he caused the entrance of his Son into the world to be attended by deep meanness, and yet bestowed upon him illustrious ornaments, both of commendation and of other outward signs, that our faith might be supplied with everything necessary to prove his Divine Majesty.

A beautiful instance of real harmony, amidst apparent contradiction, is here exhibited. A star from heaven announces that he is a king, to whom a manger, intended for cattle, serves for a throne, because he is refused admittance among the lowest of the people. His majesty shines in the East, while in Judea it is so far from being acknowledged, that it is visited by many marks of dishonor. Why is this? The heavenly Father chose to appoint the star and the Magi as our guides, to lead directly to his Son: while he stripped him of all earthly splendor, for the purpose of informing us that his kingdom is spiritual. This history conveys profitable instruction, not only because God brought the Magi to his Son, as the first-fruits of the Gentiles, but also because he appointed the kingdom of his Son to receive their commendation, and that of the star, for the confirmation of our faith; that the wicked and malignant contempt of his nation might not render him less estimable in our eyes.

Magi is well known to be the name given by the Persians and Chaldees to astrologers and philosophers: and hence it may readily be conjectured that those men came from Persia.178178     “Le mot Grec, (μάγαι,) du quel use l'Evangeliste est celuy d'ou vient le mot de Magiciens: mais les Perses et Chaldeens nomment ainsi leurs Astrologues et Philosophes: et pourtant nous l'avons traduit par ce mot de Sages. Parquoy il y a grande apparence de dire qu'ils etoyent venus du pays des Perses.” — “The Greek word, (μάγοι,) which the Evangelist employs, is that from which the word Magicians is derived: but the Persians and Chaldees give this name also to their Astrologers and Philosophers: and therefore we have translated it by the word Sages, or Wise men. Wherefore there is great probability in saying that they had come from the country of the Persians.” As the Evangelist does not state what was their number, it is better to be ignorant of it, than to affirm as certain what is doubtful. Papists have been led into a childish error, of supposing that they were three in number: because Matthew says, that they brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh, (verse 11.) But the historian does not say, that each of them separately presented his own gift. He rather says, that those three gifts were presented by them in common. That ancient author, whoever he may be, whose imperfect Commentary on Matthew bears the name of Chrysostom, and is reckoned among Chrysostom’s works, says that they were fourteen. This carries as little probability as the other. It may have come from a tradition of the Fathers, but has no solid foundation. But the most ridiculous contrivance of the Papists on this subject is, that those men were kings, because they found in another passage a prediction, that

the kings of Tarshish, and of the Isles, and of Sheba,
would offer gifts to the Lord, (Psalm 72:10.)

Ingenious workmen, truly, who, in order to present those men in a new shape, have begun with turning the world from one side to another: for they have changed the south and west into the east! Beyond all doubt, they have been stupified by a righteous judgment of God, that all might laugh at the gross ignorance of those who have not scrupled to adulterate “and, change the truth of God into a lie,” (Romans 1:25.)

The first inquiry here is: Was this star one of those which the Lord created in the beginning (Genesis 1:1,16) to “garnish the heavens?” (Job 26:13.) Secondly, Were the magi led by their acquaintance with astrology to conclude that it pointed out the birth of Christ? On these points, there is no necessity for angry disputation: but it may be inferred from the words of Matthew, that it was not a natural, but an extraordinary star. It was not agreeable to the order of nature, that it should disappear for a certain period, and afterwards should suddenly become bright; nor that it should pursue a straight course towards Bethlehem, and at length remain stationary above the house where Christ was. Not one of these things belongs to natural stars. It is more probable that it resembled179179     Calvin says, not that it was a comet, but that it resembled a comet; and it is probable enough that the meteor assumed that aspect. He refutes, in a masterly and conclusive manner, the supposition that it was “natural star,” but, with modesty and good sense, avoids shocking the prejudices of his age. Of astrology he speaks more doubtfully. If he had lent the countenance of his name to that pretended science, we ought not to have blamed him severely. Long after he had left the world, men of powerful minds, and of extensive attainments in science, found it no easy matter to disentangle themselves from its meshes, and to proclaim their freedom. But Calvin needs no vindication. He has left us a treatise, Adversus Astrologiam Judiciarium, "Against Judicial Astrology;" which Servetus, as much his inferior in philosophical views in sterling worth, brings forward as one of his charges. Damnatam a me fuisse Astrologiam conqueritur, says Calvin; "It is made a ground of complaint against me that I have condemned astrology." — Ed. a comet, and was seen, not in the heaven, but in the air. Yet there is no impropriety in Matthew, who uses popular language, calling it incorrectly a star.

This almost decides likewise the second question: for since astrology is undoubtedly confined within the limits of nature, its guidance alone could not have conducted the Magi to Christ; so that they must have been aided by a secret revelation of the Spirit. I do not go so far as to say, that they derived no assistance whatever from the art: but I affirm, that this would have been of no practical advantage, if they had not been aided by a new and extraordinary revelation.

2. Where is he who has been born King? The notion of some commentators, that he is said to have been born King, by indirect contrast with one who has been made or created a king, appears to me too trifling. I rather suppose the Magi to have simply meant, that this king had been recently born, and was still a child, by way of distinguishing him from a king who is of age, and who holds the reins of government: for they immediately add, that they had been drawn, not by the fame of his exploits, or by any present exhibitions of his greatness, but by a heavenly presage of his future reign. But if the sight of a star had so powerful an effect on the Magi, woe to our insensibility, who, now that Christ the King has been revealed to us, are so cold in our inquiries after him!

And have come that we may worship him The reason why the star had been exhibited was, to draw the Magi into Judea, that they might be witnesses and heralds of the new King.180180     “Que la ils fussent comme herauts pour porter les nouvelles du nouveau Roy.” — “That there they might be as heralds, to carry the tidings of the new King.” So far as respects themselves, they had not come to render to Christ such pious worship, as is due to the Son of God, but intended to salute him, according to the Persian custom,181181     “Persico more;” — “selon la coustume de leur pays;” — “according to the custom of their country.” as a very eminent King. For their views, with regard to him, probably went no farther, than that his power and exalted rank would be so extraordinary as to impress all nations with just admiration and reverence. It is even possible, that they wished to gain his favor beforehand, that he might treat them favorably and kindly, if he should afterwards happen to possess dominion in the east.

3. Herod the king was troubled Herod was not unacquainted with the predictions, which promised to the Jews a King, who would restore their distressful and ruinous affairs to a prosperous condition. He had lived from a child among that nation, and was thoroughly acquainted with their affairs. Besides, the report was spread everywhere, and could not be unknown to the neighboring nations. Yet he is troubled, as if the matter had been new and unheard of; because he put no trust in God, and thought it idle to rely on the promises of a Redeemer; and particularly because, with the foolish confidence incident to proud men, he imagined that the kingdom was secure to himself and his descendants. But though, in the intoxication of prosperity, he was formerly accustomed to view the prophecies with scorn, the recollection of them now aroused him to sudden alarm. For he would not have been so strongly moved by the simple tale of the Magi, if he had not remembered the predictions, which he had formerly looked upon as harmless,182182     “Lusoria;” alluding to the phrase used by Seneca and others, lusoria fulmina, “harmless thunderbolts.” and of no importance. Thus, when the Lord has permitted unbelievers to sleep, he suddenly breaks their rest.183183     “Il les resveille tout soudain, et leur fait bien sentir leur folie.” — “He awakes them all on a sudden, and makes them deeply feel their folly.”

And all Jerusalem with him This may be explained in two ways. Either the people were roused, in a tumultuous manner, by the novelty of the occurrence, though the glad tidings of a king who had been born to them were cordially welcomed. Or the people, accustomed to distresses, and rendered callous by long endurance, dreaded a change which might introduce still greater calamities. For they were so completely worn down, and almost wasted, by continued wars, that their wretched and cruel bondage appeared to them not only tolerable, but desirable, provided it were accompanied by peace. This shows how little they had profited under God’s chastisements: for they were so benumbed and stupified, that the promised redemption and salvation almost stank184184     “Quodammodo foeteret,” in their nostrils. Matthew intended, I have no doubt, to express their ingratitude, in being so entirely broken by the long continuance of their afflictions, as to throw away the hope and desire of the grace which had been promised to them.

4. Having assembled the priests Though deep silence prevailed respecting Christ in the Hall of Herod, yet, as soon as the Magi have thrown out the mention of a King, predictions are remembered, which formerly lay in oblivion. Herod instantly conjectures, that the King, about whom the Magi inquire, is the Messiah whom God had formerly promised, (Daniel 9:25.) Here again it appears, that Herod is seriously alarmed, when he puts such earnest inquiries; and no wonder. All tyrants are cowards, and their cruelty produces stronger alarm in their own breasts than in the breasts of others. Herod must have trembled more than others, because he perceived that he was reigning in opposition to God.

This new investigation shows, that the contempt of Christ, before the arrival of the Magi, must have been very deep. At a later period, the scribes and high priests labored with fury to corrupt the whole of the Scripture, that they might not give any countenance to Christ. But on the present occasion they reply honestly out of the Scripture, and for this reason, that Christ and his Gospel have not yet given them uneasiness. And so all ungodly persons find no difficulty in giving their assent to God on general principles; but when the truth of God begins to press them more closely, they throw out the venom of their rebellion.

We have a striking instance of this, in our own day, among the Papists. They freely own, that he is the only-begotten Son of God, clothed with our flesh, and acknowledge the one person of God-man, as subsisting in the two natures. But when we come to the power and office of Christ, a contest immediately breaks out; because they will not consent to take a lower rank, and much less to be reduced to nothing. In a word, so long as wicked men think that it is taking nothing from themselves, they will yield to God and to Scripture some degree of reverence. But when Christ comes into close conflict with ambition, covetousness, pride, misplaced confidence, hypocrisy, and deceit, they immediately forget all modesty, and break out into rage. Let us therefore learn, that the chief cause of blindness in the enemies of truth is to be found in their wicked affections, which change light into darkness.

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.

7. Then Herod, having secretly called the Magi The tyrant did not dare to avow his fear and uneasiness, lest he might give fresh courage to a people, by whom he knew that he was hated. In public, therefore, he pretends that this matter does not concern him, but inquires secretly, in order to meet immediate danger. Though a bad conscience made him timid, there can be no doubt that God struck his mind with an unusual fear, which for a time made him incapable of reflection, and almost deprived him of the use of reason. For nothing was more easy than to send one of his courtiers as an escort, under the pretense of courtesy, who would investigate the whole matter, and immediately return. Herod certainly was a man of no ordinary address, and of great courage. It is the more surprising that, in a case of extremity, and when the remedy is at hand, he remains in a state of amazement, and almost dead. Let us learn, that a miracle was effected, in rescuing the Son of God from the jaws of the lion. Not less at the present day does God infatuate his enemies, so that a thousand schemes of injuring and ruining his Church do not occur to their minds, and even the opportunities which are at hand are not embraced. The trick which Herod practiced on the Magi, by pretending that he also would come for the purpose of worshipping Christ, was avoided by the Lord, as we shall see, in another way. But as Herod’s dread of arousing the people against him deprived him of the use of his reason, so again he is driven by such madness, that he does not hesitate or shudder at the thought of provoking God. For he knew that, if a King were born, it was ordained by God, that he should raise up the throne “of David, which was fallen,” (Amos 9:11.) He does not therefore attack men, but furiously dares to fight with God. Two things claim our attention. He was seized with a spirit of giddiness, to attack God; and, on the other hand, his manner of acting was childish: for his design was frustrated, so that he was like a “blind man groping in darkness.”185185     Like many others of his scriptural allusions, this is not marked by our Author. It approaches very nearly to the language of one of the curses pronounced by Moses on the people of Israel, “If they should not hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God;” — “thou shalt grope at noon-day as the blind gropeth in darkness,” (Deuteronomy 28:15,29.) But it is more likely that he had in his eye a passage from the book of Job. In the opening description of “the devices of the crafty,” Herod, who is pronounced by Calvin to have been “a man of no ordinary address, and another Herod, whom our Lord designates that fox, (Luke 13:32,) are so exactly delineated, that it might almost be imagined they had sat for the picture. He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise. He taketh the wise in their own craftiness; and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong. They meet with darkness in the day-time, and grope in the noon-day as in the night,” (Job 5:12-14.) — Ed.

9. But they, having heard the King, departed It is truly an instance of base sluggishness, that not one of the Jews offers himself as an escort to those foreigners, to go and see the King who had been promised to their own nation. The scribes show them the way, and point out the place where he was born; but they allow them to depart alone: not one moves a step. They were afraid, perhaps, of Herod’s cruelty: but it displayed wicked ingratitude that, for the sake of the salvation which had been offered to them, they were unwilling to undergo any risk, and cared less about the grace of God than about the frown of a tyrant. The whole nation, I have lately showed, was so degenerate, that they chose rather to be oppressed with the yoke of tyranny, than to submit to any inconvenience arising from a change. If God had not fortified the minds of the Magi by his Spirit, they might have been discouraged by this state of things. But the ardor of their zeal is unabated; they set out without a guide. And yet the means of confirming their faith are not wanting; for they hear that the King, who had been pointed out to them by a star, was long ago described, in glowing language, by divine predictions. It would seem that the star, which hitherto guided them in the way, had lately disappeared. The reason may easily be conjectured. It was, that they might make inquiry in Jerusalem about the new King, and might thus take away all excuse from the Jews, who, after having been instructed about the Redeemer who was sent to them, knowingly and willingly despise him.

11. They found the young child So revolting a sight might naturally have created an additional prejudice; for Christ was so far from having aught of royalty surrounding him, that he was in a meaner and more despised condition than any peasant child. But they are convinced that he is divinely appointed to be a King. This thought alone, deeply rooted in their minds, procures their reverence. They contemplate in the purpose of God his exalted rank, which is still concealed from outward view.186186     “Car ils considerent et contemplent au conseil de Dieu sa dignite et magnificence royale, laquelle n'apparoissoit point encores;” — “for they consider and contemplate in the purpose of God his royal dignity and splendor, which did not yet appear,” Holding it for certain, that he will one day be different from what he now appears, they are not at all ashamed to render to him the honors of royalty.

Their presents show whence they came: for there can be no doubt that they brought them as the choicest productions of their country. We are not to understand, that each of them presented his own offering, but that the three offerings, which are mentioned by Matthew, were presented by all of them in common. Almost all the commentators indulge in speculations about those gifts, as denoting the kingdom, priesthood, and burial of Christ. They make gold the symbol of his kingdom,frankincense, of his priesthoods, — and myrrh, of his burial. I see no solid ground for such an opinion. It was customary, we know, among the Persians, when they offered homage to their kings, to bring a present in their hands. The Magi select those three for the produce of which Eastern countries are celebrated; just as Jacob sent into Egypt the choicest and most esteemed productions of the soil.

“Take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices and myrrh, nuts and almonds,”
(Genesis 43:11.)

Again, in rendering homage, according to the custom of Persia, to him whom they still regarded as an earthly King, they offered the productions of the soil. Our duty is, to adore him in a spiritual manner: for the lawful and reasonable worship which he demands is, that we consecrate first ourselves, and then all that we have, to his service.

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.

15. Out of Egypt have I called my Son Matthew says that a prediction was fulfilled. Some have thought, that the intention of the prophet was different from what is here stated, and have supposed the meaning to be, that the Jews act foolishly in opposing and endeavoring to oppress the Son of God, because the Father hath called him out of Egypt In this way, they grievously pervert the words of the prophet, (Hosea 11:1,) the design of which is, to establish a charge of ingratitude against the Jews, who, from their earliest infancy, and from the commencement of their history, had found God to be a kind and generous Father, and yet were provoking him by fresh offenses. Beyond all question, the passage ought not to be restricted to the person of Christ: and yet it is not tortured by Matthew, but skilfully applied to the matter in hand.

The words of the prophet ought to be thus interpreted: “When Israel was yet a child, I brought him out of that wretched bondage in which he had been plunged. He was formerly like a dead man, and Egypt served him for a grave; but I drew him out of it as from the womb, and brought him into the light of life.” And justly does the Lord speak in this manner; for that deliverance was a sort of birth of the nation. Then were openly produced letters of adoption, when, by the promulgation of the law, they became “the Lord’s portion,” (Deuteronomy 32:9,) “a royal priesthood, and a holy nation,” (1 Peter 2:9;) when they were separated from the other nations, and when, in short, God “set up his tabernacle” (Leviticus 26:11) to dwell in the midst of them. The words of the prophet import, that the nation was rescued from Egypt as from a deep whirlpool of death. Now, what was the redemption brought by Christ, but a resurrection from the dead, and the commencement of a new life? The light of salvation had been almost extinguished, when God begat the Church anew in the person of Christ. Then did the Church come out of Egypt in its head, as the whole body had been formerly brought out.

This analogy prevents us from thinking it strange, that any part of Christ’s childhood was passed in Egypt. The grace and power of God became more illustrious, and his wonderful purpose was more distinctly seen, when light came out of darkness, and life out of hell. Otherwise, the sense of the flesh might have broken out here in contemptuous language, Truly a Redeemer is to come out of Egypt!”210210     “Qui croira que le Redempteur viene d'Egypte?” — “Who will believe that a Redeemer will come out of Egypt?“ Matthew therefore reminds us, that it is no strange or unwonted occurrence for God to call his Son out of that country; and that it serves rather to confirm our faith, that, as on a former occasion, so now again, the Church of God comes out of Egypt. There is this difference, however, between the two cases. The whole nation was formerly shut up in the prison of Egypt; while, in the second redemption, it was Christ, the head of the Church alone, who was concealed there, but who carried the salvation and life of all shut up in his own person.

16. Then Herod when he saw Matthew speaks according to what Herod felt and thought about the matter. He believed that the Magi had deceived him, because they did not choose to take part in his wicked cruelty. He was rather taken in his own trickery, — in his base pretense, that he too intended to pay homage to the new King.

Josephus makes no mention of this history. The only writer who mentions it is Macrobius, in the Second Book of his Saturnalia, where, relating the jokes and taunts of Augustus, he says: When he heard that, by Herod’s command, the children in Syria under two years of age had been slain, and that his own son had been slain among the crowd, “I would rather,” said he, “have been Herod’s hog than his son.” But the authority of Matthew alone is abundantly sufficient for us. Josephus certainly ought not to have passed over a crime so worthy of being put on record. But there is the less reason to wonder that he says nothing about the infants; for he passes lightly over, and expresses in obscure language, an instance of Herod’s cruelty not less shocking, which took place about the same time, when he put to death all the Judges, who were called the Sanhedrim, that hardly a remnant might remain of the stock of David. It was the same dread, I have no doubt, that impelled him to both of these murders.

There is some uncertainty about the date.211211     “Toutefois on ne sait pas certainement si ce fut en mesme temps.” — “However, it is not known certainly if it was at the same time.” Matthew says, that they were slain from two years old and under, according to the time which he had inquired at the Magi: from which we may infer that Christ had then reached that age, or at least was not far from being two years old. Some go farther, and conclude that Christ was about that age at the time when the Magi came. But I contend that the one does not follow from the other. With what terror Herod was seized when the report was widely spread about a new king who had been borne,212212     “Quand les premieres nouvelles vindrent de la naissance du nouveau Roy, et que le bruit en commenca a courir;” — “when the first news arrived of the birth of the new King, and when the noise about it began to spread.” we have lately seen. Fear prevented him at that time from employing a traitor, in a secret manner, to make an investigation.213213     “La crainte l'empescha lors d'envoyer secretement quelque traistre pour espier comme tout alloit;” — “fear prevented him at that time from employing some traitor to spy how all went.” There is no reason to wonder that he was restrained, for some time, from the commission of a butchery so hateful and shocking, particularly while the report about the arrival of the Magi was still recent. It is certainly probable, that he revolved the crime in his mind, but delayed it till a convenient opportunity should occur. It is even possible, that he first murdered the Judges, in order to deprive the people of their leaders, and thus to compel them to look upon the crime as one for which there was no remedy.214214     “Et pent estre qu'il a premierement mis a mort les Juges, afin qu'apres avoir oste au poure peuple ses conducteurs, il peust sans contredit luy tenir le pie sui la gorge, et en faire a son plaisir.” — “And perhaps he first put the Judges to death, that, after having deprived the wretched people of their leaders, he might without opposition, set his foot on their throat, and do with them at his pleasure.”

We may now conclude it to be a frivolous argument, on which those persons rest, who argue, that Christ was two years old when he was worshipped by the Magi, because, according to the time when the star appeared, Herod slew the children who were a little below two years old. Such persons take for granted, without any proper ground, that the star did not appear till after that the Virgin had brought forth her child. It is far more probable, that they had been warned early, and that they undertook the journey close upon the time of the birth of Christ, that they might see the child when lately born, in the cradle, or in his mother’s lap. It is a very childish imagination that, because they came from an unknown country, and almost from another world, they had spent about two years on the road. The conjectures stated by Osiander215215     Andrew Osiander, (grandfather of Dr Andrew Osiander, a Lutheran divine,) author of several works which gained him not a little celebrity, among which is Harmonia Evangelica Ed. are too absurd to need refutation.

But there is no inconsistency in the thread of the story which I propose, — that the Magi came when the period of child-bearing was not yet over, and inquired after a king who had been born, not after one who was already two years old; that, after they had returned to their own country, Joseph fled by night, but still in passing discharged a pious duty at Jerusalem, (for in so populous a city, where there was a constant influx of strangers from every quarter, he might be secure from danger;) that, after he had departed to Egypt, Herod began to think seriously about his own danger, and the ulcer of revenge, which he had nourished in his heart for more than a year and half, at length broke out. The adverb then (τότε) does not always denote in Scripture uninterrupted time,216216     “Sans qu'il y ait rien entre-deux;” — “without there being anything between the two,” but frequently occurs, when there is a great distance between the events.

18. A voice was heard in Ramah It is certain that the prophet describes (Jeremiah 31:15) the destruction of the tribe of Benjamin, which took place in his time: for he had foretold that the tribe of Judah would be cut off, to which was added the half of the tribe of Benjamin. He puts the mourning into the mouth of Rachel, who had been long dead. This is a personification, (προσωποποιϊα,) which has a powerful influence in moving the affections. It was not for the mere purpose of ornamenting his style, that Jeremiah employed rhetorical embellishments. There was no other way of correcting the hardness and stupidity of the living, than by arousing the dead, as it were, from their graves, to bewail those divine chastisements, which were commonly treated with derision. The prediction of Jeremiah having been accomplished at that time, Matthew does not mean that it foretold what Herod would do, but that the coming of Christ occasioned a renewal of that mourning, which had been experienced, many centuries before, by the tribe of Benjamin.

He intended thus to meet a prejudice which might disturb and shake pious minds. It might be supposed, that no salvation could be expected from him, on whose account, as soon as he was born, infants were murdered; nay more, that it was an unfavorable and disastrous omen, that the birth of Christ kindled a stronger flame of cruelty than usually burns amidst the most inveterate wars. But as Jeremiah promises a restoration, where a nation has been cut off, down to their little children, so Matthew reminds his readers, that this massacre would not prevent Christ from appearing shortly afterwards as the Redeemer of the whole nation: for we know that the whole chapter in Jeremiah, in which those words occur, is filled with the most delightful consolations. Immediately after the mournful complaint, he adds,

“Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord, and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to thine own border,” (Jeremiah 31:16, 17.)

Such was the resemblance between the former calamity which the tribe of Benjamin had sustained, and the second calamity, which is here recorded. Both were a prelude of the salvation which was shortly to arrive.217217     “C'est que l'une et l'autre a est, comme le message apportant les nouvelles du salut qui approchoit.” — “It is, that both were, as it were, the message bringing the tidings of the salvation which was approaching.”

19. But when Herod was dead These words show the perseverance of Joseph’s faith. He kept his feet firm in Egypt, till he was recalled to his native country by a command of God. We see, at the same time, that the Lord never disappoints his own people, but renders them seasonable aid. It is probable that Joseph returned from Egypt immediately after the death of Herod, before Augustus Caesar had issued his decree, appointing Archelaus to be governor of Judea. Having been declared by his father’s will to be successor to the throne, he undertook the whole charge of the government, but abstained from taking the title of king, saying that this depended on the will and pleasure of Caesar. He afterwards went to Rome, and obtained confirmation; only the name of king was refused, until he had merited it by his actions. The governor of Galilee was Philip, a man of gentle disposition, and almost like a private individual. Joseph complied with the suggestion of the angel, because, under a prince who had no delight in shedding blood, and who treated his subjects with mildness, there was less danger.

We must always bear in mind the purpose of God, in training his Son, from the commencement, under the discipline of the cross, because this was the way in which he was to redeem his Church. He bore our infirmities, and was exposed to dangers and to fears, that he might deliver his Church from them by his divine power, and might bestow upon it everlasting peace. His danger was our safety: his fear was our confidence. Not that he ever in his life felt alarm; but as he was surrounded, on every hand, by the fear of Joseph and Mary, he may be justly said to have taken upon him our fears, that he might procure for us assured confidence.

23. He shall be called a Nazarene Matthew does not derive Nazarene from Nazareth, as if this were its strict and proper etymology, but only makes an allusion. The word נזיר, or Nazarite, signifies holy and devoted to God, and is derived from נזר, to separate. The noun נזר, indeed, signifies a flower:221221     It would have been more correct to say that the noun נזר signifies a crown than a flower. “Thou shalt put the holy crown,” את נזר הקדש, (Exodus 29:6.) “Thou hast profaned his crown,” נזרו, (Psalm 89:39.) It is satisfactory to have the support of so eminent a critic as Dr Tholuck, who, in his very correct edition of Calvin's Commentary on the New Testament, after the word florem, flower, places in brackets an emendation similar to what we have suggested: “vel potius, diadematis insigne,” or rather, the emblem of a crown.” — Ed. but Matthew refers, beyond all doubt, to the former meaning. For we nowhere read that Nazarites meant blooming or flourishing, but persons who were consecrated to God, according to the directions given by the Law, (Numbers 6.) The meaning is: though it was by fear that Joseph was driven into a corner of Galilee, yet God had a higher design, and appointed the city of Nazareth as the place of Christ’s residence, that he might justly be called a Nazarite But it is asked, who are the prophets that gave this name to Christ? for there is no passage to be found that answers to the quotation. Some think it a sufficient answer, that Scripture frequently calls him Holy: but that is a very poor explanation. For Matthew, as we perceive, makes an express reference to the very word, and to the ancient Nazarites, whose holiness was of a peculiar character. He tells us, that what was then shadowed out in the Nazarites, who were, in some sense, selected as the first-fruits to God, must have been fulfilled in the person of Christ.

But it remains to be seen, in what part of Scripture the prophets have stated that this name would be given to Christ. Chrysostom, finding himself unable to loose the knot, cuts it by saying, that many books of the prophets have perished. But this answer has no probability: for, though the Lord, in order to punish the indifference of his ancient people, deprived them of some part of Scripture, or left out what was less necessary, yet, since the coming of Christ, no part of it has been lost. In support of that view, a strange blunder has been made, by quoting a passage of Josephus, in which he states that Ezekiel left two books: for Ezekiel’s prophecy of a new temple and kingdom is manifestly distinct from his other predictions, and may be said to form a new work. But if all the books of Scripture which were extant in the time of Matthew, remain entire to the present day, we must find somewhere the passage quoted from the prophets.

Bucer222222     A contemporary of our author, who was greatly admired, not only for the extent of his learning in a very learned age, but for the soundness of his judgment. He is hardly ever mentioned but with deep respect. — Ed. has explained it, I think, more correctly than any other writer. He thinks that the reference is to a passage in the Book of Judges: The child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb, (Judges 13:5.) These words, no doubt, were spoken with regard to Samson. But Samson is called the “Redeemer” or “Deliverer”223223     The remaining words of the passage (Judges 13:5) are: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistines; which our author interprets as having a prophetic reference to Christ. — Ed. of the people, only because he was a figure of Christ, and because the salvation, which was accomplished by his instrumentality, was a sort of prelude of the full salvation, which was at length exhibited to the world by the Son of God.224224     “Le salut qu'a receu le peuple par son moyen, a este comme une representation ayant quelques traces du vray et parfait salut, lequel finalement le Fils de Dieu a apporte et presente au monde.” — “The salvation which the people received by his agency was, as it were, a representation, having some traces of the true and perfect salvation, which the Son of God finally brought and presented to the world.” All that Scripture predicts, in a favorable manner, about Samson, may justly be applied to Christ. To express it more clearly, Christ is the original model: Samson is the inferior antitype.225225     “Pour le dire plus clairement en deux mots, Christ est le vray patron accompli en perfection, mais Samson est un pourtrait legerement tire et trac, dessus.” — “To state it more clearly in two words, Christ is the true Defender fulfilled in perfection: but Samson is a portrait lightly traced and drawn below.” When he assumed the character of a Redeemer,226226     Deliverer. we ought to understand, that none of the titles bestowed on that illustrious and truly divine office apply so strictly to himself as to Christ: for the fathers did but taste the grace of redemption, which we have been permitted to receive fully in Christ.

Matthew uses the word prophets in the plural number. This may easily be excused: for the Book of Judges was composed by many prophets. But I think that what is here said about the prophets has a still wider reference. For Joseph, who was a temporal Savior of the Church, and was, in many respects, a figure, or rather a lively image of Christ, is called a Nazarite of his brethren,227227     In both of the passages quoted above, the words נזיר אחיו are rendered, in the English version, separated from his brethren. This brings out pretty faithfully the meaning of נזיר, separated, but does not suggest the allusion, which Calvin supposes to be made to the peculiar acceptation given by the ceremonial law to נזיר, from which our word Nazarite is derived. Hebrew scholars must judge for themselves as to the probability of the allusion. Without entering into that inquiry, which would occupy more space than we could easily spare, we have thought it due to our Author to hint, that the two passages which he quotes, and which at first sight appear to have no bearing on his argument, contain the very word in questlon. — Ed. (Genesis 49:26; Deuteronomy 33:16.) God determined that the distinguished honor, of which he had given a specimen in Joseph, should shine again in Samson, and gave him the name of Nazarite, that believers, having received those early instructions, might look more earnestly at the Redeemer who was to come, who was to be separated from all,

“That he might be the first-born among many brethren,”
(Romans 8:29.)




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