Matthew 2:1-12 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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The Magi's Pilgrimage
Comments for Study 3

Matthew 2:1-12
Memory Verse: 2


>1. Read verse 1. Who were the Magi? Where did they come from? How is the time of their coming indicated?

Matthew 2:1 "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem"

* "After Jesus was born" -Matthew does not say how long after Jesus' birth this event takes place. Because Herod killed all the babies who where two years old and younger (2:16), Jesus must have been no more than two years old.

* "in Bethlehem in Judea" -Bethlehem was a village about five miles south of Jerusalem. Bethlehem is the home town of Jesse, and his son's, who is King David. Matthew calls the town "Bethlehem in Judea," to distinguish it from the town of the same name which was about seven miles north west of Nazareth; Matthew also calls it this to emphasize that Jesus came from the tribe and territory that produced the line of kings from David.

The Jewish scholars expected the Messiah to be born in Bethlehem. All Jews knew that the Messiah would be from David's family tree. (John 7:42)

Bethlehem was where Rachel was buried by Jacob. (Gen.) It was also the place where Boaz meet Ruth. (Micah 5:2)

* "Magi" -Magi were doctors and scientists that specialized in astrology. This passage does not say how many came although it does say that they brought three kinds of gifts. Not only did they study the scriptures, but they understood them. Daniel, a Jewish man of God who was in the Persian Empire, was called a wise man. (Dan. 2: 12-13, 18, 48)

* "from the east" -perhaps Persia or southern Arabia (now modern Iraq or western India) both of which were east of Palestine.

Abraham's concubines were sent to the east (Gen. 25:1-6). Perhaps they were his descendants. Daniel was also sent to the east, to the Babylon empire. He no doubt taught the truth. Perhaps the story of God's promise to Abraham and Daniel's influence was still there. Most likely that is how they received the Bible.

During the time of the Judges, when the Israelites abandoned the Lord, God sent the people from the east to discipline them through invasions. (Judges 6:3) And during the captivity most of the Israelites were in the east. For example, Esther was queen in the east; Susa in particular. Many Gentiles were converted because of her and Morddecai's faith. (Esther 8:17) And for example Daniel, because of his faith and that of his friends, had also influence a lot of Gentiles when in captivity in the east to become Jews. In general, the Israelites faith in the LORD was given to the Gentiles in the east on a number of occasion throughout history. Most likely some of their descendants were these Magi who had become converts to the God of Israel.

In Jesus' early years most of the people from the east worshipped idols and were full of superstitions (Isaiah 2:6). But these men where different than their countrymen. They had faith in the God of Israel. So much faith that they followed the star that he foretold about.

* "in the time of King Herod" -He ws also known as Herod the Great (37-4 B.C.). He is not the same Herod that killed John. Nor was he the Herod that Pilate sent Jesus to. That Herod was this Herod's son. Herod was a Gentile, an Idumean, who was appointed king of Judea by the Roman Senate in 40 B.C. and gained control in 37. He was friends of Caesar. Like most rulers of the day, he was ruthless, murdering his wife, his three sons, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle and many others - not to mention the babies in Bethlehem (16).

>2. Read verse 2. What did they believe about the baby Jesus? Why? (Numbers 24:17, Revelation 22:16b) Why did they want to worship him (2 Peter 1:19) Imagine what their long journey had been like. In what respect do they have the image of truth-seekers?

Matthew 2:2 "and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.""

* "King of the Jews" -It is not clear which they meant, the spiritual sense or the political sense of this phrase. But it is clear what Jesus really was, in the spiritual sense, not the political. Jesus, as King of the Jews, has been guiding them throughout time. He has been controlling all the events of the heavens and earth to conduct his work which included the Jews. The LORD of the old testament, also called YHWH, is in fact Jesus, the baby in the manger which the magi sought out.

* "We saw his star" -Numbers 24:17 says, ""I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth." Later, John would write in Rev 22:16 ""I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.""

* The Magi's journey was long and hard. According to verses 7 and 16, it took about two years to complete. The distance was perhaps 600-700 miles. It was hard because it was across ruff terrain. These points being true, the trip must also have been costly. Not only these, but they had to interrupt their plans. Perhaps on the trip they might of had occasions to doubt. They also had opportunity to fear of bandits attacking them. But in spite of all of this, the magi stopped what they were doing and continued on. They risked their life and reputation to see God's word fulfilled. And they travelled hard to worship Jesus.

>3. Why did they make inquires in Jerusalem? What effect did their inquires have on King Herod and the people of Jerusalem (3)? Why?

* Verse 10 seems to indicate that they lost the star for awhile, perhaps because of cloud cover. So they went to Jerusalem for help, for Jerusalem was the capital of Judea. It would be the logical place to find the star or information about the new king born under it. God was using this opportunity to tell Jerusalem and Herod that Jesus, the King of the Jews, is born.

Matthew 2:3 "When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him."

* "When King Herod heard this" -Obviously the magi didn't have the clout to see the king when they first entered the town. Herod must of had informants in the city that told him about the magi and their inquires.

* "disturbed" -Disturbed means to be troubled emotionally or be mentally upset.

Herod, who wasn't a Jew, was the king of the Jews by the appointment of the Romans. He did not want anyone to take away his kingdom. So when he heard that strangers of some nobility were looking for the new king of the Jews who was just born, and he had no new son, Herod was disturbed. Obviously, no one, or at least no one of any importance in Jerusalem, knew about the true King of the Jews birth, who is the Messiah Jesus.

Herod felt threatened by these men for they would stir hopes of dethroning him amongst the people. He was disturbed. Perhaps added to this, Herod's pride might have been hurt because these magi did not come to see him when looking for a new king.

* "and all Jerusalem with him" -Naturally, since Herod was a ruthless man, and since his pride was hurt by these men, the people of Jerusalem knew that in the past when Herod was hurt others would soon be hurting physically. So the whole town was in anguish by these visitors and their inquirers.

* "and all Jerusalem with him" - Jesus is the King of the Jews, yet the Jews did not recognize his birth because they did not expect that the Messiah would be born in this way.

>4. What were the immediate measures Herod took to locate the one born king of the Jews (4-5)? What did he learn (6)? What does this prophecy teach us about Jesus?

Matthew 2:4-5 "When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:"

* Micah 5:2 was the source of the prophecy. These men studied the Bible, yet their studying did not produce faith. None of these men are reported as seeing if the magi were correct in their findings.

Like them Herod believed the Bible to be true for he believed it here. But he was so evil and corrupt that he wanted to kill the Messiah. Why? Because he did not know the true meaning of the Messiah and His kingdom and His rule. Instead, Herod was only concerned with the things in this world. When men's minds and hearts are in this world they can not see, let alone accept, the truths of God even if it is presented to them with clear meaning and content.

Like Herod, the people's chief priests, and teachers of the law, it is easy to misuse the truth in the Bible. It is easy to know and believe it is truth while not accept personally accepting the truth.

Matthew 2:6 ""'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'""

* "a ruler" -Spiritual, and behind the scenes.

* "shepherd of (God's) people Israel" -Throughout history as the LORD.

>5. How did Herod lie to the Magi and what did he order them to do (7,8)? How is King Jesus different from King Herod?

Matthew 2:7-8 "Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.""

* "Herod called the Magi" -Interestingly enough, God used Herod a cruel and selfish man, to help the Magi, men seeking Jesus and the truth.

* "He found out from them the exact time the star had appeared" -Herod is ruthless, selfish, proud and deceitful.

* "He sent them to Bethlehem" -Why didn't he go with them? He didn't want to show the people of Judea and the world, that he believed that Jesus is the true king of the Jews.

>6. How did they find Jesus (9-11a)? Describe their reaction when they saw the star again. Why were they so joyful? What is the joy of truth-seekers?

Matthew 2:9-11a "After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed."

* "and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them" -After they left Jerusalem, thus fulfilling God's will for them, the star appeared for them again.

* "they were overjoyed" -Not only did the prophecy that they were given in Herod's palace point to the way, but the star pointed to the same place, Bethlehem. With these two things the Magi knew they would find the right place; the place where the baby King was born. Psalm 105:3 says, "Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice." And Isaiah 64:5a says, "You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways." The joy of truth-seekers is to find Jesus. Even to know the way to him is joyous.

>7. Upon finding Mary and Jesus, what did they do (11b)? What gifts had they brought? What was the significance of their gifts and worship? What shows the purity of their motives? What can we learn from them (Deuteronomy 4:29, John 4:23)?

Matthew 2:11b "On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh."

* "On coming to the house" -Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were out of the manger now and in a house. They did not leave Bethlehem for it is hard for a just delivered women to travel.

* "they bowed down" -submit to.

* "worshipped him" -They had great respect for Jesus. They did not worship Mary nor Joseph, but Jesus.

* "gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh"-Psalm 72:10 says, "The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores will bring tribute to him; the kings of Sheba and Seba will present him gifts." And Isaiah 60:6 says, "Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the LORD."

* "gold" -Gold is a fitting gift for a king

* "incense" -Incense is the gift for a priest for incense is often burned by a priest making prayerful offerings to God.

* "myrrh" -Myrrh is the gift for a prophet. In those days myrrh was put on dead people.

* The magi did not ask for anything in return. They totally devoted themselves to the true King. They teach to give heart and material offerings. They didn't come with empty hands before God (Exodus 23:15, 34:20). Deuteronomy 4:29 says, "But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul." And John 4:23, "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks."

Matthew 2:12 "And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route."

* Sometimes God talks to us in dreams.