Matt. 2:1-Bethlehem is about 5-6 miles south of Jerusalem. King Herod the Great was nominally Jewish, even though he was actually an Edomite (descendants of Esau, they were constantly at odds with Israel, even helping to plunder Jerusalem and slaughter its inhabitants after Nebuchadnezzar conquered it)…who was kept in power by the Romans. He built the temple in Jerusalem that existed during the life of Jesus. The “magi” were wise men, astrologers (they “saw His star”), from the east. Tradition says that there were three of them and that they were kings…but we do not know for certain.
Matt. 2:2-Notice that Jesus was not made, voted, or forced to be king of the Jews…but “born”. This was God’s divine plan.
Matt. 2:2-3-8-Herod felt threatened by the birth of this king. He was afraid of how the Jews might respond (since it had been prophesied, Micah 5:2) and how the Roman government might respond to what they would perceive to be an attempt to overthrow their control.
Matt. 2:9-12-The magi presented Joseph and Mary with gold, frankincense, and myrrh (tradition tells us that they represented Christ’s deity, purity and death).
Matt. 2:13-18-It is interesting that in the very next verse it tells us that Joseph had to make a hasty exit with his family to Egypt in order to keep Jesus from being killed. This would have been an expensive trip…but perhaps God had provided for it through these valuable gifts. When Herod found out that the magi had left without telling him where to find the child they had spoke of…he became so furious that he had all of the male children in Bethlehem from 2-years-old killed in order to make certain that no king would arise from them. It is because of this mention of the age of the children that some people believe that the magi did not arrive at the birth of Jesus…but some time later. Herod had them all killed up to that age to insure that the child died.
Matt. 2:19-23-Eventually, Joseph was told in a dream by an angel that Herod had died and they returned. Initially, he returned to the area of Judea (Judah). But when he found out that Herod’s son, Archelaus was now king (over Judah and Samaria)…he left and took his family to Nazareth in Galilee. Again we see an Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah being fulfilled in Jesus…”He shall be called a Nazarene” (Isaiah 11:1). Over and over again it is the practice of Matthew to point out how Jesus fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah.
Again I am impressed with Joseph. He has been obedient when he didn’t understand all that was going on (the conception of the child), and he has been obedient when dangerous circumstances occurred that he was not responsible for (Herod’s attempt to kill the child). So far, more has been said about him than about Mary.
Prayer: Lord, I pray that you would help me to have the same kind of obedient faith that Joseph had. Help me to trust You and follow Your will when I don’t have all the facts, and even when I can’t understand why You are leading me to do something. And also help me to be obedient when difficult, painful things happen that are not my fault, when life isn’t fair. Don’t let me use those circumstances as an excuse to not follow You.