Herod, The Wise Men, and the Religious Scholars: Matthew 2.1-15

From the New International Version

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star at its rising and have come to worship him.” And when King Herod heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him, and after calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired from them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet,

‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah,
for from you will go out a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

HerodThen Herod secretly summoned the wise men and determined precisely from them the time when the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go, inquire carefully concerning the child, and when you have found him, report to me so that I also may come and worship him.” After they listened to the king, they went out, and behold, the star which they had seen at its rising led them until it came and stood above the place where the child was. Now when they saw the star, they rejoiced with very great joy. And when they came into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. And opening their treasure boxes, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.

Now after they had gone away, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph, saying, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to seek the child to destroy him.” So he got up and took the child and his mother during the night and went away to Egypt. And he was there until the death of Herod, in order that what was said by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled, saying,

“Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Where God Guides, He Provides

The Herod who is mentioned in this passage was one of five individuals named Herod mentioned in Scripture. He was jealous for his throne. He had killed his wife, mother-in-law and three sons who were thought by him to have ideas of taking over his throne. It was commonly said about Herod that it was better to be one of his pigs than one of his sons. There is a play on words between pigs and sons in Greek. They sound alike.

He was the leader of Israel, but had no conception of the possibility of the great event of the birth of Jesus that would occur. He had to call together the chief priests and teachers of the law for their interpretation (1.4). All Jerusalem was worried with him about the birth of this child because of his jealous bend. They were afraid for good reason as the story goes on to tell. He was a conniver and liar (1.7-8).

The Wise Men (Magi)
They were originally members of the Persian priestly caste who were astrologers. They were serious about finding Jesus and worshiping him (1.1-2). God had communicated to them two years prior by what they knew [a star] to get them to Jesus. God uses natural and supernatural communication to draw people to himself. They worshiped Jesus by prostrating themselves before him (the meaning of the Greek pipto,[PIP tow] bowed down, NIV). God communicated to them in a supernatural way once they had found and worshiped Jesus (1.12). They brought gifts just in time for the move to Egypt.

The Religious Scholars (Chief Priests, Scribes & Teachers Of The Law)
They were the priestly aristocracy which was the upper class of Jewish society. This group was mostly Pharisaic. They knew where Jesus was to be born, but did not act on that knowledge (1.4). There is a contrast between the secular and religious. The secular scholars searched and found. The religious knew, but did not find.

Some Basic Affirmations
Jealousy leads to destruction. Jesus is to be worshiped by people outside the Jewish faith. He will be worshiped by some and rejected by others. God loves to communicate with humankind. Information without action is totally inadequate.

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