Meditations on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, Chapter 2

Adapted from manuscript notes written from 2003 to 2010


Michael Fernandez

Posted Sunday, March 9, 2014

A detailed commentary on Matthew’s Gospel adapted from manuscript notes originally written between 2003-2010 and updated with newer information and improved references as the transcription process continues.  All Scriptures cited are from the New King James Version (NKJV/NKJ) unless otherwise noted


2:1-6    BETHLEHEM

●          The scribes and priests knew the prophecies about the coming King/Messiah, but they had hitched their wagon, so to speak, to Herod’s train, denying their true Lord.  In this they proved the truth of God’s Word in Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Romans 3:10-12.[i]


Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was prophesied in Micah 5:2[ii], sometime before the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC.


●          Note the “in the days of Herod the king,” places Jesus’ birth not later than 4 BC, as that is the year that Herod died.

●          See notes to Matthew 1:25 [Previous post and below][iii].

Additional Historical Note, cf. Luke 2:1-3[iv].  Cyrinius [a/k/a Quirinius] was made governor in 4BC according to some archeological findings.

2:11      Worship Him

●          As the Magi did, so we should do; fall on our knees and worship Christ the Lord.

●          That Scripture records this in a positive light is an argument for the deity of Christ, as only God is to be worshiped[v].

2:11 cont.         Fiction vs. Truth

●          Unlike the mythical image portrayed in most “Nativity scenes,” by the time of the Magi’s’ visit, Jesus was no longer in a manger “when they had come into the HOUSE [not “stable” or “manger”], they saw the YOUNG CHILD” [not “baby” or “infant”]; Jesus was a “young child,” possibly as old as 2 (cf. 2:16).  Joseph had found a place for his family to live by this time.

2:11 cont.         Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh & God’s Providential Care

●          Not only were the gifts of the wise-men, gifts appropriate for a king, but the timing of such valuable gifts is also worthy of note.  This is especially so in light of their coming just prior to Joseph and Mary having to flee to Egypt with their young son.

●          This is an excellent example of God’s providential care and direction of events in the lives of men.

Joseph, being a carpenter, would not normally have been a wealthy man (and he was in the norm here, cf. Luke 2:24 and note “Not Rich.”[vi]).  The sudden need to pack off his family and flee would have been a financial hardship, even staying within the same country where he might have received some help from friends and/or family.  Fleeing to another country, where they would have been complete strangers, would have been an economic disaster.  Yet God, in His wisdom, sent the Magi with the necessary provision for the coming journey.

●          God’s providence in directing the actions of the Magi, even to the choice of gifts to bring, is an example of God’s sovereignty in the affairs of man.

●          See also, Notes- Cross References, “The Sovereignty of God in…” [Future]

●          Note that though only 3 specific gifts are identified, this does not necessarily mean that they were the only gifts; more importantly however, it does not, in any way, state that there were only 3 wise men.  That is part of the mythology that has grown up around the Christmas tradition, much as the visit and gifts being presented to the Holy Family in the manger.  (See note above.)

2:15      A Messianic Prophecy Fulfilled

●          The return of Jesus and His family from Egypt fulfills Hosea 11:1[vii].

2:16      Murder Most Foul

●          Herod orders the murder of all male children born in Bethlehem and surrounding districts.  Compare this with Pharaoh’s order in Exodus 1:16, 22[viii].

●          Timing is everything.  At this time, Herod was the undisputed king of Israel.  Granted, Israel had been conquered by the Romans, under Pompey, some forty years earlier.  Nonetheless, under Roman policy, those conquered kingdoms which were inclined to be cooperative, retained a great deal of independence in managing their internal affairs.  Thus, Herod was able to give this despicable order to kill off any potential rivals to his throne; just so long as it had no effect on any Roman citizen or Roman policy/policies in general.

●          Had Christ been born as little as twenty years later, this event could not have happened, as the local rulers in Judea, then called Tetrarchs or governors, no longer had the right to exercise capital punishment without Roman approval, let alone order the mass murder of a bunch of children.  (See John 18:31 and note.[ix])

●          On a historical note:  A number of Bible commentators of the past, if they even mention the number, put the number around 15-30 slain.  This includes the surrounding region.  The lack of mention by Josephus is not surprising for a number of reasons; his being a zealous Jew, he would not normally make a big issue of something important to the “Christian” church, unless of course it was a really big deal.  This event, in light of many greater atrocities committed by Herod, is rather insignificant in the numbers involved.  Robinson’s Word Pictures entry is pretty much representative of what is written[x].

2:17-18 Prophecy Fulfilled

●          Herod’s actions bring the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:15[xi].

2:19      Herod’s Death

●          Herod died in 4 BC.

●          Due to an error when creating the “Christian” calendar we now use, the beginning of the calendar was off.  Rather than beginning with the year of Christ’s birth as year 1, it begins after.  How much after is a matter of debate.  We know that Jesus was born while Herod was alive, not later than 4 BC.  With Herod’s order to kill all male children 2 years of age and under, we have a lower limit of 6 BC.  So, while we cannot, with certainty, say when Jesus was born, Herod’s death and prior actions allows us to place His birth between 6-4 BC.

2:23      A Nazarene

●          This reference is to an unspecified, unrecorded prophecy.

●          Tom Schaff, in his commentary (see note to 1:1[xii]) suggests that this may be a reference to the Hebrew word nazir, meaning “separated,” cf. Deuteronomy 33:16[xiii].  This would certainly describe Jesus in His earthly life and ministry.  Separated from His family who did not believe (cf. John 7:5[xiv]), to save them like Joseph, cf. Genesis 42:6[xv]; and from the rest of humanity when He was alone on the cross.


[i] The Depravity of man or man’s utter sinfulness will be a separate topical study published in the future.

Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Romans 3:10-12

Psalms 14:1-3

(1)  To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good.

(2)  The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.

(3)  They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.

Psalms 53:1-3

(1)  To the Chief Musician. Set to “Mahalath.” A Contemplation of David. The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none who does good.

(2)  God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.

(3)  Every one of them has turned aside; They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.

Romans 3:10-12

(10)  As it is written: “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NO, NOT ONE;



[ii] Micah 5:2

(2)  “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”

[iii] Matthew 1:25

(25)  and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

● See also, Luke 2:1-2; 2:8 and related notes, for a more detailed discussion of the “when” of Christ’s birth.
● Compare also, John 18:31-32 and note, “Prophecy Fulfilled,” (below) regarding the timing of His advent.
● See also, note “Timeline” at 2:1-6 following.

● Joseph “did not know [have sexual relations with] her till she brought forth her firstborn Son.”
Joseph and Mary did have relations after Jesus’ birth. True, the Scriptures do not say so in so many words, but it is there for those who look. Compare Matthew 27:55-56 and note that the James listed there is the same “James the Lord’s brother: of Galatians 1:19.
● Had Mary remained a virgin her entire life, as is taught by the Roman Catholic church, the above statement would have been either incorrect, at the worst or, misleading, at the best.
○ The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Joseph was an older man who brought his own children into his marriage with Mary, making James and the others “stepbrothers,” not “half-brothers” of Jesus. They deny that he and Mary ever had sexual relations. Though that does seem, on the surface, to be a reasonable interpretation of what happened; it is incorrect nonetheless.
○ This is seen in the choice of the words, “till” and “firstborn” in relation to Joseph and Mary’s sexual relationship. Till, implies that there were relations later. Firstborn indicates-
a) That there were other children born to Mary, as if she had no others, “only” would have been a better, clearer term. And,
b) Is the limiting term defining the “when” to which the “till” refers.
● Where the Bible is silent, we had best, if not be silent, then, not be dogmatic. The Bible does not directly say that Joseph and Mary had relations, nor does it directly state that she remained a virgin her entire life. Both conclusions are based on how one interprets the Scripture passages relating to them. While I believe that the Reformed churches (Protestant) have the correct understanding, this is not an area in which brethren should divide. One is not saved or lost based on whether Mary did or did not have sexual relations with her husband after the birth of Jesus. Both Protestant and Catholic agree that she was a virgin when Jesus was conceived in her by the Holy Spirit as is expressly stated in Scripture.

John 18:31-32 and note, “Prophecy Fulfilled,”

(31)  Then Pilate said to them, “You take Him and judge Him according to your law.” Therefore the Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,”

(32)  that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die.

[iv] Luke 2:1-3

(1)  And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.

(2)  This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.

(3)  So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.


Following are but a few of the many passages teaching that “worship” belongs only to God, that is to say Yahweh, Jehovah, God (as contrasted with “god” or “a god”), the Triune [Father, Son, Holy Spirit] God of the Bible and no one and nothing else.  Bear in mind, if God teaches something as being true one time, it is true and it is important that we take it serious and respond accordingly.  When God repeats His words on any given subject, that doesn’t make it “more” true, but it does mean that we need to be especially prudent in paying heed because it is doubtful that He repeats Himself just because He likes the sound of His own voice, but to get it through our thick skulls.That God would repeat this teaching about worshipping only Him is vitally important as it impacts a number of areas.

Exo_34:14  (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),

Mat_4:10  Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND HIM ONLY YOU SHALL SERVE.’ ”

Luk_4:8  And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND HIM ONLY YOU SHALL SERVE.’ ”

Rev_19:10  And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

That no one confuses the angel here [19:10]  and again in  22:8ff with Jesus who appeared first in n Rev_1:13  “and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.”  One must make note that the angel here [19:10] is “another angel” and not the Lord, cf. Rev_18:1  “After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory.”  And it is that angel who speaks with John throughout until the end of the vision with exception of 21:5-8 where the Lord is speaking, Beginning again at 21:5, John is in the company of the angel introduced in 18:1.

Rev_22:9  Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”  [See comment above to Rev 19:10]

[vi] Luke 2:24

(24)  and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS.” (CAPS added for emphasis).


●             Jesus did not come from a wealthy background as many “prosperity” preachers teach; His parents were so poor, they could only offer the minimum sacrifice mandated by law as the sacrifice for Mary’s cleansing.  Compare Exodus 13:2, 12, 15; Leviticus 12:8.

Exodus 13:2, 12, 15

(2)  “Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine.”


(12)  that you shall set apart to the LORD all that open the womb, that is, every firstborn that comes from an animal which you have; the males shall be the LORD’s.


(15)  And it came to pass, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all males that open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’

Leviticus 12:8

(8)  ‘And if she is not able to bring a lamb, then she may bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons–one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’ ”

[vii] Hosea 11:1

(1)  “When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.

[viii] Exodus 1:16, 22 NKJV

(16)  and he said, “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live…..  (22)  So Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive.”

[ix] John 18:31-32 NKJV

(31)  Then Pilate said to them, “You take Him and judge Him according to your law.” Therefore the Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,”

(32)  that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die.

18:31-32              PROPHECY FULFILLED

•             Two prophecies are fulfilled in Christ’s death at the hands of the Romans.

I.             The first involves the timing related to the coming of the Messiah [regarding which, I just saw an ad for a book by popular Pastor John Hagee in which he denies that Jesus came to be the Messiah, the book proves, “that Jesus did not come to earth to be the Messiah” (39 sec. mark  Yeah, right.  And anyone who believes that, I have a bridge for sale in Boston].  Regarding the timing is this prophecy from Genesis.

•             Genesis 49:10

•             (10)  The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; ….

•             The “scepter” which is symbolic of ruling authority came to Judah in the time of King David and there it remained in one form or another throughout the kingdom years, the Babylonian exile – even those remaining behind were governed by their fellow Judahites – through the post-exile years until 6AD when Judah went from being an “independent associate kingdom” subject to Rome, to becoming a Roman province governed by a Roman Procurator or Governor according to Roman Law.  Judah thus lost the right to inflict capital punishment without prior approval from the Roman governor “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.”

•             Thus, the first prophecy of Genesis 49:10 limits the timing of the first Advent of the Messiah to a date prior to 6AD.  Jesus was born in 6-4BC.

•             The Second prophecy, related to the first was told by Jesus of how He would be killed by being crucified cf. John 8:18; 12:32-33.  This form of execution, while having its origins in the Persian practice of nailing or otherwise fastening the victim to a wagon wheel and torturing them to death, was taken and refined by the Romans into the form then practiced of lifting up the victim, fastened to an upright post (generally capped with a cross-piece in the form of a T or a t hence the term “cross”) where they were left to die.

•             Jesus’ “prophecy” spoken to the Disciples was not so much an original prophetic statement, but a reiteration of what He had revealed centuries earlier to King David. Compare Psalm 22, esp. vv14-18, and Isaiah 53, esp. vv.5-12 where death by [Roman style] crucifixion is described.

•             Just as prophesied a 1000 years earlier and again during His ministry, Jesus was “lifted up.”

[x] Robinson’s Word Pictures Entry

Matthew 2:16

Slew all the male children that were in Bethlehem (aneilen pantas tous paidas tous en Bēthleem). The flight of Joseph was justified, for Herod was violently enraged (ethumōthē lian) that he had been mocked by the Magi, deluded in fact (enepaichthē). Vulgate illusus esset. Herod did not know, of course, how old the child was, but he took no chances and included all the little boys (tous paidas, masculine article) in Bethlehem two years old and under, perhaps fifteen or twenty. It is no surprise that Josephus makes no note of this small item in Herod’s chamber of horrors. It was another fulfilment of the prophecy in Jer_31:15. The quotation (Mat_2:18) seems to be from the Septuagint. It was originally written of the Babylonian captivity but it has a striking illustration in this case also. Macrobius (Sat. II. iv. II) notes that Augustus said that it was better to be Herod’s sow (hus) than his son (huios), for the sow had a better chance of life.

[xi] Jeremiah 31:15

(15)  Thus says the LORD: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.”

[xii] Note to Matthew 1:1


● Matthew’s apparent purpose in writing his gospel appears to be to reach the Jews. To show them Jesus as the prophesied Messiah, King of Scripture. This would account for his emphasis, from the start, on Jesus’ descent from the Patriarch Abraham and King David. There is also, his heavy emphasis on fulfilled prophecies. Matthew refers to and cites more Old Testament Scriptures than any of the other Gospel writers.

● Author Tom Schaff believes that the generally accepted view (above) is in error. He suggests the following alternative:

○ Matthew’s early reference to Jesus as being the Son of David and the son of Abraham are simply to establish His bona fides as the legitimate heir to the throne of God’s people and the one through whom the blessing promised to all the world through Abraham’s seed came.

○ Matthew’s heavy use of O.T. Scripture may have merely been an attempt to educate Gentile readers to the fact that this same Jesus is the One of whom the Scriptures spoke. As Schaff points out, Paul’s epistle to the Romans is full of O.T. Scripture quotations and references yet it was not addressed to Jewish believers but Gentile. All the Gospels record Jesus going almost exclusively to the Jews and only on a few occasions being involved with Gentiles. Additionally, the entire Gospel, as contained in both the Old and New Testament Scriptures, is for all people.

○ Matthew’s (need for) explaining the meaning of Hebrew words argues against a primary emphasis on the Jews (cf. Matthew 1:23; Matthew 27:33, 46).

○ The Bible itself says no such thing as that the Gospel of Matthew is or was intended primarily for Jewish readers. Therefore, as Schaff points out, any such conclusion is “a pointless exercise in conjecture.” Further, he writes, and I must agree, “we cannot say as fact things upon which the Bible is silent.”

[xiii] Deuteronomy 33:16 KJV+

(16)  And for the precious thingsH4480 H4022 of the earthH776 and fulnessH4393 thereof, and for the good willH7522 of him that dweltH7931 in the bush:H5572 let the blessing comeH935 upon the headH7218 of Joseph,H3130 and upon the top of the headH6936 of him that was separatedH5139 from his brethren.H251

“Separated” H5129 – נזר  /  נזיר

nâzı̂yr  /  nâzir

Total KJV Occurrences: 18

nazarite, 9

Num_6:2, Num_6:13, Num_6:18-21 (4), Jdg_13:5, Jdg_13:7, Jdg_16:17

nazarites, 3

Lam_4:7, Amo_2:11-12 (2)

undressed, 2

Lev_25:5, Lev_25:11

vine, 2

Lev_25:5, Lev_25:11

separate, 1


separated, 1


[xiv] John 7:5 NKJV

(5)  For even His brothers did not believe in Him.

[xv] Genesis 42:6 NKJV

(6)  Now Joseph was governor over the land; and it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down before him with their faces to the earth.

Chapter 2 of Matthew’s Gospel can be read by following this link:


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