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Verse 2

Matthew 2:2. Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews That is, their lawful and hereditary sovereign, Herod not being such. The wise men are under no kind of doubts in their inquiry; but being fully persuaded that he was born, and believing that this was known to all there, they only inquire where he was born. By this inquiry the birth of Christ was more publicly declared to the Jews, and more fully attested; the coming of these grave and understanding persons from a distant country in consequence of what they believed to be supernatural direction, being a very extraordinary occurrence. It is to be observed, that, according to Tacitus and Suetonius, historians of undoubted credit, it was expected through the whole East that about that time a king was to arise in Judea who should rule all the world. What gave birth to that expectation might be this: From the time of the Babylonish captivity, the Jews were dispersed through all the provinces of the Persian monarchy: and that in such numbers, that they were able to gather together and defend themselves against their enemies in those provinces. See Esther 3:8; Esther 8:17; Esther 9:2; Esther 9:16; and many of the people of the land became Jews. After their return into their own land they increased so mightily that they were soon dispersed over Asia, Africa, and many parts of Europe, and, as Josephus assures us, wherever they came they made proselytes to their religion. Now it was one principal article of their faith, and branch of their religion, to believe in and expect the appearance of the promised Messiah. Wherever they came, therefore, they would spread this faith and expectation; so that it is no wonder it became so general. Now these wise men, living at no very great distance from Judea, the seat of this prophecy, and conversing with the Jews among them, who were everywhere expecting the completion of it at that time; being also skilled in astronomy, and seeing this star or light appearing in Judea, might reasonably conjecture that it signified the completion of that celebrated prophecy touching the king of the Jews, over the centre of whose land, they, being in the east, saw it hang. For it is not at all probable that this star appeared to the eastward of them, in which case it would have denoted something among the Indians, or other eastern nations, rather than among the Jews; but that it was seen to the west of themselves, and over the very place where the king was to be born.

We have seen his star Which points him out, and is the token of his nativity. These wise men, learned in astronomy, and curious in marking the rising and setting and other phenomena of the heavenly bodies, observed at this time a star which they had never seen before, and were amazed at it as at a new, portentous appearance which did certainly forebode something of great consequence to the world, and the Jews in particular, over whose country it seemed to hang. But how could they know that this was his star, or that it signified the birth of a king? Many of the ancient fathers answer, that they learned this from the words of Balaam, Numbers 24:17, There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre, &c. And though, it is certain, these words properly speak not of a star that should arise at any prince’s birth, but of a king who should be glorious and resplendent in his dominions, as stars are in the firmament, and should vanquish and possess these nations; yet considering that, according to the hieroglyphics of the East, and the figurative language of prophecy, stars are emblems of princes, it was very natural for them to consider the rising of a new star as foretelling the rise of a new king. And as Balaam’s prophecy signified that the king should arise in Judea, and the new and extraordinary star they had seen appeared over that country, it was quite natural for them to conclude, that the king whose rise was foretold, was now born there. And though we know of no record in which this prophecy was preserved but the books of Moses, yet are we not sure there was no other; nor is it certain the books of Moses were unknown in Arabia. It seems more probable, considering its bordering upon Judea, and David and Solomon’s extending their dominions over, at least, a part of it, as well as from the intercourse the Arabians had with the Jews, certainly greater than the Ethiopians had with them, to whom, nevertheless, it appears from Acts 8:26, &c. that the Old Testament was not unknown; it seems likely, from these considerations, that they were not unacquainted with the divine Oracles, and particularly with this delivered by one of their own country. But if, after all, this should seem improbable, then we need make no scruple at all of believing that they were favoured by a divine revelation touching this matter, by which it is plain they were guided in their return. To worship him Or to do him homage by prostrating ourselves before him, an honour which the Eastern nations were accustomed to pay their monarchs.

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