Matthew 2:9. When they had heard the king, they departed Viz., from Jerusalem, without the least suspicion, it seems, of his treacherous and cruel designs. As these sages came from a distant country into Judea upon such an important discovery, and Bethlehem was so near, it is matter of wonder that none of the Jews attended them on their journey. But it is probable they were afraid of Herod. Or, perhaps, the dismission of the wise men might be kept a secret in Jerusalem; so that if any of the Jews had had an inclination to have gone with them, they might not have had an opportunity. And Herod might avoid sending any one with them, lest he should raise suspicion in the minds of the parents or relations of the child; or lest the Jews suspecting a plot, should contrive to bring about a revolt, or raise sedition. Or rather, the whole matter is to be referred to the providence of God, so ordering it that they should go unaccompanied, that the child might not be discovered to Herod. The Lord, however, prepared these illustrious strangers a better guide. For, lo, the star which they saw in the east In their own country, went before them This intimates that it had not been their guide in their journey from their own country. Nor was it needful they should have a guide, Jerusalem being sufficiently known. It had shone, it seems, on the night of his nativity, and then had disappeared till the present time. By its not appearing for a time, occasion was given for their inquiries at Jerusalem, which gave notice to the Jews of the birth of Christ; an event of which, it is likely, they would have had no information, if the star had led the wise men first to Bethlehem. And the reappearance of the star was probably intended of God to prevent their being discouraged at their not only not finding the king they sought in the royal city, but not being able to learn that any thing was known there concerning his birth, and especially in perceiving that when they had brought intelligence of it, all ranks seemed to be troubled, and not a single person of those whose native king he was offered himself as a companion to them, though come from a foreign land to worship him. Thus, also, their taking offence at the low condition in which they found Christ and his parents, was prevented. At the same time, it was a great confirmation of their faith, to be thus miraculously conducted to the very town pointed out in the Scriptures as the place of the birth of the Messiah. It left them not till it came and stood over where the young child was Thus pointing out the very house, lest if they should have been obliged to make anxious inquiry concerning the child, there should be some who might have carried the matter to Herod, and have discovered him and his parents. Here, therefore, the star stopped, and proceeded no further, and not long after, viz., as soon as the wise men arrived at the place, as is most probable, entirely vanished. Hence it appears, that this star was not in the higher heavens, but in the lower regions of the air; for no star in the heavens could have exactly pointed out a particular house. Nothing is said here concerning a ray descending from the star to the top of the house, or concerning the descent of the body of the star. It is therefore probable it was a meteor, which to them had the appearance of a star, as meteors frequently have. This appears, further, from its moving by intervals, sometimes moving and sometimes standing still, which the stars, properly so called, never do. Dr. Whitby conjectures that what the wise men saw in the east might be that very light which shone upon the shepherds at Bethlehem, when the angel came to impart unto them the tidings of our Saviour’s birth. This light certainly was exceeding great, as is clear from its being styled the glory of the Lord, and it was a light from heaven, hanging over their heads, and shining round about them. Now such a light, at a great distance, would appear as a star: or, as it ascended up from the shepherds it might be formed into the likeness of a star. A similar body of light, when they journeyed from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, was formed into the same likeness in which it had formerly appeared, and went before them in the air to the latter city, and then sunk down so low as to point out the very house where the babe lay. In this case the star must have been seen by the wise men on the very day of Christ’s nativity.
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