Matthew 2:10-11. When they saw the star Thus standing over where the child was, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy The original expression, εχαρησαν χαραν μεγαλην σφοδρα , is remarkably emphatical, and might be rendered, They joyed a great joy, very much, a translation which, though very bad English, as Dr. Doddridge observes, comes near to a literal version. They thus rejoiced because they were now confirmed in the certainty of the child’s being born, and also because they saw themselves in so remarkable a manner under the divine direction, and conducted with such certainty to the glorious person whom they came to seek. And when they were come into the house Mary, it seems, was now better accommodated than at the time of her delivery: she was now in a house, (though probably a poor one,) and not in a stable. Some think that Joseph had now changed the place of his abode, and taken up his residence at Bethlehem, but this is not clear from the story. They saw the young child with Mary his mother And how different soever the condition in which they found them might be from what they had expected, they were not offended at its meanness, but, falling down on their faces before him, they worshipped him That is, they did him honour after the manner of the East, whose inhabitants were wont to prostrate themselves before their kings. They wisely considered, that such miraculous honours as the star gave him were far beyond any external circumstance, and therefore paid him, though a child in a poor cottage, without attendants, or any mark of royal descent, their homage, as readily as if they had found him in the most splendid palace, surrounded with servants and guards. “An amiable example this, of that humble, ingenuous temper, which fits a man for the reception of the gospel!” And when they had opened their treasures Which they had brought along with them for this purpose, they presented to him gifts It was customary in those countries for persons to offer some present to any illustrious personage whom they came to visit, as appears from many passages of the Old Testament; and Maundrell, Chardin, and many other modern writers of the best credit assure us, that the custom is yet retained, and that no person of rank is approached without a present. In this instance the gifts, consisting of the most valuable productions of their country, constituted a present very proper to the occasion. Perhaps this was all that these wise men intended by their offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; and that there is no need to have recourse to allegory. “Nevertheless, if we will have it,” says Grotius,
“that the Divine Wisdom intended something mysterious here, it would not displease me to hear it intimated, that those three things, which we now offer to God through Christ, in consequence of the abolition of the ancient sacrifices, may be signified by these gifts, viz., works of mercy, Philippians 4:18; bodily purity, Romans 12:1; and prayers, Psalms 141:2; Revelation 5:8. The two texts last quoted manifestly show that prayers may be signified by frankincense; gold is, as it were, the common measure of the good things of this life, wherewith we relieve the wants of others. And, as we learn from Pliny, and St. John 19:39, there is hardly any other use of myrrh than to preserve bodies from corruption.” But if we may believe the ancient fathers, the wise men, by these gifts which they offered, showed who he was that was worshipped by them; offering myrrh, says Irenæus, because he was to die for mankind; gold, because he was a king, whose kingdom should have no end; thus, as it were, paying him tribute; and frankincense, because he was God, and God was wont to be honoured with the smoke of incense. To the same purpose speak Tertullian and Origen. Perhaps, however, there is more of fancy than truth in this doctrine. Be this as it may, we cannot but acknowledge the providence of God in sending the holy family such a seasonable supply in their low circumstances, especially as they were to take so long and expensive a journey as that into Egypt; a country where they were entirely strangers, and were to stay for a considerable time.
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