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Verse 16

Matthew 2:16. Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men The word ενεπαιχθη , here rendered, was mocked, “properly signifies was played with, and well expresses the view in which the pride of Herod taught him to regard this action, as if it were intended to expose him to the derision of his subjects, and to treat him as a child, rather than as a prince of so great experience and renown.” Dr. Campbell reads, deceived, observing, that, “in the Jewish style, any treatment which appeared disrespectful, came under the general appellation of mockery. Thus, Potiphar’s wife, in the false accusation she preferred against Joseph, of making an attempt upon her chastity, says, that he came in to mock her, Genesis 39:17;” where the same word is employed by the LXX. which is here used. “Balaam accused his ass of mocking him, when she would not yield to his direction, Numbers 22:29. And Delilah said to Samson, Judges 16:10, Thou hast mocked (i.e., deceived) me, and told me lies. As one who deceived them appeared to treat them contemptuously, they were naturally led to express the former by the latter.” Was exceeding wroth Very highly incensed and enraged; and in order to make the destruction of this unknown infant as pure as possible, sent forth Not immediately, it seems, but a little time after the departure of the wise men, a party of soldiers, and slew all the children The male children, as τους παιδας properly signifies. From two years old and under Or, as the words απο διετους και κατωτερω are rendered by the last-mentioned writer, From those entering the second year, down to the time whereof he had procured exact information from the magians. “There can be no doubt,” as the doctor observes, “that in this direction, Herod intended to specify both the age above which and the age under which infants were not to be involved in this massacre. But there is some scope for inquiry into the import of the description given. Were those of the second year included or excluded by it? By the common translation they are included, by the other excluded. Plausible things may be advanced on each side.” Dr. Campbell, however, for divers reasons, which he assigns, adopts the latter, and thinks that the import of the direction was, “that they should kill none above twelve months old, or under six.” It is probable that Herod, in his passion, ordered the slaughter of the infants as soon as he perceived that he was disappointed in his expectation of the return of the wise men, lest otherwise the child he was so jealous of should be removed. Some have inferred from hence, that it was not till some considerable time after the birth of Christ, that he was visited by the wise men. But there is little account to be given of the actions of a tyrant who slew three of his own sons, and who, it is reasonable to suppose, would wish to make sure work in this case, and therefore would, no doubt, extend the slaughter to those born before the first appearance of the star, thinking, perhaps, that it might not appear immediately upon the conception or birth of the child, but some time after. Accordingly, though the scribes told him the child was to be born in Bethlehem, he is not content to slay the infants there, but added thereto the slaughter of those in all the coasts. Who can avoid reflecting here on the horrible wickedness manifested in slaying these infants, who could neither hurt others nor defend themselves, and whom the king, as the guardian of the laws, was bound to have defended against the injuries of all lawless persons? But the wrath of wicked princes is usually extravagant and destructive. Thus Saul, when David had escaped, not only commanded Abimelech, with eighty-five priests, to be slaughtered, but also all the people of the city, not excepting even the women and children. This action of Herod was no less impious than unjust and cruel; for, to endeavour to make void the counsel of the Almighty God, declared by prophecies, by the appearance of a star, and by the consent of scribes and priests; what was it else but directly and designedly to oppose and fight against God? What cause we have to be “thankful that we are not under the arbitrary power of a tyrant, whose sallies of distracted fury might spread desolation through houses and provinces. Let us not say, Where was the great Regent of the universe when such horrible butchery was transacted? His all-wise counsels knew how to bring good out of all the evil of it. The agony of a few moments transmitted these oppressed innocents to peace and joy, while the impotent rage of Herod only heaped on his own head guilt, infamy, and horror.” Doddridge.

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