Today: [Matthew 2] Astrologers, Angels and Bible Contradictions: In chapter 2 of Matthew we find many references that challenge and mystify us regarding the events relating to the birth of Jesus. There are astrologers from the east who come to find Jesus. Does that mean astrology is an approved method of spiritual inquiry? There are angel visitations and dreams as well in this chapter. Does God still speak this way today? Finally, there are quotes alleged to be found in the prophets that in fact are nowhere to be discovered. Is there a hidden book that Matthew knew about that we do not?
[Mat 2:1-23 KJV] 1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard [these things], he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, [in] the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found [him], bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. 9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
Chapter 2 recounts the narrative surrounding the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem of Judea during the reign of Herod the Great. There is some indication that Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem for longer than just a few days before fleeing the wrath of Herod into the land of Egypt. Verse 11 speaks of the wise men in this case coming into a house to see Jesus as a “young child” and not a mere infant, to give him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We might ask who are these wise men?
There are many legends relating to who these men were and what their involvement was with Jesus even beyond the events of His birth. Traditions hold that they were followers of a religion harking back to the time of Daniel, whose practitioners studied a form of star gazing to ascertain world events, which led them to identify and follow the sign of a particular star configuration to Bethlehem to seek Jesus out. The consulting of the heavens is not an entirely corrupt form, as Gen. 1:14 tells us that God put the stars in the heavens for signs and for seasons, to speak to ancient man about the plan of God in the earth.
What was the star in the heaven that the wise men discovered and followed to identify the son of God? Modern scholars scoff at the story of this celestial event, while others suggest it was an alignment of Jupiter and Venus, or a supernova, or even a comet. There has been much debate about these things, as scientists, scholars and theologians have used various signs in the heavens, alignments, comet and other things known to have occurred in this time frame to fix the exact time of Jesus’ birth. Suffice to say that these ancient astrologers followed some arcane discipline that led them to the city of Bethlehem as the passage states for the express purpose of paying homage to the young child Jesus.
The arrival of these wise men apparently was not in secret because it was known in the city of Jerusalem and by king Herod himself that these things were taking place. Herod was a half Jewish, appointed procurator over Judea who hoped in his lifetime to be accepted by the Jews as their king, therefore was keenly interested in suppressing any idea of the coming of a Messianic savior. Upon hearing of the coming of the magi, Herod convenes a counsel of the chief priests and the scribes, inquiring of them when and where the scriptures and the prophets suggested that Christ would be born. While Herod was not respected by the Jewish elite, he was nonetheless feared, therefore they consulted with him, informing him that according to scriptural promise, the Messiah would be born in the city of Bethlehem.
Upon confirming that the birth of the Savior would indeed be in the city of Bethlehem, Herod commands an audience with the wise men themselves, seeking to convince them that he too was a sincere seeker, asking them to confirm their findings, and to bring him word concerning the young child they expected to find in the city of Bethlehem. When the magi arrived at where Jesus and his family could be found, there was apparently something they expected to see from that vantage point in the heavens, because v. 10 speaks of them seeing the star after arriving at the home of Joseph and Mary. That would indicate there was a two part sign then, one that led them to the city of Bethlehem itself and a second confirming sign in the heavens that apparently they expected to see and did in fact see upon coming to Jesus and meeting his family personally.
The wise men upon laying eyes upon Jesus, worshipped him and laid gifts at his feet. The gold, frankincense and myrrh were very symbolic in nature. The gold speaks of the wisdom of God that was found personified in Christ. The frankincense represented the righteousness of Christ, as the sinless savior coming to pay for our sins. The myrrh was very aromatic, speaking to us of the presence of God that rested upon Jesus from His birth, and that rests upon those who follow Him in the new birth, giving testament to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Having beheld Jesus, and bestowed their gifts to Him, the wise men returned to the east, having been warned of God in a dream concerning Herod, and his plans to harm them and to harm the child Jesus. Thus we see up to this point, angelic visitations, dreams, and astrological phenomena surrounding the life of Jesus, and confirming the unique aspects of the place and timing of His birth.
Our take away from these things should be the realization that while God indeed speaks from His infallible word, He also speaks through subjective means as dreams and spiritual visitations, that we should realize can and do happen, and not be dismissive of them when we experience such things ourselves. God is still speaking in dreams, angel visitations are still taking place, while despite loud protests to the opposite, there is absolutely no scripture pointing to the caseation of such things in the church age that we are a part of.
13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping [for] her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. 19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life. 21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
An angel again speaks to Joseph, not be waking appearance, but in a dream, instructing him to take his family and flee to Egypt. He is further instructed to stay there until this same angel, through another dream to be expected would come to Joseph to tell him when they should return into their home lands. Since Joseph did at some point bring Mary and young Jesus back to Judea, we know this visitation took place, although we are given no accounting of it in the scriptures. The sojourning of Jesus in Egypt in verse 15 is spoken of as fulfillment of prophecy, specifically in Hosea 11:1 that “out of Egypt” God would call His son. Now, a Jewish reading of this passage would say it only refers to the Israelites being brought out of Egypt by Moses, but letting scripture, interpret scripture we see it has a deeper meaning that should begin to give us, in our reading of the New Testament access to a deeper layer of prophetic meaning in the Old Testament scriptures, as they point not only to events surrounding the Israelites, but to the coming of the Messiah and the commencement of the Church age.
After Herod is informed of the departure of the wise men, and realizing that his hope of capturing this sacred child is lost, he orders all children under the age of two years old to be slain by his soldiers. This is fulfilment of a prediction found in Jeremiah 31:15 that there would be a sound of morning coming from this area, of mothers weeping for their children that were taken from them.
After this terrible act, it is not long before Herod himself dies and history tells us that his kingdom was divided between his three sons, Archelaus, Philip, and Trachonitis. Archelaus, was very cruel and evil, and reigned until Jesus was around 6 years old, after which upon hearing that he had been deposed by the Romans, Joseph returns to Judea, no doubt being instructed by the angels who appeared to him at the first, but not going back to Bethlehem, but turning aside to the city of Nazareth, in Galilee.
The locating of the holy family in Nazareth was also claimed in verse 23 is the fulfilling of scripture, that the Messiah would be called “a Nazarene”. Where is that found in the Old Testament? The fact of the matter is that there does not appear to be a prophecy in the Old Testament canon stating that Jesus would be called a Nazarene. For this reason, scholars cited Matthew 2:23 as an inconsistency in scripture because of this missing reference. Is this a contradiction? Not necessarily, because those living in Nazareth were universally considered to be those that were low born, insignificant and to be despised. It was a generally known saying at the time “can anything good come out of Galilee”. In fact, the Romans kept a garrison at Nazareth because it was a known hiding place for brigands, rebels, thieves and criminals. While the reference to Jesus being a “Nazarene” is not expressly found in the Old Testament, there are many references to be found regarding the lowly birth and early life of the young Jesus. Another understanding of this reference to Jesus being a Nazarene is found in Isa. 53:2
[Isa 53:1-2 KJV] 1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, [there is] no beauty that we should desire him.
Verse 2 of Isa. 53 says that the Messiah would grow up as a “tender plant” or “tender shoot” before the Lord. The word for this in the original Hebrew is “nasir” – that the Messiah would grow up as a “nasir” or tender shoot before the Lord. This then, would indicate that Matthew was not doing a surface reading of scripture relating to the Messiah but was actually identifying Jesus, and the circumstances of His birth through a revelatory inquiry and words search of the scriptures, deeper than scholars even today think of as a legitimate means of studying the bible.
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