« PreviousContinue »
pagans who wrote against christianity. The tables here are good evidence to the only point that the writers wished to establish: that is, to show to the Jews that Jesus of Nazareth was descended from David. And all that can be asked now is, whether they copied the tables of those families correctly. It is clear that no one can prove that they did not so copy them.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.
17. This division of the names in their genealogy was doubtless adopted for the purpose of aiding the memory. It was common among the Jews, and other similar instances are preserved. There were three leading persons and events that nearly, or quite divided their history into equal portions: Abraham, David, and the captivity. From one to the other was about fourteen generations, and, by omitting a few names, it was sufficiently accurate to be made a general guide or directory in remembering their history, Carrying away into Babylon.? This refers to the captivity of Jerusalem, and the removal of the Jews to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, 588 years before Christ. See 2 Chron. xxxvi.
18 | Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 18. 'On this wise.' Thus.
In this manner.
' Espoused. Betrothed, or engaged to be married. There was commonly an interval of ten or twelve months among the Jews between the contract of marriage and the celebration of the nuptials. See Gen. xxiv. 55. Judges xiv. 8. Yet such was the nature of this engagement, that unfaithfulness to each other was deemed adul. tery. See Deut. xxii. 25. 28. ' With child by the Holy Ghost.' See Note, Luke i. 35.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
19. “Her husband.' The word in the original does not imply that they were married. It means here the man to whom she was espoused. 'A just man. It means that he was kind, tender, mercifùl; so attached to Mary, that he was not willing that she should be exposed to public shame. He sought, therefore, secretly to dissolve the connexion without the punishment
commonly inflicted for adultery. The word 'just has not unfrequently this meaning of mildness, or mercy. See 1 John i. 9. 'A public example.'. To expose her to public shame or infamy. Put her away privately. The law of Moses gave the husband the power of divorce, Deut xxiv. 1. We may remark here, on the greatness of this trial to botn Mary and Joseph. Joseph was attached to her, but Joseph was not yet satisfied of her innocence. We may learn how to put our trust in God. He will defend the innocent. God had so ordered it that she was betrothed to a man mild, amiable, and tender; and, in due time, Joseph was apprized of the truth in the case, and took his faithful and beloved wife to his bosom. Thus our only aim should be to preserve a conscience void of offence; and God will guard our reputation. We may be assailed, or appearances may be against us; but in due time God will take care to vindicate our character, and save us from ruin.
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
20. ' He thought on these things.' He did not act hastily. It was a case deeply affecting his happiness, his character, and the reputation and character of his chosen companion. God wilt guide the thoughtful and the anxious. And when we have looked patiently at a perplexing subject, and know not what to do, then God, as in the case of Joseph, will direct our way, Psa. xxv. 9.
The angel of the Lord.' The word angel literally means a messenger. It is applied chiefly in the scriptures to those invisible holy beings who have not fallen into sin, who live in heaven, 1 Tim. v. 21; compare Jude 6 ; and who are sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation, Heb. i. 13, 14. Dan. ix. 21. Various ways were employed by them in making known the will of God—by dreams, visions, assuming a human appear
'In a dream. This was a common way of making known the will of God to the ancient prophets and people of God, Gen. xx.3; xxxvii. 5; xli. 1. 1 Kings iii. 5. Dan. vii. 1. Job iv. 13–15. In what way it was ascertained that these dreams were from God, cannot now be told. It is sufficient for us to know that in this way many of the prophecies were communicated;
and to remark that now there is no evidence that we are to put reliance on our dreams. 'Fear not. Do not hesitate, or have fears about her virtue and purity. Do not fear that she will be unworthy of you, or will disgrace you.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.
21. His name Jesus.' The name Jesus is the same as Saviour. It is derived from the verb signifying to save. In Hebrew it is the same as Joshua. It was a very common name among the Jews. ' He shall save.' This expresses the same as the uame, and on this account the name was given to him. He saves men by having died to redeem them; by giving the Spirit to renew them, John xvi. 7, 8; by his power in enabling them to overcome their spiritual enemies; in defending them from danger; in guiding them in the path of duty; in sustaining them in trials and in death; and he will raise them up at the last day, and exalt them to a world of purity and love. • His people. Those whom the Father has given to him. The Jews were called the people of God, because he had chosen them to himself, and regarded them as his peculiar and beloved people, separate from all the nations of the earth. Christians are called the people of Christ, because it was the purpose of the Father to give them to him, Isa. liii. 11. John vi. 37; and because in due time he came to redeem them to himself, Titus ii. 14. 1 Peter i. 2. . From their sins. This is the great business of Jesus in coming and dying. It is not to save men in their sins, but from their sins. Sinners could not be happy in heaven. It would be a place of wretchedness to the guilty. The design of Jesus was, therefore, to save from sin; hy dying to make an atonement, Titus ii. 14, and by renewing the heart, and purifying the soul, and preparing his people for a pure and holy heaven. And from this we may learn : 1. That Jesus had a design in coming into the world; he came to save his people; and that design will surely be accomplished. 2. We have no evidence that we are his people, unless we are saved from the power and dominion of sin. "A mere profession of being his people will not answer. It is impossible that we can be christians, if we indulge in sin, and live in the practice of any known iniquity. 3. That all professing christians might feel, that there is no salvation unless it is from sin, and that they can never be admitted to a holy heaven hereafter, unless they are made pure by the blood of Jesus here.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
22, 23. The prophecy here quoted is recorded in Isa. vii. 14. It was delivered about 740 years before Christ, in the reign of Ahaz, king of Judah. It implies that the conception of Christ was entirely miraculous, or that the body of the Messiah was created directly by the power of God, agreeably to the declaration in Heb.x. 5. Einmanuel.' This is a Hebrew word, and means
literally, God with us. Matthew doubtless understood this word as denoting that the Messiah was really ‘God with us,' or that the Divine nature was united to the human. But this was its meaning as applicable to the Messiah. It was fitly expressive of his character; and in this sense it was fulfilled. Matthew had just given an account of his miraculous conception; of his being begotten by the Holy Ghost. God was therefore his Father. He was Divine as well as human. His appropriate name was 'God with us.' And though the mere use of such a name as was common in the Old Testament, would not prove that he had a Divine nature, as it did no in the case of Isaiah, yet as Matthew uses it, and meant evidently to apply it, it does prove that Jesus was more than a man ; that he was God as well as
And it is this which gives glory to the plan of redemption. It is this which is the wonder of angels. It is this which makes the plan so vast, so grand, so full of instruction and comfort to christians. See Phil. ii. 6–8. It is this which sheds such
peace and joy into the sinner's heart; which removes the sense of sin; and saves from death ; and renders the condescension of God in redemption so great, and his character so lovely.
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son : and he called his name Jesus.
25. The scriptures do not affirm that she had no children afterwards. The accounts in the New Testament lead us to sup. pose that she had. See Matt. xiii. 55, 56. Her first-born son.' Her eldest son, or he that by the law had the privilege of birthright. It was the name given to the son first born, whether there were others or not. ' His name Jesus. This was given by Divine appointment, v. 21. It was conferred on him on the eighth day, at the time of his circumcision, Luke ii. 21.
CHAPTER II. I NOW when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.
1. See the full account of his birth in Luke ii. 1–20. Bethlehem, the birth-place of Christ, was a small town about six miles southwest of Jerusalem. The word 'Bethlehem', denotes' house of bread, perhaps given to the place on account of its great fertility. It was also called Ephrata, a word supposed likewise to signify fertility, Gen. xxxv. 19. Ruth iv. 11. Psalm cxxxii. 6. It was called the city of David, Luke ii. 4, because it was the city of his nativity, 1 Sam. xvi. í, 18. It was called “ Bethlehem of Judea,' to distinguish it from a town of the same name in Galilee, Josh. xix. 15. The town is situated on an eminence, in the midst of hills and vales. At present it contains about 200 houses. 'Herod the king.' Judea, where our Saviour was born, was a province of the Roman empire. It was, about 63 years before, placed under tribute by Pompey. Herod received his appointment from the Romans, and had reigned at the time of the birth of Jesus 34 years. Though he was permitted to be called king, yet he was in all respects dependent on the Roman emperor. At this time, Augustus was emperor of Rome. The world was at peace. All the known nations of the earth were united under the Roman emperor. Intercourse between different nations was easy and safe. Similar laws prevailed. The use of one language, the Greek, was general throughout the world. The providence of God was remarkable in fitting the nations, in this manner, for the easy and rapid spread of the christian religion among all nations.
The persons here mentioned were philosophers, priests, or astronomers. They dwelt chiefly in Persia and Arabia. They were the learned men of the eastern nations. They were held in high esteem, were admitted as counsellors, and followed the camps in war to give advice. From the east.' It is unknown whether they came from Persia or Arabia. Both countries might be denoted by the word 'east—that is, east from Judea.
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.
2. There was, at this time, a prevalent expectation that some remarkable personage was about to appear in Judea. The Jews were anxiously looking for the coming of the Messiah. By computing the time mentioned by Daniel, chap. ix. 25—27, they knew that the period was approaching when the Messiah should appear.
This personage, they supposed, would be a temporal prince, and they were expecting that he would deliver them from Roman bondage. Many Jews, at that time, dwelt in Egypt, in Rome, and in Greece; many also had gone to eastern countries, and every place they carried their scriptures, and diffused the expectation that some remarkable person was about to appear.
His star. A star or comet was regarded as an omen of some remarkable event. These wise men considered this as an evidence that the long expected Prince was born. It is possible that they had been led to this thought by the prophecy of Balaam, Numb. xxiv. 17, There shall come a star out of Jacob, &c. What this star was, is not known. It is most probable that it was a luminous appearance, or meteor.
It is possible that the same thing is meant which is mentioned by Luke ii. 9, The glory of the Lord shone round about them,' (see note on this place, a great splendid light appeared shining around