John Wesley's notes
on the Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12
1 Bethlehem of Judea - There was another Bethlehem in
the tribe of Zebulon. In the days of Herod - commonly called Herod the
Great, born at Ascalon. The sceptre was now on the point of departing from
Judah. Among his sons were Archelaus, mentioned Mt 2:22; Herod Antipas,
mentioned Mt 14:1; &c., and Philip, mentioned Luke 3:19. Herod Agrippa,
mentioned Acts 12:1; &c., was his grandson. Wise men - The first fruits
of the Gentiles. Probably they were Gentile philosophers, who, through
the Divine assistance, had improved their knowledge of nature, as a means
of leading to the knowledge of the one true God. Nor is it unreasonable
to suppose, that God had favoured them with some extraordinary revelations
of himself, as he did Melchisedec, Job, and several others, who were not
of the family of Abraham; to which he never intended absolutely to confine
his favours. The title given them in the original was anciently given to
all philosophers, or men of learning; those particularly who were curious
in examining the works of nature, and observing the motions of the heavenly
bodies. From the east - So Arabia is frequently called in Scripture. It
lay to the east of Judea, and was famous for gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
We have seen his star - Undoubtedly they had before heard Balaam's prophecy.
And probably when they saw this unusual star, it was revealed to them that
this prophecy was fulfilled. In the east - That is, while we were in the
2 To do him homage - To pay him that honour, by bowing to the
earth before him, which the eastern nations used to pay to their monarchs.
4 The chief priests - That is, not only the high priest and his
deputy, with those who formerly had borne that office: but also the chief
man in each of those twenty - four courses, into which the body of priests
were divided, 1Chron 24:6 - 19. The scribes were those whose peculiar business
it was to explain the Scriptures to the people. They were the public preachers,
or expounders of the law of Moses. Whence the chief of them were called
doctors of the law.
6 Thou art in nowise the least among the princes of Judah - That
is, among the cities belonging to the princes or heads of thousands in
Judah. When this and several other quotations from the Old Testament are
compared with the original, it plainly appears, the apostles did not always
think it necessary exactly to transcribe the passages they cited, but contented
themselves with giving the general sense, though with some diversity of
language. The words of Micah, which we render, Though thou be little, may
be rendered, Art thou little? And then the difference which seems to be
here between the prophet and the evangelist vanishes away. Micah 5:2.
8 And if ye find him, bring me word - Probably Herod did not believe
he was born; otherwise would not so suspicious a prince have tried to make
sure work at once?
10 Seeing the star - Standing over where the child was.
11 They presented to him gifts - It was customary to offer some
present to any eminent person whom they visited. And so it is, as travellers
observe, in the eastern countries to this day. Gold, frankincense, and
myrrh - Probably these were the best things their country afforded; and
the presents ordinarily made to great persons. This was a most seasonable,
providential assistance for a long and expensive journey into Egypt, a
country where they were entirely strangers, and were to stay for a considerable