“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,”
King James Version (KJV)
2:1 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 east.
Mt 2:1 The Wise Men and the Flight into Egypt SUMMARY OF MATTHEW 2. The Wise Men. The Star in the East. The King of the Jews. Herod and Jerusalem Troubled. Christ to be Born in Bethlehem. Herod's Demand of the Wise Men. The Star Over the Young Child. Gifts Laid at His Feet. Joseph Warned in a Dream. Flight into Egypt. The Massacre of the Children. Rachel Weeping. Joseph Called to Return. The Home in Galilee. The City of Nazareth, When Jesus was born. Though the home of Joseph and Mary was Nazareth, prophecy had declared that Christ should be born at Bethlehem, the native place of David; and this was accomplished by the agency of the Roman emperor. See PNT "Lu 2:1". The pride of the Jews in their genealogies would lead them to the head cities of their families; thus, Mary traversed with her husband the length of the land, from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the city of David, to whose house they both belonged. In Bethlehem of Judaea. Bethlehem was one of the oldest places in the land of Judea, and had been in existence at least 1,500 years before the Savior was born. It was the scene of events so touchingly related in the Book of Ruth. It was known as the city of David, because it was his birthplace. The little town has an imposing aspect and commanding site. It stands on the summit of a narrow ridge, which projects eastward from the central mountain chain of Judah. It is about six miles south of Jerusalem, on the road toward Hebron. It contains at the present time about four thousand inhabitants, chiefly Christians of the Greek Church, who obtain much of their sustenance from the sale of relics to pilgrims and visitors. In the days of Herod the king. This statement gives data for ascertaining the time of the birth of Jesus. It is conceded that it took place in the last year of Herod's reign. But it is known that Herod died about three years before the first year of our era. Therefore, if the Savior was born "in the days of king Herod", he must have been about four years earlier than the date assigned. Herod was only partly of Jewish blood, was a man of most bloody and unscrupulous character, a great tyrant, the murderer of even his own wife and sons. Seven of the Herods are named in the New Testament. (1) "Herod the king", here named, called by Josephus Herod the Great, the first of the Herodian kings, a man of great force of character, but a bloody tyrant. He held his royal authority by the appointment of the Romans. (2) Herod Archelaus, his son and successor in Judea (Mt 2:22). The Romans deposed him and appointed a Roman governor in his stead. (3) Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee, who slew John the Baptist (Mt 14:1). Also a son of Herod the Great. (4) Herod Philip, a third son, the lawful husband of Herodias (Mt 14:3). (5) Another son, also named Herod Philip. He is only referred to in the New Testament in Lu 3:1 (6) Herod Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great, named in Ac 12:1-3,23. (7) Herod Agrippa, the son of the last, the King Agrippa before whom Paul made his famous defense (Ac 25:13,23 26:27). There came wise men from the east. The word rendered "wise men" is more correctly "Magi", a term which designates an order of priests and philosophers which belonged originally to Persia and Media, and who were extensively distributed over the region of the Euphrates. Those described in the book of Daniel as wise men, astrologers and magicians, belonged to this order. We can only conjecture where these "wise men" came from, but the probability is that they journeyed from the valley of the Euphrates.