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A Harmony of the Gospels



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Luke 2:1-7
(1)  And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  (2)  This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.  (3)  So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
     (4)  Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,  (5)  to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.  (6)  So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  (7)  And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Caesar Augustus    Luke 2:1


1. A Roman family name that became a title.
2. In 46 B.C. Gaius Julius Caesar became dictator of Rome, though not quelling all opposition until 44 B.C.
3. They were named according to family, and clan:
Caesar Family name
Julius Clan or House
Gaius Personal name
4. The family name passed to his adopted son and ultimate successor, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (Octavian).
5. The next four Roman Emperors  –  Tiberius,  Gaius (Caligula),  Claudius,  and Nero  – laid claim to the name either on the basis of actual relationship or adoption.
6. The family name thus became so closely associated with the position of Sovereign ruler that,  even after the end of the Caesarean dynasty,  the name was retained as a regal title equivalent to that of  Emperor.
7. The Greek for Caesar is  “Kaisaros”  –  from which came:
Kaiser (German)
Czar (Russian)


1. This is from the Greek  “Augoustou”,  implying Divinity
2. Octavian established his ruler ship over the realm in 31 B.C.,  and in 27 B.C.  the Roman Senate,  becoming known as Caesar Augustus,  accorded him the title of Augustus.
3. Later Roman Emperors assumed the title,  but by itself when used as a name,  it refers to Octavian.
4. The life of Octavian Caesar Augustus

He was born on September 23, 63 B.C.,  the son of Octavius and his wife Atia,  both of noble families.  His father’s death four years later led to Octavian’s secret adoption by his mother’s uncle,  Julius Caesar.  After the death of Julius,  the adoption was made public and young Octavian soon joined a triumvirate with Mark Antony and Lepidus.   These three quickly moved in a ruthless manner to have 300 senators and 2,000 knights assassinated.
They then successfully defeated Caesar’s assassins at Philippi in 42 B.C.,  and Octavian granted citizenship to the people of this city,  Lepidus was sent to Africa,  and Antony made and alliance with Cleopatra,  queen of Egypt.   The strained relations between Octavian and Antony reached a showdown at the battle of Actium,  where Antony and Cleopatra were defeated.  Octavian thus emerged the undisputed ruler of the Roman Empire.
He declined the titles  “king”  and  “dictator”  but accepted the special title  “Augustus.” 
After the death of Lepidus in 12 B.C.,  he assumed the title  “Pontifex Maximus.”

Judea      Luke 2:4

1. A geographical term that first appears in the Bible in Ezra 5:8,  where it designates a province of the Persian Empire.
2. Since most of the exiles who returned from the Babylonian Exile belonged to the kingdom of  Judah
(or had been assimilated into it);  they came to be called Jews and their land Judea.
3. Under the Persian Empire,  Judea was a district administered by a governor who was usually a Jew.
4. With the appointment of Herod the Great,  Judea was reduced to being governed by a mere proselyte.
5. And upon the banishment of  Archelaus  (Herod’s son),  Judea became annexed to the Roman province of Syria.
6. Judea’s governors were then Procurators appointed by the Roman emperor,  and their immediate superior was the Proconsul of Syria, who ruled from Antioch.
7. Geographically,  Judea was about 55 miles N to S,  and the same distance E to W extending from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea,  with its northern boundary at Joppa,  and its southern boundary a few miles south of Gaza and the southern portion of the Dead Sea.
8. Its exact boundary was,  however,  never fixed.

City of David      Luke 2:4

Calling Bethlehem "the city of David" was very significant:

II Chronicles 13:5 Should you not know that the LORD God of Israel gave the dominion over Israel to David forever,  to him and his sons, by a covenant of salt?     (NKJV)
Salt contains both Purifying and Preserving qualities
Salt was to be mixed with all of the Sacrifices and offerings  (Leviticus 2:13)

Bethlehem        Luke 2:4

1. 5 miles south of Jerusalem.
2. 2550 feet above sea level.
3. In the hill country of Judea.
4. On the main highway to Hebron and Egypt.
5. In Jacob’s time it was called Ephrath  (referred to as Bethlehem Ephratah in Micah 5:2),  and was the burial place of Rachel.
6. After the conquest of Canaan it was called Bethlehem-Judah to distinguish it from the Bethlehem 7 miles from Nazareth.
7. It was the home of
Ibzan (the 10th Judge),
Elimelech (father-in-law of Ruth),
Boaz (Ruth’s 2nd husband).
8. Here their great-grandson David kept his father’s sheep and was anointed king by Samuel.
9. It was once occupied by a Philistine garrison,  and later fortified by Rehoboam.
10. In Jeremiah’s time the caravan in of  Chimham near Bethlehem was the usual starting-place for Egypt.
The inn mentioned in Luke 2 was a similar one and may have been the same.
11. Modern Bethlehem is a village of less than 10,000.
12. The slopes abound in figs,  vines,  almonds,  and olives.
13. The shepherds’ fields are still seen to the northeast.

Swaddling Clothes      Luke 2:7

Luke 2:7
When a child among the Hebrews was born,  it was washed in water,  rubbed in salt,  and then wrapped in swaddling clothes;  that is,  not garments regularly made,  as with us,  but bands or blankets that confined the limbs closely  (Ezek 16:4).  There was nothing special in the manner in which the infant Jesus was treated.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

These were bandages that were tightly wrapped around a newborn child.
The rank of the child was indicated by the splendor and costliness of these bands.

A fine white shawl,  tied with a golden band,  was sometimes used;
at other times a small purple scarf,  fastened with a brooch.
The poor used broad fillets of common cloth.

A Miss Rogers,  an English lady,  who had opportunities far beyond ordinary travelers for observing the domestic life of the Eastern people,  describes the appearance of an infant thus bandaged:

“The infant I held in my arms was so bound in swaddling–clothes that it was perfectly firm and solid,  and looked like a mummy.  It had a band under its chin and across its forehead and a little,  quilted silken cap on its head with tiny coins of gold sewed to it.  The outer covering of this little figure was of crimson and white striped silk;  no sign of arms or legs,  hands or feet, could be seen.”
This was in Jaffa.

The child is laid on the cloth diagonally and the corners are folded over the feet and body and under the head, the bandages then being tied so as to hold the cloth in position. This device forms the clothing of the child until it is about a year old, and its omission (Ezek 16:4) would be a token that the child had been abandoned.
(from International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1996 by Biblesoft)

The Inn      Luke 2:7

The khan  (or caravansary)  is a low structure,  built of rough stones,  and generally only a single story in height.
It consists for the most part of a square enclosure,  in which the cattle can be tied up in safety for the night,  and an arched floor of the recess for the accommodation of travelers.

The “leewan,”  or paved floor of the recess,  is raised a foot or two above the level of the courtyard.  A large khan might contain a series of such recesses,  which are,  in fact,  low small rooms with no front wall to them.  They are,  of course,  perfectly public;  everything that takes place in them is visible to every person in the khan.
They are also totally devoid of even the most ordinary furniture.  The traveler may bring his own carpet if he likes,  may sit cross-legged upon it for his meals,  and may lie upon it at night.  As a rule,  too,  he must bring his own food,  attend to his own cattle,  and draw his own water from the neighboring spring.
He would neither expect nor require attendance,  and would pay only the merest trifle for the advantage of shelter,  safety,  and a floor on which to lie.

But if he chanced to arrive late,  and the “leewans”  were all occupied by earlier guests,  he would have no choice but to be content with such accommodation as he could find in the court-yard below,  and secure for himself and his family such small amount of cleanliness and decency as are compatible with an unoccupied corner of the filthy area,  that must be shared with horses,  mules and camels.
The litter,  the closeness,  the unpleasant smell of the crowded animals,  the unwelcome intrusion of pariah dogs,  the necessary society of the very lowest hangers-on of the caravansary,  are adjuncts to such a position that can only be realized by any traveler in the East who happens to have been placed in similar circumstances.

In Palestine it not infrequently happens that the entire khan,  or at any rate the portion of it in which the animals are housed,  is one of those innumerable caves that abound in the limestone rocks of its central hills.

The wisdom of God - in the humility of humanity

Visited by: Shepherds He was: The  LAMB  of God
Born in: Stable
Wrapped in: Swaddling–clothes Portrays:
He was:
the SACRIFICE of God
Laid in: Manger Provided:
He was:
The BREAD of God, providing Eternal Life

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Luke 2:8-20
     (8)  Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  (9)  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  (10)  Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  (11)  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  (12)  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."
     (13)  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
     (14)  "Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"
     (15)   So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us."  (16)  And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.  (17)  Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.  (18)  And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  (19)   But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.  (20)  Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them

There were shepherds - and an angel of the LORD     Luke 2:2 & 9

Luke’s Gospel is the gospel of the poor and lowly.  This revelation to the shepherds acquires additional meaning as we remember that shepherds as a class,  were under the Rabbinic ban,  because of  their necessary isolation from religious ordinances,  and their manner of life,  that rendered strict legal observance impossible.

Guided by the lamp that usually swings from the center of a rope hung across the entrance of the khan,  the shepherds made their way to the inn of  Bethlehem,  and found Mary,  and Joseph,  and the babe lying in the manger. 

The fancy of poet and painter has reveled in the imaginary glories of the scene.
They have sung of the  “bright harnessed angels”  who hovered there,  and of the stars lingering beyond their time to shed their sweet influences upon that smiling infancy.  They have painted the radiation of light from His manger-cradle,  illuminating the entire place till the bystanders are forced to shade their eyes from that heavenly splendor.


Such glories as the simple shepherds saw were seen only by them; and
all that met their gaze (physically) at the manger was a peasant of Galilee, and
a young mother,  of whom they could not know that she was wedded maid and virgin wife,
with an infant child, whom, 
since there were none to help,  her own hands had wrapped in swaddling-clothes.

A Savior     Luke 2:11

Savior soter  (so-tare')   a deliverer
from Strong's NT:4982
(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

Why was a Savior necessary?

Ezekiel 18:4 "The soul that sinneth, it shall die"
Romans 6:32 "The wages of sin is death"

What is sin?

Romans 14:21 Anything that is not of  faith = Sin
James 2:9 Having respect  (showing favoritism)  to persons = Sin
James 4:17 If we know to do good but don't do it = Sin
I John 3:4 Transgression (not obeying) God's law = Sin
I John 5:17 All unrighteousness = Sin

Who is guilty, and needs the Savior?

Romans 3:21 All have sinned
Romans 5:12 All have sinned
I John 1:10 If we  say we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and it is sin
Galatians 3:22 All are under sin

Christ      Luke 2:11

Christ Christos  (khris-tos')     anointed
From Strong's NT:5547

Why did it have to be a man to bring salvation?

I Timothy 2:14 When the first man, Adam, sinned, it was by his choice
I Corinthians 15:21 "For since by MAN came death, by MAN came also the resurrection of the dead."
Man anthropos  (anth'-ro-pos)  man-faced, a human being
from Strong's NT:444
Since sin came deliberately by man, it must be paid for by man.
But not just any man, for sinful man cannot atone sin for another - it had to be a sinless man.

Why could ONE man atone for the sin of the whole world?

Romans 5:12 Death entered by ONE man
Romans 5:15-19 By ONE man the gift of life came to all
Galatians 6:15 Nothing avails but a new creation
II Corinthians 5:17 If anyone is in Christ he is a new creature (creation)
John 3:3 A man must be born again
I Peter 1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible (sinful) seed, but incorruptible (sinless)
Since all humanity is the seed of Adam, and inherited his sin nature,
so all believers are the seed of Christ (being born again, or born from above),
and inherit His perfect nature.
Thus, as we all take part in one man's (Adam) sin,
so, by faith, we can all take part in the righteousness of one Man (Christ Jesus).

the Lord     Luke 2:11


kurios  (koo'-ree-os)  (supremacy);   Supreme in Authority
From Strong's NT:2962

If all have inherited the sin nature from Adam, then where can  salvation come from?

Genesis 1:27 Adam was created in the  Image  & Likeness of God
Genesis 1:31 Adam was created perfect
Ezekiel 22:30 God said:  I looked for a man, but found none
Psalm 98:1, 2 His (God's) right and and holy arm = salvation
Isaiah 59:16 No man, so His arm brought salvation
Isaiah 63:5 No help - Mine (God's) own arm brought salvation

The ultimate aim is to restore man beyond the perfection of  Adam

Matthew 5:48 You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect.    (AMP)
II Corinthians 13:11 Be perfect
Ephesians 4:13 Unto a perfect man
Colossians 1:28 Present every man perfect
James 1:4 Let patience have perfect work - that ye may be perfect
ADAM Sinless because of creation - Sinful because of Choice
JESUS Sinless because of birth - Sinless because of Choice
US Sinful because of birth - Sinless because of Choice

Peace on earth     Luke 2:14

That is,  the gospel will bring peace. The Savior was predicted as the Prince of peace  (Isa 9:6).
The world is at war with God;  sinners are at enmity against their Maker and against each other.
There is no peace to the wicked.
But Jesus came to make peace;  and this he did,

1. By reconciling the world to God by His atonement.
2. By bringing the sinner to a state of peace with his Maker;  inducing him to lay down the weapons of rebellion and to submit his soul to God,  thus giving him the peace which passes all understanding.
3. By diffusing in the heart universal good-will to people - "disposing,"  people to lay aside their differences,  to love one another,  to seek each other's welfare,  and to banish envy,  malice, pride, lust, passion, and covetousness - in all ages the most fruitful causes of difference among people.
4. By diffusing the principles of universal peace among nations.
If the gospel of Jesus should universally prevail,  there would be an end of war.  In the days of the millennium there will be universal peace;  all the causes of war will have ceased;  people will love each other and do justly;  all nations will be brought under the influence of the gospel.  O how should each one toil and pray that the great object of the gospel should be universally accomplished,  and the world be filled with peace!
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

The dealings of God - in the Majesty  of Silence

The inventions of man differ wholly from the dealings of God.
In His designs there is

no haste,
no rest,
no weariness,
no discontinuity
He does all things in the majesty of silence,  and they are seen under a light that shineth quietly in the darkness, “showing all things in the slow history of their ripening.”

The unfathomable depths of the Divine counsels,”  it has been said,  “were moved;  the fountains of the great deep were broken up;  the healing of the nations was issuing forth:  but nothing was seen on the surface of human society but this slight rippling of the waters:  the course of human things went on as usual,  while each was taken up with little projects of his own.”


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Luke 2:21
And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child,  His name was called  JESUS,  the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

When 8 days were accomplished for circumcising

Genesis 17:12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised,  every male child in your generations,  he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant.  (NKJV)

Circumcision was a symbolical and bloody removal of the body of sin  (Col 2:11,13;  cf. Deut 10:16;  Jer 4:4;  Rom 2:29).  But as if to proclaim,  in the very act of performing this rite,  that there was no body of sin to be removed in His case,  but rather that He was the destined Remover of it from others,  in obedience to express command from heaven.  So significant was this,  that His circumciser,  had he been fully aware of what he was doing,  might have said to Him,  as John afterward did,  "I have need to be circumcised of Thee, and comest Thou to me?"  and the answer,  in this case as in that,  would doubtless have been,  "Suffer it to be so now:  for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness"  (Matt 3:14-15).  Still,  the circumcision of Christ had a profound bearing on His own work.  For since he that is  "circumcised is a debtor to do the whole law"  (Gal 5:3), 

the circumcised Savior thus bore about with Him,  in His very flesh,  the seal of a voluntary obligation to do the whole law.
But further,  as it was only
to  "redeem (from its curse) them that were under the law,"  that He submitted at all to be  "made under the law" (Gal 4:4-5; 3:13),  the obedience to which Jesus was bound over was purely a redeeming obedience,  or the obedience of a "Savior."
Once more,  as it was only
by being made a curse for us that Christ could redeem us from the curse of the law  (Gal 3:13),  the circumcision of Christ is to be regarded as a virtual pledge to die;  a pledge not only to yield obedience in general,  but to be  "obedient unto death,  even the death of the cross"  (Phil 2:8).
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

His name was called Jesus

It was on this day,  too,  that Christ first publicly received that name of Jesus.
Hoshea”  meant salvation
Joshua.  “Whose salvation is Jehovah;” 
Jesus is but the English modification of the Greek form of the name.

At this time it was a name extraordinarily common among the Jews.
It was dear to them as having been borne by:

The great Leader (Joshua) who had conducted them into victorious possession of the Promised Land
The great High Priest who had headed the band of exiles that returned from Babylon.

Henceforth – not for Jews only,  but for the entire world – it was destined to acquire a significance infinitely more sacred as the mortal designation of the Son of God.


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Luke 2:22-37
     (22)  Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord  (23) (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD"),  (24)  and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."
     (25)  And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  (26)  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.  (27)  So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law,  (28)  he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:  
(29) "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
(30) For my eyes have seen Your salvation
(31) Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
(32) A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel."
     (33)  And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him.   (34)  Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against   (35) (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
     (36)  Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity;  (37)  and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of  Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

The days of her purification     Luke 2:22

The mother of a child was Levitically unclean for 40 days after the birth of a son,  and for 80 days after the birth of a daughter.

Women on this errand commonly rode to the temple on oxen  (that the body of so large a beast between them and the ground might prevent any chance of defilement from passing over a sepulchre (grave) on the road).

To present Him to the LORD     Luke 2:22

The first-born son of every household must be redeemed of  the priest at the price of 5 shekels of the sanctuary: about $2.50.

The Law  of the LORD      Luke 2:23

The word  “law”  occurs in this chapter 5 times

verse 22 according to the law of Moses
verse 23 as it is written in the law of the Lord
verse 24 according to that which is said in the law of the Lord
verse 27 after the custom of the law
verse 39 according to the law of the Lord

Luke emphasizes the fact that Jesus  “was made under the law” (see also Gal. 4:4),  and accordingly elaborates the details of the fulfillment of the Law by the parents of both John the Baptist and Jesus. 

Jesus,  as Perfect Man,  was the only One who ever did  or could  fulfill all the Law.

A pair of turtle doves or 2 young pigeons     Luke 2:24

The proper offering on such occasions was:

1. A yearling lamb for a burnt-offering
2. And a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering.

But with that beautiful tenderness,  that is so marked a characteristic of the Mosaic legislation  (before the legalistic man corrupted it),

those who were too poor for so comparatively costly an offering,
were allowed to bring instead,  2 turtledoves,  or 2 young pigeons.

While the lamb would probably cost about $1.75,  the doves would cost about 16 cents.

With this humble offering Mary presented herself to the priest.
At the same time Jesus,  as being a first-born son,  was presented to God,  and in accordance with the law,  was redeemed from the necessity of  Temple service by the ordinary payment of 5 shekels of the sanctuary.

According to Vincent,  Mary would not bring the creatures themselves,  but would drop the price into one of the thirteen trumpet–shaped chests in the Court of the Women.

Simeon       Luke 2:25-35

Of  Simeon we are simply told that:

1. He was a just and devout Israelite
(He had fully consecrated HIMSELF to God,  so that he added a PIOUS HEART to a RIGHTEOUS CONDUCT.).
2. He was endowed with the gift of prophecy.
3. His death would not take place till he had seen the Messiah.

He entered the Temple, and recognizing the Holy Child, took Him in his arms, and burst into the glorious song:

1. The Babe should be  “a light to lighten the GENTILES
2. Warning Mary of the deadly opposition He was destined to encounter
3. Warning of the national perils that should agitate the days to come

Anna     Luke 36 & 37

Anna was:

1. A prophetess
2. The daughter of  Phanuel
3. Of the tribe of Asher:
A. One of the 10 tribes of the kingdom of Israel, several families of which had returned from their idolatry unto God, in the time of Hezekiah (II Chron. 30:1-11)
B. That tribe was celebrated in tradition for the beauty of its women, and their fitness to be wedded to high-priests or kings
4. Very old:
A. They usually did not marry before 13
B. She lived with her husband for 7 years
C. Lived as a widow for 84 years  (according to the Amplified Bible)
D. This would make her at least 104 years old
5. Worshipped in the temple night and day with fasting and prayer
6. Spoke to all who were there of Jesus,  the Messiah  (v. 38)
(as Daniel’s 70 weeks were known to be now completed,  the more Jews were in constant expectation of the promised Messiah)

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Matthew 2:1-12
     (1)  Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,  (2)  saying,  "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."
     (3) When Herod the king heard this, 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 inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
     (5)  So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
(6)  'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.'"
     (7)  Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.  (8)  And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also."
     (9)  When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen 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 exceedingly great joy.  (11)  And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
     (12)  Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

Herod the king      Matthew 2:1

Herod the Great,  who,  after a life of splendid misery and criminal success,  had now sunk into the jealous decrepitude of his savage old age,  was residing in his new place on Zion,  when,  half maddened as he was already by the crimes of his past career,  he was thrown into a fresh paroxysm of alarm and anxiety by the visit of some Eastern Magi,  bearing the strange intelligence that they had seen in the East the star of a new-born King of the Jews,  and had come to worship Him.

Herod,  a mere Idumaean usurper,  a more than suspected apostate,  the detested tyrant over an unwilling people,  the sacrilegious plunderer of the tomb of David.
Herod,  a descendant of the despised Ishmael and the hated Esau,  heard the tidings with a terror and indignation that it was hard to dissimulate.
Herod,  the grandson of one who,  as was believed,  had been a mere servitor in a temple at Ascalon,  and who in his youth had been carried off by Edomite brigands,  he well knew how worthless were his pretensions to an historic throne that he held solely by successful adventure.
But his craft equaled his cruelty,  and finding that all Jerusalem shared his suspense,  he summoned to his palace the leading priests and theologians of the Jews  –  perhaps the relics of that Sanhedrin that he had long reduced to a despicable shadow  –  to inquire of them where the Messiah was to be born.  He received the ready and confident answer that Bethlehem was the town indicated for that honor by the prophecy of Micah.

The Magi     Matthew 2:1

The name  “Magi,”  by which they are called in the Greek,  is perfectly vague:

1. Originally it meant a sect of  Median and Persian scholars.
2. It was subsequently applied to pretended astrologers, or Oriental soothsayers.
3. Such characters were well known to antiquity,  under the name of Chaldaeans.
4. Their visits were by no means unfamiliar even to the Western nations.
5. There is nothing but a mass of confused and contradictory traditions to throw any light either on their rank,  country,  number,  or names.
6. They are thought to be kings because of Isaiah 60:3  “And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.”
7. Some of them are thought to be Arabians because of  Psalm 72:10 “The kings of Tharshish and of the isles shall give presents; the kings of Arabia and Saba shall bring gifts.”

They presented gifts to Him     Matthew 2:11

The people of the east never approach the presence of  kings and great personages,  without a present in their hands.  This custom is often noticed in the Old Testament.


Gold To His ROYALTY as King of Kings
Frankincense To His DEITY as LORD of Lords
1. It is obtained by making successive incisions in the bark or by peeling off the bark at intervals,  causing a white juice to flow and form into tears of about one inch in length.  When gathered,  the frankincense consists of a fragrant gum resin in small chunks or beads,  producing an aromatic odor when burned.
2. It is regularly mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures in connection with worship,  and it was an ingredient of  the holy incense used at the sanctuary.
Myrrh To His DEATH as Perfect Man – as the Pure Sacrifice
1. One of  the most valuable of gum resins.  Either naturally or when the stems are injured,  the gum oozes from the shrub like tree.  The pale yellow liquid gradually solidifies and turns dark red or even black.
2. This aromatic gum was sold as:
A spice, used quite often in the embalming process
Points to His death, as He paid the penalty for sin.
Points to His suffering,  as He provided our healing:
By His stripes we were healed.”

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Matthew 2:13-18
     (13)  Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you 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 for Egypt,  (15)  and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, "Out of Egypt I called My Son." 
(16)  Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.  (17)  Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:
(18)  "A voice was heard in Ramah,
Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children,
Refusing to be comforted,
Because they are no more."

Herod ... put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem     Matthew 2:16

Seeing that the Wise Men had not returned to him,  the alarm and jealousy of Herod assumed a still darker and more malignant aspect.  He had no means of identifying the royal infant of the seed of  David,  but he knew that the child whom the visit of the Magi had taught him to regard as a future rival of himself  or of his house was yet an infant.

Since Eastern mothers usually suckle their children for two years,  he issued his fell mandate to slay all the male children (the Greek word for “the children” is  “tous paidas”,  which is masculine,  denoting only the male children) of Bethlehem and its neighborhood  “from two years old and under.”

Of the method by which the decree was carried out we know nothing.  The children may have been slain secretly,  gradually,  and by various forms of murder;  or,  as has been generally supposed,  there may have been one single hour of dreadful butchery.

The decrees of tyrants like Herod are usually involved in a deadly obscurity;  they reduce the world to a torpor in which it is hardly safe to speak above a whisper.  But the wild wail of anguish which rose from the mothers thus cruelly robbed of their infant children could not be hushed,  and they who heard it might well imagine that Rachel,  the great ancestress of their race,  whose tomb stands by the roadside about a mile from Bethlehem,  once more,  as in the pathetic image of the prophet,  mingled her voice with the morning and lamentations of those who wept so inconsolably for their murdered little ones.

To us there seems something inconceivable in a crime so atrocious;  but our thoughts have been softened by eighteen centuries of Christianity,  and such deeds are by no means unparalleled in the history of heathen despots in the past century,  and of the ancient world.

The  Massacre of the Innocents  is profoundly in accordance with all that we know of Herod’s character.  The master-passions of  that able but wicked prince were a most unbounded ambition,  and a most excruciating jealousy.  His whole career was red with the blood of murder:

1. He had massacred priests and nobles; 
he had decimated the Sanhedrin; 
he had caused the High Priest (his own brother-in-law),  the young and noble Aristobulus,  to be drowned in pretended sport before his eyes.
2. He had ordered the strangulation of his favorite wife,  the beautiful Asmonaean princess Mariamne,  though she seems to have been the only human being whom he passionately loved  (Mariamne,  who,  as a Maccabaean princess,  had far more right to the sovereignty than he did himself).
3. His sons Alexander,  Aristobulus,  and Antipater –
his uncle Joseph – Antigonus and Alexandra –
his kinsman Cortobanus –
his friends Dositheus and Gadias, 
were but a few of the multitudes who fell victims to his strangulation,  burning,  being cleft asunder,  secret assassination,  confessions forced by unutterable torture,  acts of insolent and inhuman lust,  mark the annals of a reign that was so cruel that,  in the language of the Jewish ambassadors to the Emperor Augustus,  “the survivors during his lifetime were even more miserable than the sufferers.”


Many Jews had settled in Egypt;  not only those who had fled in the time of  Jeremiah;  but many others who had settled there also,  on account of the temple which Onias 4th had built at Heliopolis.  Those who could speak the Greek tongue  (which Mary and Joseph probably could not)  enjoyed many advantages in that country.

Egypt was now a Roman province,  and the rage of Herod could not peruse them to this place,  even if he knew where they were.

Hosea 11:1
"When Israel was a child, I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.


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Matthew 2:19-23
      (19)  Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,  (20)  saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child's life are dead."  (21)  Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.
     (22)  But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region 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."

Luke 2:39-40
  (39)  So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. (40)  And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.

When Herod was dead      Matthew 2:19

It must have been very shortly after the murder of the children that Herod died.
Only five days before his death he had made a frantic attempt at suicide,  and had ordered the execution of his eldest son Antipater.

His deathbed was accompanied by circumstances of peculiar horror,  and it has been noticed that the loathsome disease of which he died is hardly mentioned in history,  except in the case of men who have been rendered infamous by an atrocity of persecuting zeal.

On his bed of anguish,  in that splendid and luxurious palace that he had built for himself under the palms of Jericho,  swollen with disease and scorched by thirst – ulcerated externally and glowing inwardly with a  “soft, slow fire” –  surrounded by plotting sons and plundering slaves,  detesting all and detested by all – longing for death as a release from his tortures,  yet dreading it as the beginning of worse terrors – eaten of worms as though visibly smitten by the finger of God’s wrath after 70 years of successful villainy.

As he knew that none would shed one tear for him,  he determined that they should shed many for themselves,  issuing an order that,  under pain of death,  the principal families in the kingdom and the chiefs of the tribes should come to Jericho.

They came,  and then,  shutting them in the hippodrome,  he secretly commanded his sister Salome that at the moment of his death they should all be massacred.  And so,  choking as it were with blood,  devising massacres in its very delirium,  the soul of Herod passed forth into the night.

In purple robes,  with crown and scepter and precious stones,  the corpse was placed upon its splendid bier,  and accompanied with military pomp and burning incense to its grave in the Herodium,  not far from the place where Jesus was born.

But the spell of the Herodian dominion was broken,  and the people saw how illusory had been its glittering fascination.

The day of Herod’s death was,  as he had feared,  observed as a festival.  His will was disputed;  his kingdom disintegrated;  his last order was disobeyed;  his sons died for the most part in infamy and exile;  the curse of God was on his house,  and though,  by 10 wives and many concubines,  he seems to have had 9 sons and 5 daughters,  yet within 100 years the family of the  “hierodoulos”  of Ascalon had perished by disease or violence,  and there was no living descendant to perpetuate his name.

Came into Israel ... Archelaus was reigning

It seems to have been the first intention of Joseph to fix his home in Bethlehem.  But,  on his way,  he was met by the news that Archelaus ruled in the room of his father Herod.

Archelaus,  as though anxious to show that he was the true son of that father,  even before his inheritance had been confirmed by Roman authority,  “had,”  as Josephus remarks,  “given to his subjects a specimen of his future virtue, by ordering a slaughter of 3,000 of his own countrymen at the Temple.”


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Luke 2:41-52
     (41) His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.  (42)  And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast.  (43)  When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it;  (44)  but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day's journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances.  (45)  So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him.  (46)  Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.  (47)  And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.  (48)  So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously."
     (49)  And He said to them, "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?"  (50)  But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.
     (51) Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart.  (52)  And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Every year at the feast of the Passover     Luke 2:41

This was the first and most important feast of the year:

1. It was called both:
The Feast of the Passover
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
2. The two feasts forming a double festival.
3. It was celebrated on the first month of the religious year, on the 14th of  Nisan (our April).
4. It commemorated the deliverance of the Jews from Egypt and the establishment of Israel as a nation by God’s redemptive acts on the night when the Death Angel passed over the land of Egypt.
5. The Feast of the Passover was on the first day.
6. The Feast of Unleavened Bread began on the next day and lasted 7 days  (Lev. 23:5-8).
7. This combined feast was one of the 3 feasts the Mosaic Law enjoined to be attended by all male Jews who were
Physically able
Ceremonially clean  (Exodus 23:17; Deut. 16:16)

Twelve years old     Luke 2:42

The age of 12 years was a critical age for a Jewish boy:

1. At this age a boy of whatever rank was obliged,  by the injunction of the Rabbis and the custom of his nation,  to learn a trade for his own support.
2. At this age he was so far emancipated from parental authority that his parents could no longer sell him as a slave
3. At this age he became a  “ben hattorah,”  or  “son of the Law.”
4. Up to this age he was called  “katon,”  or  “little.”
5. He began to wear the  “tephillin”,  or  “phylacteries (wear on head),”  and was presented by his father in the synagogue on a Sabbath,  which was called from this circumstance the  “shabbath tephillin.”

All Jewish boys, according to Juda Ben Tema:

At Age He began to
5 years Study of the Scriptures
10 years Study of the Mishna
13 years Study of the  Talmud
18 years Got Married
20 years Acquire Riches
30 years Acquire Strength
40 years Acquire Prudence

When they had finished the days     Luke 2:43

Not necessarily the whole seven days of the festival.
With the third day commenced the so-called  “half-holidays,”  when it was lawful to return home.

They returned to Jerusalem     Luke 2:45

In alarm Mary and Joseph left the safety of the long caravan with which they were traveling back to Nazareth (a trip of approximately 2 ½ days),  and retraced their steps to Jerusalem.
The country was in a wild and unsettled state.  The Ethnarch Archelaus,  after 10 years of a cruel and disgraceful reign,  had recently been deposed by the Emperor,  and banished to Vienna, in Gaul.
The Romans had annexed the province over which he had ruled,  and the introduction of their system of  taxation by Coponius,  the first procurator,  had kindled the revolt that,  under Judas of Gamala and the Pharisee Sadoc,  wrapped the whole country in a storm of  sword and flame.
This disturbed state of the political horizon would not only render their journey more difficult when once they had left the shelter of the caravan,  but would also intensify their dread lest,  among all the wild elements of warring nationalities which at such a moment were assembled about the walls of  Jerusalem,  their Son should have met with harm.

They found Him in the Temple     Luke 2:46

The third day they found him in the temple,  in some of the apartments belonging to the temple,  where the doctors of the law kept,  not their courts,  but their conferences rather,  or their schools for disputation.
And there they found him sitting in the midst of them (v. 46),  not standing as a student to be examined or instructed by them,  for he had discovered such measures of knowledge and wisdom that they admitted him to sit among them as a fellow or member of their society.
(from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

Jesus was "filled with wisdom" (v. 40) and His questions and answers amazed the teachers in the temple.
We must not assume that at the age of twelve Jesus understood as much as He did when He launched His ministry at the age of thirty  (3:23);   for Luke makes it clear that He  "increased in wisdom" (v. 52).
But He was already aware of His special mission to  "be about [His] Father's business."
(from The Bible Exposition Commentary. Copyright (c) 1992 by SP Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.)

About my Father's business     Luke 2:49
The Greek here is en tois tou patrós literally be:   “in the things of  my Father.”

The Revised Version translates it: “in my Father’s house.”

The Amplified Bible translates it: 
"And He said to them,  How is it that you had to look for Me?  Did you not see and know that it is necessary [as a duty] for Me to be in My Father's house and [occupied] about My Father's business?"

Mary’s question was not as to what He had been doing,  but as to where had He been.
Jesus,  in effect, answers,  “Where is a child to be found but in his Father’s house?”

Jesus' answer to Mary was not from disrespect, but from wonder that they did not think to look for Him in His Father's house first.

He was subject to them     Luke 2:51

The participle and finite verb (in the Greek) denoting HABITUAL, CONTINUOUS subjection.
There seems to have been no trouble with Jesus rebelling in any way against the authority of Joseph before or after the incident in the Temple.  Even that was not rebellion,  but a misunderstanding on the part of Mary and Joseph.

(End of Lesson Two)



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