Matthew 2 – The birth of Jesus and the death of Herod

Interpretation:

After Jesus is born, some wise men from the East came to Jerusalem to find out where he was born. I’m not entirely sure how important these guys were, or to to the disappointment of nativity scenes everywhere, if there in fact were actually three of these wise men.

But the point is they didn’t just ask where Jesus was, they said (Matthew 2: 2),

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?”

Now Judea was ruled over by Herod at the time. Herod’s the type of guy I can’t exactly see appreciating people saying there’s a new boss in town (ironically Herod seemed to basically be a minion of the Roman Empire). So he needs to get this sorted out quickly.

Herod finds out where the Child  is and contacts the wise men to let them know what’s up. How nice of him! All he asks is that they let him know when they find Jesus so that he can go worship Him as well!

So the wise men head to Bethlehem, visit Jesus along with Mary, and offer their three famous gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Before they head back to Jerusalem, an angel tells them what Herod really wants – needless to say they skedaddle back home.

Herod, not too happy his James Bond-villain-esque plot doesn’t pan out, decides to murder all the newborn males in Bethlehem. While terrible for the children of Bethlehem,  an angel warned Joseph ahead of time in a dream that Herod would be out for the Child.

What did the angel tell him to do? Basically the safest thing you could think of – skip town to Egypt with Mary and Jesus and wait it out. So Joseph chills out in Egypt, until one day an angel appears to him yet again in a dream (Matthew 2:20),

“…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.”

Taking the advice of the angel, they head to Israel.  At some point Joseph hears that Archelaus is the successor to Herod – a.k.a. not good news (evidently Archelaus wasn’t that popular of a ruler). So God redirects Joseph and the gang into the region of Galilee to the city of Nazareth.

 

Thoughts:

  •  I think there’s some ambiguity as to the meaning of the gifts of the wise men. Gold? Alright, that makes sense – but what about frankincense and myrrh? It seems like there’s a wide range of theories as to the meaning – from symbols of status/honor to items of practical importance. What I’m taking away from it is that these are items of significance, given to someone of significance.

 

  • Joseph’s obedience to God is quite inspiring isn’t it? I mean first of all, Joseph is caught right in the middle of this terrible mess – Mary becomes pregnant before they’re married, people are after the head of her Child, and he’s stuck in Egypt for who knows how long – yet each time God speaks to him he does exactly as he’s told. That takes some conviction – especially since his gut is telling him to do exactly the opposite of what God wants him to do. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve decided to go with what I want to do, rather than what I should do.

 

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