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Bible Study Outline: The Birth Of Jesus
(Matthew 1:18-2:23)(Luke 1:26-56, 2:1-40)

     Let’s begin by reading (Lk 1:26-38).

     (Verse 26) “and in the sixth month” – In (Lk 1:11-25), we have the angel Gabriel appearing to Zacharias the priest as he was in the “temple of the Lord.” Zecharias is told by Gabriel that a son would be born to his wife Elizabeth, and he was to be named “John” (this was to be “John the Baptist”). “After his days of service were completed,” he went home… and his wife Elizabeth conceived” (Lk 1:23-24). The “sixth month” is referring to the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.

     “the angel Gabriel” – He was God’s chief messenger angel. Can you think of other the time that he appeared in the Bible?

 

     “to a city of Galilee named Nazareth” – (From “Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary”) – “Galilee was a Roman province (with Nazareth being a city in that Roman province), with the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River being its western and eastern borders respectively. It was here that Jesus began His public ministry, but was rejected by His own people (Lk 4:16-30). All of the disciples of Jesus, with the exception of Judas, came from Galilee (Mt 4:18)(Jn 1:43-44)(Acts 1:11)(Acts 2:7). In Cana of Galilee, He performed his first miracle (Jn 2:11); in fact, 25 of his 33 great miracles were performed in Galilee. Capernaum in Galilee became the headquarters of His ministry (Mt 4:3)(Mt 9:1). Of His 32 parables, 19 were spoken in Galilee.”

 

     (Verse 27)(NKJV) “to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph… The virgin’s name was Mary.

     Before we go on, “What do you know, and what have you been taught about Joseph, and Mary in the Bible?

 

     “betrothed to…. Joseph” – After a bride was chosen, a promise or contract was made for a future marriage. This was often accompanied by a ring, and other jewels (Gen 24:53)(Gen 34:11-12)(Ex 22:16-17) (sometimes called a “dowry”). The time between “betrothal” and marriage could be up to a year. “During this time, the bride-elect remained in her own home, and did not see the bridegroom till he came to fetch her to his own house. All communications in the meantime were conducted through “the friend of the bridegroom” (Jn 3:29)” (Ellicott’s). In essence, at betrothal, the couple was married, however, until the groom took the bride into his home, and they “came together” (had sex), the marriage was not formalized.

 

     (Verse 28) ““Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women!”” – “Highly favored” (Gr. “charitoo”) literally means “full of grace.”

 

     (Verses 30-31) “”Do not be afraid” – The same thing Gabriel said to Zecharias in (verse 13). “found favor with God” – The Greek word “charis” is used for “favor” here. This is the word used for “grace” in almost every place in the New Testament. (31) “JESUS” means “Jehovah our salvation.” (Later, in Mt 1:21, Joseph is told by an angel in a dream to name the baby: JESUS.)

 

     (Verses 32-33) “He will be great” – Notice in (Lk 1:15) that Gabriel says the same thing of John the Baptist. However, what distinction is made between Jesus here, and John in Zecharias’ prophecy as found in (Lk 1:76)?

 

     “of His kingdom there will be no end” – Certainly referring to the famous prophecy made in (Isa 9:6-7). Let’s turn to that.

 

     (Verse 34) “I do not know a man” – While “betrothed” to Joseph, they had not yet consummated the marriage. Why did Gabriel make Zecharias “mute” for asking his question in (Lk 1:18-20), but yet did nothing to Mary for asking hers here?”

 

     (Verse 36) “Elizabeth your relative” – (From the “MacArthur Study Bible”_ – “It seems most reasonable to regard the genealogy of 3:23 as Mary’s. This would make her a direct descendant of David. Yet, Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron (v. 5). Therefore, Mary must have been related to Elizabeth through her mother, who would have been of Aaronic descent. Thus, Mary was a descendant of David through her father.”

 

     (Verse 38) “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” – Mary willingly submits to the will of God, certainly knowing the challenges that would lay ahead. We will see one of these when we get to (Mt 1:18-25).

 

     Now, let’s read (Lk 1:39-56).

     (Verses 39-40)(NASB) “Now at this time Mary set out and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, (40) and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.”

     Since Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary (verses 26,36), and (verse 56) says Mary stayed “three months” (likely until Elizabeth gave birth to John), we know that Mary must have left to visit Elizabeth immediately (“in a hurry”) after Gabriel’s visit.

     “to the hill country, to a city of Judah” – This means a city “within” Judah. Most scholars believe this city was Hebron (belonging to Aaron: Josh 20:7, 21:9-11), which was part of the land within Judah given to the Levites (the “priests,” of whom Zecharias was one [verse 5]). This was / is about 80 miles from Nazareth. The road between the two was difficult (“hilly”), and about a 4 day journey (20 mi / day), made by a teenage mother. The Bible does not say that anyone was with her. Did she go alone? Why did she go to see Elizabeth?

 

     (Verses 41-45) “the babe leaped in her womb” – Remember Gabriel’s prophecy of John from (Lk 1:15), “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.”

     “Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” – As the Holy Spirit did not come to live permanently inside of believers until Pentecost (Acts Ch. 2), this was a temporary filling of the Holy Spirit, like what happened to certain people in the Old Testament (Ex 31:2-5)(Judg 3:9-11)(Judg 6:34)(Judg 14:5-6,19). Under the power of the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth was aware of Mary’s pregnancy, and who the child was (“my Lord” = Messiah) that Mary was carrying!

     “blessed are you among women” – When Elizabeth sees Mary, her greeting is exactly the same as Gabriel’s in (Lk 1:28).

     (Verses 46-55) These verses are often called “The Magnificat of Mary.” (From the MacArthur Study Bible” – “(It) is filled with OT allusions and quotations. It reveals that Mary’s heart and mind were saturated with the Word of God. It contains repeated echoes of Hannah’s prayers, e.g., 1 Sam 1:11; 2:1-10. These verses also contain numerous allusions to the law, the psalms, and the prophets. The entire passage is a point-by-point reciting of the covenant promises of God.”

     So, in reading the “Magnificat,” what things stand out to you?

 

 

     (Verse 53) (From the “Barnes Bible Commentary”) – “The rich he hath sent … – While the poor come to him for a supply of their daily wants, the rich come not that their necessities should be supplied, but come with lofty hearts, and insatiable desires that their riches may be increased. When this is the case, God not unfrequently not only “withholds” what they ask, but he takes their riches away by fire, or flood, or disappointments, and sends them away empty, (Prov 23:5). It is better to be poor and go to God for our daily bread, than to be rich and forget our dependence on Him, and to seek only a great increase of our property.”

     WOW! These are the words of a teenage girl! How many teens do you know that have this measure of God-given wisdom and knowledge of Scripture? It is any wonder why God chose this young lady to give birth to the Messiah?

 

     (Verse 56)(NKJV) “And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house.”

     The belief of most scholars is that Mary stayed with Elizabeth to help her with the birth of John, and then she left for home. She arrived in the sixth month (verses 26 & 36), and left “about three months” later. However, the following verse (57) seems to indicate she left before.

     Now, let’s turn to and read (Mt 1:18-25).
____________

*** When did this event in (Mt 1:18-25) happen? ***

     After the angel Gabriel visited Mary in (Lk 1:26-38), and told her that through the Holy Spirit she would become pregnant and give birth to Jesus, did Joseph immediately know that Mary was pregnant, or did he not find out until three months later, after Mary returned from visiting Elizabeth? This is debated by scholars.

     I believe Joseph did not find out until Mary returned from visiting Elizabeth. If this is the case, then the following events in (Mt 1:18-25) would occur right now. If Joseph knew immediately after the angel appeared, then the following events would fit right after (Lk 1:26-38).

     Why do I believe that Joseph did not find out until Mary returned from visiting Elizabeth?

1. In (Lk 1:39), it says that after the angel appeared to Mary, she went to visit Elizabeth “with haste.” In leaving “with haste,” I don’t think she told anyone what had happened.

2. As mentioned above, during the time of “betrothal,” the bride and bridegroom rarely, if ever saw each other until they “came together” to be married. All communications were conducted through “the friend of the bridegroom.” This being the case, I do not believe Mary wanted to wait for “friend of the bridegroom” to arrive (however long that might have been) before heading to visit Elizabeth

3. If Mary “had” communicated what had happened, she may have believed that Joseph wouldn’t believe her. She may have hoped and prayed while she was away visiting Elizabeth that God would reveal to Joseph the same thing He revealed to her. (As we will see below God does, but not while she was away, rather after she returns.)

4. After 3 months away, the evidence of her being pregnant would be undeniable.
____________

     (Verse 18-19) “betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she (Mary) was found with child of the Holy Spirit. (19) Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.”

     Shortly after Mary’s return (we aren’t told exactly how long), Joseph finds out that she is pregnant. Did Mary tell Joseph at this time about the visitation by the angel, and what he said (Lk 1:26-38)? We aren’t told. However, it is clear that Joseph believes that Mary has become pregnant by another man during the 3 months she was away, and makes the decision to “put her away” (divorce her).

     “before they came together” – As we mentioned above, “coming together” to have sex formalized a couple’s marriage. Tying this to (verse 25), “and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son,” we have clear evidence against two false teachings in some denominations. Do you know what these two are?

 

     “Joseph… being a just man” – The Greek word “dikaios” is used for “just” here, and is used elsewhere in the New Testament for the word “righteous.” In addition to Joseph, five other people are called “just” or “righteous” in the NT: John the Baptist (Mk 6:20), Zecharias (Lk 1:5-6), Elizabeth (Lk 1:5-6), Simeon (Lk 2:25), and Cornelius (Acts 10:22). They were called this simply because their lives were filled with choices to put God first, and not sin.

     “not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly” – Why did Joseph want to do this “secretly?

 

     (Verses 20-21) “But while he thought on these things, behold, the (an) 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. (21) And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins.”

***Note: This is the first of 4 dreams that Joseph receives (Mt 1:20-23)(Mt 2:13)(Mt 2:19-20)(Mt 2:22).

     “Joseph, thou son of David” – Notice the same designation being given to Jesus at the beginning of the lineage in (Mt 1:1-17): “Jesus Christ, the Son of David.” (Also see: Mt 9:27, 12:23, 15:22, 20:30-31, 21:9,15)

     “Mary thy wife” – Note that even though Mary and Joseph are not officially “married,” but only “betrothed,” Mary is still called Joseph’s “wife.” In (verse 19), we see Joseph being called Mary’s “husband.”

     “she shall bring forth a son” – Compare to what the angel said to Zecharias in (Lk 1:13), “your wife Elizabeth will bear YOU a son, and you shall call his name John.” Notice here that the angel does not say the “son” belongs to Joseph.

 

     (Verses 22-23) “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.”

     The “prophet” who spoke this was Isaiah. This can be found in (Isa 7:14). Let’s turn to this.

 

     “God with us” – For those who question the deity of Jesus, this is just one of MANY places in the Gospels pointing to Jesus being God. Can you think of others?

 

     Now, let’s return to Luke, and read (Lk 2:1-14).

     (Verse 1) “Caesar Augustus” – His actual name was Caius Octavius. He was the grand-nephew, adopted son, and primary heir to Julius Caesar. He ascended to power in 31 B.C., and was declared Rome’s first emperor in 29 B.C. He reigned until 14 A.D., when he died at the age of 76.

     “all the world should be registered” – “All the world” simply means all of the nations that were under the rule of the Roman Empire (which were many). This “census” was to “register” each nation by family and tribe. “MacArthur” says that “property and income values were not recorded in this registration, but soon after, the names and population statistics gathered in this census were used for the levying of poll taxes.”

 

     (Verse 4) “out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea” – This would have been the same route Mary had taken about 8 months earlier, when she visited Elizabeth in the previous chapter (Lk 1:39-56).

     “Joseph to Bethlehem… because he was of the house and lineage of Judah” – This “registration” appears to have required “men” to return to their ancestral home, but not “women or children” (their names could simply be recorded). “MacArthur” says “the census was designed primarily to register young men for military service.” Therefore, Mary probably did not need to go with Joseph on this journey. Being “very” pregnant, why do you think she went?

 

     (Verse 5) “his betrothed wife” – We defined what this was in (Lk 1:27). Remembering back to (Mt 1:24-25), it said that after the angel visited Joseph, he “took Mary to be his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.” “Taking her to be his wife” likely meant that the wedding ceremony had occurred, and he had brought Mary from her house to live in his house. However, they did not consummate the marriage (have sex) until after the birth of Jesus. The use of “betrothed” here again (after the verses in Matthew) most likely indicates that they were still not considered “officially” married because that had not “come together.”

 

     (Verse 7) “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

     “wrapped Him in swaddling clothes” – (From the “Barnes Commentary”) – “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, Ezekiel 16:4.”

     “a manger” – Having no cradle, Jesus was laid in a manger. This was a feeding trough for animals. (From “Nelson’s Bible Dictionary”) – “In Bible times, mangers were made of clay mixed with straw, or from stones cemented with mud. In the stables of King Ahab at Megiddo, a manger cut from limestone block was discovered. Mangers were also carved in natural outcroppings of rock…; some were constructed of masonry.” Probably not the picture you have in your head of what the manger looked like, right?

***Note: Because Jesus was “laid in a manger,” it has been assumed by many that Jesus was born in a stable. However, tradition tells us that He was most likely born in a “cave.” Caves were (are) found all over this area, and were often used to shelter animals.

     “There was no room for them in the inn” – In a town the size of Bethlehem, there was probably only one “inn.” It was almost certainly full because of all of the people, who like Joseph, had come to their ancestral home to register for the census.

 

     (Verse 8) “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.”

     From this verse, it is said by many that Jesus could not have been born on December 25th, since during this time of year, it was too cold for “shepherds” (and sheep) to be “in the fields.” Quoting John MacArthur, “The surrounding hills were prime grazing land, and shepherds worked in the area day and night, all year round. Therefore it is not possible to draw any conclusion about the time of year by the fact that shepherds were living out in the fields.”

     The debate over the time of year that Jesus was born, and the date of His birth has been going on for centuries. We are “not” going to go into this here. The key thing of importance is that we are choosing a day to honor and celebrate the birth of Jesus!

***Note: If you wish to see my study on the time Jesus might have been born, you can go here: https://jesusalive.cc/day-jesus-born.

 

     (Verse 10) “good tidings… to all people” – The Greek word used for “good tidings” here is “euangelizomai.” It is from this word that we get our English word “evangelism.” In other words, when we “evangelize,” we share the “good news,” which is the “Gospel.” Notice here that the “good tidings (news)” are “to ALL people” (Jew and Gentile).

 

     (Verse 11) “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” The “city of David” = Bethlehem. “Christ” (Gr: “Christos”) means “the Anointed One.” This name was to tell the Jews that Jesus was the “Messiah” they had long been expecting, and who was prophesied to come in the Old Testament (Gen 3:15)(Deut 18:15)(Ps 2:7)(Ps 16:10)(Ps 22:7-8,16,18)(Ps 69:21)(Ps 78:2)(Isa 7:14)(Isa 9:1-7)(Isa Ch. 53)(Mic 5:2)(Zech 9:9). Of course, we see later that nearly all of the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah.

 

     (Verse 13) “a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying” – As the “angel” (likely Gabriel) spoke, “suddenly” other angels appeared, and began “praising God” and “saying”. Trivia challenge: Note it does not say here that the angels “sang.” Can you find anywhere in the Bible that “clearly” shows angels “singing?”

 

     (Verse 14) “peace” – Jesus is the “only” way to peace with God (Rom 5:1)(Col 1:20), and to have peace while on earth (Jn 14:27)(Jn 16:33)(Phil 4:7)(Isa 9:6). Peace is a “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22).

 

     Next, let’s read (Lk 2:15-35).

     (Verses 15-16) “And they came with haste” – Placing unquestionable faith in everything that the angel has just told them, and apparently leaving their flocks unguarded, they left with “haste” to go “see this thing.” With “haste,” just as Mary left to see Elizabeth after receiving her visit from Gabriel in (Lk 1:38-39).

     “and found” – When we look at the Greek word for “found” here, we get an interesting deeper meaning. This Greek word is “aneurisko.” It is defined by “Strong’s” as ““to find out” (by search), “discover” implying diligent searching.” It is used only here, and in (Acts 21:4), when Paul searched for and “found” disciples at Tyre.

 

     (Verse 17) “And when they had seen Him, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.”

     It seems quite likely that after finding Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus, that the shepherds would have shared with them the reason for their visit, and what the angel had told them. Afterwards, perhaps Mary and Joseph each recounted to the shepherds what they had been told by the angel. Regardless, after “seeing Him,” they became the first evangelists in the New Testament to share the “good news,” making it “known abroad.”

 

     (Verse 18) “all those who heard it marveled” (From the “MacArthur Study Bible”) – “Wonderment at the mysteries of Christ’s words and works is one of the threads that runs through Luke’s gospel. Cf. vv. 19,33,47,48, 1:21,63; 4:22,36; 5:9; 8:25; 9:43-45; 11:14; 20:26; 24:12,41.”

 

     (Verse 19) “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” Recapping, so what are “all the things” Mary has “kept” and “pondered in her heart” to this point?

 

     (Verse 21) “And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child”

     This would be better stated, “on the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child.” Circumcising a baby boy on the 8th day was a commandment of God to the Jews (Gen 17:12)(Gen 21:4)(Lev 12:1-3)(Phil 3:5). At this time, it was also customary to give the child a name (also see: Lk 1:59-60).

 

     (Verse 22) “And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished…”

     This “purification” ritual after giving birth was commanded by God in Leviticus Chapter 12. After giving birth to a son, God said that a woman was ceremonially unclean for 40 days, or 80 days after giving birth to a daughter (Lev 12:2-5). After that, she was to “bring to the priest a lamb of the first year as a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or turtledove as a sin offering, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting.” After the priest “offered it before the Lord, and made atonement for her, she would be clean from her flow of blood” (Lev 12:6-7). In (Lev 12:8), God said, “if she is not able to bring a lamb, then she may bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons.” When we see in (Lk 2:24) that Mary followed what (Lev 12:8) says, we know that she and Joseph were poor (also see: 2 Cor 8:9).

 

     (Verse 23) “(As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)”

     God said that a “firstborn” male (of both man and animal) belonged to Him, and He made a law that required that male to be “consecrated to Him” (Ex 13:2,12-15)(Ex 22:29)(Ex 34:19)(Num 18:15-16).

 

     (Verses 25-26) “Simeon” – Simeon is mentioned nowhere else in the Bible. We know from this verse that he was a “just and devout” man, and that “the Holy Spirit was upon him.” From (verse 26), we assume that at this time, he was advanced in age. As we will see in (verses 29-32), he was also a prophet.

     “waiting for the Consolation of Israel” – (From the “Barnes Commentary”) – “That is, waiting for the “Messiah,” who is called “the consolation of Israel” because he would give comfort to them by His appearing. This term was often applied to the Messiah before He actually appeared. It was common to swear, also, by “the consolation of Israel” – that is, by the Messiah about to come.”

 

     (Verse 27) “And he came by the Spirit into the temple” – Similar to (Mt 4:1), when “Jesus was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” “His parents” – While not “literally” Jesus’ father, Joseph is referred to as Jesus’ “father” (Lk 2:33 – best MSS)(Lk 2:48)(Lk 3:23)(Jn 6:42), and “parent” (here and verse 41) several times.

 

     (Verses 29-32) What Simeon prophesies in these verses is known as the Nunc Dimittis, from the first two words of the Latin Vulgate translation: “[You] now dismiss.”

 

     (Verse 29) “Lord” – While the Greek word “kurios,” is used about 700 times in the New Testament for “Lord,” the Greek word used for “Lord” here is “despotes” (used 10 times). It is from this Greek word that we get our English word “despot,” meaning “a ruler with absolute power and authority” (Webster’s). In 5 New Testament verses (1 Tim 6:1,2)(2 Tim 2:21)(Titus 2:9)(1 Pet 2:18), this word is translated as “masters,” as in one who rules over a servant. In this verse, Simeon is saying he is a “servant” to his “Master” (the Lord).

     “according to thy word” – (From the “Barnes Commentary”) – “Thy promise (verse 26) made by revelation. God never disappoints. To many it might have appeared improbable, when such a promise was made to an old man, that it should be fulfilled. But God fulfils all his word, keeps all his promises, and never disappoints those who trust in him.”

     “in peace” – Indicating that Simeon could not die “peacefully” until had seen God’s promise fulfilled.

     (Verses 29-30) In these verses, we see a clear picture for all men that NO ONE can “depart (die) in peace” until they have “seen the salvation” of the Lord.

 

     (Verses 31-32) “to ALL people” – Salvation is available to ALL people, both “Gentiles” and “Jews” (verse 32). That the Messiah would grant salvation to “Gentiles” was prophesied in the Old Testament i.e. (Isa 42:1,6)(Isa 49:6)(Isa 60:1-4)(Isa 11:10), affirmed by Jesus here (also see: Mt 12:18,21, Mt 28:19), and in many other New Testament verses (Rom 9:30-33)(Rom 11:11)(Acts 11:18)(Acts 13:46-48)(Acts 10:17-48)(Rev 5:9). Paul was called by Jesus to be the “apostle to the Gentiles” (Acts 9:15)(Rom 11:13)(Gal 2:8-9)(1 Tim 2:7). In Christ, Gentiles and Jews are now one (Gal 3:28)(Rom 10:12)(Col 3:11)(1 Cor 12:13).

 

     (Verse 34) “the fall and rising of many in Israel” – Likely alluding to (Isa 8:14-15) and (Isa 28:16). Those who receive Jesus are “raised up” (Eph 2:6)(Rom 6:4)(2 Cor 4:14), while those who do not “fall.” Jesus is the “stone” on which some “fall” (Lk 20:17-18), and the “stone” which causes some to “stumble” (1 Cor 1:23)(Rom 9:32)(1 Pet 2:8).

     “a sign which shall be spoken against” – The “sign” is Jesus. “Spoken against” would include the many insults and blasphemies hurled at him.

 

     (Verse 35) “a sword shall pierce through thy own soul” – The many attacks against her Son Jesus, culminating in His death on the cross, would be as painful to Mary as if she was “pierced with a sword.” Have you ever experienced this kind of pain when your own child (or loved one) has been hurt by others?

 

     (From “Ellicott’s Commentary”) – “The word for “sword” here, occurs also in the Apocalypse (Rev 1:16, Rev 2:12, et. al.), but not elsewhere in the New Testament. It was the large barbaric sword used by the Thracians, as distinguished from the shorter weapon of Roman soldiers.”

     “the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” – What is in a person’s heart is revealed through their words and actions (Mt 15:18)(Mt 12:34)(Lk 6:45)(Prov 23:7)(Prov 27:19).

 

     Finally, let’s read (Lk 2:36-40).

     (Verses 36-38) “Anna” – (Greek for the Hebrew name Hannah, meaning “grace.) All that we know about Anna is found here in verses 36-38. There is a lot in these 3 verses.

#1. She was a prophetess (One of but a few in the Bible. For a list of these, see: https://jesusalive.cc/prophetesses-in-bible).

#2. She was the daughter of Phanuel (Greek for the Hebrew name Penuel, meaning “face of God”).

#3. She was from the tribe of Asher (one of the 12 tribes of Israel). (Some historical records say that the women of Asher were well known for their talent and beauty.)

#4. She was very old and had been married at one time, but her husband died after they were married 7 years. She had been a widow for 84 years! If we make the assumption that she married at about the earliest age possible of about 12 in Bible times, she would have been at least 103 years old at this time. (Some believe that Anna was an 84 year old widow at the time, and not widowed for 84 years.)

#5. She never left the Temple, praying and fasting night and day (See: 1 Tim 5:5).

#6. After this encounter, she spoke continually about the Lord Jesus to those in Jerusalem looking for redemption. 

     Many commentators believe that she may well have lived on the Temple grounds, since the Temple had rooms to make this possible.

     You have probably been asked the question at some point, “What character in the Bible would you like to be?” The life Anna lived sounds pretty AWESOME to me!

*** Note: It is interesting to study the similarities between Anna, and Hannah from the Old Testament (1 Sam 1).

 

     (Verse 38) “and coming in that instant” – While Simeon was proclaiming that the baby was the Messiah, and foretelling what would happen to Jesus in the future (Lk 2:29-35), Anna came into the Temple (“in that instant”), and overheard what Simeon said. “She gave thanks to the Lord,” and spent the rest of her life speaking of Jesus to “all that looked for redemption in Israel.”

     “thanks” – The Greek word used for “thanks” here is “anthomologeomai.” It is used nowhere else in the New Testament. It means, “to acknowledge fully, to celebrate in praise with thanksgiving” (Strong’s)

 

     (Verse 39) “And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.”

     When did Mary and Joseph return to Nazareth? It seems pretty clear, right? They did the things the “law” required (the consecration of Jesus, and the purification sacrifice for Mary), and then they went back to where they had originally come from: Nazareth. Well… not so fast! There is actually a big debate on this. A “vast” majority of scholars believe that (Lk 2:39-40) fits after the events that occur in (Mt 2:1-18). In other words, in their view, after the events in (Lk 2:22-38), Mary and Joseph returned to Bethlehem, rather than Nazareth.

     I spent a GREAT deal of time studying this, and afterwards, wrote a somewhat lengthy study on what I found. We are “not” going to get into this debate here (we will “briefly” touch on parts of my study as we go forward). However, if you would like to read the study in full, you can do so here: https://jesusalive.cc/timeline-mary-josephs-travels.

 

     Now, let’s return to Matthew, and read (Mt 2:1-12).

     (Verse 1) “Bethlehem” – (“house of bread”) Located about 5 miles south of Jerusalem, it was known for its fertile hills (about 2500’ above sea level) and valleys (abounding in figs, almonds, and olives). At the time of Jesus’ birth, it had a population of about 1500 – 2000 people. Also called “Ephrath” in the Old Testament, it was the birthplace of David (1 Sam 17:12,15,58)(Lk 2:4,11), and home of Naomi (Ruth 1:1-2) and Boaz (Ruth 2:1,4). Rachel was buried just outside of Bethlehem (Gen 35:16,19)(Gen 48:7).

     “Herod the king” – This was “Herod the Great.” The (“MacArthur Study Bible”) says of him: “He was “the first of several important rulers from the Herodian dynasty who are named in Scripture. This Herod, founder of the famous line, ruled from 37 – 4 B.C. He is thought to have been Idumean, a descendant of the Edomites, offspring of Esau. Herod was ruthless and cunning. He loved opulence and grand building projects, and many of the most magnificent ruins that can be seen in modern Israel date back to the days of Herod the Great. His most famous project was the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem. That project alone took several decades and was not completed until long after Herod’s death (cf. Jn 2:20).”

     “wise men from the east” – In Bible versions like the NASB and NIV, the word “Magi” is used instead of “wise men.” The Greek word used for “Wise Men” is “magoi” (the plural of “magos“). Strong’s gives us this definition: “a wizard, sorcerer, a pretender to magic powers, a professor of the arts of witchcraft.” “Wikipedia” says, “magos… (may be) referring to the Iranian priestly caste of Zoroastrianism. Within this tradition, priests paid particular attention to the stars and gained an international reputation for astrology, which was at that time highly regarded as a science. Their religious practices and astrological abilities caused derivatives of the term Magi to be applied to the occult in general and led to the English term magic.”

     It should be noted that “wise men” (“of Babylon”) are also mentioned in chapters 2, 4, and 5 of the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament. In (Dan Ch. 2), after Daniel successfully interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, it says in (Dan 2:48)(NKJV) “Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon (“Baghdad” in Iraq today).”

     Based on the above, the “wise men” likely came from either Iran (“Persia”) or Iraq (“Baghdad”).

***Note: In (Acts 8:9-24) and (Acts 13:6-12), men named “Simon” and “Elymas” are also called “sorcerers” (“magos / mageno”).

 

     (Verse 2) “King of the Jews” – Regarding Jesus, this term was not often used by Jews, but rather by non-Jews i.e. (Jn 18:33)(Mt 27:29,37). This may indicate the wise men were not Jews.

     “we have seen His star in the East” – Was this an actual “star,” or something else? Theories abound!

     “to worship him” – There is no evidence that the wise men understood the divinity of Jesus (that He was God in flesh). Therefore, the “worship” that they were planning to give to Jesus was more like the “worship” that was given to earthly “kings.” One definition of “worship” is “to regard with great, even extravagant respect, honor, or devotion” (Webster’s Dictionary). See: (Mt 18:26)(Acts 10:25) for examples of this kind of “worship” given to men.

 

     (Verse 3) “Herod… was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” Why was Herod troubled? Why was “all Jerusalem troubled?”

 

     (Verse 4) “when he had gathered all of the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born”

     (From the “Cambridge Commentary”) – “The chief priests (primarily “Sadducees”) were those who had served the office of high priest, and also the heads of the courses into which the priests were divided. Scribes (primarily “Pharisees”) were those who transcribed or copied the law and who expounded it. They are called lawyers in St Luke’s gospel.”

     “The Christ” – (Gr. “Christos” meaning “anointed one”)(Used 569 times in the NT)

     Many verses in the Old Testament prophesied the coming Messiah. Here are a few: (Gen 3:15)(Gen 12:2-3)(Gen 49:8-12)(Num 24:15-19)(Deut 18:15-18)(Ps 78:2)(Isa 7:14)(Isa 53:3)(Mic 5:2 – below)(Zech 9:9).

 

     (Verses 5-6)(NKJV) “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.’ ”

     This prophecy by Micah is found in (Mic 5:2). It is interesting to note that the scribes and Pharisees knew that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, Jesus WAS born in Bethlehem, but because He grew up in Nazareth, later Jewish leaders believe He was born there.

     It is also worth noting that even though Jesus was supernaturally “conceived by the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20)(Lk 1:35), almost everyone believed He was Joseph’s son (Mt 13:55)(Mk 6:3)(Jn 1:45)(Jn 6:42).

 

     (Verse 7) “when he (Herod) had secretly called the wise men” – Why do you suppose Herod did this “secretly?”

 

     (Verse 8) “when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” As will will soon see, this is a lie.

 

     (Verse 9) “till it (the star) came and stood over where the young Child was” – This would seem to indicate that the “star” stood over the “exact” house where Jesus was. Therefore, it would have to have been very low in the sky, right? Could an “actual star” have done this? Hence, we go back to our discussion from verse 2.

***Note: It is my belief that this “star” may well have been an “angel.” As we saw in (Lk 2:9), when “an angel of the Lord” appeared to the shepherds, and “the glory of the Lord shone around them,” I believe this same “glory that shone” could have been an angel leading the wise men to Jesus. An angel could have “moved” (“went before them”), “till it came and stood over” the “exact” house where Jesus was. (Perhaps similar to the “pillar of cloud” and “pillar of fire” that led the Israelites in the desert: Ex 13:21, Deut 1:32-33.)

     It is also worth noting that in (Rev 1:20)(Rev 12:4)(Job 38:7), angels are compared to “stars.”

 

     (Verses 10-11) “When they saw the star, they rejoiced” – This seems to indicate that the star did not “continually” remain in the sky, but may have appeared and disappeared a number of times. Some scholars believe that it may have only been seen by the wise men.

     “when they had come into the house” – Notice that Mary and Joseph are no longer in the “cave” that Jesus was born in (see Lk 2:7 above), but are now in a “house.”

     “they saw the young Child” – As I discuss in detail here: https://jesusalive.cc/wise-men-to-jerusalem-timeline, the time period from when the wise men first saw the star in the sky after the birth of Jesus, until they followed it and arrived in Jerusalem was approximately 4 months. After Jesus was born, and the “shepherds” appeared to Him, Jesus is called a “Babe” (Lk 2:12,16)(Gr word: “brephos“). Here, Jesus is no longer called a “Babe,” but instead a “young child” (Mt 2:9,11,13-14) (Gr word: “paideuo“).

     “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” – Some believe that these 3 gifts had prophetic symbolism. Gold a symbol of His royalty. Frankincense a symbol of His divinity. Myrrh a symbol of His sufferings

     “frankincense” – Frankincense is a resin (or dried sap) which comes from the Boswellia sacra tree. This resin is obtained by making small incisions in the bark of the tree. From these incisions, resin/sap is excreted. It is allowed to dry for several weeks, and then removed. This hardened resin is then used primarily as incense (it can also be eaten). The Boswellia sacra tree is found in very few places; primarily in Arabia and parts of Africa. The Bible mentions “incense” coming from “Sheba” = Arabia (Isa 60:6)(Jer 6:20). Because of the scarcity of these trees, it was (and is) a rare commodity, and quite valuable. In fact, I read that the frankincense and myrrh presented to Jesus were likely more valuable than the gold.

     “myrrh” – Myrrh is a resin (dried sap) which comes from the Commiphora myrrha tree. This resin is obtained by making small incisions in the bark of the tree. From these incisions, resin/sap is excreted. It is allowed to dry for several weeks, and then removed. This hardened resin could be used as was, or it could be made into a liquid by heating it. The Commiphora myrrha tree is mainly found in the same places as the Boswellia sacra tree, from which frankincense comes; primarily in Arabia and parts of Africa. Again, because of the scarcity of these trees, it was (and is) a rare commodity, and quite valuable.

***Note: How many times have you heard it said that: “THREE wise men worshipped Jesus?” Did you know that the Bible never says there were “three wise men?” That number has been derived simply from the 3 gifts that were given to Jesus. Nearly all scholars believe there were more than 3 wise men.

 

     (Verse 12) “And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.”

     After finding and worshipping Jesus, the wise men were going to “return to Herod” to report that they had found Him (as Herod had asked them to do: Mt 2:8). However, they were “divinely warned in a dream” not to do that. Therefore, they “departed for their own country another way.”

***Note: The way “other way” they returned to their “own country” would depend on where you believe the wise men found Jesus: Bethlehem or Nazareth. (See study link on Lk 2:39).

 

     Next, let’s read (Mt 2:13-18).

     (Verse 13)(NKJV) “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.”

***Note: This is the second of 4 dreams that Joseph receives (Mt 1:20-23)(Mt 2:13)(Mt 2:19-20)(Mt 2:22).

     “take the young Child and His mother” – Notice the “angel” does not say, “Take your son and wife.”

     (From the “Barnes Commentary”) – (Egypt) was at this time a Roman province. There were many Jews there, who had a temple and synagogues, and Joseph, therefore, would be among his own countrymen, and yet beyond the reach of Herod. The jurisdiction of Herod extended only to the River Sihon, or “river of Egypt,” and, of course, beyond that Joseph was safe from his designs.

     Tradition, and the Bible tell us that Egypt was a place that people fled to from Jerusalem and Bethlehem when in trouble (see: 1 Kin 11:17, 1 Kin 11:40, Jer 26:21, Jer 43:4-7).

     (Verse 15) I am going to go with how (“Benson’s Commentary”) breaks down this verse.

“that it might be fulfilled” – That is, fulfilled again.

“which was spoken by the prophet” – Hosea (Hos 11:1)

“Out of Egypt have I called my son” – These words of Hosea, without doubt, were primarily spoken of God’s bringing Israel out of Egypt under the conduct of Moses, the prophet referring to God’s message to Pharaoh, recorded in Ex 4:22-23, “Israel is my son, even my firstborn; let my son go that he may serve me.” Now this deliverance of the Israelites, God’s adopted son, was a type of his bringing Christ his real son from thence, and the meaning here is, that the words were now, as it were, fulfilled anew, and more eminently than before, Christ being in a far higher sense the son of God than Israel, of whom the words were originally spoken.

 

     (Verse 16) “Herod… saw that he was mocked of the wise men” – The Greek word “empaizo” is used for “mocked” here. It is used 13 times in the New Testament, and all other uses are connected to the “mockery” of Jesus right before His crucifixion.

     “put to death all the boys in Bethlehem and in all its vicinity from two years old and under” – While the death of even one child is tragic, this slaughter was likely not as large as many have believed (as I once did). Keeping in mind that the population of Bethlehem was around 1500 – 2000 at this time, it is estimated that the number of “male” children murdered was probably 20 to 30. (The burial place of these children can still be seen today. The video of it is quite moving…)

 

     (Verse 18) This phrase, taken from (Jer 31:15), was originally spoken when King Nebebuchadnezzer had conquered Jerusalem (586 B.C.), and taken the Jews captive. “Ramah” (about 8-9 miles north of Bethlehem) was the place where the captives were assembled before being led away to Babylon. The “wailing” there prefigured the “wailing” we see here.

     “Ramah” belonged to the descendants of Benjamin, who was the son of Rachel. In (Gen 35:19), were are told, “And Rachel died, and was buried on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem” (also see: Gen 48:7). Her tomb (still seen at that time) was one mile north of Bethlehem. Ramah was near enough to Bethlehem to be a “district” that Herod sent soldiers to (see: Ezra 2:21,26). Therefore, “Rachel weeping for her children” pictures her “weeping” from her nearby grave over the murder of her descendants through her son Benjamin (and “weeping” for their mothers as well).

     Finally, let’s read (Mt 2:19-23).

     (Verses 19-20) “But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, (20) Saying, Arise, and take the young Child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young Child’s life.”

***Note: This is the third of 4 dreams that Joseph receives (Mt 1:20-23)(Mt 2:13)(Mt 2:19-20)(Mt 2:22).

     “when Herod was dead” – 4 B.C. (From “John Gill’s Commentary”) – “But when Herod was dead,…. Who died, as before observed, a few months after this tragedy was acted; and, according to the Jewish writers, on the seventh day of the month Cisleu, and which answers to the twenty fifth of our November: and was afterwards observed as a day of rejoicing by the Jews. The account which Josephus, and from him Eusebius, gives of his miserable death, is as follows; a burning fever seized him, with an intolerable itching all over his body, and continual pains of the colic; his feet swelled with a dropsy; he had an inflammation in the lower part of his belly: a putrefaction in his privy parts, which bred worms; a frequency and difficulty of breathing, and convulsions in all his members; he had a voracious appetite, a stinking breath, and his intestines abounded with ulcers; when he found that all means made use of were ineffectual, and that he must die, he attempted to lay violent hands upon himself, but was prevented, and soon after expired in a very miserable manner.” (See this mentioned in: Josephus Antiquities 17. 6.5)

 

     (Verse 22)(NKJV) “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.”

***Note: This is the fourth of 4 dreams that Joseph receives (Mt 1:20-23)(Mt 2:13)(Mt 2:19-20)(Mt 2:22).

     “Archelaus” – “MacArthur” says, “Herod’s kingdom was divided 3 ways and given to his sons: Archelaus ruled Judea Samaria, and Idumea; Herod Philip II ruled the regions N of Galilee (Lk 3;1); and Herod Antipas ruled Galilee and Perea (Lk 3:1).” Continuing in Antiquities 17, we are told in 11.4 that Archelaus was given the inferior title of “ethnarch” by Caesar Augustus, who promised to make him a king “if he governed his part virtuously.” However, his reign was as brutal, or even more brutal than his father’s, so Augustus removed him from his position after a short reign, and banished him to Gaul. So, we can see why Joseph was “afraid to go there.”

 

     (Verse 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.””

     “spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene”” – This is nowhere prophesied in the OT. This being the case, scholars debate its meaning. When in doubt, I usually go with the most “literal” meaning first, and doing this, it seems to refer to Jesus growing up in Nazareth.

     However, the “MacArthur Study Bible” offers these views: “Some have suggested that “Nazarene” is a reference to the Heb. word for branch in Is. 11:1 (this word is “netzer”). Others point out that Matthew’s statement that “prophets” had made this prediction may be a reference to verbal prophecies nowhere recorded in the OT. A still more likely explanation is that Matthew is using “Nazarene” as a synonym for someone who is despised or detestable – for that was how people from the region were often characterized (cf. John 1:46). If that is the case, the prophecies Matthew has in mind would include Ps. 22:6-8, Is. 49:7; 53:3.”

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