King Herod and the Wise Men
As we open the pages of the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, two new fascinating characters emerge for our study, namely the wise men who follow the star to worship the child Jesus and the treacherous and deplorable King Herod who tries to recruit them as spies.
Matthew 2:1-2 states:
1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
Now today’s sermon is a little bit different, because we’re going to delve into the background and tales and history of some of the characters that we encounter in this portion of the Gospel.
In addition to King Herod & the Wise Men, we’ll also look at the symbolic meaning of the gifts presented to Jesus, and also the prophecies concerning the birth of Jesus; finally, we’ll examine a so-called “controversy” surrounding one of the prophecies.
The Wise Men
Let’s first look to the Wise Men.
Immediately, we want to refute the popular notion that has captured the imagination of both Christendom and the secular world which asserts that there were three wise men who visited Jesus after he was born.
Although the Bible makes no mention of their specific number, it is commonly assumed that there were three wise men because of the three gifts which they presented to Jesus: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
We’ll get to the symbolic significance of these gifts in a moment. But Scripture is silent not only regarding the number of the wise men, but somewhat, at first glance, as to the mystery of their identity.
Popular conceptions have attributed to the wise men different titles & names, including “magi”, “kings”, “priests”, and “astrologers”.
The King James Bible refers to them as “wise men who came from the East” and that is how I, too, will refer to them.
It is fascinating that such scant attention is given to the wise men in the Gospel of Matthew, yet countless theories, traditions, and tall yarns have been spun around the mystery of their identity.
Some believe that the wise men were kings from Ancient Persia or Babylon. Others see the wise men as astrologers who inquired of the times and the seasons from the stars.
While it is appears somewhat ambiguous on the surface, since Matthew makes little mention of their identity, thankfully, as we’ve discussed in past sermons, the Bible itself has its own built-in dictionary, which helps us define its own language. So when in doubt, we turn to the first instance of the occurrence of a phrase or word in the Bible and allow the Bible to interpret itself.
Using the Bible’s built-in dictionary, we find that the first occurrence of the phrase “wise men” is in Genesis 41:8 in which Pharaoh of Egypt has a disturbing dream that he can’t interpret, and so he calls for all the magicians and all the wise men to interpret his dream.
“And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream …”
So we see a repetition of the phrase “all the magicians” and “all the wise men”; and an association is immediately made between magicians and wise men in Genesis, the very first book of the Bible.
This is repeated again in Exodus 7:11, the very next mention of “wise men” in the Bible, where the phrase “wise men” is associated with “sorcerers” and “magicians.”
Exodus 7:11 states:
“Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments.”
But then we get to Exodus chapter 36 and the phrase “wise men” is again used but this time it’s associated with those whom the Bible calls “wise hearted men, in whom the LORD put wisdom and understanding to know how to work all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary” (Exodus 36:1).
Exodus 36:4 continues:
“And all the wise men, that wrought all the work of the sanctuary, came every man from his work which they made;”
But this is the exception to the rule; and the language used to describe the wise men here is different than elsewhere in Scripture, such as in ….
The book of Esther, the Persian King, King Ahasuereus, references “wise men” when speaking of [QUOTE] “those which knew the times” (In Esther 1:13).
As a final proof that the case can be made that the Wise Men were in fact associated with sorcery or astrology, is revealed in the book of Daniel, chapter 5, verse 15, in which King Belshazzar of Babylon states:
“And now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing, and make known unto me the interpretation thereof.”
So it is clear that the phrase “wise men” held spiritual, religious, and often occult significance, with the exception of the wise-hearted men who worked in the sanctuary of the Lord with Moses; but even they were doing spiritual work.
To some, this is troubling indeed; that the wise men who brought gifts unto Jesus and worshiped him were in fact very likely “astrologers” or “magicians” with some kind of pagan-priestly origin.
But you have to understand that God will call people from anywhere, and any situation, and any religion; all who call upon him and believe will be saved.
Romans 10:13 states: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Acts 2:21 reaffirms the same message: “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
I believe the “wise men” were pagan-astrologers who heard God’s call, forsook all, followed his star, and came to worship Jesus, bowing down before him in submission; and were saved.
… However, more noteworthy … than the identity of the wise men … is the fact that the “wise men” were the first gentile believers mentioned in the New Testament.
As such, from the very moment of Jesus’ birth, the fact is established in our minds, whether subconsciously or overtly, that salvation is now available through Jesus to all who will believe. Salvation is no longer of the Jews, but now available to all who will put their faith on the Lord Jesus Christ and believe, including the wise men who followed his star from the East.
Now About The Star
The star itself that the wise men followed, had prophetic & symbolic significance as a cosmic sign, signaling the advent of the coming Christ.
Numbers 24:17 states: “… there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel …”
Look also at Isaiah 60:3
“And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.”
“Gentiles” can refer back to the wise men; “Thy light” is a reference to God’s light and can also be a reference to the star which they followed. And “Thy rising” is a reference to Christ’s incarnation and birth.
It’s significant also that the wise men didn’t call it “a star” or “the star”, but “His star”, referring to Christ.
Another popular notion that I want to deal with is the belief that the WISE MEN WERE KINGS.
Turn, if you would, to Isaiah 60 and Psalm 72 and just hold your fingers there …
While prophecies concerning the wise men as kings is not as abundant in Scripture as them being astrologers, a compelling case can still be made from these two OT passages that the wise men may have also been royalty from Midian and Sheba, which were Kingdoms to the East and South of Jerusalem, in what is present-day Yemen.
In fact, some have called the wise men priest-kings, combining these concepts together and calling them royal astrologers.
This is actually plausible when we look at the two key passages from Isaiah 60 and Psalm 72 which mention two of the same three gifts – gold and incense – being presented to the Lord as gifts from kings of faraway lands.
We just read in Isaiah 60:3 that gentiles and kings would come to His light.
“And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.”
Isaiah 60, this same passage, continues in Verse 4:
4 Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far …
6 The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense …
And then in verse 9, we also read:
9 Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the LORD thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel …
If you turn also to Psalm 72, a parallelism occurs which strengthens the case further. Granted, this is part speculation sinceonly two of the three gifts are mentioned, but if you notice in the Isaiah passage, there are … several key phrases … to keep in mind as we compare this passage to Psalm 72.
Isaiah said: “All they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense” and also that the “ships of Tarshish” would bring “sons from afar”.
Now look at Psalm 72, starting at verse 10, and you’ll notice the parallelism:
10 The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.
11 Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.
Further down in verse 15 of the Psalm, it says:
“And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised.”
So we have Sheba and Tarshish and gold and incense and sons from afar in Isaiah 60 and in Psalm 72 we have a parallelism which mentions Sheba and Tarshish and gold and gentile kings falling down before him.
It sounds a lot like the gentile wise men of the east presenting gifts of gold, frankincense (which is incense), and myrrh to the Lord.
While this is a partial prophetic match, it is difficult to ignore, and a case is made that the wise men may have been kings from Sheba and Midian which is to the East & South of Jerusalem. It all fits together.
So the Wise Men may have in fact been astrologer-kings from the East.
Now we come to the Three Gifts presented to the child Jesus.
The gift of gold is symbolic of royalty and material wealth; in ancient times, it is kings who are often in possession of it; and it is a gift fit for a king.
Gold is also associated with holiness, purity, and divinity in the Bible. The entire temple of God and the Holy of Holies was overlaid with pure gold as well as the Ark of the Covenant, the golden candlestick near the entrance to the Holy of Holies was made of one solid piece of solid gold, the cherubims were overlaid with gold, and so on;
Gold signifies God’s purity and intrinsic value and is a fitting gift for Jesus as a child.
The next gift presented to Jesus was FRANKINCENSE.
So what is frankincense? Frankincense is a dry, resinous substance often used as perfume in ancient times.
Frankincense was also one of the key ingredients in the anointing oil which Aaron and the priests used in the Holy of Holies.
As anointing oil, frankincense foreshadows Jesus as the Anointed One. Christ itself is the Greek word for Anointed. So frankincense refers to Christ Himself as the High-Priest which would replace the Priesthood of Aaron.
And, lastly, frankincense was also placed in the meat offerings made by fire in the OT as a sweet smelling savour and a memorial unto the Lord.
Leviticus 2 states:
1 And when any will offer a meat offering unto the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour; and he shall pour oil upon it, and put frankincense thereon:
2 And he shall bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests … with all the frankincense thereof; and the priest shall burn the memorial of it upon the altar, to be an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD”
Frankincense, therefore, also foreshadows Christ as a “living sacrifice” unto the Lord. I get more extensively into the burnt offerings in my sermon, “Did Jesus Suffer in Hell” if you want more information on that.
This brings us to MYRREH. Myrrh was the final gift presented to the child Jesus.
Myrrh is also not exactly the pleasant gift that you might think of when you see all the manger scenes and think about all the pleasant children’s songs and tales woven around these gifts.
Myrrh is a resign that is harvested from certain trees in Eastern Arabia. It’s been used historically as a spice, as perfume, and as medicine, but was also used in embalming, which preserves dead bodies and slows down decomposition.
Also, if you remember, in Mark chapter 15, Jesus was given wine to drink mixed with myrrh, which he refused. “And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not.” (23).
Myrrh foreshadows Jesus’ death on the Cross.
>>> So, in short, gold represents Jesus’ kingship, frankincense primarily represents his Priesthood, and myrrh represents his death on the cross.
Now the question must be raised again as to whether the wise men were led by divination of the stars to the child Jesus or whether they were led of God Himself. We’ve made a strong Biblical case already that the wise men were in fact astrologers, using the Bible’s own definitions, but I feel compelled to mention that Astrology is strictly forbidden by the Bible.
I seriously hope no Christian would ever participate in any form of astrology, no matter how innocent or minor it may appear.
10 There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.
11 Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
12 For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord …
So how do we reconcile all this? Were the wise men participating in astrology or were they following a divinely ordained sign? In other words, was God leading them? Or were they simply diviners of the times? While the Bible affirms that the wise men were astrologers, I firmly believe that God was supernaturally guiding them for His own providential purposes, despite their past sordid religious practices.
The Bible tells us that the stars are the handiwork of God, in Genesis 1:14:
“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:”
The primary application of this passage is that the stars are meant as markers of time and space. For example, we base time … and our clocks … on the rotation of the planets and the stars.
Sailors also traveling the seas, use the stars to mark geographic positions, using the stars as signs. That, I believe, is the primary application of Genes 1:14.
But there are instances in which the stars are not only used for calculating time and marking space, but at God’s holy discretion, and His discretion alone, He has used the stars Biblically as supernatural and miraculous signs to communicate His intentions towards mankind.
>> One of the most striking examples in the Bible of God using the physical elements of the universe as a sign is found in the book of Isaiah chapter 38.
While you’re turning to Isaiah 38, let me give you the background ….
In Isaiah 38, King Hezekiah is sick unto death. And Hezekiah turns his face to the wall and prays unto the Lord, and beseeches him to have mercy on him.
God answers through Isaiah the prophet and tells him that He will add fifteen years to his life; And deliver him out of the hand of the king of Assyria.
In Isaiah 38, verse 7 and 8 the Bible records:
“And this shall be a sign unto thee from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that he hath spoken;
8 Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.
This was a cosmic sign which declared God’s intentions towards King Hezekiah.
So we witness here a miracle of truly astronomical proportions within the stars, within the sun itself.
Now either time actually reversed itself ten degrees on the ancient sun dial of Ahaz; or perhaps the position of the sun actually changed and went backwards relative to the earth or vice versa. Whatever the case may be, a sign was performed among the stars. This is God’s prerogative. He can do that at will, as He did with the “star” that led the wise men to Jesus. And it is not astrology! God moved the cosmos to suit His own purposes.
There’s a vast difference between man seeking the counsel of the stars to foretell the times – and the author of Creation moving the cosmos at His will to advance His providential plans.
God will use the totality of His universe, at His own discretion, to accomplish His purposes.
Astronomy v. Astrology
Now there’s a huge difference between astronomy, which maps the law of the stars as a physical science vs. astronomy which charts the zodiac.
OK, I don’t want to know what you’re “sign” is.
If you’re a Christian that dabbles in horoscopes or, you’re taking part in a very wicked Satanic, Biblically forbidden act, even if you think it’s not real or you’re just doing it as a pastime because it’s in your favorite magazine or something.
For example, and this may seem very small to some, but when I go to a Chinese restaurant for example, I tear up the paper “fortune” inside the cookie without letting my eyes even look upon it … and then I eat the cookie (if it’s not stale!)
If you want God to bless you, don’t even think about doing such things!
But Astronomy as a physical science is another matter altogether.
The Bible mentions the Constellations … such as in the Book of Job, where Arcturus, Orion, and the Pleiades are named in Job 9:9; and even the Lord Himself mentions the constellations in Job 38:31:
“Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?”
The prophet Amos also says:
Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night … “ (Amos 5:8a).
But when it comes to astrology, Isaiah gives God’s people a stern warning:
Turning again to Isaiah, the Bible says:
13 Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from [these things] that shall come upon thee.
14 Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: [there shall] not [be] a coal to warm at, [nor] fire to sit before it. (47:13-14).
Let’s now turn our eyes in judgment to King Herod.
The first thing we have to realize when we’re dealing w/ Herod, is that there were multiple King Herods in the Gospels and also in the Book of Acts.
I want to give you some general background about the various Herods so that you can differentiate between them when reading the Bible.
History records that the Herodian dynasty started from a man named Antipater whom Julius Caesar made procurator of Judea.
While we don’t put any stock whatsoever in secular history, when it comes to Bible truth, it can be helpful as a matter of interest to understand some of the narratives surrounding some of the more minor Biblical characters, like the Herods.
I mean we all know that history can be changed and often is; often the official narrative is changed to suit a particular agenda; so if you read history bearing that in mind, rather than reading it the same way that you would study the trustworthy Bible, it can be helpful at times and we shouldn’t remain willfully ignorant – as long as we don’t mix up history-knowledge with Bible authority. When I read the Bible, I know that every word is true; when I read history, it’s just history.
Before I go further, let me make it crystal clear, If I didn’t already.
It’s not necessary to have even a rudimentary understanding of history or ancient societies or cultures in order to understand the Bible. The Bible is complete in and of itself. All that we need is contained within its holy pages, especially when it comes to matters of understanding God, salvation, doctrine, church matters, and morality.
The purpose of the Bible is to teach us about the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ to the salvation of our souls.
But history can be helpful in getting a fuller picture of some of the more minor personalities of the Bible, such as King Herod. I mean does it really matter if you know anything at all about King Herod in terms of understanding God or salvation? No.
But is it interesting for study? Yes.
So with that in mind, the first Herod that we meet in The Gospel of Matthew, is son of Herod Antipas, who as I mentioned before was made the first procurator of Judea after Julius Caesar defeated Pompey. A procurator if you don’t know, was in charge of the financial matters of a given province. He was sort of like the Secretary of Treasury over all Judea but with immense political power.
History records that Antipater, King Herod’s father, was of Idumean descent, which is another name for being an Edomite. The Edomites, the Bible tells us, are the descendants of Esau.
So the Herods were of Edomite lineage and due to their genealogy were sort of considered half-Jews, half-breeds of sorts, and so basically the Jews of Judea didn’t really respect the Herods as rightful kings of Judea.
After Antipater, the first Judean procurator, “Herod the Great” becomes the first King of Judea, and it is this Herod that we first encounter in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 2.
This was the same Herod that had the original temple of Solomon rebuilt; he was also known for his great feats of architecture. But that’s not all he was known for. Herod was a truly wicked and despicable man.
Historians write of Herod that he was “not only Idumaean in race and a Jew in religion, but he was a heathen in practice and a monster in character”.
Other sources describe Herod as: “a madman who murdered his own family” and a man “prepared to commit any crime in order to gratify his unbounded ambition.”
Scripture bears record that this portion of history is accurate; when we see that Herod tries to recruit the wise men into spying out the location of the child Jesus in Matthew 2, and the wise men refuse, Herod has all the children of Bethlehem and the surrounding regions ages two and under murdered.
“Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.” (Matthew 2:16).
REFUTATION OF WISE MEN VISITING JESUS AS A BABY IN THE STABLE.
Very quickly, before we get into the remaining Herods, I want to refute one other false notion: which is that the wise men visited Jesus at the moment of his birth and presented gifts to Jesus right there and then in the manger and stable with Mary and Joseph. Yeah, sorry, your nativity scenes are all wrong! But, hey, that’s fine. It’s just a symbolic representation!
Matthew 2:11 states:
“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him …”
“A house” where they saw “the young child” is not the same as a stable where the baby Jesus lay.
The only thing we know for certain is that Jesus would have been somewhere between the age of two and under.
We know this because after Herod inquired diligently of the wise men about the time of Jesus’ birth, he reached the same conclusion and had all the children ages two and under ruthlessly slaughtered.
BACK TO THE HERODIAN DYNASTY
As I mentioned, history records that the King Herod of Matthew 2, known as “Herod the Great”, had his own family members murdered, including one of his nine wives on suspicion of adultery. Later, while on his death bed, five days before he died, Herod ordered the execution of his own son.
While also on his death bed, history records that Herod commanded that all of the chief men of the entire Jewish nation be killed at the moment of his own death, so that “he would have the honor of a memorable mourning at his funeral”.
He wanted a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth at the moment of his death, knowing he wouldn’t get any otherwise.
The order, however, was not carried out after his death.
After Herod’s death, his kingdom was divided into a tetrarchy. A tetrarchy is a kingdom where power is split among either four people or over four regions. Herod split the power over the various regions and divided it between his sons.
Herod Archelaus is one of the sons …
This is the second Herod that is mentioned in Matthew, chapter 2:22, not to be confused with the first King Herod.
Archelaus was not much better than his father. History records that on one occasion of a Passover, he slew three thousands Jews, till the temple was “full of dead bodies”.
It is no wonder then, knowing the base character of the Herods, that the Bible records Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, even after being told to return to Judea by an angel of the Lord in a dream, was still afraid to return.
Matthew 2:21&22 state:
21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:
This Takes Us to Herod Antipas
The third Herod mentioned in the Gospels is Herod Antipas. History regards Antipas as a shy, sneaky character. Jesus Himself refers to Antipas as a “fox” in Luke 13:32.
“And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.”
Herod Antipas is the same Herod whom John the Baptist rebukes for marrying his half-brother’s wife, Herodias, while they were both still married – Herodias in turn compels Herod Antipas to have John the Baptist beheaded later in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 14.
As a side note, John the Baptist teaches us that it’s perfectly within the right of God’s people to rebuke heads of state, kings, and presidents, and congressman, and leaders indiscriminately, as God’s prophets. I mean, how many times have we rebuked King Obama, for example, only to have some weak-kneed Christian tell us to just love and pray for him and that it’s not Christ-like to harshly judge the sins of wicked kings and princes and so-called presidents. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve never read any examples of John the Baptist praying for King Herod and just loving on him, have you?
John the Baptist paid a martyrs price and the voice of one crying in the wilderness was physically silenced for a time on this earth. But his spirit continues to speak loudly to us in the words of Scripture even today.
Herod Antipas is also the very same Herod in the Gospels who performed a show-trial of sorts over Jesus’ rightful claim to Kingship, before returning Him to stand trial before Pilate before His crucifixion.
Luke 23:8-9 says:
8 And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long [season], because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.
9 Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing.
But Jesus refused to cast His pearls before swine.
There are times when it’s best to remain silent.
It is also from this Herod Antipas that Jesus receives the royal robe which He wears to the inauguration of His crucifixion:
Luke 23:11 states:
And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked [him], and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.
Another interesting side note: Herod Antipas & Pilate in their treacherous mistreatment of Jesus, become friends, who were formerly at enmity with one another.
Luke 23:12 states:
“And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.”
The Bible tells us that the wicked delight in each others’ company.
Isn’t this encounter with Herod & Pilate perfectly reflected by the words of the Bible, in Psalm 2, which says:
2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed …
It’s a perfect description of Herod Antipas and Pilate colluding to kill the Lord Jesus Christ … and another prophecy fulfilled.
By contrast the Word of God says:
1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
Herod Philip II
The final Herod mentioned in the Gospels is Herod Philip II. He’s merely a footnote in the Gospels which merely marks the place and time in which John the Baptist began his fiery ministry.
1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,
2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. [who we know as John the Baptist].
It is ironic that Philip receives scant attention from the Bible, since of all the Herods, he alone is smiled upon by historians as being a “quiet ruler who governed with the most amount of moderation.”
Whether history is accurate in this regards, we can speculate that perhaps God spared Philip the insult of being largely associated with the most wicked of his brothers by having his place in the Scriptures minimized.
King Agrippa I & II
I don’t want to spend a lot of time on these last two kings, since our current study is in the Gospel of Matthew, suffice it to say that Herod Agrippa I, grandson of the first King Herod, was the one who put James, the brother of Jesus, to death in Acts 12, and Herod Agrippa II, his son, was the one who judged Paul when Paul was being threatened with imprisonment by the Jews in Caesarea in Acts 26.
King Agrippa II is attributed with the famous line in the Bible, in which he says, after hearing the Gospel from Paul’s own mouth: “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Acts 26:28
These are all the Herods mentioned in the Bible.
I hope this gives you some peripheral insight into the various personalities as we study the Gospels.
FULLFILLMENT OF PROPHECY
The Final portion of Matthew 2 that I’d like to cover are the Messianic prophecies that are fulfilled through the birth of Jesus.
There are four prophecies …
The first 3 are straightforward and present no theological issues, so we’ll go through them quickly, but the final one presents, on the surface at leat, a small theological challenge that skeptics have called a discrepancy in the Bible. However, we know, there are no errors in the Bible.
The First prophecy …
Matthew 2:5-6 states, starting at the end of verse 5:
… for thus it is written by the prophet,
And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
This is referring to the prophet Micah, Micah 5:2, which states:
“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
This one is straightforward and needs no further explanation!
The end of Matthew 2, verse 15, states: “… Out of Egypt have I called my son” – this is talking about Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, fleeing to Egypt to escape the treachery of King Herod after being warned in a dream.
This is fulfilled in the prophet Hosea’s words which state in Hoses 11:1:
“When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”
In addition to that, we know that the patriarch Joseph, who was sold into slavery into Egypt, and who became a ruler of Egypt, was also a foreshadowing of Christ, a Christlike figure. And of course, the entire exodus of Moses and the children of Israel out of Egypt, foreshadows this prophecy as well – for if the children of Israel had perished in Egypt, then the seed of the Messiah would have perished along with them.
So again, this prophecy is clear.
Moving on to #3
Matthew 2:16-18 we already touched on earlier:
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.
17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,
18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping [for] her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
This prophecy is referring back to Jeremiah 31:15 which states:
“Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.”
#4 And finally, we get to #4, which on the surface presents a slight theological challenge. But I will prove to you that there is in fact no controversy and that God’s Word, as always, is free of error in the King James version. Oh, you’ll find plenty of errors in the NIV, the NLT, the ESV, and the NASB, but never so in the tried and true KJV.
Matthew 2:22-23 states:
22 But when he [Joseph] heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:
KEY 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.
The so-called challenge is this: There is no specific OT prophet who calls the Messiah a “Nazarene”.
So what’s going on here?
The first thing that we have to get out of the way, is that people sometimes mix up being a “Nazarite” with being from the city of Nazareth. The two have nothing to do with each other.
A Nazarite, in short, is someone who takes a vow to be consecrated unto the Lord for a specific period of time.
A Nazarane, however, is simply someone from the city of Nazareth. Two completely separate things.
Jesus did not take the Nazarite vow!
So let’s just check that off the list first as an interpretation error.
OK, so you say, but there’s still no OT scripture saying that the Messiah would be from Nazareth.
But here’s the thing. Matthew says that “prophets” (plural) said he would be called a Nazarene. Multiple prophets who would describe Jesus this way.
Matthew was referring to the prophecies in the OT that said the Christ would be despised and rejected of men.
Nazareth, a city in the lower southern region of Galilee, had earned a very poor, negative reputation for itself among the Jews of Jesus’ day. To be called a “Nazarite” carried with it a huge stigma as being sub-par in that society.
In John 1:46: Nathaniel, himself a man from Galilee, said of Jesus: “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” in John 1:46.
Let’s look at some of the prophecies:
6 But I [am] a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, [saying],
8 He trusted on the LORD [that] he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
“They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head …”
Isaiah 53 states:
3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
It’s interesting also that Jesus Himself proudly wears the title: “Jesus of Nazareth”.
Paul, at the moment of his conversion states in Acts 22:8
“And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.”
The social stigma of being called a Nazarite fit perfectly the numerous prophetic descriptions of the Messiah being despised among men.
Once again, we see that there are no errors in God’s Word, only skeptics who, as natural men, cannot discern the things of God, cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God, “because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).