By Rev. Jack Barr
*The killing of two years old and down shows that Jesus was about one year old at that time. Herod knew that Jesus was one year old from what the wise men told him but to be sure of killing the king, he bracketed the age in case the wise men were wrong as to the date of birth.
*Would have waited no more that two weeks for the return of the wise men. Bethlehem was only six miles from Jerusalem, less than a days journey.
"Herod the first, called Herod the Ascalonite, was the son of Antipater, a friend of king Hyrcanus and his deputy; him the senate of Rome made king in the room of Hyrcanus his master."
The writer tacitly owns afterwards that Jesus was born in the days of this king.
Herod reigned thirty seven years; and according to Dr. Lightfoot's calculation,
Christ was born in the thirty fifth year of his reign, and in the thirty
first of Augustus Caesar, and in the year of the world three thousand nine hundred
and twenty eight, and the month Tisri, which answer to part of our
(From John Gill's Expositor for Matthew 2:1)
Herod the great reigned 37 BC - 4 BC. The death of Herod took place
in the year of Rome AUC 750, just before the Passover. This year coincided with
what in our common chronology would be B.C. 4. No facts recorded
either in Matthew or Luke, throw much light on the season of the birth of Christ,
the flocks and shepherds in the open field indicate spring rather than
(From Electric Bible notes for Matthew 2:1)
The death of Herod: Eusebius says, that immediately, in a very little
time after the slaughter of the children at Bethlehem, the divine vengeance inflicted
diseases on him, which quickly brought him to his end; so that, according to the
learned Dr. Lightfoot, Jesus was not above three or four months in
(From John Gill's expositor for Matthew 2:15)
"But when Herod was dead", who died a few months after this
tragedy was acted (The killing of the babies) and according to the Jewish
writers, on the seventh day of the month Cisleu, and which answers to the
twenty fifth of our November: The account which Josephus and 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
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
(From John Gill's Expositor for Matthew 2:19)
Note: Herod killed one of his sons just five days before he died himself.
The son who succeeded him as king was Archelaus. This man was like
his father, a very cruel wicked man. He ordered his troops, and slew at the
feast of the Passover, in the temple of the Lord, nine thousand persons: but
perhaps Josephus's account is truest, who says that he sent in his whole
army upon the people, who had raised a sedition, and slew, whilst they
were sacrificing, about three thousand; and this happened at the beginning
of his reign. (There was good reason why Joseph didn't take Jesus and Mary back
(From John Gill's Expositor for Matthew 2:22)
Immediately after the departure of the wise men, Joseph with his wife
and child were ordered into Egypt, which could not be done before Mary's
Purification. But rather this their coming was near upon two years after the
birth of Christ; since it is after wards observed, that Herod sent 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 inquired of the wise
men. (Mt. 2:16)
(From John Gill's Expositor for Matthew 2:1)
The appearance of the star coincided with the birth. The journey from
any part of the region vaguely called the east would occupy at least several weeks.
They undertook a four month's journey, if they came from
Babylon; more if they came from Persia.
(From The Electric Bible Notes for Matthew 2:1)
They saw the star when they were in the East.
There was a report by an Eastern writer, who affirms and relates the following speech as spoke by the wise men to Herod, when in conversation with him, about the matter: " A certain person, say they, of great note with us, in a book which he composed, warned us in it, mentioning these things; a child that shall descend from heaven, will be born in Palestine, whom the greatest part of the world shall serve, and the sign of his appearance shall be this; ye shall see a strange star, which shall direct you where he is; when ye shall see this, take gold, myrrh and frankincense, and go and offer them to him, and worship him, and then return, lest a great calamity befall you. Now the star has appeared unto us, and we are come to perform what was commanded us."
It is said that Seth the son of Adam gave out a prophecy, that a star should appear
at the birth of the Messiah.
(From John Gill's Expositor for Matthew 2:2)
The star, which they saw in the east, then appeared; for, it seems, it had for some time disappeared: it looks as if it had been only seen at the time of Christ's birth, and when they were in their own country; for both here (Mt. 2:2) and here (Mt. 2:9) they are only said to have seen it "in the east", that is when they were in the east country; so tat it seems from that time they had no sight of it, not while they were on their journey, nor at Jerusalem; nor was it necessary they should. When they saw it in their own country, according to their best observation, it was over the land of Judea, and they were persuaded of it, that it was a certain sign that the king of the Jews was born: they therefore determine upon and prepare for a journey to Jerusalem, the metropolis of the nation, and where the king kept his court, to inquire for him; nor needed they the guidance of the star to direct them to a place so well known; but being in quest of him in an obscure place, and without any guide, this star appears to them; and, which is something very extraordinary.
Went before them till it came, and stood over where the young child was. This star had a motion, kept pace with them, and was a guide unto them, till it and they came to the place where Christ was; and then it stood directly over the house, so that they had no need to inquire of any person for him.
The appearing of this star, and then its disappearing for a time, agree, in some
measure with the account the Jews give of the star which they expect will be seen
at the coming of the Messiah; for they say: "after seven days that star shall be
hid, and the Messiah shall be hid for twelve months -- when he shall
descend, the pillar of fire shall be seen as before, in sight, and afterwards the
Messiah shall be revealed, and many people shall be gathered to him."
(From John Gill's Expositor for Matthew 2:9)
Matthew 2:11 -- "And when they were come into the house, they found the young child, with Mary his mother."
According to the Ethiopians, these wise men were three, whose names they give us; the name of him that offered the gold, was Annoson; he that offered the frankincense, was Allytar; and he that offered the myrrh, Kyssan.
Gold is the symbol of kingship, frankincense of deity: (see Jeremiah 6:20), myrrh
of mortification (it was used to anoint the dead.)
(from John Gill's Expositor for Matthew 2:11)
"Abiding in the field, watching over their flock by night" from this it appears that Christ was born in the night.
Jerom says it is a tradition of the Jews that Christ will come in the middle of the night, as was the Passover in Egypt.
It is not likely that Jesus was born, as is commonly received, at the latter end of December, in the depth of winter; since at the time of Jesus birth, the shepherds were out in the fields, where they lodged all night, watching their flocks.
Speaking of the flocks and cattle, "these lie in the pastures, which are in the villages, all the days of cold and heat, and do not go into the cities, until the rains descend."
The first rain is in the month Marchesvan, which answers to the latter part of our October, and the former part of November; and of this sort, seem to be the flocks those shepherds were keeping by night, the time not being yet come, of their being brought into the city; from this it appears, that Christ must be born before the middle of October, since the first rain was not yet come.
The Rabbins teach, that these are they of the wilderness, or the fields, and these are
they of the house; they of the field are they that go out on the Passover,
and feed in the pastures, and come in at the first rain.
(From John Gill's Expositor for Luke 2:8)