The Gospel of Matthew
Preface (to the book of Matthew); Introduction (to cp. 1); Chapters: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Click on TOC in this page to return to here.
Please read Introductory Notes under the New Testament Table of Contents here.
Preface to the Gospel of St. Matthew, With a Short Account of His Life
The general title of this latter collection of sacred books, which, as well as the former, all Christians acknowledge to have been given by immediate inspiration from God, is in the Greek Η ΚΑΙΝΗ ΔΙΑΘΗΚΗ, which we translate The New Testament: but which should rather be translated The New Covenant; or, if it were lawful to use a periphrasis, the New Covenant, including a Testamentary Declaration and Bequest: for this is precisely the meaning of this system of justice, holiness, goodness, and truth. St. Paul, 2Co. 3:14, calls the sacred books before the time of Christ, Η ΠΑΛΑΙΑ ΔΙΑΘΗΚΗ, The Old Covenant; which is a very proper and descriptive title of the grand subject of those books. This apostle evidently considers the Old Testaments and the New, as two covenants, Gal. 4:24; and, if comparing these two together, he calls one παλαιαν διαθηκην, the old covenant, the other καινην, the new; one πρωτην, the first, the other νεαν, that which is recent; in opposition to the old covenant, which was to terminate in the new, he calls this κρειττονα, better, more excellent, Heb. 7:22; Heb. 8:6; and αιωνιον, everlasting, Heb. 13:20, because it is never to be changed, nor terminate in any other; and to endure endlessly itself. The word covenant, from con together, and venio, I come, signifies a contract or agreement made between two parties; to fulfill the conditions of which, they are mutually bound. The old covenant, in its essential parts, was very simple. I Will Be Your God. Ye Shall Be My People - the spirit of which was never changed. The people were to take Jehovah as the sole object of their religious worship; put their whole trust and confidence in him; serve him in his own way, according to the prescribed forms which he should lay before them. This was their part. On his side, God was to accept them as his people, give them his Spirit to guide them, his mercy to pardon them, his providence to support them, and his grace to preserve them unto eternal life. But all this was connected with the strict observance of a great variety of rites and ceremonies, at once expressive of the holiness of God, the purity of the Divine justice, and the exceeding sinfulness and utter helpless state of man. A great part of the four latter books of Moses is employed in prescribing and illustrating these rites and ceremonies; and what is called the new covenant is the complement and perfection of the whole.
The word Διαθηκη, from δια and τιθημι, I lay down, signifies not only a covenant agreement, but also that disposal which a man makes of his secular matters during his life, which is to take place after his death. It answers to the Hebrew ברית berith, from בר bar, to purify, because, in making covenants, a sacrifice was usually offered to God, for the purification of the contracting parties; and hence the word ברית berith is frequently used to express not only the covenant itself, but also the sacrifice offered on the occasion. See below under Gospel; and see the notes on Gen. 6:18; Gen. 15:18 (note); Exo. 29:45 (note); Lev. 26:15 (note); and Dt. 29:12 (note), where every thing relative to this subject is minutely considered.
The term new covenant, as used here, seems to mean that grand plan of agreement or reconciliation which God made between himself and mankind, by the death of Jesus Christ; in consequence of which, all those who truly repent, and unfeignedly believe in the great atoning sacrifice, are purified from their sins, and united to God. Christ is called της Διαθηκης καινης μεσιτης, the Mediator of the new covenant, Heb. 9:15. And referring to the ratification of this new covenant or agreement, by means of his own death, in the celebration of his last supper, Christ calls the cup, το ποτεριον η καινη Διαθηκη εν τῳ αιματι μου, this cup is the new covenant in my blood: i.e. an emblem or representation of the new covenant ratified by his blood. See Luk. 22:20. And from these expressions, and their obvious meaning, the whole Christian Scriptures have obtained this title, The New Testament, or Covenant, of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Those writings, and the grand subject of them, which, previously to the New Testament times, were termed simply The covenant; were, after the incarnation, called the Old covenant, as we have already seen, to distinguish them from the Christian Scriptures, and their grand subject, which were called the New covenant; not so much because it was a new agreement, but rather a renewal of the old, in which the spirit, object, and design of that primitive covenant were more clearly and fully manifested.
The particular title to each of the four following books, in most Greek MSS. and printed editions, is ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΝ κατα ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΝ - ΜΑΡΚΟΝ - ΛΟΥΚΑΝ - ΙΟΑΝΝΗΝ, which we translate, the Gospel according to Matthew - Mark - Luke - John; i.e. the gospel or history of our blessed Lord, as written and transmitted to posterity by each of these writers. Our word Gospel, which should be always written godspel, or godespel, comes from the Anglo-Saxon, and is compounded of good, and history, narrative, doctrine, mystery, or secret; and was applied by our ancestors to signify the revelation of that glorious system of truth, which had been, in a great measure, hidden or kept secret from the foundation of the world.
Among Saxon scholars, the word Gospel has been variously explained. Mr. Somner explains it thus, Sermo Dei mysticus; Dei historia. “The mystic word of God; the history of God, or God’s history.” But he supposes that it may be compounded of good, and, a message; and very properly observes, that the verb signifies, not only to preach, or proclaim the Gospel; but also to foretell, or predict; to prophesy, to divine: and in this latter sense the word spell was anciently used among us, and still signifies an incantation, or a charm; which implies a peculiar collocation and repetition of certain words, which were supposed to produce supernatural effects by means of spiritual influence or agency; which agency was always attracted and excited by such words, through some supposed correspondency between the words, and the spiritual agency to be employed. The word, in this sense, occurs in King Alfred’s Saxon translation of Boethius, De Consolatione Philosophiae, chap. 38., Then deceitful men began to practice incantations. It is possible that our ancestors gave this title to the preaching of Christ crucified, from observing the astonishing effects produced by it, in changing the hearts and lives of sinners. And very innocently might they denominate the pure powerful preaching of the death and resurrection of Christ, God’s charm: that wonderful word, which, accompanied with the demonstration and power of the Holy Ghost, produced such miraculous effects among men.
As the word spellian signifies to teach or instruct, hence our word to spell, i.e. to teach a person, by uniting vowels and consonants, to enunciate words; and thus learn to read. And hence the book out of which the first rudiments of language are learned is termed a spelling book, exactly answering to the spell-book of our ancestors, which signified a book of homilies, or plain discourses, for the instruction of the common people. We may see (note on Gen. 1:1 (note)) that god among our ancestors, not only signified God, the supreme Being; but also good or goodness, which is his nature: godspell, therefore, is not only God’s history, doctrine, or plan of teaching; but also the good history, the good doctrine; and hence spellian to preach or proclaim this doctrine; spel-boc the sermons that contained the rudiments of it, for the instruction of men; and spel-boda, the orator, messenger, or ambassador, that announced it.
The Greek word Ευαγγελιον, from ευ good, and αγγελια a message, signifies good news, or glad tidings in general; and is evidently intended to point out, in this place, the good message or the glad tidings of great joy which God has sent to all mankind, preaching peace and reconciliation by Christ Jesus, who is Lord of all: proclaiming that he, as the promised Messiah, has, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man - for he has died for their offenses, and risen again for their justification; and that, through his grace, every sinner under the whole heaven, may turn to God, and find mercy. This is good news, glad tidings, a joyful message; and it is such to all mankind, as in it every human spirit is interested.
It is used in this sense by Achilles Tatius, lib. v. c. 12, Ταυτα ακαυσας ὁ Σατυρος, προστρεχει προς την Μελιττην ευαγγελια φερων: Having heard these things, Satyrus ran to Melitta, bringing the good news.
But, besides this general meaning, the word Ευαγγελιον, has other acceptations in the New Testament, and in the Greek writers, which may be consulted here with great propriety and effect.
1. It signifies the reward given to those who brought good news. Thus Homer represents the disguised Ulysses claiming a reward ευαγγελιον, a vest and mantle, should he verify to Eumeus the glad tidings of his master’s safety. Ευαγγελιον δε μοι εϚω. Let me have a reward for my good news. Odyss. xiv. v. 152.
To which Eumeus, who despaired of his master’s return, replied: -
Ω γερον, ουτ’ αρ’ εγων Ευαγγελιον τοδε τισω,
Ουτ’ Οδυσσευς ετι οικον ελευσεται.
Ib. v. 266
Old friend! nor cloake nor vest thy gladsome news Will ever earn: Ulysses comes no more!
And on the word, as thus used, Eustathius gives the following comment: Ευαγγελιον; δωρον υπερ αγαθης ευαγγελιας. “Euangelion signifies the reward given for bringing good news.”
St. Chrysostom, in his sixth Homily on the Acts, gives this as a common meaning of the word. “The Gospel is this: Thou shalt receive good things: as men are accustomed in their common conversation to say to each other, τι μοι των ευαγγελιων; What reward wilt thou give me for my good news? etc.” It is used in the same sense by the Septuagint. 2Sa. 4:10. When one told me, saying, Behold, Saul is dead, thinking to have brought good tidings, I took him and slew him in Ziglag, who thought ω εδει με δουναι Ευαγγελια, that I would have given him A Reward for his tidings. Cicero uses it in the same sense; see his epistles to Atticus, lib. 2. ep. 3. O suaves epistolas tuas uno tempore mihi datas duas: quibus Ευαγγελια quae reddam nescio, deberi quidem, plane fateor. “O, how delightful are your epistles! two of which I have received at one time, for which I know not what recompense to make: but, that I am your debtor, I candidly confess.”
2. It is used also to signify the prayers, thanksgivings, and sacrifices offered on the arrival of good news. So Aristophanes, Μοι δοκει - Ευαγγελια θυειν, εκατον βους, τη θεω, I think I should Sacrifice A Hecatomb to the goddess for this intelligence, Aristoph. in Equit. v. 653.
Isocrates (Areopag. initio) is supposed to use the word in the sense of supplication, Επι τοσαυταις πραξεσιν Ευαγγελια μεν δις ηδη τεθυκαμεν - “relative to these transactions, we have purposed to make supplication twice.” Xenophon uses it to denote a eucharistic offering made on account of receiving good news. Εθυε τα Ευαγγελια. See Hist. Gr. i. 6, 27. It seems to be used in a similar sense by the Septuagint in 2Sa. 18:20, 2Sa. 18:27.
Other examples might be produced in which the word is used in all the above senses; but these may be deemed sufficient. I would not have been so copious, had not a certain great man denied that the word had the above meanings.
3. However illustrative the above acceptations of Ευαγγελιον, among the Greek writers, may be of the word in relation to the great doctrine of the new covenant; yet, among the sacred writers, it is restricted to express the glad tidings of the coming of the Messiah, for the reasons mentioned above. See Luk. 2:10.
4. The whole doctrine of Jesus Christ, comprised in the history of his incarnation, preaching, miracles, sufferings, death, resurrection, ascension, and the mission of the Holy Spirit, by which salvation was procured for a lost world, is expressed by the word Ευαγγελιον, as well as by the general title; Καινη Διαθηκη. Rom. 1:1, Rom. 1:3, Rom. 1:9; Mat. 4:23; Mat. 9:35; Mat. 24:14; Mk. 1:14. But the sacred writers use it with a variety of epithets which it may be necessary to mention.
1st, It is sometimes termed, The Gospel of God concerning his Son. Rom. 1:1, Rom. 1:3.
2dly, The Gospel of the Son of God. Rom. 1:9.
3dly, The Gospel of the kingdom of God. Mat. 4:23; Mat. 9:35; Mat. 24:14; Mk. 1:14.
4thly, Sometimes it is simply called The Gospel. Mk. 13:10; Mk. 16:15.
5thly, The word or doctrine (λογος) of the Gospel. Acts. 15:7.
6thly, The Gospel of peace. Eph. 6:15.
7thly, The Gospel of glory, το Ευαγγελιον της δοξης. 1Ti. 1:11.
8thly, The Gospel of salvation, το Ευαγγελιον της σωτηριας Eph. 1:13.
5. In 1Co. 9:23, it means the blessings and privileges promised in the New Testament.
6. It means the public profession of the doctrine taught by Christ, Mk. 8:35; Mk. 10:29; 2Ti. 1:8; Phm. 1:13.
7. But in Gal. 1:6, Gal. 1:8, Gal. 1:9, the word Ευαγγελιον seems to mean any new doctrine, whether true or false. — Clarke (abridged)
Matthew - Book Introduction – Matthew
Writer: The Writer of the first Gospel, as all agree, was Matthew, called also Levi, a Jew of Galilee who had taken service as a tax-gatherer under the Roman oppressor. He was, therefore, one of the hated and ill-reputed publicans.
Date: The date of Matthew has been much discussed, but no convincing reason has been given for the discrediting the traditional date of A.D. 37.
Theme: The scope and purpose of the book are indicated in the first verse. Matthew is the "book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham" (Mat. 1:1). This connects him at once with two of the most important of the Old Testament Covenants: the Davidic Covenant of kingship, and the Abrahamic Covenant of promise. ; 2Sa. 7:8-16; Gen. 15:18.
Of Jesus Christ in that twofold character, then, Matthew writes. Following the order indicated in the first verse, he writes first of the King, the son of David; then of the Son of Abraham, obedient unto death, according to the Isaac type Gen. 22:1-18; Heb. 11:17-19.
But the prominent character of Christ in Matthew is that of the covenanted King, David's "righteous Branch" Jer. 23:5; Jer. 33:15. Matthew records His genealogy; His birth in Bethlehem the city of David, according to Mic. 5:2, the ministry of His forerunner according to Mal. 3:1. His rejection by Israel; and His predictions of His second coming in power and great glory.
Only then (Matthew 26-28) does Matthew turn to the earlier covenant, and record the sacrificial death of the son of Abraham.
This determines the purpose and structure of Matthew. It is peculiarly the Gospel for Israel; and, as flowing from the death of Christ, a Gospel for the whole world.
Matthew falls into three principal divisions:
1. The manifestation to Israel and rejection of Jesus Christ the Son of David, born King of the Jews (Matthew 1:1 - 25:46). The subdivisions of this part are:
a) The official genealogy and birth of the King (Matthew 1:1-25);
b) The infancy and obscurity of the King (Matthew 2:1-23);
c) The kingdom "at hand," (Matthew 3:1 - 12:50) (the order of events of this subdivision is indicated in the text);
d) The mysteries of the kingdom (Matthew 13:1-52);
e) The ministry of the rejected King (Matthew 13:53 - 23:39);
f) The promise of the King to return in power and great glory (Matthew 24:1 - 25:46).
2. The sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of Abraham (Matthew 26:1 - 28:8).
3. The risen Lord in ministry to His own (Matthew 28:9-20).
The events recorded in Matthew cover a period of 38 years (Ussher). — Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)
Matthew - INTRODUCTION TO MATTHEW.
The first of the Gospels has been assigned by the Church, from the earliest times, to Matthew, one of the Twelve Apostles, and in all ages has been given the first place in the New Testament. He was the son of Alphæus, as we learn from Luke, who also calls him Levi (Luk. 5:27-29). He calls himself "Matthew the publican," refusing to conceal in his own history the despised calling that had engaged him before he entered the service of Christ. He was a Jew, but had so far lost the national feeling that he was a collector of the hateful Roman tribute at Capernaum, and was sitting at the receipt of custom when called by our Lord to leave all and to follow him. His history of the Savior shows, however, that he was more dominated by Jewish ideas than the writers of the other three gospels. Of the life of Matthew, after the death of the Savior, we have no information, for no reliance can be placed upon the traditions concerning his later history.
The Gospel of Matthew shows the methodical habits of a business man, for of all the writers he is most systematic in his arrangement. He gives by far the fullest accounts of the Sermon on the Mount, the charge to the Apostles (Matt. ch. 10), the Discourse on Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the Arraignment of the Scribes and Pharisees, of the Parables, and of the Prophecies concerning the Overthrow of the Jewish State. It has always been held that Matthew wrote before the other New Testament writers, and wrote especially for Jewish Christians. It is therefore supposed that he wrote first either in the common language of Judea at that time, the Aramaic, which was spoken by the Savior and his Apostles, or else in the pure Hebrew, which was then generally understood. This, however, is an unsettled question, and the Greek which we now possess, was, it is almost certain, written in Matthew's lifetime. There are no data for determining the exact time and place where it was written, but it was probably composed about the middle of the first century, within twenty years of the crucifixion.
Whether written originally in Hebrew or not, it can hardly be doubted that Matthew wrote for Jewish readers. He takes for granted a familiarity with Jewish customs, laws, and localities, to a far greater extent than the other writers. Dean Alford says: "The whole narrative proceeds more upon a Jewish view of matters, and is concerned more to establish that point, which to a Jewish convert would be most important, namely, that Jesus is the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. Hence the commencement of his genealogy from Abraham and David; hence the frequent notice of the necessity of this or that event happening, because it was foretold by the prophets; hence the constant opposition of our Lord's spiritually ethical teaching to the carnal formalistic ethics of the Scribes and Pharisees." — PNT: The People's New Testament (1891) by B. W. Johnson, henceforth ref. to as PNT.
Matthew - INTRODUCTION TO MATTHEW
The subject of this book, and indeed of all the writings of the New Testament, is the Gospel. The Greek word ευαγγελιον signifies a joyful message, good news, glad tidings of good things; such as Christ was anointed to preach, the Angels brought to the shepherds, and the Evangelists, Apostles, and Ministers of Christ published to the world. Isa. 61:1. And such is the account given by this inspired writer, of the incarnation, life, actions, ministry, miracles, sufferings, and death of Jesus Christ; whereby peace and reconciliation, pardon and righteousness, atonement and redemption, life and salvation, are obtained for lost, perishing sinners. The Jews, to whom the message of grace was first sent, and among whom the Gospel was first preached, having despised and rejected it; they and their posterity, in allusion to the word "Evangelion", most wickedly and blasphemously call the whole New Testament, און גליון or וצן גליון "Aven Gilion" (a), a "revelation", or "volume of iniquity and vanity"; but "blessed are the people that know the joyful sound", see Psa. 89:15. The writer of this Gospel, Matthew, who also was called Levi in Luk. 5:27 was by occupation a publican, or tax-gatherer, and was in his employ when Christ called him by his grace. He was one of the twelve Apostles sent forth by Christ to preach the Gospel of the kingdom, Mat. 10:3 and was honoured to be the first of the writers of the New Testament, and to be the first publisher therein of the good news of the incarnate Saviour; and was a wonderful instance of the rich and sovereign grace of God. Though he was employed in collecting the Roman tax, yet he was of Jewish extract; as appears from his being called the son of Alphaeus, Mk. 2:14 and from his name Matthew Levi; for as the latter, so the former is an Hebrew name. The Jews say (b) one of the disciples of Jesus was called yatm, Matthai or Matthew: his name signifies a "gift" or "given"; he was one of those the Father had given to Christ, and was kept by him, when the son of perdition was lost, Jn. 17:6. It may not be improper to inquire in what language this Gospel was written. The ancient Christian writers were generally of opinion, that Matthew wrote it in Hebrew; Papias and (c) Pantaenus were of this mind, as also Irenaeus (d), Origen (e) Eusebius (f), Athanasius (g), Epiphanius (h), and Jerom (i); and it is asserted in the titles of the Arabic and Persic versions, and at the end of the Syriac version of this Gospel, that it was written in that language; and this opinion is espoused by Grotius and Hammond, though justly exploded by others; for what has been published by Munster, Mercer, Hutter, and Robertson, are translations, made by themselves or others, and of no antiquity: and since Hebrew and Syriac words are interpreted in this Gospel, see Mat. 1:23 which would not have been done, had it been written in either language; and since Matthew generally follows the Septuagint version in the passages cited by him out of the Old Testament; and since the Hebrew language was not generally known at that time to the common people, only to the learned; for the law and the prophets, when read in the synagogues in that language, required an interpreter; and since the Greek tongue was the language more commonly spoken, and the rest of the Evangelists wrote in Greek, and the Gospel was designed for the Gentiles as well as the Jews; it is most reasonable to conclude that this Gospel also was wrote in Greek; whereby that ancient prophecy was fulfilled, at least in part, "God shall enlarge" or "persuade Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem", Gen. 9:27 the Gospel being published in the language of Japheth, the Greek language, which the Jews, the posterity of Shem, now understood; agreeably to which the Palmudic writers interpret the prophecy; says (k) Bar Kaphra, mentioning the above words — Gill (abridged)
Matthew - We have now before us, I. The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; so this second part of the holy Bible is entitled: The new covenant; so it might as well be rendered; the word signifies both. But, when it is (as here) spoken of as Christ's act and deed, it is most properly rendered a testament, for he is the testator, and it becomes of force by his death (Heb. 9:16, Heb. 9:17); nor is there, as in covenants, a previous treaty between the parties, but what is granted, though an estate upon condition, is owing to the will, the free-will, the good-will, of the Testator. All the grace contained in this book is owing to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour; and, unless we consent to him as our Lord, we cannot expect any benefit by him as our Saviour. This is called a new testament, to distinguish it from that which was given by Moses, and was not antiquated; and to signify that it should be always new, and should never wax old, and grow out of date. These books contain, not only a full discovery of that grace which has appeared to all men, bringing salvation, but a legal instrument by which it is conveyed to, and settled upon, all believers. How carefully do we preserve, and with what attention and pleasure do we read, the last will and testament of a friend, who has therein left us a fair estate, and, with it, high expressions of his love to us! How precious then should this testament of our blessed Saviour be to us, which secures to us all his unsearchable riches! It is his testament; for though, as is usual, it was written by others (we have nothing upon record that was of Christ's own writing), yet he dictated it; and the night before he died, in the institution of his supper, he signed, sealed, and published it, in the presence of twelve witnesses. For, though these books were not written for some years after, for the benefit of posterity, in perpetuam rei memoriam - as a perpetual memorial, yet the New Testament of our Lord Jesus was settled, confirmed, and declared, from the time of his death, as a nuncupative will, with which these records exactly agree. The things which St. Luke wrote were things which were most surely believed, and therefore well known, before he wrote them; but, when they were written, the oral tradition was superseded and set aside, and these writings were the repository of that New Testament. This is intimated by the title which is prefixed to many Greek Copies, Tē kainēs Diathēkēs Hapanta - The whole of the New Testament, or all the things of it. In it is declared the whole counsel of God concerning our salvation, Acts. 20:27. As the law of the Lord is perfect, so is the gospel of Christ, and nothing is to be added to it. We have it all, and are to look for no more.
The whole New Testament is the gospel. St. Paul calls it his gospel, because he was one of the preachers of it. Oh that we may each of us make it ours by our cordial acceptance of it and subjection to it! But the four books which contain the history of the Redeemer we commonly call the four gospels, and the inspired penmen of them evangelists, or gospel-writers; not, however, very properly, because that title belongs to a particular order of ministers, that were assistants to the apostles (Eph. 4:11): He gave some apostles, and some evangelists. It was requisite that the doctrine of Christ should be interwoven with, and founded upon, the narrative of his birth, life, miracles, death, and resurrection; for then it appears in its clearest and strongest light. These four gospels were early and constantly received by the primitive church, and read in Christian assemblies, as appears by the writings of Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, who lived little more than a hundred years after the ascension of Christ; they declared that neither more nor fewer than four were received by the church. A Harmony of these four evangelists was compiled by Tatian about that time, which he called, To dia tessarōn - The Gospel out of the four. In the third and fourth centuries there were gospels forged by divers sects, and published, one under the name of St. Peter, another of St. Thomas, another of St. Philip, etc. But they were never owned by the church, nor was any credit given to them, as the learned Dr. Whitby shows. And he gives this good reason why we should adhere to these written records, because, whatever the pretences of tradition may be, it is not sufficient to preserve things with any certainty, as appears by experience. For, whereas Christ said and did many memorable things, which were not written (Jn. 20:30; Jn. 21:25), tradition has not preserved any one of them to us, but all is lost except what was written; that therefore is what we must abide by; and blessed by God that we have it to abide by; it is the sure word of history.Also, it is understood that out of a total of 1071 verses, Matthew has 387 in common with Mark and the Gospel of Luke, 130 with Mark alone, 184 with Luke alone, and with 370 being unique to itself. (Internet Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online)
1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Luke 1:31-32; 2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren; Gen 21:2; Gen 25:26; Gen 29:35; 3 And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; Gen 38:27; Gen 38:29; Ruth 4:18; 1Chr 2:5; Ruth 4:19; 1Chr 2:9; 4 And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; 5 And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; 6 And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her [that had been the wife] of Urias; Ruth 4:22; 1Sam 16:1; 1Sam 17:12; 1Chr 2:15; 1Chr 12:18; 7 And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; 1Kgs 11:43; 1Chr 3:10; 8 And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; 9 And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias; 10 And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias; 11 And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon: 1Chr 3:16; 12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel; 1Chr 3:17; Ezra 3:2; 13 And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; 14 And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud; 15 And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; 16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David [are] fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon [are] fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ [are] fourteen generations.
Commentary: Matthew 1 - The genealogy of Christ divided into three classes of fourteen generations each: The first fourteen, from Abraham to David, Mat. 1:2-6. The second fourteen, from Solomon to Jechonias, Mat. 1:7-10. The third fourteen, from Jechonias to Christ, Mat. 1:11-16. The sum of these generations, Mat. 1:17. Christ is conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary, when she was espoused to Joseph, Mat. 1:18. Joseph’s anxiety and doubts are removed by the ministry of an Angel, Mat. 1:19, Mat. 1:20; by whom the child is named Jesus, Mat. 1:21. The fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah relative to this, Mat. 1:22, Mat. 1:23. Joseph takes home his wife, Mary, and Christ is born, Mat. 1:24, Mat. 1:25. — Clarke
Concerning this genealogy of our Saviour, observe the chief intention. It is not a needless genealogy. It is not a vain-glorious one, as those of great men often are. It proves that our Lord Jesus is of the nation and family out of which the Messiah was to arise. The promise of the blessing was made to Abraham and his seed; of the dominion, to David and his seed. It was promised to Abraham that Christ should descend from him, Gen. 12:3; Gen. 22:18; and to David that he should descend from him, 2Sa. 7:12; Psa. 89:3, etc.; Psa. 132:11; and, therefore, unless Jesus is a son of David, and a son of Abraham, he is not the Messiah. Now this is here proved from well-known records. When the Son of God was pleased to take our nature, he came near to us, in our fallen, wretched condition; but he was perfectly free from sin: and while we read the names in his genealogy, we should not forget how low the Lord of glory stooped to save the human race.
Let us look to the circumstances under which the Son of God entered into this lower world, till we learn to despise the vain honours of this world, when compared with piety and holiness. The mystery of Christ's becoming man is to be adored, not curiously inquired into. It was so ordered that Christ should partake of our nature, yet that he should be pure from the defilement of original sin, which has been communicated to all the race of Adam. Observe, it is the thoughtful, not the unthinking, whom God will guide. God's time to come with instruction to his people, is when they are at a loss. Divine comforts most delight the soul when under the pressure of perplexed thoughts. Joseph is told that Mary should bring forth the Saviour of the world. He was to call his name Jesus, a Saviour. Jesus is the same name with Joshua. And the reason of that name is clear, for those whom Christ saves, he saves from their sins; from the guilt of sin by the merit of his death, and from the power of sin by the Spirit of his grace. In saving them from sin, he saves them from wrath and the curse, and all misery, here and hereafter. Christ came to save his people, not in their sins, but from their sins; and so to redeem them from among men, to himself, who is separate from sinners. Joseph did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, speedily, without delay, and cheerfully, without dispute. By applying the general rules of the written word, we should in all the steps of our lives, particularly the great turns of them, take direction from God, and we shall find this safe and comfortable. — MHCC
Concerning this genealogy of our Saviour, observe,
I. The title of it. It is the book (or the account, as the Hebrew word sepher, a book, sometimes signifies) of the generation of Jesus Christ, of his ancestors according to the flesh; or, It is the narrative of his birth. It is Biblos Geneseōs - a book of Genesis. The Old Testament begins with the book of the generation of the world, and it is its glory that it does so; but the glory of the New Testament herein excelleth, that it begins with the book of the generation of him that made the world. As God, his outgoings were of old, from everlasting (Mic. 5:2), and none can declare that generation; but, as man, he was sent forth in the fulness of time, born of a woman, and it is that generation which is here declared.
II. The principal intention of it. It is not an endless or needless genealogy; it is not a vain-glorious one, as those of great men commonly are. Stemmata, quid faciunt? - Of what avail are ancient pedigrees? It is like a pedigree given in evidence, to prove a title, and make out a claim; the design is to prove that our Lord Jesus is the son of David, and the son of Abraham, and therefore of that nation and family out of which the Messiah was to arise. Abraham and David were, in their day, the great trustees of the promise relating to the Messiah. The promise of the blessing was made to Abraham and his seed, of the dominion to David and his seed; and they who would have an interest in Christ, as the son of Abraham, in whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed, must be faithful, loyal subjects to him as the son of David, by whom all the families of the earth are to be ruled. It was promised to Abraham that Christ should descend from him (Gen. 12:3; Gen. 22:18), and to David that he should descend from him (2Sa. 7:12; Psa. 89:3, etc.; Psa. 132:11); and therefore, unless it can be proved that Jesus is a son of David, and a son of Abraham, we cannot admit him to be the Messiah. Now this is here proved from the authentic records of the heralds' offices. The Jews were very exact in preserving their pedigrees, and there was a providence in it, for the clearing up of the descent of the Messiah from the fathers; and since his coming that nation is so dispersed and confounded that it is a question whether any person in the world can legally prove himself to be a son of Abraham; however, it is certain that none can prove himself to either a son of Aaron or a son of David, so that the priestly and kingly office must either be given up, as lost for ever, or be lodged in the hands of our Lord Jesus. Christ is here first called the son of David, because under that title he was commonly spoken of, and expected, among the Jews. They who owned him to be the Christ, called him the son of David, Mat. 15:22; Mat. 20:31; Mat. 21:15. Thus, therefore, the evangelist undertakes to make out, that he is not only a son of David, but that son of David on whose shoulders the government was to be; not only a son of Abraham, but that son of Abraham who was to be the father of many nations.
In calling Christ the son of David, and the son of Abraham, he shows that God is faithful to his promise, and will make good every word that he has spoken; and this. 1. Though the performance be long deferred. When God promised Abraham a son, who should be the great blessing of the world, perhaps he expected it should be his immediate son; but it proved to be one at the distance of forty-two generations, and about 2000 years: so long before can God foretel what shall be done, and so long after, sometimes, does God fulfil what has been promised. Note, Delays of promised mercies, though they exercise our patience, do not weaken God's promise. 2. Though it begin to be despaired of. This son of David, and son of Abraham, who was to be the glory of his Father's house, was born when the seed of Abraham was a despised people, recently become tributary to the Roman yoke, and when the house of David was buried in obscurity; for Christ was to be a root out of a dry ground. Note, God's time for the performance of his promises is when it labours under the greatest improbabilities.
III. The particular series of it, drawn in the direct line from Abraham downward, according to the genealogies recorded in the beginning of the books of Chronicles (as far as those go), and which here we see the use of.
Some particulars we may observe in the genealogy.
1. Among the ancestors of Christ who had brethren, generally he descended from a younger brother; such Abraham himself was, and Jacob, and Judah, and David, and Nathan, and Rhesa; to show that the pre-eminence of Christ came not, as that of earthly princes, from the primogeniture of his ancestors, but from the will of God, who, according to the method of his providence, exalteth them of low degree, and puts more abundant honour upon that part which lacked.
2. Among the sons of Jacob, besides Judah, from whom Shiloh came, notice is here taken of his brethren: Judas and his brethren. No mention is made of Ishmael the son of Abraham, or of Esau the son of Isaac, because they were shut out of the church; whereas all the children of Jacob were taken in, and, though not fathers of Christ, were yet patriarchs of the church (Acts. 7:8), and therefore are mentioned in the genealogy, for the encouragement of the twelve tribes that were scattered abroad, intimating to them that they have an interest in Christ, and stand in relation to him as well as Judah.
3. Phares and Zara, the twin-sons of Judah, are likewise both named, though Phares only was Christ's ancestor, for the same reason that the brethren of Judah are taken notice of; and some think because the birth of Phares and Zara had something of an allegory in it. Zara put out his hand first, as the first-born, but, drawing it in, Phares got the birth-right. The Jewish church, like Zara, reached first at the birthright, but through unbelief, withdrawing the hand, the Gentile church, like Phares, broke forth and went away with the birthright; and thus blindness is in part happened unto Israel, till the fulness of the Gentiles become in, and then Zara shall be born - all Israel shall be saved, Rom. 11:25, Rom. 11:26.
4. There are four women, and but four, named in this genealogy; two of them were originally strangers to the commonwealth of Israel, Rachab a Canaanitess, and a harlot besides, and Ruth the Moabitess; for in Jesus Christ there is neither Greek, nor Jew; those that are strangers and foreigners are welcome, in Christ, to the citizenship of the saints. The other two were adulteresses, Tamar and Bathsheba; which was a further mark of humiliation put upon our Lord Jesus, that not only he descended from such, but that is decent from them is particularly remarked in his genealogy, and no veil drawn over it. He took upon him the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3), and takes even great sinners, upon their repentance, into the nearest relation to himself. Note, We ought not to upbraid people with the scandals of their ancestors; it is what they cannot help, and has been the lot of the best, even of our Master himself. David's begetting Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias is taken notice of (says Dr. Whitby) to show that the crime of David, being repented to, was so far from hindering the promise made to him, that it pleased God by this very woman to fulfil it.
5. Though divers kings are here named, yet none is expressly called a king but David (Mat. 1:6), David the king; because with him the covenant of royalty was made, and to him the promise of the kingdom of the Messiah was given, who is therefore said to inherit the throne of his father David, Luk. 1:32.
6. In the pedigree of the kings of Judah, between Joram and Ozias (Mat. 1:8), there are three left out, namely, Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah; and therefore when it is said, Joram begat Ozias, it is meant, according to the usage of the Hebrew tongue, that Ozias was lineally descended from him, as it is said to Hezekiah that the sons which he should beget should be carried to Babylon, whereas they were removed several generations from him. It was not through mistake or forgetfulness that these three were omitted, but, probably, they were omitted in the genealogical tables that the evangelist consulted, which yet were admitted as authentic. Some give this reason for it: - It being Matthew's design, for the sake of memory, to reduce the number of Christ's ancestors to three fourteens, it was requisite that in this period three should be left out, and none more fit than they who were the immediate progeny of cursed Athaliah, who introduced the idolatry of Ahab into the house of David, for which this brand is set upon the family and the iniquity thus visited to the third and fourth generation. Two of these three were apostates; and such God commonly sets a mark of his displeasure upon in this world: they all three had their heads brought to the grave with blood.
7. Some observe what a mixture there was of good and bad in the succession of these kings; as for instance (Mat. 1:7, Mat. 1:8), wicked Roboam begat wicked Abia; wicked Abia begat good Asa; good Asa begat good Josaphat; good Josaphat begat wicked Joram. Grace does not run in the blood, neither does reigning sin. God's grace is his own, and he gives or withholds it as he pleases.
8. The captivity of Babylon is mentioned as a remarkable period in this line, Mat. 1:11, Mat. 1:12. All things considered, it was a wonder that the Jews were not lost in that captivity, as other nations have been; but this intimates the reason why the streams of that people were kept to run pure through that dead sea, because from them, as concerning the flesh, Christ was to come. Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it, even that blessing of blessings, Christ himself, Isa. 65:8, Isa. 65:9. It was with an eye to him that they were restored, and the desolations of the sanctuary were looked upon with favour for the Lord's sake, Dan. 9:17.
9. Josias is said to beget Jechonias and his brethren (Mat. 1:11); by Jechonias here is meant Jehoiakim, who was the first-born of Josias; but, when it is said (Mat. 1:12) that Jechonias begat Salathiel, that Jechonias was the son of that Jehoiakim who was carried into Babylon, and there begat Salathiel (as Dr. Whitby shows), and, when Jechonias is said to have been written childless (Jer. 22:30), it is explained thus: No man of his seed shall prosper. Salathiel is here said to beget Zorobabel, whereas Salathiel begat Pedaiah, and he begat Zorobabel (1Ch. 3:19): but, as before, the grandson is often called the son; Pedaiah, it is likely, died in his father's lifetime, and so his son Zorobabel was called the son of Salathiel.
10. The line is brought down, not to Mary the mother of our Lord, but to Joseph the husband of Mary (Mat. 1:16); for the Jews always reckoned their genealogies by the males: yet Mary was of the same tribe and family with Joseph, so that, both by his mother and by his supposed father, he was of the house of David; yet his interest in that dignity is derived by Joseph, to whom really according to the flesh he had no relation, to show that the kingdom of the Messiah is not founded in a natural descent from David.
11. The centre in whom all these lines meet is Jesus, who is called Christ, Mat. 1:16. This is he that was so importunately desired, so impatiently expected, and to whom the patriarchs had an eye when they were so desirous of children, that they might have the honour of coming into the sacred line. Blessed be God, we are not now in such a dark and cloudy state of expectation as they were then in, but see clearly what these prophets and kings saw as through a glass darkly. And we may have, if it be not our own fault, a greater honour than that of which they were so ambitious: for they who do the will of God are in a more honourable relation to Christ than those who were akin to him according to the flesh, Mat. 12:50. Jesus is called Christ, that is, the Anointed, the same with the Hebrew name Messiah. He is called Messiah the Prince (Dan. 9:25), and often God's Anointed (Psa. 2:2). Under this character he was expected: Art thou the Christ - the anointed one? David, the king, was anointed (1Sa. 16:13); so was Aaron, the priest (Lev. 8:12), and Elisha, the prophet (1Ki. 19:16), and Isaiah, the prophet (Isa. 61:1). Christ, being appointed to, and qualified for, all these offices, is therefore called the Anointed - anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows; and from this name of his, which is as ointment poured forth, all his followers are called Christians, for they also have received the anointing.
Lastly. The general summary of all this genealogy we have, Mat. 1:17, where it is summed up in three fourteens, signalized by remarkable periods. In the first fourteen, we have the family of David rising, and looking forth as the morning; in the second, we have it flourishing in its meridian lustre; in the third, we have it declining and growing less and less, dwindling into the family of a poor carpenter, and then Christ shines forth out of it, the glory of his people Israel. — Henry
The mystery of Christ's incarnation is to be adored, not pried into. If we know not the way of the Spirit in the formation of common persons, nor how the bones are formed in the womb of any one that is with child (Eccl. 11:5), much less do we know how the blessed Jesus was formed in the womb of the blessed virgin. When David admires how he himself was made in secret, and curiously wrought (Psa. 139:13-16), perhaps he speaks in the spirit of Christ's incarnation. Some circumstances attending the birth of Christ we find here which are not in Luke, though it is more largely recorded here. Here we have,
I. Mary's espousal to Joseph. Mary, the mother of our Lord, was espoused to Joseph, not completely married, but contracted; a purpose of marriage solemnly declared in words de futuro - that regarding the future, and a promise of it made if God permit. We read of a man who has betrothed a wife and has not taken her, Dt. 20:7. Christ was born of a virgin, but a betrothed virgin,
1. To put respect upon the marriage state, and to recommend it as honourable among all, against that doctrine of devils which forbids to marry, and places perfection in the single state. Who more highly favoured than Mary was in her espousals? 2. To save the credit of the blessed virgin, which otherwise would have been exposed. It was fit that her conception should be protected by a marriage, and so justified in the eye of the world. One of the ancients says, It was better it should be asked, Is not this the son of a carpenter? than, Is not this the son of a harlot? 3. That the blessed virgin might have one to be the guide of her youth, the companion of her solitude and travels, a partner in her cares, and a help meet for her. Some think that Joseph was now a widower, and that those who are called the brethren of Christ (Mat. 13:55), were Joseph's children by a former wife. This is the conjecture of many of the ancients. Joseph was just man, she a virtuous woman. Those who are believers should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers: but let those who are religious choose to marry with those who are so, as they expect the comfort of the relation, and God's blessing upon them in it. We may also learn, from this example, that it is good to enter into the married state with deliberation, and not hastily - to preface the nuptials with a contract. It is better to take time to consider before than to find time to repent after.
II. Her pregnancy of the promised seed; before they came together, she was found with child, which really was of the Holy Ghost. The marriage was deferred so long after the contract that she appeared to be with child before the time came for the solemnizing of the marriage, though she was contracted before she conceived. Probably, it was after her return from her cousin Elizabeth, with whom she continued three months (Luk. 1:56), that she was perceived by Joseph to be with child, and did not herself deny it. Note, Those in whom Christ is formed will show it: it will be found to be a work of God which he will own. Now we may well imagine, what a perplexity this might justly occasion to the blessed virgin. She herself knew the divine original of this conception; but how could she prove it? She would be dealt with as a harlot. Note, After great and high advancements, lest we should be puffed up with them, we must expect something or other to humble us, some reproach, as a thorn in the flesh, nay, as a sword in the bones. Never was any daughter of Eve so dignified as the Virgin Mary was, and yet in danger of falling under the imputation of one of the worse crimes; yet we do not find that she tormented herself about it; but, being conscious of her own innocence, she kept her mind calm and easy, and committed her cause to him that judgeth righteously. Note, those who take care to keep a good conscience may cheerfully trust God with the keeping of their good names, and have reason to hope that he will clear up, not only their integrity, but their honour, as the sun at noon day.
III. Joseph's perplexity, and his care what to do in this case. We may well imagine what a great trouble and disappointment it was to him to find one he had such an opinion of, and value for, come under the suspicion of such a heinous crime. Is this Mary? He began to think, “How may we be deceived in those we think best of! How may we be disappointed in what we expect most from!” He is loth to believe so ill a thing of one whom he believed to be so good a woman; and yet the matter, as it is too bad to be excused, is also too plain to be denied. What a struggle does this occasion in his breast between that jealousy which is the rage of man, and is cruel as the grave, on the one hand, and that affection which he has for Mary on the other!
Observe, 1. The extremity which he studied to avoid. He was not willing to make her a public example. He might have done so; for, by the law, a betrothed virgin, if she played the harlot, was to be stoned to death, Dt. 22:23, Dt. 22:24. But he was not willing to take the advantage of the law against her; if she be guilty, yet it is not known, nor shall it be known from him. How different was the spirit which Joseph displayed from that of Judah, who in a similar case hastily passed that severe sentence, Bring her forth and let her be burnt! Gen. 38:24. How good it is to think on things, as Joseph did here! Were there more of deliberation in our censures and judgments, there would be more of mercy and moderation in them. Bringing her to punishment is here called making her a public example; which shows what is the end to be aimed at in punishment - the giving of warning to others: it is in terrorem - that all about may hear and fear. Smite the scorner, and the simple will beware.
Some persons of a rigorous temper would blame Joseph for his clemency: but it is here spoken of to his praise; because he was a just man, therefore he was not willing to expose her. He was a religious, good man; and therefore inclined to be merciful as God is, and to forgive as one that was forgiven. In the case of the betrothed damsel, if she were defiled in the field, the law charitably supposed that she cried out (Dt. 22:26), and she was not to be punished. Some charitable construction or other Joseph will put upon this matter; and herein he is a just man, tender of the good name of one who never before had done anything to blemish it. Note, It becomes us, in many cases, to be gentle towards those that come under suspicion of having offended, to hope the best concerning them, and make the best of that which at first appears bad, in hopes that it may prove better. Summum just summa injuria - The rigour of the law is (sometimes) the height of injustice. That court of conscience which moderates the rigour of the law we call a court of equity. Those who are found faulty were perhaps overtaken in the fault, and are therefore to be restored with the spirit of meekness; and threatening, even when just, must be moderated.
2. The expedient he found out for avoiding this extremity. He was minded to put her away privily, that is, to give a bill of divorce into her hand before two witnesses, and so to hush up the matter among themselves. Being a just man, that is, a strict observer of the law, he would not proceed to marry her, but resolved to put her away; and yet, in tenderness for her, determined to do it as privately as possible. Note, The necessary censures of those who have offended ought to be managed without noise. The words of the wise are heard in quiet. Christ himself shall not strive nor cry. Christian love and Christian prudence will hide a multitude of sins, and great ones, as far as may be done without having fellowship with them.
IV. Joseph's discharge from this perplexity by an express sent from heaven, Mat. 1:20, Mat. 1:21. While he thought on these things and knew not what to determine, God graciously directed him what to do, and made him easy. Note, Those who would have direction from God must think on things themselves, and consult with themselves. It is the thoughtful, not the unthinking, whom God will guide. When he was at a loss, and had carried the matter as far as he could in his own thoughts, then God came in with advice. Note, God's time to come in with instruction to his people is when they are nonplussed and at a stand. God's comforts most delight the soul in the multitude of its perplexed thoughts. The message was sent to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, probably the same angel that brought Mary the tidings of the conception - the angel Gabriel. Now the intercourse with heaven, by angels, with which the patriarchs had been dignified, but which had been long disused, begins to be revived; for, when the First-begotten is to be brought into the world, the angels are ordered to attend his motions. How far God may now, in an invisible way, make use of the ministration of angels, for extricating his people out of their straits, we cannot say; but this we are sure of, they are all ministering spirits for their good. This angel appeared to Joseph in a dream when he was asleep, as God sometimes spoke unto the fathers. When we are most quiet and composed we are in the best frame to receive the notices of the divine will. The Spirit moves on the calm waters. This dream, no doubt, carried its own evidence along with it that it was of God, and not the production of a vain fancy. Now,
1. Joseph is here directed to proceed in his intended marriage. The angel calls him, Joseph, thou son of David; he puts him in mind of his relation to David, that he might be prepared to receive this surprising intelligence of his relation to the Messiah, who, every one knew, was to be a descendant from David. Sometimes, when great honours devolve upon those who have small estates, they care not for accepting them, but are willing to drop them; it was therefore requisite to put this poor carpenter in mind of his high birth: “Value thyself. Joseph, thou art that son of David through whom the line of the Messiah is to be drawn.” We may thus say to every true believer, “Fear not, thou son of Abraham, thou child of God; forget not the dignity of thy birth, thy new birth.” Fear not to take Mary for thy wife; so it may be read. Joseph, suspecting she was with child by whoredom, was afraid of taking her, lest he should bring upon himself either guilt or reproach. No, saith God, Fear not; the matter is not so. Perhaps Mary had told him that she was with child by the Holy Ghost, and he might have heard what Elizabeth said to her (Luk. 1:43), when she called her the mother of her Lord; and, if so, he was afraid of presumption in marrying one so much above him. But, from whatever cause his fears arose, they were all silenced with this word, Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife. Note, It is a great mercy to be delivered from our fears, and to have our doubts resolved, so as to proceed in our affairs with satisfaction.
2. He is here informed concerning that holy thing with which his espoused wife was now pregnant. That which is conceived in her is of a divine original. He is so far from being in danger of sharing in an impurity by marrying her, that he will thereby share in the highest dignity he is capable of. Two things he is told,
(1.) That she had conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost; not by the power of nature. The Holy Spirit, who produced the world, now produced the Saviour of the world, and prepared him a body, as was promised him, when he said, Lo, I come, Heb. 10:5. Hence he is said to be made of a woman (Gal. 4:4), and yet to be that second Adam that is the Lord from heaven, 1Co. 15:47. He is the Son of God, and yet so far partakes of the substance of his mother as to be called the fruit of her womb, Luk. 1:42. It was requisite that is conception should be otherwise than by ordinary generation, that so, so though he partook of the human nature, yet he might escape the corruption and pollution of it, and not be conceived and shapen in iniquity. Histories tell us of some who vainly pretended to have conceived by a divine power, as the mother of Alexander; but none ever really did so, except the mother of our Lord. His name in this, as in other things, is Wonderful. We do not read that the virgin Mary did herself proclaim the honour done to her; but she hid it in her heart, and therefore God sent an angel to attest it. Those who seek not their own glory shall have the honour that comes from God; it is reserved for the humble.
(2.) That she should bring forth the Saviour of the world (Mat. 1:21). She shall bring forth a Son; what he shall be is intimated,
[1.] In the name that should be given to her Son: Thou shalt call his name Jesus, a Saviour. Jesus is the same name with Joshua, the termination only being changed, for the sake of conforming it to the Greek. Joshua is called Jesus (Acts. 7:45; Heb. 4:8), from the Seventy. There were two of that name under the Old Testament, who were both illustrious types of Christ, Joshua who was Israel's captain at their first settlement in Canaan, and Joshua who was their high priest at their second settlement after the captivity, Zec. 6:11, Zec. 6:12. Christ is our Joshua; both the Captain of our salvation, and the High Priest of our profession, and, in both, our Saviour - a Joshua who comes in the stead of Moses, and does that for us which the law could not do, in that it was weak. Joshua had been called Hosea, but Moses prefixed the first syllable of the name Jehovah, and so made it Jehoshua (Num. 13:16), to intimate that the Messiah, who was to bear that name, should be Jehovah; he is therefore able to save to the uttermost, neither is there salvation in any other.
[2.] In the reason of that name: For he shall save his people from their sins; not the nation of the Jews only (he came to his own, and they received him not), but all who were given him by the Father's choice, and all who had given themselves to him by their own. He is a king who protects his subjects, and, as the judges of Israel of old, works salvation for them. Note, those whom Christ saves he saves from their sins; from the guilt of sin by the merit of his death, from the dominion of sin by the Spirit of his grace. In saving them from sin, he saves them from wrath and the curse, and all misery here and hereafter. Christ came to save his people, not in their sins, but from their sins; to purchase for them, not a liberty to sin, but a liberty from sins, to redeem them from all iniquity (Tit. 2:14); and so to redeem them from among men (Rev. 14:4) to himself, who is separate from sinners. So that those who leave their sins, and give up themselves to Christ as his people, are interested in the Saviour, and the great salvation which he has wrought out, Rom. 11:26.
V. The fulfilling of the scripture in all this. This evangelist, writing among the Jews, more frequently observes this than any other of the evangelists. Here the Old Testament prophecies had their accomplishment in our Lord Jesus, by which it appears that this was he that should come, and we are to look for no other; for this was he to whom all the prophets bore witness. Now the scripture that was fulfilled in the birth of Christ was that promise of a sign which God gave to king Ahaz (Isa. 7:14), Behold a virgin shall conceive; where the prophet, encouraging the people of God to hope for the promised deliverance from Sennacherib's invasion, directs them to look forward to the Messiah, who was to come of the people of the Jews, and the house of David; whence it was easy to infer, that though that people and that house were afflicted, yet neither the one nor the other could be abandoned to ruin, so long as God had such an honour, such a blessing, in reserve for them. The deliverances which God wrought for the Old Testament church were types and figures of the great salvation by Christ; and, if God will do the greater, he will not fail to do the less.
The prophecy here quoted is justly ushered in with a Behold, which commands both attention and admiration; for we have here the mystery of godliness, which is, without controversy, great, that God was manifested in the flesh.
1. The sign given is that the Messiah shall be born of a virgin. A virgin shall conceive, and, by her, he shall be manifested in the flesh. The word Almah signifies a virgin in the strictest sense, such as Mary professes herself to be (Luk. 1:34), I know not a man; nor had it been any such wonderful sign as it was intended for, if it had been otherwise. It was intimated from the beginning that the Messiah should be born of a virgin, when it was said that he should be the seed of the woman; so the seed of the woman as not to be the seed of any man. Christ was born of a virgin not only because his birth was to be supernatural, and altogether extraordinary, but because it was to be spotless, and pure, and without any stain of sin. Christ would be born, not of an empress or queen, for he appeared not in outward pomp or splendour, but of a virgin, to teach us spiritual purity, to die to all the delights of sense, and so to keep ourselves unspotted from the world and the flesh that we may be presented chaste virgins to Christ.
2. The truth proved by this sign is, that he is the Son of God, and the Mediator between God and man: for they shall call his name Immanuel; that is, he shall be Immanuel; and when it is said, He shall be called, it is meant, he shall be, the Lord our righteousness. Immanuel signifies God with us; a mysterious name, but very precious; God incarnate among us, and so God reconcilable to us, at peace with us, and taking us into covenant and communion with himself. The people of the Jews had God with them, in types and shadows, dwelling between the cherubim; but never so as when the Word was made flesh - that was the blessed Shechinah. What a happy step is hereby taken toward the settling of a peace and correspondence between God and man, that the two natures are thus brought together in the person of the Mediator! by this he became an unexceptionable referee, a days-man, fit to lay his hand upon them both, since he partakes of the nature of both. Behold, in this, the deepest mystery, and the richest mercy, that ever was. By the light of nature, we see God as a God above us; by the light of the law, we see him as a God against us; but by the light of the gospel, we see him as Immanuel, God with us, in our own nature, and (which is more) in our interest. Herein the Redeemer commended his love. With Christ's name, Immanuel, we may compare the name given to the gospel church (Eze. 48:35). Jehovah Shammah - The Lord is there; the Lord of hosts is with us.
Nor is it improper to say that the prophecy which foretold that he should be called Immanuel was fulfilled, in the design and intention of it, when he was called Jesus; for if he had not been Immanuel - God with us, he could not have been Jesus - a Saviour; and herein consists the salvation he wrought out, in the bringing of God and man together; this was what he designed, to bring God to be with us, which is our great happiness, and to bring us to be with God, which is our great duty.
VI. Joseph's obedience to the divine precept (Mat. 1:24). Being raised from sleep by the impression which the dream made upon him, he did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, though it was contrary to his former sentiments and intentions; he took unto him his wife; he did is speedily, without delay, and cheerfully, without dispute; he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision. Extraordinary direction like this we are not now to expect; but God has still ways of making known his mind in doubtful cases, by hints of providence, debates of conscience, and advice of faithful friends; by each of these, applying the general rules of the written word, we should, therefore, in all the steps of our life, particularly the great turns of it, such as this of Joseph's, take direction from God, and we shall find it safe and comfortable to do as he bids us.
VII. The accomplishment of the divine promise (Mat. 1:25). She brought forth her first-born son. The circumstances of it are more largely related, Luk. 2:1, etc. Note, That which is conceived of the Holy Ghost never proves abortive, but will certainly be brought forth in its season. What is of the will of the flesh, and of the will of man, often miscarries; but, if Christ be formed in the soul, God himself has begun the good work which he will perform; what is conceived in grace will no doubt be brought forth in glory.