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3: Wise Men’s Visit and Escape to Egypt (Mt 2:1-23)
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3: Wise Men’s Visit and Escape to Egypt (Mt 2:1-23)

I.       The Basics

A.     Setting

After the birth of Jesus, wise men from distant foreign land came to worship the King of the Jews. However, Herod, who was set up by the Roman authorities as the king of the Jews, sought to remove Jesus in fear of a possible threat to his throne. His vicious attempt to take the infant’s life also foreshadows how Jesus would likewise eventually be rejected and killed by his own people.

B.     Key Verse

            “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel” (2:6)

C.     Did You Know…?

1.       Bethlehem (2:1): A village about five miles (8 km) south of Jerusalem, which was the hometown of David, Israel’s greatest king (1 Sam 16:1, 19). 1/1412-1413

2.       King Herod (2:1): Herod the Great, as he is now called, was born in 73 b.c. and was named king of Judea by the Roman Senate in 40 b.c. By 37 b.c. he had crushed, with the help of Roman forces, all opposition to his rule. Son of the Idumean Antipater, he was wealthy, politically gifted, intensely loyal, an excellent administrator, and clever enough to remain in the good graces of successive Roman emperors. His famine relief was superb and his building projects (including the temple, begun 20 b.c.) admired even by his foes. But he loved power, inflicted incredibly heavy taxes on the people, and resented the fact that many Jews considered him a usurper. In his last years, suffering an illness that compounded his paranoia, he turned to cruelty and in fits of rage and jealousy killed close associates, his wife Mariamne (of Jewish descent from the Maccabeans), and at least two of his sons…. 6/84

3.       Herod was a descendent of Esau and therefore an Edomite. The Idumeans, who were of the line of Edom, were considered “half Jews” by the Jews.

4.       Wise men/magi (2:1): Probably astrologers, perhaps from Persia or southern Arabia, both of which are east of Palestine. 8/1437

5.       Chief priests (2:4): The chief priests, the highest Jewish religious leaders, were in charge of the temple. 1/1413

6.       Scribes/teachers of the law (2:4): The Jewish scholars of the day, professionally trained in the development, teaching and application of OT law. Their authority was strictly human and traditional. 8/1437

7.       Micah had prophesied 700 years earlier that Bethlehem would be the birthplace of the promised King and Savior (Mic 5:2).

8.       Contrary to tradition, the Magi did not visit Jesus at the manger on the night of his birth as did the shepherds. They came some months later and visited him as a “child” in his “house.” 8/1439

9.       Bringing gifts was particularly important in the ancient East when approaching a superior (cf. Gen 43:11; 1Sam 9:7-8; 1 Kings 10:2). 6/89

10.   Frankincense (2:11) is a glittering, odorous gum obtained by making incisions in the bark of several trees. 6/89

11.   Myrrh (2:11) exudes from a tree found in Arabia and a few other places and was a much-valued spice and perfume (Ps 45:8; S of Songs 3:6) used in embalming (John 19:39). 6/89

12.   Ramah (2:18) was located about 5 miles north of Jerusalem. It was one of the towns that the people passed through when taken in exile to Babylon (see Jeremiah 40:1).

13.   Archelaus (2:22): This son of Herod the Great ruled over Judea and Samaria for only ten years (4 B.C.-A.D. 6). He was unusually cruel and tyrannical and so was deposed. Judea then became a Roman province, administered by prefects appointed by the emperor. 8/1439

14.   Galilee (2:22): Galilee, about 30 miles wide and 60 miles long, was the populous northernmost region of the three divisions of Palestine; Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. 12/104

15.   Nazareth (2:23): A rather obscure town, nowhere mentioned in the OT. It was Jesus’ hometown (13:54-57; see Lk 2:39; 4:16-24; Jn 1:45-46).

16.   “He shall be called a Nazarene” (2:23): These exact words are not found in the OT and probably refer to several OT prefigurations and/or predictions (note the plural, “prophets”) that the Messiah would be despised (e.g., Ps 22:6; Isa 53:3), for in Jesus’ day “Nazarene” was virtually a synonym for “despised” (see Jn 1:45-46). Some hold that in speaking of Jesus as a “Nazarene,” Matthew is referring primarily to the word “Branch” (Hebrew ne.ser) in Isa 11:1. 8/1439

II.    Observation

A.     Outline










B.     Key Words/Phrases

III. Segment Analysis

A.     2:1-12

1.       What was the impact of the news from the wise men? What could have caused the reaction?

2.       What can you learn about Herod from this story? 

3.       What does the prophecy of Jesus’ birth teach us about Jesus and His ministry?

4.       What is the significance of the wise men’s visit? 

5.       Compare the wise men and Herod. What do their actions and attitudes teach us about worshipping God? 

6.       Have you ever felt threatened like Herod by God’s will and plan? What would it take to overcome such fear?

B.     2:13-23

1.       Why do you think that the killing of the infants fulfilled the prophecy about the weeping in Ramah? Could there be a connection between weeping in Bethlehem and its vicinity and the weeping of exile in Jeremiah’s time?

2.       What qualities can we learn from Joseph?

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