In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet - As there have been several confused notions among the Jews, relative not only to the Messiah, and his character, but also to the time of his birth, it may be necessary to add, to what has already been said on this subject, the following extracts from the Talmudists and Gemarists, quoted by Lightfoot. At the close of a long dissertation on the year of our Lord's birth, (which he places in the 35th of the reign of Herod, not the last or 37th as above), he says: "It will not be improper here to produce the Gemarists themselves openly confessing that the Messias had been born, a good while ago before their times. For so they write: After this the children of Israel shall be converted, and shall inquire after the Lord their God, and David their king: Hosea 3:5. Our rabbins say, That is King Messias, If he be among the living, his name is David, or if dead, David is his name. R. Tanchum said, Thus I prove it: He showeth mercy to David his Messiah. ( Psalm 18:50;). R. Joshua ben Levi saith, His name is צמח tsemach, a Branch. ( Zechariah 3:8;). R. Juban bar Arbu saith, His name is Menahem. (That is, παρακλητος, the Comforter). 'And that which happened to a certain Jew, as he was ploughing, agreeth with this business. A certain Arabian travelling, and hearing the ox bellow, said to the Jew at plough, O Jew, loose thy oxen, and loose thy ploughs, for behold! The temple is laid waste. The ox belloweth the second time; the Arabian saith to him, O Jew, Jew, yoke thy oxen, and fit thy ploughs: משיחא מלכא יליר והא For behold! King Messiah is born. But, saith the Jew, What is his name? Menahem, saith he (i.e. the Comforter). And what is the name of his Father? Hezekiah, saith the Arabian. To whom the Jew, But whence is He? The other answered, From the palace of the king of Bethlehem Judah. Away he went, and sold his oxen and his ploughs, and became a seller of infants' swaddling clothes, going about from town to town. When he came to that city, (Bethlehem), all the women bought of him, but the mother of Menahem bought nothing. He heard the voice of the women saying, O thou mother of Menahem, thou mother of Menahem, carry thy son the things that are here sold. But she replied, May the enemies of Israel be strangled, because on the day that he was born, the temple was laid waste. To whom he said, But we hoped, that as it was laid waste at his feet, so at his feet it would be built again. She saith, I have no money. To whom he replied, But why should this be prejudicial to him? Carry him what you buy here, and if you have no money today, after some days I will come back and receive it. After some days, he returned to that city, and saith to her, How does the little infant? And she said, From the time you saw me last, spirits and tempests came, and snatched him away out of my hands. R. Bon saith, What need have we to learn from an Arabian? Is it not plainly written, And Lebanon shall fall before the powerful one? ( Isaiah 10:34;). And what follows after? A branch shall come out of the root of Jesse. ( Isaiah 11:1;).
"The Babylonian doctors yield us a confession not very unlike the former. R. Charinah saith: After four hundred years are passed from the destruction of the temple, if any one shall say to you, Take to thyself for one penny a field worth a thousand pence, do not take it. And again, After four thousand two hundred thirty and one years from the creation of the world, if any shall say to you, Take for a penny a field worth a thousand pence, take it not. The gloss is, For that is the time of redemption, and you shall be brought back to the holy mountain, to the inheritance of your fathers; why, therefore, should you misspend your penny?
"You may fetch the reason of this calculation, if you have leisure, out of the tract Sanhedrin. The tradition of the school of Elias, the world is to last six thousand years, etc. And a little after, Elias said to Rabh Judah, The world shall last not less than eighty-five jubilees: and in the last jubilee shall the Son of David come. He saith to him, Whether in the beginning of it, or in the end? He answered him, I know not. Whether is this whole time to be finished first, or not? He answered him, I know not. But Rabh Asher asserted, that he answered thus, Until then, expect him not, but from thence expect him. Hear your own countrymen, O Jew! How many centuries of years are passed by and gone from the eighty-fifth jubilee of the world, that is, the year MMMMCCL, and yet the Messias of your expectation is not yet come!
"Daniel's weeks had so clearly defined the time of the true Messias, his coming, that the minds of the whole nation were raised into the expectation of him. Hence, it was doubted of the Baptist, whether he were not the Messias, Luke 3:15. Hence it was, that the Jews are gathered together from all countries unto Jerusalem, Acts 2:, expecting and coming to see, because at that time the term of revealing the Messias, that had been prefixed by Daniel, was come. Hence it was that there was so great a number of false Christs, Matthew 24:5, etc., taking the occasion of their impostures hence, that now the time of that great expectation was at hand, and fulfilled: and in one word, They thought the kingdom of God should presently appear, Luke 19:11.
"But when those times of expectation were past, nor did such a Messias appear as they expected, (for when they saw the true Messias, they would not see him), they first broke out into various, and those wild, conjectures of the time; and at length, all those conjectures coming to nothing, all ended in this curse (the just cause of their eternal blindness) רות הפת קצי מתשכי של , May their soul be confounded who compute the times!" They were fully aware that the time foretold by the prophets must be long since fulfilled; and that their obstinacy must be confounded by their own history, and the chronology of their own Scriptures; and therefore they have pronounced an anathema on those who shall attempt to examine, by chronological computations, the prophecies that predict his coming. Who can conceive a state of willful blindness or determined obstinacy superior to this!
By the prophet - The Sanhedrin answered without hesitation. The question where he would be born had been settled by prophecy. This prophecy is found in Micah 5:2. In that prophecy both the place of his birth and the character of the Messiah are so clearly set forth that there was no room to doubt. It will be observed that there is a considerable difference between the passage as quoted by the Sanhedrin and as it stands in Micah. The main point, however, is retained - the place of his birth. We are not concerned, therefore, in showing how these passages can be reconciled. Matthew, moreover, is not responsible for the correctness of the quotation. He affirms only that the chief priests and scribes gave this answer to Herod, and that Herod was satisfied. Admitting that they did not quote the passage correctly, it does not prove that Matthew has not reported their answer as they gave it, and this is all that he pretends to give.
Art not the least - In Micah, “though thou be little.” Though a small place so far as population is concerned, yet it shall not be small, or be the least in honor; for the Messiah shall be born there. His birth gave the place an honor which could not be conferred on the larger cities by all their numbers, their splendor, and their wealth. The birth of a distinguished personage was always supposed to give honor and importance to a city or country. Thus, seven cities contended for the honor of giving birth to Homer; Stratford-upon-Avon is distinguished as the birthplace of Shakespeare; and Corsica as the birthplace of Napoleon.
A Governor - A ruler. This is one of the characters of the Messiah, who is the king of his people, John 18:37. The word “rule” here means to rule as a shepherd does his flock, in faithfulness and tenderness. Compare John 10:11; Isaiah 40:10-11; Isaiah 9:7.
The rabbis knew that Jesus had not been instructed in their schools; yet His understanding of the prophecies far exceeded theirs. In this thoughtful Galilean boy they discerned great promise. They desired to gain Him as a student, that He might become a teacher in Israel. They wanted to have charge of His education, feeling that a mind so original must be brought under their molding. DA 80.1
The words of Jesus had moved their hearts as they had never before been moved by words from human lips. God was seeking to give light to those leaders in Israel, and He used the only means by which they could be reached. In their pride they would have scorned to admit that they could receive instruction from anyone. If Jesus had appeared to be trying to teach them, they would have disdained to listen. But they flattered themselves that they were teaching Him, or at least testing His knowledge of the Scriptures. The youthful modesty and grace of Jesus disarmed their prejudices. Unconsciously their minds were opened to the word of God, and the Holy Spirit spoke to their hearts. DA 80.2
They could not but see that their expectation in regard to the Messiah was not sustained by prophecy; but they would not renounce the theories that had flattered their ambition. They would not admit that they had misapprehended the Scriptures they claimed to teach. From one to another passed the inquiry, How hath this youth knowledge, having never learned? The light was shining in darkness; but “the darkness apprehended it not.” John 1:5, R. V. DA 80.3Read in context »
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Mark 1:14, 15. DA 231.1
The Messiah's coming had been first announced in Judea. In the temple at Jerusalem the birth of the forerunner had been foretold to Zacharias as he ministered before the altar. On the hills of Bethlehem the angels had proclaimed the birth of Jesus. To Jerusalem the magi had come in search of Him. In the temple Simeon and Anna had testified to His divinity. “Jerusalem, and all Judea” had listened to the preaching of John the Baptist; and the deputation from the Sanhedrin, with the multitude, had heard his testimony concerning Jesus. In Judea, Christ had received His first disciples. Here much of His early ministry had been spent. The flashing forth of His divinity in the cleansing of the temple, His miracles of healing, and the lessons of divine truth that fell from His lips, all proclaimed that which after the healing at Bethesda He had declared before the Sanhedrin,—His Sonship to the Eternal. DA 231.2Read in context »
Now the Pharisees and Sadducees came to Christ, asking for a sign from heaven. When in the days of Joshua Israel went out to battle with the Canaanites at Bethhoron, the sun had stood still at the leader's command until victory was gained; and many similar wonders had been manifest in their history. Some such sign was demanded of Jesus. But these signs were not what the Jews needed. No mere external evidence could benefit them. What they needed was not intellectual enlightenment, but spiritual renovation. DA 406.1
“O ye hypocrites,” said Jesus, “ye can discern the face of the sky,”—by studying the sky they could foretell the weather,—“but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” Christ's own words, spoken with the power of the Holy Spirit that convicted them of sin, were the sign that God had given for their salvation. And signs direct from heaven had been given to attest the mission of Christ. The song of the angels to the shepherds, the star that guided the wise men, the dove and the voice from heaven at His baptism, were witnesses for Him. DA 406.2
“And He sighed deeply in His spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign?” “There shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.” As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, Christ was to be the same time “in the heart of the earth.” And as the preaching of Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so Christ's preaching was a sign to His generation. But what a contrast in the reception of the word! The people of the great heathen city trembled as they heard the warning from God. Kings and nobles humbled themselves; the high and the lowly together cried to the God of heaven, and His mercy was granted unto them. “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation,” Christ had said, “and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.” Matthew 12:40, 41. DA 406.3
Every miracle that Christ performed was a sign of His divinity. He was doing the very work that had been foretold of the Messiah; but to the Pharisees these works of mercy were a positive offense. The Jewish leaders looked with heartless indifference on human suffering. In many cases their selfishness and oppression had caused the affliction that Christ relieved. Thus His miracles were to them a reproach. DA 406.4
That which led the Jews to reject the Saviour's work was the highest evidence of His divine character. The greatest significance of His miracles is seen in the fact that they were for the blessing of humanity. The highest evidence that He came from God is that His life revealed the character of God. He did the works and spoke the words of God. Such a life is the greatest of all miracles. DA 406.5Read in context »
At the time of Christ's first advent the priests and scribes of the Holy City, to whom were entrusted the oracles of God, might have discerned the signs of the times and proclaimed the coming of the Promised One. The prophecy of Micah designated His birthplace; Daniel specified the time of His advent. Micah 5:2; Daniel 9:25. God committed these prophecies to the Jewish leaders; they were without excuse if they did not know and declare to the people that the Messiah's coming was at hand. Their ignorance was the result of sinful neglect. The Jews were building monuments for the slain prophets of God, while by their deference to the great men of earth they were paying homage to the servants of Satan. Absorbed in their ambitious strife for place and power among men, they lost sight of the divine honors proffered them by the King of heaven. GC 313.1
With profound and reverent interest the elders of Israel should have been studying the place, the time, the circumstances, of the greatest event in the world's history—the coming of the Son of God to accomplish the redemption of man. All the people should have been watching and waiting that they might be among the first to welcome the world's Redeemer. But, lo, at Bethlehem two weary travelers from the hills of Nazareth traverse the whole length of the narrow street to the eastern extremity of the town, vainly seeking a place of rest and shelter for the night. No doors are open to receive them. In a wretched hovel prepared for cattle, they at last find refuge, and there the Saviour of the world is born. GC 313.2
Heavenly angels had seen the glory which the Son of God shared with the Father before the world was, and they had looked forward with intense interest to His appearing on earth as an event fraught with the greatest joy to all people. Angels were appointed to carry the glad tidings to those who were prepared to receive it and who would joyfully make it known to the inhabitants of the earth. Christ had stooped to take upon Himself man's nature; He was to bear an infinite weight of woe as He should make His soul an offering for sin; yet angels desired that even in His humiliation the Son of the Highest might appear before men with a dignity and glory befitting His character. Would the great men of earth assemble at Israel's capital to greet His coming? Would legions of angels present Him to the expectant company? GC 313.3Read in context »