Aged priest Zechariah and his barren wife Elizabeth, also in the line of descent from Israel’s first high priest Aaron, lived uprightly and blamelessly, conscientiously observing God’s commands set forth in the Mosaic law. In the culture of that time, their childlessness would have been stigmatized, with many considering it to be a sign of divine disfavor. (Luke 1:5-7)
As a member of the division of the priestly division of Abijah, Zechariah carried out his duties during his designated period of service. Centuries earlier, King David had arranged for 24 divisions of priests. The division of Abijah was the eighth of the 24 divisions. (1 Chronicles 24:3-10) Each division served for one week every six months, with the entire priesthood being present for the annual festivals.
It was then toward the close of Herod the Great’s long reign over Judea. One day, during the period of his priestly service, Zechariah was chosen by lot to enter the temple to offer the incense. According to the Mishnah (Tamid 5:2), the superintendent or officer of the temple invited priests who had not shared in this service before to cast lots. Twice each day, in the morning and in the evening, a priest would burn incense on the alter inside the holy of the temple. (Compare Exodus 30:7, 8.) When he did so, no one else would be inside the sanctuary. The account does not indicate whether Zechariah entered the sanctuary in the morning or in the evening. If the Mishnah reflects the procedure then followed, Zechariah would have shared in this honorable service for the first time in his life. Outside, the assembled worshipers prayed while he officiated in the sanctuary. (Luke 1:8-10)
The sight of an angel on the right side of the altar of incense startled Zechariah and made him apprehensive. “Fear not,” the angel reassured him, and added that his prayer had been answered. (Luke 1:11-13) It is not likely that this would have been a personal prayer for a son. In his capacity as priest, Zechariah would more likely have prayed for the “redemption of Jerusalem” or the deliverance the coming of the Messiah would bring about and which godly Israelites eagerly awaited. (Compare Luke 2:38.)
The angel related the joyful news that Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth would bear a son, to be named John. This son would be a source of great joy to him and to many others. John would be great before God. As one specially chosen, he was not to drink wine or any other intoxicants. From birth, he would be filled with holy spirit. His role would be to cause many Israelites to change their ways and to return to God. The dynamic energizing spirit and power in evidence on the earlier prophet Elijah would be at work in John. He would turn the “hearts of fathers to children and the disobedient to the understanding of the upright, to prepare a people for the Lord.” (Luke 1:13-17)
The angel’s words indicated that John’s activity would lead many to a major transformation of their lives, involving the “heart” or the deep inner self. The focus would be on the restoration of proper relationships, which would start with the family and extend to fellow Israelites. Ultimately and most importantly, the people needed to come into a right relationship with God. John would be urging his people to cease being disobedient to the Almighty and start acting in harmony with the understanding or wisdom that distinguishes upright persons. All responding properly would thus be made ready for the Lord, the promised Messiah.
As a priest, aged Zechariah would have been well-acquainted with the history of his people and that long-barren women like Sarah, Rebekah, the wife of Manoah, Hannah, and the hospitable woman of Shunem did become mothers. Moreover, he found himself in God’s temple and heard the promise from an angel, a reliable messenger. Yet, Zechariah’s response was not one of joyous acceptance with unwavering faith. His words reflected doubt, “How am I to know this? For I am old and my wife is advanced in days.” (Luke 1:18)
The angel replied with words of strong reproof. “I am Gabriel, who stands before God, and I was sent to speak to you and announce these glad tidings to you. And, see! you will be silent and unable to speak until the day these things occur, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” (Luke 1:19, 20) Especially because of what he knew and the unique circumstances, Zechariah had a sound basis for believing the message conveyed to him. His doubting merited correction and discipline.
The interchange with Gabriel resulted in Zechariah’s being in the sanctuary much longer than was customary. So the assembled worshipers began to wonder about the delay. For Zechariah, confirmation of Gabriel’s words followed immediately. On coming out of the temple, he could not speak. His inability to vocalize the priestly blessing, coupled with the signs he made (likely with his hands, head and lips), made the people realize that he had seen a vision. (Luke 1:21, 22)
Zechariah completed his period of service and returned home, unable to speak about his experience to Elizabeth. (Luke 1:23) Based on what happened later, he probably communicated with her by signs and in writing. (Compare Luke 1:62, 63.)
After Elizabeth became pregnant, she remained in seclusion for five months. When it would have been clear to observers that the reproach of barrenness had been removed from her, she resumed her usual routine in the community. (Luke 1:24, 25)
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary. She lived in Nazareth, a city of Galilee, and was engaged to Joseph from the royal house of David. (Luke 1:26, 27) Through the prophet Nathan, David had been divinely promised that his royal line would continue in existence, and this provided the basis for the Messianic hope, the coming of a king greater than David. (2 Samuel 7:8-16; compare Acts 2:30, 31.)
According to the literal reading of the Greek text, the angel greeted her with the words, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord [is] with you.” (See the Notes section for additional comments.) To be addressed as exceedingly favored and having God’s attentive care greatly perplexed Mary, causing her to wonder just what this greeting signified. Gabriel reassured her with the words, “fear not,” informed her of having found favor with God, and then told her that she would give birth to a son, to be named Jesus. This son would be great, “be called Son of the Most High,” receive from God the throne or royal authority of his ancestor David, and “reign over the house of Jacob forever.” His kingdom would never come to an end. (Luke 1:28-33)
Unlike Zechariah who responded to Gabriel’s announcement with doubt, Mary only raised the question as to how this would come about as she was unmarried and not intimate with a man. The angel explained to her that this would be made possible through the operation of holy spirit or the “power of the Most High.” Because the conception would result from the mighty working of divine power, the son to be born would be “called holy, [the] Son of God.” (Luke 1:34, 35)
It may well be that, for the first time, Mary learned from Gabriel that her relative Elizabeth, who had long been barren, was in the sixth month of her pregnancy and would give birth to a son. Elizabeth’s pregnancy, as Gabriel indicated, proved that nothing would be impossible with God. (Luke 1:36, 37)
Mary’s response proved to be one of remarkable faith. No virgin had ever conceived through the direct working of God’s mighty power, and she must have known that she would never be able to convince others of having maintained her virginity. Yet, with full trust in the Most High and his care for her and the son to be born, she declared her willingness to be God’s servant, letting everything take place according to what Gabriel had told her. At that point, the angel departed. (Luke 1:38)
See http://bibleplaces.com/nazareth.htm for pictures of and comments about Nazareth.
As a greeting, the Greek term chaíro (“rejoice”) expressed an implied wish for the happiness or well-being of the person being addressed. It functioned much like the Hebrew shalóm (“peace”), which also conveyed the thought of well-being, and may have been the expression Gabriel used.
Jesus’ future kingship is described in a way that accommodated common Messianic expectations. The reality, although including an everlasting rule over the “house of Jacob” or Israel, is far grander. Mary, however, would not at that time have been able to grasp a description in terms unfamiliar to her. (Luke 1:32, 33)
In Luke 1:35, “holy spirit” and “power of the Most High” are parallel expressions, as are also the words “come upon” and “overshadow.” It should be noted that Mary would not have understood Gabriel’s words to mean anything other than what she knew about God’s spirit from the “holy writings” that were read in the synagogue. Those “holy writings” confirm that “holy spirit” is God’s power, dynamically at work in a holy or pure way for the accomplishment of his will.
It appears that Gabriel’s words about Elizabeth prompted Mary to undertake the long trip to Judea without delay, hurrying to see her relative. A day’s journey would have been about 20 miles, and so it may have taken Mary about four days to reach the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth in a city located in the mountainous region of Judea. When Mary entered their home and greeted Elizabeth, the infant in her womb leaped. (Luke 1:39-41) This confirmed the angel Gabriel’s words that John would be filled with holy spirit from his mother’s womb. (Luke 1:15) His joyous leaping, under the apparent impulse of holy spirit, served to acknowledge the superiority of the son to whom Mary would give birth.
Guided by holy spirit, Elizabeth, in a loud voice, pronounced her young relative Mary as blessed among women and the “fruit of her womb” as blessed. “How can I be so favored,” Elizabeth continued, “that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” It had been her unborn baby’s joyous leaping when she heard Mary’s greeting that revealed to Elizabeth that her relative’s son would be her Lord, the Messiah whom all godly Israelites eagerly awaited. Elizabeth acknowledged Mary (unlike her husband Zechariah who had doubted) as having believed and called her fortunate, happy, blessed or in a desirable state of felicity, for everything that God had spoken by means of Gabriel would take place. (Luke 1:41-45)
Mary’s expressions of thanksgiving and praise parallel thoughts in the Psalms and in the words of Samuel’s mother Hannah. (1 Samuel 2:1-10; also see the Notes section for comparison purposes.) “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked upon the lowliness of his slave. For, see! from now on all generations will call me fortunate, for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy [is] his name. And his mercy [is] from generation to generation to those fearing him. He has displayed might with his arm. He has scattered those arrogant in the reasoning of their heart. He has brought down sovereigns from thrones and exalted the lowly. Hungry ones he has filled with good things, and the wealthy he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, having remembered mercy, just as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his seed forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)
Mary’s “soul” or she herself exalted or glorified her God. Her “spirit” or the motivating and energizing force of her inner life was filled with boundless joy on account of God to whom she looked as the savior or deliverer of his people from their distress. Humbly she acknowledged herself as his slave, expressing her appreciation for his having looked upon her with favor. Because of the son to whom she would give birth, people from all generations to come would recognize that she had been granted an exceedingly fortunate, blessed, or happy state. In view of developments involving her yet unborn son, the Mighty One had performed great or incomprehensibly astounding things for her. God’s name or he himself is “holy” or pure in the ultimate sense. Those having reverential regard for him in every generation would experience his mercy or compassionate concern and care.
It appears that Mary discerned that divine power would be prominently in evidence through the son to whom she would give birth and therefore mentioned the powerful working of God’s “arm” or might. Through the exercise of divine power, a tremendous reversal would take place. Those haughty in the thoughts of their hearts or in the reasoning and intentions of their inmost selves would be scattered, as are those who suffer defeat in battle. Rulers would be unseated, whereas the lowly would be exalted. Hungry ones would be fully satisfied, but those who had everything would come to have nothing. God’s people, those whom he recognized as his servant Israel, would experience his mercy in fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham and to his offspring.
For three months, Mary stayed with Elizabeth. As Mary is not referred to as being present immediately after the birth of John, this suggests that she left shortly before that joyous event. Possibly because of being able to join a group of travelers, she departed for her home prior to John’s birth. (Luke 1:56)
The Scriptural record provides no information about Mary’s family. Nothing is said about whether her parents or only her mother or father were still alive and with whom she lived in Nazareth. According to tradition dating from the second century, her mother was Anna, Elizabeth’s sister, and her father was Joachim. On account of the many fantastic elements in accounts like the Protevangelium Jacobi (Protevangelium of James), it is impossible to determine which parts (if any) preserve a reliable tradition. This would include the statement that Mary was sixteen years old at the time she visited Elizabeth.
Considering the possible dangers lone travelers faced, Mary may have traveled in the company of others. It seems less likely that she would have done so by herself, especially since numerous opportunities existed for joining others as they made their way to Jerusalem in Judea. Throughout the course of the year, families from Nazareth and other cities and towns of Galilee would make the long trip to the temple there, to offer the sacrifices prescribed by the law.
The visit with Elizabeth made it possible for Mary to express her joy and faith to someone who best understood her feelings. It also provided her with an opportunity to assist Elizabeth during the more difficult part of her pregnancy.
The parallels in the language of Mary’s expressions and parts of 1 Samuel and Psalms are more apparent when compared with the reading of the Septuagint. For this purpose, the Greek is here provided in transliterated form (followed by an English translation).
1 Samuel 1:11: epiplépses epí tén tapeínosin tés doúles sou (“you would look upon the lowliness of your slave”)
Luke 1:48: epéplepsen epí tén tapeínosin tés doúles sou (“he has looked upon the lowliness of his slave”)
Psalm 111:9 (110:9, LXX): hágion kaí phoberón tó ónoma autoú (“holy and fear-inspiring [is] his name”)
Luke 1:49: hágion tó ónoma autoú (“holy [is] his name”)
Psalm 103:17 (102:17, LXX): tó dé éleos tou kyríou apó toú aiónos kaí héos tou aiónos epí toús phobouménous autón (“but the mercy of the Lord [is] from age to age upon those fearing him”)
Luke 1:50: kaí tó éleos autoú eis geneás kaí geneás toís phobouménous autón (“and his mercy [is] from generation to generation to those fearing him”)
Psalm 89:10 (88:11, LXX): en to brachíoni tés dynámeós sou dieskórpisas toús echthroús sou (“with the arm of your strength, you scattered your enemies”)
Luke 1:51: epoíesen krátos en brachíoni autoú, dieskórpisen hyperephánous dianoía kardías autón (“He has displayed might with his arm. He has scattered those arrogant in the reasoning of their heart.”)
Psalm 107:9 (106:9, LXX): psychén peinósan enéplesen agathón (“hungry souls he has filled with good things”)
Luke 1:53: peinóntas enéplesen agathón (“hungry ones he has filled with good things”)
When news about Elizabeth’s giving birth to a son reached her neighbors and relatives, they rejoiced with her and recognized that God had shown her great mercy. On the eighth day, as the law required, the baby was circumcised, and those present for the occasion wanted the boy to be named Zechariah after his father. Elizabeth objected, insisting that he would be called “John” (meaning “YHWH has been gracious”). They responded that no one among her relatives had that name and then motioned to the father to find out from him what the boy’s name should be. Zechariah indicated his desire to be given a tablet and then wrote, “John is his name.” This amazed all of them. (Luke 1:57-63)
At this point, Zechariah was again able to speak and blessed God. (Luke 1:64) Filled with holy spirit, he prophesied, saying: “Blessed [be the] Lord, the God of Israel, because he has looked upon and effected deliverance for his people. And he has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David his servant, just as he spoke from of old through the mouth of his holy prophets [about] salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all those hating us; to extend [the] mercy [promised] to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us to serve fearlessly in purity and uprightness before him all our days [upon] being rescued from the hand of our enemies.” (Luke 1:67-75)
Zechariah’s words focused on the deliverance God, through the promised Messiah, would bring about for Israel. Mary’s unborn child would prove to be the “horn” in the royal line of David. The expression “horn” pointed to the power he would have to effect the deliverance the ancient Hebrew prophets foretold. That deliverance would be an expression of divine mercy or compassion and a fulfillment of the covenant with Abraham that contained the promise of liberation from oppression. Whereas the promise to Abraham included the future rescue of the Israelites from enslavement in Egypt (which rescue, in fulfillment of the covenant promise, had occurred centuries earlier), the oath-bound covenant continued in effect and thus provided a basis for hope in other divine acts of deliverance. (Genesis 15:13-16) Just as Israel’s rescue from Egypt made it possible for the people to serve their God without fear, the liberation to come through the Messiah would likewise grant those being freed the opportunity to serve God fearlessly in purity and uprightness all the days of their life. As the son born to Mary, Jesus, the Son of God, later revealed, he would free humans from slavery to sin and the enemy death. (John 8:21-23, 34-36) While Zechariah expressed the thought of deliverance in terms characteristic of the ancient Hebrew prophets, his words harmonized fully with the far grander salvation the Son of God would bring about.
Zechariah then pointed to the role his son would fill. John would be a “prophet of the Most High,” going before the Lord, the promised Messiah, to prepare his ways or to ready people for his appearance. John would do this by imparting knowledge to the Israelites about salvation made possible through the forgiveness of their sins. Zechariah continued, “Because of the tender mercy of our God, dawn from on high will come upon us, to shine upon those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death [and] to guide our feet into the path of peace.” On account of God’s great compassion, a new day would dawn with the arrival of the promised Messiah, dispelling the gloom and intense darkness that seemed to eclipse all hope. Guided by the light his coming would bring, those who chose to walk in that light would find themselves on the “path of peace” or would be conducting themselves in a way that would promote their eternal well-being as persons enjoying peace with God. (Luke 1:76-79)
Upon hearing about (or witnessing) developments at the time John was circumcised, neighbors were filled with a reverential fear, and others in the mountainous region of Judea started to talk about these things. The news regarding John made a deep impression, causing people to wonder, “What really will this boy come to be?” God’s hand or the operation of divine power was with the child. (Luke 1:65, 66)
Matthew’s account passes over in silence about how and when Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant through the operation of holy spirit. An engagement required a woman to remain chaste, and unfaithfulness to her future husband constituted adultery. Moreover, the engagement was just as binding as marriage and could only be terminated by giving the woman a divorce certificate that would allow her to marry another man. Therefore, Joseph faced a serious dilemma on account of Mary’s pregnancy prior to their being united in marriage. To all appearances, she had been unfaithful, and the truthful explanation Mary may have given him could not be verified. While miracles had occurred in the past, nothing of this nature had ever taken place. (Matthew 1:18)
Being righteous or a man who wanted to do what is right, Joseph did not want to expose Mary to public shame. So he considered divorcing her secretly, perhaps in the presence of two witnesses. Then, in a dream, an angel appeared to him and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for what is conceived in her is through holy spirit. And she will give birth to a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:19-21)
Upon awakening from his dream, Joseph followed through on the angelic direction and took Mary as his wife but had no intimate relations with her until she gave birth to the son whom he called Jesus. (Matthew 1:24, 25)
Mary’s pregnancy fulfilled the words of the prophet Isaiah (7:14), “Behold! The virgin will conceive and will give birth to a son, and they will call his name ‘Immanuel,’ which means, ‘With us [is] God.’” (Matthew 1:22, 23; see the Notes section for a detailed consideration of Isaiah’s prophecy and its relation to the foretold Messiah.)
The name “Jesus” means “YHWH is salvation” and so pointed to his role as God’s means for salvation or deliverance from sin. As the angel explained, this is the name the child should be given because he would “save his people from their sins.”
With the exception of different forms of the verb for “call,” the wording of Isaiah 7:14 in extant Septuagint manuscripts is the same as in Matthew 1:23. The Masoretic Text refers to the woman who would give birth as ‘almáh (a young woman who may be either a wife or a virgin). In the Septuagint and in Matthew 1:23, the corresponding term is parthénos, (“virgin”). By reason of her engagement, Mary already belonged to Joseph as his “young woman” and was also a virgin. The more specific Greek term reflected the precise circumstances that uniquely applied in Mary’s case. Knowing Jesus to be the Son of God whose life as a human came about through the direct operation of holy spirit and not the usual process of procreation, Matthew recognized that the words of Isaiah 7:14 matched exactly what had occurred in Jesus’ case and could therefore refer to them as having been fulfilled.
Isaiah’s prophecy does, however, also relate to the situation existing in his time. The Syrian king Rezin formed an alliance with Israelite king Pekah. Both were intent on overthrowing King Ahaz, replacing him with the son of Tabeel. Upon coming to know about this conspiracy, Ahaz and his subjects gave way to fear. YHWH directed Isaiah to take his son Shear-jashub to meet Ahaz. The message for the king was that he should not lose courage, for the attempt to dethrone him would fail. (Isaiah 7:1-9)
Ahaz was invited to ask for a confirmatory sign, but the faithless king refused to do so. Nevertheless, through Isaiah, YHWH did announce a sign: “The maiden [is] pregnant and is bearing a son, and she will call his name Immanuel.” Before this boy would be able to discriminate between good and bad, the threat from the kingdoms of Israel and Syria would have ceased to exist, and he would be eating curds and honey. The kingdom of Judah, however, would be subjected to Assyrian aggression. (Isaiah 7:10-17)
Historically, the conquest of Assyrian monarch Tiglath-pileser III brought an end to the threat of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Syria. The Syrian capital Damascus fell to the Assyrian forces, and King Rezin was killed. The Assyrians invaded the Israelite territories of Gilead, Galilee, and Naphtali, taking many of the inhabitants into exile. The kingdom of Judah also suffered from Assyrian invasion. (2 Kings 15:29; 16:9; 1 Chronicles 5:6, 26; 2 Chronicles 28:20) This may explain why the boy Immanuel is spoken of as eating curds and honey. Assyrian campaigns disrupted the usual agricultural operations, forcing many in the kingdom of Judah to subsist largely on wild honey and dairy products. (Isaiah 7:20-25)
The identity of the maiden and her child in the time of Isaiah is unknown, and this aspect more readily served the purpose of pointing forward to the birth of the promised Messiah, Jesus. As the direct representative of his Father, Jesus lived up to the name “Immanuel,” meaning “with us [is] God.” In the person of his unique Son, God was indeed with his people.
While Quirinius governed Syria, Caesar Augustus (who ruled from 27 BCE to 14 CE) ordered a census, which required Joseph (as a descendant in the royal line of David) and Mary to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, David’s city. In Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to Jesus, swaddled him, and placed him in a feeding trough for animals. (Luke 2:1-7)
At the time of Jesus’ birth, shepherds were still living out in the field at night, watching over their flocks. That night, an angel appeared to them and divine “glory” or brilliant light shone around them. Great fear then gripped the shepherds. After reassuring them with the words, “fear not,” the angel continued, “I am announcing to you glad tidings of great joy that will be for all the people, for today was born a savior, who is Christ the Lord, in David’s city. And this [is] the sign for you: You will find a swaddled infant lying in a manger.” Suddenly, a multitude of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory in the heights to God and upon earth peace among men of good will.” (The expression “men of good will” designates persons toward whom God’s good will or favor is directed.) Whereas the angels were moved to express joyous praise respecting God’s arrangement for salvation through his Son, many humans have not responded with joy and gratitude even though they, and not the angels, are the intended beneficiaries. (Luke 2:8-13)
After the angels left, departing into heaven, the shepherds hurried to Bethlehem. There they saw Mary, Joseph, and the infant lying in a manger. The shepherds related what had been revealed to them about the child. (Luke 2:15-17) Upon returning to their flocks, they glorified and praised God for all they had been told and had been privileged to see. (Luke 2:20)
“All who heard” the words of the shepherds were filled with wonderment. In Mary’s case, the words made a deep and lasting impression. She treasured them, and they were expressions on which she pondered in her “heart” or in her inmost self. (Luke 2:18, 19) The reference to “all who heard” would not be limited to Joseph and Mary and likely is to be understood as meaning all with whom the shepherds, on other occasions, shared what they had seen and heard.
Based on the biblical account, the census was taken while Herod the Great reigned. Existing historical references to Quirinius from the final part of Herod the Great’s reign, however, do not provide the specifics needed for establishing in what capacity Quirinius may have governed Syria before Jesus’ birth.
The Greek word in Luke 2:7 is katályma, which often has been translated “inn.” In the parable about the compassionate Samaritan, where the reference definitely is to an inn, the Greek term is pandocheíon. (Luke 10:34) The term katályma, in other contexts, designates a “guest room” (Mark 14:14; Luke 22:11) and basically denotes a “lodging place.” Therefore, Joseph and Mary may actually have been accommodated in a very modest home where the guest room was already occupied. In such a humble home, animals would have been kept in the courtyard, with a manger being a hollow place in a stone platform above the courtyard. On the platform itself, people could be accommodated.
According to ancient tradition dating back to the second century, Jesus was born in a cave. Justin Martyr, in his Dialogue with Trypho (78), wrote that when Joseph could not find lodging in Bethlehem “he took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village.” No reliable evidence exists for confirming this frequently repeated tradition.
Bethlehem is situated about 2,500 feet above sea level. During the rainy season in winter, low temperatures at night may sometimes drop to the freezing point. Wintertime, therefore, would not fit the circumstance of shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night. If Daniel 9:27 is correctly understood to foretell Christ’ death in the middle of a seven-year week (although there is no general agreement about the application of the Daniel passage), this would mean that his ministry lasted three and a half years. Since Jesus died in the spring, this would place his birth in the fall.
See http://bibleplaces.com/bethlehem.htm for pictures of and comments about Bethlehem.
The genealogy in Matthew and the one in Luke establish that Jesus Christ is a descendant of David, with Matthew’s list having an introduction specifically identifying Jesus Christ, as “son of David, son of Abraham.” While of particular significance to Jews who expected the Messiah to come in the royal line of David, this aspect would have been of lesser concern to non-Jews. Apparently with non-Jews in mind, Luke traced the genealogy back to the beginning of the human race. For the most part, the names from Adam through Abraham (appearing in the reverse order in Luke) are the same as those found in Genesis 5:3-32 and 1 Chronicles 1:1-4, 24-27. The names are Greek transliterations, and the spellings in extant manuscripts of Luke’s account and the Septuagint text do vary at times.
In the extant text of Luke 3:36, 37, the name “Cainan” appears twice, as a son (or descendant) of Enosh and also as a son (or descendant) of Arpachshad (Arphaxad). The inclusion of Cainan between Arpachshad (Arphaxad) and Shelah (Sala, the Greek spelling in LXX and Luke) agrees with the Septuagint (but not the Masoretic Text) listing in Genesis 10:24 and 11:12, 13.
From Abraham to David, extant manuscripts of Matthew and Luke, for the most part, have the same names with the same Greek spellings. (See the Notes section for variations in manuscript readings.)
After David, Matthew traces the lineage through Solomon, whereas Luke does so through David’s son Nathan. (2 Samuel 5:13, 14; 1 Chronicles 3:5) Both Matthew and Luke include Shealtiel and Zerubbabel but then immediately diverge. While Matthew lists Jechoniah (Jeconiah, Jehoiachin) as the son of Shealtiel, Luke lists Neri. The absence of any reference to Neri in the biblical record makes it impossible to determine precisely how he was related to Shealtiel.
Already in ancient times, the significant difference in the two genealogies was recognized as problematic. Julius Africanus (170-245) concluded that levirate marriage was involved, with Joseph being the offspring of a man having the same mother as the deceased brother but a different father. If Jacob was indeed the deceased brother, Joseph would have been the natural son of Heli but the legal son of Jacob. A possible explanation from a later period is that Matthew traced the lineage through Joseph, whereas Luke did so through Heli, the father of Mary.
Both possible explanations for the difference in the genealogies have their defenders and their detractors. Whereas the conjecture of Julius Africanus requires extraordinary circumstances (the same mother but different fathers for two brothers), it reveals that he knew of no tradition identifying Heli as Mary’s father. The second-century “Protevangelium of James” speaks of her father as having been Joachim.
Only Matthew includes women in the genealogy. Tamar, a Canaanitess, tricked her father-in-law Judah into having relations with her because he did not make his son Shelah available for levirate marriage. (Genesis 38:6-19) Rahab, a Canaanitess of Jericho and a prostitute, hid the two Israelite spies and secured their safety. On account of her act of faith based on what she had heard about YHWH’s dealings with his people, Rahab and her relatives did not lose their lives. She later married Salmon (Salman, Sala) of the tribe of Judah. (Joshua 2:1-21; 6:22-25; 1 Chronicles 2:11) Widowed Ruth the Moabitess accompanied her widowed mother-in-law Naomi from Moab to Judah, declaring her oath-bound determination to remain with her, to worship YHWH, and to be part of his people. Through the arrangement of levirate marriage, she came to be the wife of Boaz. (Ruth 1:15-17; 4:9-12) Bath-sheba with whom King David had an adulterous relationship and whose husband he arranged to have killed in battle to cover up his sin is not mentioned by name. She is referred to as “the one of Uriah,” thus, in effect, representing David as raising up offspring for the loyal Hittite warrior whose death he had plotted. (2 Samuel 11:2-17) The mention of these women in the genealogy provides indirect evidence for the trustworthiness of the biblical record about the royal line. It is inconceivable that anyone would have invented this kind of information.
The genealogy in Matthew is arranged in three segments of fourteen generations — from Abraham to David (14 names), from David to the Babylonian exile (14 names, starting with David and ending with Josiah), from the Babylonian exile until the Messiah (14 names, starting with Jechoniah [Jeconiah, Jehoiachin] who was taken into Babylonian exile and ending with Jesus). This arrangement may have been designed to function as a memory aid. (Matthew 1:17) Although not including all the preserved names in the royal line (Ahaziah, Jehoash [Joash], Amaziah, and Jehoiakim are omitted), the genealogy is sufficient to establish that Jesus can be identified as “son of David, son of Abraham.”
The omission of Ahaziah, his son Jehoash (Joash), and his grandson Amaziah may be significant. Ahaziah was the son of King Jehoram and Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. The notoriously evil conduct of Ahab and Jezebel led to divine condemnation of the entire house of Ahab. Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah and father of Jehoiachin (Jechoniah, Jeconiah), may have been omitted on account of his abominable record of corruption and bloodshed.
Greek spelling variations for names include the following: Iáred (Genesis 5:15-20; 1 Chronicles 1:2, LXX) and Iáret (Luke 3:37); Salmán (Ruth 4:20, LXX), Salmón (1 Chronicles 2:11, LXX; Matthew 1:4, 5), and Salá (1 Chronicles 1:24, LXX; Luke 3:32, 35); Bóos (Ruth 4:21; 1 Chronicles 2:11, 12; LXX; Luke 3:32) and Boés (Matthew 1:5); Obéd (Ruth 4:21, 22; 1 Chronicles 2:12, LXX) and Iobéd (Matthew 1:5; Luke 3:32); Asa (1 Chronicles 3:10, LXX) and Asáph (Matthew 1:8).
For Luke 3:33, there are various manuscript readings, including “[son] of Amminadab, of Admin, of Arni, of Hezron, of Perez, of Judah”; “[son] of Adam, of Admin, of Arni, of Hezron, of Perez, of Judah”; “[son] of Aminadam, of Aram, of Almei, of Arni, of Hezron, of Perez, of Judah”; “[son] of Amminadab, of Admin, of Aram, of Hezron, of Perez, of Judah”; “[son] of Aram, of Amminadab, of Armin, of Arnin, of Hezron of Perez, of Judah”; “[son] of Aminadam, of Joram, of Aram, of Hezron, of Perez, of Judah”; “[son] of Amminadab, of Aram, of Joram, of Hezron, of Perez, of Judah.” “Admin” and “Arni,” the two names often appearing in manuscripts of Luke, are missing from 1 Chronicles. In Matthew’s genealogy “Aram” (Ram) is the name between Hezron and Amminadab.
On the eighth day, the infant was circumcised. Joseph and Mary, in keeping with divine direction conveyed through the angel Gabriel to Mary and later through an angel in a dream to Joseph, named the boy Jesus. (2:21)
According to the Mosaic law, a woman remained in a state of ceremonial uncleanness for seven days after the birth of a boy. After the completion of an additional 33-day purification period, the woman was required to present a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering. If she could not afford a lamb, she could offer two turtledoves or two young pigeons. (Leviticus 12:1-8)
After the completion of the purification period, Joseph and Mary went to Jerusalem to present the infant Jesus in the temple. By presenting him there to the Most High, they fulfilled the legal requirement designating every firstborn male as holy to God. (Exodus 13:2, 12, 15) Mary availed herself of the provision allowing her to offer two turtledoves or two young pigeons. (Leviticus 12:8) This reveals that Joseph and Mary had limited means and that the magi had not as yet come to Bethlehem. The costly gifts of the magi would have provided Mary with the needed resources to offer a year-old lamb. (Luke 2:22-24)
While Joseph and Mary were at the temple, upright Simeon came up to them. This reverential resident of Jerusalem eagerly looked forward to the time when consolation would come to Israel through the promised Messiah. By means of God’s spirit, he had received a revelation that he would live to see the Messiah or “Christ of the Lord.” Under the impulse of God’s spirit, he had come to the temple and approached Joseph and Mary. Taking Jesus into his arms, he praised God and said, “Now, Sovereign Lord, according to your word, you are letting your slave go in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all the peoples — a light for revelation to the nations and a glory for your people Israel.” (Luke 2:25-32)
Having seen the one who would grow up to reveal himself as the promised Messiah, Simeon felt that he could die in peace, content that his earnest desire respecting Israel would be fulfilled. His prophetic words of thanksgiving indicated that the arrival of the Messiah would benefit people of other nations. The Messiah would serve as a “light for revelation to the nations,” showing how people could be rescued from their state of darkness, a sad condition without God and hope and an empty life spent in ignorance and sin. (Compare Isaiah 42:6, 7; Ephesians 2:12; 4:17, 18; 5:7-12; Titus 3:3; 1 Peter 1:14, 18, 19.) As the one through whom all the divine promises would be fulfilled (including liberation from sin and death), the Messiah would be a glory to Israel. For the Israelites, having him come from their midst would be an unparalleled noble distinction. Years later, Jesus said to a Samaritan woman, “Salvation is from the Jews,” for he, as the promised Messiah, was an Israelite according to the flesh. (John 4:22)
Upon hearing Simeon’s words about Jesus, Joseph and Mary could not help but be amazed. (Luke 2:33) Simeon blessed them and then directed his words to Mary. Her son would cause the rising and falling of many in Israel. This indicated that there would be those who would accept him, while others would reject him. All who responded in faith, accepting him as the promised Messiah, would rise from their low estate as sinners to enjoy the dignity of reconciled children of God. All who persisted in unbelief would fall, losing out on everything, including their imagined status as being privileged “sons of Abraham.” Jesus would be a sign against whom hateful talk would be directed. By what he would say and do, he would be God’s sign to the people (as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites and Isaiah and his sons proved to be signs to Israel). (Isaiah 8:18; Luke 11:30) Because of the suffering Jesus would experience, the effect would be like that of a sword run through the “soul” of Mary or through her herself. The impact Jesus would have on others and their response would expose the thoughts of many hearts or would reveal people’s inmost selves. (Luke 4:34, 35)
Eighty-four-year-old Anna, daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher, also approached Joseph and Mary. Evidently filled with gratitude for having been able to see the infant, she gave thanks to God. Anna, after seven years of marriage, had been widowed and remained single for the rest of her life. She spent her time at the temple, rendering service during the day and the night. This godly woman fasted and persisted in intense prayer. After having seen Joseph and Mary with the infant, she spoke about the boy to all who were awaiting Jerusalem’s deliverance. Anna did not indiscriminately broadcast the joyous news about the coming deliverer who had been born but shared the information with those who, like her, had looked forward to the coming of the Messiah and the liberation he would bring about. (Luke 2:36-38) In view of the kind of ruler Herod the Great had revealed himself to be, she must have been aware that he and others would not welcome this news.
The words of Luke 2:23, “every male opening a womb should be called holy to the Lord” is not an exact quotation but accurately expresses the regulation as set forth in Exodus (13:2, 12, 15).
In Luke 2:24, the words regarding “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” convey the same meaning as in the extant text of Leviticus 12:8 in the Septuagint, but the words are not identical.
Close to the end of Herod the Great’s rule, magi (astrologers) arrived in Jerusalem. While in their own land, situated a considerable distance to the east, they had seen a star that caused them to conclude that the king of the Jews had been born. They seemingly thought that this would have been known in Jerusalem, prompting their inquiry about the location of the newborn king. Their purpose for wanting to see him was to prostrate themselves before him, acknowledging him as king and presenting him with precious gifts befitting one who would eventually reign. (Matthew 2:1, 2)
News about their arrival and inquiry greatly disturbed Herod and the general populace of Jerusalem. Herod called for the chief priests and Jewish scribes to assemble and then asked them where the “anointed one” (the Christ) would be born. Based on the prophecy of Micah (5:1), they answered, “Bethlehem of Judah.” (Matthew 2:3-6)
Thereafter Herod arranged a secret meeting with the magi and found out from them just when they had seen the star. It would appear that he wanted to raise no suspicion about his real intent and so sent them to Bethlehem unaccompanied by anyone from his court. He requested that they carefully search for the newborn king and, upon finding him, report back to him, as he, too, wanted to prostrate himself before him. (Matthew 2:7, 8)
Upon starting out for Bethlehem, the magi again saw the star they had seen earlier and were overjoyed. The star went ahead of them, leading them on their way. Then, in Bethlehem, based on the position of the star in relation to the houses, the magi located the home where the child was, entered, saw him with his mother Mary, prostrated themselves before him, and presented gold, incense, and myrrh as gifts. Warned in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi returned to their own country by another route. (Matthew 2:9-12)
The inhabitants of Jerusalem must have known how seriously Herod viewed any possible threat to his rule, and this may be the reason for their alarm about the inquiry of the magi.
The quotation from the prophecy of Micah departs considerably from the extant text of the Septuagint (which reflects the wording of the Masoretic Text) but preserves the basic thought. The Septuagint reads, “And you, Bethlehem, house of Ephrathah, few are you to be among the thousands of Judah. From you will come forth to me the one to become ruler in Israel.” Matthew 2:6 says, “And you, Bethlehem, [in the] land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you will come forth a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”
Reference works, based on the way the comments of Josephus are commonly interpreted, usually place the death of Herod in 4 BCE. This date appears to be too early to fit Luke’s account about the start of John’s proclamation of repentance and the baptism of Jesus. In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, who succeeded Augustus Caesar in 14 CE, John began to serve as a prophet. At the time of his baptism by John, Jesus was “about thirty years old.” (Luke 3:1-3, 21-23) A 4 BCE date for Herod’s death would place Jesus’ birth approximately two years earlier (c. 6 BCE), raising a question regarding his being “about thirty years of age” in the fifteenth year of Tiberius (28/29 CE). A commonly proposed solution is to interpret the “fifteenth year of Tiberius” to mean the fifteenth year from the start of his coregency with Augustus Caesar (or between 11 CE and 13 CE instead of 14 CE).
Josephus (Antiquities, XVII, viii, 1; War, I, xxxiii, 8) indicates that Herod the Great ruled for 34 years after the execution of Antigonus and 37 years after the Romans had made him king. He also refers to an eclipse of the moon taking place shortly before Herod’s death. (Antiquities, XVII, vi, 4) A partial eclipse of the moon did occur on March 13, 4 BCE (Julian calendar). Because this eclipse was partial, some favor 5 BCE as the year in which Herod died. In that year two total eclipses occurred, one on March 23 (Julian calendar) and the other on September 15 (Julian calendar). Not until January 9 (Julian calendar) of 1 BCE did another total eclipse of the moon take place, and the year 1 BCE would more closely agree with Jesus’ having been about 30 years of age at the time of his baptism (after John began his activity in the fifteenth year of Tiberius or in 28/29 CE, according to the usual reckoning).
On September 2, 31 BCE, the forces of Octavius (later Augustus Caesar ) defeated those of Mark Antony (Marcus Antonius) in a naval battle near Actium in Greece. (Antiquities, XV, v, 2) Josephus places this event in the seventh year of Herod’s reign. When counted from the time Herod ruled after the death of Antigonus, six full years and some months of his reign had passed, with about 28 years of a 34-year rule remaining or with about 31 years of a 37-year rule remaining. Those who favor the 4 BCE date for Herod’s death start the count from the year 37 BCE, which they take to be the beginning of the 34-year rule. The minority view is that the Romans appointed Herod as king late in 39 BCE and that his first official regnal year began in 38 BCE and ended in the month of Elul (August/September) of 37 BCE. When Herod’s reign as a Roman appointee is counted as starting in the year 38/37 BCE, this would support the 1 BCE date for Herod’s death.
According to Josephus (Antiquities, XVIII, iv, 6), Philip the tetrarch, the son of Herod by Cleopatra of Jerusalem, died after a 37-year rule in the twentieth year of Tiberias’ reign, which would have been 33/34 CE. This would harmonize with a date of 4 BCE for Herod’s death. But there are editions of the Antiquities dating from before 1700 that read “twenty-second year of Tiberius,” supporting the 1 BCE date for the death of Herod.
The chronological references in the writings of Josephus regarding Archelaus and Antipas are usually understood as supporting the 4 BCE date for Herod’s death. In 6 CE, Augustus Caesar banished Archelaus after a rule of about nine or ten years. (Antiquities, XVII, xiii, 2; War, II, vii, 3; Cassius Dio, LV, 27, 6) Antipas, based on numismatic evidence, ruled 43 years. His rule ended in the second year of Caligula (Gaius Caesar) or in 38/39 CE. Caligula, on the basis of letters from Agrippa, banished Antipas for requesting to be elevated from tetrarch to king. (Antiquities, XVIII, vii, 2; War, II, ix, 6) In connection with Archelaus and Antipas, arguments in support of the 1 BCE date for Herod’s death primarily rest on assumptions about a coregency for Archelaus and antedating for Antipas.
In the extant text of Josephus, acknowledged mistakes and inconsistencies in the way he dates events exist. For example, according to his Antiquities (XIV, ix, 2), Herod was made governor of Galilee at the age of 15, but 25 is regarded as having been the correct age. In Antiquities (XVII, xiii, 2), Josephus indicates that Archelaus was banished in the tenth year of his rule, but, in War (II, vii, 3), he says that it was in the ninth year. Consequently, without clear corroborative evidence from other sources, one simply cannot be certain about various dates.
A definitive answer respecting the year of Jesus’ birth is not possible, and conflicting views will doubtless continue to be advocated. As the prime focus of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is on Jesus’ activity after his baptism, there is no pressing need for seeking a definitive solution about the year of his birth.
Throughout the centuries, many have been troubled by the account about the magi. The Israelites were directed to have nothing to do with astrological observations and other means used by surrounding nations in attempts to predict future events. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12; compare Isaiah 47:13, 14; Jeremiah 27:9, 10; 29:8, 9.) Although Matthew was not moved to do so, many have felt the need to explain that astrology is wrong and have even concluded that the appearance of the “star” and the subsequent arrival of the magi in Jerusalem figured in a satanic plot to bring about Jesus’ death as a child. Divine intervention only came to prevent the magi from returning to Herod. In cases where God is perceived as being far away from the magi, nothing about them is regarded in a positive light.
When, however, a person looks upon this account as an evidence that God can lead sincere seekers to a noble goal and make allowances for their seriously flawed views, the account takes on a very different meaning. Whatever partial knowledge the magi may have had about the significance of the birth of a future king of the Jews, they acted on it. The child they planned to acknowledge as king and for whom the precious gifts were intended would not then have been able to favor them in any special way. Their only reward would have been finding the object of their quest, a quest, which, on the basis of their limited knowledge, deserved considerable effort.
May it, therefore, not be that the account serves to show that God is not far away from any member of the human family? Our heavenly Father did not prevent the magi from finding his Son, acknowledging him as king, and leaving their precious gifts, and what God allows is his work. May we not rightly conclude that sincere seekers (regardless of how very wrong some of their views may be) can find Christ and the heavenly Father through him and be favorably received?
Numerous traditions arose in the centuries that passed about the magi, with their being designated as three kings (probably based on the three gifts). Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar are the names by which they came to be known in the West. In the East and Ethiopia, they came to be called Hor, Karsudan, and Basanater. Among the Armenians, they were Kagbha, Badadakharida, and Badadilma. In Syria, they came to be known as Larvandad, Gushnasaph, and Hormisdas. None of these traditional names have any historical support. Matthew’s account reveals nothing about how many undertook the journey nor is any clue provided about their identity or their land of origin. Still, the absence of specifics has not prevented numerous conjectures from being made about them even in recent times.
After the departure of the magi, an angel warned Joseph in a dream that Herod had determined to kill the child and directed that he, Mary, and the boy flee to Egypt. Without delay, Joseph obeyed. While it was still night, the family started on their journey. Under the cover of darkness, their departure would have gone unnoticed. (Matthew 2:13, 14)
Realizing that the magi had not complied with his request to return with a report about the child and that his objective had been foiled, Herod became enraged and ordered the slaying of all the boys in and in around Bethlehem who were under the age of two. Basing his order on the time he had ascertained from the magi, he determined the age bracket of those he wanted to be killed. (Matthew 2:16)
The population of Bethlehem and its environs would have been comparatively small, and the number of boys killed may have been around twenty. So, if it had not been mentioned in Matthew’s account, the event (considering the other atrocities committed during Herod’s reign) would not have been of such monumental significance as to have been preserved in history.
For the mothers who lost their sons in this brutal manner, the grief and pain would have been indescribable. Their bitter experience paralleled that of the people of the kingdom of Judah when the conquering Babylonians ripped them from their land and took them into exile. At that time, in Ramah, Rachel (the mother of Benjamin [whose descendants formed a significant part of the population], possibly representing the people as a whole) wept profusely. Situated in the territory of Benjamin, Ramah may have been the place where the Babylonians assembled captives to be slaughtered or exiled, giving rise to lamentation. Likewise, the bereaved mothers in and around Bethlehem must have wept bitterly, fulfilling the words recorded in the book of Jeremiah (31:15; 38:15, LXX), “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and much lamenting; Rachel weeping for her children, and she does not want to be comforted, for they are not.” (Matthew 2:17, 18)
The costly gifts of the magi would have provided the family with funds to sustain them in Egypt. Additionally, they would have been able to be among fellow Jews. The city of Alexandria, for example, had a large Jewish population.
It may be noted that, on account of rulers, the life of Moses and that of Jesus were threatened while they were helpless little ones. In both cases, parental action played a role in their preservation. (Exodus 2:1-9)
Though differing from the Greek text of Matthew 2:18, the extant Septuagint rendering of Jeremiah 31:15 (38:15) conveys the same thought. The Septuagint reads, “A voice was heard in Ramah, of mourning and of wailing and of lamenting. Rachel did not want to cease weeping for her sons, because they are not.”
The words of the Scriptures to which Matthew referred as having been fulfilled are found in a specific historical setting. In the case of Jesus, they precisely described developments associated with his life and so were fulfilled. They took on a fullness of meaning they did not have in all the centuries that had passed since they were first committed to writing.
Herod’s order to kill the boys aged two years and under reflects his response to any threat to his reign and the continuance of rulership in his line of descent. According to Josephus (Antiquities, XVII, II, 4), certain Pharisees predicted that “God had decreed that Herod’s government should cease, and his posterity should be deprived of it.” Upon learning about this, Herod “slew such of the Pharisees as were principally accused ... He slew also all those of his own family who had consented to what the Pharisees foretold.”
Joseph remained in Egypt with the family until the death of Herod. As God considered Israel collectively as his “son” and called him out of Egypt, so he also called his unique Son out of Egypt. In the case of Jesus, the words of Hosea 11:1 (“Out of Egypt I called my son”) applied in a direct way and thus were fulfilled. (Matthew 2:15)
Upon Herod’s death, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him to return to the land of Israel with the child and his mother, for those seeking the life of the boy were dead. Joseph heeded this directive, but news that Archelaus ruled over Judea instead of Herod made Joseph fearful. In a dream, he received a warning that confirmed the validity of his fear, prompting him to head for Galilee with his family and to settle in the city of Nazareth. (Matthew 2:19-23)
The name “Nazareth” appears to incorporate the Hebrew word nétser, meaning “sprout.” Possibly this is the basis for Matthew’s statement (2:23) that Jesus’ being called a Nazarene fulfilled the words of the prophets, as they foretold the coming Messianic “sprout” (Isaiah 11:1; see also Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12, where a different Hebrew word tsémach also signifies “branch” or “sprout.”)
The Scriptural record reveals little about Jesus’ early life in Nazareth. In time, he came to have brothers (James, Joses [Joseph], Judas, and Simon) and sisters. (Mark 6:3) As he grew older, he gave evidence of being very wise and having God’s favor. (Luke 2:39, 40)
Evidence of Jesus’ remarkable wisdom is revealed by an incident narrated in Luke’s account. Joseph and Mary customarily attended the festival of the Passover in Jerusalem. When Jesus was twelve years old and the family probably included other children, he stayed behind in the city at the time his parents left. Likely occupied with caring for the smaller children, they assumed that he was among relatives or friends. When, however, they had completed a day’s journey and he did not join them, they became concerned and began to look for him. Not finding him in the company of fellow travelers, they returned to Jerusalem. After three days, they located him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening and asking questions. The understanding his words and answers revealed amazed everyone who heard him speak. His parents were astonished when seeing him in this setting. (Luke 2:41-48)
Mary voiced her motherly concern, “Child, why did you do this to us? See, your father and I have been greatly worried, looking for you.” Knowing that God was his real Father, Jesus was surprised that it did not occur to them that he would be in the temple. He replied, “Why did you look for me? Did you not know that I must be in the [house] of my Father?” Joseph and Mary, though, did not grasp the significance of Jesus’ reference to his heavenly Father. Still, his words did make a deep impression on Mary, and she treasured them in her heart or in her deep inner self, likely reflecting on what he may have meant. (Luke 2:48-51)
In the intervening years, Jesus conducted himself as an obedient son and learned the carpenter trade from Joseph. As he grew physically, he gained the favorable recognition of those with whom he interacted, and others could see him as person upon whom God’s favor rested. (Luke 2:51, 52)
In the extant text of the Septuagint, Hosea 11:1 reads, “Out of Egypt I called his children.” Matthew’s quotation, however, agrees with the Masoretic Text (“Out of Egypt I called my son”).
Not long after the military force that had been in Herod’s service proclaimed Archelaus as king (Antiquities, XVII, viii, 2), the Jews assaulted a regiment of soldiers he had sent to quell unrest stemming from his refusal to grant earlier requests. Thereupon he sent his whole army to the temple area, with orders to kill. The military force then slew 3,000 men. (Antiquities, XVII, ix, 3) Possibly news of this event reached Egypt, contributing to Joseph’s initial fear about taking up residence in territory under the rule of Archelaus.