Quotes & Notes on:
John Wesley's Notes:
Then Herod, seeing that he was deluded by the wise men-So did
his pride teach him to regard this action, as if it were intended to
expose him to the derision of his subjects.
Sending forth-a party of soldiers:
In all the confines thereof-In all the neighbouring places, of which
Rama was one.
Treasury of Scripture Knowledge:
* when. Ge 39:14,17; Nu 22:29; 24:10; Jg
16:10; Job 12:4
* was exceeding. Pr 27:3,4; Da 3:13,19,20
* and slew. Ge 49:7; 2Ki 8:12; Pr 28:15,17; Isa 26:21; 59:7; Ho 10:14;
* according. Mt 2:7
Adam Clarke's Commentary:
Slew all the children] This cruelty of Herod seems alluded to in very
decisive terms by Macrobius, who flourished toward the conclusion of the
fourth Century. In his chapter De jocis Augusti in alios, et aliorum
rursus in ipsum, he says, Cum audisset inter pueros, quos in Syria
Herodes, rex Judeorum, intra bimatum jussit interfici, filium quoque
ejus occisum, ait, Melius est Herodis PORCUM esse, quam FILIUM. "When he
heard that among those male infants about two years old, which Herod,
the king of the Jews, ordered to be slain in Syria, one of his sons was
also murdered, he said: 'It is better to be Herod's HOG than his SON.'"
Saturn. lib. ii. c. 4. The point of this saying consists in this, that
Herod, professing Judaism, his religion forbade his killing swine, or
having any thing to do with their flesh; therefore his hog would have
been safe, where his son lost his life.
Family Bible Notes:
Had diligently inquired; Herod, supposing that the time of the
appearance of the star, which he had accurately learned from the Magi,
must agree with the age of Jesus, determined to destroy all the children
in Bethlehem whose age could possibly come within that of the young
child whose life he sought. The efforts of men to prevent the fulfilment
of the word of God are unavailing.
1599 Geneva Bible Notes:
(No comment on this verse)
People's New Testament Commentary:
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked. He had directed the wise men
to report to him after their visit to Bethlehem. Their return to their
own country without complying with his wishes seemed to Herod a mockery
of his authority, and excited his rage.
Sent forth, and slew. A band of his murderous satellites were sent, and
not only slew the male children of Bethlehem, but those of that
Robertson's Word Pictures:
Slew all the male children that were in Bethlehem (aneilen
pantas tous paidas tous en Bęthleem). The flight of Joseph was
justified, for Herod was violently enraged (ethumôthę lian) that he had
been mocked by the Magi, deluded in fact (enepaichthę). Vulgate illusus
esset. Herod did not know, of course, how old the child was, but he took
no chances and included all the little boys (tous paidas, masculine
article) in Bethlehem two years old and under, perhaps fifteen or
twenty. It is no surprise that Josephus makes no note of this small item
in Herod's chamber of horrors. It was another fulfilment of the prophecy
in Jer 31:15. The quotation (Mt 2:18) seems to be from the Septuagint.
It was originally written of the Babylonian captivity but it has a
striking illustration in this case also. Macrobius (Sat. II. iv. II)
notes that Augustus said that it was better to be Herod's sow (hus) than
his son (huios), for the sow had a better chance of life.
Albert Barnes' Commentary:
Mocked of the wise men. When he saw that he had been deceived by them;
that is, that they did not return as he had expected. It does not mean
that they did it for the purpose of mocking or deriding him; but that he
was disappointed in their not returning.
Exceeding wroth. Very angry. He had been disappointed and deceived. He
expected to send an executioner and kill Jesus alone. But since he was
disappointed in this, he thought he would accomplish the same thing, and
be sure to destroy him, if he sent forth and put all the children in the
place to death. This is an illustration of the power of anger. It stops
at nothing. If it cannot accomplish just what it wishes, it does not
hesitate to go much farther, and accomplish much more evil than it at
first designed. He that has a wicked heart, and indulges in anger, knows
not where it will end, and will commonly commit far more evil than he at
Slew all the children. That is, all the male children. This is implied
in the original. The design of Herod was to cut off him that had been
born King of the Jews. His purpose, therefore, did not require that he
should slay all the female children; and though he was cruel, yet we
have no right to think that he attempted here anything except what he
thought to be for his own safety, and to secure himself from a rival.
In all the coasts thereof. The word coast is commonly applied now to the
regions around the sea, as the sea coast. Here it means the adjacent
places, the settlements or hamlets around Bethlehem--all that were in
that neighbourhood. We do not know how large a place Bethlehem was; nor,
of course, how many were slain. But it was not a large place, and the
number could not be very great. It is not probable that it contained
more than one or two thousand inhabitants; and in this case the number
of children slain was not probably over twenty or thirty.
From two years old and under. Some writers have said that this does not
mean, in the principal, that they had completed two years; but that they
had entered in the second year, or had completed about one year, and
entered on the second. But the meaning of the word is doubtful. It is
quite probable that they would not be particular about the exact age,
but slew all that were about that age.
According to the time, etc. He had endeavoured to ascertain of the wise
men the exact time of his birth. He supposed he knew the age of Jesus.
He slew, therefore, all that were of his age; that is, all that were
born about the time when the star appeared, perhaps from six months old
to two years. There is no reason to think that he would command those to
be slain who had been born after the star appeared.
This destruction of the infants is not mentioned by Josephus, but for
this omission three reasons may be given:
(1.) Josephus, a Jewish historian, and a Jew, would not be likely to
record anything that would appear to confirm the truth of Christianity.
(2.) This act of Herod was really so small compared with his other
crimes, that the historian might not think it worthy of record.
Bethlehem was a small and obscure village, and the other crimes of Herod
were so great and so public, that it is not to be wondered at that the
Jewish historian has passed over this.
(3.) The order was probably given in secret, and might not have been
known to Josephus. It pertained to the Christian history; and if the
evangelists had not written, it might have been unknown or forgotten.
Besides, no argument can be drawn from the silence of the Jewish
historian. No reason can be given why Matthew should not be considered
to be as fully entitled to credit as Josephus. Yet there is no
improbability in the account given by Matthew. Herod was an odious and
bloody tyrant, and the facts of his reign prove that he was abundantly
capable or this wickedness. The following bloody deeds will show that
the slaying of the infants was in perfect accordance with his character.
The account is taken from Josephus, as arranged by Dr. Lardnet.
Aristobulus, brother of his wife Marianne, was murdered by his direction
at eighteen years of age, because the people of Jerusalem had shown some
affection for his person. In the seventh year of his reign he put to
death Hyreanus, grandfather of Mariamne, then eighty years of age, and
who had formerly saved Herod's life; a man who had, ill every revolution
of fortune, shown a mild and peaceable disposition. His beloved and
beautiful wife, Mariamnne, had a public execution, and her mother
Alexandra followed soon after. Alexander and Aristobulus, his two sons
by Mariamne were strangled in prison by his orders upon groundless
suspicions, as it seems, when they were at man's estate, were married,
and had children. In his last sickness, a little before he died, he sent
orders throughout Judea, requiring the presence of all the chief men of
the nation at Jericho. His orders were obeyed, for they were enforced
with no less penalty than that of death. When they were come to Jericho,
he had them all shut up in the circus; and calling for his sister
Salome, and her husband Alexis, he told them--" My life is now short. I
know the Jewish people, and nothing will please them better than my
death. You have them now in your custody. As soon as the breath is out
of my body, and before my death can be known, do you let in the soldiers
upon them, and kill them. All Judea, then, and every family, will,
though unwillingly, mourn at my death." Nay, Josephus says, that with
tears in his eyes he conjured them, by their love to him and their
fidelity to God, not to fail of doing him this honour. What objection,
after this account, can there be to the account of his murdering the
infants at Bethlehem? Surely there could be no cruelty, barbarity, and
horrid crime, which such a man was not capable of perpetrating.
Then Herod, &c.--As Deborah sang of the mother of Sisera: "She looked
out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so
long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariots? Have they not
sped?" so Herod wonders that his messengers, with pious zeal, are not
hastening with the news that all is ready to receive him as a
worshipper. What can be keeping them? Have they missed their way? Has
any disaster befallen them? At length his patience is exhausted. He
makes his inquiries and finds they are already far beyond his reach on
their way home.
when he saw that he was mocked--was trifled with.
of the wise men--No, Herod, thou art not mocked of the wise men, but of
a Higher than they. He that sitteth in the heavens doth laugh at thee;
the Lord hath thee in derision. He disappointeth the devices of the
crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise. He taketh
the wise in their own craftiness, and the counsel of the froward is
carried headlong (Ps 2:4; Job 5:12,13). That blessed Babe shall die
indeed, but not by thy hand. As He afterwards told that son of thine--as
cunning and as unscrupulous as thyself--when the Pharisees warned Him to
depart, for Herod would seek to kill Him--"Go ye, and tell that fox,
Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the
third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk to-day, and
to-morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish
out of Jerusalem" (Lu 13:32,33). Bitter satire!
was exceeding wroth--To be made a fool of is what none like, and proud
kings cannot stand. Herod burns with rage and is like a wild bull in a
net. So he
sent forth--a band of hired murderers.
and slew all the children--male children.
that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof--environs.
from two years old and under, according to the time which he had
inquired of the wise men--In this ferocious step Herod was like
himself--as crafty as cruel. He takes a large sweep, not to miss his
mark. He thinks this will surely embrace his victim. And so it had, if
He had been there. But He is gone. Heaven and earth shall sooner pass
away than thou shalt have that Babe into thy hands. Therefore, Herod,
thou must be content to want Him: to fill up the cup of thy bitter
mortifications, already full enough--until thou die not less of a broken
heart than of a loathsome and excruciating disease. Why, ask skeptics
and skeptical critics, is not this massacre, if it really occurred,
recorded by JOSEPHUS, who is minute enough in detailing the cruelties of
Herod? To this the answer is not difficult. If we consider how small a
town Bethlehem was, it is not likely there would be many male children
in it from two years old and under; and when we think of the number of
fouler atrocities which JOSEPHUS has recorded of him, it is unreasonable
to make anything of his silence on this.
Herod, with all his craftiness, misses his mark. He considers that he is
made a fool of, though the wise men had no such intention. Proud men are
quick to imaging insults. He is furious: he must kill this newborn King
lest he claim his crown; and therefore he orders the death of every
two-year-old child in Bethlehem, taking good margin, that none might
error in the age. What mattered it to him if a few babes were needlessly
slain? He must make sure that the little King is made an end of; and he
imagines that a speedy and indiscriminate slaughter of all who have
reached their second year will put him beyond all fear of this reputed
rival. Men will do anything to be rid of Jesus. They care not how many
children, or men, or women, are destroyed, so that they can but resist
his kingdom, and crush his holy cause in its infancy. Yet vain is their
rage: the holy child is beyond their jurisdiction and their sword.
William Burkitt's Notes:
Observe here, How Herod, having played the fox before, acts the lion
now; his secret policy not succeeding, he breaks out into open and
Learn, That when fraud and subtilty fail the enemies of the church, then
thay fall to open rage, and barbarous inhumanity. Thus here these holy
innocents fall as a sacrifice of Herod's rage, and die for Christ, who
came to die for them; and so were martyrs in deed, though not in will.
Some affirm that Herod did not spare his own child, then at nurse in the
coasts of Bethlehem; which made Augustus say he had rather be Herod's
hog, than herod's child; because the Jews, did never ear swine's flesh.
And Herod, in compliance with the Jews, abstained from it also.
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary:
Herod killed all the male children, not only in Bethlehem, but in all
the villages of that city. Unbridled wrath, armed with an unlawful
power, often carries men to absurd cruelties. It was no unrighteous
thing with God to permit this; every life is forfeited to his justice as
soon as it begins. The diseases and deaths of little children are proofs
of original sin. But the murder of these infants was their martyrdom.
How early did persecution against Christ and his kingdom begin! Herod
now thought that he had baffled the Old Testament prophecies, and the
efforts of the wise men in finding Christ; but whatever crafty, cruel
devices are in men's hearts, the counsel of the Lord shall stand.
The Fourfold Gospel:
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the Wise-men. The magi, no
doubt, intended to return to Herod, and would have done so but for the
dream, but when they failed to return, they seemed to Herod to have
taken pleasure in deceiving him, and the very honesty of their conduct
passed for the lowest depth of cunning.
Was exceeding wroth. Wroth at being made sport of, and doubly wroth
because of the serious matter as to which they presumed to jest.
And sent forth. Murderers, suddenly.
And slew. Thus early did persecution attend those associated with Christ
(Mt 10:24,25). This brutality was in keeping with Herod's character.
Jealousy as to his authority led him to murder two high priests, his
uncle Joseph, his wife, and three of his own sons, besides many other
innocent persons. Fearing lest the people should rejoice at his
departure, he summoned the leading citizens of all the cities of his
realm, and, shutting them up in the circus grounds at Jericho, ordered
his sister Salome and her husband to have them all put to death at the
moment when he died, that the land might mourn at his death.
All the male children that were in Bethlehem. As Bethlehem was not a
large place, the number of martyrs could not have been large. It is
variously estimated that from twelve to fifty were slain. Had the
parents of Bethlehem known that Jesus was on the way to Egypt, they
might have saved their own children by giving information as to the
whereabouts of the right child; that is, if we may assume that they were
And in all the borders thereof. Adjacent places; settlements or houses
around Bethlehem. The present population of the town is fully five
thousand; it was probably even larger in Christ's time.
From two years old and under. According to Jewish reckoning this would
mean all children from birth up to between twelve and thirteen months
old, all past one year old being counted as two years old.
According to the time which he had exactly learned of the Wise-men. That
is, he used their date as a basis for his calculations. It is likely
that six months had elapsed since the star appeared, and that Herod
doubled the months to make doubly sure of destroying the rival claimant.
Not knowing whether the child was born before or after the appearing of
the star, he included all the children of that full year in which the