Seven Questions about Today’s Gospel

  1. Which Herod? 

    Herod the Great entertained the Maji is number one.  Next was Herod Antipas who killed John the Baptist.  (cf. Matthew 14:1-12).  Next in line was his grandson that executed James (cf. Acts 12:1-3).  The fourth Herod is the one Paul stood (cf. Acts 25:23).

Why Herod Reminds us of Pharoah


Like Herod who attempted to kill the new Moses,  Pharisee killed all of the male babies (cf. Exodus 4:19).   R.T France writes:”Herod’s place in the story thus ensures not only a reflection on who is the true “king of the Jews” and on the contrast between Herod’s ruthlessly-protected political power and Jesus’ different way of being “king,” but also sets up the typological model for the new-born Messiah to play the role of the new Moses, who will also deliver his people (cf. 1:21) and through whose ministry a new people of God will be constituted just as Israel became God’s chosen people through the exodus and the covenant at Sinai under the leadership of Moses. We shall note frequent and quite varied pointers to this New Moses and New Exodus typology as we work through Matthew’s story, but its foundation has been firmly laid at the outset as the reader is invited to recognize in Herod and Jesus a counterpart to Pharaoh and Moses.”

Why the Magi were from Arabia.

 “The choice of gifts is local.  Gold and frankincense are gifts that Isa 60:6 and Ps 72:15 associate with the desert camel trains coming from Midian (NW Arabia) and from Sheba (the kingdom of the Sabeans in SW Arabia). In the OT the “people of the East” or Qedemites are most often desert Arabs. They had a reputation for wisdom (1 Kgs 5:10 [RSV 4:30]; Prov 30:1; 31:1 While the thesis that the magi came from Persia became the dominant view among the Church Fathers, the thesis that they came from Arabia is the earliest attested view (cf.  a.d. 160 Justin, Dialogue lxxviii 1, wrote: “Magi from Arabia came to him [Herod].”   Brown, R. E. (1993). The birth of the Messiah: a commentary on the infancy narratives in the gospels of Matthew and Luke (New Updated Edition., pp. 169–170). New York; London: Yale University Press.

Why Gentiles Understood the Meaning of the Star. 

“The star had been hidden from them so that, on finding themselves without their guide, they would have no alternative but to consult the Jews. In this way, the birth of Jesus would be made known to all” (St John Chrysostom, Hom. on St Matthew, 7). Chrysostom also points out that “God calls them by means of the things they are most familiar with: and he shows them a large and extraordinary star so that they would be impressed by its size and beauty” (ibid., 6).

Why You Work for the Night is Coming.  “God called the wise men in the midst of their ordinary occupations, and he still calls people in that way. He called Moses when he was shepherding his flock (Ex 3:1–3), Elisha the prophet plowing his land with oxen (1 Kings 19:19–20), Amos looking after his herd (Amos 7:15) (St Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 799).

Why We Sing We, Three Kings.   

R.T. France writes: “The “kings” who are the donors in Ps 72:10–11; Is. 60:3 are the source of the later Christian tradition which by the early third century had turned Matthew’s “magi” into kings.15 Matthew thus prepares the way for Jesus’ later declaration that “something greater than Solomon is here.”

Who Was the Original Prophet of the Star? 

France writes:  “The star which plays such a prominent role in the story invites reflection on Balaam’s prophecy in Num 24:17–19 of the rise (LXX anatelei, echoed in Matthew’s anatolē, vv. 2, 9) of a “star out of Jacob and a scepter out of Israel.” which is then interpreted as a ruler who will destroy Israel’s enemies.  The likely of Balaam’s prophecy suggests that perhaps Balaam himself, the man who “saw” the messianic star rise (Num 24:15–17), may also be in mind as a model for the magi. He, like them, was a non-Israelite “holy man” and visionary from the east: Num 22:5 locates his home on the Euphrates, while LXX Num 23:7 speaks of him being summoned from Mesopotamia, and uses the same phrase apʾ anatolōn (“from the East”) which Matthew uses in 2:1. He, like the magi, was pressurized by a king (Balak) intent on destroying the true people of God,  but refused to cooperate and instead took the side of God’s people.”


Sources

Saint Matthew’s Gospel. (2005). (pp. 30–33). Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers.

France, R. T. (2007). The Gospel of Matthew (p. 62). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co.

 

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