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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW.
The word Gospel means good news, or a joyful message. It commonly signifies the message itself. But it is here used to donote the book containing the record of the message.
Epiphanius says that the Gospel by Matthew was written while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome. This was about the year of our Lord 63, about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. It is now generally supposed that this gospel was written about that time. There is very high evidence in the gospel that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem. The destruction of the holy city is clearly and minutely foretold; but there is not the slightest intimation in it that these predictions had been accomplished; a thing which we should naturally expect if the gospel was not written until after these calamities came upon the Jews. Compare Acts xi. 28. In all copies of the New Testament, and in all translations, this gospel has been placed first. This, it is probable, would not have been done, had not Matthew published his gospel before any other was written.
Matthew, the writer of this gospel, called also Levi, son of Alpheus, was a publican, or tax-gatherer, under the Romans. See notes on Matt. ix. 9. Luke v. 27. Of his life and death little is certainly known. Socrates, a writer of the fifth century, says that he went to Ethiopia after the apostles were scattered abroad from Judea, and died a martyr in a city called Nadebbar; but by what kind of death is altogether uncertain. However, others speak of his preaching and dying in Parthia or Persia, and the diversity of their accounts seems to show that they are all without good foundation.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW.
CHAPTER I. 1 THE book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
1. 'The book of the generation' is the proper title of the chapter. It is the same as to say, The account of the ancestry or family, or the genealogical table, of Jesus Christ. The phrase is common in Jewish writings. Compare Gen. v. 1. See also Gen. vi. 9. The Jews kept such tables of their families. * Jesus.' See v. 21. ' Christ.' The word 'Christ' is a Greek word, signifying anointed. The Hebrew word signifying the same thing is Messiah. Hence, Jesus is called either the Messiah or the Christ, both meaning the same. The Jews speak of the Messiah; the christians speak of him as the Christ. Anciently, when kings and priests were set apart to their office, they were anointed with oil, Lev. iv. 3; vi. 20. Ex. xxviii. 41; xxix. 7. 1 Sam. ix. 16; xv. 1. 2 Sam. xxiii. 1. To anoint, therefore, means often the same as to consecrate, or set apart to any office. It is for this reason that the name is given to the Lord Jesus, Dan. ix. 24. He was set apart by God to be the King, and High Priest, and Prophet of his people. Anointing with oil, was, moreover, supposed to be emblematic of the influences of the Holy Spirit; and as God gave him the Spirit without measure, John in. 34, so he is called peculiarly the Anointed of God. 'The son of David.' The word 'son'among the Jews had a variety of significations. In this place it means a descendant of David; or one who was of the family of David. It was important to trace the genealogy of Jesus up to David, because the promise had been made that the Messiah should be of his family, and all the Jews expected it would be so. It would be impossible, therefore, to convince a Jew that Jesus was the Messiah, unless it could be shown that he was descended from David. See Jer. xxiii. 5. Ps. cxxxii. 10,11; compared with Acts xiii. 23, and John vii. 42. 'The son of Abraham.' The descendant of Abraham. The promise was made to Abraham also. See Gen. xii. 3; xxi. 12; compare Heb. xi. 18. Gal. iii. 16. The Jews expected lhat the Messiah would be descended from him; and it was important, therefore, to trace the genealogy up to him also.
2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren; 3 And Judas begat Phares and Zaraof Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; 4 And Aram begat Aminadub; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; 5 And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; C And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias; 7 And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; 8 And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; 9 And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz ; and Achaz begat Ezekias; 10 And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Anion; and Amon begat Josias; 11 And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon; 12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel; 13 And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim ; and Eliakim begat Azor; 14 And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim ; and Achim begat Eliud; 15 And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan ; and Matthan begat Jacob; 16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
2—16. These verses contain the genealogy of Jesus. Luke also (ch. iii.) gives a genealogy of the Messiah. No two passages of scripture have caused more difficulty than these: and various attempts have been made to explain them. It does not comport with the design of these notes to enter minutely into an explanation of the perplexities of these passages. Most interpreters suppose that Matthew gives the genealogy of Joseph, and Luke that of Mary. They were both descended from David, but in different lines. It has been said also that Joseph was the legal son and heir of Heli. though the real son of Jacob, and thus tne two lines terminated in him.
There are considerations which should set the matter at rest. No difficulty was ever found or alleged, in regard to them, by any of the early enemies of christianity. There is no evidence that they ever adduced them as containing a contradiction. Now, it is to be remembered that the Jews were fully competent to show that these tables were incorrect, if they were really so. And it is clear that they were fully disposed, if possible, to do it. The fact, therefore, that it is not done, is clear evidence that they thought them to be correct. The same may be said of the acute pagans who wrote against christianity. The tables here are good evidence to the only point that the writers wished to establish: that is, to show to the Jews that Jesus of Nazareth was descended from David. And all that can be asked now is, whether they copied the tables of those families correctly. It is clear that no one can prove that they did not so copy them.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.
17. This division of the names in their genealogy was doubtless adopted for the purpose of aiding the memory. It was common among the Jews, and other similar instances are preserved. There were three leading persons and events that nearly, or quite divided their history into equal portions: Abraham, David, and the captivity. From one to the other was about fourteen generations, and, by omitting a few names, it was sufficiently accurate to be made a general guide or directory in remembering their history. 'Carrying away into Babylon.' This refers to the captivity of Jerusalem, and the removal of the Jews to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, 588 years before Christ. See 2 Chron. xxxvi.
18 ^f Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
18. 'On this wise.' Thus. In this manner. 'Espoused.' Betrothed, or engaged to be married. There was commonly an interval of ten or twelve months among the Jews between the contract of marriage and the celebration of the nuptials. See Gen. xxiv. 55. Judges xiv. 8. Yet such was the nature of this engagement, that unfaithfulness to each other was deemed adultery. See Deut. xxii. 25. 28. 'With child by the Holy Ghost.' See Note, Luke i. 35.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
19. ' Her husband.' The word in the original does not imply that they were married. It means here the man to whom she was espoused. 'A just man.' It means that he was kind, tender, merciful; so attached to Mary, that he was not willing that she should be exposed to public shame. He sought, therefore, secretly to dissolve the connexion without the punishment
commonly inflicted for adultery. The word 'just' has not unfrequently this meaning of mildness, or mercy. See 1 John i. 9. 'A ublic example.' To expose her to public shame or infamy. 'Put er away privately.' The law of Moses gave the husband the power of divorce, Deut xxiv. 1. We may remark here, on the greatness of this trial to botn Mary and Joseph. Joseph was attached to her, but Joseph was not yet satisfied of her innocence. We may learn how to put our trust in God. He will defend the innocent. God had so ordered it that she was betrothed to a man mild, amiable, and tender; and, in due time, Joseph was apprized of the truth in the case, and took his faithful and beloved wife to his bosom. Thus our only aim should be to preserve a conscience void of offence; and God will guard our reputation. We may be assailed, or appearances may be against us; but in due time God will take care to vindicate our character, and save us from ruin.
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
20. * He thought on these things.' He did not act hastily. It was a case deeply affecting his happiness, his character, and the reputation and character of his chosen companion. God will guide the thoughtful and the anxious. And when we have looked patiently at a perplexing subject, and know not what to do, then God, as in the case of Joseph, will direct our way, Psa. xxv. 9. 'The angel of the Lord.' The word angel literally means a messenger. It is applied chiefly in the scriptures to those invisible holy beings who have not fallen into sin, who live in heaven, 1 Tim. v. 21; compare Jude 6 ; and who are sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation, Heb. i. 13, 14. Dan. ix. 21. Various ways were employed by them in making known the will of God—by dreams, visions, assuming a human appearance, &c. 'In a dream.' This was a common way of making known the will of God to the ancient prophets and people of God, Gen. xx.3; xxxvii. 5; xli. 1. 1 Kings iii. 5. Dan. vii. 1. Job iv. 13—15. In what waj it was ascertained that these dreams were from God, cannot now be told. It is sufficient for us to know that in this way many of the prophecies were communicated; and to remark that now there is no evidence that we are to put reliance on our dreams. * Fear not.' Do not hesitate, or nave fears about her virtue and purity. Do not fear that she will be unworthy of you, or will disgrace you.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.