Matthew 2:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12
Epiphany ABC
Epiphany – A Women’s Lectionary


1 In the timeA of KingB Herod,C

Notes on verse 1a

A “time” = hemera. This is literally day.
B “king” = basileus. Probably from basis (step, hence foot; a pace); from baino (to walk, to go). This is king, emperor, or sovereign.
C “Herod” = herodes. Perhaps from heros (hero, warrior) + oide (song, ode, legend, tale) [from aoide (song, ode, legent, tale) {from aeido (to sing) + e (this is added to verbs to make them nouns)}] OR from hera (Hera) + oide (same as above). This is Herod, perhaps “hero’s song,” “Hera’s song,” or “heroic.” See

after JesusD was bornE in BethlehemF of Judea,G, H

Notes on verse 1b

D “Jesus” = iesous. From Hebrew Yehoshua (Joshua, the Lord is salvation); {from YHVH (proper name of the God of Israel; the self-existent and eternal one); {from havah (to become) or from hayah (to come to pass, become, be)} + yasha (to deliver, defend, help, preserve, rescue; properly, to be open, wide or free, which implies being safe. So, in a causative sense, this is to free someone). This is Jesus or Joshua in Greek – the Lord saves or the Lord is salvation.
E “born” = gennao. From genna (descent, birth); from genos (family, offspring, kin – in a literal or figurative sense); from ginomai (to come into being, to happen, become, be born; to emerge from one state or condition to another; this is coming into being with the sense of movement or growth). This is to beget, give birth to, or bring forth. Properly, it refers to procreation by the father, but was used of the mother by extension. Figuratively, this can mean to regenerate.
F “Bethlehem” = bethleem. 8x in NT. From beth lechem (Bethlehem); {from bayit (house, court, family, palace, temple); {probably from banah (to build, make, set up, obtain children; to build literally or figuratively)} + lechem (bread, food, loaf; food for people or for animals); {from lacham (to eat, feed on; figuratively, to battle as a kind of consumption/destruction)}. This is Bethlehem, meaning “house of bread.”
G “Judea” = ioudaia. From Hebrew Yehudah (Judah, son of Jacob, his tribal descendants, a name for the southern kingdom. Literally, it means praised); probably from yadah (to throw one’s hands into the air in a gesture of praise); from yad (hand). This is Judea, which was a Roman province.
H {untranslated} = idou. From eido (to be aware, see, know, remember, appreciate). This is see! Lo! Behold! Look! Used to express surprise and or draw attention to the statement.

wise menI from the EastJ came to Jerusalem,K 

Notes on verse 1c

I “wise men” = magos. 6x in NT. Perhaps related to Old Persian mayu; related to Proto-Indo-European meh-g (“to be able to, to help; power, sorcerer”). This is magi, magician, or astrologer. See
J “East” = anatole. 11x in NT. From anatello (rise, shine, or dawn; most often used of the sun; figuratively, achieving a goal or reaching consummation after completing the needed steps); {from ana (up, again, back, anew) + tello (to cause to arise); {from telos (an end, aim, purpose, completion, end goal, consummation, tax)}. This is rising, as in the place where the sun rises. So, it refers to the east.
K “Jerusalem” = hierosoluma. From Hebrew yerushalaim (probably foundation of peace); {from yarah (to throw, shoot, be stunned; to flow as water so figuratively to instruct or teach) + shalem (to make amends, to be complete or sound)}. This is Jerusalem, dwelling of peace.

asking, “Where is the child who has been bornL king of the Jews?M For we observedN his starO at its rising,P and have come to pay him homage.”Q 

Notes on verse 2

L “born” = tikto. 18x in NT. This is used of creating new life whether as a mother or a plant or the earth as a whole. It can be rendered bright forth, bear, give birth, labor, produce, or yield. It can also refers to the pains of childbirth.
M “Jews” = ioudaios. Related to “Judea” in v1. From ioudas (Judah, Judas); from Hebrew yehudah (see note G above). This is Jewish, a Jew, or Judea.
N “observed” = horao. To see, perceive, attend to, look upon, experience. Properly, to stare at and so implying clear discernment. This, by extension, would indicate attending to what was seen and learned. This is to see, often with a metaphorical sense. Can include inward spiritual seeing.
O “star” = aster. Perhaps from stronnumi (to spread, furnish, strew). This is a star in a literal or figurative sense.
P “rising” = anatole. Same as “East” n v1. See note J above.
Q “pay…homage” = proskuneo. From pros (advantageous for, at, to, toward, with) + kuneo (to kiss); {may be related to kuno (dog)}. This is to do reverence, kneel, to prostrate oneself in homage, to worship.

When King Herod heardR this, he was frightened,S and all Jerusalem with him; and calling togetherT

Notes on verses 3-4a

R “heard” = akouo. This is hear or listen, but it also means to understand by hearing. This is where the word “acoustics” comes from.
S “frightened” = tarasso. 18x in NT. This is trouble, agitate, stir up. It is motion back and forth, creating inner turmoil or confusion, roiling water.
T “calling together” = sunago. From sun (with, together with, closely associated) + ago (to lead, bring, carry, guide, go, drive). This is to lead together and so to assemble, bring together, welcome with hospitality, or entertain. In the sense of assembly, this is the root of the word “synagogue.”

all the chief priestsU and scribesV of the people,W he inquiredX of them where the MessiahY was to be born. 

Notes on verse 4b

U “chief priests” = archiereus. From archo (to rule, begin, have first rank or have political power) + hiereus (a priest literal or figurative – of any faith); {from hieros (sacred, something sacred, temple, holy, set apart; something consecrated to God or a god)} This is a high or chief priest.
V “scribes” = grammateus. From gramma (what is drawn or written so a letter of the alphabet, correspondence, literature, learning); from grapho (to write). This is a writer, scribe, or secretary. Within Judaism, it was someone learned in the Law, a teacher. Also used in the Bible of the town-clerk of Ephesus. See Sirach 38:24-39:11 for a lengthier, positive passage about who scribes were and what they meant in society.
W “people” = laos. This is the people or crowd – often used for the chosen people. This is where the word “laity” comes from.
X “inquired” = punthanomai. 12x in NT. This is to ask in order to learn. It is not to ask a favor (erotao in Greek), to demand something felt to be owed (aiteo), to search for a hidden thing (zeteo), or to ask for urgent help (deomai). This is to figure something out through questions.
Y “Messiah” = christos. From chrio (consecrate by anointing with oil; often done for prophets, priests, or kings). Literally, the anointed one, Christ. The Greek word for Messiah.

They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been writtenZ by the prophet:AA

‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,BB
    are by no means leastCC among the rulersDD of Judah;

Notes on verses 5-6a

Z “written” = grapho. Related to “scribes” in v4. See note V above.
AA “prophet” = prophetes. From pro (before, in front of, earlier than) + phemi (to declare, say, use contrasts in speaking to shed light on one point of view); {from phao (to shine) or phaino (to bring light, cause to appear, shine, become visible or clear)}. This is a prophet or poet – one who speaks with inspiration from God.
BB “Judah” = iouda. Related to “Judea” in v1 & “Jews” in v2. 8x in NT. From the same as ioudas (see note M above). This is Judah, Judas, or Jude, meaning “praised.”
CC “least” = elachistos. 13x in NT. From elachus (short); used as a superlative for mikros (small). This is smallest or littlest in the sense of size, amount, rank, dignity, and so on.
DD “rulers” = hegemon. Related to “calling together” in v4. From hegeaomai (to think, suppose, have an opinion; to lead the way, what comes in front or first, initial thought, high esteem or authority; one who commands in an official capacity); from ago (see note T above). This is a leader in general, but also specifically a governor or commander. This is where “hegemony” comes from.

for from you shall come a rulerEE
    who is to shepherdFF my people Israel.’”GG

Notes on verse 6b

EE “ruler” = hegeomai. Related to “rulers” in v6. See note DD above.
FF “shepherd” = poimaino. 11x in NT. From poimen (shepherd in a literal or figurative sense – one who feeds, protects, rules). This is to tend, care for, shepherd. It focuses on tending, guiding, and protecting rather than feeding. Figuratively, it can mean to govern.
GG “Israel” = israel. From Hebrew Yisrael (God strives or one who strives with God; new name for Jacob and for his offspring); {from sarah (to persist, exert oneself, contend, persevere, wrestle, prevail) + el (God or god)}. This is Israel the people and the land.

Then Herod secretlyHH calledII for the wise men and learned from them the exactJJ timeKK when the star had appeared.LL 

Notes on verse 7

HH “secretly” = lathra. 4x in NT. From lanthano (concealed, hidden, unnoticed; to shut one’s eyes to, unwittingly, unawares). This is secretly or privately.
II “called” = kaleo. Related to keleuo (to command, order, direct); from kelomai (to urge on). This is to call by name, invite, to name, bid, summon, call aloud.
JJ “learned…exact” = akriboo. 2x in NT. From the same as akribestatos (exact, precise); from the same as akron (end, tip, top, extreme); from the same as akantha (thorn); from ake (edge, point). This is to examine thoroughly, inquire diligently, be precise.
KK “time” = chronos. Time in the chronological sense, quantitative time or a duration of time.
LL “appeared” = phaino. Related to “prophet” in v6. See note AA above.

Then he sentMM them to Bethlehem, saying, “GoNN and searchOO diligentlyPP for the child;QQ and when you have foundRR him, bring me wordSS so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 

Notes on verse 8

MM “sent” = pempo. This is to send, put forth, or dispatch. This often refers to a temporary errand. It is sending someone with a focus on the place they departed from. By contrast, another Greek word, hiemi, emphasizes the destination and yet another word, stello, focuses on the motion that goes with the sending.
NN “go” = poreuomai. From poros (ford, passageway). This is to go, travel, journey, or die. It refers to transporting things from one place to another and focuses on the personal significance of the destination.
OO “search” = exetazo. 3x in NT. From ek (from, from out of) + etazo (examine). This is to inquire, examine thoroughly, meticulously. It can also be ascertain or interrogate.
PP “diligently” = akribos. Related to “learned…exact” in v7. 9x in NT. From akriboo (see note JJ above). This is carefully, strictly, diligently, with great accuracy. This is investigated to the finest point and so precise.
QQ “child” = paidion. From pais (child, youth, servant, slave); perhaps from paio (to strike or sting). This is a child as one who is still being educated or trained. Perhaps one seven years old or younger. Used figuratively for an immature Christian.
RR “found” = heurisko. This is to find, learn, or obtain. It is to discover something, which generally implies a period of searching for it. This is to find in a literal or figurative sense. This is where the word “heuristic” comes from.
SS “bring…word” = apaggello. Related to “calling together” in v4 & “rulers” in v6. From apo (from, away from) + aggello (to announce, report); {from aggelos (angel, messenger); probably from ago (see note T above)}. This is to report, declare, bring word. It is an announcement that emphasizes the source.

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, aheadTT of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stoppedUU over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.VV 

Notes on verses 9-10

TT “ahead” = proago. Related to “calling together” in v4 & “rulers” and “ruler” in v6. From pro (before, first, in front of, earlier) + ago (see note T above). This is to lead, go before, bring forward, walk ahead. It can be before in location or in time.
UU “stopped” = histemi. This is to stand, place, establish, appoint, stand ready, be steadfast.
VV “overwhelmed with joy” = chairo + chara + megas + sphodra. Literally “rejoiced with great joy exceedingly.” Chairo is from the root char- (leaning towards). It is to rejoice, be glad or cheerful. It can also be used to say goodbye. Chara is from chairo (see above). This is joy, delight, gladness. Can be understood as the feeling you get when you are aware of grace. Sphodra is 11x in NT. From sphodros (exceeding, excessive, violent). This can be exceedingly, greatly, extremely – going all out.

11 On entering the house,WW they saw the child with MaryXX his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests,YY they offeredZZ him giftsAAA

Notes on verse 11a

WW “house” = oikia. From oikos (house – the building, the household, the family, descendants; the temple). This is a house, household, goods, property, family, or means.
XX “Mary” = maria. From Hebrew Miryam (Aaron and Moses’s sister); from marah (to be contentious, rebellious, bitter, provoking, disobedient; to be or make bitter or unpleasant; figuratively, to rebel or resist; causatively to provoke). This is Miriam or Mary.
YY “treasure chests” = thesaurus. 17x in NT. From tithemi (to place, lay, set, establish). This is treasure, storehouse, deposit. It can be used figuratively for treasured thoughts.
ZZ “offered” = prosphero. From pros (at, to, with, towards, advantageous for) + phero (to bear, bring, lead, make known publicly; to carry in a literal or figurative sense). This is to offer gifts or sacrifices, to bring up.
AAA “gifts” = doron. 19x in NT. From didomi (to give in a literal or figurative sense). This is gift, offering, sacrifice; emphasizes that the gift is given freely, voluntarily

 of gold,BBB frankincense,CCC and myrrh.DDD 12 And having been warnedEEE in a dreamFFF not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.GGG

Notes on verses 11b-12

BBB “gold” = chrusos. 10x in NT. Perhaps from chraomai (to use, make use of, give what is needed, act in a specific way, request). This is gold or something made of gold. It is symbolic of purchasing power.
CCC “frankincense” = libanos. 2x in NT. 2x in NT – here and in describing the goods of the merchants in the fall of Babylon (Rev 18:13). From a Semitic language. The Hebrew equivalent is lebonah (frankincense, incense); from laben (to be or make white, to purify). This is frankincense or the tree from which it comes. Root means white to refer to the whiteness of the frankincense itself or its smoke.
DDD “myrrh” = smurna. 2x in NT– here and one of the spices for the burial of Jesus (Jn 19:39). Perhaps from muron (ointment, anointing oil, perfume); probably of foreign origin – e.g. Abrabic murr (myrrh; literally bitterness) and Hebrew mor (myrrh; literally bitterness). This is myrrh: an ointment and used for embalming. Can be symbolic for romantic desire. See
EEE “warned” = chrematizo. Related to “gold” in v11. 9x in NT. From chrema (something one uses or needs; money, possessions, wealth); from chraomai (see note BBB above). This is to conduct business, instruct, warn, reveal, to utter an oracle, be warned by God.
FFF “dream” = onar. 6x in NT. This is a dream while asleep and not day dreaming. Dreamers include: Joseph husband of Mary, wise men, and Pilate’s wife.
GGG “road” = hodos. This is way, road, path, or journey. It can imply progress along a route.

Image credit: “Nativity” by Maurice Denis, 1899.

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