Matthew 2:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12
Epiphany ABC


1 In the timeA of King Herod,B after JesusC was bornD in BethlehemE of Judea,F, G wise menH from the EastI came to Jerusalem,J 

Notes on verse 1

A “time” = hemera. Literally, day.
B “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
C “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.
D “born” = gennao. From genna (descent, birth); from the root of genos (family, offspring, nation); from ginomai (to come into being, happen, become, be born, come about; to emerge as transitioning from one point or state to another). This is to beget or produce offspring. Originally used to refer to fathering children, but also came to be used of a mother procreating.
E “Bethlehem” = bethleem. 8x in NT. From Hebrew beth lechem (Bethlehem) [from bayit (house, home, family) + lechem (bread, food, grain, loaves) {from lacham (to eat, consume, use as food)}]. This is Bethlehem, “the House of Bread.”
F “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.
G Literally “Now Jesus having been born in Bethlehem of Judea in days of Herod the king – behold!” [untranslated] = idou. From eido (to be away, see, know, remember, appreciate). This is see! Lo! Behold! Look! Used to express surprise and or draw attention to the statement.
H “wise men” = magos. 6x in NT. From Old Iranian; probably related to Old Median/Old Persian mayu; perhaps from Proto-Indo-European meh-g (“to be able to, to help; power, sorcerer”). This is Magi or magician; a Persian astrologer. See
I “East” = anatole. 11x in NT. From anatello (to rise, shine; usually used in reference to the sun; figuratively for reaching a goal) [from ana (up, again, back, among, anew) + tello (to cause to arise, set a goal) {from telos (end, issue, aim, purpose; reaching a goal by stages)}]. This is rising, the rising of the sun, the sunrise or dawn and, thus, the east.
J “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.

2 asking, “Where is the child who has been bornK king of the Jews?L For we observedM his starN at its rising,O and have come to pay him homage.”P 

Notes on verse 2

K “born” = tikto. 18x in NT. To produce from a seed, to produce, yield, labor or give birth. Can be used for a mother, a plant, or the earth. Can be literal or figurative.
L “Jews” = ioudaios. Related to “Judea” in v1. From Ioudas (Judah, or Judas); from Hebrew Yehudah (see note F above). This is Jew, Jewish, or Judea.
M “observed” = horao. This is to see, experience, perceive. It is to stare at and so to discern clearly. This would imply attending to what is seen. According to Hebrew usage, can also mean experience. This is seeing, which often has a figurative sense – deeper understanding.
N “star” = aster. Perhaps from the base of stronnumi (to strew, spread, make a bed). This is star literally or figuratively. Where “astronomy” and “astronaut” comes from.
O “rising” = anatole. Same as “East” in v1.
P “pay…homage” = proskuneo. From pros (at, to, toward, with) + kuneo (to kiss). This is to do reverence, kneel, to prostrate oneself in homage, to worship.

When King Herod heard this, he was frightened,Q and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribesR of the people,S he inquiredT of them where the MessiahU was to be born.V 

Notes on verses 3-4

Q “frightened” = tarasso. 18x in NT. This is to stir up, disturb, agitate, trouble. Properly, it is to move or shake back and forth. This is agitating something that should be still or at ease. Figuratively, its inner perplexity or anxiety. Can also be used for roiling water.
R “scribes” = grammateus. From gramma (something written down like a letter or a letter of the alphabet; can be used for an epistle, literature, or learning); from grapho (to write). This is a writer or a scribe. A Jewish scribe would have been very familiar with Jewish law and work to teach and interpret for others. In Gentile society, used for a town clerk in Ephesus – an educated person.
S “people” = laos. This is the people or crowd – often used for the chosen people. This is where the word “laity” comes from.
T “inquired” = punthanomai. 12x in NT. This is to try to figure something out through inquiry so it implies to learn. There is a different word for requesting a favor (erotao), demanding something that is owed (aiteo), searching for a hidden thing (zeteo), and an urgent need (deomai).
U “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.
V “born” = gennao. Same as “born” in v1.

They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been writtenW by the prophet:X
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,Y
    are by no means leastZ among the rulersAA of Judah;
for from you shall come a rulerBB
    who is to shepherdCC my people Israel.’”DD

Notes on verses 5-6

W “written” = grapho. Related to “scribes” in v4. See note R above.
X “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). Phemi is 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
Y “Judah” = iouda. Related to “Judea” in v1 & “Jews” in v2. 8x in NT. From Hebrew Yehudah (see note F above). This is Judah, Judas, or Jude.
Z “least” = elachistos. 13x in NT. From elachus (short); used for a superlative of mikros (small). This is smallest or littlest in size, quantity, dignity, etc.
AA “rulers” = hegemon. From hegeomai (to lead, suppose, think, have an opinion, consider; to go at the forefront as the chief or leader, can also be leading thought or authority; commanding from a position of official authority); from ago (lead, bring, carry, go, drive). This is leader, governor, commander, guide. Also used figuratively of a place or province. This is where “hegemony” comes from.
BB “ruler” = hegeomai. Related to “rulers” in v6. See note AA above.
CC “shepherd” = poimaino. 11x in NT. From poimen (a shepherd – one who feeds, protects, or rules; used figuratively for one who tends the well being of a flock). The be a shepherd – tend, herd, rule, govern. This does not just focus on feeding (bosko does that). This emphasizing tending, which includes guarding, guiding, and folding.
DD “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 secretlyEE called for the wise men and learned from them the exactFF time when the star had appeared.GG 8 Then he sentHH them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and searchII diligentlyJJ for the child;KK and when you have foundLL him, bring me wordMM so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 

Notes on verses 7-8

EE “secretly” = lathra. 4x in NT. From lanthano (to be hidden, unknowing, to do unconsciously, to shut your eyes to something; to hide literally or figuratively). This is secretly or privately.
FF “learned….exact” = akriboo. 2x in NT – in this story and in the massacre of the infants of Herod learning from the wise men.  From akribestatos (exact, precise, strict); from the same as akron (highest, tip, top, extreme, end); from ake (edge, point). This is to examine carefully or to inquire in a precise or exact manner; implies diligence.
GG “appeared” = phaino. Related to “prophet” in v6. Perhaps from the base of phos (light, a source of light, fire, or radiance. This is light with specific reference to what it reveals. It is luminousness whether natural or artificial, abstract or concrete, literal or figurative); from phaos (light, daylight); from phao (to shine or make manifest – generally through rays). This is to bring to light or cause to appear; to shine or shed light. This is show in a literal or figurative sense.
HH “sent” = pempo. To send, permit to go, transmit. This is to send someone out with a focus on the point of dispatch. Another word, hiemi, emphasizes the destination and stello emphasizes the movement. This is dispatching someone, particularly for a temporary errand.
II “search” = exetazo. 3x in NT. From ek (from, from out of) + etazo (to examine). This is examining closely, meticulously – to test by asking questions; to ascertain or interrogate.
JJ “diligently” = akribos. Related to “learned…exact” in v7. 9x in NT. From akriboo (see note FF above). This is very accurate – researched exhaustively, factually precise. This puts more emphasis on how precise the information is as opposed to the diligence that went into ascertaining it.
KK “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.
LL “found” = heurisko. This is to find or learn. It is a thing that you discover, particularly after a time of searching. Can be used in a literal or figurative sense. This is where “heuristic” comes from.
MM “bring…word” = apaggello. Related to “bringing” & “pioneer” in v10. From apo (from, away from) + aggello (to announce, report, bring news) [from aggelos (to bring tidings); from ago (see note C)]. This is to report, announce, declare, bring word. This is proclaiming, which focuses on the source of the report or the content of that report.

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there,NN ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stoppedOO over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.PP 11 On entering the house,QQ they saw the child with MaryRR his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage.

Notes on verses 9-11a

NN “there” = idou. Same as [untranslated] in v1 (see note G above).
OO “stopped” = histemi. This is to stand, place, set up, appoint, establish, be steadfast, stand firm.
PP “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.
QQ “house” = oikia. From oikos (house, household, family, lineage, nation). This is house, household, family. Can be used figuratively for goods, property.
RR “Mary” = mariam. 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.

Then, opening their treasure chests,SS they offeredTT him giftsUU of gold,VV frankincense,WW and myrrh.XX 12 And having been warnedYY in a dreamZZ not to returnAAA to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.BBB

Notes on verses 11b-12

SS “treasure chests” = thesaurus. 17x in NT. From tithemi (place, lay, put, place, establish; to put in a passive or horizontal position). This is treasure or a storehouse for valuables. Figuratively used for other treasured things like thoughts. A deposit of wealth literal or figurative.
TT “offered” = prosphero. From pros (at, to, toward, with) + phero (bear, carry, bring forth, lead). This is to bring up, offer, offer a gift, offer a sacrifice.
UU “gifts” = doron. 19x in NT. From didomi (to give, offer, put, place). This is a gift, present, or offering. It is also used for a sacrifice, a voluntary one.
VV “gold” = chrusos. 10x in NT. May be from chraomai (to use, deal with). This is gold or anything made of gold. Could be a gold coin or gold ornament. It is a symbol of wealth and purchasing power.
WW “frankincense” = libanos. 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.
XX “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
YY “warned” = chrematizo. Related to “gold” above. 9x in NT. From chrema (something one uses or needs; money, possessions, wealth); from chraomai (see note VV above). This is to conduct business, instruct, warn, reveal, to utter an oracle, be warned by God.
ZZ “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.
AAA “return” = anakampto. 4x in NT. From ana (up, again, back, among, anew) + kampto (to bend, bow). This is to return, turn back, or bend back.
BBB “road” = hodos. This is way, road, path, or journey. It implies progress along that route.

Image Credit: Icon of the Adoration of the Magi from the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens, by Emmanuel Tzanes, 1667, Greek.

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