In the beginning of Matthew 2 a group of Magi are traveling in search of a newborn king. The Magi, who were likely from Persia, were scholars of astrology who had been observing celestial activity in the heavens and noticed a new and significant star. Believing this star to be the sign of the birth of an important king, the Magi brought gold, frankincense and myrrh as gifts and began their journey following the star.
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The arrival of three Magi did not bypass the notice of King Herod, the ruler of the Jewish people at the time of Jesus’ birth. When Herod learned why the Magi had arrived he immediately summoned the religious scholars. He questioned them about the possibility of a king being born in Judea. After hearing the prophecy, Herod decided to seek out the Magi and find the location of the child. Herod misled the Magi, saying that he wished to also participate in the worship of the new king.
However, God told the Magi to not allow Herod to follow them. The Magi obeyed God and sought an alternate route. God then appeared to the Magi in a dream, ordering them to not return to Herod. The Magi followed God’s direction and returned home by a different route.
Enraged at being tricked, Herod retaliated by ordering the slaughter of all male children in the kingdom who were two years of age and younger. This was to ensure that if such a royal child existed he would be killed. Herod’s decree was in vain as God warned Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus, to flee to Egypt until it was no longer dangerous for them to live in Judea.
Eventually king Herod died and God sent an angel to speak to Joseph in a dream. The angel told Joseph that the time had come to return home to Nazareth, thus fulfilling the Biblical prophecy that the Messiah would be a Nazarene.
Matthew Chapter 2 (King James Version)
1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying,
18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life.
21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:
23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.