THE COMING OF THE KING OF THE JEWS PROMPTS EITHER ADORATION AND WORSHIP OR FEAR AND OPPOSITION
Leon Morris: Matthew may well have included this story to bring out the truth that Jesus is Lord of all peoples; since this is so, it was appropriate that at the time of his infancy people came from a distant Gentile country to pay their homage. In this narrative the Jews and their king are ranged against the infant Jesus, but Gentiles do him homage. There will also be the motif that the purposes of God cannot be overthrown. Earthly kings like Herod may try to circumvent the divine purpose, but in the end they are always defeated. And, of course, there is the strong motif of the fulfilment of Scripture; Matthew finds events in the life of Jesus from the earliest days foretold in the holy writings.
E. Michael Green: Such was the climactic event of all history: Jesus, Immanuel, was born in the little town of Bethlehem, the ancient seat of the Davidic line. His coming always divides people, as we shall see time and again in this Gospel. Here, at the very start of his life, we see two camps forming: one full of praise and welcome; the other full of hatred and opposition. Herod and the Magi stand out in strong contrast, a contrast that will deepen as the story of Jesus’ life unfolds towards the cross.
The note of contrast is strongly emphasized in this short account. There is the contrast between Herod’s kingship and that of Jesus: one inaugurated by Rome, an alien power, and based on aggression and cruelty; the other originating from love, shown in vulnerability and entering into its kingdom though the cross. Herod was thirty-three at his inauguration, and Jesus the same age when he died. What a contrast!
Matthew underlines particularly the contrasting responses to Jesus. We have seen how the Magi pursued what they knew to the utmost of their powers, and made an act of obeisance and dedication that takes our breath away. Those wise men sought him wholeheartedly: wise men and women still do. But over against them stood Herod and the Jewish clergy. Herod’s response was hatred and fear: hatred of anything and anyone that threatened his self-centredness, and fear of a possible rival, however improbable. The lust for power blunted the better qualities in Herod’s character. Power still has this corrupting tendency today. Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Saddam’s Iraq and Milosevic’s Serbia show the lengths to which self-seeking can go against what is known to be right.
Then there were the Jewish chief priests and scribes. Their attitude is almost as amazing as that of the Magi. They knew their Scriptures and had no problem in answering Herod when he wanted to know where the child would be born. Back came the answer, pointing Herod to Micah 5:2. He would be born in Bethlehem, of course. But did they go to greet him? Did they lift a sandal? Not at all. They knew it all, but they did nothing. That is a characteristic danger for clergy and scholars in any age. Their apathy hardened into outright opposition to Jesus as his ministry developed, and ended with frenzied lust for his blood—an awesome warning that knowledge is no substitute for obedience.
D. A. Carson: Of course, Matthew did not just chronicle meaningless events. He wrote to develop his theme of fulfillment of Scripture (Had not God promised that nations would be drawn to Messiah’s light [Isa 60:3]?); to establish God’s providential and supernatural care of this virgin-born Son; to anticipate the hostilities, resentment, and suffering he would face; and to hint at the fact that Gentiles would be drawn into his reign (cf. Isa 60:3; Nellessen, Das Kind, 120, acutely compares Mt 8:11–12; cf. 28:16–20). The Magi will be like the men of Nineveh who will rise up in judgment and condemn those who, despite their privilege of much greater light, did not receive the promised Messiah and bow to his reign (12:41–42).
Grant Osborne: Worship permeates this story. These exalted personages represent the rest of the world, come to bow at the feet of the infant Jesus. Their great efforts to find the baby show their resolve. This is a real fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise that the Jewish people would be a source of blessing to the world (Gen 12:3; 15:5; 18:18; etc.).
Richard Gardner: The story of the magi gives special prominence to the theme of Jesus’ kingship. Jesus is at one and the same time the king of the Jews and the long-awaited world ruler whom all the nations will honor and serve. Only after his resurrection will Jesus really be able to claim that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (28:18). The adoration of the magi, however, confirms and celebrates Jesus’ royal destiny in advance.
John MacArthur: Now having established that He is a king by lineage, then in chapter 2, Matthew reemphasizes that He is a king in terms of the fact that certain people paid him homage as a king. If He’s a king, Matthew is saying to us, it ought to be evident by his genealogy. He has to be the child of kings. If He is a king, it ought to be evident by the way people respond to Him. And so in chapter 2, Matthew tells us the story of certain wise men who came to proclaim that Jesus was indeed a king and to bow at His feet and worship Him as king. Now that again is part of Matthew’s emphasis. He is king by virtue of His genealogy. He is king by virtue the royal majesty that was displayed, and accepted, and honored, and revealed by the work and the effort of these wise men coming and bringing certain gifts.
I. (:1-2) ADVENT OF CHRIST PROMPTS THE MAGI TO SEEK HIM OUT
A. (:1a) Historical Setting
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king,”
Leon Morris: The name Bethlehem means “House of Bread,” that is, a granary. Matthew speaks of Bethlehem 5 times, but Luke (twice) and John (once) are the only other New Testament writers to refer to it. It was evidently not considered an important place. It was located about 5 miles (or 8 kilometers) south of Jerusalem. Judea, here as in most places, indicates the southern part of Palestine (in contrast to Samaria, etc.). . .
This Herod is Herod the Great, and he is correctly called “the king” (the title was sometimes accorded the tetrarch, but he was not a king; this Herod was). He was not a Jew, his father being an Idumean and his mother an Arabian, but the Romans made him King of Judea in 40 B.C. He is generally thought to have died in 4 B.C. (there is some dispute about this). He was an unscrupulous tyrant, but his achievements were such that he merited the epithet “the Great.” He was a great builder and was responsible for the erection of the temple in Jerusalem, the rebuilding of Samaria (which he called Sebaste in honor of the emperor), and other significant works. And, in the words of Barclay, “He was the only ruler of Palestine who ever succeeded in keeping the peace and in bringing order into disorder.”
William Barclay: Bethlehem had a long history. It was there that Jacob had buried Rachel and had set up a pillar of memory beside her grave (Genesis 48:7, 35:20). It was there that Ruth had lived when she married Boaz (Ruth 1:22), and from Bethlehem Ruth could see the land of Moab, her native land, across the Jordan valley. But above all, Bethlehem was the home and the city of David (1 Samuel 16:1, 17:12, 20:6); and it was for the water of the well of Bethlehem that David longed when he was a hunted fugitive upon the hills (2 Samuel 23:14–15). . .
But Herod had one terrible flaw in his character. He was almost insanely suspicious. He had always been suspicious, and the older he became the more suspicious he grew, until, in his old age, he was, as someone said, ‘a murderous old man’. If he suspected anyone as a rival to his power, that person was promptly eliminated. He murdered his wife Mariamne and her mother Alexandra. His eldest son, Antipater, and two other sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, were all assassinated by him. Augustus, the Roman emperor, had said, bitterly, that it was safer to be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son. (The saying is even more epigrammatic in Greek, for in Greek hus is the word for a pig, and huios is the word for a son.) . . .
There was the reaction of Herod, the reaction of hatred and hostility. Herod was afraid that this little child was going to interfere with his life, his place, his power and his influence, and therefore his first instinct was to destroy him.
Craig Blomberg: From other historical materials we know that Herod died in 4 B.C. (The calendrical confusion was caused by the switch from a Roman to a Christian calendar in the sixth century A.D., based on the faulty calculations of Dionysius Exiguus, who did not have accurate information about the time of Herod’s death.) Jesus’ birth itself almost certainly did not occur on December 25. This date became attached to the celebration of Christmas later because it coincided with a Roman holiday known as Saturnalia, when Christians had time off work to worship. Perhaps Jesus was born in the spring when shepherds would have been watching their flocks by night because lambs might be born (Luke 2:8).
Arnold Fruchtenbaum: He was a very clever, ruthless ruler who was constantly on the watch for insurrection and intrigue. His life reads like the worst kind of soap opera of villainy and murder. He became so evil that he killed three or possibly four of his sons, and his favorite wife Miriamne. He had ten wives, and offspring who were constantly conspiring against each other. He was so paranoid that he built incredibly elaborate fortresses in a planned escape route in a line towards Egypt, which included Masada (which he fortified in the 30’s B.C.). He was an Idumean, a race forcibly converted to Judaism earlier in history, and while he practiced Judaism (not eating pork) he was not ethnically Jewish. This is one reason the Jewish people hated him.
B. (:1b) Hallelujah Entourage
“behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,”
Leon Morris: many interpreters hold that these wise men came from Babylon, and they may have done so, but we cannot be sure. Their study of the stars had led them to believe that a great leader had been born in Judea. That being so, they naturally directed their steps to Jerusalem, the capital city. These men would have been Gentiles, but Matthew gives this no emphasis. Tradition says that there were three of them, but Matthew gives no number and it appears to be a deduction from the number of the gifts. Tradition also makes them kings, but this is highly unlikely.
Robert Gundry: The astrologers’ arrival “in Jerusalem” introduces that city as the center of antagonism toward Jesus already at his birth (compare 23:36).
John Nolland: Matthew’s Magi do not interpret dreams, but they do observe and interpret the stars (or at least one), and they are from the East. If Matthew has one eye on the role of Magi/astrologers in Moses’ infancy haggadah (as seems likely), then this helps to brings the role of astrologer to the fore. It would be wrong to look here for any polemic against astrology or any claim that now the power of the astrologers/magicians is broken. The Magi are positive figures who receive guidance from God (in a manner tailored to their circumstances), not opponents to be vanquished. It is inappropriate to read off this account any evaluation of astrology, either positive or negative; the interest is elsewhere.
Charles Swindoll: The travelers from the east are identified not as kings, but as “magi.” The Greek word magos refers to a “wise man and priest, who was expert in astrology, interpretation of dreams and various other occult arts.” But we would be wrong to identify the magi as magicians or sorcerers. Rather, we should probably think of them as philosopher-sages or astrologers who engaged in the interpretation of dreams, sought signs in the heavens, and practiced other such forms of primitive science mixed with folklore. It is possible that they had also become familiar with Old Testament messianic prophecies through exposure to Jewish Scriptures like the books of Isaiah and Daniel, which would have been known among Jewish communities spread through Arabia, Persia, and Babylon (see the eastern regions represented in Acts 2:9-11).
These stargazers weren’t kings, but they likely belonged to the upper echelons of society, perhaps serving in a royal court. How else could they have afforded such a long journey and brought such expensive gifts? And if they were well-to-do, they would also have been accompanied by at least a modest entourage that would have made their sudden arrival in Judea noticeable.
John MacArthur: The magi were well-versed in astronomy and astrology, agriculture, mathematics, and history. They were involved in various occult practices and were famous for their ability to interpret dreams (cf. Da. 2:1ff.). Such was their political power and influence that no Persian ruler came to power without their approval. . . The magi from the east (the word literally means “from the rising” of the sun, and refers to the orient) who came to see Jesus were of a completely different sort. Not only were they true magi, but they surely had been strongly influenced by Judaism, quite possibly even by some of the prophetic writings, especially that of Daniel. They appear to be among the many God-fearing Gentiles who lived at the time of Christ, a number of whom—such as Cornelius and Lydia (Acts 10:1–2; Acts 16:14)—are mentioned in the New Testament.
J C Ryle: The cost of the magi to seek Jesus –
The conduct of the wise men described in this chapter is a splendid example of spiritual diligence. What trouble it must have cost them to travel from their homes to the house where Jesus was born! How many weary miles they must have journeyed! The fatigues of an Eastern traveller are far greater than we in England can at all understand. The time that such a journey would occupy must necessarily have been very great. The dangers to be encountered were neither few nor small. But none of these things moved them. They had set their hearts on seeing Him “that was born King of the Jews;” and they never rested till they saw Him. They prove to us the truth of the old saying, “Where there is a will there is a way.” It would be well for all professing Christians if they were more ready to follow the wise men’s example. Where is our self-denial? What pains do we take about our souls? What diligence do we show about following Christ? What does our religion cost us? These are serious questions. They deserve serious consideration.
C. (:2) Homage Inquiry
- Looking for the Messiah
“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?”
Grant Osborne: When the Magi called Jesus “King of the Jews,” it became a direct challenge to Herod, a sign to him that his rule may be nearing its end. A man who would murder wives and children because of a perceived threat would not hesitate to go after Jesus with a viciousness impossible to understand by sane people.
- Longing to Worship Him
“For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.”
Richard Gardner: It was commonly believed in the ancient world that signs in the heavens accompanied the births of great figures, including rulers such as Alexander and Augustus. The magi in Matthew 2 claim to have seen just such a sign. Having observed the rising star of a newborn Jewish king, they make a pilgrimage to Judea to find him and pay him homage.
John Nolland: The identity of the ‘star’ has been extensively debated. The main options which have been canvassed may be divided between those which look for a natural astronomical explanation (the conjunction of planets, a comet, or a supernova) and those which look to a miraculous event (a new star in the heavens, a wandering ‘star’).
The conditions which the star must satisfy are the following. It must be the kind of star
(a) for which Magi might be considered to be on the lookout;
(b) which on some basis or other could be identified as the star of the messiah of the Jews;
(c) which can blaze a trail for the Magi to follow from Jerusalem; and
(d) which can finally come to rest over a particular dwelling.
While the first two conditions alone would point in the direction of astrological observation of the natural heavens, the third and fourth can point only to a miraculously provided heavenly light. We appear to be dealing with a new light in the heavens which on the basis of location and/or time of emergence pointed in astrological lore to some special ascendancy of the Jews, but which goes away from its location in the heavens to lead the Magi from Jerusalem to the location of Jesus in Bethlehem. The story itself provides no basis on which the Magi could have determined the identity of the star at its rising with the star which later went ahead to Bethlehem. The reader is left to depend on the superior knowledge (and the reliability) of the narrator.
Bob Deffinbaugh: Why is it so important to find a human explanation for a miracle, other than to avoid the fact that it was a miracle? Why is it, for example, that some commentators on the Book of Jonah (even some very good ones) find it profitable to produce examples of men who were swallowed by “great fish” and rescued alive? God may very well use natural means to accomplish His purposes, but He does not always do so. Sometimes God uses extraordinary measures, measures that have no counterpart in nature, so that the supernatural hand of God is undeniable. I am therefore inclined to the view that this “star” may have been a manifestation of the Shekinah Glory, which we sometimes find in the Old Testament.
II. (:3-8) ANTAGONISM AND OPPOSITION FROM KING HEROD AND THE JEWISH RELIGIOUS LEADERS
A. (:3) Reaction of Distress by King Herod and Jewish Religious Leaders
“And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”
Were the people in Jerusalem worried about:
1) Herod’s possible unhinged reaction with ensuing mayhem
2) Or false claims of messiahship with corresponding political repercussions ?
Richard Gardner: Given Herod’s fear of rivals, his reaction to those who seek a new king in his kingdom is not surprising. We learn, however, that Herod was not alone in his reaction, but that all Jerusalem was shaken up with him. Here Matthew echoes the Jewish Midrash on Moses which stated that the news of the impending birth of a Hebrew deliverer alarmed the Pharaoh and filled the Egyptians with dread (Josephus, Antiquities 2.205-206, 215). Now the roles are reversed, however: It is the Jewish people and their king who are upset by the birth of a Hebrew deliverer, while representatives of a foreign nation seek to honor him! The irony is profound.
Craig Blomberg: If Herod were a true devotee of the Judaism of Scripture, he should have rejoiced greatly, but he does not. Instead, he views the new child as a mortal threat. “Disturbed” is too weak a translation of his reaction; “in turmoil” or even “terrified” (cf. Weymouth, “greatly agitated”) would be more accurate. “All Jerusalem” probably refers primarily to the religious leaders of Israel who dominated the city, many of whom were also personally installed by Herod.
B. (:4-6) Reaction of Indifference (Eventually Leading to Antagonism) by the Jewish Religious Leaders
- (:4) Sought Out for Their Biblical Knowledge
“And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people,
he began to inquire of them where the Christ was to be born.”
D. A. Carson: The vast majority of the scribes were Pharisees; the priests were Sadducees. The two groups barely got along, and therefore Schweizer judges this verse “historically almost inconceivable.” But Matthew does not say the two groups came together at the same time; Herod, unloved by either group, may well have called both to guard against being tricked. If the Pharisees and Sadducees barely spoke to one another, there was less likelihood of collusion.
John MacArthur: At the top of the totem pole is the high priest and the captain of the temple, then the chief priests of the aristocracy, then the ordinary priests, and then at the bottom the Levites who helped around the temple were the temple police. . .
The scribes were just folks from the other tribes, none in particular, who were scholars and authorities on the law. These people had spent their life studying the law. These were the Bible scholars, and by that I mean Old Testament obviously. . .
Now note, some of them joined the Pharisees party because they were literalists. They were fundamentalists. They were legalists. The believed in everything that it was said the way it was said. On the other hand, some of them joined the Sadducees because they were the liberals who wanted to throw away a lot of the Scripture. They denied a certain things in the Scripture, such as resurrection, such as angels.
So you had two theological parties, the fundamentalists and the liberals in that day, but both of them had their scribes and their scholars. And whether the scribes of the Pharisees, or the scribes of the Sadducees, they were forever and ever challenging Jesus weren’t they? Coming and trying to trap Him in His words. So here you have the political wheels and the brains of Israel to begin with right here in Matthew 2 set at odds against Christ.
- (:5a) Satisfied with Intellectual Knowledge
“And they said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea,’”
John Nolland: Matthew stresses a leadership role in and responsibility for the people. While the role of the chief priests and scribes is quite neutral here, their inactivity in comparison to that of the Magi may imply criticism, and their later hostility to Jesus may be seen as that much more reprehensible in the light of the evident scriptural knowledge of this grouping and their participation in events which pointed to the significance of the birth of Jesus.
- (:5b-6) Steeped in Prophecy but No Life Connection
“for so it has been written by the prophet, 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler, Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”
Grant Osborne: Technically, this is not one of the ten “fulfillment passages” in Matthew, for it does not have the same opening formula as 1:22; 2:15; and others. But it is the same type of OT fulfillment as those.
Leon Morris: The passage is saying that Bethlehem’s greatness consists only in that it is the birthplace of the great leader, and this is as plain in Micah as in Matthew.
D. A. Carson: It is tempting to think that Matthew sees a pair of contrasts
(1) between the false shepherds of Israel who have provided sound answers but no leadership (cf. 23:2–7) and Jesus, who is the true Shepherd of his people Israel, and
(2) between a ruler like Herod and the one born to rule.
The words “my people Israel” are included, not simply because they are found in 2 Samuel 5:2, but because Matthew, like Paul, faithfully records both the essential Jewish focus of the OT promises and the OT expectation of broader application to the Gentiles. Jesus is not only the promised Davidic king but also the promised hope of blessing to all the nations, the one who will claim their obeisance (cf. Ps 68:28–35; Isa 18:1–3, 7; 45:14; 60:6; Zep 3:10). That same duality makes the desires of the Gentile Magi to worship the Messiah stand out against the apathy of the leaders, who did not, apparently, take the trouble to go to Bethlehem. Of course, the Jewish leaders may have seen the arrival of the Magi in Jerusalem as one more false alarm. As far as we can tell, the Sadducees (and therefore the chief priests) had no interest in the question of when the Messiah would come; the Pharisees (and therefore most teachers of the law) expected him to come only somewhat later.
C. (:7-8) Reaction of Hatred, Hostility and Deceit by King Herod
- (:7) Dastardly Intelligence Gathering
“Then Herod secretly called the magi,
and ascertained from them the time the star appeared.”
- (:8) Deceitful Investigative Campaign
a. Commissioning the Magi to Locate the Child
“And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said,
‘Go and make careful search for the Child;’”
b. Concealing Agenda of Hatred and Hostility
“and when you have found Him,
report to me, that I too may come and worship Him.”
III. (:9-12) ADORATION AND WORSHIP OF THE MAGI
A. (:9) Wayfare (Journey) of the Magi
- Directed Route
“And having heard the king, they went their way;”
- Divine Guidance
“and lo, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them,
until it came and stood over where the Child was.”
Grant Osborne: We must remember that it is not a long way from Jerusalem to Bethlehem—only six miles. So it was a journey of a couple hours. For dramatic “look” (ἰδού), see 1:20, 23. Still, the “star” led the way, and this language fits none of the celestial phenomena suggested in 2:2b. It must have been a supernatural manifestation, for it not only “went before” them but also stopped and “stood” above the home in which Jesus was staying. The language is reminiscent of the pillar of fire and the cloud in the wilderness that “went ahead of” Israel to guide them along the way (Exod 13:21; 40:38). God is still in control.
B. (:10-11) Worship of the Magi
- (:10) Joy of Worship
“And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”
Craig Blomberg: Thus one born in obscurity is recognized by unlikely devotees as the future King of Israel. The child whose birth is shrouded in suspicions of illegitimacy (chap. 1) is in fact God’s legitimate appointee. On the other hand, the legal rulers, both political and religious, by their clinging to positions of power and prestige, prove themselves to be illegitimate in God’s eyes.
- (:11a) Expression of Worship
“And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother;
and they fell down and worshiped Him;”
Charles Swindoll: By this time, Jesus would have been a little over a year old —no longer a swaddled baby lying in a manger. Herod deduced that the child would have been under the age of two “according to the time which he had determined from the magi” (2:16). By this time, then, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus would have settled in a more permanent home in Bethlehem, possibly a home belonging to relatives —descendants of the line of David. After all, Bethlehem had been the family’s ancient hometown.
- (:11b) Offerings of Worship
“and opening their treasures they presented to Him
gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.”
Leon Morris: Clearly all three were valuable, and together they formed a munificent gift, suitable for offering to a king. Christians have often seen symbolical meanings in them, gold for royalty, frankincense for deity, and myrrh pointing to suffering and death, but Matthew says nothing about this.
Robert Gundry: Elsewhere in Matthew “gift(s)” is used exclusively and often for offerings to God (5:23–24; 8:4; 15:5; 23:18–19), and the verb “offered” has to do with such offerings in 8:4 and throughout the Old Testament. So the astrologers’ offering of these expensive gifts adds further emphasis on Jesus’ deity and kingship; and the astrologers stand as prototypes of his disciples, who give up earthly treasures for heavenly treasures (6:19–21; 19:21). Like the Gentile kings in Psalm 72:10–11, 15, the astrologers bring gifts of gold to a superior king in Israel. Like the Gentile kings in Isaiah 60:2–3, 6, they bring gold and frankincense. And as Solomon the immediate son of David is perfumed with myrrh and frankincense in the Song of Solomon 3:6; 4:6, Jesus the later son of David is given frankincense and myrrh. These offerings confirm that in 2:2 we should understand “birthed [as] king of the Jews” rather than “birthed [to be] king of the Jews.”
E. Michael Green: “Gold” was valued throughout the ancient world as a medium of exchange as well as a precious metal for making jewelry, ornaments, and dining instruments for royalty. “Incense” or frankincense is derived from an amber resin, which produced a sweet odor when burned. It was used as a perfume (Song 3:6; 4:6, 14), but in Israel it was used ceremonially for the only incense permitted on the altar (Ex. 30:9, 34–38). “Myrrh” consists of a mixture of resin, gum, and the oil myrrhol and was used in incense (Ex. 30:23), as a perfume for garments or for a lover’s couch, as a stimulant (cf. Mark 15:23), and to pack in the wrappings of the clothing of a deceased person to stifle the smell of the body decaying (cf. John 19:39).
C. (:12) Wisdom of the Magi
“And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their own country by another way.”
E. Michael Green: The Magi may have gone south around the lower extremity of the Dead Sea to link up with the trade route north through Nabatea and Philadelphia in the Decapolis east of the Jordan River to Damascus and then east. Or they may have traveled south to Hebron and then west to the Mediterranean coast to link up with the trade route traveling north on the coastal plain, then through Sepphoris and Capernaum to Damascus and then east.
Grant Osborne: Matthew uses χρηματίζω for “warn,” a term often chosen for divine revelation. The emphasis is on the supernatural nature of the warning; God continues to control the action. A major thrust of the first gospel is that when people try to thwart the divine will, God intervenes supernaturally to overcome all such hostile actions (cf. Job 42:2). The fact that this time no angel appears in the dream (cf. 1:20; 2:19) stresses even more the hand of God in the warning. So the Magi take another route home, and Herod’s evil plan is thwarted.
John Nolland: Matthew has no further interest in the Magi once they have pointed to the significance of Jesus. The Magi are not the first Gentile followers of Jesus: Jesus has not yet begun his ministry and, specifically, he has not yet directed that discipleship is to be extended to all peoples. Nonetheless, with the hindsight that comes from looking back from the end of Matthew’s story it is probably right to find some foreshadowing, especially in the scale of the Magi’s joy and in the use of the verb ‘do obeisance’; also, the Magi coming to Jerusalem may pick up on the OT motif of the coming of the Gentiles.