Matthew 2, Jubulant Magi and the Use of Dreams

In Matthew 2, the Magi from the East arrive in Jerusalem, and inquire of Herod where they can find “the one born king of the Jews” (2:2). When they arrive in Bethlehem and see the star stand above where the child was, the Magi celebrate. “And seeing the star, they rejoiced with great and exceeding joy.” The words Matthew uses makes this intense manner of celebration apparent: ’εχάρησαν (“they recoiced”) χαρὰν (“with joy”) μεγάλην (“great”) σφόδρα (“exceeding”). They understood that this child bore great significance, so it is no wonder that they fell down to worship him, and presented him with gifts.

Another interesting thing in Matthew 2 is the reoccurrence of dreams and warnings from God. Chapter 1 told of Joseph’s dream, in which he was commanded not to be afraid, but to take Mary as his wife and to name the child Jesus (1:20-21). In Chapter 2, the Magi are warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, but to return to their land by another route (2:12). And Joseph receives two more dreams, one telling him to flee to Egypt to save the child from Herod’s ill-begotten search (2:13), and one to inform him of Herod’s death, and that they may now safely return to Israel (2:19).

The significance of Joseph in Jesus’ early life cannot be overrated. Though he was not Jesus’ real father, God sent his angel to speak to Joseph to inform him of what must happen with the child. Obviously there are cultural reasons for why God would speak to a man rather than to a woman in the first century, but it is interesting that Joseph disappears from the story shortly after. I will have to pay close attention to the last mention of Joseph for any last comment on his role.

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