Matthew | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4:1-11 | 4:12-25 | 5:1-12 | 5:13-16 | 5:17-26 | 5:27-30 | 5:31-32 | 5:33-42 | 5:43-48 | 6:1-15 | 6:16-23 | 6:24-34 | 7-17 | 18-28 |


These small group studies of Matthew contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, verse by verse commentary, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Matthew 2 Inductive Bible Study – Discussion Questions and Verse by Verse Commentary

Matthew 2 Outline

I.The magi visit Jesus (1-12)
II.Jesus’ family flees to Egypt to escape Herod (13-23)

I. The magi visit Jesus (1-12)

Discussion Questions

What other famous people in the Bible are from Bethlehem?
Why did Joseph and Mary go there (see Luke account)?
What are magi?
What does it mean that they saw “His star?”
Does this star and their behavior show us that astrology is true? Why or why not?
Why was Herod troubled (verse 3)? Why do you think he wanted to know where the Messiah would be born? Why did he want to know when the star appeared (verse 7)? What lessons can we learn from this about wolves in sheep’s clothing?
Why would they come to worship a king?
What does their search for Jesus teach us? What principles can we learn from them?
How can a star stand over a place such as a house like we see in verse 9? If a normal star cannot do this, what can?
How did they feel when their journey was completed? Why were they so happy?
Are you willing to embark on a long, difficult journey to follow Jesus?
What are you willing to give up?
What reward will you receive after achieving what God has set in front of you? How will you feel?

Cross-references

Micah 5:2 – The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
1 Samuel 20:6 – David was from Bethlehem.
Luke 9:34 – Whoever loses his life for me will save it.
Romans 15:13 – May the God of all hope fill you with all joy.
1 Peter 1:8 – Though you do not see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible joy.
Isaiah 55:12 – You shall go out with joy and be let forth in peace.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Background.

The magi here are very mysterious. We really don’t know a lot about them. We don’t know for sure where they came from, except that they were somewhere from the East. We don’t know for sure how many there were. Many speculate three because there were three gifts. This is possible, but not definite for sure as it is quite easy for a group to give a gift together. We don’t know how long their journey took, although it is quite likely that it took a long time. We don’t know for sure how they knew about the coming of the Messiah or how they knew this specific star was a signal of his birth. We can speculate that they were likely part of the Persian Kingdom and knew about the Jewish religion through the influence of Daniel, who lived 550 years before Jesus’ birth. This would certainly be a testament to Daniel’s influence.

Regardless of whether it was a result of Daniel’s influence or not, this shows us that there was knowledge of the God of the Jews and the coming Messiah at different parts around the world. These men are often referred to as wise men, magicians, astrologers. From the world’s perspective they were full of knowledge. They knew the sciences, religions, and history, and literature. This group was probably who was called upon by Nebuchadnezzar and other kings as counselors when there was a difficult problem/enigma to solve. In the world’s eyes, they were the smartest and the wisest. But these wise men, were wise for another reason. They were spiritually wise because they sought the truth and sought to know about the one true God. Although their background was very mysterious, we can learn much about them through their journey and in turn learn some principles we can follow about our own spiritual journeys.

2. Their journey.

A. Their journey was a journey of Faith.

Traveling at that time was far different than it is today. They couldn’t just jump into a car or hop on a plane and set out and arrive later that day. Traveling was a lengthy, wearying, and dangerous activity. It was lengthy because the mode of transportation was probably camels, not the fastest way to get around. They would need to often stop and resupply. It was also uncomfortable. Sometimes when I travel on a plane to the States I kind of complain because the seats are a bit too close together and there is not enough room for my legs. Yet there is air conditioning, padded seats, reclining seats, attendants to bring water and food and adjustable lights.

I have only ridden a camel once, but I can imagine it is not very comfortable, hard seat with no padding, bumpy. The weather would at times have been very hot and at times quite cold (desert weather varies greatly). There would be storms. There wouldn’t be attendants to bring food and water when they needed it. Towns would be few and far between. It would also be dangerous. Maps were incomplete. Roads were not well developed. And there were a lot of thieves and bandits around. It was also a journey of unknowns.

Imagine a friend asking them before departure. Where are you going? We don’t know. How far is it? Not sure about that either. How long will you be gone? Emm. That is yet to be determined. “Wow, for wise men you guys don’t know very much do you?”

The wise men didn’t have a lot of facts in front of them. They didn’t have a lot of proof. But they believed. They saw the star and they knew it was a sign from God announcing the birth of Christ. They knew the Scriptures. They knew what the prophets had said about him. And they believed. They knew He was born. They knew He existed. They were willing to sacrifice comfort and seeming security to see and worship him. They were willing to face the ridicule of their friends. Why? Because of faith.

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

This fits the magi’s actions very well. They hadn’t seen Jesus. He was far away in an unknown place. All they had were some promises and a star. But they believed. And so they set off.

Scripture is filled with men and women who acted in faith even in the face of opposition. People probably told Abraham his journey to the promised land was foolish. People mocked Noah for building the boat. But they had faith; their faith was confirmed and rewarded. Same thing with the magi.

“People of faith have been willing to respond to the challenges of the unknown over and over again down through history.

William Cary was a shoemaker when one day he heard of the millions of people in India who had not heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. He believed the great commission to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.” He believed that that verse was speaking directly to him. So he volunteered to go to India but was told “Young man, sit down. When God wants to convert the heathen, He will do it without your help.” Cary went anyway – supporting himself. For seven years he worked without seeing a single convert – but by the end of his life he saw hundreds of churches and thousands of converts. Today he is known as the “Father of Modern Missions.” He was a man of faith.”

Are you willing to place your faith in God like the magi? Are you willing to sacrifice the comfort around you to follow God? Are you willing to face dangers to follow God? Are you willing to set off with an unknown end/destination to serve God? Are you willing to trust in God’s promises without proof?

B. Their journey was a journey of Worship.

Matthew 2:11 says, “After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

After a long journey (they probably arrived when Jesus was about 2 years old), they finally arrived. Their action was very simple. They fell to the ground and worshiped. These great men who were full of wisdom and knowledge of every kind prostrated themselves on the ground before a young child. Their actions showed humility and great faith. Very few people understood what this boy was, and what He would do, but it seems like at least in part the magi understood. Their faith led them on a long journey and once they arrived all they could do was bow in worship. What a great response! Jesus, the God-Man deserved their worship. He deserves ours. They also gave him gifts symbolic of their worship for him.

“When the wise men came on their journey it was for the purpose of worship. They brought with them gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts have a lot of symbolism associated with them. Gold represents wealth. It is a gift fit for a king. (Jesus was the King of Kings) Frankincense is the sap of a tree that was dried and hardened and used as incense to worship God. Thus we see a gift for his deity. (Jesus was the Son of God) Myrrh is a fragrant perfume that was used to anoint the dead – to embalm and preserve them. (Jesus was The Sacrificial Lamb)”

In 2 Samuel 24:24 David says he wouldn’t offer sacrifices to God that cost him nothing. We can see that the gifts the magi offered were treasures, fit for a king. They weren’t stingy. They didn’t send servants to give them either. They went themselves on the long, dangerous journey. Their worship cost them a large amount of time and expense.

For us we need to learn that worship requires sacrifice, both to our time and expense. In Romans 12:1 we learn that we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God. That means that everything we have and even our very being must be devoted to God. We need to have the same humble attitude the magi displayed when they bowed before the boy and indeed the same humble attitude of Christ who lowered Himself to become a human baby. During this season and all around the year let us bow our hearts in worship to God every day.

C. Their journey was a journey of Obedience.

Matthew 2:12 says, “And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.”

This is the first direct command we see they received from the Lord. They could have made lots of excuses for disobeying. Surely the way they came was the most convenient and the quickest way so they could have decided not to waste the time of taking a detour. Also, Herod seemed genuine and nice, surely it wouldn’t be dangerous to tell him about the boy on the way out. It was just a dream. But they didn’t second guess what they knew God had commanded them. They followed a simple command with simple obedience. It doesn’t seem like a difficult thing to do, and it wasn’t. But a lot of times people disobey simple commands from God. They didn’t. Their obedience gave Joseph and his family time to escape before Herod murdered all the babies in that town. Disobedience could have been disastrous.

Faith in God leads to obedience. Isaiah saw a vision of God’s throne room and responded by answering God’s call for Him to be His spokesman with obedience. Abraham had faith in God’s provision and obeyed God when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac.

If we trust in God, have a humble attitude to worship Him, our lives will also be characterized by obedience. So what is God asking you to do this Christmas? Is there some area of your life that is going on in disobedience to what you know God wants you to do? Are you really putting Him in first place? Are you willing to obey in the simple everyday things as well as the life-changing decisions? If each of us think about our own lives, I am pretty sure we can come up with some areas where we need to obey Him better. Give God a gift for Christmas. Give God your whole life as a living sacrifice.

3. Herod – We know quite a bit out Herod from other historical sources. Those sources agree with what we read here in Matthew. They portray Herod as a paranoid, power-hunger, cruel, tyrant. He was born around 73 BC. Which means he would have been almost 70 years old here and near the end of his life. He was granted the title “King of Judea” by Rome and was therefore a vassal under the Roman Empire. He had a 2000 soldier personal body guard and also employed secret police to keep an eye on the populace. He had his wife and two of his own sons killed.

In this passage Herod is depicted as being “troubled” when he heard the news from the magi. It should be a surprise to us. Herod was paranoid and power hungry. Therefore he likely viewed this future king as a rival who should be destroyed before he usurped the throne. But although Herod was brutal and violent, he appears to be very cunning here. He doesn̵