Matthew has Mary and her son visited by “wise men” . Josephus for the same time frame tells of wise men who were early rabbi/teachers with Hasmonean names and a philosophy of martyrdom and rewards in Heaven…and it is just possible that Matthew wanted us to know that they supported Mary and her son….
And when (the wise men) were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped…[i]
This would have totally sent Herod into a tailspin and may have contributed to his killing the teachers and their young students and his deposing of Matthias the High Priest. It would make sense that Joseph wanted to stay out of Herod’s reach… Arise and take the young child and his mother and flee into Egypt…though I’m not convinced that they actually fled to Egypt. As I’ve try to show, the High Priest at the time was “Simon son of Boethus a priest of note from Egypt.”
And they were 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. Matthew 2:12-15
Matthew was invested in finding “prophecies” from the Old Testament that he could have Jesus fulfill…issuing prophecies was a trademark of that “certain sect of Pharisees” who backed Pheroras’ wife with a prophecy. Nor did he understand the context of the Out of Egypt Prophecy as discussed in the last post. But he did understand the danger imposed by Archelaus.
But when (Joseph) heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither…he turned aside into the parts of Galilee…Matthew 2:22
The real reason for Herod “calling the principal men to Jericho” as we saw in the last blog post, was to force them to ratify his will leaving his son Archelaus as his heir. No one wanted Archelaus to be king. He was a younger son of Herod with NO Hasmonean blood. Josephus says that his mother was a Samaritan named Malthace.[ii] Samaritans were Hebrews but religious enemies. (Luke 9:51-56, Matthew 10:5-6) If someone out there had even some Hasmonean blood that the multitudes could rally around, then yes, Archelaus had reason to fear that person. Ever since Herod had first been named king, he had feared a Hasmonean taking the kingdom away from him because Rome’s way of handling its occupied nations was to honor the indigenous royal blood…to keep the peace. And, everyone knew that when Herod finally died the country would erupt. So the Romans might have considered such a person if the heir in Herod’s will proved unacceptable. But all the Hasmonean heirs of the next generation were too young to inherit; Agrippa and Herod, the brothers of Mariamne and Herodias, will be made kings when they grow up because of their Herodian AND Hasmonean blood—but were somewhere just past the age of puberty. And the next generation of heirs, Jesus son of Mary and John son of Elizabeth were but babies.
The Sons of Herod’s Wives
Archelaus was only seventeen, ready or not. He had to go to Rome to get Caesar’s blessing, but before he could leave this happened:
At this time also it was that some of the Jews got together out of a desire of innovation. They lamented Matthias (a wise man), and those that were slain with him by Herod, who had not any respect paid them by a funeral mourning, out of the fear men were in of that man (Herod); they were those who had been condemned for pulling down the golden eagle. The people made a great clamour and lamentation hereupon, and cast out some reproaches against the king also…Nor was this mourning of a private nature, but the lamentations were very great, the mourning solemn, and the weeping such as was loudly heard all over the city…Wars of the Jews II.I.2, Antiquities of the Jews XVII.IX.2.
That passage sent me back to Matthew again because he included a passage about lamenting in the last days of Herod over his killing of the “innocents;” all the boy children under two years of age in Bethlehem in an effort to kill the “son of Mary.”
What was said through Jeremiah the prophet was then fulfilled: A cry was heard at Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation: Rachel bewailing her children; no comfort for her, since they are no more. Matthew 2:17-18
Scholars are perplexed by the fact that Josephus did not mention the slaying of the boys in Bethlehem while giving so many other stories of Herod’s atrocities. But Josephus does recount what happened when the mothers of the forty dead students began lamenting for their sons who were not given a proper burial. A proper burial was necessary for the Resurrection of the Saints since the days of Judas Maccabeus. Remember the story of the widowed mother of seven sons who urged them to defy Antiochus Epiphanes knowing they would die BUT that she would get them back again in the Resurrection.
This loud and unrelenting lamenting by the women caused the situation to spiral out of control with Archelaus’ soldiers killing three thousand of the mourners in the Temple. He finally set sail for Rome to be ratified but there were delegations right on his heels to oppose him. Luke will have Jesus tell this parable about Archelaus thirty years later:
A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return…But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom…[parable about ten servants each left with ten pounds of the king’s money to increase]…said…For I [the certain nobleman now king] say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me. Luke 19:12-27
[i] “Worshipped” is the term used for making obsequious tribute to a king as in Matthew 20:20, Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him…And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left in thy kingdom.
[ii] Wars of the Jews I. XXVIII.4. Malthace will accompany her son to Rome for ratification as king but will die there mysteriously. Antiquities XVII.X.1