Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent, , at sacred-texts.com
Hebrew, House of Bread, probably from its fertility. The birthplace of him who calls himself the Bread of Life (Joh 6:35), and identified with the history of his human ancestry through Ruth, who was here married to Boaz, and was the ancestress of David (Mat 1:5, Mat 1:6), and through David himself, who was born there, and anointed king by Samuel (compare Luk 2:11, city of David).
Wise men, or Magi (μάγοι)
Wycliffe renders kings. A priestly caste among the Persians and Medes, which occupied itself principally with the secrets of nature, astrology, and medicine. Daniel became president of such an order in Babylon (Dan 2:48). The word became transferred, without distinction of country, to all who had devoted themselves to those sciences, which were, however, frequently accompanied with the practice of magic and jugglery; and, under the form magician, it has come to be naturalized in many of the languages of Europe. Many absurd traditions and guesses respecting these visitors to our Lord's cradle have found their way into popular belief and into Christian art. They were said to be kings, and three in number; they were said to be representatives of the three families of Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and therefore one of them is pictured as an Ethiopian; their names are given as Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior, and their three skulls, said to have been discovered in the twelfth century by Bishop Reinald of Cologne, are exhibited in a priceless casket in the great cathedral of that city.
The east (ἀνατολή)
Literally, the rising. Some commentators prefer to render at its rising, or when it rose. In Luk 1:78, the word is translated dayspring, or dawn. The kindred verb occurs in Mat 4:16, "light did spring up" (ἀνέτειλεν)
All the chief priests
We should expect only one chief priest to be mentioned; but the office had become a lucrative one, and frequently changed hands. A rabbi is quoted as saying that the first temple, which stood about four hundred and ten years, had only eighteen high-priests from first to last; while the second temple, which stood four hundred and twenty years, had more than three hundred high-priests. The reference here is not to a meeting of the Sanhedrin, since the elders, who are not mentioned, belonged to this; but to an extraordinary convocation of all the high-priests and learned men. Besides the high-priest in actual office, there might be others who had been his predecessors, and who continued to bear the name, and in part the dignity. It may possibly have included the heads of the twenty-four courses of priests.
Land of Judah
To distinguish it from Bethlehem in the territory of Zebulon.
Shall be shepherd of (ποιμανεῖ), from ποιμήν, a shepherd
So Rev., rightly, instead of shall rule. The word involves the whole office of the shepherd - guiding, guarding, folding, as well as feeding. Hence appropriate and often applied to the guides and guardians of others. Homer calls kings "the shepherds of the people." To David the people said, "The Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed (as a shepherd) my people Israel" (Sa2 5:2; compare Psa 78:70-72). God is often called a shepherd (Gen 48:15; Psa 23:1; Psa 77:20; Psa 80:1; Isa 40:11; Ezekiel 34:11-31). Jesus calls himself the good shepherd (Joh 10:11). Peter, who is bidden by Jesus to shepherd his sheep (Joh 21:16, ποίμαινε, Rev., tend), calls him the Shepherd of Souls (Pe1 2:25), and the Chief Shepherd (Pe1 5:4); and in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb 13:20), he is styled the great Shepherd of the sheep. In Rev 2:27, rule is literally to shepherd (compare Rev 19:15); but Christ will shepherd his enemies, not with the pastoral crook, but with a sceptre of iron. Finally, Jesus will perpetuate this name and office in heaven among his redeemed ones, for "the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall be their shepherd (Rev 7:17, Rev.). In this verse the word governor is in harmony with the idea of shepherding, since the word ἡγούμενος originally means one who goes before, or leads the way, and suggests Christ's words about the good shepherd in Joh 10:3, Joh 10:4 : "He calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out....He goeth before them, and the sheep follow him."
Inquired diligently (ἠκρίβωσεν)
Better learned accurately. The verb is formed from ἄκρος, at the point or end. The idea is, therefore, he ascertained to the last point; denoting the exactness of the information rather than the diligence of the search for it. Compare Mat 2:8, "Search out carefully" (ἀκριβῶς). So the Rev. for diligently.
What time the star appeared (τὸν χρόνον τοῦ φαινομένου ἀστέρος)
Lit., the time of the appearing star. Herod asks, "How long does the star make itself visible since its rising in the East? rather than "At what time did it appear?"
Being warned (χρηματισθέντες)
The verb means to give a response to one who asks or consults: hence, in the passive, as here, to receive an answer. The word therefore implies that the wise men had sought counsel of God; and so Wycliffe, "And answer taken in sleep."
The children (τούς παῖδας)
Male children, as is indicated by the masculine form of the article, and so Rev.
Note the plural, as indicating not any one prediction in particular, but a summary of the import of several prophetic statements, such as Psa 22:6, Psa 22:8; Psa 69:11, Psa 69:19; Isa 53:2, Isa 53:3, Isa 53:4.
A term of contempt (compare Joh 1:46, and Joh 7:52). The very name of Nazareth suggested insignificance. In Hebrew it meant sprout or shoot. The name is prophetically given to the Messiah (Isa 11:1). In Isa 10:33, Isa 10:34, the fate of Assyria is described under the figure of the felling of a cedar forest. The figure of the tree is continued at the opening of ch. 11 concerning the Jewish state. The cedar throws out no fresh suckers, but the oak is a tree "in which, after the felling, a stock remaineth" (Isa 6:13; compare Job 14:9). There is a future then for Israel, represented by the oak. "There shall come forth a shoot from the stock of Jesse, and a twig from his roots shall bear fruit." As David sprang from the humble family of Jesse, so the Messiah, the second David, shall arise out of great humiliation. The fact that Jesus grew up at Nazareth was sufficient reason for his being despised. He was not a lofty branch on the summit of a stately tree; not a recognized and honored son of the royal house of David, now fallen, but an insignificant sprout from the roots of Jesse; a Nazarene, of an upstart sprout-town.