by Dr. Mike Zachary
- Identify the Setting
- Determine where the story is taking place.
We are plainly told the setting: Bethlehem of Judea during the time when Herod was the king. Bethlehem is about five-and-a-half miles from Jerusalem.
From secular history, we learn that Herod reigned from 37 B.C. until 4 A.D. He is know as a man who murdered members of his own family to ensure that he alone would be king.
- Identify the Characters
- In this story, several characters are mentioned:
|1. Herod||Roman ruler, deceitful, murderous|
|2. Wise Men||From the East, perhaps Babylon. Astronomers who were looking for the “King of the Jews.”|
|3. Chief priests and scribes||Learned religious rulers of Israel|
|4. Jesus||Described here as a young child.|
|5. Mary||The mother of Jesus|
|6. God||Used a dream to warn Joseph and Mary|
|7. Angel of the Lord||Gave Joseph instructions|
|8. Joseph||Earthly father of Jesus, taking care of his family in difficult times|
|9. Children of Bethlehem||All those two years old and under were killed.|
- Outline the Plot
- List the events of the story in order.
|1. Wise men from the East came to Jerusalem looking for the Kings of the Jews.|
|2. Herod demands the Jewish religious leaders to tell him where Christ would be born.|
|3. The religious leaders quote the Old Testament prophet Micah to tell Herod that Christ would be born in Bethlehem.|
|4. Herod deceptively talks with the wise men, instructing them to let him know Christ’s whereabouts.|
|5. The wise men travel to Bethlehem, find Jesus, and present Him gifts.|
|6. The wise men did not tell Herod where Christ was, and they returned home without going through Jerusalem.|
|7. Being warned by God, Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt for safety.|
|8. Matthew quotes the Old Testament prophet Hosea (11:1), showing the Christ was predicted to come out of Egypt.|
|9. Herod, in a rage, slew all the children of Bethlehem who were under two years of age.|
|10. Matthew quotes the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah (31:15), showing this event of Christ’s life was predicted.|
|11. An angel tells Joseph and Mary to leave Egypt, so they obeyed.|
|12. Joseph, fearful of Archelaus (Herod’s son) he went to Galilee.|
|13. Matthew demonstrates that even being a Nazarene was a fulfillment of prophecy.|
- Analyze the Conflict
- Every good story has some kind of conflict or tension, and the story keeps building until the tension reaches its high point. After that, the tension is resolved; and there is usually some closing information.
- The great conflict here is between a king on earth who was trying at all costs to hold on to his own power and the King of Kings who is the Author of all power.
- Determine the Purpose the Story
- The theme, or moral of the story, is the purpose of the story. Why has this story been told in the first place?
- Perhaps the purpose of this story is to demonstrate that no man, even a powerful king, can frustrate the will of God.
- What Does This Story Tell Me About Jesus?
- In this story, Jesus,
- Is the promised Messiah.
- His coming was known to non-Jews from the East.
- His existence causes great jealousy.
- Jesus draws a sharp distinction among people. Some worship Him. Some want to kill Him.
- What Does This Story Tell Me About the Other Characters?
- Is an example of a man who worships himself, but not God.
- Evil men think only of their needs.
- All their power and learning was under God’s authority.
- They obeyed God
- Joseph & Mary
- Needed God’s guidance to keep their family safe.