Now after Herod had come to the end of his life, behold, an angel of Yahweh appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, Bible other translations

“after.” The phrase “after Herod had come to the end of his life” is a Greek construction known as a genitive absolute. Although there are no specific time words, a genitive absolute has a temporal sense, usually translated “while,” “when,” or “after.” Did the dream come “while,” “when,” or “after” Herod died? To say “after Herod died” is the most ambiguous translation (the dream could have come right after Herod died, or at some later point). To say “while” or “when” would mean the dream occurred simultaneously with Herod’s death, which most likely would not have been the case. Political and social tension always accompanied regime change in ancient times; would there be a peaceful transfer of power, or a coup d’état? We have translated the genitive absolute with “after,” to allow for the possibility of some time elapsing for Archelaus—who had already begun reigning when Joseph arrived in Israel (Matt. 2:22)—to stabilize control and for things to settle down after the transfer of power.

“had come to the end of his life.” The Greek is teleutaō (#5053 τελευτάω), which is related to the word telos (#5056 τέλος), “end,” and means to finish, bring to an end, come to an end, close. It was used by the Greeks as a euphemism for death. God could have used a common word for death here, such as apothneskō (#599 ἀποθνῄσκω), so the fact that he did not, but used the euphemism, should catch our attention. All of us will eventually, “come to the end,” so it behooves us to take our lives seriously because after our end will come Judgment Day. [For more on dead people being truly dead and not alive in any form or place, see Appendix 4, “The Dead are Dead”].

“behold” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20 (“Look”).

“Yahweh.” “Yahweh” is the personal name of God, and a rabbinic abbreviation for it appears in the Hebrew manuscript of Matthew as well as in the verses of the Old Testament that Matthew quoted. There is evidence that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew and used the name Yahweh, so we have put it in the REV (see commentary on Matthew 3:3).

“saying.” The verse division of the Nestle-Aland text includes this word at the beginning of Matt. 2:20. However, many translations put it here at the end of verse 19 (cp. NASB; NRSV; RSV; ASV). We felt the cleaner division was to include it in verse 19.

Commentary for: Matthew 2:19