As we have already seen, Matthew ties his story of Jesus together with Israel’s past in a variety of ways in his account of Jesus. Clearly in today’s passage, we can see that, but he does so throughout the first two chapters in which no fewer than five human decisions are the result of a dream, reminiscent of many stories of Israel’s past events (1:20; 2:12, 13, 19, 22). Four times in chapter 2 alone, Matthew concludes a scene by telling his readers that it is a fulfillment of prophecy (2:6, 15, 18, 23) giving his readers the clear impression that after a long period of silence, God is once again busy at work in the midst of His people. The two parts of this chapter give us therefore, a deeper look at the whole character of Jesus’ messianic role as well as His relationship with the Father.
As the first scene opens, Matthew sets time and place as “after” Jesus’ birth and in Bethlehem once again reinforcing Jesus as son of David. By mentioning that this scene takes place during the reign of Herod, Matthew is giving his Jewish readers a clue that there is about to be trouble. Herod, half Jew, had gained power in 40 BC through shrewd political moves that enabled him to gain favor with the Romans. However, he was never accepted as a legitimate king by the Jews, and as time went on, he had become more and more paranoid about threats not only to his person but to his throne. He was known for wild fits of rage and anger and making rash or violent decisions, so receiving news that a true Davidic king had recently been born in Bethlehem was bound to set him off.