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Matthew 2:23

The Nazarene

23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.


The use of the word "Nazarene" might be the cleverest play on words in the Bible. It thus deserves some individual attention. For centuries scholars have debated what Matthew meant by the name "Nazarene", but some of the most intriguing theories include all of the others. We will take that same approach in today's devotion.

Mary was from Nazareth and Joseph probably was, also. It would have been the most natural place to which they would return. Jesus was to be called a "Nazarene" according to the prophets, and the word is very similar in the Greek to "Nazareth", just as it is in English. That Jesus hailed from Nazareth proved to be a stumbling block to the Jewish people, who were recorded as asking, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" This was one aspect of His humble beginnings in His role as Messiah, but it does not solve our problem, because we can find no prophecy with such a reference.

A second possible meaning of the word is "Nazarite" from the Hebrew word "nazir". This word is from the root "nezer" which means "separation, consecration, or crown." "Nazir" was used in respect to those who had separated, consecrated, themselves to the service of God (See Numbers 6:1-21).Could there be a better word to describe our Lord? No man had ever been consecrated to God's service as completely as Jesus Christ and no man in the flesh ever will be.

That the root of "nazir","nezer", is translated as "crown" or some other sort of headgear in the OT is also interesting. In Exodus 28:36-38 it is used to mean the engraved plate which the priest wore over his forehead. This plate was the sign of his consecration. Likewise the uncut hair of the Nazarite was his "crown", showing him to be consecrated to God. Several times the word is used to represent a royal crown.

Our Savior was consecrated to God and wore a "crown of thorns" as the sign of that consecration. He has ascended to heaven to sit on right side of the throne of His Father, where He awaits His second coming and the time when He will sit on the throne of David.These things however do not solve our translation problem, because there is no known prophecy that said the Messiah would be called a Nazarite.

There is another Hebrew word very similar to these, however, and Matthew might have had it in mind. The word "netser" means "branch, root, or sprout". Suddenly we begin to see some light in our quest for meaning! "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:" (Isaiah 11:1) He was called the "Branch" and thus the prophecy is fulfilled in the blood line of Jesse, the father of David, the ancestor of Jesus.

Because Matthew used the word in relation to the town of Nazareth and its similar sound, we can assume that it is a play on words that carries all of these meanings. Now the question is, "What is the practical application of this verse to me?"

Well, Christ is our example! Can you apply all of these terms to yourself. Are you humble as a person from Nazareth? Certainly someone must wonder if anything good can come from the sinful nature that you exhibited before your conversion. Are you a Nazarite in the sense that Christ was? What is the degree of your separation from the world and commitment to your God? Are you willing to wear your crown of thorns before receiving your crown of righteousness? Have you become a branch of the vine, abiding in Him and He in you?

Before The Throne:

Pray that God will mold you into the image of the One who was called a Nazarene. Ask Him to separate you from the world and to sanctify you for His purpose. Pray that God would help you remain humble, even as Jesus was humble and stood before His tormentors without uttering a sound. Ask Him for the faith and courage to earn your crown of thorns, if and when God requires it of you.

For Further Study:

(v.23)
** Nazareth. John 18:5, 7; John 19:19; Acts 2:22; ** He shall. Matt 26:71; Num 6:13; Judg 13:5; 1Sam 1:11; Ps 69:9-10; Isa 53:1-2; Amos 2:10-12; John 1:45-46; Acts 24:5;

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