Previous Verse Next Verse


When he heard that ARCHELAUS

Go to footnote number

reigned over JUDEA

in place of

his father HEROD, he was afraid to go there.

Go to footnote number

After being instructed by God in a dream, he withdrew to the district of GALILEE.

Go to footnote number


But when he heard that THE RULER OF PEOPLE was ruling over THE LAND OF THOSE HOT-HEADED, TROUBLESOME JEWS in place of his father, THE SELF-PROCLAIMED HERO, he was afraid to go there.

After being instructed by God in a

dream, he withdrew to



1: The name Archelaus

Here was a man who, according to the meaning of his name, was born to be a king, for his name means “ruler of people.” He was the son of a king, he was expected to inherit a kingship and he did. But all that pales compared to this other child who was born to be a “king” of another kind. Archelaus made a negligible mark on human history, and is known only as another king that held that position for a short period of time. Nothing about his reign or even his existence is noteworthy. In fact, most people would not even know his name if it weren’t for this other baby who was also born to reign. In contrast the impact of Jesus has been immeasurable, and His reign will last forever.

2: “afraid to go there”

The territory over which Herod the great ruled was divided upon his death into four sections and given to three of his sons and one of his daughters. Of these four, only two of them have relevance to our story; Herod Archelaus was made ruler over Judea, and Herod Antipas was given control over Galilee. When Joseph heard this news he was afraid to return to Judea, and chose rather to return to the place where he and Mary had suffered much ridicule. I think he was afraid to return to Judea because Archelaus had been given authority to rule alongside his father (we call that coregency). That would imply that Archelaus was his father’s favorite, and that his style of leadership resembled that of his father more closely than that of his siblings.

3: “Galilee”

When it came to perils caused by man, there was no safe place to go. However, Joseph felt better being surrounded by pagans than being close to a jealous and unpredictable ruler who wielded the power of the sword. Herod was gone, but it was quite possible that his son, Archelaus, shared his father’s sensitivity about any possible threat to his throne. Joseph was wise to be concerned and consider moving back to Nazareth. Then the angel came in answer to his prayer or as a confirmation of what he had already decided to do.