Matthew 2:3 states

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

It is understandable why Herod was troubled, considering that if the baby was the Jewish Messiah he might over throw him. I believe, that at the time the Jews believed that the Messiah would overthrow the Romans.

What is confusing though, is why would all of Jerusalem be troubled? Wouldn't they be excited or happy that a redeeming Messiah was born?

  • 3
    This is an interesting question; the signs of Jesus's birth(The Star of Bethlehem, angelic hosts singing) as well as the visitation from the Magi must have hade a profound effect on the populace. It is important to understand the historical context, which tells us why Herod and the Chief Priests and Scribes were so opposed to His arrival.
    – Tau
    Apr 28 '15 at 3:45
  • @Tau, I tried to answer, addressing the issue of "context", you raised. I hope I addressed it okay, but I am certain others can shed more light. In any event, I think your point about the specific circumstances/context is at the heart of the matter. Apr 29 '15 at 18:13

Restatement: What is the significance of "troubled" in Matthew 2:3, and why wouldn't "all Jerusalem" rejoice, rather than be "troubled" at the birth of the Messiah?

Answer - The Context Indicates that "All Jerusalem" is a Figure of Speech

  1. In all likelihood, "All Jerusalem" was probably a reference to the leadership in Israel, as Jerusalem was the seat of authority.
  2. Especially since the text explicitly states that some people were actually hoping for the Messiah, (not troubled), (i.e. Simeon and Anna).
  3. The advent of the Messiah would not have gone over well with these leaders.
  4. From prophecy, it is clear that the "Messiah" was intended to be the Righteous, (Just), King of Israel--which bears with it a great amount of responsibility--but most relevantly: to bring judgment.

Scriptural Texts - The Portrayal of the "Messiah" is Troubling

Luke 2:34-25, NASB: And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

John 11:45, NASB: If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

Matt. 10:34, NASB: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Matt. 2:17-18, NASB: Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, Weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; And she refused to be comforted, Because they were no more.”

John 3:20, NASB: For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

Historical Context

  1. A Contest of Kings: It is important to note that Herod the Great was "Jewish", of the Herodian Dynasty, (with a weak claim to the throne), and the implications of the prophecies being fulfilled--in his time--were significant, especially if he had to contend with who was believed to become /the/ rightful king.
  2. Political Feuds & Temporary Unification: Ironically, despite the intense political feuds between the Pharisees, and the Sadducees, (which was hundreds of years old), and their mutual Opposition to Herod the Great -- Christian texts portray that they all united in order to preserve their authority. ,;

Idiomatic Language

"All" is used frequently in Scripture, even though some "limited group" is clearly indicated within the context.

This is usually a figure of speech--"All" is at least an "Exaggeration", if not "Hyperbole"--because it was not only improbable--but also impossible.

2 Kings 24:14, NASB: Then he led away into exile all Jerusalem and all the captains and all the mighty men of valor, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None remained except the poorest people of the land.

Acts 21:30-31, NASB: Then all the city was provoked, [Certainly not the Romans, nor the Christian Jews], and the people rushed together, and taking hold of Paul they dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. 31 While they were seeking to kill him, a report came up to the commander of the Roman cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion.

Acts 24:5, NASB: For we have found this man a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.

The "Jews": The New Testament often uses general terms to distinguish specific groups of people, For example, "The Jews" is used to mean those of the Pharisees, (sometimes even distinct from the Sadducees), as opposed to the entire "Hebrew" populace/race.

Mark 7:3, NASB: For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders, [Not the Sadducees, who rejected the Claim of an "Oral Law"];

John 5:16, NASB: For this reason the Jews, [But not the Jewish followers of Jesus] were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.

Greek Translations - Certainly Denote "Troubling / Disturbing"

There is no question, at all, that "troubled," is an appropriate translation of this word in Greek, (ἐταράχθη).

Every place in the New Testament this term "troubled" is mentioned, the same sense is implied :

John 13:21, NASB: When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me."

Luke 1:12, NASB: Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him.

Matt 14:26, KJV: And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.

Mark 6:50, KJV: For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.

  • 1
    Yes, it is a fair assessment. "The Jewish" leadership, distinct from the rest of the whole Israeli/Palestinian population is accurate. Many were awaiting the consolation of Israel,(Simeon and Anna) vs the Herodian kings(those that Rome allowed after the Hasmoneans were deposed in 62BC) which created jealousy with the Hasmonean priesthood. Also, Herod was an Edomite-(his wife was Jewish), and he was trying to curry favor with the Jews(building them a Temple helped) yet remain a "vassal/king" which meant exacting taxes for Rome-which was anathema to the Pharisee/Zealots..
    – Tau
    Apr 29 '15 at 18:45
  • 2
    You will notice in John 11:48,"If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation". The Romans were ruthless in quelling insurrection, furthermore anyone having anything to do with it would be deposed. After the Quirinian taxation and revolt, a Roman prefect was appointed-Pilate was one in a succession of them. The Herodian Dynasty ruled, yet the 'procurator' could summons the Roman legions, making any attempt to rule meaningless. Therefore it was 'necessary' to 'keep the status quo' .
    – Tau
    Apr 29 '15 at 19:32
  • Fascinating. If referring the the Jewish leadership, It makes perfect sense then that they would be troubled. Thank you so much! Apr 29 '15 at 19:36
  • @ThaddeusB Thanks! I updated to incorporate your comment. Also, I inserted the citations/references that should have been present. Nov 19 '15 at 6:29
  • @elikakohen (+1) Thanks for the edit.
    – ThaddeusB
    Nov 19 '15 at 16:44

Both King Herod and Jerusalem were troubled at the birth of the King of Jews, but each for different reasons.

For King Herod, a man “of no more than a vulgar family, and of no eminent extraction,”1 who offered Marcus Antonius money to make him king,2 the birth of a Jewish king of noble descent (i.e., of the house of David) signaled “that he might be deprived of the government.”3 Josephus described Herod as “a violent and bold man, very desirous of acting tyranically,”4 of a “vehement temper,”5 so much so that “when Herod had received the kingdom, he slew all the members of this sanhedrin.”6

Before he became king, the Jews “fought against Herod with great alacrity and zeal, for the whole nation was gathered together.”7 While he was king, “by no torments could they be forced to call him king”8 on account “of their hatred to Herod.”9

In summary, Herod was troubled because he feared being deposed. The Jews (Jerusalem) were troubled because they feared Herod’s reaction, for he “never left off avenging and punishing every day those that had chosen to be of the party of his enemies.”10


        1 Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 14, Chapter 16, Section 4, §491
        2 id., Book 14, Chapter 14, Section 4, §382
        3 id., Book 15, Chapter 2, Section 7, §32
        4 id., Book 14, Chapter 9, Section 3, §165
        5 id., Book 14, Chapter 9, Section 5, §181
        6 id., Book 14, Chapter 9, Section 4, §175
        7 id., Book 14, Chapter 16, Section 2, §470
        8 id., Book 15, Chapter 1, Section 2, §9
        9 id., Book 15, Chapter 1, Section 2, §8
        10 id., Book 15, Chapter 1, Section 1, §2


Flavius Josephus. Flavii Iosephi Opera. Ed. Niese, Jürgen Anton Benedikt. Vol. 3. Berlin: Weidmann, 1892.

Flavius Josephus. The Complete Works of Flavius-Josephus the Celebrated Jewish Historian. Trans. Whiston, William. Chicago: Thompson, 1901.


Well i think it points to the 70 weeks of Daniel. Last chance for the nation of Israel as a royal priesthood. It states clearly that at the end of these 70 weeks messiah shall come.

70 weeks have been determined to thy people.... to finish sin etc. God is declaring that if you don't stand up to your part of the deal you will be removed. Remember Herod called the Sanhedrin to find out what they knew about this King.

And they were worried because if this prophecy was true and being fulfilled then that would also bring the nation to an end. The part specifically mentions the desolation of Jerusalem which later took place in 70AD. They are worried because they are losing their power( ever wondered why the Sanhedrin didn't like Jesus?). They could see their influence (seat of Moses) vanishing.

Now compare with this, Jesus says; " they shall see the sign of the Son of Man in the sky and all the tribes on earth shall mourn" Why are people mourning? They knew the prophecies but rather like we all procrastinate, hoping it will not occur in our time but rather in a future generation. Cause we know the 2nd coming brings the end of this age/era. The end of all things as we know them. That's troubling for most of us who sit on the fence. We have an understanding of the prophecies yet we linger not letting go of the old man and also hoping by some chance that this prophecy will not be fulfilled.

This is why people will run to the mountains and say "hide us from the wrath of The One to come".


Cross-referencing this with John 3:16-20, which speaks of generally the same thing, I believe they were troubled because of their iniquity. The wise men were unexpected, external witnesses to the words of the prophets. If the prophets were right about the Savior, they were correct about obeying God's commandments, repentance, and the consequences of sin.

Christ's first and second coming are likely similar in that regard. We know not even the majority of His people will be prepared for the latter (Matthew 25:1-13). Those who are unprepared will fear. Given that His nation, generally speaking, crucified Him, they were not likely excited to hear strangers talking about their promised Messiah, thus confirming their condemnation.

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