And when he had gathered all the chief priests
Here we have an account of Herod's conduct at this juncture; he calls a council, assembles the sanhedrim, gathers together the more learned persons in the city to consult with them upon this matter,
the chief priests,
all of which he gathered together, and which seem to be many; and were not only the then present high priest and his substitutes, but all the principal persons of the priesthood, who were chosen from the rest, into the great sanhedrim, or council: and by
the scribes of the people
are meant a sort of letter learned men, whose business it was to keep and write out copies of the law, and other things, for "the people"; they were the fathers of the traditions, and interpreters of the law to them; and therefore are called "the scribes of the people": as well also, because they were chosen from among the people, from any other tribe, and not from the tribe of Levi, from whom the priests were; so that one seems to design the "clergy", and the other the laity, in this assembly. The Septuagint render (Myrjwv) "the officers of the people", by this same word the scribes, and scribes of the people, in ( Numbers 11:16 ) ( Deuteronomy 20:5 Deuteronomy 20:8 Deuteronomy 20:9 ) ( Joshua 1:10 ) ( 3:2 ) ( 8:33 ) ( 23:2 ) ( 24:1 ) . The learned Dr. Lightfoot F24 conjectures, that the persons of note, who were present at this time, were Hillell the president of the council, Shammai the vice president, the sons of Betira, Judah and Joshua, Bava ben Buta, Jonathan ben Uzziel, the Chaldee paraphrast, and Simeon the son of Hillell.
He demanded of them,
or asked them with authority, as the chief captain did, ( Acts 21:33 ) "where Christ", (o cristov) , the Christ, the Messiah
should be born?
that is, where was the place of his birth as fixed in their prophecies, where, accordingly, they believed and expected he would be born. Herod's pretence, no doubt, in putting this question was, that he might be able to satisfy the wise men of the East about this matter; though the true reason within himself was, that he might know where this new born king was, in order to destroy him.