An angel informs Joseph


of the death of Herod.

A. M. 4000. ation, and weeping, and great mourn

19 ¶ But when Herod was dead, be- A. M. 4001. ing, Rachel weeping for her children, || hold, an angel of the Lord appeareth and would not be comforted, because they are not. | in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,

of death, at a day appointed; on their arrival thither, || of others upon him," says, "When he heard that he shut them all up in the circus, and then, sending among those male infants about two years old, for Salome his sister, and Alexas her husband, com- which Herod the king of the Jews ordered to be manded them that, as soon as he was dead, they slain in Syria, one of his sons was also murdered, should send in the soldiers upon them, and put them he said, 'It is better to be Herod's hog than his all to the sword. For this,' said he, 'will provide || son. " The saying alludes to his professing Judamourning for my funeral all over the land, and make || ism, which forbade his killing swine, or eating their the Jews in every family lament my death, whether || flesh; therefore, his hog would have been safe where they will or not:' and when he had adjured them | his son lost his life. hereto, some hours after, he died. But they, not being wicked enough to do what they had been solemnly made to promise, rather chose to break their obligation, than to make themselves the executioners of so bloody and horrid a design."


Verse 19. When Herod was dead-His death, of which Josephus has given us a very affecting account, happened, according to some, within three or four months of his perpetrating the above-mentioned bloody act, and was a fearful instance of that Since Josephus, who has given us the history of vengeance which God, even in this world, sometimes Herod's transactions at large, has taken no notice || takes on his enemies, and those of his people. He of the slaughter of these children, some have been || died eaten with worms, at the age of seventy-one, ready to suspect his fidelity as an historian, or, || after a reign of forty years, having endured such which is worse, that of St. Matthew. But there is || excruciating, lingering, and loathsome diseases, as no need to do either. For surely it is not to be sup- || rendered him intolerable to himself and others also. posed, that an historian lessens his credibility as often as he relates the facts omitted by another; or passes over those recorded by another. For it is || hardly possible it should be otherwise, unless one should exactly copy from another. Besides, Josephus has so many instances exactly similar to this, and those so remarkable, that he might think it needless to add this. For, as Is. Vossius, a man by no means superstitious or credulous, has observed, after so many examples of Herod's cruelty at Jeru- || salem and through all Judea, after so many sons, so many wives, relations, and friends, cut off by a variety of torments, it does not seem to have been a great thing to have also put to death the infants of a town or village, with the territory belonging to it, the slaughter of which could not have been very || great in so small a place, especially since not all, || but only the male infants were destroyed, and of these only such as were under two years old. What Tacitus has observed, Anal. vi. 7, is very applicable || here: "I am not ignorant," says he, "that the dangers and punishments undergone by many have been omitted by most writers, either because they were tired of relating such a multitude of instances, or feared that the things which had been wearisome and disagreeable to them would be equally so to their readers."-Wetstein. Indeed, Josephus was not old enough to remember it himself, and if he did not find it in the Memoirs of Nicholas of Damascus, (that flattering historian, of whom we know he made great use in compiling the life of Herod,) || he might be unwilling to introduce it, even if he were particularly acquainted with it; lest the occasion might have led him to mention what, generally, at least, he is solicitous to decline-I mean, Christian affairs. It is sufficient that this cruelty of Herod is preserved in Macrobius, who, in a chapter "concerning the jests of Augustus upon others, and


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And his innate cruelty being thus exasperated, he became more barbarous than ever, and just before his death caused Antipater, his son and the heir apparent of his kingdom, to be executed on some groundless suspicion. God, it seems, made him, in a remarkable manner, a terror to himself and to all round about him. Eusebius, the ancient ecclesiastical historian, thought his death so great an illustration of the gospel history, that he has inserted it at large in his work. An angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt-Probably the same angel which had appeared to him before, and directed him to flee into Egypt, and abide there till he should bring him word again. That word is now brought him, and in obedience to it he returns with the child and his mother into the land of Israel. Let us, in like manner, remember, it is God's part to direct, and ours to obey. Nor can we be out of the way of safety and comfort while we are in the way of duty, following his directions, and steering our course by the intimations of his pleasure. For, the preservation of the holy child Jesus may be considered as a figure of God's care over his Church and people, in their greatest dangers. He doth not often, as he easily could, strike their persecutors with immediate destruction, but he provides a hiding place for his children, and by methods not less effectual, though less pompous, preserves them from being swept away even when the enemy comes in like a flood. Egypt, that was once the seat of persecution and oppression to the Israel of God, is now a refuge to his Son: and thus all places. will be to us what Divine Providence will be pleased to make them. When, like Joseph and Mary, we are cut off from the worship of his temple, and, perhaps, removed into a strange land, he can be a little sanctuary to us, and give us, in his gracious presence, a rich equivalent for all we have lost."-Doddridge


Joseph returns from Egypt,


and settles in Galilee.

A. M. 4001. 20 Saying, Arise, and take the || reign in Judea in the room of his father A. M. 4001 young child and his mother, and go Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notinto the land of Israel: for they are dead which || withstanding, being warned of God in a dream, sought the young child's life. he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:

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Verse 20. They are dead which sought the young child's life-It has been conjectured by some, that Antipater, the son of Herod, who died but five days before his father, might also be referred to in these words, They are dead, &c. At the time when Christ was born, he was heir apparent to the crown, and was a prince so cruel and ambitious, that he had procured the death of his two elder brothers, to clear his way to the succession, and no doubt he would be an active counsellor and instrument in seeking the destruction of the new-born Jesus, and in advising the slaughter of the infants.



9 Judges xiii. 5; 1 Samueli.11.

yet it made him ample amends for that inconvenience, by placing him and his under the peculiar care of a watchful Providence, ever attentive to his safety, and that of his little family; and by procuring him the favour of so many extraordinary visitations and supernatural discoveries of the divine will. This is no less than the fourth message sent him from the court of heaven since he became the husband of Mary!

Verse 23. He dwelt in a city called NazarethWhere he had formerly resided before he went to Bethlehem. Nazareth, as appears from Luke iv. Verses 21, 22. And he arose-Joseph obeyed the 29, was built upon a rock, not far from mount Tabor. angel, and, it appears, would gladly have gone to The country about it, according to Antoninus the Judea, probably to Bethlehem, because from his martyr, was like a paradise, abounding in wheat own knowledge of the prophecies, as well as from and fruits of all kinds. Wine, oil, and honey, of the decision of the scribes, an account of which the best kind, were produced there: but it was a he might have received from the magi, he fancied || place so very contemptible among the Jews, that it his son's education in Bethlehem was as necessary was grown into a proverb with them, That no good to his being acknowledged the Messiah, as his birth, || thing could be expected from thence; so that by which had been so providentially ordered to happen || Jesus's returning to Nazareth, and being brought up there. Nevertheless, when he heard that Arche- || and educated in it, a way was further opened by the laus did reign in Judea, he was afraid to go thither, providence of God, for the fulfilment of the many knowing the jealous and cruel disposition of that Scriptures which foretold that he should appear in prince. Archelaus was the sixth son of Herod, and mean and despicable circumstances, and be set up the most cruel of all those that survived him. His as a mark of public contempt and reproach. This father appointed him his successor, with regal au- seems to be the most probable solution of this difficult thority, but Augustus gave him only the title of text. He shall be called a Nazarene-That is, he ethnarch, or ruler of the nation, annexing to his shall be reputed vile and abject, and shall be degovernment Samaria and Idumæa. In the very be- spised and rejected of men, an event which many of ginning of his reign, he massacred 3,000 Jews at the prophets had particularly foretold. And it is to once in the temple, and was afterward, viz., in the be observed, that St. Matthew does not cite any tenth year of his government, banished by Augustus || particular prophet for these words, as he had done to Vienna in Gaul, on a complaint brought against before, ch. i. 22; and here, verses 15, 17, and in other him by the chief of the Jews, for his various cruel- places, but only says, this was spoken by the proties. Joseph, therefore, might well be afraid to|| phets, viz., in general, whereby, as Jerome observes, settle in a country that was under the government || he shows that he took not the words from the proof such a cruel tyrant. Being warned of God in a || phets, but only the sense. See Psa. lxix. 9, 10; Isa. dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee—|| liii. 3. Now it is certain the Nazarene was a term which was under the government of Herod Antipas, || of contempt and infamy put upon Christ, both by (see note on verse 2,) a prince of a milder character || the unbelieving Jews and Gentiles, and that because than Archelaus, and then on such hostile terms he was supposed to come out of this very city. with him, that there was no danger of his giving || There was, among the Jews, a celebrated thief, up Joseph and Mary into his power. Add to this, || called Ben-Nezer, and in allusion to him, they gave that, being intent upon building the cities of Julias the name to Christ. His very going to dwell at and Tiberias, he endeavoured, by promises and im- || Nazareth, was an occasion of his being despised and munities, as well as by a mild government, to allure || rejected by the Jews. Thus, when Philip said to strangers to come and settle there. We may ob- Nathanael, We have found Jesus of Nazareth, of serve here, that although Joseph's near relation to|| whom Moses spake, Nathanael answered, Can any Jesus exposed him to many difficulties and dangers, good thing come out of Nazareth? And when Nisuch as he had been a stranger to till it commenced, codemus seemed to favour him, the rest of the coun

John the Baptist preaches


in the wilderness of Judea.

cil said to him, Search and look, for out of Galilee || extant, but are now lost, or to some writings not ariseth no prophet. Here then we have a plain || put into the Sacred Canon, or to some paraphrases sense of these words. He was sent to this con- || upon the writings. As to the interpretations which temptible place that he might there have a name of refer this to Christ's being called Netzer, the Branch, infamy and contempt put upon him, according to || Isa. xi. 1; Jer. xxiii. 5; or Nazir, one Separated, the frequent intimations of the prophets. If, after or, the Holy One, they all fail in this, that they all, this interpretation is not acquiesced in, we may, give no account how this was fulfilled by Christ's with many of the ancient Christians, particularly living at Nazareth, he being as much the Branch, Chrysostom, suppose, that the evangelist may refer the Holy One, when he was born at Bethlehem, to some writings of the prophets, which were then || and before he went to Nazareth, as after


This chapter exhibits, (1,) The life and doctrine of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ; his baptizing multitudes, and solemn calling to them to repent and receive the Messiah, who was about to be manifested, 1-12. (2,) The baptism of Jesus by John at Jordan, and the solemn attestation of his person by the Holy Ghost and the Father, 13–17.


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A.M.4030. TN those days came John the Baptist, || 2 And saying, Repent ye: for the A. M. 4030 preaching in the wilderness of Judea, kingdom of heaven is at hand.

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a Mark i. 4, 15; Luke iii. 2, 3; John i. 28.


b Josh. xiv. 10.—— Dan. ii. 44; Chap. iv. 17; x. 7. on him, and consecrated him to his prophetic office. Verse 1. In those days--That is, in those years. Preaching-The original word, knpuσowv, means For, as these events happened near thirty years proclaiming, or crying aloud. It is properly used after those recorded in the former chapter, this of those who make proclamation in the streets or phrase is to be taken, in a very extensive sense, camps, or who lift up their voice in the open air, for that age of which he had spoken in the pre- || and declare the things which are to be promulgated ceding words. And it is here used with the greater by public or royal authority, and which they have propriety, because John did indeed appear in his in charge from another. In the wilderness of Judea public character while Christ continued to dwell at-That is, in the uncultivated and thinly-inhabited Nazareth, which was the event that Matthew had parts of Judea, where, it seems, his father Zachalast mentioned. Christ was now about thirty years rias lived, Luke i. 39, 40. For we are not to supof age, before which time of life no priest, teacher, pose that John shunned the society of men, as those or prophet was allowed to perform his office, as the afterward did, who, on that account, were called Hebrews tell us, and as may be collected from the hermits; but he had been brought up and had alScripture, 1 Chron. xxiii. 3. Hence we learn that ways lived in the country, and not in the city, and great preparation is necessary for sacred offices. had had a plain country education, and not an acaThe evangelists, therefore, pass over almost in en- demical or courtly one, at Jerusalem. We must tire silence our Saviour's minority, only mentioning || observe, that the term wilderness, among the Jews, his disputing with the doctors in the temple, Luke did not signify a place wholly void of inhabitants, ii. 46. And yet it is probable many other remark-but a place in which they were fewer, and their able things happened during that period, which, if || habitations more dispersed, than in villages and they had been recorded, we should have read with cities. Hence we read of six cities with their vilpleasure and profit. But as the Holy Ghost has lages, in the wilderness, Jos. xv. 61, 62; that Nabal not been pleased to favour us in this respect, let us dwelt in the wilderness of Paran, 1 Sam. xxv. 1, 2; be thankful for, and duly improve, what is made || and Joab had his house in the wilderness, 1 Kings known to us. Came John-The son of Zacharias ii. 34. John began his preaching in the desert, in and Elizabeth, who had lived for several years re- which he had been brought up, Luke i. 80, as Jesus, tired in the wilderness of Judea: the Baptist-So || in like manner, began his in Galilee, Acts x. 37. called, either because he was the first who, by God's | There was, however, this difference between them, command, baptized penitents, or because by him that Christ preached in Galilee, a country the most God instituted the ordinance of baptism. For, ad- populous of any in that neighbourhood, but John mitting that the Jews received proselytes by bap-in the desert, that is, in a place but thinly inhabited, tism, yet he baptized Jews themselves, and from and little cultivated. The former of which was his time the ordinance of baptism must be dated. suitable to the benignity of our Saviour, and the Before Christ's entering upon the first part of latter to the austerity of his forerunner. Lastly, his work, that of declaring the will of God, was John, who had begun to preach in Judea, is imprisrecorded, it was necessary that the office of John oned and put to death in the dominions of Herod; should be spoken of, because he was his har- Christ, on the other hand, who entered upon his binger, or forerunner, and proclaimed his com- ministry in the tetrarchy of Herod, is crucified at ing beforehand; and because, at the time of John's || Jerusalem, in Judea. baptizing Jesus, the Holy Ghost visibly descended

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Verse 2. Repent ye, &c.—Be sorry for your sins,

John, the forerunner of Christ,

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3 For this is he that was spoken of || ye the way of the Lord, make his A. M. 4030. by the Prophet Esaias, saying, "The paths straight. voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare


d Isa. xl. 3; Mark i. 3; Luke iii. 4; John i. 23.———— Luke i. 76.


4 And f the same John had his raiment of

f Mark i. 6.—————5 2 Kings i. 8; Zech. xiii. 4.

and amend your lives; for the original word, || tist, then, and Christ took up this phrase, and used μɛtavoɛɩtɛ, here used, implies this. It properly sig- it as they found it, and gradually taught the Jews nifies, says Beza, to be wise after the action, and to affix right ideas to it, though it was a lesson so to grieve for a fault committed as to amend it, which that worldly people were remarkably unwhich, in Latin, is properly expressed by resipis- willing to learn. This very demand of repentance || cere. In this respect it differs from another Greek || showed that it was a spiritual kingdom which was word, which the evangelists sometimes use, viz., μɛ- spoken of; and that no wicked man, how politic or Taμɛλoμaι, which simply signifies to be distressed, and brave, how learned and renowned soever, could anxious after any thing done, but does not neces- possibly be a genuine subject of it. As the term sarily imply any change of mind, or reformation kingdom implies the dominion of a king over his of life. Therefore Matthew uses the latter word subjects, so the kingdom of God, or heaven, is of Judas, the traitor, ch. xxvii. 3, but not the former. || God's reigning in and over his rational creatures, Thus Christ and his apostles began their preaching, whether angels or men; and, as to the latter, confirming John's doctrine. John taught other whether on earth or in heaven, that is, whether of things also, but this he began with, and this was the church militant or the church triumphant. The the main scope of his preaching. He did not give expression properly signifies the gospel dispensathem any new precepts of life, but charged them || tion, in and by which subjects were to be gathered with breaking the law they had already, and called to God by his Son, and a society formed, which was upon them to be sensible of it, sorry for it, and to to subsist first in more imperfect circumstances on reform their conduct: to lay aside the false opinions earth, and afterward in complete perfection and they had imbibed, whether from the Pharisees or felicity in the world of glory. In some places of Sadducees; to acknowledge, condemn, and lament|| Scripture the phrase more particularly signifies the the faults they had committed, and to turn from all || former, and denotes the state of Christ's kingdom error and all sin, to true faith in, and piety toward, || on earth, as Matt. xiii., especially ver. 41, 47; Matt. God. He that so deplores some sins as to commit|| xx. 1; and sometimes it signifies only that most others, or to repeat the commission of those he de- || blessed state of things which shall take place after plores, either counterfeits, or is ignorant of repent- || the resurrection, when God will be all in all. See Repentance is, as Jerome speaks, secunda 1 Cor. vi. 9; and xv. 50. But it generally includes post naufragium tabula-a lucky plank after a ship-| both; and what is closely connected therewith, wreck. The first degree of happiness is, not to sin; God's subduing, or executing judgment upon his the second, to know our sins, and repent of them. and his people's enemies. For God's regal power For repentance not only implies sorrow for sin, is exercised in delivering, assisting, defending, and or sincerely wishing it undone, but a change of rewarding all his faithful subjects, and in warning, mind, and reformation of life. The kingdom of punishing, and destroying his obdurate enemies. heaven is at hand-As if he had said, God is about || This latter particular, namely, the punishing and to appear in an extraordinary manner, to erect that || destroying his enemies, seems, at least, to be partly kingdom spoken of by Daniel, (ch. ii. 44; and vii.|| meant in this passage, as appears by the context. 13, 14,) as the kingdom of the God of heaven, which he would set up, and give to the Son of man, making it finally victorious over all other kingdoms. This phrase, the kingdom of heaven, is used thirty times by St. Matthew. The other evangelists, and St. Paul, term it generally, the kingdom of God, and sometimes, the kingdom of Christ. These different phrases mean the same thing, and were in familiar use among the Jews, as plainly appears from divers passages of the gospels. They seem to have borrowed them from the above-mentioned passages in the book of Daniel, which they wholly misunderstood and misinterpreted, inferring || from them that God would erect a temporal kingdom || the seat of which would be at Jerusalem, which would become, instead of Rome, the capital of the world. The expected sovereign of this kingdom, they learned, from Daniel, to call the Son of man, by which title they understood the promised Messiah, || or the Anointed One of God. Both John the Bap

For, to enforce his doctrine of repentance, he warns them of approaching wrath that would speedily come upon the impenitent, verses 7 and 10, the executing of which wrath, first upon the unbelieving Jews, and then upon the persecuting Gentiles, is || elsewhere represented as the coming of the Son of man in his kingdom.

Verse 3. For this is he, &c.—These may be the words of John himself, (comp. John i. 22, 23,) but it is more likely that they are the words of the evangelists; spoken of by the Prophet Esaias, saying, The voice, &c.-Isaiah, in the passage referred to, ch. xl. 3, &c., is to be understood as speaking first, though not principally, concerning the Jews returning from the Babylonish captivity, as appears from the preceding chapter. As, however, the prophet intended, under the emblem of that deliverance of God's people, to shadow out a redemption of an infinitely higher and more important nature, the evangelists, with the greatest pro

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of John the Baptist

priety, apply his words to the opening of the || sensual, and devilish disposition had taken possesgospel dispensation by the preaching of John, and || sion of their minds and hearts, even the whole spirit to the introduction of the kingdom of the Messiah, || of the world, and obstructed the entrance of Christ's who was to effect a much greater deliverance of the || spiritual kingdom into them and among them. It people of God, Gentiles as well as Jews, from the was necessary, therefore, that these hinderances captivity of sin, and the power of death. And the should be removed out of the way, that they might same thing may be affirmed concerning many other become the true people and followers of the Messiah. passages of the prophets. See notes on Isa. xl. 3, 4. Verse 4. And the same John-The following deThis expression, The voice of one crying, is as scription of John is added, that it might appear he much as to say, A herald is at hand proclaiming. || did not live in obscurity, but was sufficiently known The word crying, implies that John's testimony to all: had his raiment of camel's hair-Not, as concerning Christ was uttered, not secretly, negli- some have supposed, a camel's skin, raw and ungently, or doubtfully, but openly and publicly, || dressed, but a kind of sackcloth, coarse and rough, freely, expressly, and resolutely, with a fervent || made of the raw long hair of camels, and not of spirit, and an audible, or strong voice. In the wil- || their fine and soft hair, dressed and spun into thread. derness-These words are generally considered as The difference between these two is as great as that connected with the preceding, so as to signify that between flax rude or unprepared, and the same John preached in the wilderness of Judea; and dressed or spun; or between that which we now some interpret the expression figuratively as well call hair cloth, made of undressed hair, and camlet, as literally, and by the wilderness of Judea, under- that is made of it when it is softened, and spun, and stand the desert state of the Jewish Church at that prepared; in imitation of which, though made of time, destitute of religious culture, and the trees wool, is the English camlet. Elijah seems to have and fruits of righteousness. But Bishop Lowth con- wore a similar garment, and therefore was called nects Isaiah's words with the following clause, and a hairy man; which expression is supposed to translates them, A voice crieth: In the wilderness || refer to his clothing rather than his body. Most of prepare ye the way of Jehovah, which he thus in- the ancient prophets wore such garments, whence terprets: "The prophet hears a crier giving orders, || we read of the false prophets putting on a rough by solemn proclamation, to prepare the way of the garment to deceive, Zech. xiii. 4; and of the witLord in the wilderness; to remove all obstructions nesses prophesying in sackcloth, Rev. vi. 12; and before Jehovah marching through the desert; xi. 3. And a leathern girdle about his loins-In through the wild, uninhabited, and unpassable coun- || this respect, also, being like Elijah, in whose spirit try;" the idea, he thinks, "being taken from the || and power he came, Mal. iv. 5; Luke i. 17. Herepractice of the eastern monarchs, who, whenever|| by, as also by his spare diet, he gave an example of they entered upon an expedition, or took a journey,|| repentance, and of his expectation of a heavenly especially through desert countries, sent harbingers kingdom. And his meat was locusts-The insects before them to prepare all things for their passage, || called locusts are undoubtedly intended, a kind of and pioneers to open the passes, to level the ways, large-winged grasshoppers. See Rev. ix. 3, 7, 9. and to remove all impediments." Thus John the|| It is true, according to Sandys (Trav. p. 183) and Baptist, the harbinger of Christ, who was God manifest in the flesh, is sent to prepare his way be- || fore him, by calling the people to repentance and to faith in him, their great Redeemer and Saviour. || Make his paths straight-The paths of our God. Remove all obstructions out of his way, particu- || larly all sin and unbelief, all carnal desires and worldly views, affections, and expectations, that your Saviour and your King may have a ready passage, and free access to your hearts, and may there erect his spiritual kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in, and by, the Holy Ghost; and may rule your lives, your whole conversation and conduct by his righteous and holy laws. Though this could only be done by divine grace, and it is grace which prepares for further grace, yet as man must concur with God, and be a worker together with him, John with propriety calls on the people thus to prepare the Lord's way, that his grace might not be received in vain. The words imply that they were unprepared for receiving the Messiah and his salvation, which indeed they were in every sense, being neither in a fit disposition to relish, or even understand, his doctrine, to be convinced by his miracles, receive his Spirit, follow his example, rely on his mediation, or become his subjects. An earthly,


many others, it appears there is, in these parts, a shrub termed the locust tree, the buds of which resemble asparagus; yet it is not probable that this is here meant, nor the wild fruits of any trees, nor the tops of herbs and plants, as some, both ancients and moderns, have supposed; because the original word here used, in the LXX. and elsewhere, generally signifies the animal which we call a locust, which it is certain the law allowed the Jews to eat, and which, Pliny assures us, made a considerable part of the food of the Parthians and Ethiopians. Dr. Shaw tells us that when sprinkled with salt and fried they taste much like the river cray-fish. See his excellent Travels, p. 258. And wild honeySuch as, in those parts, was often found in hollow trees, or in the clefts of the rocks, 1 Sam. xiv. 26; Judg. xiv. 8; Psa. lxxxi. 16. John used such a diet and such clothing as was cheap and easily obtained. He drank no wine, and frequently fasted, not through poverty, for he was the only son of a priest, but of his own free-will, as well that his severe and mortified manner of life might correspond with his doctrine, which enjoined frequent fasting to his disciples, as that in this way he might fortify both his body and mind, and prepare himself to undergo dangers, imprisonment, and death undauntedly. As

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