Was the Son of David expected to bring mercy?

Matthew, Mark, and Luke record blind men calling out to Jesus. For example (NET):

27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, shouting, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” (Matthew 9:27 similar 20:29-31 Mark 10:46-48, Luke 18:35-39)

In each case the blind see and call upon Jesus as the Son of David. While they eventually ask for and receive their sight, their immediate request is for mercy.

What is the reason the blind are seeking mercy specifically from the Son of David? Is there a Scriptural basis for looking to the Son of David as bringing mercy?

Was there an astronomical origin of the Star of Bethlehem in Matthew 2?

In Matthew 2:1-12, there are mentions of the Star of Bethlehem, specifically

Matthew 2:2

and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Matthew 2:7

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.

Also, is the subject of many Christmas carols, including We Three Kings of Orient Are.

My question is, is there evidence to suggest an astronomical origin of the Star of Bethlehem?

What were the wise men?

Matthew 2 recounts the visit of the wise men to the nativity:

2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in the time of King Herod, wise men 4 from the East came to Jerusalem 2 saying, “Where is the one who is born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

As they brought three gifts, western tradition numbers them at three (though some Eastern traditions, especially Syriac, count twelve).

The only indication of origin in the text is that they came from the East. Tradition holds they were kings. Matthew calls them μάγοι. This is often translated as “wise men” or transliterated as “magi.” The notes from the NET Bible state, “The Greek term magi here describes a class of wise men and priests who were astrologers (L&N 32.40).” What does it mean that they were “wise men”? Was this an official title in the Eastern realms or more of an honorific? What more has been learned of such “priests and astrologers”?

Is “son of Barachiah” a scribal addition in Matthew 23:35?

The apparently confused identification of “Zechariah the son of Barachiah” in Matthew 23:35 is well known.*

Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah (Ζαχαρίου υἱοῦ Βαραχίου), whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. (Matt 23:34-35, ESV)

(Mention of his paternity is omitted from the parallel account in Luke.) I noticed that the ESV has a text-critical footnote, “Some manuscripts omit the son of Barachiah.” It would obviously be a big deal if there were indeed a substantial possibility that the phrase was a scribal addition. The UBS4 apparatus does not even include a variant here. The NA28 does: ⸋ ℵ* — indicating that the original Codex Sinaiticus omits the phrase. Given the complete lack of mention in UBS apparatus, I’m guessing this is not a plausible reading (ESV’s choice to footnote notwithstanding), although Sinaiticus is obviously not trivial.

  • Is there a substantial possibility that this reading (omitting υἱοῦ Βαραχίου) is original?

  • If it is not original, is there a good explanation for why Sinaiticus omitted it? In particular, was there early recognition of this text as problematic?

  • Given the weight normally afforded to Sinaiticus (although I don’t know about the text of Matthew in particular), is there an evident reason why this variant seemed to the UBS editors so improbable as to not warrant inclusion in the apparatus?

*Somehow I can’t seem to find a question here about this. The basic problem is that Zechariah son of Barachiah most naturally refers to the 6th C. prophet (Zech 1:1) (LXX: Ζαχαριας ὁ τοῦ Βαραχιου; MT is vocalized Berekyah), but he was not, as far as tradition knows, murdered in the temple. The Zechariah of 2 Chr 24:20 was murdered in the temple, but he is called Αζαριας (Azarias) in the LXX, and the name of his father recorded by the Chronicler was Jehoiada (Ιωδαε). The relative merits of the various available solutions may be relevant for answers to this question.

Does being "least in the kingdom" signify hell in Matt 5:19?

(NET) Matt 5:19 So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands
and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of
heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be
called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

There are some commentators who says it signifies exclusion from the kingdom of heaven, ie. hell; whereas some argue that they remain in kingdom as least, meaning they remain saved in heaven. Which one is accurate? Is Christ giving a provision for small sins here or giving no provision at all?

For example, Daniel Whedon commentary:

Many of the best commentators understand this as signifying that he
shall be excluded. Yet such, surely, is not its exact meaning. Clearly
to be least IN the kingdom of heaven is far less than shall in no
case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Heinrich Meyer’s Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament mentions:

He is not to be excluded (as Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Calovius,
Wolf, Bengel, and others have misinterpreted the meaning of ἐλάχ.
κληθ.), because his antinomianism is not a principle, not directed
against the law as such, but only against individual precepts of the
law, which in themselves are small, and whose importance as a whole he
does not recognise

Johann Albrecht Bengel’s Gnomon of the New Testament

Mat 5:19. Αύσῃ, shall break) The antithetical word to this is
ποιήσῃ, shall do, which occurs further on in this verse. The Scribes,
who thought themselves “great,” were in the habit of breaking them.
The same verb, λύω, occurs in Joh 7:23; Joh 10:35.—τούτων, of these)
those, namely, which follow in Mat 5:22; Mat 5:28, etc.—τῶν ἐλαχίστων,
of the least) These precepts, “Thou shalt not kill,” etc., are not
essentially the least, for in them the whole law is contained. But
they are so only inasmuch as, when rightly explained, they regulate
even the most subtile affections and emotions of the soul, and the
slightest movements of the tongue, and thus, when compared with other
precepts, appear to men to be the least.—ἐλάχιστος, least) Referring
to the preceding ἐλαχίστων. An instance of Ploce.[191] As we treat the
Word of God, so does God treat us; see Joh 17:6; Joh 17:11; Rev 3:10.
“A little” signifies “almost nothing,” whence “the least” comes to
mean “none at all” (for they considered anger, for instance, as of no
consequence whatever); cf. in Mat 5:20, “ye shall not enter.”
ἐλάχιστος; has a different force in this passage from that which ὁ
μικρότερος (the least) “in the kingdom of heaven” has in ch. Mat
11:11.—ἐν τῂ βασιλείᾳ τὼν οὐρανῶν, in the kingdom of heaven) which
cannot endure the presence of the unrighteous.—ποιήσῃ καὶ διδάξῃ,
shall do and teach) The same order of words occurs in Act 1:1.—ποιήσῃ,
shall do them, sc. all; for it is not lawful to break or neglect even
one of them.—οὗτος, this man, he) A pronoun used emphatically. Comp.
with this use of οὗτος, ch. Mat 7:21 (Latin Version[192]); Luk 9:24;
Joh 7:18.—μέγας, great) All the commandments are of great account to
him, especially in their full compass[193] (see Mat 5:18); therefore
he shall be called great.