What is the meaning in Matthew 2:23 of this word Nazarene? It is a term of contempt. We must first get back into the historic setting and understand the story as Matthew wrote it and as the men of the day understood it. To have lived then, and to have said that a man was a Nazarene would have been to use a term of contempt.
Nothing decisive can be said as to the root origin or real meaning of the word Nazareth. There are two interpretations - one meaning a sprout, a branch; the other meaning a guard. Probably the name Nazareth came from the old Hebrew "Netzer," which means a sprout, and so was something to be held in contempt. A tree is cut off, hewn down, and left. One morning the passer-by sees just one green sprout coming up from the stump; "netzer." It is of no use. The tree is gone. And so this little town, high up off the main roads at the foot of the mountains; along which the great merchants of Greece came; along which Roman legions marched, and the priests passed; was held in contempt. There were great movements down in the valley, but Nazareth was so much out of reach as never to be affected by them. And there is that thought in the quotation, "He shall be called a Nazarene"; a Man belonging to the city that is not worth naming; a Man off the highways of life, knowing nothing of the great movements of the world; a Nazarene.
In Isaiah 11:1 we read, "And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a Branch out of his roots." It is the Hebrew word "netzer," the same word as that from which Nazareth is probably derived. The figure is that of a green tree cut down. Isaiah has foretold this cutting down, the destruction of the nation, of the country, of its city; but he says there shall come forth a shoot, just a little sprout that nobody will think to be of value; something that everyone will despise: and "The Spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of Jehovah." The prophecy declared that when Messiah comes He shall be despised, counted nothing worth, just a branch, a sprout. Go on through the prophecy and you will find out more about the Branch.
Adapted from The Gospel According to Matthew, Chapter 2, by G. Campbell Morgan.