Out of Egypt

Matthew 2:13-23

“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt; and was there until the death of Herod, that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “OUT OF EGYPT DID I CALL MY SON.” Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying, “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.” But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Arise and take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” And he arose and took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he departed for the regions of Galilee, and came and resided in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

That Herod was quite a rascal, wasn’t he? He claimed to want to worship Jesus but truly wanted to destroy him. And the scribes and priests–they have disappeared from the scene. Herod was so enraged that he killed all the young children in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. This disgusting act, we are told, was to fulfill prophecy. Hundreds of years before the event, the Lord had fore-told this dastardly deed. Why then is it never included in our Christmas celebrations and pageants? That is a rhetorical question, obviously one wouldn’t want to include such an act as this. Nevertheless, the question is presented to draw out thoughts in the reader’s mind to call into question our Christmas celebrations. Why do we include some of the story and exclude fulfilled prophecy? We pick and choose what we present, much like the priests and the scribes. “Bethlehem, the prophet said;” but they excluded that the Messiah was from eternity. This goes to context, we need to take it as a whole. Therefore, we will–now watch what happens.

“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.’” The magi had departed and another angel of the Lord instructed Joseph, in a dream, to flee Bethlehem for the land of Egypt. Once again, we read of another inconvenience for Joseph, yet he was obedient. The angel also told them why. Herod was seeking him out to kill him. The Lord knows, from eternity, every detail of every decision made. He knows the entire thoughts and minds of all people in all times. He also, in sovereignty, influences said decisions. Remember Caesar Augustus and his seemingly unspecific census? That was not for Caesar, that was to get the unborn Jesus to the correct city to fulfil prophecy. And even more mind-boggling, it was to begin the earthly dwelling of Jesus to fulfill that which the Law and Israel could not.

Notice: “And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt; and was there until the death of Herod, that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, ‘OUT OF EGYPT DID I CALL MY SON.’”

Using the CAGED method, Context is King. We see in the context that young Jesus has fulfilled at least 4 prophecies thus far in the text. From his Jewish genealogy, to coming out of Egypt. The “A” in the CAGED method is the author’s aspirations to his audience. What is Matthew’s aspiration by showing the readers these prophecies? Scripture tells us it’s so that we’ll believe. But we need to see the specific story Matthew is presenting, and that is of Jesus as the true Israel.

Let’s examine examples, the “E” in the caged method. We’ll begin where we left off, “OUT OF EGYPT DID I CALL MY SON.” Matthew rarely reveals the writer of the quotations he uses. This goes to the author’s aspirations to his audience and the genre. He is writing to those that know the book, persuading the people of the promise, as it were–of course the promise not being land but the Messiah’s​ genealogy. Their ancestors broke the land covenant. Nevertheless, as Paul says their heritage and advantage is great in ever respect, because of the Scripture and the genealogy of Jesus. Matthew, also a descendant of Israel, is telling a recapitulation of Israel’s story, through the true Israel, Jesus, in order to persuade them to believe. “Out of Egypt did I call my son.”

If you don’t know where this quote is found in the Old Testament, don’t fret,it is fairly obscure. I will show you and its context. But first, think about and listen to the words–a mere eight of them. Out of Egypt did I call my son…Out of Egypt did I call my son…Out of Egypt did I call my son. This is where we consult our Old Testament tutor. But first, we use our minds and our knowledge built up over time, consulting our Old Testament tutor to turn knowledge into wisdom. We think of Israel enslaved in Egypt but being led out by the Lord. We think of the Exodus, that is also Matthew’s aspiration to his first century audience. Israel’s enslavement in Egypt is a common theme throughout the Bible and it is brought to mind by Matthew here. However, Hosea is the quote Matthew makes known, notice:

“When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son. The more they called them, The more they went from them; They kept sacrificing to the Baals And burning incense to idols. Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in My arms; But they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love, And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws; And I bent down and fed them. They will not return to the land of Egypt; But Assyria—he will be their king, Because they refused to return to Me. And the sword will whirl against their cities, And will demolish their gate bars And consume them because of their counsels. So My people are bent on turning from Me. Though they call them to the One on high, None at all exalts Him. How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned over within Me, All My compassions are kindled. I will not execute My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim again. For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, And I will not come in wrath. They will walk after the LORD, He will roar like a lion; Indeed He will roar, And His sons will come trembling from the west. They will come trembling like birds from Egypt, And like doves from the land of Assyria; And I will settle them in their houses, declares the LORD. Ephraim surrounds Me with lies, And the house of Israel with deceit; Judah is also unruly against God, Even against the Holy One who is faithful.”

Notice the context; it’s a juxtaposition between Israel and true Israel. Look at the first few lines, or stanzas. “When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son. The more they called them, The more they went from them…” To whom is the Lord referring? Matthew claims that it is the Christ. However, we see that the more the prophets called on Israel, the more Israel ran from them. Without digging too deeply, one sees that both Jesus and Israel are referred to here. There is a great juxtaposition between Israel and true Israel. God is not a man. God was never enslaved, though we see slavery as a metaphor for sin placed on Jesus during his crucifixion. But I am bounding beyond the current context. Matthew makes mention of the prophet’s proclamation to prove Jesus is the true Israel. He is the “holy one in your midst.” As we continue through the book of Matthew, this will become explicitly evident. This is but a mere foundation but a solidly built foundation.

The context of Matthew continues: “Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying, “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.”

Put that in your Christmas pageant, please. It’s Scripture, and even more it’s fulfilled prophecy. Or can we admit that we whitewash our Christmas traditions, not heeding to the Scripture? But it is not pleasant–it’s Scripture. But it makes people uncomfortable–it’s Scripture. But it would be horrifying to the children–it’s  Scripture. Do we celebrate Scripture as our source or sing songs usurping Scripture as our source? Herod killed the young children, under the age of two, using logic and what he heard from the magi, to fulfill Jeremiah 31:15, some (for time’s sake) of the context from which is as follows: ‘Thus says the LORD, ‘The people who survived the sword Found grace in the wilderness— Israel, when it went to find its rest.” The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. “Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! For I am a father to Israel, And Ephraim is My first-born.” Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, And declare in the coastlands far off, And say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him, And keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.” For the LORD has ransomed Jacob, And redeemed him from the hand of him who was stronger than he. Then the virgin shall rejoice in the dance, And the young men and the old, together, For I will turn their mourning into joy, And will comfort them, and give them joy for their sorrow. “And I will fill the soul of the priests with abundance, And My people shall be satisfied with My goodness,” declares the LORD. Thus says the LORD, “A voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; She refuses to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.” Thus says the LORD, “Restrain your voice from weeping, And your eyes from tears; For your work shall be rewarded,” declares the LORD, “And they shall return from the land of the enemy.'”

May I state the obvious? That prophecy doesn’t seem fit the narrative. Problem: Matthew says that it does. Jeremiah wrote concerning the impending diaspora during the exile. He, through the Lord, rightly revealed that they would go into captivity and exile, but no one listened. Jeremiah, often called the “weeping prophet,” had little good news for the people and in turn, was rejected by the people, much like our Christmas celebrations reject his words today. (I had to take one more shot at Christmas traditions.) When backed against the wall of Scripture that is correct, and our thoughts that are incorrect, how do we change our minds to align with God. I use the CAGED method. The most difficult thing about these particular passages is that they are written in different genres. We have read the context yet our minds don’t grasp the correlation between the two passages. We have to see both genres and both author’s aspirations to their audiences. The genre of Jeremiah differs greatly from that of Matthew. Nevertheless, Matthew aspires to capture, for a brief moment, the genre of Jeremiah but also is correcting the reader’s thought on Jeremiah. In other words, Matthew intentionally has the reader’s mind focus on the context and genre of Jeremiah but then the reader is to realize that the content applies directly to the current content and context. Did Jeremiah directly apply to the exiles? Yes, but it was, and is, fully applied to the gospel narrative. Let me give another example of how the New Testament trumps the Old Testament.

Deuteronomy 25:4 “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” In 1 Corinthians 9:9 Paul writes, For it is written in the Law of Moses, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops.”

Paul didn’t take Deuteronomy out of context, did he? Paul writes that the law was good and holy. However he also makes it clear that it was a shadow to the substance of Christ. God did not want the Israelites to muzzle the ox while threshing, it’s true. But ultimately it was of a greater significance. In the same way, Jeremiah predicted the deportation and return after 70 years but that was a shadow to the substance of the gospel narrative. We need to fully understand Matthew’s aspiration to his audience, which is that what Israel failed to follow, Jesus has forever embodied.

When we begin to understand this, when we see how God manipulated all of history to point to his son–we understand how to understand the Scripture. Look for Jesus. In Genesis, look for Jesus. In Psalms, look for Jesus. In the prophets, look for Jesus. That was the priests and scribes’ problem, they weren’t really looking for Jesus.

Moving forward, reserving the right to revisit and review as the text unfolds, we see Joseph told to return from Egypt with Mary and Jesus and they settle in their home town of Nazareth. This, according to Matthew, was to fulfill a prophecy that states,  “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Like the star and the gifts, don’t lose sleep over this statement. It’s true, it is not a direct quote found anywhere in the Old Testament. Being blunt because I am hoping to help, if you struggle with Matthew quoting something not found in the Old Testament, consider: Caesar Augustus’ decree, the Isaiah seven prophecy, The Hosea prophecy and all the other miraculous events. We can trust in what Matthew writes. Remember the author’s aspirations to his audience. They would have understood the quote. If one is bothered by this, they must put themselves in first century shoes. Clearly this gospel account is God-breathed, and clearly Matthew used a quote that his first century audience would understand. Though we don’t know exactly to what Matthew was referring, we still take it as one more proof that Jesus is who he says he is.

Matthew is presenting and painting a picture. We are in the early stages of the painting but over the next few missives, we’ll really see the scene taking shape. Jesus as the true Israel is Matthew’s aspiration to his first century audience, the context will confirm, continually.