Monday, July 09, 2012

Jesus' Exodus To Nazareth - Matthew 2:19-23 Bible Commentary

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, "Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead." And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to 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 in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene. (Matthew 2:19-23)
Scripture tells us nothing specific about Jesus' stay in Egypt. The people He met in Egypt, the ancient sights He saw, even where He stayed— all these details remain a mystery. The only thing Matthew writes about is the reappearance of a familiar messenger: an angel of the Lord.

An angel of the Lord had visited Joseph already, multiple times in fact— and always in his dreams. Last time, the angel had said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him" (Matthew 2:13).

This time, the angel said, "Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead" (Matthew 2:20). These two angelic messages act as bookends in Matthew's gospel, marking both the departure to and return from Egypt.

Note the difference in the angel's tone in telling Joseph to leave Egypt. Joseph was commanded to flee to Egypt, but only to go to Israel. Matthew lets us know that Joseph departed by night when going to Egypt. Those words, "by night," do not appear in Joseph's return from Egypt, which means that Joseph could take a day or two to pack up and move out.

We don't know how long it took Joseph and his family to arrive in Israel (I can assure you that it took less than forty years!). Upon arrival, the words of Hosea, earlier recorded by Matthew, were fulfilled: Out of Egypt I have called My Son (Matthew 2:15).

Yet even in Israel Christ was not safe. Herod was dead, and that was good, but Archelaus now reigned in Herod's place. Though Joseph probably didn't realize it, Divine Providence was at work. God, after all, never intended His Son to be raised in Judea, where Bethlehem is located. God, who does whatever He pleases, was guiding history so that His Son would end up in Galilee, in the town of Nazareth.

Nazareth was where Mary lived prior to marrying (Luke 1:26). In all likelihood, it was where she was raised and probably where she met Joseph. The town was no foreign place to the young couple. They had come home.

What news they must have had to share! The miraculous birth! The angels and the shepherds! The visit of the wise men! And then, the flight to Egypt... but now, at long last, they were home. Whether they even wanted to be home is another question.

Sadly, we cannot have any confidence that they were warmly welcomed. Mary was the girl who lied and claimed that she became pregnant without a man. Joseph was the guy who was stupid enough to believe the lie and marry her anyway. Yet surely there were some who extended a welcoming hand, who made home feel like home to the young couple that had seen God work in the most miraculous of ways.

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