Study Guide: The Escape (Matthew 2:13-23)

Hosea 11:1-12

  • Hosea 11 is one of many Old Testament passages where God laments through his prophet over the numerous ways Israel sinned and turned away from their calling as God’s people.

Jeremiah 31:15

  • Jeremiah’s prophecy was written just before King Nebuchadnezzar conquered the city of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Jeremiah spoke of a coming disaster that would be marked by mothers weeping for their children. Israel was exiled following Jerusalem’s destruction and brought to the nation of Babylon.

Matthew 2:13-23

  • God is constantly intervening through his angels in this story. He is aware of Herod’s plot to kill Jesus, but, rather than intervening directly and putting a stop to the evil himself, God communicates with his faithful gives them the knowledge and insight necessary to carry out his plan. There’s some interesting theology to chew on…
  • Matthew’s gospel was written with the nation of Israel in mind. Recall that Israel was the nation God commissioned in the Old Testament to represent his love, forgiveness, and lordship to the world. However, Israel failed miserably. Matthew saw Jesus as the idyllic representation of what Israel was supposed to be. The Israelites reading Matthew’s gospel would have known that Hosea 11 as a brutal indictment of Israel. Matthew seems to have understood the events of Jesus’ birth as a “do-over”; Jesus would succeed in every way Israel had failed. Jesus, like Israel, was brought out of Egypt; but unlike Israel, Jesus would remain faithful to God until the very end of his earthly ministry and into the age to come. The metaphor carries over throughout the gospel of Matthew. For example, in Matthew 4, Jesus is tempted in the wilderness for 40 days, a callback to Israel’s 40-year wilderness sojourn. Unlike Israel, Jesus remained faithful to God in temptation and weakness.
  • Matthew cites Jeremiah 31:15 in his chronicle of Herod’s massacre of the children in Bethlehem after Jesus’ birth. Like Israel, Jesus was exiled from his homeland and brought to a foreign nation as a result of human evil. Matthew seems to have been adamant that his Jewish readers have Israel’s history in mind to better understand who Jesus was, and what he came to accomplish.
  • Herod died in 4 B.C. as a result of a gruesome disease (you can Google that on your own if you want…). Jesus would have been less than 2 years old at the time. We don’t know anything about Mary, Joseph, and Jesus’ life while they were in Egypt.
  • Archelaus, Herod’s son, took over after Herod died. Joseph rightly assumed that Archelaus, like his father, was not to be trusted. Joseph and his family eventually settled in Nazareth. Matthew cites another “prophecy” in relation to Nazareth that’s more difficult to decipher.
  • Verse 23 says, “and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.” Here’s the thing – we have no idea what prophecy Matthew is talking about here. Here are two solutions biblical scholars have suggested:
    • 1.) Matthew is citing an unknown Israelite prophecy that has since been lost.
    • 2.) This is a play on words. The word “Nazareth” comes from a Hebrew noun, “nazir”, which means “one who is set apart by God.” (Genesis 49:26; Numbers 6:13; Judges 13:5; Amos 2:11)
      • Option 2 is generally understood to be the better of the two, but we will likely never know exactly what Matthew was referring to in verse 23. And that’s okay! For all we can know and learn about the Bible, we still need to accept that it contains a great deal of mystery.  

Conclusion to our study

God is unmatched in his wisdom, sovereign over the course of history, and steadfast in his will despite humanity’s evil and selfish desires. The story of Jesus’ the Messiah’s birth is a testament to God’s protection of his perfect will and the people through whom he works to carry it out in the world. From the day sin entered the world, God promised a Savior who would free humanity from sin and its consequences. God worked throughout the course of human history, despite human rebellion, to bring that Savior into the world. That same Savior, Jesus Christ, whom the prophets foretold, lived a life of perfect obedience to God’s will, even to the point of death (Philippians 2:5-11). Now, Jesus invites us to follow him in obedience to God’s will. We can have confidence in the fact that God’s will is perfect and can never be thwarted, despite human efforts. A life surrendered to the plan and purpose of God is the only life that will end in victory.

May God’s pleasing and perfect will might be made even more evident in your own life. Through his wisdom, the power of his Son Jesus, and the friendship of the Holy Spirit, I pray that the Lord directs your steps, guides your actions, protects you from the evil that defies his design, and uses your days on this earth to bring glory to his name.

Merry Christmas!

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