Main point summary
Although Herod tries to kill the baby Messiah, Herod dies and Messiah lives through the work of God, the King, fulfilling God's Word.
Now when they had departed,
behold, x an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream
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.”
And he rose
and took the child and his mother by night
and departed to Egypt
and remained there
until the death of Herod.
y This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet,
z “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men,
and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under,
according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.
a Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
b “A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted,
because they c are no more.”
But when Herod died,
behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel,
for d 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 e being warned in a dream
he withdrew to the district of Galilee.
And he went and lived in a city called f Nazareth,
g so that what was spoken by the prophets
might be fulfilled,
that he would be called a Nazarene.
Egypt was a natural place to which to flee. It was nearby, a well-ordered Roman province outside Herod’s jurisdiction, and, according to Philo (writing ca. AD 40), its population included about a million Jews. Earlier generations of Israelites fleeing their homeland (1Ki 11:40; Jer 26:21–23; 43:7) had sought refuge in Egypt. But if Matthew was thinking of any particular OT parallel, probably Jacob and his family (Ge 46) fleeing the famine in Canaan was in his mind, since that is the trip that set the stage for the exodus (cf. ver 15). Carson, D. A.. Matthew (The Expositor's Bible Commentary) (p. 234). Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition.
Why do the wise men depart? What happens after? What does the angel command Joseph to do? For how long? Why? What does this tell us about humanity? What does this tell us about God? Humanity: sin, choice and vanity God: promises, sovereignty and love What is Joseph's response? When does he flee? Why is this response critical to salvation-history? How long does Joseph remain in Egypt? What does this tell us of humanity? What does Hosea 11:1-11 have to do with this incident? What does this tell us of God?
Ge 46; 1Ki 11:40; Jer 26:21–23; 43:7
What is Herod's response to God's intervention? What is the difference between ver 15 and ver 17? What does Jer 31:15 have to do with the mass execution of baby boys? What does this event tell us about God and his working through and despite the evil of men?
What happens to Herod next? Where is Joseph and the family? What is communicated to them? How and why? Why does Joseph move to Nazareth? Talk about the ground and the purposes of God.
Only here and in Mt 27:9 is the fulfillment formula devoid of a ἵνα (hina) or a ὅπως (hopōs), both of which normally have telic force (“in order that”), though consecutive force is not uncommon in NT Greek (see comments at ver 15). This is probably because in these two passages the action that is fulfilling Scripture is so horrible that there is an instinctive reluctance to use phraseology that might be (mis)understood to ascribe enormous wickedness to God (cf. Broadus). Carson, D. A.. Matthew (The Expositor's Bible Commentary) (p. 240). Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition.
KING HEROD’S HOMAGE TO THE KING OF THE JEWS (2:13-23) Now we see Herod’s idea of ‘worship’ (2:7-9) in sharp contrast with the Magi and we see how he cannot hinder God: The Exile to Egypt (2:13-15) 2:13 Again we see a dream (the third) and a second visitation of an ‘angel of the Lord’ to Joseph (cf. 1:20, 2:12) who is commanded to flee with child and mother (again in that order) to nearby Egypt until the angel commands the return. Most explicitly, we have God’s miraculous intervention for the protection of the ‘Son’— “... for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” 2:14 Joseph’s obedience appears instantaneous, when he is seen fleeing ‘by night’ with child and mother (again in that order), departing to Egypt. It helps to see that apart from Joseph’s obedience, there would be no ‘Son’ of David. 2:15 They remain there until Herod dies (cf. Ps 2). And Matthew finds all of this remarkably in line with Hosea 11:1-11, yet another of Matthew’s ‘fulfilment’ passages. Israel, the son of Hosea 11 is a type of the ultimate ‘Son’ —the Messiah of Mt 2. In this Messiah is the wrath of God not coming on recalcitrant Israel (Hos 11:7ff) and in this Messiah is the love and compassion of God most manifest. This Son would be the one around whom Israel would return to their land (Hos 11:11), a promise of the New Covenant (Jer 31:31ff). The Barbarism at Bethlehem (2:16-18) 2:16 In typical paranoia, Herod is enraged, and executes his plan to destroy the ‘king of the Jews’ (2:3-8) based on the information he had —Bethlehem and an age of about 18 months, perhaps. 2:17-18 Matthew explicitly quotes Jeremiah here, specifically Jer 31:15. Nebuzaradan, commander of Nebuchadnezzar’s imperial guard, gathered the captives at Ramah before taking them into exile in Babylon (Jer 40:1–2). Ramah lay north of Jerusalem on the way to Bethel; Rachel’s tomb was at Zelzah in the same vicinity (1Sa 10:2). Jeremiah 31:15 depicts mourning at the prospect of exile; Rachel is seen as crying out from her tomb because her “children,” her descendants (Rachel is the idealized mother of the Jews, though Leah gave birth to more tribes than Rachel), “are no more”—i.e., they are being removed from the land and are no longer a nation. —Carson, D. A.. Matthew (The Expositor's Bible Commentary) (p. 239). Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition. Matthew uses this text primarily because the tears of Jer 31 are set in hope. Unlike 2:15, Matthew is not using the passage as a new version of an earlier event. Israel’s exile led to the tears in Jeremiah, but in Matthew, tears are shed because of the slaughter of those left behind. Matthew has already spoken of the exile (1:11-12) as the pivot from which hope sprung through the Davidic line. Now he uses Jeremiah’s hope of the New Covenant (31:31ff) for God’s beloved Son (Jer 31:9, 20; cf. Mt 2:15) to show us that the end of tears has come with the tears of the mothers of Bethlehem (cf. Rev 21:4). The true Son of God (2Sa 7:12ff) has come and remains alive and no one can stop him, let alone a petty king who rages against the Lord and his Anointed (cf. Ps 2). The Exodus from Egypt (2:19-23) 2:19-22 Typical of humanity, Herod dies, but not the ‘king of the Jews’. A fourth dream is recorded together with a third visitation by an angel of the Lord while Joseph is in Egypt. Now Joseph is commanded to go to the land of Israel with child and mother (again in that order) because those who were seeking to kill the child were dead. Joseph returns and while he perhaps wanted to settle in Bethlehem in Judea, he learns that cruel Herod Archelaus was ruling that region. This makes him hesitate to live there and another dream (the fifth) warns him concerning this as well. As a result he takes his family to Galilee. 2:23 Joseph chooses Nazareth, which Luke records to be his and Mary’s former home (Lk 1:26-27, 2:39; cf. Mt 13:53-58). Matthew showcases the purposes of God here as well as God spoke through many prophets that Jesus will be called a Nazarene. Nazareth was a despised place (Jn 7:42,52) and Christians were disparagingly called the ‘Nazarene sect’ (Ac 24:5), and so Matthew is probably alluding to the myriad OT telling of the ‘servant’ who would be ‘despised’ (Pss 22:6–8, 13; 69:8, 20–21; Isa 11:1; 49:7; 53:2–3, 8; Da 9:26), a theme that Matthew goes back to later in his gospel (see 8:20; 11:16–19; 15:7–8). So the king of the Jews grows up in a despised place, not with pomp and splendour. He was the despised Servant of the Lord. Yet he was King. APPLICATION 1. How open are we to God working through ordinary means and God’s surprising use of supernatural means? 2. What will our response to opposition and persecution be? Who really is king? Whose mission are we serving? 3. How do bereavement and blessing sit within this pericope? How do we perceive both in our own lives? How do we perceive God in both? 4. Are we willing to be despised, just like our Nazarene King? 5. How similar are we to Herod? Are we willing for Jesus’ gentle rule to control us? Or are we suspicious and opposed? 6. How does this passage help us love God and his word all the more?