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The Early Life of Jesus: Called
out of Egypt
A little boy was overheard
praying, "Lord, if you can't make me a better boy, don't worry about
it. I'm having a real good time
like I am." How many people
(Christians) have this attitude today? They
just want fire insurance and don’t want to convert or change their lives?
Don’t have this attitude in life.
The magi had just left, and
“When they were departed”; immediately; as soon as they
were gone, “behold, an (not the) angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a
dream”. It might be the same
angel who appeared to him in [Matthew 1:20].
This time, when an angel appeared to him in a dream said,
“Arise”; awake out of sleep, and rise from your bed right now; don’t
hesitate. How often do we hesitate
to follow instructions from the Lord? When
we do, there are problems; God’s timing is perfect, ours is flawed.
But, it says, “Arise, and take the young child and his mother”.
Look at the way this is worded; it’s also worded
similarly in the next verse: “The
young child and his mother.” This
is an indirect hint that Joseph was simply the child’s guardian.
He may be reckoned as the father for human purposes, and he’s referred
to as such in some passages, but he’s not the child’s
father. If you think about it,
Joseph has little place at all in the Gospel history, other than the guardian of
the child. But, as inglorious as
this seems, as far as we know, he was faithful to the end.
His glory is preserved for us to see today.
The angel does not say, “Take
thy wife and son”. Although Mary
was his wife, Jesus was not properly his son.
Also, the child is mentioned before the mother.
I think that it’s a reflection upon the divine nature of the child, but
more than that, the preservation of the child was of the utmost importance at
Joseph is ordered to take the child and his mother, “and
flee into Egypt”. Egypt was near
to Judea, and it was a Roman province that was independent of Herod.
There were many Jews there, with a temple and synagogues, and Joseph
would be among his own countrymen, and beyond the reach of Herod.
(This all happened back in Isaiah 19.)
How often do we as Christians have to seek refuge outside the Church? There is much persecution going on in the world today, within
the Church. There are
many in the church who won’t endure sound doctrine.
They want to conform to the world, and anyone who holds to sound Biblical
doctrine is forced to flee for refuge.
But, Egypt was an easy and convenient refuge to which
Joseph could take the child and his mother.
A long and tedious journey would not have been suitable for the mother
and child. Being outside of
Herod’s jurisdiction, Herod could not come after them, nor have any power over
them. (Besides, a prophecy was
fulfilled; not simply fulfilled for the sake of fulfillment, but fulfilled out
of necessity and reality.)
This story shows us that it can be lawful to flee from
danger from tyrants and those who persecute us. Especially when God opens a way of escape.
(There are times, however, when we are not to flee.)
But, escape to “the house of bondage?”
Well, it once was that. But
Egypt was a house of refuge before it was a house of bondage, and now it has
returned to its first use. Many
things that begin as something good can easily be turned into bondage.
The law is a perfect example of this; the law is good, but the Jews
turned it into bondage.
But, Joseph is told by an angel to take the child and his
mother and flee into Egypt, beyond the jurisdiction of Herod and seek temporary
refuge. This is the only time of
which we are aware in which Jesus was outside of Palestine, and the time he
spends out of Palestine is spent in a place where the children of Israel had
suffered so much for so long under the oppression of the Egyptian kings.
The land that was a land of refuge for the children of Israel became a
land of bondage; the land of bondage for the children of Israel, once again
became a land of refuge and safety for the King of the Jews.
God can overturn nations and kingdoms, and those he loves can be safe
But, this angel said, “take the child and his mother and
flee into Egypt and be there until I bring thee word”.
Stay put. Don’t go
anywhere. Don’t even return back,
until I tell you otherwise. How
often we ignore the counsel of God and how terrible the consequences.
Then, the angel tells Joseph why he’s appearing to him
and why he is to take them to Egypt and stay there: “for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.”
Herod the Great, a bloody man, desperate, and resolute, “will seek”;
diligently search; “will seek”, not Joseph and Mary, who might have been
safe, but “the young child”; the King of the Jews.
Herod had a great deal of unease about this young child.
Herod wasn’t going to seek the young child to worship
him, as he had told the magi, but “Herod will seek the young child” for
what? He will seek him to destroy
It means to perish; Herod would cause him to perish.
He would take away his life.
This word “perish” is interesting.
We’re going to look into it more deeply at a later date, Lord willing,
but I want you to remember and meditate upon one thought concerning this word
and idea: You have to have a life
to lose it. You cannot perish
without having a life. Those who are already dead cannot perish.
But, that’s why the angel was sent to Joseph; to prevent
Herod from causing Jesus to perish; from being destroyed.
That is what Joseph was charged with.
Although Jesus was born to die for the sins of the people, his time was
not yet come. He was to grow up
into maturity, he was to preach the Gospel, he was to do many miracles, and
last, but not least, he was to lay down his life of himself, voluntarily.
His life would not be taken away from him without his knowledge and will.
This was all a part of God’s plan.
Verse 14: “When
he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night…”
Having arisen; by night. He
arose immediately after waking from his dream, and prepared to obey the command
he had been given. He showed his
prompt obedience to the command. He
didn’t say, “I’ll do your will Lord, but I’ll do it at a more convenient
time”. He arose, and he took them immediately, while it was still
By leaving at night, not only did he show prompt obedience
to the commandment, but he also concealed his departure.
This would help make them safe from pursuit.
We can apply this to our lives: We
need to be obedient promptly, because God has a plan and a reason for the things
that we are to do. If Joseph had
put off leaving, the soldiers could have come, or neighbors could report,
“well, I saw them going that way, so if you hurry, you just might catch
them”. Obey God swiftly, sweetly,
and completely. (Sound familiar?)
One thing that I want you to think about when meditating
about the provisions of God is about the timing of this story.
It seems a bit opportune that the wise men had presented their gifts; the
gold they brought served to pay for the expenses of the journey.
God provided for all their needs. (Not
their wants; I’m sure that running and hiding was uncomfortable, to say the
least. Could he have done so?
Of course. But, that was not
part of God’s plan.)
So, Joseph takes this child who is about two years old and
his mother, and he departs by night, which not only conceals the departure, but
it’s cooler to travel, and he took the gold that God has provided, and he
“departs into Egypt”.
What part of Egypt? [Overhead]
We don’t know for certain, but the Jews say that they went to
Alexandria, and that is very likely. Alexandria
had a lot of Jews living there at the time.
If you think about it, what is the Promised Land?
Genesis 15 tells us that it’s the land from the Nile to the Euphrates.
You can look at the Promised Land as representing the Kingdom, and the
land flowing with milk and honey as representing the better part of that
inheritance. But, they were truly outside of Israel. Although the Jews deny who Jesus is, they do know that he
lived, and the fact that they have this event recorded at all is an
acknowledgment of the truth at least in this respect.
Of course, they also claim that he brought enchantments or
magic out of Egypt in an incision in his body, denying his divinity while
admitting his existence. That’s
one way they explain away his miracles. They
say reproachful things such as he was a magician, and he performed all these
things by secret arts, and he stole strange sciences, and he stole the names of
mighty angels out of the temples of the Egyptians.
How often do we hear things such as this today?
“Well, sure a great philosopher named Jesus existed, but he messed up
and got himself nailed to a tree; he’s not God or anything.”
Or, “He faked his death, and his disciples snuck him to India where he
lived out a normal human life; the world’s greatest practical joke”.
There are many blasphemous things along this line that people spew forth
today. It’s sickening to hear.
Just before his death, Herod,
realizing that when he died there would be no great mourning, sent letters to
the principle heads of every family in Judaism demanding their presence on pain
of death. Having got them to
Jerusalem, Herod ordered them to be locked up in the horseracing ground.
He then gave the orders to his sister that upon his death they were all
to be executed, thus making sure that the whole nation would mourn when he died,
albeit not for him. But, when Herod died, his sister released the imprisoned Jews
and allowed them to return home. Herod
died 37 years after being declared 'King of the Jews', leaving four sons, to
whom was given one quarter of his kingdom each.
This brief history just barely scratches the surface of Herod’s cruelty
and insanity. Herod was a tool of
evil, and back in verse 13, there are three verbs that that give a vivid picture
of the purpose of Herod in relation to this child.
Will seek to destroy!
Literally, is about to be seeking to destroy.
Apollumi; perishing, or in this case, to cause to perish.
Joseph took the child
and his mother and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of
Herod, which was not too long. Then,
in verse 15, Matthew quotes Hosea 11:1, which says, “When Israel was
a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”
This showed that this was a fulfillment of God’s purpose to call his
Son out of Egypt.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a Jewish tradition in the
Talmud that Jesus “brought with him magic arts out of Egypt in an incision in
his body (Shabbat 104b)”. Matthew
doesn’t directly confront this attempt to ascribe the Lord’s miracles to
satanic agency, but it does seem as if this account about the flight into Egypt
may be made in order to combat it.
Now, “all this was brought about that it might be
fulfilled”. This was not merely
an accommodation of the phrase by creating a similar event to the one described
in prophecy, merely creating the antitype to a type that was established in the
OT. It was not merely in a
proverbial sense, which might be adapted to any remarkable deliverance out of
hardship, misery, and destruction. This
was brought about literally, properly, and in the obvious sense thereof.
“Out of Egypt have I called my son.”
[Matthew 2:16] Herod
did not know exactly how old the child would be, so he took no chances and
included all the little boys in Bethlehem two years old and under.
There were probably about 15 or 20 at the time.
As we pointed out, it is no real surprise that Jewish historians make no
note of this event, because compared to Herod’s other horrors, this was simply
This event was another fulfillment of the prophecy in
Jeremiah 31:15, which says, “Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah,
lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel
weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were
not.” The quotation in [Matthew 2:18] seems to be from the
Septuagint. This passage was
originally written of the Babylonian captivity, but it is a striking prophecy
that applies here as well.
It is better to be Herod’s pig (or sow) than his son.
The sow has a better chance of living.
This is striking when looked at in relation to the way people in that
region thought of pigs. Very low esteem of pigs.
[But when Herod was dead…] As we looked at a few minutes ago, Herod’s death took place
only a few months after this atrocity that he committed. He died no later than April of 3 BC, but according to the
Jewish writers, he died on the 7th day of the month Cisleu, which
would be the same as the 25th of November by our reckoning.
Afterwards, this date was observed as a day of rejoicing by the Jews.
The account of Herod’s death given by Josephus is
absolutely miserable: “A burning
fever seized him, with an intolerable itching all over his body, and continual
pains of the colic; his feet swelled with a dropsy; he had an inflammation in
the lower part of his belly: a putrefaction in his privy parts, which bred
worms; a frequency and difficulty of breathing, and convulsions in all his
members; he had a voracious appetite, a stinking breath, and his intestines
abounded with ulcers; when he found that all means made use of were ineffectual,
and that he must die, he attempted to lay violent hands upon himself, but was
prevented, and soon after expired in a very miserable manner.” A miserable end for someone who caused so much misery.
[Matthew 2:19] It
may be the same angel who appeared in the same manner, and ordered him to go
into Egypt with the young child and his mother who now brings him the news of
the death of Herod and tells him to return to Israel. I tend to think it is the same angel, because, back up in
verse 13, the angel is speaking and he says, “and flee into Egypt, and be thou
there until I bring thee word:” Of course, since the angel was speaking with
the authority of God, he could have been speaking from the viewpoint of,
“until I [God] bring thee word”. That’s
a small point, though. No matter
what this shows that God is provident in being watchful over the infant Jesus,
and that he uses angels in ministering.
[Matthew 2:20] “For
they are dead…” Only Herod had
sought to kill the young child, but there were others who were following his
orders. It’s an idiom that is a
general statement of a particular fact. It’s
common for people to say, “They say”. However, I think it’s probably that Antipater would be
seeking the death of the child as well, and Herod had executed him, so the
“they” could be specific also.
This bears a striking resemblance to the story of Moses.
God had instructed Moses to go to Egypt to get his brethren, and in
Exodus 4:19, we read, “And the LORD said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into
Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life.”
But, the angel came to him, “Saying, arise, and take the
young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel”.
He wasn’t told to go to the land of Judea, and in fact, a little later,
he’s expressly warned not to settle there.
To human logic, it might make sense to take the King of the Jews to the
seat of power, but human logic is tragically flawed.
Neither is he specifically told to go to Galilee, although he went there
when he found that it was unsafe to settle in Judea.
But, he’s told to go to the land of Israel, in the most general sense
of the word. He’s told to go to
the Holy Land at large, the particular province not yet being indicated. [Hebrews 11:8: Joseph
wasn’t the first to go one faith.] So,
Joseph took the child and his mother, and like Abraham, had to “go out, not
knowing whither they went,” until they received further instructions.
[Matthew 2:21] Obviously,
he intended to return to Bethlehem, probably to rear the infant King in the
royal city, until the time when he would occupy Jerusalem.
How many people are prepared to do exactly what God wants, but they try
to project their human ideas of what makes the most sense, including the
grandeur that goes along with it, and then find out that God wants them to do
something that is seemingly insignificant?
People often think that God should want what they want; don’t make that
In youth groups Wednesday night, we read a story about a
girl who prayed, “God, I’m ready to serve you”. Her idea was that she could witness to a movie star, or
become a Christian rock musician and reach millions of people, or would meet an
agent so she could witness to powerful and important people; God’s idea was
that she would witness to that lonely, ignored girl in the back of the room.
Joseph had no grandeur; we don’t even know when he disappeared from the
scene. Sometimes God wants you to
do something great and visible and powerful; sometimes he wants you to talk to
that lonely little girl in the back of the room.
Joseph’s idea was that he would take the king to the
palace. God’s plan showed that
Joseph had the wrong idea, as so many do today as well. But, Joseph was obedient (swiftly, sweetly, and completely);
He arose from the dream and “took the young child and his mother and came into
the land of Israel”.
[Matthew 2:22] Joseph
was already afraid to go to Judea because Archelaus was reigning; more properly,
he was ruling. Just before his
death, Herod had changed his will again and put Archelaus, the worst of his
living sons, in the place of Antipas. So,
Archelaus succeeded to Judea, Samaria, and Idumea, but Augustus refused him the
title of king, only gave him the title of ethnarch, until he saw how Archelaus
conducted himself. He never rose
above this title. The people
recognized him as his father’s successor, so it is said here in verse 22 that
he “reigned in the room of his father Herod”.
But, after ten years in cruel tyranny and defiance of the Jewish law, the
people lodged complaints against him, and the emperor banished him to Gaul,
which reduced Judea to the status of a Roman province.
At this point, the “scepter” was completely “departed from
Judah”. Remember, the scepter
departing was one of the signs of the Messiah.
But, Archelaus was reigning in the place of Antipas, so
Joseph went to Galilee. Matthew
says nothing about the previous dwelling of Joseph and Mary in Nazareth.
We learn about that from Luke, who writes nothing of the flight into
Egypt. The two supplement each
other, and in no way contradict each other.
Together, they paint a clear picture, and that’s why we’re conducting
this study of the Gospels in a chronological and systematic order; we want to
see the complete and total picture that’s painted.
[Matthew 2:23] “The
prophets”; it’s plural. It’s
not indicating any one prediction in particular, but a summary of several
prophetic statements, such as Psalm 22:6 & 8, Psalms 69:11 & 19, and
What was it that was spoken by the prophets?
“He shall be called a Nazarene.”
This was a term of contempt. John
1:46 says, “And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of
Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.”
It was contemptible; it suggested insignificance.
John 7:52 says, “They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of
Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.”
(Of course, this statement was false; Jonah, Nahum, and Hosea were from
there, and possibly Elijah, Elisha, and Amos.)
In Hebrew it means sprout or shoot.
The name is prophetically given to the Messiah in Isaiah 11:1.
In Isaiah 10, the fate of Assyria is described under the figure of the
felling of a cedar forest, and then the figure of the tree is continued at the
beginning of chapter 11, concerning the Jewish state.
The cedar throws out no fresh suckers from its roots, but the oak is a
tree, “in which, after the felling, a stock remaineth”, according to Isaiah
There is a future for Israel, represented by the oak.
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stock of Jesse, and a twig
from his roots shall bear fruit.” David
came from the humble family of Jesse, so the Messiah, shall arise from humble
The fact that Jesus grew up at Nazareth was sufficient
reason for his being despised in the eyes of man. He was not a lofty branch on the summit of a stately tree.
He was not a recognized and honored son of the royal house of David.
He was an insignificant sprout from the roots of Jesse.
He was a Nazarene; he was of an upstart, insignificant town.
But, as despised as Nazareth was at that time, Jesus has exalted its
fame. If we truly follow Jesus and
seek to be obedient so that we may be found faithful, and if we seek to run the
race with diligence so that we may one day rule and reign in the coming Kingdom
of our Lord, we will be contemptible in the eyes of man.
But, just as Jesus exalted the fame of Nazareth, he will one day exalt
us, if we are faithful.
Jesus sought refuge in Egypt; Egypt represents the world.
Egypt is outside the land of promise.
Sometimes, as Christians, we might have to seek refuge in the world,
especially due to persecution from within the Church, as they seek after false
teachings and strange doctrines and doctrines of men.
But, just like Jesus, we are not a part of the world; we don’t need to
remain in bondage to the world; we need to be like Jesus and follow Truth and
earnestly seek the Kingdom in everything we do.
The lowly Nazarene is what Jesus was at first. But, if we are followers of the Nazarene; if we are faithful in our daily walk, then one day we can hope to be exalted, and to rule and reign with him. That’s my prayer for you today.