The Return to Nazareth: Matthew 2.19-21

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.

Matthew’s Use of the Old Testament
In these two chapters Matthew has quoted the Old Testament four times (1.22; 2.6, 15, 17, 23). Matthew 1.22 is a reference to Isaiah 7.14. Matthew sees in the prophetic word about Isaiah’s own son a fulfillment in the son of David, Jesus.

The four Old Testament quotes in Matthew 2 have to do with the geographical movement of the infant Jesus. They were probably an apologetic effort to downplay any embarrassment because of the quiet well-known fact that Jesus was from Nazareth, when the Old Testament pointed to the birth of the Messiah to occur in Bethlehem.

  • Matthew 2.6 is a reference to Micah 5.2. The meaning is straightforward: Bethlehem was the predicted place for the origin of the Messiah. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem fulfills this prophetic word.
  • Matthew 2.15 is a reflection of Hosea 11.1 which plainly refers to the Israelites leaving Egypt in the Exodus. The key to this passage is the word Egypt. It is a geographical point supported by the context of verse 15 where Jesus had just arrived and settled in Egypt, rather than verse 21 where he left.
  • Matthew 2.17 is a reflection of Jeremiah 31.15. The passage in Jeremiah points to the exile of the children of Israel, not their death. There was precedence for the exile of Jesus into Egypt.
  • Finally, the quote in Matthew 2.23, which is a quotation of substance rather than exact words from the Old Testament, links Bethlehem and Nazareth.

How then do we use the Old Testament? We should let the Old Testament speak on its own terms, and refresh its meaning when the New Testament refreshes its meaning.

There should be an interaction between the Old Testament and its cultural setting and word meanings; the New Testament with all its First Centuriness, and us with all of our 20th Centuriness, using all the tools available to enable us to hear the words of the Old and New Testaments as they were heard by their first readers.

But, we should always have an ear aimed toward heaven to hear the unexpected word of God through the Old and New Testaments, which challenges our 20th century presuppositions and perceptions.

I trust that you have a very Merry Christmas.

Send to Kindle

Books and eBooks by DrWinn

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Disclosure of Material Connection: If links are included in the posts above, some may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I do recommend books and other resources from time to time. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”