Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and 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.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, 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. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
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.
Understanding And Applying the Text
Joseph had to think this was strange. Had God abandoned His plan? On the command of an angel, he had married a woman. This woman bore a child who was not his. The angel told him the Child was to be the savior of the world. This Child was divine. He was the son of God. But now he had to flee. It was hard to reconcile. The Savior of all required Joseph’s protection. Joseph must have thought God’s providence had failed.
Joseph’s angst intensified when wondering how long this would last. “How long am I suppose to hide?”
The answer was not satisfying. “Until you hear otherwise.”
God uses many ways of preserving His people. Sometimes He uses astonishing displays of power. Other times He uses the cover of night to cover escape. We think God is in it unless we see the miraculous. Otherwise, we think we did it. But God is always in everything.
God called Jesus out of Egypt. This was a fulfillment of prophecy. ( Exodus 4:22; Numbers 24:8 Hosea 11:1) But Joseph was blind to that. Or at least, fear obscured his vision. He had to be in a near panic. The angel told him to run so he ran.
He leaves right away. He gathered his young family and they leave at night. In our modern world, this may seem only an inconvenience. We have street lights. Even if we are in the country we have flashlights. Our transportation has high-intensity lights. It was not so in the first century. The night was dark. Dangers were everywhere. There were animals and robbers. There was even the danger of falling to your death. Leaving at night indicates urgency.
Skeptics claim the killing the children under 2 never happened. Josephus does not mention it. Josephus treated Herod’s cruelty with kid gloves. He expresses in obscure language a similar event. This occurred about the same time. Herod killed all the Judges of the Sanhedrin. That may explain why the Jewish leaders were so concerned about the Romans. They did not want Jesus and the crowd upsetting the Romans. Rome had killed their predecessors.
Herod’s cruelty and brutality are well documented. Killing the children in Bethlehem fits his nature.
Macrobius mentions the event. He mentions it in his Second Book of Saturnalia. He writes: “When he heard that, by Herod’s command, the children in Syria under two years of age had been slain, and that his own son had been slain among the crowd, ‘I would rather,’ said he, ‘have been Herod’s hog than his son.’
Bethlehem was a small town. It was insignificant. It had a small population. So the world turned a blind eye.
In this passage, I find great comfort when studying eschatology. When looking into prophecy I do not understand all that it says. When I place myself in the shoes of those who read scripture before Christ. They did not understand either.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But he comes out of Egypt. And He is called a Nazarene. How can all three of those be true? From this side of history, we see how it all fits. But from the other side of history, those three things don’t make sense. If he is born in Bethlehem, he can’t come from Egypt. And in neither case would he be called a Nazarene.
It does not have to make sense to me to be true. Because it may not make sense to me, does not mean it does not make sense.