But when he heard that Archelaus When Herod died Archelaus, his eldest son, was placed over Judea, Samaria, and Idumea.
was ruling in Judea His rule, however, did not extend to the Galilee.
in place of his father Herod, These kings were succeeded by their own relatives.
he became afraid to return there. The fear of Archelaus was justified. However confirmation of his kingship was withheld by Augustus until Archelaus proved himself. The confirmation never occurred because Archelaus began his reign by slaughtering 3000 prominent citizens. He was removed by the emperor two years later. Though another son of Herod ruled over the Galilee (Herod Antipas) he was a more tolerant ruler. Galilee became known in his day as a place for revolutionary sentiments. This is something his father never would have tolerated.
And having been warned in a dream The recurring theme of the dreams continue.
he withdrew into the region of the Galilee. Matthew again stresses God’s providential protection. The geographical sequence is Israel‐Galilee‐Nazareth. It is in Galilee where Jesus will begin His ministry (
Note on a variant reading: Nazareth is spelled differently in some manuscripts.
and he came and lived in the city called Nazareth, The family now settles in Nazareth. Matthew has already accounted for Galilee as the place where Jesus’ ministry began. He is now going to account for Nazareth as the place where He lived.
Nazareth is never mentioned in Scripture apart from the gospels. It was located in the hills in Galilee and looked down upon two of the most important caravan routes in the ancient world—one from the seacoast to the territories to the east and the other from Egypt to Damascus. However Nazareth was looked down upon by those from Judea as is seen by the response of Nathaniel to his brother Philip, Nazareth! Can any good thing come out from there? (
Jesus was called a Nazarene and
that it might be fulfilled Another fulfillment quotation.
which was spoken through the prophets, We note that there is not one specific prophet mentioned. Furthermore, the word prophets is plural.
He will be called a Nazarene. This statement is not found in the Old Testament and has led to much speculation as to what Matthew meant (see question at end of chapter).
The fact that Luke mentions that Mary and Joseph originally came from Nazareth is seen as a contradiction by many commentators. Matthew seems to know nothing of this fact. Matthew, however, narrates that which is relevant to his purpose in the fulfillment quotations. There is nothing in his narrative that precludes their previous residence in Nazareth. It is possible that Mary and Joseph had decided to settle in Bethlehem—it was their ancestral home town. The events surrounding the Magi, Herod the great, the slaughter of the innocents, and Herod Antipas caused them to change their plans and move north again. The angel that appeared to Joseph confirmed the need to leave this region.
The same problem is often raised by those commenting on Luke. Luke records nothing of the flight to Egypt and return. Yet
And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth.
This certainly does not preclude the events that led them to Egypt.
The first section of chapter two (verses
They ask the question about the location of the newborn king of the Jews. Some extraordinary celestial phenomenon, which they had seen in their own country, had convinced them that the Messiah, the king of the Jews, had been born. The exact nature of this star is unknown. It is also not known how the Magi connected it with the birth of Christ. What is known, however, is that they came from a great distance to worship the newborn king. But first they must locate Him.
The murderous King Herod was troubled by their arrival as well as the rest of Jerusalem.
The king wants to know where this new king will be born. Consequently a meeting of the religious leaders determined that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem—as it is written in the Scriptures (
Once the king has this information he has a secret meeting with the Magi. He does not tell them his real intention but rather pretends he also wishes to worship this new king. He seeks further information from them about the time of the star’s appearance. Armed with the information, he tells them to go to Bethlehem, find the child, then return and tell him so he can join in the worship.
The Magi leave Herod and experience divine guidance that leads them to the very house where the child is staying.
They enter the house and see the child and His mother. They prostrate themselves before the newborn king in worship and then open the gifts which they brought. To what degree they understood who they were worshipping is not known. It is also unknown how much they understood the significance of the gifts they brought.
As was the situation with Joseph, God speaks to the Magi in a dream. They are instructed to return home without informing Herod concerning the whereabouts of the Messiah. They heed the warning and return home through a different route.
The next section is the flight into Egypt (
Matthew sees the flight to Egypt as a fulfillment of
Once Herod realized the Magi were not returning he became furious and ordered the slaughter of the innocents (verses
The last section deals with the return of the holy family and the settlement in Nazareth (verses
The response of Herod to the baby Jesus is sharply contrasted with that of the Magi. In Herod’s attempt to kill the infant King we encounter evil for the first time in Matthew’s narrative. Matthew will show throughout his gospel that evil continually stands in opposition to God’s kingdom which comes through Christ. This reaches a climax in the crucifixion narrative. Thus the slaughter of the innocents anticipates the eventual slaughter of the innocent Jesus on the cross.
There is, however, God’s providential protection of the Holy Child. God’s purposes cannot be stopped. It was not thwarted by Egyptian nor by the exile of the chosen people to Babylon. In Israel’s history God repeatedly brought salvation to His people. He has now brought to them the one who relives their history, sums it up, and brings it to a fulfillment. The events surrounding the Christ child are related to all that preceded. They are fulfillments of earlier events. The Messiah, the promised descendant of David toward whom all thins are pointed, is now in the world. As did His people, He comes out of Egypt to the Promised Land and settles in Galilee. He brings forth light to those who sit in darkness as the prophet had foretold. He will dwell in the unlikely town of Nazareth and be called a Nazarene. As Matthew clearly shows, this is God’s eternal plan, nothing has happened by accident.
We find some striking parallels between the two stories. The information given in parentheses is derived from Jewish sources at the time of Jesus that are testified by the writers Josephus and Philo.
- Pharaoh killed all male Hebrew infants
Exodus 1:22(having been forewarned, either by scribes or through a dream, of a newborn Hebrew who was a threat to his kingdom and this possibility filled him and Egypt with terror).
- At a later time Moses fled to Egypt because his life was threatened by Pharaoh
Exodus 2:15(the infant Moses deliverance is due to his parents actions).
- At the death of Pharaoh Moses was directed to return and he obeyed,
- In addition to these general similarities there are some striking agreements in language. In
Exodus 2:15he was seeking to kill Moses is close to Matthew 2:13he was seeking to destroy the child. Exodus 2:15he fled is identical to Matthew 2:14In Exodus 2:23the king of Egypt died is close to Matthew 2:19. Most impressive of all is the nearly verbatim agreement between Exodus 4:19and Matthew 2:20.
- Jesus came to save His people from their sins (
1:21) as Moses saved Israel from the of Egypt.
Clearly Matthew had in mind the story of Moses as he tells the story of Jesus. Herod is the antitype of Pharaoh and Jesus is the antitype of Moses.
Though there is not a neat one to one correspondence between the two accounts there is rather a series of allusions that would make it clear to the Jewish reader that Jesus is the new Moses.
Did Matthew make a mistake by saying the Old Testament predicted the Messiah would come out of Nazareth? The answer is no. Matthew does not quote a particular prophet but says the prophets (plural) predicted this. He probably did this because his reference is to several Old Testament prophets though none would have his exact wording. His use of the plural is not quoting a specific utterance of one of the prophets. He is not saying this fulfills a direct statement from the Old Testament but rather it sums up the Old Testament teaching on the identity of the Messiah.
Yet Matthew probably meant more than this with his emphasis of fulfillment in Jesus growing up in Nazareth. The two main views are:
- Jesus Was A Nazarite
A Nazarite was one who took a special vow of separation to the Lord (
Number 6:1-21; cf. Judges 13:5, 7). A person abstained from cutting his hair, strong drink, and avoided contact with the dead. Although this description may fit John the Baptist (cf. Luke 1:15) it is inappropriate for Jesus who was accused of being a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners ( 11:19) and who raised the dead by touching them ( 9:23-26).
- Jesus Was The Promised Messianic Branch (Hebrew Netzer).
Most likely we have a play on words here in Hebrew between the word for branch and Nazareth. The quotation in
Isaiah 11:1speaks of a branch (netzer) coming out of Jesse. This passage is Messianic in content and is related to Isaiah 7:14(quoted in Matthew 1:23). The Messianic figure in Isaiah 11:1is Emmanuel (God with us) of Isaiah 7:14.
Matthew’s readers would not realize the wordplay until they understood the meaning of netzer in Hebrew but the primary meaning would have been evident to the Greek reader—that Jesus was called a Nazarene since He was from Nazareth.