Matthew 2:13-23

Setting and Overview
In the conclusion of Matthew 2, we see Matthew emphasize at least two different themes that he has already begun in the narrative so far. One theme is that of dreams. Just as both Joseph and the wise men have already had dreams through which they are given critical directions that will shape their decisions and the events that follow, we will see three more such critical dreams in the final section. Fulfillment will also continue to be critical, and just as Matthew has already shown that Isaiah 7:14 and Micah 5:2 are fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, he will refer to three more such aspects of fulfillment in the these final verses. That emphasis on fulfillment challenges us to familiarize ourselves with the passages referenced and see what they would have signified to early readers.
 
Exposition
After the wise men leave, an angel warns Joseph in a dream of Herod’s plan to kill Jesus, intentions that had only been hinted at to this point (2:3, 12.) Joseph obediently takes Mary and Jesus and flees to Egypt, further evidence of his accepting and embracing the role of Jesus’ father. The trip to Egypt would have been at least 80 miles. Although we don’t know for sure where exactly they went in Egypt, early traditions reflected that they settled in Alexandria, a trip of about 400 miles, but a city which had a large Jewish population. Matthew further indicates that this fulfilled Hosea 11:1. While Hosea 11:1 was referencing an event that had already happened, what Hosea was inspired to write would also find its final and complete meaning in Jesus, often shown in Matthew to both correspond to and contrast with Israel. While Israel is unfaithful, Jesus is perfectly faithful, and while Israel responded with disobedience after being brought out of Egypt and suffered punishment for its sins, Jesus lived a completely righteous life and instead took on the penalty for the sins of others.
When Herod learned that the wise men weren’t going to come back and tell him where Jesus was, he decides instead to kill all boys in Bethlehem of two and under. While this would have probably represented the murder of more than a dozen children and was a great tragedy, it sadly would not have been that noteworthy or unusual for the time in light of Herod’s typical cruelty, and it is unsurprisingly not referenced in other histories. Matthew further indicates that this was the fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:15, which references one of the exiles. While there are differences in the setting and context of the specific references, Jeremiah 31 is a chapter of great hope and consolation in the midst of a difficult book of prophecies of destruction and punishment. In addition, Jeremiah 31:9 and 31:20 both picture Israel as God’s son, and later in the chapter, we see the great picture of the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34.) Together, those help us see how the tears of the exile come to finality with the tears of the massacre, because the hope that was prophesied at the time as consolation has now finally arrived in the person of the true Son of God.
After Herod’s death in 4 BC, his kingdom was divided among three sons: Philip, Antipas, and Archelaus. Philip was regarded as the best of the three and Archelaus was the worst. Because Archelaus was originally over Judea (until he was deposed in AD 6 and replaced with a line of Roman prefects that included Pontius Pilate), Joseph goes instead to Galilee, which was under the rule of Antipas. While Antipas was hardly much better morally (Matthew 4:1-12, Luke 23:6-12), he posed less of an immediate threat. Specifically, they return to Nazareth, which leads to Jesus being called a Nazarene, which Matthew also declares to be a fulfillment of the prophets. While no specific OT scripture says that specifically, he was most likely referring back to OT that the Messiah would be despised (Isaiah 49:7.) Nazareth was already at the time seen as a place of little value and importance (John 1:45-46), and indeed the term is used derisively of Jesus and His followers in the years to come (Acts 24:5.) 
 
Examination and Application
We again see int his passage evidence of Joseph’s faith, obedience, and leadership in his family, and there is much to learn from that, but Matthew has already emphasized that in the first chapter. What stands out most in this section is God’s sovereign control over events, both through the dreams that give needed direction to Joseph, and through the fact that that the events of the early years of Jesus were already pointed to in scriptures written hundreds of years before. One such fulfillment is that Jesus would be despised and rejected by men, which means that we should expect similar treatment (John 15:18-21.) This is an important reminder to us, especially at a time of year in which much of our culture seems to, at least superficially, share in our celebration of Jesus. We know that such celebrations all too rarely indicate true devotion and obedience to His word, and so we must be ready and willing to follow Him, even if it means that we will be similarly despised.  
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