Matthew 2:13-23 – Prophecy & the Extraordinary Christ

A Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 2 Jan 2011


·         In chapter 1 we saw that Jesus is of the line of kings and that he was legitimately born.

·         In chapter 2 we see him worshipped as the king of kings and recognized by Herod as a rival king.

o       Why would Herod be so afraid and so keen to kill this child?

o       Why would foreigners travel so far to worship this child?

o       Why would Joseph be so keen to protect this child through obeying extraordinary commands to move to another country?

o       Because Jesus is an extraordinary individual.

·         Matthew points out the singularity of who Jesus is by quoting three prophecies at the end of chapter 2. The fulfillment of these three prophecies in Jesus teach us that Jesus is indeed extraordinary and worthy of fear, worship, and obedience because He is:

o       the Arch-typical Israel,

o       the All-historical Hope,

o       and the Anti-typical King.

Prophecy #1: Out of Egypt – Jesus is the Archtypical Israel (2:13-14)

2:13. After they departed, see, an angel of the Lord appeared by a night-vision to Joseph, saying, “Get up,
and take along the child and His mother,
and flee into Egypt,
and be there until whenever I tell you,
     for Herod is about to search for the child to destroy Him.”

14. So, after he got up,
he took along the child and His mother by night
and departed into Egypt,
15. and was there until the end of Herod,
     in order that the word of the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled saying,
     “Out of Egypt I called my son.”


This prophetic quote is translated by Matthew from the Hebrew text of Hosea 11:1,
“ When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.” (NASB)

·         The message of the book of Hosea was: “Just as in his tender love, Hosea restored Gomer, so Jehovah would restore Israel’s remnant. To show the greatness of this love, Jehovah, by the mouth of Hosea, reminds Israel that already when it was still groaning under the yoke of Egyptian bondage, he has set His love upon that nation.” (William Hendricksen, p.178)

·         Wait a minute, that’s not talking about Jesus travelling to and from Egypt, it’s talking about the nation of Israel being brought out of bondage in Egypt a thousand years or so prior!

·         Yes, but Jesus was born of a woman descended from those Jewish slaves in Egypt long ago, and so in that first deliverance of Jesus’ ancestors from Egypt, Jesus was also, in a sense brought out of Egypt.

·         And furthermore, Jesus was typological of Israel. In other words, all that we see in Israel is fulfilled in Christ. In many ways, Jesus recapitulates the history of Israel:

o       with a supernaturally-aided birth like that of Abraham,

o       birth under an oppressive regime and deliverance from a baby-killing king like Moses was,

o       return to the people of God after a message that “all who were seeking your life are dead” – just like Moses (Ex. 4:19),

o       a wilderness stay of 40 days like Israel’s 40 years,

o       a baptism by John along with the masses at the Jordan River,

o       a temptation by the devil like Adam and Eve,

o       delivery of the law of God on a mountain like Moses,

o       rejection of His message by the Jews also experienced by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other prophets,

o       Even His death was the archtype of the many slaughters of Jews throughout history.

·         Throughout Biblical history, God’s people went to Egypt for safety and provision – Abraham, Jacob, Moses, even Jeremiah and a portion of the Jewish exiles, the reason being, it was a relatively stable civilization with dependable food production.

·         Another angle on this relationship between Jesus and Israel is the metaphor of the body and the head – the people of God form the body and Jesus is the head, so it is only natural for the head to do what the body is doing (Calvin, Eph_5:23; Col_1:18; Col_2:19).

·         In this way, Jesus identified with his people, as their archtype, sharing in every important aspect of their life, as Hebrews 4:15-16 says, “we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”


The angel gives four specific commands to Joseph: “Get up,” “take,” “flee,” and “stay”/ “remain”/lit. “be.” And Joseph promptly and carefully obeys each one.

·         Jesus is the most precious treasure that could ever be entrusted to any man;

·         Joseph would give up sleep, give up his house, his business, his relatives, even his country at the drop of a hat to do whatever it takes to guard that precious trust given to him by God.

·         And don’t forget Mary. “What, Joseph? You dragged me down to Bethlehem on a donkey when I was nine months pregnant, and now, just after I’ve had a baby you want me to go where? In the middle of the night???” She decided to submit to her husband’s leadership and obey God, even though it would be very uncomfortable for her.


The phrase “the child and His mother” occurs four times in this narrative.

·         It is consistent with the fact mentioned in the previous chapter that Jesus was not the physical descendent of Joseph or of any other man.

·         The child Jesus is consistently mentioned first because He is the central focus.

·         The presence of Jesus even transforms the relationship Joseph has with Mary from Joseph’s wife to Jesus’ “mother.”

·         Matthew wants our attention to be centered upon Jesus and transforming every relationship because of His presence.


Herod’s fearful hatred against Jesus results in the departure of Jesus from his country. Be careful about not wanting God around, He just might withdraw His blessed presence!

·         Where did He go? To Egypt – probably to one of the places where Jews had settled earlier during  the Babylonian captivity (perhaps to Elephantine Island?).

·         How long were they in Egypt? Probably not even a year, because Jesus was born in the year Herod died, and they returned shortly after Herod died.


Anyway, the point of the first fulfillment of prophecy is to show how valuable Jesus is as the arch-type of Israel, the fulfillment of all the experiences of the people of God in the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ. This Jesus is worthy of our worship and careful obedience.

Prophecy #2: Slaughter in Bethlehem – Jesus is the All-historical hope (2:15-18)

16. Then Herod, seeing that he had been deluded by the magi, became very enraged,
and sending (a dispatch) he annihilated all the boys two years and younger, in Bethlehem, even within all its boundaries, according to the chronology he had researched with the magi.

17. Then the word through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled saying,
“A voice was heard in Ramah – weeping and much mourning.
18. Rachel was not even willing to be comforted, as she was weeping over her children,
because they are no (more).


Meanwhile, Herod realizes he’s been given the slip by the magi. He played a game of deception and intrigue with them and he lost because they were connected to God’s counsel. The magi did not play in to Herod’s plan. And Herod gets angry.

o       Instead of becoming angry, he should have repented and submitted himself to God as his final authority! But no, he is more interested in staying in control, so he hatches a plan:

o       The Jewish historian Josephus gives us a little more of this history: Apparently Herod gather­ed together the same Jewish priests and scribes in the Sanhedrin who had informed him of the birthplace of Jesus but had been too indifferent to travel to Bethlehem themselves, and he had them slaughtered, and replaced them with yes-men who would do whatever he wanted.

o       Then he dispatched soldiers to kill all the little boys in Bethlehem – and not only those in the town, but all the way out to the farthest boundary-markers of the town, just to make sure.


“Two years and under”

·         Luke tells us that Mary made it to Jerusalem for her purification rite at the temple 40 days after giving birth,

·         Since she offered as her sacrifice two doves, which only poor people could offer, this may have happened before their sudden increase in wealth when the magi came by with their gifts. (Hendricksen, Luke 2:22-24, Leviticus 12:2-8)

·         Also, Matthew mentions the family being in a house in Bethlehem rather than in a stable when the magi came to pay their respects.

·         So the flight to Egypt was probably a few months to a year after Jesus’ birth.

·         Herod’s propensity for overkill when it came to threats to his throne is probably the reason why he took the lives of every boy two years and younger. He knew from the timing of the star that Jesus would have only been about a year old but he wasn’t taking any chances.

·         The commentators I read (Hendrickson, A.T. Robertson, Calvin, and Earle) estimated that the town was so small that perhaps only a dozen or two children were killed, but even so, that is a travesty.

·         Who could ever comfort a mother after such a horrific slaughter?


In addition to Jesus being the arch-type of Israel to which all the types and actions of God’s people pointed, Jesus is also the hope to which God’s people throughout history had looked (and continue to look) for comfort and salvation.

·         In this second prophecy, Jesus is shown to be that hope:

·         It is a translation of the Hebrew text of Jeremiah 31:15, around the time of the Babylonian cap­tivity, and it pictures Rachel, the wife of Jacob (aka Israel) mourning over the loss of her sons.

o       Rachel is the one who had told Jacob, “Give me children or I die!” (Gen 31:1) And God gave her two sons: Joseph, from whom came the northern Israelite tribes, and Benjamin from whom came the tribe in the southern Judea.

o       Although long since dead, Rachel is pictured as weeping over the tragedy of both of her children’s descendents, northern Israel being taken into exile by the Assyrians, and southern Judah being taken into exile by the Babylonians.

·         The picture is placed in Ramah, which was a border town between the two kingdoms of Israel and a point from which several military campaigns were launched against Jerusalem five miles to the south.

o       Just upstream from Jericho and the Jordan river crossing, it may also have been a gather­ing point for captives before they were deported from the promised land into exile. (HEN.)

·         But Jeremiah’s prophecy goes on to say, “‘There is hope for your future,’ declares the Lord, ‘and your children will return from the land of the enemy…’” God promises to “have mercy” and “restore.”

o       And so, as the Jews were taken into captivity, many repented of their faithlessness and rebellion against God and began a life of hope in God’s mercy and restoration.

o       That restoration would come politically under Cyrus and Ezra and Zerubbabel, but they were only types of the Messiah Jesus who would show God’s mercy

§         by dying on the cross and restoring us to true spiritual fellowship with God

§         and would go on to conquer death,

§         and at some point will eradicate all evil from the world and give us a new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells.

·         This pattern of humans falling short of the glory of God and falling under the curses of rebellion against God and repenting and hoping for God’s salvation and restoration is the mega-theme of history, according to the Bible:

o       Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and were cursed, but hoped in the promised offspring who would bruise the serpent’s head.

o       Moses and Israel sinned in the wilderness against God and were sentenced to a life of wandering in the wilderness, but they hoped for a time when God would restore the nation by bringing them into the promised land.

o       David failed as a father and suffered the shame of sons who tried to overthrow him. Even though he left his kingdom in the hands of foolish descendents, he placed his hope in the promised Messiah who would reign as king forever.

o       The prophets from Isaiah (in the Old Testament) to Simeon (in the New Testament) lived in the midst of a people who had gone astray, yet they looked forward to the hope of Israel, embodied in their Messiah.

o       The Apostle Paul wrote of how “even we ourselves groan…, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body, for in hope we have been saved… with perseverance we wait eagerly for it”  because “our hope is in [Jesus], who will yet deliver us.” (Rom 8:23-25, 2 Corinthians 1:10)


So as the families of Bethlehem groaned under the curse of sin and their terrible affliction, their only hope – and the only hope of all people throughout history – was the child, the archtype of Israel who had escaped to Egypt and who would save them from their sins and make all things new.

Prophecy #3: The Nazarene – Jesus is the Anti-typical King (2:19-23)

19. Now, when Herod was finished off, see, an angel of the Lord appeared by a night-vision to Joseph in Egypt, 20. saying,
“Get up;
take along the child and His mother,
and proceed into the land of Israel,
     for the ones seeking the life of the child have died.”

21. So, after he got up,
he took along the child and His mother
and went into the land of Israel.

22. But, hearing that Archelaos was reigning over Judea after his father Herod,
he was afraid to go there, and after being informed by a night-vision, he departed into the district of Galilee, 23. and he came and settled down in a city called Nazareth.
Thus the word through the prophets might be fulfilled that He would be called a Nazarene.


Once again, we see God’s hand orchestrating the players in history, maneuvering Jesus into just the right place to fulfill all the prophecies and fulfill the hopes of all the world.

·         Herod dies, and God calls His son back out of Egypt though a message to Joseph, and Joseph finds a safe place to live in the out-of-the way town of Nazareth, providing the perfect context for Jesus to grow up and step onto the scene a few decades later at the baptism of John.

·         It appears that Joseph originally wanted to settle back in Bethlehem, but had a bad feeling about Herod’s son Archelaos, who had succeeded him in Judea, and the feeling that this was another bad king was confirmed through further information revealed to him by God in a dream.


Herod and his son Archelaos provide an opposing example to what Jesus’ kingship would be like. Jesus would not be a king like them:

·         As we saw earlier, and as is mentioned in v.20, Herod was seeking to kill Jesus. His whole regime was characterized by seeking glory for himself and killing everyone whom he thought might threaten his kingship. He was a bad king.

·         Caeasar Augustus was heard commenting on Herod’s slaughter of the boys in Bethlehem that it would be “better to be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son.” (Macrobius, Saturnalia 2.4)

·         Herod had 10 wives, so he had a lot of would-be heirs jockeying for his position as king, and he was very nervous about getting knocked off.

·         His wife Dorris had a son named Antipater, whose name indicates he was anticipated to succeed his father, but, no, Herod killed him because he was too eager to take the throne.

·         Herod’s cruelty extended to his death-bed, when he decreed that all the leading men of Israel be rounded up and held in the Hippodrome of Jericho where he spent his dying days. He ordered that they all be executed the moment he died so that the people of Israel would mourn the day he died – otherwise they would have rejoiced at his death!

·         Herod’s execution order was not actually carried out upon his death, but he did order the execution of two famous Jewish teachers before he died, because they had incited their students to remove a carving of a Roman eagle that he had installed in the temple. Herod was a ruthless and cruel king.

·         Archelaos was no better. The Passover after Herod died, some Jews staged a protest over Herod’s murder of the two teachers, so Archelaos slaughtered 3,000 people right then and there.

·         Archelaos was so cruel, in fact, that the Roman emperor deposed him after nine years and appointed instead a system of governors (the most famous of whom was Pontius Pilate).


In contrast, Jesus is a king to be desired. He was an unassuming, but holy man from Nazareth, and that’s the third prophecy mentioned by Matthew in v. 23.

Frankly, the text is a bit obscure. What does it mean that Jesus would be a Nazarene?

·         One possibility is that there were prophecies about this which were not preserved in the canon of scripture. That’s o.k. We don’t need those ancient texts if God doesn’t think we needed them preserved in holy scripture. However, most Bible scholars find the meaning in the Bible we have:

·         One interpretation is that it speaks of the humility of Jesus:

o       Nazareth is never mentioned in the Old Testament, so it had no special history. Furthermore, it was considered uncultured and had a bad reputation. For Jesus to admit he came from such a place would be a bit embarrassing.

o       That’s why Nathanial did a double-take when Phillip told him that the Messiah was from Nazareth. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” he quipped. (John 1:45-46)

o       The Jews that heard Jesus’ teaching at the Feast of Booths in Jerusalem also did the same thing, “Wait a minute, you say he’s from Nazareth? The Messiah is supposed to come from Bethlehem!”

o       So prophecies like Isaiah 53:2, and Psa 22:6 are counted among the prophecies that Jesus would be looked down upon as a Nazerene. “He was despised and rejected” and “I am a worm and not a man, A reproach of men and despised by the people.”

o       Jesus is not the sort of proud leader who lords it over his people with impressive credentials. He instead impresses us with His unselfish love. He humbled Himself to the point of death so that He might pay the penality of our sin against God and save us.

·         Another interpretation is that Mathew is employing a play on words with the name of Jesus’ hometown, since NATZAR means “branch” in Hebrew, and Isaiah uses the same root word in his Messianic prophecy of the “branch” that would spring “from the root of Jesse.” (Isa 11:1) I think this one is unlikely.

·         Yet another explanation I have found is the similarity between “Nazarene” and “Nazirite” – a play on words between Jesus’ hometown and the role of a man set apart in a special way before God. (Numbers 6)

o       John Calvin took this position, claiming Jdg 13:5 as the source of this prophecy, where God tole Samson’s parents, "behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines." (NASB) Calvin wrote, “Samson is called redeemer of the people only insofar as he prefigured Christ, and as the salvation won by his hand and service were only a foreshadowing, a prelude, to that full salvation which would at length be shown to the world through God’s Son, all that the Scripture tells to Samson’s credit must be transferred to Christ by right.” He went on to claim that the book of Judges was written by multiple authors, thus Matthew’s plural “prophets.”

o       I think we can go a step further and say that all the Nazirites were types of Christ with Jesus being the arch-type.

o       The word “NATZIR,” from which we get Nazirite is even used of Joseph, the son of Jacob as one who was “set apart” from his brothers (Gen. 49:26, Deu. 33:16).

o       God also mentions Nazirites through the prophet Amos (2:10-11) "It was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, and I led you in the wilderness forty years that you might take possession of the land of the Amorite. Then I raised up some of your sons to be prophets and some of your young men to be Nazirites. Is this not so, O sons of Israel?" declares the LORD. (NASB)

o       So far, that’s Amos, the author of Judges, and Moses; they qualifies as “prophets,” right?


My point here is that Jesus was not typical of the kings of His day. Instead of being power-hungry and ruthless, He was humble and he was set apart as holy to God, as the meanings of Nazarene play out.

What You can take away from this:

Jesus is worthy of our fear (Herod), trust/worship (magi), and obedience (Joseph)


  1. Jesus identifies with us – like us in all respects – a God who understands.
  2. God is in control of history:
    1. He knew Herod’s mind and He controlled events such that Jesus was kept safe.
    2. And when Herod’s role was accomplished in God’s plan, God struck him with an illness so that Herod died,
    3. and God even had control over the rulers who took power after Herod, for, although Archelaos was ruthless like his father, he was only given power over Judea, Samaria, and Edom, and it was another, more level-headed son, Antipas, who was given rulership over Galilee, so the area Jesus grew up in stayed relatively peaceful.
    4. It took faith for Joseph to trust God’s word “those who seek the life of the child are dead.” Sure Herod was dead, but wouldn’t there be others? Joseph could trust in a sov­er­eign God who controls history and believe all other opposition would also be dead.
    5. No one could take Jesus’ life away. As the Lord, He would lay it down when he was ready, and no one could force His hand.
    6. Even the vagueness of the third prophecy is evidence that prophecies were fulfilled in Christ that nobody would even suspect were prophecies. These things were not fulfilled by ambitious men trying to create a Messiah, but rather by a sovereign God in charge of history who could orchestrate things in such a way that Matthew could look back and say, “Hey, look at that, Jesus even fulfilled prophecies of the Messiah being a Nazarene!”
  3. Jesus is the one who will comfort and restore, on whom our hopes are riveted, and
  4. Jesus is humble and holy, as a great king should be.

Let us not be like Jonah, who received a very similar command from God “Get up and go to Nineveh… because their evil has come up before my face.” Let us guard God’s good news with our lives, as Joseph did, and do whatever our Lord tells us.