One of the challenges we will have in Matthew, and we have already seen in the great comments made yesterday, is that Ryan and I will often not be able to cover all of the valuable content in each chapter. Please continue adding to what we don’t cover through the comments and if you missed yesterday’s comments be sure to go back and check them out. Today I want to look at the three prophecies discussed in chapter 2 and get an idea what Matthew is doing with the prophets.
It wasn’t quite this simple…
Matthew 2:6 “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”
This is from Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
It comes from a section of Micah that is showing that even though Israel has suffered through horrendous kings, that God will bring them a good and faithful king. However, it also speaks of how that king will protect Israel from the Assyrians.
Matthew 2:15 “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
From Hosea 11:1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more they were called, the more they went away from me.”
Matthew applies the prophecy to Jesus, but you can see that the context of Hosea speaks of Israel’s lack of faithfulness to God even after He brought them up out of slavery in Egypt.
Matthew 2:18 “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
From Jeremiah 31:15-17 “This is what the Lord says: “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,” declares the Lord. “They will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope for your descendants,” declares the Lord. “Your children will return to their own land.”
This passage is talking about the exiles in Babylon returning home to Jerusalem. At first glance, Matthew almost seems to be taking this prophecies out of context. However, that misunderstands Jewish expectation of the Messiah and understanding of prophecy. Bill does a great job of dealing with this in his book “The Moses Connection.” The Gospel writers understood the role of the Messiah to be the one who comes and in a single person becomes the ultimate Israelite, experiencing all of Israel’s history in a single life.
Jesus experiences the slaughter of baby boys his age as Moses did. Jesus must go to Egypt to survive and then God brings him back up out of Egypt, just as he brought Israel out of Egypt. Jesus will now ultimately fulfill all of the prophecies about bringing Israel back from exile by bringing them to a greater and more permanent kingdom that no enemy can destroy.
Our modern concept of prophecy would be something like, “During the reign of Herod a baby boy will be born in a manger to an unwed mother. You will know him when he heals a blind person using mud.” But the Old Testament prophecies didn’t work that way, especially in the Gospels. Instead, all of Israel’s history is laid out in the Old Testament as a pattern for the Messiah. When the Messiah came, his life reflected the pattern of Israel’s long and difficult history. And it was a history that was left unresolved, but can now come to its ultimate resolution in the man Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah whose life fit the pattern set by the Old Testament and who can bring to an end the tumultuous story of the Israel and God and open the story of God’s Eternal Kingdom to the entire world.
If you are a Jew reading this, you are wondering if this baby boy was spared from a murderous king to be the next Moses, bringing Israel out of slavery and into a new covenant. You might recognize Micah’s prophecy and realize Matthew is telling you about the good king to come. You would hear the words of Hosea and be reminded that God saved Israel from Egypt as he saved this boy Jesus and realize that even greater salvation might be coming. And perhaps Jeremiah brings this vision of great deliverance from occupying nations and the establishment of Israel, Jerusalem, and the Temple in all the glory God has promised.
We tend to read Matthew 2 and focus on Magi and Herod and the narrative elements. But a Jew in Jesus’ time would read this with wide eyes hearing the echoes of Israel’s history resonating promises of God’s future glory. But how could all of that come in the form of this one baby boy?