The Scriptorium

Egypt Revisited

Jesus and His family flee to Egypt. Matthew 2.13-15

Matthew 2: A King is Born (4)

Pray Psalm 114.1, 2.
When Israel went out of Egypt,
The house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became His sanctuary,
And Israel His dominion.

Sing contemplatively Psalm 114.1, 2.
(Duke Street: Jesus Shall Reign)
When Israel out from Egypt went – they of God’s gracious covenant –
out from a land of language strange, into their midst Jehovah came.

Matthew 2.13-15.

1. Why did Joseph take his family to Egypt?

2. How does Matthew tie this episode in with the Old Testament?

God goes ahead of His people and the events of their lives, because He knows all things, and He does all things well. So it is a good idea to heed His Word, even though what He speaks may seem unlikely or inconvenient.

The message to Joseph is plain: Herod will try to destroy the Child born to Mary. He is commanded to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt. He doesn’t know for how long, or where precisely he will end up. But they were fleeing certain death in the land of Judea, just as Jacob and his sons fled to Joseph in Egypt to escape the famine that was ravaging the land of Canaan.

Joseph was a man of faith. He didn’t quibble about the inconvenience of having to go to Egypt. He obeyed immediately, because he understood that the angel who spoke to him in his dream could be relied upon to convey the will of God. He gathered his family and their things and left immediately for Egypt, in the middle of the night.

Matthew uses this episode to point back to Israel in the Old Testament, the events of whose lives were meant to point forward to the coming of Christ. God has His Son retrace the experience of Israel in Egypt. Thus we learn to read the Old Testament in a forward-looking manner, seeing Christ on every page. The prophet Hosea (Hos. 11.1) echoed the words of the unbelieving Balaam (Num. 24.7-9) in pointing ahead to the coming of the King and Messiah of God’s people.

Joseph and his family remained in Egypt until the death of Herod. At that point, directed again by an angel, they returned, but not to Judea – where Herod’s son was now on the throne (Matt. 2.19-23).

It is not always convenient to obey the commands of God. It is, however, always wise; and it is always the way of life to do so. Joseph will disappear from Matthew’s narrative after chapter 2. But we have seen enough of him in these first two chapters to gain valuable lessons in faith: When God speaks, no matter what He says, believe Him, and obey Him. Even if what He speaks may seem unlikely or impossible, and even if what He requires seems uncertain or inconvenient.

1. Typically, angels don’t speak to us in dreams. So how can we know what God wants of us?

2. Why was it not convenient for Joseph and his family to flee to Egypt? Why was it wise to do so?

3. Meditate on Numbers 24.7-9 and Hosea 11.1. Who came out of Egypt with Mary and Joseph? To what end? How does the Numbers passage point back to Genesis 49.8-12? How does it point to God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen. 12.1-3). How does the juxtaposing of all these Old Testament references help us to think about Jesus?

While Palestine plots, it is Egypt that receives and preserves the One for whom the plots are designed! This is reminiscent of the patriarch Jacob, who also sought succor in Egypt, anticipating the coming of our Lord.
John Chrysostom (344-407), The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 8.2

Thank You for leading me out of “Egypt”, Lord. Help me to shine Your light today as I…

Pray Psalm 114.3-8.
When Jesus came out of Egypt, the course of history changed. When He came out of the tomb and into your life, everything became new. Thank the Lord for the newness you enjoy in Him, and ask Him to send you, like a fount of living waters, to the people you’ll see today.

Sing Psalm 114.3-8.
Psalm 114.3-8 (Duke Street: Jesus Shall Reign)
He His dominion o’er them set; at His command the dark sea fled.
Jordan subsided at His Word; mountains and hills obey our Lord.

What ails the sea that it should flee? Jordan, that it should withered be?
What makes the mountains skip like rams? What makes the hills spring up like lambs?

Tremble, O earth: the Lord is near! Jacob’s great God is present here!
He from the rock sweet water brings, making the flint gush flowing springs.

T. M. Moore

The Gospel of Matthew will help us grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Two companion books can supplement our study of Matthew. To Know Him examines what it means to belong to Jesus and to love and serve Him (click here), while Be Thou My Vision enables us to gain an even larger perspective on Jesus (click here).

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore