The Flight to Egypt

After the wise men departed to return to the East, God intervened in the life of the holy family to preserve it in the face of the Herod’s rage. The murderous wrath of the king in the face of the perceived threat to his throne came as no surprise to God, who knows not only the hearts of men, but knows the evil that overflows those hearts.

Matthew does something in this passage that he does repeatedly in his Gospel. He refers to the Old Testament, and asserts that it foretold the events that he portrays. In this instance, he cites Hosea 11:1, which says:

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called me son.

Modern biblical criticism has argued at great length about whether New Testament citations of Old Testament passages is in accordance with sound scholarship, whether such citations have any significance, or whether they should just be treated as window dressing. I believe all of those arguments miss the point.

What Matthew is doing is not proof-texting as we think of and disdain it. Rather, he is making a twin theological point. First,  he is tying the story of Jesus inextricably to that of the work of God throughout the whole history of His people. Jesus is not disconnected from Israel, or a savior only for the Gentiles. He is a son of Israel, the savior of Israel, and a gift of Israel to the entire world.

Second, he is making clear that the mission of the Messiah is not an afterthought, or a response to something that God had not foreseen. The incarnation, life, teaching, miracles, healing, betrayal, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God were God’s plan all along. Because God is ultimately sovereign over human history, He is able to carry out His plans regardless of the opposition of the world (a point that is made even more prominently in the next passage).

Matthew’s quotation of Hosea may or may not follow the canons of modern scholarship, but his theology of God and God’s people is impeccable.

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