Matthew 2:19-23


How did Joseph receive instruction to leave Egypt?

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and gave Joseph directions on what to do.

What was the signal that Joseph should leave Egypt?

The angel declared that Herod was dead and thus the pilgrimage of Joseph and his family in Egypt should be ended. In this event, we, as Christians, can learn some things.

  1. Our journeying here in a foreign land is temporary for our citizenship is not in “Egypt” (the foreign land from the spiritually minded). Our citizenship, or mind of relation and allegiance, is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).
  2. We can be turned away from out intended work. This may be to avoid dangers in the effort to attain the greater victory. Sometimes the avoidance of a confrontation can lead to our ability to contribute to winning the war instead of just losing a battle.
  3. While losing ourselves in battle may be a necessary sacrifice on the part of some Christians, it should only occur because of the direction of the Lord. We may see a challenge ahead of us but the Lord will know when we are ready to confront should tests (Proverbs 14:8). We need to follow the directions of the Lord given to us in scripture in order to be successful in the things of the Spirit and not glorifying ourselves in the name of righteousness (Proverbs 13:6). There are sufficient examples of Christians being tested to the point of persecution, even death (James Acts 12; Stephen, Acts 7). We know how far to take a confrontation in the name of the Lord based on the purpose that God has set for us and the maturity that we have come to in order to handle spiritual trials (Proverbs 16:2, 9).

Where did the angel tell Joseph to take the family?

The angel told Joseph to take the child and His mother back to Israel. This may be easy to overlook in reading through the writing of Matthew. But Matthew uses the specific title of “Israel” in reference to the location to relocate instead of the normative contemporary titles of Judea. This speaks to the numerous prophecies throughout the old testament, particularly during the period the division of the kingdom of Israel. This is particularly interesting based on the distinct judgment against the north kingdom of Israel and the promised reunification of the kingdom under the Messiah. A careful study of Hosea 1 revels this purpose of salvation through the Lord.

As the family entered into Judea, Joseph feared because Archelaus (son of Herod) reigned over Judea at the time. Again, here is the distinction in the words of Matthew concerning the recognition of Judea but the purpose of God concerns Israel according to His promises to the decedents of Abraham. The instructions of God in the second dream was to avoid Judea and go into Galilee, to the north.

To what does Joseph and Mary show allegiance at this time?

The word of God (Proverbs 3:5). They are trusting in the directions given them even though they may seem cumbersome (Psalm 56:3-4). We must remember that provisions for there physical well being were provided by the Lord before the departed for Egypt. The Lord will provide what we need to provide the greatest impact in the effort of the purpose of the gospel. Sometimes, little provision, makes the biggest impact because of the effort that may be required on our part.

What are they not showing allegiance to at this time?

The wisdom of men. Note 1 Corinthians 2:4-5

And my word and my preaching was not in enticing words of human wisdom, but in proof of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Notice also that God does not disregard the concerns of Joseph. Joseph has needed to show great faith ever since he was told of the pregnancy of Mary. He has acted in faith based on a hearing and believing of the word of God. But, God sees and knows his stress and does not allow a test or trial to come upon them that they do not have the means to overcome. Even so, we need to make our concerns known to God through appeals to His providence (Philippians 4:6-7, 1 Peter 5:7, Psalm 54:23, Psalm 55:22).

What should we show allegiance to during our lives?

The word of God at all times and in all cases. This is particularly true when “conventional” wisdom of those around us, including worldly Christians, want us to compromise on the scriptures. Usually along the lines of “everyone is doing it”.

Why would the desires, motives, and actions of Herod force such a movement of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus to a foreign land?

The purposes of the Lord are greater than the purposes of men. We need to depend on the Lord to give us the purpose through the scriptures that lead us on the path concerning the things of the Spirit in our individual lives.

If the actions of Herod brought about the radical movement of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus to a foreign land, then what kind of changes could we be forced to make as Christians?

A radical change based on faith for one person might not seem all that radical to another. It can also depend on the factors involved. A war or persecution in someone’s home land may lead them to immigrate to another land taking the word of God with them. For others, the same war or persecution may require them to make a stand for the word of God. Which is more radical? The point is really not to follow our hearts (in conventional terms). Emotions are strong factors in a decision-making process for many people. The problem is that our emotions should be reactions to the necessities of our faith. For instance, with regard to sin, we should be angry at times. Sometimes we should show empathy and sadness with regard to sin. But we should be angry and not sin (Ephesians 4:26) and we should show caring to our sinning brethren (empathy and sadness with action) and not sin (Galatian 6:1, 2 Peter 3:17). The changes that may be necessary in our lives according to the purpose of the Spirit is motivated from the heart. It is that which occupies our heart that pushes our minds towards the reasoning of the Lord because our hearts have nothing but the Word within them (Hebrews 10:16). Emotions are the peripheral indicators of our purpose not the directors of our intentions. The word of God directs us to make what ever changes are necessary for the purpose of the gospel of Christ. We should not approach this question with any limitations defined by the flesh. Our commitments should strictly be based on the spiritual.

What kind of forces could necessitate us making major changes in our lives because of our faith?

The premise to the question is the ownership of faith. This needs to be an immovable faith (1 Corinthians 15:58). Without this faith, we could have trouble recognizing when changes are necessary in order to be the greatest help to the Lord. This faith requires us to focus on our one true leader which is Christ according to the will of the Father (Matthew 6:24). These changes can come because of various factors in the conduct of the world, our community, our families, or even the churches we worship with.

Is there anything that could cloud our judgment and decision-making capabilities to see the need for major changes in our lives?

The forces that come against us in spite of our faith are directed by the evil one (John 16:11, Ephesians 2:2). He uses world to perform aggression against us and tempt us to deny the faith authored by the Lord. We should frequently inspect ourselves to see, is there anything that could cause us to lose our faith? Would the loss of our loved ones, jobs, or an offense by a person, organization, or government cause us to lose faith? What would we look at as a legitimate excuse to not be as strong a Christian as we are today? If it exists, then that is where we will be tested and that is where we will fail. As the Lord said, “let the dead bury the dead” but let us of the faith continue with the gospel as our purpose and goal Matthew 8:22, Luke 9:60). Anything and anyone that can not support us in this faith, let them be and move on (1 Corinthians 5:9-13, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 2 Timothy 3:1-5).

If those that sought the life of the child were dead, why was Joseph so apprehensive about Archelaus?

Archelaus lived from about 23 B.C. to about 18 A.D. dying in exile in Vienne in Gaul. He was actually exiled by Augustus after reigning for 10 years. This was due to the cruel and tyrannical nature of his rule. Initially promising to follow and support the wishes of the populace, he reneged on all promises. He if infamous for a massacre that occurred under his leadership on the day before Passover. It was understood that the crowds in Jerusalem were become riotous in their insistence that demands for government actions be obeyed. Not satisfied with promises, the crowds became unruly as far as Archelaus was concerned and he sent in a detachment of Jewish soldiers loyal to the Herodians to make a stand in the courts of the Temple grounds. They were not effective in subduing the crowds so he sent in all troops of the available garrison. The intensification and visual provocations of such strength led to violence and approximately 3000 died that day at the temple. At what was deemed the conclusion of this episode of violence, Archelaus left for Rome where he anticipated being recognized as king of land by Augustus and the Romans. Instead, Augustus decided against two desires of Archelaus: make Archelaus king, like his father Herod the Great, and there would not be a single king over the land. Augustus also decided it not wise to appoint a Roman king over the land but to divide it between tetrarchs in order to weaken the vested power and keep in under control. While on this journey more uprisings were occurring in Judah and more deaths. The uprisings were motivated in large part by the massacres of both Herod the Great and Archelaus. In 4 B.C., Sabinas, the procurator appointed by Augustus while the meetings in Rome took place, incited the people in Jerusalem to violence and many more deaths occurred. Since Sabinas proved incapable of dealing with the insurrections throughout Judea, Varus, the Roman legate of Syria, was called into action with allies from Aretas, the king of Arab. The revolts were essentially brought under control. But at tremendous cost, particularly on the part of the Roman legions. There were casualties on the part of the Jews and Romans that matched that of some wars. These characteristics of the leadership of Archelaus and the associated Roman authority is likely what leads Joseph to be warry of going back to Judah. But this also gives us some perspective of the background for the resentment that is seen by the people toward Roman rule in the days of Christ’s preaching.

If the lineage of Joseph dictated they be in Bethlehem for a census at the time of Jesus’ birth, why were they required to go to Nazareth in Galilee?

The tetrarch devised by Augustus and his council included the following:

  1. Archelaus was ethnarch over Samaria, Judea, and most of Judea/Idumea
  2. Herod Antipas (20 BC-40 AD), tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea, who was described in the New Testament as ordering John the Baptist’s death and as mocking Jesus.
  3. Philip the tetrarch (4 BC-34 AD), tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis (northern territories).
  4. Salome I (65 BC–10 AD) was the sister of Herod the Great and the mother of Berenice. She was appointed tetrarch over part of Judea/Idumea. Note: This is not Salome, daughter of Herodias and granddaughter of Herod the Great. Salome, the daughter of Herodias married her uncle, Philip the tetrarch.

The area of Galilee was governed by the administration of Herod Antipas and not Archelaus.

Did Joseph’s emotions change God’s mind about them going back to Judea?

Matthew tells us Joseph was afraid. But is this emotion of fear what constituted an appeal on the part of Joseph to God on the subject of being in Judah? Our emotions are very real and from God. Our emotions should be according to the will and example that God has given us in Himself. Does God get angry? Check 1 Kings 11:9. Also Mark 3:5 concerning Jesus being angry. Many refer to the situation of Jesus overturning the tables and running the money changers out of the temple but none of the Gospel writers say that Jesus was angry in that scenario. John records the quote from Psalm 69:9 in John 2:17 but the word usually referenced as anger, which is zeal, is here an appeal to hot jealously or fervency. Not necessarily anger. None the less, we are told to be angry but do not sin (Ephesians 4:26, Psalm 4:4-5). Emotion is necessary to show people our feelings at the right time and in the right way. Emotions do not rule us. Our conduct and exhibition of emotion is ruled by knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. We can be excited about the Word of God and show it at the right time and in the right way. We can also be troubled, or even saddened, by the necessities of being a Christian and let God know that. But emotion is not what God is going to answer to. The emotions we show are just the culmination of what our minds and hearts have determined, right or wrong. If we are wrong, we had better be of mind and heart to hear the correction of God’s word and not let our emotions blind us. Consider what Christ directs in us: and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind, and with all your strength (Mark 12:30). Think of any emotion you like, it’s not in the list of that verse. Let emotions serve their purpose but let us not allow emotions to rule us, whether our own or someone else’s.

Should our fears dictate our course of action if we are walking by faith?

Fear is one the strongest of emotions because it is motivated from our own mind and perception. Fear can lead us into lethargy (Proverbs 13:4), cowardice (Revelation 21:8), and weakness (1 Corinthians 15:58). Fear is repeatedly rebuked in the scriptures. Examples are the spies other than Joshua and Caleb (Numbers 13) and Peter (Galatians 2) among others. There is, without exception, and under all imaginable and unimaginable situations one thing that the faithful should fear: the wrath of God! See 2 Corinthians 5:11 and Hebrews 12:28-29. Fear nothing else, including sin and death (Hebrews 2, 1 Corinthians 15:26, 55-56 and Romans 8:2, 6).

If we have fears should we appeal to God about our concerns?

Yes. We are called to live a life absent of fear because of the love of God (1 John 4:18). That doesn’t mean we will not have anxieties and troubles of the heart. Paul tells us to be anxious about nothing (Philippians 4:6-8) but center our minds completely on the things of the Spirit. That can be very tough. It would be a misconception to think that we, as Christians can go through life with no stress, anxiety, or depression. The key is that these things should not rule us. They each have their place just like emotions and can be indicators of challenges and opportunities in our lives. We can not leave God out of these things.

Isaiah 41:10 - Do not fear, for I am with you; do not gaze about, for I am your God; I will make you strong; yea, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness. 

The world (friends, family, professional help, etc.) independent of God will not rescue us from these things. Why would we, as Christians, appeal solely to those that do not know God, and expect to be at peace with our decisions? Where does the “good word” (Proverbs 12:25) that makes us glad and strong come from (1 Peter 5:10)? It is our privilege to pray to God, particularly on each other’s behalf (1 Peter 4:7, 1 Timothy 2:1, Colossians 4:2, 1 Peter 3:12, James 5:13-20)

Here are some scriptures to review concerning fears and faith. 2 Timothy 1:7, Hebrews 13:5-6, 1 John 4:18, Philippians 1:12-14.

There are a few scriptures that I would advise keeping in mind concerning Joseph and his concerns about returning to Judea. First is Philippians 4:6. Also Matthew 1:19 which declares Joseph a righteous man. That being the case, reference James 5:16.

Fortunately, we know that God never intended for Jesus to return to Judea. Who are the prophets Matthew is referencing in Verse 23 and what verses are they?

Jesus wasn’t born in Nazareth but was commonly referred to as Jesus of Nazareth in the gospel texts. The Hebrew word for branch is netzer which is found in the prophecy of Isaiah 11:1. See also Isaiah 4:2, Jeremiah 23:5, Jeremiah 33:15, Zechariah 3:8, and Zechariah 6:12 which uses the word tsemach for branch. This makes the word and usage in Isaiah 11:1 peculiar. The difference in the two words is that netzer is used figuratively while tsemach can be literal or figurative.

There are some that might think about the commitment of a Nazarite such as Samson. The Nazarite vow was intended to show holiness of God in the people. It was for symbolic purposes and inspiration to the Israelites. Therefore, there is not a correlation between the Nazarite vow and the Nazarene fitting the prophetic character referred to by Matthew. We know this based on what Philip says concerning Nazareth (John 1:46).

We don’t actually know what prophet Matthew is referring to in Verse 23. While the use of the word netzer in Isaiah 11:1 is peculiar, and absolutely speaks of the Messiah, none of the associated scriptures concerning the Branch can be understood to say explicitly as Matthew indicates, the Messiah will live in the town of Nazareth. It is also telling that Matthew says the “prophets” not “a” or “the” prophet.

Why would Joseph and Mary settle in Nazareth (Luke 2:39)?

Luke says (Luke 2:39) that they returned to Nazareth because that was their city. See Luke 2:4. That’s where they were from.