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When Matthew the Evangelist in 2:15 applied Hosea 11:1 to Jesus' return to Israel from Egypt after the death of wicked King Herod, he says,

"This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 'OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON'"

In other words, Matthew is saying that Jesus is God's Son and that God called Him from Egypt, telling Him (actually, Joseph, His earthly father/guardian) to return to Israel. Clearly, however, Hosea 11:1 links God's "son," Israel (formerly Jacob), to the nation of Israel in bondage in Egypt. Moreover, Exodus 4:22 and 23 tell us that Jacob was God's "firstborn" son! According to Matthew Jesus was God's firstborn Son, but the Scripture Matthew quoted in its original context referred to the nation Israel, not Jesus.

  • Why did Matthew seem to have the liberty to analogize Jesus' experience of being called out of Egypt with the nation of Israel's being called out of Egypt? Aren't Jacob (Israel) and Jesus two altogether different entities?

  • What does Matthew's method of handling that particular scripture in Hosea tell us about his hermeneutic?

  • Did Matthew apply a hermeneutical rule in the way he quoted and applied Hosea 11:1 to Jesus and not to the nation of Israel?

One instigation for my questions was a comment made by Dr. Peter Enns, author of Inspiration and Incarnation, while he was being interviewed on a "Beyond the Box" podcast. Matthew 2:15 informed an observation he made.

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marked as duplicate by Dan, Soldarnal, Lance Roberts, Frank Luke, GalacticCowboy Dec 19 '13 at 0:00

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Possible Duplicate: “My son” in Hosea 11:1 quoted in Matt. 2:14-15 –  Jas 3.1 Dec 3 '13 at 1:05

1 Answer 1

This would take a book to answer well, but here's the gist:

Israel out of Egypt?

  • Israel in the Pentateuch was typological of God's people (cf. 1 Cor. 10)

    • (God's people would have to leave "Egypt", pass through the "water", follow God through the "wilderness", live by God's "law", etc.)
  • Israel failed to actually be God's people (cf. Hos. 11 and the rest of the OT)

  • There was to be an "Israel" some day who would actually fulfill God's Law, serve as a witness to the Gentiles, etc. But who? When? How? It seemed to be hopeless, with generation after generation falling flat on their faces. (Cf. Judges, the depressing progression through 2 Kings, etc.)

Christ out of Egypt?

  • Christ came be the True Israel, fulfilling Israel's mission, obeying God's Law

  • He also came as the firstborn among many brethren to blaze the trail. He was to lead the way for God's people, who would follow after Him and look like Him.

  • Matthew wanted to show that Christ was the True Israel. (He came out of Egypt, passed through the water, spent 40 days without food in the wilderness, fulfilled God's Law, etc.

The Hermeneutic

  • God's statement in Exodus 4:22-23 had Messianic undertones. Thus, while it did refer more immediately to Israel, they were merely a type of the coming "God's People" comprised of Christ and those in Christ, and so it more ultimately spoke of God's true people (Christ and the Church) being called "out of Egypt".

  • Hosea 11:1 referred back to that, maintaining the Messianic undertones, while showing that Israel did not succeed in being "God's son". In a sense, Hosea 11 then is Messianic as well, anticipating the True Israel who would be called "God's Son" and not fall flat on their faces.

  • Matthew 2:15 picks up on Hosea 11:1 and Exodus 4:22-23 showing Jesus as the "Son" that Israel failed to be

Can we follow that hermeneutic?

Sure, if you understand how it works.

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You make that very clear! A pleasure to see something so simply and clearly put. –  John Unsworth Dec 3 '13 at 21:32
Thank you. Fine answer. As Dr. Enns observes, the New Testament writers, especially the Gospel writers, had had their eyes opened to the centrality of Christ in the Tanakh and were eager to spread the message that Jesus was in fact the long-awaited Messiah. Rhetoric (my specialty) enters the picture since not only were the Gospel writers persuaded of Jesus' messiah-ship, but they were desirous of persuading others of His messiah-ship, too. As for a label for Matthew's rule of interpretation, I guess we'd have to say it was the supremacy of the Christological principle of interpretation? –  rhetorician Dec 3 '13 at 21:54
@rhetorician It's tough to label... it's sort of Christian, Christocentric, typological, modified-double-fulfillment... or something like that. :) –  Jas 3.1 Dec 3 '13 at 22:32

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