This question is related to this one about Matthew 2:14-15.

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son."

Matthew 2:14-15 (NIV)

Which event according to Matthew fulfills what was spoken through the prophet? Was it the flight to Egypt? Peter Leithart treats it like this in his book The Four. Or is the fulfilling event the return from Egypt after Herod dies? This is how Craig Blomberg treats the text in the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament edited by Beale and Carson.

4 Answers 4


I don't think you necessarily have to pick one over the other. It's clear that Herod is a new Pharaoh, killing all the boy babies and that Jesus is a new Moses, escaping the slaughter so he can come back and set His people free. It is also true that He physically went down to Egypt and came back, thus fulfilling the prophecy both ways. Matthew's positioning of the quote (on the flight down) seems to indicate that he had in mind the typological link between Herod and Pharaoh.



On the one hand, Matthew seems to link the fulfillment to the journey to Egypt. But the quotation from Hosea makes clear that the journey from Egypt (the Exodus) was what Hosea had in mind. (But see also: Is Hosea 11:1 referencing the initiation of the Exodus or the sojourn in Egypt?) Since Jesus was born in Judea, it would be necessary for him to travel to Egypt in order to be called out of that country.

Reading the rest of Hosea 11, you can see that the prophet is making a broad statement about Israel's rocky history with God. Hosea is warning the Northern Kingdom that Assyria is coming to carry out God's judgement against them. But that's not the end of the story:

They shall come trembling as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria; and I will make them to dwell in their houses, saith the LORD.—Hosea 11:11 (JPS)

In order for the nation to be returned, they must first be carried away from the land.

Joseph as a type for Christ

As I thought about the journey to Egypt and back, it occurred to me that Joseph's life is neatly paralleled by this story of Jesus' nativity. Both are:

  1. taken from Israel to Egypt in order to avoid being murdered, and are
  2. returned to Israel after a change in regime.

There are other similarities (the importance of dreams, both are first-born in a sense, etc.), but the key is that God sent them away in order to return them. In Joseph's case, he was returned as a mummy and in Jesus' case, he was returned while still a child. Matthew, I think, is hoping to draw a connection between Joseph's life and Jesus'.


We are sort of reminded of the New Testament conundrum that the Word of God ascended (to heaven) because he first descended (from heaven) according to Eph 4:8-10 and Rom 10:6-7, respectively. That is, the Old Testament passages (Ps 68:18 and Deut 30:12-14, respectively) only mention the ascent aspect. The New Testament, however, fills in the chronological piece, which is that the Word of God first had to descend (before he could ascend). It is a conundrum, but it is the New Testament's way of saying that these Old Testament passages (Ps 68:18 and Deut 30:12-14, respectively) were referring to Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God.

So the passage from Matt 2:14-15 is cut from the very same cloth. The Old Testament simply mentions the ascent (out of Egypt) but the New Testament, again, complements, and provides us the chronological piece, which is that the Word of God first descended (into Egypt), before he ascended, or was called (out of Egypt).

  • I think I understand how there's a connection between the travels to and from Egypt and ascending to and from heaven, but I don't think this quite answers the question. One problem I see is that Genesis does tell us the story of how Israel left the Promised Land and entered Egypt. Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 1:46

Jesus is being called OUT of Egypt so He is pointed in the wrong direction in the Herod incident!

Sam Storms writes on the Enjoying God website:

R. T. France summarizes the typological significance of the temptation:

“The principle involved is in each case one of ‘testing’. In each case the one tested was the ‘son of God’ (Mt. 4:3,6, and Dt. 8:5, cf. Ex. 4:22). In each case God tested his son (the one fresh from the deliverance from Egypt, the other just commissioned for his redeeming work in baptism), to prove his loyalty, and to teach him to trust and obey and worship God alone, in preparation for his special task” (51-52).

In sum,

“Jesus then saw himself as God’s son, undergoing prior to his great mission as Messiah the testing which God had given to his ‘son’ Israel before the great mission of the conquest of Canaan. Israel had then failed the test; now, in Jesus, was found that true sonship which could pass the test, and be the instrument of God’s purpose of blessing to the world which Old Testament Israel had failed to accomplish. ‘The history of Israel is taken up by him and carried to its fulfillment.’ The antitype, as always, is greater than the type. Old Testament Israel had failed; Jesus must succeed” (53).

  • Hmm... I think the quotation is in the context of Jesus' temptation in the desert, not the incident when his parents took him to Egypt to prevent Herod from executing him. I don't think this answers the question. Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 1:41
  • Footwasher: I went ahead and awarded my bounty to this answer. It isn't what I was hoping for, but it does introduce the idea of Israel being a type of Jesus. That really is Matthew's point in noticing the parallel in my opinion. Consider this a down-payment on future answers! Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 1:59
  • Covenanted! As in you got a deal. BTW, Give my regards to the USCWM!
    – Footwasher
    Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 5:41
  • I actually have driven to their campus (to pick up a pastor friend on our way home), but I haven't visited myself. I love the Joshua Project. Commented Dec 27, 2012 at 18:51

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