04.05 The Great Escape And Return

04.05 The Great Escape And Return

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 14, 2016  -  Comments Off on 04.05 The Great Escape And Return

Unit 04

The Early Years Of Jesus


Chapter 05

The Great Escape And Return


04.05.00A. JOSEPH, MARY, AND JESUS RETURN FROM EGYPT. Artwork by William Hole of the Royal Scottish Academy of Art, 1876. (2)

04.05.00A. JOSEPH, MARY, AND JESUS RETURN FROM EGYPT. Artwork by William Hole of the Royal Scottish Academy of Art, 1876. While the artist’s rendering shows the Holy Family walking alone, this was certainly not the case. People normally traveled in regularly scheduled caravans whenever possible for protection since traveling alone was always an invitation to be robbed and possibly killed.  Often artists illustrate the woman riding on a donkey.  This would have been the case only in the event of her pregnancy, sickness, or injury. This artistic depiction is historically accurate in that Mary would have walked and carried a small child on her hip or shoulder.

04.05.01 Introduction

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 12, 2016  -  Comments Off on 04.05.01 Introduction

04.05.01 Introduction

The news of a king being born in his kingdom did not fit well with Herod.  He too must have heard some of the many rumors that a national deliverer was soon to be born. The paranoid Herod the Great was determined not to permit anyone to challenge his throne.


Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 12, 2016  -  Comments Off on 04.05.02 ESCAPE TO EGYPT

04.05.02 Mt. 2:13-15 Egypt



 13 After they were gone, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Get up! Take the child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child to destroy Him.” 14 So he got up, took the child and His mother during the night, and escaped to Egypt. 15 He stayed there until Herod’s death, so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled: Out of Egypt I called My Son.  (Hosea 11:1)


The first thought of Egypt by Bible students is that it was the land of Israelite slavery. But for centuries it had been a place of refuge. Even Jeremiah was there for a while. In fact, some cities, such as Alexandria, had a significant Jewish population by the first century B.C.[1] Trade and commerce was brisk between Egypt and Israel, but Herod constantly feared his throne would be challenged by a number of conspirators.

Joseph received his second dream. Certainly he knew the stories of the Egyptian Pharaoh, Haman, and Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and others who tried to wipe out the Jewish people. “So he got up … during the night and escaped to Egypt.”  Joseph took Mary and Jesus and fled to Egypt due to the warning given by the angel. In all probability, they took the small connector road from Bethlehem to the Ridge Route to the coastal Via Maris and then went on to Egypt. Traveling alone was extremely dangerous,[2] especially with the gifts given to them by the magi.  But if an angel warned them about the impending danger of Herod, that messenger certainly would have provided all the protection they needed in their journey.  After three days’ journey from Bethlehem, they reached the Rhinokolura Wadi (modern Wadi al-Arish),[3] which was the border between Egypt and Judea. Once they crossed the seasonal riverbed, they continued their journey without fear from Herod.[4]


04.05.02.Q1 Where in Egypt did Mary, Joseph, and Jesus go?

Their place of residency has been lost in history, but two possible cities have been suggested.

  1. Alexandria, built by Alexander the Great, was a major Jewish center. It was larger than any city in Judea, with an estimated forty percent Jewish population. It had a synagogue so huge that a courier was needed to repeat the words of the rabbi so the people in the back of the auditorium could hear.  It was in this city where the Hebrew Scriptures had been translated into Greek some two and a half centuries earlier.   Joseph could have quickly found a home and employment there as a young carpenter, although the funds provided by the magi most certainly would have been sufficient.  While Alexandria would have been an ideal city for them, it is also further west than many other Jewish communities. Therefore, it seems rather unlikely Mary and Joseph would have traveled so far to the western side of the Nile.[5]
  1. The second opinion is a popular tradition that the Holy Family lived in the Old Coptic Quarter of the city of Old Cairo. It is where legend says the Church of St. Sergiust marks the traditional site where Mary and Joseph lived for three months. Coptic Christians for centuries claimed that it was there, in a crypt that was originally a cave or grotto that the infant Jesus was laid to rest.  However, there is a problem with this traditional site. Cairo was not founded until A.D. 641, and then it was simply a military outpost. Eventually a town known as al-Fustat grew around the outpost and was later renamed Cairo. Just as the Holy Land has its share of legends, so does Egypt. So this is hardly a serious contender for where Mary and Joseph could have stayed. Where the Holy Family resided in Egypt is known only to God.


 04.05.02.Z A MAP OF THE HOLY FAMILY’S ROUTE TO/FROM EGYPT. Map of the routes likely taken by Joseph, Mary and Jesus from Nazareth to Bethlehem, to Egypt, and their return to Nazareth. When they crossed the “River of Egypt,” known today as the Wadi of Egypt, or Wadi El Arish (1 Kgs. 8:65) and entered Egypt, they were safe from Herod’s army.  Courtesy of International Mapping and Dan Przywara.   


A Lesson in First Century Hermeneutics:

04.05.02.X Use Of A Double Reference[6]


“Out of Egypt I called my son.”   This is not so much a  prophecy by Hosea concerning the return of Jesus from Egypt, as it is a double reference to the historical deliverance of the Jewish people out of Egyptian bondage (Ex. 4:22).  Yet the meaning of the prophet’s words is said to be confusing because there is no mention of a messiah.  The verse reads as follows:

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

Hosea 11:1


A preacher once clarified the meaning with a riddle.  He told the congregation to listen (or read) the following five points and guess who the subject is.

  1. Without a miracle in his mother’s womb he would never have been born.
  2. As an infant he was taken to Egypt.
  3. He returned from Egypt to the Promised Land.
  4. He saw signs and wonders, and the hand of God moved for him.
  5. He was killed by his enemies, rose from death, and will live forever into eternity.


Nearly everyone immediately identified the subject as Jesus.  However, the riddle was intended to describe the nation of Israel. He noted these similarities:

  1. Without a divine intervention beginning with Abraham, the Jewish nation would never have been born.
  2. When a deadly famine fell upon the land of Canaan, the fledgling nation of less than a hundred souls went to Egypt.
  3. In God’s timing, they returned from Egypt to the Promised Land (Canaan).
  4. As they left Egypt, they witnessed profound signs and wonders that demonstrated the hand of God for all nations to see.
  5. In A.D. 70 the Roman armies killed national Israel, but in 1948 the nation was reborn and will live forever into eternity.


Theologians call this type of genre of Hosea 11:1 a “double reference,” that is, it describes both the life of national Israel and the life of Jesus. Matthew recognized the history of the Hebrew children as a “type and shadow” of Jesus.[7]  But the imagery goes further: Just as God through Moses led His people out of Egyptian bondage and to the border of the Promised Land, so Jesus would lead His people out of the bondage of sin and into the Kingdom of God.[8]  In fact, all dealings God had with His people in the Old Testament Period were in some manner preparatory for the coming Messiah.  Jesus is the realization and fulfillment of their salvation.  The Gentiles are privileged to be grafted into these blessings of Abraham (Rom. 9-11).  However, sometimes it is what the gospel writer does not say that is significant. Notice verse 2 of this Hosea’s passage.

1 When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called My son.
2 The more they (the prophets) called them (the people of Israel),
the more they (these people) departed from Me.

Hosea 11:1-2


When the Israelite children entered Egypt, they went as a clan; a family.  When they left, they did so as a nation. When Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus entered Egypt, they entered as a family, but they they left, a new nation was about to be born. Not only were the people of ancient Israel a “type and shadow” of Jesus, but just as they once rejected the authority of Moses and Joshua (verse 2a), so likewise, they rejected Jesus. The first century readers of Matthew’s gospel never missed this important point. Matthew expected his Jewish audience to know this passage and, in essence said, what happened to Israel happened to Jesus.


04.05.02a (2)


[1]. Some historians have estimated the Jewish population of Alexandria, Egypt, to have been about 250,000 at the time of Christ.


[2]. Josephus, Antiquities 20.6.1(118); Wars 2.15.6 (232).


[3]. Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. 1:205. See “Wadi” in Appendix 26.


[4]. Farrar, Life of Christ. 17.

[5]. Maier, In the Fullness of Time. 73.

[6]. See “The Law Of Double Reference.” (Part 1, No. 6) in Appendix 30.


[7]. See “Type and Shadow” in Appendix 26 and “The Law Of Typological Interpretation Of Prophetic Words” (Part 1, No. 5) in Appendix 30.


[8]. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ. 70.


Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 12, 2016  -  Comments Off on 04.05.03 BETLEHEM: HEROD ORDERS THE SLAUGHTER OF YOUNG BOYS

04.05.03 Mt. 2:16-18 Bethlehem




16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been outwitted by the wise men, flew into a rage. He gave orders to massacre all the male children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, in keeping with the time he had learned from the wise men. 17 Then what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:

18 A voice was heard in Ramah,

                         weeping and great mourning,

Rachel weeping for her children

and she refused to be consoled,                                                                            

because they are no more (Jer. 31:15).


There are three reasons why Herod decided to kill the Christ-child.

  1. He was not about to tolerate any potential threat to his monarchy. Under the slightest suspicion, he even murdered his own wives and sons.
  1. He realized that he was tricked by the magi when they failed to return to him as they had originally promised. This was an insult.
  1. It was an insult for the visiting magi, who represented royalty, not to present a gift to Herod. To meet a monarch of another nation, for whatever reason, and not present a gift was a supreme insult – sometimes considered worthy of death.


“Massacre all the male children … two years old and under.”  In biblical times mothers often nursed their infants until the age of two.[1] Herod was not about to let any unweaned infants threaten his throne. Therefore, he sent a military unit to the small village and they killed all infant boys under the age of two. Since Bethlehem was a small village, the number of innocent lives massacred was relatively few; scholars believe less than a dozen – but still a horrible and wicked act. This terrible action, known as the Massacre of the Innocents, is typical of the well-earned reputation of Herod the Great.  While he was known for being one of the greatest builders the Roman Empire, he was also known for his immense cruelty to his family and those he ruled.  This slaughter was typical of him.  He even killed most of his ten wives and several sons. This single act of brutality in Bethlehem became the signature for which the great architect and builder is remembered. The account of Herod’s evil act was also recorded by Eusebius, who wrote the following:

Christ, then, having been born, according to the prophecies in Bethlehem of Judea, about the time that had been revealed, Herod was alarmed at the intelligence.  Having ascertained, on the inquiry of the eastern Magi where the king of the Jews should be born, as they had seen his star and this had been the cause of so long a journey to them, glowing with zeal to worship the infant as God, he was under great apprehension supposing his own kingdom to be in danger.  After inquiring of the doctors of the law in the nation where they expected Christ should be born and ascertaining the prophecy of Micah announcing that it would be in Bethlehem, in a single edict he ordered all male infants from two years and below to be slain, both in Bethlehem and all its parts, according to the time that he ascertained from the Magi.  He thought, as seemed probably, that he would carry off Jesus also in the destruction with those of his own age.  The child, however, anticipated the snare, being carried into Egypt by his parents who were informed by an angel of what was to happen.  These same facts are stated in the sacred text of the gospel.

Eusebius, Church History 8.1-2


“A voice was heard in Ramah.”  Ramah was a village situated about five miles north of Jerusalem in the land belonging to the tribe of Benjamin.  After the forces of King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple in 587 B.C., they went north to attack Ramah.  Matthew compared this horrific event as a “foreshadow” of the killing of children in Bethlehem by Herod the Great.[2] In a similar manner, an unknown first century writer compared Herod the Great with the slaughter of innocent boys by the Pharaoh of Egypt.

There followed a bold king, not descendant from a priestly family, who was presumptuous and wicked.  He killed old and young, and the whole country was terribly afraid of him.  He ravaged the people with slaughter as had happened in Egypt.

Assumption of Moses 6:22[3]


“Rachel weeping for her children.”  These words by the prophet Jeremiah have raised some difficulties. At Ramah the Babylonians killed many and took children as slaves, but there is no evidence of similar atrocities at Bethlehem during the days of either the prophet or Rachel.  So why did he make the connection.  There are two possibilities:

  1. Some scholars have suggested that in Ramah the children were not slaughtered, but were taken from them, whereas in Bethlehem the mothers buried their little sons. So the similarity is not the killing, but the suffering.[4]
  2. However, the most accurate interpretation may be found in the Talmud. It suggests that when the children of Israel were driven by the Babylonian army to Babylon, the road they traveled upon went past the grave of their mother Rachel and they cried bitterly. Hence, Rachel “heard the cries” of her children.[5] In this cultural genre, Rachel heard the cries of the families of Bethlehem.


Comparisons were often made between events, even though they were not perfectly aligned in the modern sense of making comparisons.

Finally, critics have pondered that if the story of the Bethlehem massacre was true, why didn’t Josephus mention it? The answer is that Herod had murdered so many of his own family, friends and staff, that the Bethlehem event was not even a minor point.  Furthermore, Josephus may not have known about it.


[1]. Smith, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: Matthew. 43.   


[2]. Gilbrant, “Matthew,” 45; See “types and shadows” in Appendix 26.

[3]. The reader is reminded that quotations from non-biblical sources are not to be understood as being of equal authority with the biblical narratives. See 01.02.04.


[4]. Bock, Jesus According to Scripture. 72.

[5]. Cited by Geikie, The Life and Words. 1:557.


04.05.04 From Egypt to Nazareth

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 11, 2016  -  Comments Off on 04.05.04 From Egypt to Nazareth

04.05.04 Mt. 2:19-23; Lk. 2:39-40 From Egypt to Nazareth


19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Get up! Take the child and His mother and go to the land of Israel, because those who sought the child’s life are dead.21 So he got up, took the child and His mother, and entered the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned in a dream, he withdrew to the region of Galilee. 23 Then he went and settled in a town called Nazareth to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets, that He will be called a Nazarene.


Lk. 39 When they had completed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The boy grew up and became strong, filled with wisdom, and God’s grace was on Him. 


“After Herod died.”  No time frame was given as to how long it was after Herod’s death until an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in another dream.  It may have been only a few days or even months because there were several small revolts throughout the land. Furthermore, it took months for Archelaus to receive his official position as ruler.  Many messianic pretenders arose with their small groups of rebels and chaos and violence spread throughout the land until the strong arm of Roman might brought peace and order.[1]

Since these revolutionaries had messianic aspirations, it is easy to understand why Jesus was frequently silent about His identity. He certainly did not want to be identified with any of them or their cause.  Without the writings of Josephus, information of these nationalistic messianic pretenders would be lost in history.

“Go to the land of Israel.” The phrase meant the entire land of the twelve tribes, not just the ancient area of the ten northern tribes. It was also known as “Judaea” although it comprised the three Jewish provinces of Judea, Galilee and Perea, as well as Samaria and Idumea. However, the name “Judaea” at times also refers only to Judea, Samaria, and Idumea – the area governed by Archelaus and then by Pilate. The Bible refers to it in the Hebrew, Eretz-Israel, but never as Palestine. Yet this is the only place in the New Testament that refers to the Jewish land by the name “Israel,” whereas in other Scriptures the name is associated with “the people of Israel.”[2]

“Because those who sought the child’s life are dead.”  This statement was a reference to Herod the Great who died in 4 B.C.  In Hebrew, a plural form is at times used to denote an indefinite number, or for one of many.[3]  The same is true in Greek.[4]  This phrase is one of several similarities between Moses and Jesus. In fact, Moses is seen as a prophetic picture of Jesus.[5] In this case, the phrase nearly agrees verbatim with the first killing of the innocents in Exodus 4:19.  The Jewish readers of Matthew’s gospel would have immediately connected the two events.[6]

“Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod.”  After Herod’s death his kingdom was divided by the Roman senate among three of his surviving sons and a fourth district was given to the governor of Damascus.  Archelaus received Jerusalem and the district of Judea which included Bethlehem.  He was a tyrant, worse than his father but with none of his father’s administrative skills. Life became so unbearable that the Jews rebelled.  Archelaus, fearful that his government might fall, he…

… Sent out the whole army upon them (the Jews), and sent the horsemen to prevent those that had their tents without the temple, from assisting those that were within the temple, and to kill such as ran away from the footmen when they thought themselves out of danger; which the horsemen slew three thousand men, while the rest went to the neighboring mountains.                         

Josephus, Antiquities 17.9.3 (217b-218a)[7]


While in Egypt, an angel warned Joseph in a dream not to return to Bethlehem. Unknown to Israel at this time was that Archelaus would be more of a tyrant that was his father. In fact, so much so, that after a decade of dictatorial rulership, the people rebelled in one of the most horrific revolts during the life of Jesus.[8]  This anarchy soon became too much for Rome and Archelaus was replaced by Coponius.[9] In the meantime, the Holy Family was safe in Nazareth.

“To fulfill what was spoken through the prophets.”  This portion of Scripture has been problematic, since the prophecy is not found anywhere in the Old Testament.  However, note that Matthew used the word “was spoken” and not “written.” There are three possibilities to understanding this issue:

  1. He may have referred to a popular teaching within the Oral Law or tradition.
  1. He may have referred to a reader in the synagogue who read the prophecy publically.
  1. He could have referred to the general tenor of prophecy and not to a specific prophecy by a particular prophet.


Furthermore, at this time the Jews had both the Written Law and their Oral Law.  When anyone was reading, it was aloud, since silent reading was an unknown skill at this time.  Hence, the phrase “what was spoken” could have referred to either the Written Scripture or Oral laws.

04.05.04a (2)


04.05.04.Q1 How could the prophet Isaiah (11:1) identify Jesus as a “Nazarene” when there was no village by that name when the prophet lived?  


This is an interesting question since Isaiah lived around 700 B.C., and Nazareth was established late in the Inter-Testamental period, meaning, there were about 500 to 600 years between the prophet and the establishment of the small farming village. Previously Matthew mentioned that the birth of Jesus was announced by a “rising” star (Mt. 2:1-2). The term “rising” (anatole) can also mean growth or shoot and in Isaiah 11:1 shoot and branch are parallels.[10] At Qumran, the writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls called the Messiah the Branch of David, a term that precisely fits the wording of Matthew.[11] Therefore, the phrase, “That He will be called a Nazarene,” is a play on words (mnemonic)[12] that reflects upon the shoot of Jessie, referring to a prophecy given by Isaiah and explained below.

Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.

Isaiah 11:1


A Lesson in First Century Hermeneutics:

04.05.04.X A Word Play Known As A Mnemonic


In every language there are word plays – two words that sound alike but have different, sometimes opposite, meanings.  At times word plays create humor and other times they are ideal teaching tools. The words shoot, branch, and Nazareth, have the same root word (Netzer).   The debate hinges on whether the Greek word for “Nazareth” derives from Hebrew netzer, or nezer, meaning branch, or nazar, meaning to consecrate.[13]  Those who claim there is a connection to netzer, base their opinions on the phrase “Netzer-shoot planted by God” found in the Dead Sea Scroll 1QH 6:15; 7:5, 8, 10. Since Netzer is the root word for Nazareth, what Matthew is saying is that Jesus is the Netzer or Branch that came out of the root of Jesse – the father of King David. This is clearly a play on words known as a mnemonic,[14] that is, a word arrangement in such a manner that it is easily remembered by the listeners.[15]  This functioned,

  1. As a memory tool and
  1. Indicated that the matter was of Divine origin.


Jesus, as the Master Teacher and like a typical rabbi, used puns and plays on words. In this case, the memory tool of nazar and Netzer apparently had a divine origin.


< ——————————————– >


“They returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth” This passage in Luke 2:39 suggests that the holy family returned to Nazareth immediately following the completion of the Mosaic Law requirements, 41 days after the birth of Jesus.  But this is hardly the case as indicated in the other gospels. Luke evidently felt that some details were not needed for his purpose. He did not mention the visit of the magi, the killing of the innocents and the escape of the holy family, their flight to Egypt, and their return to Nazareth. Luke 2:39 is not out of chronological order but simply does not have those details.  There are two important considerations concerning the segment of history that was not recorded by Luke:

  1. In Jewish writings, it was not uncommon to skip large periods of time. Even though Luke said that his work was a chronological account that does not mean he could not skip periods of time or events.
  1. The other gospels offer additional light to the childhood years of Jesus. Therefore, readers know that between the time “Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord” and their arrival at Nazareth, they journeyed to Egypt.


Luke 2:39 reveals the importance that all four gospels must be read together as a single unit to attain an accurate understanding of the life and work of Jesus.

The question has been asked why Archelaus had an incredible hatred and bitterness toward his subjects.  It is because after his father died the Jews sent an embassy of fifty men to Rome to appeal to Augustus not to have him as their king.  But Augustus decreed that he would be their ruler, but without the title of “king” that he so passionately wanted. As a result, he spilled out his vengeance toward the people until Rome removed him from office. This event became the background for the parable in Luke 19:11-27.

“The boy grew up.” The Jewish people marked the development of their children in eight stages as follows:

  1. The birth of a child (Isa. 9:6)
  1. The nursing stage (Sa. 9:8)
  1. When the suckling child begins to ask for food (Lam. 4:4)
  1. When the child is weaned off its mother’s breast (Isa. 28:9)
  1. When the child clings to its mother’s side (Jer. 40:7)
  1. When the child becomes firm and strong (Isa. 7:14)
  1. Youthful years
  1. The ripened one or warrior (Isa. 31:8)


Parents observed their children carefully in their growing years. There can be little question that Mary and Joseph noticed a difference from other children, especially after the Passover event when Jesus was 12 years old.


[1]. A partial listing of an estimated 60 messianic pretenders is found in Appendix 25 “False Prophets, Rebels, Significant Events, And Rebellions That Impacted The First Century Jewish World.”


[2]. The name “Palestine” was not used until a century after Christ.  It was instituted as a curse word by Emperor Hadrian in A.D.135.


[3]. See Exodus 4:19, where the Lord said to Moses, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who wanted to kill you are dead.” Scholars believe “all the men” is a reference to Pharaoh Thutmose III.  See New International Version Study Bible footnotes; Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible. 532.

[4]. Wallace, Greek Grammar. 404.

[5]. See Appendix 2.


[6]. Hagner, “Matthew 1-13.” 39.


[7]. Parenthesis mine; See also Josephus, Wars 2.1.3.


[8]. See Appendix 25 for a listing of false prophets who had messianic expectations and for a partial listing of revolts and social disturbances from 63 B.C. to A.D. 135.


[9]. Tenney, New Testament Times. 143; Josephus, Wars. 2.8.1.

[10]. See also Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zech. 3:8; 6:2   


[11]. Dead Sea Scroll 4QpIsa; 4QPat. BI. 3.4; 4QFlor. 10; Cited by Smith, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: Matthew. 45.    


[12]. See “mnemonic” in Appendix 26.


[13]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:22; Bock, Jesus According to Scripture. 73.

[14]. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible. 710.

[15]. Barclay, “Matthew.” 1:13.


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