When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
Matthew 2:14-16 NKJV
Matthew here quotes a prophecy written by Hosea some seven hundred years before: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” (Hosea 11:1) The patience God showed to Israel is typified in the patience Hosea showed his unfaithful wife. The days of Israel’s youth are recalled with fondness in the midst of a book filled with lamentation and judgment. God’s dealing with Israel began with Jacob as an individual, but the Mosaic covenant with Israel as a nation began several hundred years after that.
Jesus is the eternally begotten son of God, and Israel are the adopted children of God. They both follow a similar pattern outlined in this text. Born in the land God promised to Abraham (Genesis 12:7), both are brought down to Egypt in an act of providential preservation of life; Israel to avoid a famine, and Jesus to escape Herod. They each return from Egypt to begin an invasion of sorts. Israel remained in Egypt in bondage for a time, again in God’s providence:
And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
In order for Israel to possess the promised land, the inhabitants would be wiped out. This was justified because of their sin, which required time to become “complete.” They returned to the promised land when it was time for God’s judgment to fall upon his enemies in the land.
Jesus was brought down to Egypt to escape Herod’s attempt to kill him, and spent the beginning of his childhood there. Jesus returns to the promised land at a time coincident with one particular enemy of God, Herod (Matthew 2:20).
Both Israel and Jesus were brought to Egypt so that God could preserve their lives. They remained there until a time closely tied to the deaths of God’s enemies, who had remained in the promised land while those whom God loved were sojourners in Egypt. But then the two diverge. Hosea’s prophecy continues:
As they called them,
So they went from them;
They sacrificed to the Baals,
And burned incense to carved images.
When Israel returns from Egypt, the nation rejects God repeatedly, chasing after idols and breaking covenant with God. His discipline comes down upon them throughout the Old Testament as they await the Messiah who will do what they could not. When Jesus returns to Egypt, he does not sacrifice to the Baals, and does not burn incense to carved images. Instead:
The Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
Jesus lives a life of perfect righteousness on behalf of God’s people, who cannot keep the law. He is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies of deliverance. Where Israel fails, Jesus succeeds. The first time I read the book of Hosea, I had no idea he spoke of Christ in 11:1. Close attention to Matthew 2 revealed more of the Old Testament that had not been understood before, and I continue to see these connections show up all the time. On the road to Emmaus after the resurrection of Christ, “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” All Scripture speaks of Christ, and the Holy Spirit enables us to understand the things concerning Him today. No part of God’s Word should be neglected.