When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 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 2:13-15
In this last part of the Christmas and Nativity stories, an angel tells Joseph to get up and go. Once again, this happens via a dream. The magi have been given similar instructions (to depart for home by a way different from their original route). Now, God tells Joseph to take his family and go to Egypt, where the Son of God will be safe. The Son isn’t safe in the land where God’s people reside; in that place, His life is in danger from a king gone bad. So, the angel directs that God’s Son should be taken back to the historical home of Israel’s slavery, the place from which the Lord had once delivered them.
By this time, Egypt, like Israel, was no longer an independent nation. Like Judea, Egypt was another province under the control of Rome. It had been this way for decades, since the last days of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. It was no longer the land of the pharaohs or the way Egypt had been governed for over 2000 years. By the time of Christ, Egypt was a foreign land under a familiar banner.
Why did God send His Son there? Obviously, to save Him from Herod’s wrath but also to fulfill the prophecy, from Hosea, that is quoted in verse 15: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” That’s one of those dual promises that God had already kept when He delivered Israel from slavery. His “son”, in that context, was His chosen people.
Now, God keeps that same promise again, sending His literal Son of the Trinity literally to Egypt from whence, in a few years, He would call Him back home: to Nazareth, the home of Joseph and Mary, where Jesus would grow up. That place, too, would serve God’s purposes.
In “The Chosen,” there is a scene where Jesus confronts an Ethiopian woman, speaking with her in Egyptian. He tells her he grew up there. When I watched this, I considered, for the first time, how Jesus had, indeed, lived in Egypt. His earliest memories were of living near the Pyramids, not the Temple. Of Egyptian customs, and the language, and the ancient ways of the world’s oldest extant nation. It was because, ‘out of Egypt, I called my son.’
For more reading: Exodus 4:22-23, Hosea 11:1 Acts 5:19, Revelation 12:4, Matthew 2:16
Lord, all praise to You for the intricacies of Your holy prophecies.