A Tale of Three Places

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Jesus grows up
Image source: Good News Productions International and College Press Publishing

In today’s Bible reading*, Matthew applies several Hebrew (Old Testament) Scriptures regarding where the Messiah would be born and raised to show how Jesus fulfilled them.

These were three very different places. Bethlehem was a small town outside of Jerusalem. Herod would live in Jerusalem, so it’s logical that the Magi would come Herod’s palace to inquire about the new King of the Jews. Egypt was a country, the place the Jews had lived and then been enslaved for over four hundred years between Joseph’s death and Moses’ birth. Joseph and Mary fled with Jesus to Egypt for a few years. We aren’t told how long they stayed in Egypt and we aren’t told which city. When Herod died, God’s angel visited them and said it was safe to return.

And then there’s Nazareth. We don’t know how old Jesus was when Joseph and Mary moved back there, but that’s where they called home. (Luke 1:26) The surrounding area, Galilee, is where Jesus found His Disciples. But Matthew refers to a prophecy that doesn’t exist.

New Testament Scholar AT Robertson says this:

Matthew says “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets”. It is the plural and no single prophecy exists which says that the Messiah was to be called a Nazarene. It may be that this term of contempt (John 1:46; 7:52) is what is meant, and that several prophecies are to be combined like Psa. 22:6, 8; 69:11, 19; Isa. 53:2, 3, 4. The name Nazareth means a shoot or branch, but it is by no means certain that Matthew has this in mind. It is best to confess that we do not know. See Broadus on Matthew for the various theories. But, despised as Nazareth was at that time, Jesus has exalted its fame. The lowly Nazarene he was at first, but it is our glory to be the followers of the Nazarene. Bruce says that “in this case, therefore, we certainly know that the historic fact suggested the prophetic reference, instead of the prophecy creating the history.” The parallels drawn by Matthew between the history of Israel and the birth and infancy of Jesus are not mere fancy. History repeats itself and writers of history find frequent parallels. Surely Matthew is not beyond the bounds of reason or of fact in illustrating in his own way the birth and infancy of Jesus by the Providence of God in the history of Israel.[1]

In other words, Matthew — under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit — draws from several otherwise obscure and unrelated Bible passages and applies them to Jesus.


Once again, we can see how Matthew — again, under the influence of the Holy Spirit — takes his Bible and applies it to Jesus. He sees Jesus throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. And you can too, if you’ll just look for Him.

Take your Bible and look up the cross-references. Look at the many passages from the Old Testament and how they point to Jesus. This isn’t a coincidence. The New Testament writers knew their Hebrew Bible. Oftentimes they would translate directly from the Hebrew. Other times, they would quote from the Septuagint (the Greek Translation of the Hebrew Bible). And other times, the writers do something like Matthew does here, loosely taking unrelated Scriptures and combining them to actually craft new Scripture.[2]

We shouldn’t be surprised by this. Again, He is operating under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Matthew is so excited to demonstrate that Jesus isn’t foreign to the Hebrew Scriptures, but is intricately woven into them.

[1] Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933. Print.
[2] Unlike the New Testament writers, we aren’t free to take unrelated passages and craft new scriptures because the Canon of Scripture is closed; God is no longer adding new revelation.

* Today we are reading Matthew 2.

This devotional was originally published on April 6, 2020.

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