Egypt - The Flight Into Egypt
“Now when they [the wise men from the east] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” 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 2:13-15
Herod was a ruthless murderer. He beheaded John the Baptist to satisfy the whim of a child, the daughter of Herodias, and he attempted to justify it as having to fulfill his oath. He was the King. He could have changed his oaths any time he liked or redefined them at his pleasure. His sense of ethics was certainly skewed and selective. There was not one person at the drunken brawl to whom he was beholding or accountable. He would rather kill a man of God than endure the momentary embarrassment from his guests at a drunken party. This was just further evidence of his depravity.
At the birth of Jesus when he knew the prophets foretold of a King who would be born among the Jews to rule over them and the whole world, he gave the order to kill every child two years old and younger.
“Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.” Matthew 2:16
“Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.' "
Matthew 2:17 -18
But the angel of the Lord warned Joseph in a dream to flee Bethlehem with the child and His mother and go into Egypt and stay there until Herod died, because he was seeking to kill Him.
One of the things that have troubled me about this event was this. God knew what Herod was up to. He sent an angel to warn Joseph to protect Jesus from Herod’s evil scheme. But why did He not warn all the mothers and families of what was about to happen and save all the children from violence and death, and their mother’s and fathers from the bitter pain of grief from such a dastardly act of cruelty and degeneracy? It would appear on the face of it that Jesus was the only one God cared about and the others were just “acceptable losses” in military terms.
But, a more discerning look at the full story reveals a most remarkable thing. First, consider the practical concerns of probably thousands of families fleeing Jerusalem at the same time. Herod would have surely sent his armies after them and slaughtered not only the children, but also their whole families in his anger. So, the innocent were slaughtered at Herod’s hand. But, the Bible teaches that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. The children were received immediately into the hands of the Lord. And there they remained until Jesus was crucified and the Word tells us that:
“Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” Matthew 27:51-53
And Hebrews 11:35 tells us that, “Women received their dead raised to life again.”
Could those children slaughtered by Herod some 33 years earlier have been among those raised to life again? I believe they were, because that would be consistent with the love and compassion of God and the fact that Jesus came that we might have life and that more abundantly.
Now Joseph and Mary packed up their belongings and hastily fled into Egypt. Why Egypt? For one, it was a place outside the jurisdiction of Herod. Moreover, it was prophesied that Jesus the Messiah would be called out of Egypt. So it was done to fulfill the prophecy concerning Him.
Also, Egypt figures prominently in the linage of Joseph because his grandfather David was the grandson of Boaz, a kinsman of Naomi, and Ruth the Moabitess who came from Egypt with Naomi after the death of her husband Elimelech and their sons, Mahlon [meaning to be weak, sick or wounded]* and Chilion [meaning failing or annihilation, to come to an end].**
So, Joseph could possibly have claimed some family associations while they were there and be received into a kinsman’s home, though the Scriptures do not tell us any details of their time there.
It is considered by some Biblical scholars that Mary and Joseph were in Egypt from as few as one year to at most five years until Herod’s death. Opinions differ on how long they were there. Jimmy Aikin makes a strong argument for one year and I tend to agree with him. Still many others believe it was four or five years.
Throughout the Old Testament, Egypt is, at one time or another, a place of rescue from famine in other parts of the Middle East and a place of slavery and hard bondage when Israel was held captive there. It is a place that God at one time warns Isaac not to go when there was a famine in his land. Yet, now in the New Testament, Egypt becomes a place of refuge from the tyranny of Herod. Egypt is also throughout the Bible a metaphor for the world, it’s ways, it’s corrupt economy, its morals, it’s ungodliness, it’s idol worship and so on.
But it is altogether right that Jesus should go into Egypt. First, to fulfill what was spoken by the Prophets.
Then, as part of His calling to be the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world. His work of salvation was for those who were far off in the world (Egypt) and those who were near (Israel) in Bethlehem. He came that the gospel would be proclaimed to the Jew first and also the Greek and then to the whole world.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Romans 1:16
Jesus’ journey into Egypt signaled the breadth of His calling and mission to be the Savior of the whole world, those within the covenant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David and those living outside of the covenant alone and without God in the world, and that includes you and me. You and I before we were born again were Egypt. So the same vulnerable babe, the child declared by the angel to the shepherds to be a Savior, Christ The Lord, is the same vulnerable babe who came into the Egypt and into the hearts of all mankind to say I have come to seek and save all that were lost, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by me.
And just s He was called out of Egypt we who are His are called out of the World to live the higher life, the life that is life and that more abundantly, the life of Christ in us the hope of Glory!
And God continually calls us back from the world to live unashamedly, with enthusiasm, zeal and goodness with great joy and glory in His presence now and forevermore. Out of the darkness of Egypt (the world and all its corruption and death) He calls us into the light of His glorious presence.