God works His will
despite the opposition of sinful people. Earthly
kings like Herod may try to circumvent the divine
purpose, but in the end they are always defeated.
What was true in the first advent of Jesus will also
hold true at His second advent.
The foundation of the
Gospel of Matthew is the Old Testament with its
Messianic and Kingdom promises. Jesus the Messiah is
truly the promised King. He is legally the royal
king of Israel.
In his story of the birth
of Jesus the apostle Matthew uses four prophesies
from the Old Testament as hooks on which to present
his message. It is necessary to study these Old
Testament passages in their context to see their
significance in the New Testament. Clearly the early
Christians understood these as being fulfilled with
the coming of Christ. The coming of the King was the
fulfillment of the prophecies. The Gospel writers
understood the Old Testament Scriptures as complete
units in their context and the individual sentences
they quoted were as sign posts pointing to the
Matthew chapter two is a
prophecy indicating the progression of the new
history. It quickly reveals the condition of things
which will occur around this King from the period
following His first advent, until His second advent.
It is a microcosm of the Christian age, revealing
principles that abide unto this hour.
The Bible student must
always take time to search out the references to the
Old Testament he finds in the New Testament. We must
see them in their relation to the background,
circumstances, situation, and total context of the
THE FULFILMENT OF FOUR
PROPHECIES IN THE COMING OF JESUS
The four prophecies in
Matthew chapter two present a study in contrasts and
a picture of the true spiritual state of the Jewish
people when the Messiah came to them. The Shepherd
of Israel came from humble stock in extremely humble
Micah 5:2; Matthew
Matthew tells us the
humble village of Bethlehem is contrasted with the
greatness of what it will become when God bestows it
with glory. From Bethlehem there comes forth a
glorious ruler in Israel. Dominion will return to
the house of David. The insignificance of Bethlehem
is seen from the circumstances of its being left out
of the list of towns in the tribe of Judah.
Hebrew scholars Keil and
Delitzsch writes, "The birth of the Messiah in
Bethlehem, and not in Jerusalem the city of David,
presupposes that the family of David, out of which
it is to spring, will have lost the throne, and have
fallen in poverty. This could only arise from the
giving up of Israel into the power of its enemies."
"But as for you,
Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the
clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to
be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long
ago, from the days of eternity" (Micah 5:2, NASB
1995). In Matthew's paraphrase the last clause is
apparently assimilated from 2 Samuel 5:2. Matthew
writes: "They said to him, In Bethlehem of Judea;
for this is what has been written by the prophet:
'And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means
least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you
shall come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people
Israel'" (Matthew 2:5-6, NASB 1995).
The old Jewish synagogue
unanimously regarded this passage as containing a
prophecy of the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem.
The fulfillment by the fact that Christ was actually
born in Bethlehem cannot be looked upon as
accidental circumstances because His parents were
not residents of Bethlehem, but Nazareth.
The message of the book
of Micah was authority. "Who is like Jehovah?" He
announces the certainty of Judah's captivity and
restoration by the authority of Yahweh.
Matthew points out that
Bethlehem was insignificant among the thousands of
Judah, but from this town came the mighty ruler of
Israel. He is specific that it is Bethlehem of
Judea, not Bethlehem in Zebulon. The ruler will
"shepherd" His people like David. Just as youthful
David had been an insignificant shepherd in this
small village and God exalted him to be a king of
Israel, so this insignificant village the Messiah
would be born and crowned with glory. God raised him
from being a shepherd of lambs to the shepherd of
the nation. The Ruler proceeding from Bethlehem is
Micah saw the revelation
of the coming of the true King as opposed to the
false rulers of his own time. Matthew and the other
gospel writers present two outstanding observations.
There will be those who will come and worship the
Ruler, but others will hate Him. Wise men with their
gold, frankincense, and myrrh will come in adoration
of the King, while Herod and his followers will seek
to destroy Him. Some will welcome Him; others will
No one looked for a king
or ruler of greatness to arise out of little
Bethlehem. Out of this small, insignificant village
would come a Governor, a Ruler who would cast a
great influence over the world. This great ruler
shall be a shepherd to the people whom He rules.
Matthew notes that Bethlehem's greatness consists in
that it is the birthplace of this great ruler. This
is the emphasis in Micah.
Micah tells us where the
promised Messiah King will be born and Matthew tells
us here is the fulfilment in the person or Jesus the
Messiah. The Old Testament also foretold how the
Messiah would be born and where He would be born.
How tragic when modern
scholar read passages such as Genesis 3;15; 22:18;
49:10; 2 Samuel 7:12-13; Isaiah 7:14; 8:8; 9:6;
52:13-53:12, etc. and fail to see Christ in them.
The great misfortune in our day is not seeing too
much of Christ in the Old Testament; it is seeing
too little of Him (Luke 24:25-27). King Herod and
the Jewish Sanhedrin did not doubt the plain
reference to Micah 5:2.
Matthew challenges his
readers to bow down and worship Christ the King "Who
shall shepherd my people Israel." The Shepherd
is the King.
Hosea 11:1; Matthew
"When Israel was a youth
I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son"
(Hosea 11:1, NASB 1995).
There is a pattern of
revelation that Jesus Himself is the exact center of
true Israel. It is an important principle of
interpretation that the New Testament writers insist
that the Old Testament can be rightly interpreted
only if the complete revelation is kept in
perspective as it is historically unfolded.
It is apparent that
Matthew regards Israel as a type of the Messiah when
he quotes Hosea 11:1 and applies it to Christ. In
the Gospels there is a kind of Israel-Jesus
typology, in that what could be said of the old
Israel could on occasion have its application to
Jesus. An example can be seen in Matthew who sees in
the history of Jesus a recapitulation of that of
Israel. In the Exodus Yahweh protected His people,
so God has protected His Son, the Messiah. Jesus
Christ is God's Son. This is the first time that
Matthew speaks of Jesus as "Son" with reference to
the heavenly Father. That Jesus is the Son of God is
a very important idea for Matthew.
The bond between Israel
and Christ is closer than the word "type" would
imply. If Israel had been destroyed in Egypt the
Messianic prophecies would never have been
fulfilled. God's plan would have been destroyed.
They are closely related to Israel and the Messiah.
Genesis 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; 49:10 are good examples
of this relationship. Prophetically, when Israel was
delivered out of Egypt, Christ was called out, too.
Salvation is of the Jews. The Messiah came out of
The eternal purpose of
God runs through the whole Old Testament and points
to the climax which is the coming of Christ.
The reference by the
prophet is to Israel as a nation that has lived in
corruption and failure as the chosen people of God.
The prophet has dealt with spiritual adultery as the
worst of all sins. Idolatry is not fitting for the
people of God. Israel has sunk to the lowest state
of affairs in her relation to Yahweh.
The prophet Hosea can
empathize with God because of his own deep personal
pain of an unfaithful wife. In effect God was saying
to Hosea, "Now, you know what I am feeling about my
people Israel, because Israel has played the harlot
against Me." Out of his own personal tragedy the
prophet sang the love song of Yahweh.
"When Israel was a young
man, I loved him like a son, and I summoned my son
out of Egypt"(Hosea 11:1 NET). The Messiah is the
personification of the true Israel. The imagery is
powerful and suggests that He repeats in His own
life story the experience of the nation Israel. The
Messiah is the redeemer and deliverer, the second
and greater Moses. His supreme work of salvation had
as its prototype the mighty act of salvation wrought
by God through Moses on behalf of His chosen people.
Israel was considered by the LORD as His firstborn
son (Exodus 4:22). Matthew is emphasizing that just
as Moses was called to go to Egypt and rescue
Israel, firstborn son from physical bondage, so
Jesus was called out of Egypt in His infancy,
through the divine message given to Joseph, to save
mankind from the bondage of sin.
In Hosea and Matthew
Yahweh is singing of His love for Israel. "When
Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my
son out of Egypt." Matthew applied that love song to
the Messiah. Yahweh says to Israel, "I loved you,
and brought you out of Egypt." Egypt was the place
of oppression, and slavery. God says, "I brought you
out. I delivered you out of Egypt." The
greater deliverer has delivered His people out of a
greater bondage. The Jewish people understood the
coming of the Messianic salvation in the light of
their exodus experience. The early Christians
understood the redemption provided by Jesus in the
Just as God had called
His people out of Egypt with a great demonstration
of the power of redemption, so He would do once
again through His greater Son in redeeming His
people from their sin. Moses was a servant; Jesus is
John Broadus said, "As
Israel in the childhood of the nation was called out
of Egypt, so Jesus. We may even find resemblances in
minute details; His temptation of forty days in the
desert, resembles Israel's temptation of forty years
in the desert, which itself corresponded to the
forty days spent by the spies (Num. 14:34). Thus we
see how Hose's historical statement concerning
Israel may have been also a prediction concerning
Messiah, as the Evangelist declares it was. It is
not necessary to suppose that this was present to
the prophet's consciousness."
When Christ came the man
sitting on the throne of Judah was not of the seed
of David, but a pagan, outside the Covenant of
Israel. The grave sin of Israel was that of making
alliances with pagan powers. How fitting a symbol is
Herod of the infidelity of a national leadership. He
is not the true Shepherd. He was not a Jew. His
father was an Idumean and his mother an Arabian, but
the Romans made him King of Judea in 40 B.C. He was
a corrupt tyrant and paranoid murderer. He drove the
chosen King out of Judah down into Egypt. Spiritual
adultery has a way of doing just that. Egypt in the
Bible is a symbol of the place of oppression and
sin. The chosen King does not stay in Egypt. He pays
the price of redemption and comes out of Egypt.
Jesus comes out of Egypt and leads forth a greater
Exodus. The Child comes out of Egypt leading a great
and glorious exodus of God's chosen people.
"Thus says the Lord, 'A
voice is heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter
weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; She
refuses to be comforted for her children, because
they are no more" (Jeremiah 31:15, NASB 1995).
Jeremiah lived in the
most tragic days in the history of Judea. He lived
at a time when the Babylonians were battering down
the doors to the city of Jerusalem. Jeremiah 31-33
are the words of a weeping prophet.
A greater than Jeremiah
wept over the city of Jerusalem crying, "O
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that kills the prophets, and
stones them that are sent unto her! How often would
I have gathered your children together, even as a
hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you
would not! Behold, your house is left unto you
desolate . . ." (Luke 13:34-35a). The very tears of
God ran down His cheeks. It is a prophecy of
suffering and tears. God is shown weeping for His
Jeremiah was at the very
heart of the deportation of the Jewish people in
Jerusalem by the Babylonians. He pictured Rachel
figuratively wailing as she watched the wretched
exiles as they tramped past her tomb in Ramah on
their way to a strange and pagan land. Broadus says,
"This captivity seemed to threaten the complete
destruction of the nation, with all their national
hopes; and the bitter grief of the people is
poetically described by representing Rachel, one of
the mothers of the nation, the mother of the tribe
in whose territory the exiles were assembled as
risen from the grave, and bewailing their
destruction; while the prophet comforts her with the
assurance that there is hope for nation, for the
people will be restored."
It is as if Rachael is
saying, "I gave my life to bear a son, and now his
descendants are no more."
Rachel had not suffered
in vain when she died in giving birth to Benjamin
(Gen. 35:16-20). Neither shall the people going into
exile prove to be without purpose. "They shall come
again from the land of the enemy. There is hope in
the end. The children shall return to their own
land." Out of the sorrow of the Babylonian exile
came new life for Israel.
Herod had determined that
no child within the area of Bethlehem and time frame
indicated by the Magi would remain alive. If the
infant Messiah is slain, then is Israel ruined.
Suppose only that some at Bethlehem, who had heard
of the shepherds and the Magi, now despondingly
believed that the newborn king was slain, and their
mourning would really correspond to that mourning at
Ramah, which Jeremiah poetically described. Yes,
there is true morning in the homes of the twenty or
so families who have lost their baby sons, but the
suffering is a symbol of a great mourning of the
It is a picture of the
people of Israel strewn with blood and tears.
Herod's rage is unfurled upon the elect of God. It
was a mini-holocaust. The people are weeping. The
exile to Babylon was a fact. You cannot erase the
fact of the killings at Bethlehem. But in spite of
the suffering, Matthew stresses that God is still
pursuing His eternal purpose of redemption.
The emphasis in Matthew
is on the mourning, not the mourners, because there
is lamentation, which would be a loud weeping.
Out of the wail of death
comes life. The spiritual deliverance for Israel is
the establishment of David's throne and kingdom. In
the context of this passage in Jeremiah, there is a
note of hope (Jer. 31:17). God promises a new
covenant (31:31-34). Jesus say, "Come unto Me, all
who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you
rest" (Matthew 11:28).
The "exodus" of Jesus
from Egypt after the death of Herod the Great is a
reminder of the greater "exodus" of the children of
Israel that Jesus provides as our Redeemer, Savior,
Branch and Deliverer. Matthew makes it very clear
that God's sovereign protection extended to Egypt.
His angel watched over them in Egypt and gave Joseph
The climax of the story
of the birth of Jesus is reached with the words, "He
shall be called a Nazarene." Joseph returned with
the Child to Israel in obedience to the divine
instruction he received. Herod's son Archelaus is as
evil as the old man. It is not surprising that
Joseph moved on back to his hometown of Nazareth
away from Jerusalem (Luke 1:26; 2:4). The important
thing Matthew has in mind is that he went to "the
region of Galilee" to live. His new home was in
"He shall be called
a Nazarene" (Matthew 2:23)
Matthew found another
fulfilment of prophecy in this choice of residence.
The apostle obviously takes it as a fulfilment of
prophecy that Jesus moved to Nazareth. The only
problem for us is that Matthew does not explain how
he came to that conclusion.
No such words are found
in the Old Testament, and there is no clear
explanation as to where it comes from. It is not
easy to find the words "he will be called a
Nazarene" in any of the prophetical books, or for
that matter, anywhere in the Old Testament.
Perhaps the best
explanation is found in the suggestion a "shoot," or
"branch" (Isa. 11:1). Jesus was not a Nazirite. The
expression "Jesus the Nazarene" carried with it
overtones of contempt. Jesus was despised and
A. T. Robertson says, "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."
The word "prophets" is
plural and can be understood to refer to the
prophets in general or even to their writings.
Matthew introduces the
statement as having been "spoken by the prophets"
may be an indication that he was pointing out a
truth in general terms that is true from what the
prophets had taught.
Matthew seems to have in
mind a number of the prophets when he speaks of the
Nazarene. It was in Nazareth that the Messiah lived
until it was time for Him to be publicly manifested
to the people of Israel. The Messiah, who was born
in the city of David, Bethlehem, was brought up in
Nazareth, a small town never mentioned in the Old
Testament. It was a place associated with Gentiles,
non-Jewish pagans. Out of the land of the Gentiles,
would come a Jewish Messiah who would be the Savior
of the world (Isa. 9:1-9).
Yes, Matthew could be
referring to a sprout or branch, like a tree that
has been cut down and from the root springs forth a
green sprout growing into a great tree. "Can
anything good come out of Nazareth?" was a question
of derision from a would be disciple of Jesus. The
Messiah would come from a place despised, counted as
nothing, just a tiny branch, a sprout. However the
truth is found in Jeremiah 33:15, "In those days and
at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of
David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice
and righteousness on the earth." In the LORD God's
eyes the branch, the sprout, the thing held in
contempt shall count! The thing despised shall have
dominion! The Sprout became the Branch, clothed with
the Spirit and majesty of God.
Here are inescapable
prophecies from some of the Old Testament prophets
that refer to the extreme humility and exaltation of
the Messiah. Isaiah said, "He was despised and
forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted
with grief; And like one from whom men hide their
face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him"
(Isaiah 53:3). . . . "Then a shoot will spring from
the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will
bear fruit" (Isaiah 11:1). . . . "But I am a worm
and not a man, A reproach of men and despised by the
people. All who see me sneer at me; They separate
with the lip, they wag the head, saying, "Commit
yourself to the Lord; let Him deliver him; Let Him
rescue him, because He delights in him'" (Psalm
22:6-8). . . . "They open wide their mouth at me, As
a ravening and a roaring lion" (Psalm 22:13). The
low estate and rejection by men is clear from many
passages (Psa. 22:6-8, 13; 69:8, 20, 21; Isa. 11:1;
49:7; 53:2, 3, 8; Dan. 9:26; John 1:45, 46; 7:42;
matt. 12:24; 27:21-23, 63; Lk. 23:11; Jn. 1:11;
5:18; 6:66; 9:22, 24; Acts 24:5). The fulfilment of
the prophecy comes from many of the prophets in
general, not just one.
That which was held in
contempt, derision and scorn was truly God's
anointed one, the "branch" (Isaiah 11:1; 4:2;
Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12-13).
"Then a shoot will spring
from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots
will bear fruit" (Isaiah 11:1).
"In that day the Branch
of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the
fruit of the earth will be the pride and the
adornment of the survivors of Israel" (Isaiah 4:2).
"Behold, the days are
coming,' declares the Lord, When I will raise up for
David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king
and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in
the land'" (Jeremiah 23:5).
"In those days and at
that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David
to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and
righteousness on the earth" (Jeremiah 33:15).
"Now listen, Joshua the
high priest, you and your friends who are sitting in
front of you" indeed they are men who are a symbol,
for behold, I am going to bring in My servant the
Branch" (Zechariah 3:8).
"Then say to him, "Thus
says the Lord of hosts, 'Behold, a man whose name is
Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and
He will build the temple of the Lord. Yes, it is He
who will build the temple of the Lord, and He who
will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne.
Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the
counsel of peace will be between the two offices"
These verses seem to be
the most reasonable and consistent explanation of
Matthew calling Jesus a Nazarene.
The "Branch" is a
"growth," or literally "sprout" and it is used in
the ancient Near East to describe the rightful heir
to the throne. Isaiah uses a different word, but
with the same idea in mind. This heir will be an
ideal king. He will act wisely and do what is just
and right. During His reign "Judah will be saved,
and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name
by which He will be called, the LORD our
No matter how gloomy and
desperate the present situation was in Judah, Yahweh
promised to raise up to David a righteous branch.
This one branch of David will sit on the throne
forever and He will reign in righteousness. The
second David, the Messiah's dominion will last
forever. Only the one Good Shepherd of Yahweh stands
in contrast to evil shepherds in Israel. What a
contrast He is to Herod!
The righteous "Shoot"
appeared to be dead, but it was not. This dynasty of
David's tree would burst forth like a shoot. From
the most humble and despised origins sprang for the
Anointed of the LORD God!
The resurrected Jesus
responded to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus
when he asked, "Who are You, Lord?' And He said to
me, "I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are
persecuting'" (Acts 22:8).
PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
It is encouraging to know
that in the history of redemption everything
proceeds according to God's eternal plan.
Morgan says when you take
the four prophecies together you have:
"Homage and Hatred.
Exile and Exodus.
Sorrow and Song
Meanness and Majesty."
Where is the King
More people worship Jesus
Christ today than at anytime in the last 2000 years.
At the same time, this is the most persecuted
generation in history of Christianity.
Yes, it is sad, but there
are those who hate the King. However, we bring our
gold and lay it at His feet. We will worship Him as
King of kings, and Lord of lords. Will you bow to
Do you pay homage to the
King or do you treat Him with hostility?
What is the effect
of His Kingdom?
Many in our world are
exiled in their hearts from the King. Their hearts
are filled with sadness and emptiness. They do not
know the peace that only He can bring to a sinful,
depraved and hostile world.
The King is leading out
of Egypt a great multitude of people who have chosen
to enter into His Kingdom. They have responded to
God's eternal love and kindness.
What is your
evaluation of the King?
Do I hear you saying,
"Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" The media
is filled with that nonsense today. The Da Vinci
Code, the Jesus Seminars, and the Secular religion
wail out of their hostile attitudes toward the King.
What will you do with
Jesus of Nazareth? I choose to crown Him King of my
life. He is the King of kings, and Lord of lords.
Come and worship Him.
Do you sing a song of the
sorrowful today, or the song of a soul set free?
These themes that were developed by the apostle
Matthew in chapter two of his gospel remains true to
this day. They are being played out in history as
well as in the hearts of every individual.
Who is Jesus Christ? What
have you chosen to do with Him? Neutral you cannot
be; He will not allow you to be neutral. Jesus
Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. There is
no other Savior.