May 24, 2011

Out of Egypt I called my son.

 “Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egyptand remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2:13–15 ESV)

The last phrase is a citation from Hosea 11:1.
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son." (Hosea 11:1 ESV)

Giza Pyramids - photos by Mindy McKinny

Many have pointed out the "inconsistency" of Matthew equating God's son to Jesus by citing Hosea who clearly identifies God's son as Israel. Is there an inconsistency? Does Matthew rip Hosea's context to shreds by practicing poor hermeneutics and disregarding the background of the 8th cent. BCE? If not then what is the purpose of equating this enigmatic passage to the holy family's sojourn to Egypt?

Washing dishes in the Nile - a task shared by two Israelites named Miriam (only ca. 1500 years apart)

Its primary purpose in the Gospel narrative is to connect the theological idea of Israel as God's divinely chosen son (ethnic nation - inheritor of God's promises - look at Ezekiel 16 for seeing Israel as Yahweh's chosen wife - the point is the same - the illustration differs) to Jesus as God's heir. In the context of Hosea 11 - the passage shows that God's son (Israel) failed disastrously in keeping themselves holy (the whole point of Judges, Kings and Chronicles) - and fell well short of their ultimate purpose ("be a kingdom of priests" - Ex. 19:5-6). On the flip side - Jesus is God's son who was sent down to and called "out of Egypt," but instead of failing to keep himself holy, and thereby be unable to fulfill his ultimate purpose of "being a light to the Gentiles" Is. 42:6 (cont. of purpose mentioned in Ex. 19:5-6), the God-man perfectly fulfilled the inward holy requirements while nailing the outward salvific purposes (the point of the book of Hebrews imagery relating to Christ's high priesthood).

Luxor Temple - built by Ramses II in the holy city of Thebes in the 13th cent. BCE

Another example of this is the temptation of Jesus in Luke 4 - Luke could have easily made an explicit comparison to Christ's 40-day-whineless fast to Israel's 40-year wilderness-gripe, but did not - because (in my opinion) the connection would have been abundantly obvious to 1st cent. readers.

Secondly and related - this interpretation has some interesting implications on the comparison between Christ in Egypt and Israel in Egypt. If it is seen as a typological event with a fulfillment in Christ then it invokes the entirety of the Egyptian bondage and the circumstances by which Israel found themselves in Mizraim (Hebrew for Egypt). Certainly, this cannot be pushed too hard, but it is no stretch to see the significance of relating the following passage to the physical salvation of "God's son" and the subsequent spiritual salvation through "God's Son" :
“His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:18–21 ESV)

Finally, I think this passage and its interpretation well illustrate the importance of the need for Israel to fulfill their divine purpose of "being a light to the Gentiles" or "a kingdom of priests." This passage (Matt. 2:15; Hosea 11:1) brings you to a crucial three-way junction with regards to Israel's future purposes:

Route 1.) cancellation or alteration of physical Israel with a spiritual fulfillment of Ex. 19:5-6; Is. 42:6 in God's second Son, Jesus (basic amillenial thought, even if it's not postulated in so many words);

Route 2.) salvation of Israel (first son) through the Messiah/High Priest/King/Prophet (second and preeminent son) with a physical and spiritual fulfillment of Ex. 19:5-6; Is. 42:6 in God's Sons - with Israel as the nation and Christ as the King (see Zech. 14:18 - not sure how that could possibly be fulfilled spiritually) (basic premillenial thought - even if the "rapture" has become the core view - which is one of the greatest travesties in the history of eschatology).

Route 3.) Some garbled convergence of the two which has some affinity for both views, but can't quite make up their mind. They might like the consistency of the soteriology and magnification of the NT in the Amillenial system, but they can't quite get around Romans 11 or the witness of the prophets' view of Israel's end in premillenial theology. So instead of choosing a mount they ride with one foot on the gray-sweat-stained burro, named Amillenial Kingdom, while the other rests on the magnificent, brown, triple-crown winning steed, named Dispentariat, with a barbed wire fence racing beneath their widening legs.


bill said...

Hi Chris, thanks for your thoughts on these passages. I haven't pursued this as much as I would have liked (it's on my 'to do' list), but I have been considering that perhaps Ex. 4:22 and Numbers 24:8 might shed some light on this as well. Any thoughts?
blessings, bill

Chris McKinny said...


Thanks for the note. I think that those passages are definitely in view - they are "behind" the reference in Hosea 11, which would not exist without their undergirding. The quintessential passage for Israel's inheritance and God's calling is the benediction of the treaty between Israel and Yahweh (with Moses as spokesmen) in Deuteronomy 32.