The meaning of Matthew 2 is to tell us that Jesus in the events surrounding His birth fulfilled Old Testament prophesy. The prophet Isaiah said that Jesus would be born of a virgin, and that happened, and the prophet said it at seven hundred years before Jesus was born. Micah said Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, and that happened. Hosea said that He would be called out of Egypt, and that happened.
Many prophets said He would be from Nazareth, and that was so. And Matthew assembles those specific prophesies, starting at the end of Matthew 1 and going through Matthew 2, in order to convince us that this child is indeed the promised King. In Matthew 1 he pointed out that the Child had the credentials of the King: that is, He was born of the seed of Abraham and of the line of King David.
That’s why the genealogy of Jesus is given in Matthew 1 so that we might understand that He was the promised son of David. Jesus Christ is indeed the King of the Davidic line, because He was in the royal line. After that Matthew turns to the virgin birth and establishes that He is indeed the promised King by virtue of His virgin birth. He had no earthly father.
This is the God-man. The Holy Spirit placed the seed in the egg of Mary that became the child that grew in her womb, and was born Jesus the Son of God. One grand prophesy appears in Matthew 1, where he quotes Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,” which translated means ‘God with us’.
Now let’s examine the birth at Bethlehem. Matthew 2:1-6, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”
“4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.”
Now here is the first mention of the location of the birth of Christ. It all comes from the prophet Micah, and it says that He was to be born in Bethlehem. Now the magi were the elite and cultured leaders of the Middle East. They were the Persian philosophers and wise men, who were influenced by the Old Testament, because the southern kingdom of Judah was taken captive into Babylon.
And with the southern kingdom captivity came the prophet Daniel and the prophet Ezekiel who spent time in captivity as well. And so they were exposed to the Old Testament prophesies regarding the Messiah, and that grew into an expectation that there would come this great King that the Old Testament promised; and these wise men were waiting for that event to happen.
And they were given a sign, a star in heaven that moved towards Bethlehem. They followed that and came to Jerusalem seeking this King. Well, that possibility was a great threat to Herod. Upon hearing that a king of the Jews had been born, he would do everything possible to execute that king in his infancy. And Micah 5:2 tells the priests and the scribes that Christ is to be born in Bethlehem.
And that is precisely what happened. The Ruler will have the character of a shepherd, a gentle, tender kind of ruler, very different from Herod who was known as the wolf, the absolute enemy of the sheep. So the Child was born in Bethlehem, just as the explicit Old Testament prophesy says. Jesus Christ was indeed born there. The wise men went into the house, they worshipped the Child.
They gave Jesus frankincense, gold and myrrh as gifts, fit for a king. After that they would have gone back to tell Herod where the Child was. But verse 12 says, “They were warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod. They departed for their own country by another way.” Here God made a direct revelation to a sleeping person of His will and purpose. And not just here, but also to Joseph and Mary who were warned in a dream.
The second prophesy in Matthew 2 regards the exodus to Egypt. Read verse 13, “Now when they (the Wise men) 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.” Now why do they have to go to Egypt?
The answer is in verse 15, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” They went and stayed there until Herod died. Egypt had become a Jewish colony. During the intertestamental period of 400 years, there were some very serious revolts in Israel, like the Maccabean Revolt. So some Jews had taken refuge in Egypt.
Hosea 11:1 says, “Out of Egypt have I called My Son.” Now this does not refer to Jesus Christ, it refers to Israel when God brought Israel out of Egypt. So this message shows the great love of God. Hosea illustrates it with his own life in a most graphic way. Hosea married a woman named Gomer, a prostitute. She had other lovers and illegitimate children. But in spite of what she did, Hosea still loved her.
And instead of rejecting her, he bought her back of the market. Gomer was being sold; and he bought her, and took her back, and honored her as his wife. That is a graphic illustration of God’s relationship to Israel. And the message of Hosea is this: just as Hosea had married Gomer, God had taken Israel as his wife. Just as Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea, so is Israel was unfaithful to God.
And it is at that point that God says, “Do you understand that it was out of Egypt that I called My Son?” So God goes back to that love. It is a prophecy in this sense, it called a type. There are verbal prophesies and there are type prophesies. In the Old Testament, you will see a number of types of Christ. The sacrificial lamb is the most notable one, right? Israel here is at that point a type of Christ.
Let’s go to the third prophesy, the ravaging of Ramah, verses 16 and following. When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very angry, and killed all the male children who were in Bethlehem from two years old and under according to the time which he received from the magi. He slaughtered every single child to prevent one from growing up and being a threat to his throne.
Jeremiah’s prophecy was fulfilled. Jeremiah 31:15, “Thus says the Lord: “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” Ramah was a small village about five miles north of Jerusalem. It was the place where the conquerors ordered the defeated multitude to be assembled and deported.
But how is Rachel involved? Well, Rachel was the mother, in one sense, of both Jewish kingdoms. One of her sons, Joseph, brought forth two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh; and Ephraim was always the most often identified with the northern kingdom. But Rachel also was the mother of Benjamin who was part of the southern kingdom. So Rachel weeps when Israel is captivated, and Rachel weeps when Judah is captivated.
And there is fourth prophesy, verse 19-23, “Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” 21 Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.”
22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, so that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” This was Joseph’s home; and he was to go back there because that’s what the prophets said.
We are overwhelmed to contemplate that Jesus was born on Christmas, the One who came into the world in Bethlehem two thousand years ago was, fulfilling the specific prophesy required to be the Messiah. He came to give His life as a ransom for many. He came to save His people from their sins and to establish a kingdom of peace and salvation for all who believe, Amen? Let us pray.