The trip to Egypt (Mt 2:14-2:15)

“Then Joseph got up.

He took the child

With his mother,

By night.

They withdrew to Egypt.

He remained there,

Until the death of Herod.”

 

ὁ δὲ ἐγερθεὶς παρέλαβεν τὸ παιδίον καὶ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ νυκτὸς καὶ ἀνεχώρησεν εἰς Αἴγυπτον,

καὶ ἦν ἐκεῖ ἕως τῆς τελευτῆς Ἡρῴδου·

 

Joseph woke up (ὁ δὲ ἐγερθεὶς) from his sleep after the dream of the angel of the Lord.  Then at night (νυκτὸς), he took the child with his mother (παρέλαβεν τὸ παιδίον καὶ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ).  They went or withdrew into Egypt (ἀνεχώρησεν εἰς Αἴγυπτον), just as he had been told to do.  Joseph clearly followed the instructions that he got in his dream.  He took his whole family, without hesitation, under the cover of darkness at night, into an unknown place in Egypt.  They stayed someplace in Egypt (ἦν ἐκεῖ ἕως), until Herod would die (τῆς τελευτῆς Ἡρῴδου).  There is no indication of where they went in Egypt.

Bethlehem as described by the prophet Micah (Mt 2:5-2:6)

“They told Herod.

‘In Bethlehem

Of Judea.

It has been written

By the prophet.’

‘You!

O Bethlehem!

In the land of Judah,

Are by no means least

Among the rulers of Judah.

From you

Shall come a ruler

Who is to shepherd

My people Israel.’”

 

οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ· Ἐν Βηθλέεμ τῆς Ἰουδαίας· οὕτως γὰρ γέγραπται διὰ τοῦ προφήτου·

Καὶ σύ, Βηθλέεμ γῆ Ἰούδα, οὐδαμῶς ἐλαχίστη εἶ ἐν τοῖς ἡγεμόσιν Ἰούδα· ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ ἐξελεύσεται ἡγούμενος, ὅστις ποιμανεῖ τὸν λαόν μου τὸν Ἰσραήλ.

 

Interesting enough the response from the Jerusalem Sanhedrin was a quote from the prophet Micah, chapter 5:2.  These priests and scribes told Herod (οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ) that the place for the birth of this new king had to be Bethlehem in Judea (Ἐν Βηθλέεμ τῆς Ἰουδαίας).  The prophet Micah, without mentioning him by name, had written about this (οὕτως γὰρ γέγραπται διὰ τοῦ προφήτου).  The quote from Micah is a paraphrase of Micah, as there was no mention of Ephrathah here.  Micah had uttered this ode about the small town of Bethlehem, where King David came from also.  Thus, this new ruler of Israel would be from this same place or part of the Davidic bloodline, as Matthew has pointed out.  Bethlehem was in the land of Judah (Βηθλέεμ γῆ Ἰούδα), not far from Jerusalem, about 6 miles.  Bethlehem was not the least among the various clans of Judah (οὐδαμῶς ἐλαχίστη εἶ ἐν τοῖς ἡγεμόσιν Ἰούδα).  The new leader or ruler would shepherd or lead (ἐξελεύσεται ἡγούμενος, ὅστις ποιμανεῖ) the Lord’s people of Israel (τὸν λαόν μου τὸν Ἰσραήλ).  Matthew with this citation, made the clear connection between, David, Bethlehem, and Jesus.

 

The Magi arrive (Mt 2:1-2:1)

“Magi

From the East

Came to Jerusalem.”

 

ἰδοὺ μάγοι ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν παρεγένοντο εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα

 

Now we have some magi (μάγοι) arrive (παρεγένοντο) from an eastern area (ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν) into Jerusalem (εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα), the capital, where Herod would have been living.  Who were these wise guys or magi?  The word “μάγοι” appears in both the Old and New Testament.  Ordinarily this word is translated as a magician or sorcerer in the sense of illusionist or fortune-teller, except for here in the Gospel of Matthew.  Magi originally were the followers of the Persian Zoroastrianism or Zoroaster.  These priests paid particular attention to the stars and gained an international reputation for astrology, which was regarded as a science.  Their religious practices and use of astrology caused derivatives of the term magi to be applied to the occult in general.  Obviously, this led to the later English term magic or magicians.  These magi also had an interest in astrology and other esoteric studies.  However, the more common use of magi was to describe magicians, or practitioners of magic.  Thus, the magicians have come to town.  These magi have been popularly referred to as wise men or kings, but there is nothing in this account that implies that they were rulers of any kind.  This story of the magi only appears in Matthew and not in the Luke infancy story.

Rachel laments her children (Jer 31:15-31:17)

“Thus says Yahweh.       

‘A voice is heard in Ramah.

There is lamentation.

There is bitter weeping.

Rachel is weeping

For her children.

She refuses to be comforted

For her children.

Because they are no more.’

Thus says Yahweh.

‘Keep your voice

From weeping!

Keep your eyes

From tears!

There is a reward

For your work.’

Says Yahweh.

‘They shall come back

From the land of the enemy.

There is hope for your future.’

Says Yahweh.

‘Your children shall come back

To their own country.’”

Jeremiah seems to have a dialogue with Rachel, the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, and Yahweh. Rachel has been dead and buried for a long time at Ramah, during the time of Jacob as in Genesis, chapter 35. However, there the resting place was called Bethlehem. Here it is Ramah, someplace in Benjamin that makes more sense. The prophet Samuel may have lived in this place as in 1 Samuel, chapter 25. However, here Rachel is lamenting from her grave. She is weeping bitterly for her lost children. She refuses to be comforted because they too are dead and gone. This passage had an influence on the later Gospel of Matthew, chapter 2, where he used this saying to apply to the innocent children killed by Herod. However, Yahweh tells her to stop weeping and dry her tears, because she was going to be rewarded. The descendants of her children were going to come back to their country from the land of their enemies. Thus the northern tribes would be restored.