The Table Podcast

Old Testament Fulfillment in the Christmas Story

In this episode, Mikel Del Rosario, Drs. David K. Lowery, Gordon H. Johnston, and Darrell L. Bock discuss the birth of Jesus, focusing on the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy in the Gospel of Matthew.

Timecodes
00:15
What do “virgin” and “Immanuel” mean in Isaiah 7:14?
07:51
Why does Matthew quote Isaiah 7:14?
09:22
How is Isaiah 7:14 fulfilled in Matthew 1:18-23?
14:29
How was Micah 5:2 understood by Old Testament audiences?
18:38
Why does Herod call the chief priests in Matthew 2:1-6?
21:03
How is Micah 5:2 fulfilled in Matthew 2:1-6?
24:43
What does “out of Egypt I called my son” mean in Hosea 11:1?
27:48
Why does Matthew quote Hosea 11:1?
29:04
How is Hosea 11:1 fulfilled in Matthew 2:13-14?
32:30
What is the context of Jeremiah 31:15?
38:20
What is the significance of Jeremiah 31:15 for Matthew’s audience?
40:40
What does “He shall be called a Nazarene” mean in Matthew 2:19-23?
48:23
How are these passages significant for us today?
Transcript
Mikel Del Rosario
Welcome to The Table, where we discuss issues of God and culture. I’m Mikel Del Rosario, Cultural Engagement Manager at The Hendricks Center, and our topic today is the birth of Jesus and specifically talking about the Old Testament passages that are used in the book of Matthew where we read about the birth of Jesus.

I have three guests in the studio today. First guest is Dr. David Lowery. David Lowery teaches New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary. And second guest is Dr. Gordon Johnston, who teaches Old Testament here. And Dr. Darrell Bock, who’s normally driving this podcast, but is one of our expert guests today.

Darrell Bock
I’m riding the wave with you today.
Mikel Del Rosario
And Darrell is the Executive Director of Cultural Engagement at The Hendricks Center and Senior Research Professor of New Testament at DTS. Welcome, Darrell.
Darrell Bock
A pleasure to be here.
Mikel Del Rosario
Welcome Gordon.
Gordon Johnston
Thank you.
Mikel Del Rosario
And welcome, David.
David Lowery
Thank you.
Mikel Del Rosario
We have a good panel here; we have a good five things we want to talk about in terms of five key passages in the book of Matthew, that talk about the birth of Jesus, and use little parts of the Old Testament. And I want to approach the conversation this way
When it’s a Christmas service, there are people in the pew who are reading along, and the pastor is giving a message, and they read these passages, and it says, “Here’s what the prophet says in the Old Testament…”

Sometimes people will say, “Where’s that come from? What prophet?” Or maybe they have a footnote in their Bible, and they say, “Okay, well, I’m gonna go there,” and they want to figure out, “How does this relate to what Matthew is doing?” And then for pastors as well, as they’re preparing their messages, what the significance is of these things that they can bring up.

So, we’ll talk about Matthew 1. There’s one passage in there, and then there’s four passages in Matthew 2 that we’ll discuss. So, let’s just dive right in. We’ll take a look at the first passage, and I’m gonna read these passages ’cause, as we’ve learned before, nothing beats looking at the text. Right?

Gordon Johnston
Mm-hmm.
Mikel Del Rosario
Nothing and nothing at all.
Darrell Bock
That’s right.
Mikel Del Rosario
So, let’s take a look at the first one. This is in Matthew 1, talking about the birth of Jesus. I’m gonna read from verse 18 on to 23, and we’re going to key in on that last part – 22 and 23.
So, Matthew 1
18 starts out like this

“But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.'”

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet” – and then we have verse 23, which is a quotation. It says, “‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which means, ‘God with us.'”

Now, sometimes people will notice there’s a footnote in their Bible, and they’ll say, “There’s a footnote. It says, ‘This refers to Isaiah 7
14.'” But, Gordon, when we take a look at this – say you flip back to Isaiah, and you’re thinking about how did Isaiah’s audience hear this language of “virgin” and “Immanuel,” what’s the backstory here?
Gordon Johnston
Sure. And it’s an important passage because if we are going from Matthew back to Isaiah 7, there may be some surprises where somebody might assume that this was a crystal-clear, direct prophecy of the virgin birth of the Messiah. But when you look at the context, it’s the King Ahaz, 735 B.C. He’s being besieged – Jerusalem’s being besieged by two enemies, the Arameans and the Israelites to the north.

And Isaiah the prophet shows up and says, “Don’t be afraid, because these two countries that are your two enemies, they’re going to be wiped off the scene within the next generation or so.” And he says, “As a sign for that, to confirm that you’ll be safe, God’s gonna give you a confirming sign.” And typically, the word “sign” would be – this would be fulfilled before that.

So, the expectation would be that whatever the sign is going to be would be fulfilled before the end of the next generation. And he says, “The sign is going to be that an almah is pregnant and about to give birth, and she” – and actually, the Hebrew could be understand in terms of “you” and the Septuagint even translated that, “Well, you, young woman, will call His name Immanuel.”

So, and then it says, “And after He’s born, He’s going to eat curds and honey so he knows to choose the good and not the evil. And before He knows good and evil, the two kings that you fear are gonna be wiped away, and then the king of Assyria is going to come up on the land.” And that likely happened in 701 B.C. with Sennacherib. So, these events happened. Samaria gets destroyed in 722, Damascus 732, Sennacherib 701. So, we’re talking about the eighth century.

In the context, we’re probably talking about – Isaiah’s probably addressing or at least referring to a woman – a young woman, an almah. In Hebrew, the word almah is a young woman. Betulah, a different word, was a technical term for virgin, and he doesn’t use that.

So, there’s a young woman. The Hebrew could be read easily that this young woman is already pregnant and about to give birth. And so, we’d expect that this would be fulfilled in the near view. In Isaiah chapter 8, there’s a parallel passage that appears to be a parallel description of Isaiah’s own son. So, in the near context, this is probably fulfilled historically.

Now there’s a broader context in Isaiah 9 that there’s a Davidic King to come who’s going to be born. And it’s remarkable that Matthew doesn’t quote that passage but Isaiah 7. And it’s interesting; this probably would not have been a text that would have been, in the first century, somebody would have been necessarily going to messianically. The Isaiah 7 was – it appears people understood this as being fulfilled in the eighth century. It was never really one of the inventories – on the inventory list for future messianic prophecies to be fulfilled.

So, I think the best way to understand this is that Matthew is seeing some kind of typological escalation that when this child was born in the eighth century, it was a sign that God was there to protect and provide and deliver His people, but then how much more, in the first century, with Jesus, the ultimate Son.

And David might want to talk about the parthenos. The Septuagint translated the Hebrew word almah – Hebrew almah – young woman. The Greek Septuagint translated parthenos, that at the time meant young woman, it could be used of a virgin, but technically meant young woman. But by the time you come to the first century, it starts being used more and more – a virgin.

And so, it’s there, under the providence of God, for Matthew to seize upon. And Matthew’s not getting the virgin birth because Isaiah 7
14 was direct prophecy; he’s getting the virgin birth because he knows there was a virgin birth.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah.
Gordon Johnston
And under the providence of God, the wording, the language here, the theology, it’s all there for Matthew to bring out these parallels and to escalate it and see that God’s doing an even greater work now today.
Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm. So, the word in the Old Testament for young woman here is a more general term –
Gordon Johnston
It’s a more general term.
Mikel Del Rosario
– than a virgin.
Gordon Johnston
It can be used in reference to virgin, but it technically didn’t mean virgin, and she’s already pregnant.
Mikel Del Rosario
And so, most people have thought the fulfillment happened already; they weren’t waiting around for – let’s see if somebody’s born of a virgin; they might be the Messiah.
Gordon Johnston
Right, right.
Mikel Del Rosario
No one was thinking that.

David, let’s think about how, in Matthew’s context, he uses – why would Matthew go to this, and what would be significant for his audience?

David Lowery
I think there are a couple of correspondences in this passage that Matthew is interested in. One, as Gordon brought up, is the statement about the birth of this child from a virgin. But there’s also the historical correspondence related to the time of Ahaz, the troubles, and now the time of troubles associated with Herod the king, and the confidence, the idea of God’s presence, which is brought out, then, with the idea of the name Immanuel, God with us.

A word of assurance, then, that the purposes of God are being accomplished, and despite the troubling times and the apparent difficulties associated with what we’ll see as the life of Jesus, God’s purposes are going to be accomplished. And He is with His people particularly – as Gordon said, escalation – in the person of Jesus; His presence is manifested.

So, it’s both a word of assurance, a word of fulfillment, but a reminder that the purposes of God are going to be achieved, and Jesus is going to be the focal point of what God is going to do in terms of His presence with His people.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
Gordon Johnston
And this is one of those cases where we don’t want to narrow what we mean by “fulfillment.” I mean Darrell might really want to talk about that because there’s something interesting going on with that fulfillment language.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, unpack that a little bit. How do we see fulfillment working here?
Darrell Bock
Well, this is – as Gordon has mentioned, it’s a typological prophetic text, which means that an event in the short term mirrors something coming later. And often the mirroring event that comes down the road is a more escalated or more amazing kind of fulfillment of the pattern, and that’s what I think we have here.

We have a woman who’s announced to give birth to a sign child. Jesus is going to be a sign child, believe me. He means God with us. And so, we have this sign child that shows that the program of God is moving ahead.

But instead of this being about a young woman who either is pregnant or about to become pregnant, in the original setting, we now have someone who’s a virgin, who gives birth. So, that’s an escalation. And “God with us” is not merely the presence of God in our midst, although it’s certainly that, but it is, if I can have some fun here, “GOD WITH US – THIS IS CNN.” I mean there’s an escalation here, and that escalation has pushed – is being pushed to the limit.

So, it’s a pattern fulfillment, and then that sometimes bothers people that it’s not a direct fulfillment – you know, a direct prediction looking hundreds of years down the line. But I tell people, “What’s more amazing, that God predicts a single event down the road, or that there is a pattern that God is exercising across time at multiple places and in multiple spaces that shows a connection and a design to what it is that God is doing?”

So, I actually see typological prophetic fulfillment as a sign of God’s hands being across history and not just in one event. And so, I think that helps to explain the kind of fulfillment that we’re dealing with here. It’s not a retreat from a view about what God is doing; it actually invests God with more involvement in history to see it this way.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. So, how would we respond to – I know there are some skeptics who would say Matthew probably just made up the whole virgin birth thing because he was sitting around, waiting for a virgin to be born, and he made up the story so that Jesus could be the Messiah? So, we know they weren’t waiting around for that –
Gordon Johnston
Well, and we know from the first – we know from the Talmud that there was a live controversy in the first century that Mary was claiming this, because the Talmud even refers to this. They’re trying to refute this, and they know that this was the claim. And the Talmud even refers to Jesus pejoratively as, Yeshua ben – what is it?
Darrell Bock
Pandira.
Gordon Johnston
Pandira, which probably is kind of a slur on parthenos. So that it’s clear that they know what the claim is, that Matthew’s not making this up, that they’re dealing with that claim.
Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
Darrell Bock
Yeah. And I think the interesting thing about this text is is that because of the modern controversy, we get locked up about whether the word “virgin” or “young woman” and how that fulfillment happens, and I think we actually miss the point of the text. The point of the text is is that this child represents God with us, and God’s program is moving ahead.

So we get stuck in the first part of the passage. The point of the passage is coming really at the end and advances the story. And so, in that sense, some of this skepticism that we end up having to deal with – I’m not saying you shouldn’t deal with it – having to deal with gets us off the track in terms of what’s happening in the narrative.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm.
Gordon Johnston
And the other thing Darrell’s made the point before about – the fact that there were no Jewish expectations coming into the first century that the Messiah would be virgin born. And the claim of the virgin birth created a controversy. So, if Matthew completely contrived this, he would have contrived something that would have been going against expectations. Why would he do that unless this actually had happened?
Darrell Bock
Yeah, yeah, good point.
David Lowery
We don’t want to miss, either, the emphasis on Jesus being the means by which God is going to save His people. He saved His people by delivering them, ultimately, from the enemies in the time of Ahaz, but He delivers them preeminently through Jesus in His birth and in His death and resurrection, which Matthew will narrate at the end of his gospel.
Mikel Del Rosario
Hmm. And I think we’re going to see this kind of pattern fulfillment showing up more and more as we progress through this narrative.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, it’s the most common way that the Old Testament is used in the New, and it’s also the most underappreciated.
David Lowery
This theme of God’s presence also is found in chapter 18 of Matthew, where Jesus talks about resolution of controversy in the Church, but most importantly, at the end of the gospel when He sends out the disciples. He says, “You’re gonna make disciples of the nations of the world, and I will be with you.” So, this “God with us” theme begins with reference to Jesus’ birth and continues with reference to the mission to the world.
Mikel Del Rosario
Hmm, that’s a good observation. Let’s move on to chapter 2, and let’s take a look at the second text. This is the visit of the wise men or the magi, and it starts out, verse 1 – we’ll read until 6 and focus in on verse 6.

Matthew chapter 2 says, “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, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.'”

“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet
“And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.”‘”
It’s this last section that I want to key in on, where we have this quotation. Again, some people will see a footnote in their Bible that points us to Micah 5
2. But how did the original audience hear this in the Old Testament, Gordon?
Gordon Johnston
Well, it’s interesting, because unlike Isaiah 7:14, which was not on anybody’s radar screen until Jesus came, in terms of being a messianic text – Isaiah 5:2 was a messianic text. But it’s also remarkable because the direction that Micah is going – Matthew is going that direction, building upon it, but in some surprising ways.

In the context of Micah 5, you’ve got Jerusalem is under siege by the Assyrians. Micah also announces that eventually Jerusalem’s going to be taken into exile by the Babylonians. So, 701 B.C., 586 B.C.

But in the future, Jerusalem’s going to be restored by a coming David, a new David, a greater David who’s going to come out of the veritable roots where David came from, with Bethlehem – the book of Ruth takes us all the way back to Bethlehem, with Naomi and Ruth and Boaz, leading to David.

In the context, though, this ruler that’s coming out, that Micah is anticipating, is that he’s going to end up defeating the enemies of the people of God, and Isaiah describes it as if the next time Assyria tries to besiege us, we’re gonna chase them back, and we’re gonna besiege them, and the enemies of God are gonna be defeated.

And so, Micah is picturing Him in terms of this mighty ruler and military warrior who’s gonna defeat the enemy because that was at the time.

When Matthew cites this, he’s not got a military conqueror in mind, but rather the one that ultimately will defeat sin – the victory over sin which ultimately is the reason why there’s trouble in the world.

And Matthew tags Micah 5 with not who will be the ruler, but as the shepherd. And he picks up on 2 Samuel 7, where he says, “David used to be a ruler” – or, sorry – “a shepherd. I took you out from the pasture as a shepherd, and I made you a shepherd over My people.” So, he’s picturing in terms of where David had these obscure beginnings and was a shepherd.

So, he’s blending ruler with shepherd imagery and, if you will, almost suggesting that this Messiah Jesus is gonna have the shepherd role first before he comes in terms of the mighty conqueror. But it’s got typological escalation as well, and you’ve got second exodus imagery with the Messiah. So, it’s really remarkable, a profound passage.

Mikel Del Rosario
M-kay. So, this was something that was seen as a messianic text. People were waiting for the Messiah to fulfill this.
Gordon Johnston
But they’re really – from the context they’re set up that He’s gonna be this military conqueror who’s gonna defeat the Assyrians and defeat the Babylonians, and He is the defeater, but it’s not military; it’s something more profound.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, yeah. Well, David, if people were waiting around for this messianic prophecy to be fulfilled, why did Herod have to call the chief priests and the teachers of the Law? Why did he have to call them?
David Lowery
I think it’s an interesting contrast going on in this passage between the question the wise men bring, which is they are responding to natural revelation. They think there’s a king born; where is this king? And then Herod calls his scribes to say, “What do we know about this?” And they quote this passage from, as Gordon said, Micah 5:1 and 2 Samuel 5:2, concerning the one who’s going to shepherd the people of Israel.

So, Herod wants to know what’s going on with regard to this possible king being born, asks for information about it, receives special revelation. But it’s interesting, as Matthew presents this, the wise men rejoice at the news and go and worship, whereas Herod decides he needs to kill the child.

And it becomes, in some measure, an illustration of – for readers – of what should be expected with regard to the response, generally speaking, of the political and religious leaders with regard to this child.

Now, Herod’s going to try and kill the child, as we shall see in another passage, but he’s ultimately unsuccessful. However, Pilate, at the end, is successful in bringing about the death of Jesus. But in the passion narrative, Jesus basically says, “All these things must happen in accordance with what the Scriptures say.”

So, we’re seeing a pattern all the way through the gospel, in some respect, of what God said is fulfilled, is carried out, but it’s in His time, in His plan, and for His purpose.

Mikel Del Rosario
Hmm. It’s interesting we have this juxtaposition of the Gentiles – the wise men – were the ones who were seeking the king – the King of the Jews really, right? – and then we have the person who was reigning as the king of the Jews, and he’s rejecting.
David Lowery
Yes, and the religious leaders who know the special revelation, but basically, as far as we can tell, were unresponsive to it. They didn’t go to Bethlehem to worship; it’s the Gentiles who did.
Darrell Bock
And there’s an irony in the fact that, you know, Matthew is normally characterized as the gospel written to the Jews, but it’s containing hints that the responsiveness is not going to come predominantly from within Israel.
Mikel Del Rosario
Mmm, interesting. Why did – in Micah, if you take a look at Micah, there’s a part that they leave out. They leave out this part about how His origins were from the distant past. Why would they leave that part out?
Darrell Bock
To be honest, I don’t know. I’m not a mind reader. But I do think that it’s important to see the identification with Bethlehem. That part of the passage is probably as close to a predictive element as we see anywhere in these passages that we’re gonna be discussing.

And so, there’s the idea that these origins – you know, out of Judah – not just out of Judah, but out of Bethlehem, that’s an important feature.

So, what the Scripture delivers to the wise men is more than what the stars are giving them. And the stars are giving them the sense that something of significance has happened. A king is probably being born somewhere, but where exactly? And this is the telegram that tells you exactly where to go – or at least the city to go to.

Bethlehem wasn’t very big, so with – you would – the sign saying “Entering Bethlehem” and then the sign saying “Leaving Bethlehem” would be really close to one another.

Gordon Johnston
You know, it’s interesting, because some of the passage is typological escalation. In this case, it’s an ultra literal fulfillment. Because when he talks about He’s – His origins are from old, from ancient times, Bethlehem, it may not be saying – making a claim that He was going to be born in Bethlehem, but His origin – roots are from Bethlehem; He’s gonna be a veritable second David wherever He might be born.

But the irony is, in this case, He actually was born in Bethlehem, in literal fulfillment of it. But then there’s more typological fulfillment of other parts, and He’s not this conquering hero; He’s more of the shepherd and the conqueror of sin and evil. So, there’s all sorts of things happening here.

Darrell Bock
Yeah. The juxtaposition of Micah with 2 Samuel 7 is important because that is evoking the Davidic Covenant and the Davidic Covenant promise and hope, which eventually, in the development within Judaism, became focused on a specific Davidic Deliverer as opposed to just the line. “This is what the line of David’s going to be like for the nation, and God’s gonna be behind it, and that king is gonna be seen as a sign” – all those kinds of things were already there. But that hope crystallized into the expectation, “There’s gonna be someone who brings a decisive deliverance, with whom the eschaton’s gonna come, all that kind of stuff. And all that baggage, if you will, is coming with this citation in terms of what it’s evoking.
David Lowery
It’s almost a promise – isn’t it? –
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
David Lowery
– when it says, “He will shepherd His people.” He has said earlier that He will save His people from their sins. Now He’s going to be the shepherd, and you wonder, “Will He really do this for the people of Israel?”

And, of course, the gospel’s gonna answer, “Yes, He will.” But it’s based in the promise of God.

David Lowery
And that actually has a very important point attached to it, which is sometimes when we talk about salvation, we think it’s just about forgiveness of sins. But no, the point of forgiving sins is to build a relationship with the living God, in which He participates in leading and guiding and shepherding us.

And so, the point of salvation is never just to tick a box, say, “My sins are forgiven, and one day I’m gonna be in heaven.” No, it’s about this ongoing relationship, this journey with God that I’m gonna be on, in which He’s gonna be my protector, my leader, my guider, et cetera, and my enabler. And all that is wrapped up in the idea of being the shepherd who looks after the sheep.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mmm, mmm. Well, let’s take a look at our third passage now from Matthew 2. And this is Matthew 2:13, moving into a quotation – a very short quotation there at the end of verse 14. So, let’s just read those two verses quickly. And this is the flight to Egypt.

It says, “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 Egypt.” This is the part I want to key in on. It says, “And 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.'”
And again, people may take a look in a footnote and see there’s a reference to Hosea 11
1. And so, Gordon, I’m going to turn to you and ask, “Who is this ‘My Son’ in the context of the Hosea passage?”
Gordon Johnston
Well, this is another amazing, remarkable use of the Old Testament in Matthew. And we’re getting into all different ways in which he’s seeing fulfillment work under the providence of God and the design of God.

When you look at Hosea 11, when he talks about, “Out of Egypt I called My Son,” it’s not prophetic at all; it’s looking historically back in terms of God’s son being Israel coming out of Egypt when – as is His collective son, and he’s describing Israel collectively as a son in the exodus.

And it goes on and says, “When Israel was a child, I loved him. Out of Egypt I called my son. The more they called, the more they went away from Me. They sacrificed to the Baals. Yet I was the one who taught Ephraim to walk.”

So, it’s clear in the context that the son here was Israel who was a disobedient son. He called Israel to be a covenant-keeping people; they weren’t. And then He ends up going – down to verse 5, He says, “They’re gonna go back to Egypt. They’re gonna go back to Assyria. I’m gonna reverse the exodus.” And then Hosea ends up predicting a second exodus, and eventually chapter 3 talks about a new David who’s going to be part of that second exodus.

So, it’s really clearly Matthew is doing some things in terms of he’s seeing a pattern again, that at one point his people were in Egypt and God brought them out in the first exodus. The first exodus is gonna have to be reversed because His people violated this. But Hosea also has a second exodus imagery, and in chapter 3 he’s got a Davidic figure there.

So, I think Matthew is looking at Hosea holistically and sees this whole thing, and he sees patterns in terms of the holy family being warned to go down to Egypt. And that’s where he – where Matthew is quoting Him, that He’s going down – He’s sent Him down to Egypt so He can bring them back out. And when He brings them back out, it’s not Israel collectively; it’s the ideal Israel; it’s the ultimate Israel – Jesus, who’s now gonna inaugurate the second exodus as the second Davidic King. So, it’s a remarkable passage.

Mikel Del Rosario
David, how do you see this being used by Matthew? Why is Matthew pulling this in and linking it with Jesus?
David Lowery
Well, it’s another passage, as Gordon said, with correspondences. It is a statement, as Gordon said, but it does fit the circumstance and situation of Joseph responding in obedience to what the angel told him, “Take your family to Egypt.” And then it reflects also the fact that he’s called, because the angel comes back and says, “Okay, now it’s time to go.”

So, Joseph responds again to the revelation that he’s given. Jesus is in Egypt. He is the Son – preeminent Son, as Gordon said – and all of the passage fits the circumstance of Jesus being in Egypt for a short period of time and then being brought back into the land.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
David Lowery
So, it’s a correspondence on several different levels that works here.
Mikel Del Rosario
Okay.
Gordon Johnston
But again, with this escalation and typological – which is all part of what – how the Old Testament is even viewing – the future’s gonna be recalibrating the past but greater.
David Lowery
In this context, it’s again a reminder of God’s preservation of Jesus until it’s God’s time for Him to be the sacrifice for sin. Herod wanted to kill Him, but he wasn’t able to do so ’cause it wasn’t God’s time yet.
Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm. Darrell, how did this fit into messianic expectation in the second temple period, this idea of coming out Egypt?
Darrell Bock
Well, I don’t know if this text is necessarily a prominent messianic text, but what it is is a re-invoking of the fact that salvation is showing up. You call someone – you call the nation out of Egypt because you were forming the people of Israel and you’re in the process of taking them to the land – it’s what the book of Exodus is all about.

And so, what we see here is the preparation for the formation of a ministry that’s going to deliver the people in this – with this eschatological expectation, which Hosea has tipped his hand to in a bigger sense. You know, sometimes what’s going on in these texts is we’re citing a verse, but the verse is aware of the bigger story of what’s going on from the place from which it is cited.

Gordon Johnston
‘Cause it activates the entire context in some cases.
Darrell Bock
Exactly right. And so, there’s this expectation of deliverance, ultimately, and God’s faithfulness to His nation in delivering them, et cetera, that’s in play here. So, again, you get a mirroring or a correspondence or a typology or – there are lots of ways to talk about it – a pattern. There are probably four different ways to say the same thing, and in the pattern, you get the realization.

And what’s interesting about this one, and what some people comment on is that the placement of this is actually pretty interesting because it’s placed as Jesus is sent to Egypt, and then the extraction from Egypt, if you will, comes after the citation as opposed to the way many of the other citations work, where you get the layout of what’s going on, and then you get the citation following it in a description of kind of a commentary.

So, this is almost anticipatory of what – where the narrative is gonna go because it’s anticipatory of what the story of Jesus is from the standpoint of His birth. You know, this is the start of what is going to be a saga of deliverance on behalf of God’s people.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
Gordon Johnston
And it’s another example in which the events have happened – I mean God sovereignly orchestrated the events to send Jesus and the family down to Egypt, understandably, because God is in charge of history, and He’s setting up these events to create those correspondences. So, Matthew’s not just doing this literarily; he sees the events, and he sees the patterns and what God actually was doing in history.
Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm. And when they look back on the exodus from Egypt, that was a great example of God’s faithfulness, and then now we have this almost – a parallel to, here’s a great example of God’s faithfulness.
Darrell Bock
And preservation. You know, that intense plague was pretty devastating and reached a lot of firstborn, and yet the firstborn of those who participated in the Passover were preserved because they were in connection with what it is that God was doing.
Mikel Del Rosario
And the exodus from Egypt was a great thing, but the incarnation in Jesus and salvation of humanity’s an even greater thing.
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
David Lowery
This is the first time, I think, in Matthew’s gospel, too, that Jesus is referred to as My Son by God. The next time will be the baptism, when He formally begins His ministry.
Gordon Johnston
In 2 Samuel 7, the Davidic King was called “My Son.” So, you’ve got the link between Israel “My Son,” the Davidic King “My Son.”
Mikel Del Rosario
Wow, it’s amazing. Let’s take a look at the third snippet here.
Gordon Johnston
The fourth, isn’t it?
Mikel Del Rosario
Oh, yeah, that’s right, four. Thank you. And this is why they had to leave – right? – because Herod killed these children, as some people call “The Slaying of the Holy Innocents.” Let’s go to 16.

“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children, in Bethlehem and in all that region, who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.”

“Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah” – and here’s verse 18 in a quotation – “‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.'”

So, Gordon, context in Jeremiah, what’s going on here?

Gordon Johnston
So, again, we go back to the context in Jeremiah 31:15. And this is a wonderful example because we’ve been talking about pattern fulfillment and typological fulfillment. Jeremiah himself is talking typologically here himself. So, Matthew is gonna do a typological working of this that Jeremiah himself is doing.

So, what’s happening in Jeremiah 21 – or, sorry, 29 to 31 is that Jeremiah’s dealing with the reality of the exile. Jerusalem is in exile 586 B.C. And he pictures Jerusalem, during the exile, as being this woman, this mother who’s been abandoned, bereft of her children. And she’s heartbroken. And in Jeremiah 31, he comes back and forth to this imagery of Jerusalem as a woman and says, “You’re heartbroken now, but one day I’m gonna bring the children – your children back on the highway, and you’re gonna be full of joy.” But now there’s this drama.

Now, the picture that Jeremiah has of Jerusalem during the exile is he says, “A voice is heard in Ramah” – that’s an important tag as far as the city of Ramah. And “Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted” – he’s referring back to Rachel. So, Ramah was an important town mentioned, and Rachel was the wife of Isaac.

And you remember Isaac had two wives, Rachel and Leah, and under the providence of God, Leah conceived first. She was less loved than Rachel was. And Rachel was heartbroken that she could never conceive.

Genesis 30, Genesis 31, she’s not able to have children; she’s heartbroken; she’s crying; she wants to have children ’cause she can’t. And then finally God opens her womb and gives her children. And the first child she has is Joseph, the beloved child.

As time goes on, then she conceives a second child, Benjamin, but she has such a terrible labor that she ends up dying in childbirth, and she’s weeping not because she’s lost her child, but because in her very last breath, she gives birth to a child that she had longed for. But Rachel then becomes this lamentable picture of a woman who is not able to have children, and then finally has them, but it’s in the midst of tragedy.

There’s another example of this, too, in which Hannah, in 1 Samuel, the wife of Elkanah, she was barren as well, and she’s lamenting. And she prayed that God would give her a child. And finally, God gave her a child – Samuel – who was the kingmaker. Well, Hannah lived in Ramah. Okay?

And so, Hannah was from Ramah, Samuel was from Ramah, and so Samuel was the kingmaker. And Samuel anointed David at Ramah. And all of these events happened at Ramah. And eventually, as time went on, when Israel got into trouble, their kings went foul, they went into exile.

The Davidic dynasty – the throne got dismantled, the prophets – Isaiah and Jeremiah – talk about Ramah weeping because kingship has been taken away, and Rachel now is evoked because it’s this picture of Jerusalem now as a woman who’s been bereft of her children.

But the context has to do with loss of kingship, exile, and it’s taking us back to these figures that the ancestors of Israel and Joseph and Benjamin, and then the place where kingship began. So, it sets up in so many wonderful ways as far as the kingship’s now gonna be restored. And Rachel’s grief will one day be turned to joy because a King’s coming.

But in the meantime, Matthew’s also saying they’re parallels because just as Jerusalem suffered at the hands of this violent, wicked king in the sixth century, now you got an Israelite king that’s gone rogue.

Darrell Bock
And the interesting thing about this, that sometimes is forgotten, is this whole typological way of reading things is not something that Matthew invents.
Gordon Johnston
Right.
Darrell Bock
It goes back to a Jewish way of thinking about history and a Jewish way of even reading the Scriptures. And the beautiful thing about this text is is that you see it – you see it within the Old Testament itself, this kind of way of putting history together so that when Matthew does it, he’s doing something that –
Gordon Johnston
The Old Testament’s doing it.
Darrell Bock
– his readers are used to. The Old Testament does it, and his readers can connect to it.

Sometimes I think we, as modern readers, lose context of what – the way in which texts were read. And therefore, it looks perhaps cavalier or innovative. And in fact, it’s something that’s well established in terms of how to look at history from within Jewish tradition.

Mikel Del Rosario
Interesting.
Gordon Johnston
You could say that Matthew’s getting his hermeneutics of Jeremiah – his use of Jeremiah 31 from how Jeremiah 31’s using the Old Testament.
Darrell Bock
Yeah, exactly.
Mikel Del Rosario
David, is there anything else you want to add about the significance of this for Matthew’s readers?
David Lowery
Well, for Jeremiah, he’s reflecting on Rachel’s loss in probably the connection with the Assyrians carrying off the ten northern tribes and Manasseh and Ephraim, her grandchildren were tribes in that area.

But he’s also, from Jeremiah – I wonder if he’s evoking Jeremiah’s also word of hope? Yes, bad times are coming to Israel, ’cause he’s predicting the Babylonian captivity, which is coming soon, but he also includes the promise of the New Covenant in Jeremiah so that God again has not forgotten His people.

They will experience times of real trial and difficulty, and Matthew will narrate that as well, when he talks about Jesus’ prediction about the destruction of Jerusalem, which comes later. That the people of Israel may be facing a time of real trial and suffering and lamentation, but there is a promise bound up in the work that this child is going to bring about.

Darrell Bock
And there might even be a little bit of an overhang in the fact that when Matthew’s writing his gospel and things don’t look necessarily quite so rosy for the new community, that nope, God has a promise that He is carrying out. And there’s a rest of the program, God will perform His word; it will come, and it will happen.
Gordon Johnston
And the comment that Jesus makes on the road, with the disciples that said “You know, we thought He was the Messiah, and then He died,” which in their mind disqualified Him ’cause they didn’t understand the Scriptures, and He said, “Don’t you understand that the suffering has to come before the glory?”

And in Jeremiah 31, it starts off with, “Here’s the suffering,” but at the end, “There’s the glory. Jerusalem will be restored, there will be the new covenant, and you’re going to get the new David.”

Darrell Bock
Yeah, there’s a case where Luke compliments Matthew pretty nicely in terms of the struggle that the disciples are having, even after they’ve seen the ministry of Jesus and His death. They’ve heard the prediction, et cetera, but they don’t quite get it. They don’t quite get it till that tomb goes empty. And all of a sudden, you know, the lights go on, and they realize God is really doing this, and He does it in very surprising, unexpected ways.
Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm, yes. You know, for – to start out with the virgin birth – surprising, unexpected thing.
Darrell Bock
That’s right.
Mikel Del Rosario
And all of these – now Jesus is coming out of Egypt. How could that be orchestrated – right? Well, God has His hand all over this thing.

Let’s take a look at the very last passage, now, and this is the return to Nazareth; they’re coming back. Verse 19 through the end, we’ll just key in on the last part here in verse 23.

But it starts out like this, verse 19, “But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, ‘Rise, take the child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.’ And he rose and took the child and His mother and went to the land of Israel.”

“And when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a city called Nazareth so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that ‘He would be called a Nazarene.'”

So, He would be called a Nazarene that what was spoken by the prophets – Gordon, what’s the reference here, these prophets?

Gordon Johnston
That’s the question. What’s happening? So, we’re not quite sure. It’s not – ironically enough, we’ve got several passages here that were not directly prophetic that Matthew’s using typologically and escalate – and here we’re not quite sure – it’s not necessarily – not a direct prophecy – we’re not even sure where the prophecy’s coming from.

It looks like it’s an example in which Matthew is taking language out of several texts and combining them in some very creative ways, and seeing the providential hand of God. And I think at this table we’ve got probably five different views among the four of us as far as what’s happening.

My gut feeling is, and a number of people are gonna suggest that he’s – Matthew’s using language out of Isaiah 9
1 and language out of Judges 13

Well, the term for the branch is the Hebrew word nazer for branch. And nazer in Hebrew sounds like the word for Nazarene. In Isaiah 11 –

Darrell Bock
So, it’s a wordplay.
Gordon Johnston
It’s a wordplay.
Mikel Del Rosario
Hmm.
David Lowery
That’s the most common way, I think, to read this passage.
Darrell Bock
Yeah.
Gordon Johnston
In Isaiah 11, it’s clearly messianic, and it’s a picture of the future David who’s associated with the second exodus. So, He’s in the remote future, and He’s this ideal Davidic King. And it’s remarkable. I would have thought that Matthew would quote this directly, but instead, there’s a wordplay there. And it makes me wonder is if he’s saying, “Yes, Jesus is this Isaiah 11:1-6 King, but there’s some other things going on. The fulfillment is not going to be exactly the way that you expect. He’s a nazer, but in a different sense.”
And then also, it looks like there’s language drawn from Judges 13
5, which is announcement of the birth of Samson. And I don’t think any of us would take that in terms of thinking it was directly messianic. But it’s interesting; the language in Judges 13
So, I’m wondering if Matthew’s use of Isaiah 7
14, he also knows there’s another passage that’s got that same language. And here he goes on to say – the angel says, “He” – this child – “will be a nazer to God all his days.” A Nazarite. So, you’ve got this wordplay between – and Nazarite refers to someone who’s specially dedicated to God, who’s specially empowered to deliver the people.

So, there’s some things happening in terms of what Matthew’s doing. But I think it’s an example in which the fulfillment is more broad in terms of how he’s reading the Old Testament as a whole, some typological, some wordplays. But it may be a clue that some of the old expectations of what Messiah’s gonna do, there’s gonna be some surprises and some things happening before He fulfills everything fully –

David Lowery
Yeah, this is – Gordon, I think, has done well to summarize what is probably the most common explanation. The problem I have with that explanation is that it requires a certain sophistication of the reader that I don’t think most of Matthew’s readers would have. They have the Greek Old Testament; they probably don’t know Hebrew. And so – and he talks about prophets as if it’s more than one.
So, I’m a little more inclined to the view – I shouldn’t say it’s a common view, but the notion that “Nazarene” refers to someone from – as Nathaniel said, “What good whoever came out of Nazareth?” – someone who is lowly, meek, humble, and that Matthew will later quote some passages along this line
Jesus as the meek and lowly One who comes riding on a donkey; Jesus as the One out of Isaiah 42 who won’t disturb anything.

So, I’m a little more inclined to think it evokes this meekness, humility that characterizes Jesus contrary to expectations that a king would come out of Nazareth.

Gordon Johnston
So, it’s not – you’re not saying that there’s actually a passage that’s got that language of Nazarene, but the imagery of meek and lowly which Nazareth would have epitomized.
David Lowery
Yes, that idea.
Gordon Johnston
So, it’s more of a conceptual –
David Lowery
And he does have – he does mention some prophets then later on that would emphasize that kind of a character, if you will, of Jesus.
Gordon Johnston
So, Nazareth –
Gordon Johnston
– kind of epitomizes that kind of a thing.
David Lowery
Right, yeah, mm-hmm.
Mikel Del Rosario
Darrell, how would you interact with these –
Darrell Bock
Yeah, I almost have the suspicion that there’s something almost secretive going on within – between Matthew and his readers; that he’s evoking something, a connection perhaps that we have lost and we’re trying to figure out. And they are aware of the play here and what’s going on, and we’re trying to discover it.

Just because it is such a hard one to identify exactly what’s going on, and the appeal to the prophets – plural – I mean it could just be a way of saying, “In the Scripture.” And it could just be as generic as that, and there is something specific in mind. But usually, when you get prophets in the plural, there’s more than one text and more than one idea in play.

And so, this combination of things that we’re talking about all have possibilities and no one knows. But I’m deeply suspicious that he was sending a signal. And it’s a cultural script that Matthew and his readers get that we’ve lost or that we’re fishing for in terms of thinking about this.

So, it’s a little bit of a harder text. But it does land us – you know, when we come to the end here of a section in which we have had five appeals to the design of God as the birth of Jesus unfolds. And the whole point is to say, “Look, what is going on, as surprising and as wondrous as it is, is a part of the program and plan of God.”

And it’s the beginning of a story in which the program and plan of God is unfolding, and it evokes pictures of rule, pictures of victory, pictures of God’s presence, pictures of the eschaton, pictures of the Messiah – I mean these two chapters are loaded.

Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. So, if we think about the main themes that are coming out of this, we see prophecy, fulfillment, God’s faithfulness – His faithfulness to His promises and to Israel and preservation.

What would you say, just as a – to encapsulate one main thing that a reader could take away from these passages we’ve looked at, a pastor could just make sure that he brings out the significance of during a Christmas message perhaps? What would that be?

Gordon Johnston
I think it would be that God has been at work, for centuries ahead of time, in His design of history, of what He’s been doing through His people, in His design of the very language and fabric of Scripture. And that you’ve got the Old Testament – Old Covenant prophets are predicting New Covenant glories.

But the fulfillments, if you will, are suggesting that the New Covenant fulfillments dwarf Old Covenant expectations, that Matthew’s using Old Covenant texts, but the fulfillment is even greater. It’s not just – it’s not just that it matches; it’s even greater and grander than anybody had in mind.

And that’s why it was so surprising, because Jesus is pushing the boundaries and going above and beyond ’cause God’s plan is even greater than any of us could imagine. I think Jesus even said the same thing. He says, “I’m trying to talk to you about earthly things, and you don’t understand; how can I talk to you about heavenly things?”

And they’re asking a question, “Whose wife will she be?”

And He says, “You don’t understand the power of the resurrection. How can I even begin to describe it for you?”

And I think the author of Hebrews is doing the same thing. The fulfillments are so much greater and so much grander. So, the kind of things that Matthew’s doing – I don’t think – don’t undermine what he’s doing; it actually points to the fact that God’s going above and beyond what anybody even had in mind.

Mikel Del Rosario
David, main takeaway?
David Lowery
I think it’s the idea that God does things in unexpected ways – things – ways that we would not imagine. We would be like the magi and think a king is going to be born in a capital, in Jerusalem. But the events of Jesus’ life don’t seem to correspond to the way in which we think a royal child should be born and have to grow up, but here He is, this meek and lowly One who comes to be the Savior of the world.
Mikel Del Rosario
Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Darrell?
Darrell Bock
And then I think we tend to view Christmas by looking back and thinking about, “Well, this is what happened.” We put it all in the past. But this career actually envelopes the audience that you’re preaching to. There is what God has done, and then there’s what still He is going to do through Jesus. And this is the beginning of the story. And sometimes we lose the fact that we are caught up in the same drama; we forget that. And so, we look back on it as history.

Well, it’s actually – to those who are believers, it’s our story, too. And the promises that God has kept are an assurance that there are other promises that God will keep, and that this design extends beyond us and wraps around us and hugs us in His grace.

And that is, I think, another part of this story, that the incarnation drives to the cross, and to the ascension, and then eventually to the return, and to the vindication of God’s people and the reestablishment of God’s presence on the Earth. God is with us, and He is with us always.

Mikel Del Rosario
Amen. That’s good news of great joy for all the people.

Thank you, Darrell, for being with us. Thank you, Gordon, and thank you, David, for being with us.

And thank you so much for joining us on The Table podcast today. Please stay with us next week where we discuss issues of God and culture.

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Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than forty books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
David Lowery
Dr. Lowery is Senior Professor of New Testament Studies at DTS. He has been involved in church planting and ministry for over three decades in Vermont and Texas.  Dr. Lowery has contributed to the New American Standard Bible and the NET Bible. His particular areas of focus in the New Testament are Matthew, Mark, and Paul’s letters.
Gordon H. Johnston
Dr. Johnston possesses a generalist’s breadth and a specialist’s depth. He is known for thorough research and meticulous detail, as well as his ability to pull together all the pieces so students can see the whole of Scripture in all its color and beauty. Dr. Johnston has degrees in Classical Greek (BA), Biblical Greek and Hebrew (ThM), as well as Hebrew and Semitic languages (ThD). During his 2010-11 sabbatical, he was visiting research professor at the University of Chicago, where he studied Hittite. He has participated in archaeological excavations in Israel and has taught overseas in India. His research, writing and teaching interests include the wisdom literature (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs), selected topics in Old Testament biblical theology (Biblical Covenants, Law of God), and special issues in hermeneutics (Messianic Prophecy, Use of the Old Testament in the New Testament). Dr. Johnston has published many scholarly articles and essays; regularly presents papers at national meetings of academic societies; and has published a book on the Messiah in the Old Testament. Gordon and his wife, Danielle, have been married more than thirty years; they have three children.
Mikel Del Rosario
Mikel Del Rosario is a doctoral student in New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, Project Manager for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center, and Adjunct Professor of Apologetics and World Religion at William Jessup University. Mikel co-authors The Table Briefing articles for Bibliotheca Sacra, manages the Table Podcast, and helps Christians defend the faith with confidence though his apologetics ministry. He holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from DTS and an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University.
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