Out of Egypt

Matthew draws heavily on the Exodus story when he recounts the events of the birth of Christ.  Mathew quotes from Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” This passage from Hosea is not overtly Messianic like Daniel’s vision of the Son of Man ruling on His throne forever or Isaiah’s prophecies of the coming servant king. It’s pretty plainly talking about the exodus of the Jews from Egypt under Moses. Matthew talks about Joseph and Mary’s flight to Egypt and about their return, but he chooses to attach the quote from Hosea to the first, when they are running from Israel to Egypt. This is a great reversal.

Herod is pictured as another Pharaoh who kills all the infant boys because he fears a threat to his throne. All of Jerusalem is troubled at the news of the coming savior. Israel has become like Egypt and now Egypt is the safe-haven.

Is this kind of interpretation limited to the use of the New Testament writers? Is it proper to see Old Testament writings fulfilled in Christ only when the New Testament expressly states it? or are the NT writers setting up a model for us to use to more fully understand all the scriptures?

It can be likened to good detective fiction. It has two narratives, with the first a string of seemingly random, unconnected, and often unimportant events. It wanders along with clues, false leads, and imaginative hypotheses like a rudderless ship. The principal characters seem to be just as puzzled as the reader. Until the final chapter.

Then the detective offers a second narrative. “By contrast with the first narrative, this one is ‘crisp and clear and explains in considerable detail what was really occurring while the larger narrative was unfolding.’ This is not a subplot, but instead ‘the disclosure of the [architectural] structure of the whole story,’ a ‘compelling and persuasive disclosure of what the story was about all along.'” (Leithart)

Now, on re-reading the story, those unimportant conversations or bits of clues lying around haphazardly take on a new and unmistakable importance. This is how we approach scripture. It’s not moralizing or spiritualizing. It’s not a matter of moving these events out of the “real world” and into a lesson on good and bad conduct. We’ve been given the last chapter. Now we can see the underlying structure – the themes and types and motifs. Now we can see what Christ said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.”