Beckett: Commentary on Matthew 2:13-23, Herod's Great Evil

Matthew 2:13-23
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 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called My son.”

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: “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.”

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. But 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.


There’s a lot of fulfilment of Scripture in this text. The Scripture was fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called My son” (Hosea 11:1). Israel, God’s son, was called out of Egypt in a mass exodus (cf. Psalm 80:8-9, 14-17). Likewise, God would call His Son out of Egypt (Matthew 2:19-21).

Herod’s great evil unwittingly led to the fulfilment of Scripture, which goes to show God’s power over evil. For the reasoning for Joseph’s fleeing with his family would be Herod’s edict to kill every male baby 2 years and younger. Leftists would call the murder of a 2-year-old evil, so they know killing children is immoral. Their issue, then, is geography. A child outside the womb is life. Somehow, through the great blinding of the Devil, this ceases to be life within the womb. Let these evil people perish! They are sons of Herod.

Yet this evil fulfilled Scripture (vv. 17-18), from Jeremiah 31:15. The cries of the born were heard by God. Certainly, then, God hears the cries of the murdered in utero today. Just as “Rachel” (the collective mothers in Bethlehem) wept and refused to be comforted, so we weep and refuse to be comforted for our murdered foetuses today. Not until God serves His vengeance.

Archelaus was just as evil as his father, and Joseph was warned to flee to Galilee as he settled his family in Nazareth, fulfilling the Scriptures a third time (Psalm 22:6-8, cf. John 1:46).

Two things of significance here. First, God fulfills His Word in spite of evil, which is of great encouragement for us today. Nobody knew how God was acting here until after Matthew wrote about it in his gospel account. Likewise, we don’t know how God is acting today. But He is acting.

Second, the best human father figure in all of Scripture is an adoptive father: Joseph. All fathers should seek to imitate Joseph. He did not demand an abortion from Mary. Even when he didn’t know what was going on, he was righteous about Mary’s sudden pregnancy and was going to divorce her quietly so as not to shame her. When the Lord explained to him that she was not in fact unfaithful, but was pregnant by the Holy Spirit to conceive the Messiah, he was silently obedient to God.

Three other times here, he was silently obedient to protect his adopted son, Jesus the Christ. If there is any man besides Jesus whom a father should emulate, it ought to be Joseph, taking every measure and obeying God to protect his adopted son from the great evil of Herod.

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©Rev. Richard Gilmour, D.D. Bible History: Containing the Most Remarkable Events of the Old and New Testaments, with a Compendium of Church History (New York, New York: Benziger Brothers, 1904), 137.

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