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And the LORD said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt: for all the men
are dead, which sought thy life. — And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith
son go, that he may serve me.—Exod. iv. 19-23.
Hos. xi. i.
ND when they were departed, behold, the
and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child, to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my Son. Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which
he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life. And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea, in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: and he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth : that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.—Matt. ii. 13-23.
ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE SACRED NARRATIVE. Christ's flight into Egypt, to avoid the cruelty of Herod, was the effect of the wise men's inquiry after him: for before that, the obscurity he lay in was his protection. It was but little respect, compared with what should have been, that was paid to Christ in his infancy; yet even that, instead of honouring him among his people, did but expose him to danger.
Joseph knew neither the danger the child was in, nor how to escape it ; but God, by an angel tells him both in a dream; as before he directed him in like manner what to do.—Matt. i. 20. Joseph, before his alliance to Christ, had not been wont to converse with angels as now: so, those that are spiritually related to Christ by faith, have that communion and correspondence with heaven, to which before they were strangers. Joseph is here told what their danger was,
“ Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.” God is acquainted with all the cruel projects and purposes of the enemies of his church.
“ I know thy rage against me," saith God to Sennacherib.—Isai. xxxviii. 28. How early was the blessed Jesus involved in trouble! Usually, even those whose riper years are attended with toils and perils, yet have a peaceable and quiet infancy; but it was not so with Jesus; his life and sufferings began together ; he was born “a man striven with,” as Jeremiah, (Jer. xv. 10,) who was “sanctified from the womb."—i.5. Both Christ, the head, and the church, his body, agree in saying, “ Many a time have they afflicted me, from my youth up." Pharaoh's cruelty fastens upon the Hebrews' children, and the great red dragon stands ready to “ devour the man-child as soon as it should be born."-Rev. xii. 4.
Joseph is directed what to do to escape the danger.
66 Take the young child, and flee into Egypt." Thus early must Christ give an example to his own rule, (Matt. x. 23,) “ When they persecute you in one city, flee to another.” He that came to die for us, when his hour was not yet come, fled for his own safety. Self-preservation being a branch of the law of nature, is eminently a part of the law of God. Flee! but why into Egypt? Egypt was infamous for idolatry, tyranny, and enmity to the people of God: it had been a house of bondage to Israel, and particularly cruel to the infants of Israel : in Egypt, as much as in Ramah, Rachel had been weeping for her children ; yet that is appointed to be a place of refuge to the holy child Jesus. God, when he pleases, can make the worst of places serve the best of purposes ; for the earth is the Lord's. God, that made Moab a shelter to his outcasts, makes Egypt a refuge for his Son.
This exile may be regarded as a trial of the faith of Joseph and Mary: they might be tempted to think, if this child be the Son of God, as we are told he is, has he no other way to secure himself from man, that is a worm, than by such an inglorious retreat ? Cannot he summon legions of angels to be his life-guard, or cherubims with flaming swords to keep this tree of life? Cannot he strike Herod dead, or wither the hand that is stretched out against him? But we find not that they made any such objections. God had provided for the young child and his mother, in appointing Joseph into relation to them ; now the gold which the wise men brought would bear their charges. God foresees his people's distresses, and provides against them beforehand.
This may also be regarded as an instance of the humiliation of our Lord Jesus. As there was no room for him in the inn at Bethlehem, so there was no quiet room for him in the land of Judea. Thus was he banished from the earth by Canaan, that we, who for sin were banished from the heavenly Canaan, might not be for ever expelled. If we and our infants be at any time in straits, let us remember the straits of Christ in his infancy.
REV. MATTHEW HENRY.
But whither then? Oh whither dost thou carry that blessed burthen, by which thyself and the world are upholden? To Egypt, the slaughterhouse of God's people, the furnace of Israel's ancient affliction, the sink of the world. Out of Egypt have I called my Son, saith God. That thou calledst thy Son out of Egypt, O God, is no marvel: it is a marvel, that thou calledst him into Egypt; but that we know all earths are thine, and all places and men are like figures upon a table, such as thy disposition makes them.
What a change is here! Israel, the first-born of God, flies out of Egypt into the promised land of Judea ; Christ, the first-born of all creatures, flies from Judea into Egypt. Egypt is become the sanctuary, Judea the inquisition house, of the Son of God. He that is everywhere the same, makes all places alike to his : he makes the fiery furnace a gallery of pleasure; the lion's den, a house of defence ; the whale's belly, a lodging chamber; Egypt, a harbour.
Good Joseph, having his charge in the night, stays not till the morning: no sooner had God said Arise, than he starts up and sets forward. It was not diffidence, but obedience, that did so hasten his departure. The charge was direct ; the business, important. He dares not linger for the light, but breaks his rest for the journey; and taking 'vantage of the dark, departs towards Egypt. How knew he this occasion would abide any delay? We cannot be too speedy in the execution of God's commands; we may be too late.
Here was no treasure to hide, no hangings to take down, no lands to secure; the poor carpenter needs no more, but locks the doors and away. He goes lightly, that wants a load. If there be more pleasure in abundance, there is more security in a mean estate. The bustard or the ostrich, when he is pursued, can hardly get upon his wings; whereas, the lark mounts with ease. The rich hath not so much advantage of the poor in enjoying, as the poor hath of the rich in leaving.
Now is Joseph come down into Egypt. Egypt was beholden to the name; as that, whereto it did owe no less, than their universal preservation. Well might it repay this act of hospitality to that name and blood.
Many Jews had settled in Egypt; not only those who had fled thither in the time of Jeremiah, (see chap. xlviii,) but many others who had settled there also, on account of the temple which Onias had built at Heliopolis. Those who could speak the Greek tongue enjoyed many advantages in that country: besides, they had the Greek version of the Septuagint, which had been translated nearly three hundred years before this time. Egypt was now a Roman province, and the rage of Herod could not pursue the holy family to this place. DR. A. CLARKE.
Who can behold Herod under the agitation of such a barbarous rage, and not see the vanity even of royal dignity, when the man that sways the sceptre over others, hath no rule over his own spirit ? Surely none of the innocent victims of Herod's wrath, felt so much from the sword of their barbarous murderers, as the guilty mind of the tyrant from its own unnatural transports. The agony of a few moments transmitted these oppressed innocents to peace and joy; while the impotent rage of Herod only heaped on his own head, guilt, infamy, and horror. Xe conceived mischief, and he brought forth vanity-Job xv. 35: and, while he studied to prevent the establishment of the Messiah's kingdom, and set himself with impious rage against the Lord, and against his Anointed, He that sitteth in the heavens did laugh, yea, the Lord had him in derision—Psalm ii. 2, 4. That God, who discerns every secret purpose of his enemies, and foresees every intended assault, knows how, whenever he pleases, by a thought, by a dream to bafile it.
The preservation of the holy child Jesus in Egypt, may be considered as a figure of God's care over his Church in its greatest danger. God doth not often, as he easily could, strike their persecutors with immediate destruction ; but he provides a hiding-place for his people, and, by methods not less effectual, though less pompous, preserves his chosen seed from being swept away, even when the enemy comes in like a flood.
Egypt, that was once the seat of persecution and oppression to the Israel of God, is now a refuge to his Son: and thus all places will be to us what Divine Providence will be pleased to make them. When, like Joseph and Mary, we are cut off from the worship of his temple, and perhaps removed to a strange land, he can be a little sanctuary to us, and give us, in his gracious presence, a rich equivalent for all that we have lost.
Jesus survived his persecutors, and returned into the land of Israel again ; but such was his condescension, that he abode at Nazareth, which seems to have been allotted him as the most humble station. never be unwilling to bear reproach for him, who from his infancy endured it for us; nor take offence at the meanness of his condition, whose removes were directed by angelic messengers, as immediate envoys to the God of heaven!
Herod, misnamed the Great, had a numerous offspring by his different wives, though their number was reduced by his unnatural cruelty in putting many of them to death. He is characterized by Josephus as a person of singular courage and resolution, liberal, and even extravagant in his expenditure, magnificent in his buildings, especially in the temple of Jerusalem, and apparently disposed to promote the happiness of every one. But under this specious exterior he concealed the most consummate duplicity; studious only how to attain and secure his own dignity, he regarded no means, however unjustifiable, which might promote that object of his ambition; and, in order to supply his lavish expenditure, he imposed oppressive burdens on his subjects. Inexorably cruel, and a slave to the most furious passions, he imbrued his hands in the blood of his wife, his children, and the greater part of his family; such, indeed, was the restlessness and jealousy of his temper, that he spared neither his people, nor the richest and most powerful of his subjects, not even his very
friends. It is not at all surprising that such a conduct should procure Herod the hatred of his subjects, especially of the Pharisees, who engaged in various plots against him: and so suspicious did these conspiracies render him, that he put the innocent to the torture, lest the guilty should escape. These circumstances sufficiently account for Herod and all Jerusalem with him being troubled at the arrival of the Magi, to inquire where the Messiah was born.—Matt. ii. 1-3. The Jews, who anxiously expected the Messiah, “ the Deliverer,” were moved with an anxiety made up of hopes and fears, of uncertainty and expectation, blended with a dread of the sanguinary consequences of new tumults; and Herod, who was a foreigner and usurper, was apprehensive lest he should lose his crown by the birth of a rightful heir. Hence we are furnished with a satisfactory solution of the motive that led him to command all the male children to be put to death, who were under two years of age, in Bethlehem and its vicinity.—Matt. ii.
Rev. T. H. HORNE.