Continued from Chapter 28

(Hosea 11:1-2)

Hosea 11:1-2: When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son. The more they [the prophets] called them, the more they went from them. They sacrificed to the Baalim, and offered to graven images.

As we have seen Matthew relates real or fictitious events in the life of Jesus to passages from the Bible. For example, Matthew 2:15 claims that the child Jesus was literally brought by Joseph and Mary out of Egypt to fulfill the supposed prophecy: “Out of Egypt have I called My son” (Hosea 11:1). For clarification it needs to be understood that Matthew assumes that Jesus’ parents were in permanent residence in Bethlehem prior to Jesus’ birth. Consequently, he says nothing of their needing to travel to Bethlehem because of a census and Jesus is not born in a manger (Luke 2:7) but in a house (Matthew 2:11). Supposedly divinely forewarned of Herod’s malevolent intentions the family flees to Egypt (Matthew 2:14). Herod’s alleged slaughter of children ̶ ̶ an event not recorded in any other first century C.E. source is an historical difficulty that overshadows Matthew’s birth narrative. The author’s contemporary, the Jewish historian Josephus, wrote extensively about Herod’s cruel deeds. It seems highly unlikely that if a slaughter of babies had taken place near Jerusalem (Bethlehem is six miles away), Josephus would not have heard about it and used it as an example of Herod’s heinous crimes.

In contrast to Matthew’s version of events, Luke has the family in Jerusalem thirty-three days later seemingly in no hurry to leave (Luke 2:22, cf. Leviticus 12:1-8). In Matthew the family flees to Egypt. At a later date, after receiving news of Herod’s death the family is said to return in fulfillment of another alleged prophecy “that was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, ‘Out of Egypt I called My son’ (Matthew 2:15). Matthew takes Hosea 11:1 b out of context. He cannot use the verse in context for the prophet continues: “The more they [the prophets] called them, the more they went from them. They sacrificed to the Baalim, and offered to graven images” (Hosea 11:2). Hosea speaks out against the stubborn idolatry of the northern kingdom of Israel, especially Ephraim, despite God’s loving concern manifested by the Exodus from Egypt. Matthew takes Hosea’s words that address contemporary issues leading to the northern kingdom of Israel being exiled by the Assyrians, selects what suits him and turns it into a prophecy to occur in the distant future.

But, of course, for Matthew the literal fulfillment has already come through his own application of the select text to Jesus. He could not consider the full context as applying to Jesus, Mary and Joseph for then it would describe Jesus and his family as stubborn idolaters. The contexts of Hosea’s verse shows that the prophet’s reference is to the Exodus, and to an unfaithful Israel, not, as Matthew contends, to a faithful Jesus. Those who accept Matthew’s claim that Hosea’s words literally foreshadow a future event in the life of Jesus must contend with the immediately following verse, which states that “The more they [the prophets] called them, the more they went from them. They sacrificed to the Baalim, and offered to graven images.”

© Gerald Sigal