The prophecy referred to in Matthew 2:15 is originally found in Hosea 11:1 which says, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”
This verse refers back to when God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt, as described in the book of Exodus.
God delivered the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt through mighty miracles and led them to the Promised Land. Matthew 2:15 draws a parallel between God calling Israel out of Egypt and Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fleeing to Egypt to escape King Herod, before later returning to Israel.
So how does Jesus fulfill this prophecy?
The key is understanding the close relationship between Jesus and Israel.
Jesus is the fulfillment and embodiment of Israel. As the Messiah, Jesus is the true Israelite who succeeds where Old Testament Israel failed.
While disobedient Israel wandered in the wilderness after being freed from Egypt, Jesus perfectly obeyed God.
Therefore, just as Hosea 11:1 refers to God calling Israel out of Egypt, the recapitulation of this event with Jesus recapitulates the history of Israel in the life of the Messiah.
Jesus as the True Israel
Throughout Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is portrayed as reliving the history and experiences of Israel.
Just as Israel was threatened by Pharaoh and saved by God in their infancy, Jesus was threatened by Herod and saved by God as a young child (Matthew 2:13-15).
Just as Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted for 40 days and nights (Matthew 4:1-11). Just as Israel was tested by God, Jesus was tested by the devil. But while Israel failed these tests and disobeyed God, Jesus passed the test and perfectly obeyed.
This shows that Jesus is the true Israel who succeeded where Old Testament Israel failed.
Matthew portrays Jesus recapitulating Israel’s history and experiences to show that He is the Messiah and the embodiment of Israel.
Jesus is the Son called out of Egypt, who fulfills what disobedient Israel could not. As the perfect Israelite, Jesus becomes the faithful remnant of one, fulfilling Israel’s mission and establishing the New Covenant people of God.
His calling out of Egypt ties Him to Israel’s history and identity all while showing that He is the true Son who succeeds where old covenant Israel failed.
The Sonship Theme
When Hosea 11:1 refers to Israel as God’s “son”, this reflects the Old Testament theme of God’s fatherhood over Israel.
God was a Father to Israel, lovingly guiding, providing for, disciplining, and calling them out of Egypt into the Promised Land. But Israel rebelled against God and failed to live as His son.
Now Jesus comes as the true Son, rightly reflecting God’s character and obediently fulfilling Israel’s calling. Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of the sonship theme because He fully represents the Father.
By quoting Hosea 11:1 and linking it to Jesus, Matthew shows that Jesus is the true Son and the embodiment of Israel. Just as God called Israel out of Egypt, He called Jesus out of Egypt, but Jesus perfectly obeyed as the Son in a way that Israel did not.
The parallels highlight Jesus as the true representative of Israel who came to fulfill all that Israel was called to be. As the Son in perfect fellowship with the Father, Jesus is the epitome of the sonship ideal.
A Fresh Exodus
Not only does Jesus’ journey to and from Egypt mirror the history of Israel, His life initiates a new exodus for God’s people.
While Israel experienced a physical exodus out of slavery in Egypt, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection bring a spiritual exodus out of slavery to sin.
This new exodus brings forgiveness, redemption, and freedom through faith in Christ.
When Israel was called out of Egypt but then wandered in disobedience, this showed their need for a greater exodus and redemption.
Now Jesus ushers in this greater redemption for Jew and Gentile alike, joining both groups into one new people of God (Ephesians 2:11-22). All who put faith in Him experience freedom from bondage to sin.
His atoning death and resurrection provide the exodus that Israel could never achieve through the old covenant.
Quoting Hosea 11:1 shows that Jesus is the true Passover Lamb whose sacrifice enables this greater exodus promised to God’s people.
A Greater Deliverance
The book of Exodus tells how God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt through the Passover and the Red Sea crossing.
These mighty acts set Israel free from physical oppression. Jesus’ life brings an even greater deliverance – freedom from slavery to the spiritual oppression of sin.
Israel could not conquer sin and death, as demonstrated by their disobedience and repeated wanderings in the wilderness.
But Jesus triumphs completely over the spiritual forces of sin and death by dying on the cross for our sins and rising victoriously from the grave (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Colossians 2:13-15). He offers freedom from sin’s penalty and power to all who put faith in Him.
Jesus fulfills what the old Exodus could not. His sinless life, sacrificial death for sins, and conquering resurrection bring the deliverance from slavery that Israel needed.
Quoting Hosea 11:1 shows that just as God called Israel out of physical bondage, He has called people worldwide out of spiritual bondage through the salvation Christ brings. The Exodus finds its full meaning in Jesus.
Parallels Between Israel and Jesus
Tracing the parallels between Israel and Jesus gives insight into how Jesus fulfills Hosea 11:1:
- Israel was called God’s son, but disobeyed; Jesus is the true Son who obeys
- Israel was delivered out of slavery in Egypt; Jesus frees us from slavery to sin
- Israel wandered in the wilderness after the Exodus; Jesus remained faithful after His journey to/from Egypt
- Israel failed tests in the wilderness; Jesus passed every test when tempted
- Israel succumbed to idolatry; Jesus maintained perfect love for the Father
- Israel broke the old covenant; Jesus established the new covenant in His blood
Again and again, the Gospels portray Jesus succeeding where Israel failed. All of this confirms that He is the true fulfillment of the sonship ideal and the Father’s calling.
Quoting Hosea 11:1 ties Jesus’ own Exodus journey to the history of Israel. But it is His righteous life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection that ultimately fulfill Hosea 11:1 by providing a greater exodus for God’s people.
A Pattern of Parallels
Matthew 2:15 is one of several times in the early chapters of Matthew where the writer highlights parallels between the stories of Israel and Jesus:
- Jesus recapitulates the history and experiences of Israel (Matthew 2:15; 4:1-11; etc.)
- Jesus restores that which was lost in Israel’s history (Matthew 1:21; 2:6; 4:12-16; etc.)
- Jesus fulfills Old Testament prophecies about Israel’s restoration (Matthew 1:22-23; 2:5-6, 17-18; etc.)
By weaving Israel’s history and prophecies into the narrative about Jesus, Matthew demonstrates that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s purposes for Israel.
Although old covenant Israel failed in its mission, Jesus comes as the true Israel to fulfill Israel’s commission perfectly. Hosea 11:1’s reference to God calling His son out of Egypt fits this consistent pattern of showing Jesus as the realization of Israel’s calling.
Sonship Theme Throughout Matthew’s Gospel
Matthew highlights Jesus’ identity as the perfect embodiment of God’s sonship ideals for Israel. This sonship theme recurs throughout Matthew’s gospel:
- At Jesus’ baptism, the Father declares Him as His beloved Son (Matthew 3:17)
- During the temptations, Jesus refuses to renounce His obedience to the Father (Matthew 4:1-11)
- Jesus emphasizes doing His Heavenly Father’s will (Matthew 7:21; 12:50; etc.)
- Jesus speaks of no one knowing the Father except Himself as the Son (Matthew 11:27)
- Jesus consistently refers to God as His Father (Matthew 10:32-33; 11:25-27; 12:50; 15:13; 16:17; 18:10; etc.)
All of this underscores Jesus’ unique sonship and His perfect alignment with the Father’s will.
Thus, Matthew 2:15’s reference to God calling His Son out of Egypt fits the wider theme of Jesus as the Father’s Son who fulfills Israel’s mission.
Fulfilling Sonship – Romans 8:3-4
The New Testament teaches that Jesus fulfilled Israel’s mission as God’s Son.
Romans 8:3-4 explains that Jesus accomplished what the old covenant could not:
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Israel failed to keep God’s law and live out their calling as His sons. But Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law’s demands in our place (Matthew 5:17).
As the true Son, His righteous life, atoning death, and defeating of sin and death bring us redemption. All who belong to Christ now fulfill the law by walking in the Spirit and bearing good fruit.
A Portrait of Christ
Matthew 2 contains clear parallels between Jesus and Israel:
- Jesus narrowly escapes death as an infant just as Israel was threatened by Pharaoh (Exodus 1:15-2:10)
- Jesus is called up out of Egypt, just as Israel was called up out of Egypt (Exodus 12:31-42)
- Jesus passes through the waters at His baptism, as Israel passed through the Red Sea (Exodus 14:1-4)
- Jesus spends 40 days in the wilderness, as Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness (Exodus 16:35)
In marking these parallels, Matthew demonstrates that Jesus embodies and fulfills Israel’s identity and mission. Jesus is the true Israelite who succeeds where Old Testament Israel failed.
Matthew 2:15’s quote from Hosea 11:1 fits this consistent pattern of revealing Jesus as the ultimate embodiment of Israel.
Re-living Israel’s History
Why does Matthew highlight so many parallels between the life of Jesus and the history of Israel?
Matthew scholar Richard Beaton suggests it is because…
“Israel’s history comes to initial fulfillment in the life and mission of Jesus Messiah. Jesus re-lives the history and experiences of Israel in his own life, but without failure or sin. Through his obedience, Jesus brings that history to fulfillment and achieves all that Israel was called to be.” (Beaton, “Isaiah’s Christ in Matthew’s Gospel”)
By reliving key moments in Israel’s national experience, Jesus recapitulates their history – bringing it to perfect fulfillment by His righteous life and atoning death.
All that Israel was called to be as God’s chosen people is now accomplished in the Messiah. He is the true Son called out of Egypt.
Jesus Embodies Israel’s Mission
Biblical scholar Richard Hays notes that…
“Jesus recapitulates the story of Israel within his own life. Whereas Israel had failed it its mission…Jesus now comes as the Son to fulfil that mission faithfully. The recapitulation of the story of Israel in the life of Jesus is ultimately intended…to demonstrate that he is and does all that Israel was called to be.” (Hays, “Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels”)
By tying details of Jesus’ life like His exodus journey to key moments in Israel’s history, Matthew demonstrates that Jesus is the true Israelite who perfectly fulfills the calling that old covenant Israel did not.
All the expectations bound up in Israel’s commission now find their resolution in the coming of the Messiah, the Savior of God’s people.
Examples of Parallels
Here are some examples of how Matthew draws parallels between episodes in Jesus’ life and Israel’s history:
- Threatened as an infant – Just as Israelite baby boys were threatened by Pharaoh (Exodus 1:15-22), Jesus was threatened by Herod (Matthew 2:16-18)
- Called up out of Egypt – Just as God called Israel up out of Egypt (Exodus 12:31-42), Joseph was instructed to call Jesus up out of Egypt (Matthew 2:15)
- Baptism in the Jordan – Just as Israel passed through the Red Sea waters (Exodus 14), Jesus passed through the waters at His baptism (Matthew 3:13-17)
- Tested in the wilderness – Just as Israel was tested for 40 years in the wilderness (Exodus 16:35), Jesus was tested in the wilderness for 40 days (Matthew 4:1-11)
Tracing these literary parallels shows how Jesus relives, restores, and fulfills key moments in the history of Israel. He is the true Israel, the promised Messiah.
Fulfilling Israel’s Role
Matthew demonstrates repeatedly how Jesus fulfills Israel’s role and mission. Jesus does what Israel could not do during their first Exodus:
- Israel fell into idolatry; Jesus maintained perfect love for God
- Israel tested God’s patience; Jesus obeyed God perfectly
- Israel broke the old covenant; Jesus established the new covenant
- Israel wandered in disobedience; Jesus fulfilled all righteousness
At every turn, Jesus succeeds in maintaining covenant faithfulness where old covenant Israel failed.
By tying His journey to and from Egypt to Israel’s Exodus, Matthew highlights Christ’s mission to embody Israel’s role and fulfill their calling in His own life.
The True Israelite
Why does Matthew demonstrate so many parallels between Jesus’ life and episodes in Israel’s history? Scripture professor Craig Evans explains:
“Matthew is intent on showing that Jesus relives the traditions and sacred story of Israel, and that he does so in a way that is faithful…Jesus obeys where Israel rebelled. He trusts God perfectly. He refuses to test God. He upholds the covenant…So Matthew is portraying Jesus as the true Israelite, the faithful Israelite, the obedient Israelite.” (Evans, “Matthew and the Life of Israel”)
Jesus restores and fulfills all that disobedient Israel failed to be. As the true Israelite, Jesus’ righteous life, atoning death, and resurrection accomplish Israel’s mission completely.
Hosea 11:1’s reference to God calling His son out of Egypt fits Matthew’s consistent portrayal of Jesus as the true Israel.
Contrasting Examples between Israel and Jesus
To reinforce this pattern further, Matthew also highlights areas where Jesus’ actions deliberately contrast with Israel’s failures:
- Testing God – Israel put God to the test in the wilderness (Deut 6:16). But Jesus refused to test God when tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:7).
- Serving idols – Israel fell into idolatry with the golden calf (Exodus 32). But Jesus refused to worship idols when tempted (Matthew 4:10).
- Trusting God – Israel failed to trust God to provide for them (Numbers 20:2-5). But Jesus trusted God to meet His needs when tempted to make bread from stones (Matthew 4:3-4).
Where Israel failed morally and spiritually, Jesus remained perfectly faithful and obedient. These deliberate contrasts reinforce Jesus’ role as the true Israel who fulfills Israel’s mission perfectly.