Here we have a major divergence from Luke's recording of the birth and early life of Jesus, which we will be studying from tomorrow. It is essential that we recognise that Luke and Matthew didn't write their Gospel accounts as biography, but aiming to say certain things about Jesus. In this passage we can read the third Old Testament prophecy concerning the Messiah in this Gospel and the fulfilment in Joseph taking his family to Egypt to escape the murderous machinations of King Herod. Matthew, remember, was writing to the Jews and, throughout the Gospel he quotes from the Old Testament. There are over FIFTY such quotes in this Gospel!
What do we learn here?
1. There are still angelic visitations. This is probably two to three years since the first visits.
2. The obedience of Joseph. That night, he began to travel to Egypt with his now wife Mary and a small child, to live as refugees.
3. The message from God was completely correct in its awareness of Herod's character and how that would cause him to react.
4. The horrific retaliation by Herod. I read somewhere that this wouldn't have involved many children's death. This is from the BBC religion website: 'Demographic clues from first century Palestine reveal that Bethlehem was a small village, with a population between three hundred and a thousand. Experts estimate that, at any given time, the number of babies under the age of two would be only between seven and twenty.' I'm not sure how that helps lessen the horror of Herod's actions!
5. Herod's fear of being supplanted is revealed. Herod is an interesting character. Mainly loved by the Jews for supervising the rebuilding of the Temple, he was obsessed with power, even killing his three sons in case they usurped him.