March 18, 2020

Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15)

This is the second time an angel gave instructions to Joseph. As husband and protector of Mary and the baby, he was told to “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.” This was to avoid Herod’s murderous intent.

We read a couple of sentences like this and tend to “watch” the action like we do a movie. The scenes shift from moment to moment, from place to place, and sometimes from time zone to time zone in the flash of an editor’s cut. But, we need to slow down here. It takes at least twelve hours to ‘drive’ from Tel Aviv to Alexandria. (Joseph’s likely destination would not only take ‘days’, but would require amazing fortitude.)

Egypt was a haven for Jews over the centuries. Alexandria alone housed about one million Jews in the first century. And every town and village in Egypt had Jewish citizens. In Egypt a Jewish immigrant would find synagogues, markets, housing, and food that provided a seamless transition. Ironically, a Jew could feel “at home” in Egypt. Yes, the Exodus had been about escape from “out of Egypt I called my son” (Ho. 11:1), but Matthew applies that ancient word to what was happening with the Christ child. With his parents he would emigrate to Egypt and later migrate back to Palestine. For a time, Egypt was the Messiah’s protector.