And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child 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. – Matthew 2:13-15
This portion of the gospel account is often called the “flight into Egypt.” When I was a kid, I thought this meant they took an airplane. What it really means is that they left in a hurry because of imminent danger.
When the wise men did not return to Herod as he instructed, he became irate. His intention was to kill Jesus under the guise of going to worship Him. Now, his plan to kill Jesus involves killing every child under two years old just to make sure he gets the infant king.
This event had to happen chronologically after the temple dedication because Mary was not allowed in public to travel for the first forty days after giving birth. The visit of the wise men came after the dedication, and the same night the wise men leave, God once again speaks to Joseph in a dream.
To me, this is amazing! We know precious little about Joseph. After these few scenes about the youth of Jesus, we seldom hear his name again in Scripture. I think that Joseph often gets a “bad rap” because he is not listed as one of the disciples during Jesus’ earthly ministry. This is a mistake.
God speaks to Joseph and guides him. God only does this for His children. He is called a “just man,” and he obeys God every time he is instructed to do something. This sounds like an excellent disciple to me!
My guess is that Joseph died before Jesus started his earthly ministry. In John 19, Jesus gives instructions to John to take care of Mary as if she were his own mother. If Joseph were still alive, this would not have been necessary.
Nevertheless, Joseph immediately take Mary and Jesus to Egypt in the middle of the night. God sends them there because Herod has no jurisdiction there, and would not be looking for them there anyway. However, the powerful significance of Egypt cannot be ignored.
Egypt was once a place of slavery for Israel and even had time where the Pharoah tried to have all the children killed at birth. Now, God sends His Son to Egypt for protection. What marvelous providence!
Matthew tells us that this is a fulfillment of prophecy. He is most likely referring to Hosea chapter 11.
When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. – Hosea 11:1
There is a marvelous sovereign grace message in this short verse. God did not call Jesus out of Egypt so that Israel would love Him. God called Jesus back to die because He loved us!