Learning and Living the God-centered life

One Biblical Doctrine at a time…

Hosea 11:1-4 and the gospel of Matthew

The key to proper study of the Scriptures is to understand the overall plan of the Bible. Over the years I have observed and talked with many people who get frustrated in their Bible study, reading and devotion because they simply don’t see the big picture. The illustration I like to use is like getting a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle and putting it out on the cardboard table. For many the Bible is just like those thousand pieces and how those pieces fit together is what they don’t understand. Therefore the strategy I think that is best to implore is two-fold. First get the border established which are the essential doctrines of the Bible.
1. Doctrine of the Word
2. Doctrine of God
3. Doctrine of man
4. Doctrine of Christ
5. Doctrine of the Spirit
6. Doctrine of salvation

Second, we need to have a plan which I call the box top of the jigsaw puzzle. The plan can be described in 4 words.
1. Creation
2. Fall
3. Redemption
4. Restoration

I like to say that the plan of the entire Bible is “the unfolding and progressive redemption of mankind by God.” Therefore once a person can understand the plan and have the border in place then they are best equipped to study the Bible.

In this post I am going to share with you what Kevin DeYoung writes concerning the connection between Hosea 11:1-4 and Matthew’s gospel. Because you need to see how the connection exists between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Remember what Jesus told the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

So my question in this article is how are we to see Jesus and make a proper interpretation of Matthew 2:15 that cross references Hosea 11:1-4?

Matthew, more than any gospel writer, goes to great lengths to show that Jesus’ birth, life, and death, are rooted firmly in the Old Testament. Jesus was born of a virgin (fulfilling Isaiah 7:14). He was born in Bethlehem (fulfilling Micah 5:1-2). He was sought out to be killed by Herod (fulfilling Jeremiah 31:15). He was preceded by John preparing the way (fulfilling Isaiah 40:3). He healed diseases (fulfilling Isaiah 53:4). He spoke through parables (fulfilling Psalm 78:2). He came to Jerusalem riding on a donkey (fulfilling Zechariah 9:9). Matthew is very deliberate with his use of the Old Testament. So his citing of Hosea 11 must be more than just a connection with the word Egypt.

Jesus as the True Israel

So how do we make sense of this prophecy in Hosea and fulfillment in Matthew? The first step toward understanding Matthew’s purpose is to look more carefully at the word “fulfill.” The Greek word is pleroĊ. And it simply means to fill up. That’s what Matthew is at pains to demonstrate–that Jesus was filling up the Old Testament. Sometimes this meant very specifically that the Old Testament predicted the Messiah’s birthplace would be in Bethlehem and Jesus was, in fact, born in Bethlehem. There you go. That’s fulfillment. But fulfillment can be broader than that. It can refer to the filling up of the Old Testament; that is, the bringing to light what previously had been in shadows.

Take Mark 1:14-15, for example. “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” When Jesus said “the time is fulfilled,” he did not mean “right now a specific prediction of Scripture is coming to pass.” He meant, “with my preaching of the gospel, the time has been filled up and the kingdom is here. The Old Testament is reaching its climax.” Likewise, I don’t believe Matthew thought Jesus’ flight to Egypt was predicted in Hosea 11:1. But I do believe that Matthew thought Jesus’ flight to and return from Egypt was filling up Hosea 11:1.

So what exactly is Jesus fulfilling, or filling up in Matthew 2:15? Jesus, as Matthew correctly understands the situation, is filling up the redemptive historical purposes of the nation. In other words, Matthew can claim that this Hosea passage, which talks about the Exodus of Israel out of Egypt, is fulfilled in Jesus, because Jesus is the embodiment of Israel.

Matthew looked back and saw an analogical correspondence between the history of the nation Israel and the history of the Messiah…the Hosea 11:1 quotation by Matthew is not an example of arbitrary exegesis on the part of a New Testament writer. On the contrary Matthew looked back and carefully drew analogies between the events of the nation’s history and the historical incidents in the life of Jesus (Biliotheca Sacra 143:325).

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus is cast as the true and faithful Israel. Matthew is retelling Israel’s well known story, but he’s putting Jesus right in the middle as the main character in the story. Jesus is the new Israel.

Chapter one starts with the genealogy of Jesus. The very first words, in Greek, are “biblos geneseos Iesou Christou”–a book of the beginning of Jesus Christ. Now why is that significant? Well, because that word geneseos is a form of the word genesis, as in the first book the Bible. I don’t think Matthew is trying to be tricky here, but surely he knew the first book of the Bible and realized that when he begins his gospel with “a book of the genesis of Jesus” he is, at least, strongly suggesting that this story of Jesus Christ marks a new beginning for the people of God. The story is starting over. This suggestion is supported by another parallel with the first book of the Bible. Genesis is broken up into ten toledoth sections. Ten times in the book of Genesis, we read “these are the generations (toledoth) of…” Interestingly enough, these toledoth sections are, in a couple of places, translated into the Greek Septuagint with biblos geneseos (Gen. 2:4; 5:1), which further points in the direction that Matthew understood Jesus to be a new generation, a new genealogy, a new beginning for the nation of Israel.

Not only is Jesus the new Genesis, his life embodies the new Exodus. Shortly after Jesus birth, he was rushed away to safety to avoid the wrath of a jealous king who had ordered all the young boys to be killed. Where else does this happen in the Bible? Exodus 1. Pharaoh fears the Hebrews and so he orders that every baby boy be thrown into the Nile. But Moses was spared because his mother hid him in a basket in the river. Likewise, Jesus was spared Herod’s decree because his mother hid him in Egypt.
Following right on the heels of Jesus’ exodus out of Egypt, we come to his baptism in the Jordan in Matthew 3. Again, I don’t think Matthew is trying to be speak in secret code, and he certainly isn’t making the stories up, but he has arranged the material in such a way as to retell Israel’s story, with Jesus now as the true Israel. So just like the Israelites left Egypt and then passed through the Red Sea (baptized into the sea according 1 Cor. 10:2), Jesus too leaves Egypt and passes through the waters in his baptism.

Just to point out one more parallel, think what happens to the Israelites after they pass through the Red Sea. They wind up in the desert where they wander for forty years. And where is Jesus in Matthew 4 after his baptism? He is in the desert about to be tempted after having fasted for forty days and forty nights.
Matthew clearly wants to portray Jesus as fulfilling Israel’s history and bringing it to a climax. Matthew didn’t think Hosea 11:1 was a direct prophecy about Jesus and his family going to Egypt. And Hosea certainly didn’t mean it as such. The passage is about Israel’s Exodus out of Egypt and about her subsequent idolatries and adulteries. Matthew understood that. He wasn’t trying to give Hosea 11 a new meaning. But he did see something Messianic in Hosea’s words. Jesus would be the faithful Son called out of Egypt, filling up what was lacking in the first faithless son, Israel. From his genesis to his exodus to his baptism in the Jordan to his forty days in the wilderness, Jesus was identifying himself with the covenant people. He was the embodiment of Israel.

With Him He Was Well Pleased

And so when Jesus fled Herod and went to Egypt, it brought to a climax the work of deliverance that began in the Exodus of Israel and was now coming to completion in the Exodus of Jesus. That’s why Matthew can say “this was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet.” But whereas the first Israel, God’s son, broke the covenant and deserved God’s wrath, when God beholds his only begotten Son Jesus Christ, he says in Matthew 3:17, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Far from being a barely connected prophetic fulfillment, this word from Hosea 11 filled up in Matthew 2, is a robust piece of New Testament theology. This text says something weighty about the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one who came to complete all that Israel was designed to perform. All the adulteries and idolatries and rebellion and waywardness that characterized Israel would be recast in the true Israel Jesus Christ. God sent his Son to do himself what his people could not do for themselves. This is the meaning of fulfillment of Hosea 11 and the true meaning of Immanuel, God with us.