Departure From Egypt and Residence in Nazareth (Matthew 2:15, 19-23; Luke 2:39-52)

Joseph remained in Egypt with the family until the death of Herod. As God considered Israel collectively as his “son” and called him out of Egypt, so he also called his unique Son out of Egypt. In the case of Jesus, the words of Hosea 11:1 (“Out of Egypt I called my son”) applied in a direct way and thus were fulfilled. (Matthew 2:15)

Upon Herod’s death, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him to return to the land of Israel with the child and his mother, for those seeking the life of the boy were dead. Joseph heeded this directive, but news that Archelaus ruled over Judea instead of Herod made Joseph fearful. In a dream, he received a warning that confirmed the validity of his fear, prompting him to head for Galilee with his family and to settle in the city of Nazareth. (Matthew 2:19-23)

The name “Nazareth” appears to incorporate the Hebrew word nétser, meaning “sprout.” Possibly this is the basis for Matthew’s statement (2:23) that Jesus’ being called a Nazarene fulfilled the words of the prophets, as they foretold the coming Messianic “sprout” (Isaiah 11:1; see also Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12, where a different Hebrew word tsémach also signifies “branch” or “sprout.”)

The Scriptural record reveals little about Jesus’ early life in Nazareth. In time, he came to have brothers (James, Joses [Joseph], Judas, and Simon) and sisters. (Mark 6:3) As he grew older, he gave evidence of being very wise and having God’s favor. (Luke 2:39, 40)

Evidence of Jesus’ remarkable wisdom is revealed by an incident narrated in Luke’s account. Joseph and Mary customarily attended the festival of the Passover in Jerusalem. When Jesus was twelve years old and the family probably included other children, he stayed behind in the city at the time his parents left. Likely occupied with caring for the smaller children, they assumed that he was among relatives or friends. When, however, they had completed a day’s journey and he did not join them, they became concerned and began to look for him. Not finding him in the company of fellow travelers, they returned to Jerusalem. After three days, they located him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening and asking questions. The understanding his words and answers revealed amazed everyone who heard him speak. His parents were astonished when seeing him in this setting. (Luke 2:41-48)

Mary voiced her motherly concern, “Child, why did you do this to us? See, your father and I have been greatly worried, looking for you.” Knowing that God was his real Father, Jesus was surprised that it did not occur to them that he would be in the temple. He replied, “Why did you look for me? Did you not know that I must be in the [house] of my Father?” Joseph and Mary, though, did not grasp the significance of Jesus’ reference to his heavenly Father. Still, his words did make a deep impression on Mary, and she treasured them in her heart or in her deep inner self, likely reflecting on what he may have meant. (Luke 2:48-51)

In the intervening years, Jesus conducted himself as an obedient son and learned the carpenter trade from Joseph. As he grew physically, he gained the favorable recognition of those with whom he interacted, and others could see him as person upon whom God’s favor rested. (Luke 2:51, 52)


In the extant text of the Septuagint, Hosea 11:1 reads, “Out of Egypt I called his children.” Matthew’s quotation, however, agrees with the Masoretic Text (“Out of Egypt I called my son”).

Not long after the military force that had been in Herod’s service proclaimed Archelaus as king (Antiquities, XVII, viii, 2), the Jews assaulted a regiment of soldiers he had sent to quell unrest stemming from his refusal to grant earlier requests. Thereupon he sent his whole army to the temple area, with orders to kill. The military force then slew 3,000 men. (Antiquities, XVII, ix, 3) Possibly news of this event reached Egypt, contributing to Joseph’s initial fear about taking up residence in territory under the rule of Archelaus.