Never understood this

edited December 1969 in Faith Issues
Mathew 2:19-22

But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life. 21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

So.... was the angel wrong? I dont get it, why didnt the angel just tell him to go to Nazareth first?


  • We may understand from these Gospel of Mathew's verses that Saint Joseph was not explicitly commanded to go to Nazareth but just to avoid going to Judea. So Saint Joseph freely chose to go to dwell in Nazareth. I think that otherwise may be this event would not be considered by critics, possibly later on, as an actual true fulfillment of this Scriptures' prophecy about Jesus Christ.


    EDIT: my reply above is incorrect please ignore it.
  • It is very usual that God does not take us from A to Z in one step. We very often have many lessons to learn which require us to go from A to B to C to D.... to Z.

    It may be, for instance, that God wishes someone to be a priest. But first he must learn to be a good servant, hidden in humility among many other servants. Then he must learn to be a good Reader, and then a Subdeacon, and then a Deacon. Proving himself at each step, but also learning to trust God and rely on Him more at each step.

    Father Peter
  • It's interesting to note that there is in fact no prophecy which says 'He shall be called a Nazarene.' I read an article about this about a week ago where a scholar argued that the original Greek completely cancels the possibility that Matthew is quoting a prophecy, directly or indirectly - rather it seems, a better translation conveys the meaning that Jesus moved to Nazareth where He was able to begin to do all the things which the prophets said of Him.

    That mostly deals with your objection I think - there was no 'mistake' to be made, because there was no particular scriptural or prophetic reason for Jesus to go to Nazareth, He went because it was the safest place at the time.

    This is the article if anyone is interested:
  • that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene

    If there is no prior prophecy then it would just mean that Jesus is called a Nazarene because He grew up in Nazareth - though it could have its origin in Tradition.

    John 1:45
    Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

    I can't find its mention in the OT but I would not simply accept such a long verse in St Mathew's as a mistranslation error that's been made over and over again.

  • St Jerome shows clearly that this prophecy was found in the Hebrew manuscripts of Isaiah which he had available to him. He quotes from the manuscripts saying...

    There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse and a Nazarene shall grow from his root

    St Jerome is clear that this is where the reference comes. St Bede follows him.

    It seems to me that St Jerome answers the question as to where the prophecy was found.

    Father Peter
  • There is a great book that I read some time ago entitled "Jesus: The Messiah in the Hebrew Bible" by Fr. Eugen J. Pentiuc, an assistant professor at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. The book is great in that it elucidates a number of the Old Testament prophecies that clearly relate to Christ. I would like to note, firstly, that the interpretation provided below is based on the original Hebrew writing, not on the Septuagint, from which most of the Fathers of the Church base their interpretations. Here is a short excerpt from the book, concerning this particular verse.

    "The text of Isaiah 11:1-9 represents a messianic poem that closely defines the features of Messiah. The first feature is Messiah's Davidic origin. Strangely, however, the name of Jesse is mentioned, rather than David. Jesse was the father of King David (1 Sam 16:1; Ruth 4:22) and ancestor of all the kings of Judah, including Messiah (Matt 1:6-16). Why, then, the reference to Jesse, and not to David? Perhaps because of the degenerate condition of the Davidic house at that time. isaiah was speaking to King Ahaz (cf. Isa 7:14), proclaiming the near destruction of the Davidic dynasty. The royal family was in decline, but the roots and stump of the royal lineage were not dead. The soil was still fertile, and the stump strong enough to produce new fruit. God would not forsake his flora, nor would the descendants of David be cut off completely. A stump or a root will always exist, whence a "shoot" or a "twig" will grow up and bring the coming of Messiah.

    The place-name Nazareth is not mentioned at all in the Hebrew Bible, and it appears in the New Testament only sixteen times. The brief note in Matthew may be interpreted as hinting at Isaiah 11:1. More precisely, it should be understood to indicate the similarity in sound between the Hebrew word neser, "twig, offshoot," and the Greek spelling of the place-name Nazareth. "There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, 'He will be called a Nazorean (Nazoraios)'" (Matt 2:23 NRSV). Thus, Jesus' family settled in Nazareth in order to fulfill Isaiah's prophecy about Messiah, the "twig" from Jesse's "roots" (Isa 11:1).

    The text of Isaiah 11:1 was viewed as a messianic prophecy by the ancient Jewish interpreters. The Targum Jonathan interprets it as referring to both the continuity of the Davidic dynasty and Messiah's origin from Jesse's family, "A king will go forth from the son of Jesse, and Messiah will grow up from (his) grandson." The Talmud also sees in Isaiah 11:1-2 a messianic prophecy (Sanhedrin 93b; cf. Midrashim Numbers Rabbah 13:11; Ruth Rabbah 7:2). We may add to these references an enigmatic interpretation of Isaiah 11:1 from the Talmud alluding perhaps to the Messiah as a rejected, and eventually, executed prophet, "When Nezer was brought in, he said, 'Shall Nezer be executed? Is it not written, "And Nezer [a twig] shall grow forth out of his roots?" Yes, they said, Nezer shall be executed, since it is written, "But you are cast forth away from thy grave like Nezer [an abhorred offshoot]"'" (Sanhedrin 43a)."

  • Thank you Father Peter, and childoforthodoxy you have nicely clarified the source.
    I was kind of puzzled.

    According to Strong's Hebrew and others:
    The term “Nazarene” derives from the root natsar, meaning in H#5341 protect, maintain, obey, preserve, guard, etc. and related to H#5342 green shoot, descendant etc.

  • Guys I appreciate your answers, but that wasnt my question. My question was that the angel told him to go to Israel but didnt specify nazareth, this is something Joseph did on his own, why wouldnt the angel just tell him to go there from the begining?
  • Meena_Ameen,

    This prophecy is very convincingly fulfilled from the Jews' perspective since it proves the foreseeing of God as He is the source who acknowledged the prophet Isaiah. It points to Jesus of Nazareth as Christ and the Messiah.

    I've also understood from Father Peter's reply that God communicates with us in various ways and in many steps along our life time. I understood God is always present to protect us and His eyes are following our needs and He is guiding us day and night.

    BTW the angel did not tell St Joseph to go to Judea but only to get back to the land of Israel. Naturally St Joseph should have avoided the dangerous royal family area from the beginning, so he received Divine guidance. Please correct me if wrong.

  • A gloss on the ancient commentaries says..

    Joseph was not disobedient to the angelic warning, but he arose, and took the young Child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. The Angel had not fixed the particular place, so that while Joseph hesitates, the Angel returns, and by the often visiting him confirms his obedience.

    (I am glad to see that this seems to agree with what I had said).

    Father Peter
  • Great answers guys.. thanks alot
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