On the run

After the wise men left Bethlehem, Jesus’ father was directed to leave Judea, the Roman territory under King Herod’s jurisdiction. It says in Matthew 2:13-14, “And when they had 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 to Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. Then he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt.” Subsequent to their departure, Herod ordered all the children in Bethlehem who were two years old and younger to be killed (Matthew 2:16). Clearly, Herod believed the wise men’s report that the Jewish Messiah had been born and was concerned about the threat Jesus (as a young child) posed to his kingdom.

Herod the Great ruled over Judea from 37-4 B.C., so we know that Joseph’s family left the area sometime before 4 B.C. While Joseph was living in Egypt, he received another message from the Lord, “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. And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea 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” (Matthew 2:20-22). Archelaus reigned from 4 B.C. – 6 A.D. Therefore, Joseph and his family had to have returned to Judea sometime before 6 A.D. Although we don’t know the exact dates of Joseph’s departure and return to Judea, it can be assumed that his family was on the run from the Roman authorities no more than a decade because Luke reported that Jesus’ family was living in Nazareth when he was twelve years old (Luke 2:42, 52).

The instructions Joseph received from the angels that appeared to him in his dreams, “Arise, and take the young child and his mother…” (Matthew 2:13, 20) may have been spiritual commands that actually came from Jesus, but were delivered through angels because he was too young to speak for himself. All the other instances in the New Testament of the use of the Greek verb egeiro (eg – i – ro) are associated with Jesus’ ministry, e.g. “Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thine house” (Matthew 9:6). Jesus’ power and authority were not temporarily assigned to him during his three-and-a-half year ministry on earth, but were always available to him, even before he was the child that was born to Joseph and Mary. One of the most likely reasons Herod wanted to kill the baby Jesus was because Herod understood that even before Jesus could speak, his spiritual authority exceeded his own.