My Take on Matthew’s Use of Hosea 11:1

Posted By on October 25, 2010

In addition to the good thoughts in the comments on the previous post, I thought I should chime in here.

In a nutshell, I think we need to consider Matthew’s real world setting.

Matthew’s gospel was written decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Why is this important? For some simple reasons. Matthew, along with the other disciples, had heard the story of Jesus’ birth many times, as they spent time with Jesus’ mother before and after the resurrection. They were a group. They transmitted all these stories orally as they preached. When Matthew heard Mary, who “stored the events of the birth of Jesus in her heart,” tell the disciples about the miraculous circumstances of the birth of Jesus, including the trip to and back from Egypt, it clicked in his head – wow, the birth was a sign and a literal salvation all in one. He was instantly reminded of verses like Hosea 11:1 and the way that the messiah and the nation were identified with each other in his Bible elsewhere (the OT). Seeing the points of analogy, was led by the Spirit to note the connection in his gospel. There’s no need to view Hosea 11:1 as a prophecy that pointed to Jesus. Rather, a gospel writer saw an analogy and interpreted that analogy as something God intended to be made clear once messiah had come.  We could consider it typology or a simple analogy. Either way, it made sense to Matthew and, I think, it isn’t hard for us now to see the sense of it.  It’s not magic – it’s applying the very human circumstances of Matthew’s life to the issue and imagining that it would have taken very little (the birth story) for him to see analogous relationships — sort of like it worked in our heads the first time we realized that, in Scripture, the nation itself is also God’s son (see Exod 4:23) and servant (see the refs to “servant” in Isaiah – they are basically all corporate Israel except for Isaiah 53).

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7 Responses to “My Take on Matthew’s Use of Hosea 11:1”

  1. Areadymind says:

    I love this comment. Thank you so much for your insights Dr. Heiser. I am studying Hebrews right now and have found myself yet again marveling at how often the New Testament quotes Psalm 110 about how Jesus is going to make his enemies a footstool under His feet and as such I ran across a commentary by Jameson Faucet and Brown where they thought that Joshua chapter 10 was a picture of the ultimate fulfillment of this Psalm. I think it is pertinent to your discussion because Joshua has his generals place their feet upon the necks of the conspiring Canaanite kings.

    It seems to be analogous to what you are saying because there was an event, rather than an actual prediction of prophecy that does seem to indicate their comment to be true. Especially because Joshua says in 10:25 “Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the LORD do to all your enemies against whom you fight.” It almost seems to be a picture of Revelation 19 and 20.

    Another thing your comment makes me think about and consider seriously is the mystery of the intentions and will of God.

    “Seeing the points of analogy, was led by the Spirit to note the connection in his gospel.” When God makes an analogy or a situation a prophecy…it rattles my cage.

  2. Well, In my humble opinion, Mathew is using what we call MIDRASH contextualization , so heīs giving the passage in Hosea a new context in history. So I agree with you, because this was done to express an ANALOGY. So Typology is not a possibliity, because Egypt is not a person…

    I could be wrong of course…. so correct me if necessary.

  3. Cognus says:

    Nothing to add but: HEED THIS.
    What Michael has written is to me a good short-primer in “How Inspiration Happens”.

    Multiple ‘candidate’ writings happen, some are due to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, some are due to enthusiasm, some due to other factors holy and not.
    Over time, inspiration shows its hand.

  4. tom bionic says:

    wow MSH.

    Your thoughts here were so powerful that I think my head is about to explode. This post was actually really moving for me.

    thank you.

  5. Dante Aligheri says:

    Yes. I think this is exactly how Matthew worked with Old Testament passages – knowing of real events in Jesus’ life and seeing a larger contextualization within OT symbols rather than inventing unnecessary events just to squeeze Jesus into the Old Testament.

    As a side note, do you believe that Matthew the Apostle wrote the Gospel ascribed to him? Personally, although I find the tradition plausible regarding the identification of all the other Gospel writers, this one I find the least credible.

    • MSH says:

      I think he would fit the writer’s profile (sound knowledge of Jewish life and Hebrew Bible), presuming he went to synagogue faithfully, which we can’t know for sure.

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