The OT Used in the NT: Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15

Posted By on October 19, 2010

On to another famous passage for how the NT writers use the OT.  Matthew 2:13-15 (key verse: v. 15) reads:

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Matthew is referencing Hosea 11:1. Here is the passage with some context:

1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. 2 The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.

Here is the issue.  How is it that Matthew can view Hosea 11:1 as a forward looking prophecy when Hosea (8th century BC) is clearly looking backward into Israel’s history at the exodus from Egypt?

I’ll wait to hear what you think before I chime in and send you Beale and Carson’s commentary on this one.

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14 Responses to “The OT Used in the NT: Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15”

  1. Jason Leonard says:

    In general, the answer here lies to understanding the NT writer’s use of prophecy in general – that the authors weren’t always considering “fulfillment” as predictions come true, like a modern reader would. Rather, they saw fulfillment in different ways, one of which was parallels. They then quote OT scripture in almost midrashic fashion to draw the connection (Christ was God’s chosen) for their audience.

    In short, Matthew’s writer saw that Christ (God’s chosen person forNT covenant) being taken out of Egypt had a parallel with Israel (God’s chosen people for OT covenant) being called out of Egypt. Nothing even HAD been prophesied in that verse to begin with; it merely was an OT statement, from the authority of a prophet, that said what the author was trying to communicate – God’s chosen were called out of Egypt under duress, just like Jesus! (the prophets would need to be quoted because the people mostly looked back to their words for fulfillment of messiahship)

    To think that Matthew’s writer didn’t even know the context of the verse he was quoting would be a hermeneutical absurdity.

  2. Brad says:

    Is this similar to the “Abomination of desolation” spoken of by Yeshua? It was a past event with Antioch and yet future at the same time.

  3. Gary says:

    I assume the key is “This was to fulfill”. Interested to get the translation of “fulfill”. I assume it is more a completion of the mission out of Egypt, more than a prophecy, since God’s mission wasn’t completed the first time (the Isrealites screwed up the first time, continuing to want to sacrifice to other Gods).

    • Gary says:

      Of course, that must mean that the people Matthew was talking/writing to recognized that their ancestors did indeed screw up. The Israelite establishment and high priests probably didn’t see it that way. I’m sure the readers at that time didn’t have to analyse the text to derive the meaning of such a crucial statement about Jesus.

  4. Ian says:

    Doesn’t this give more credence to the idea that prophecy is cyclical?

  5. Craig says:

    Jesus teaches us that the Scriptures speak of him; so typologically its a pattern. As you have said yourself the individual servant (Jesus) is patterning after the corporate servant (Israel). Many of the sacrificial offerings in the Torah relate to or speak of Jesus.

    Further, the Jews view prophecy as pattern not the prediciton-fulfillment model; most of us think of prophecy in the latter form.

  6. blop2008 says:

    Because the word “fulfill” is a term that is part of an interpretative methodology used by many Jews at that time (and possibly still today) to point to a pattern or similarity in the text.

    It has nothing to do, in this case, with our modern understanding of Futuristic Prophecy and Fulfillment.

  7. Ron says:

    What we see here is divine sonship being attributed to Israel as a nation. Matthew would have been well aware of this fact and thus would have had no problem seeing this as also referring to Jesus, the divine son, being called out of Egypt. This is just another example of the structure of God’s kingdom rule on earth mirroring that of the divine council in heaven. How do I know this? I read Michael’s book “The Myth that is True” and he explains it in detail. Far better than my poor attempt here illustrates.

    • MSH says:

      This is a good point by Ron — and it is one often missed — that there was a close parallel relationship between the corporate nation as God’s son (cf. Exod 4:23) and servant (all the “Servant” references in Isaiah are to the NATION, except for Isa 53, which is an individual) and an individual figure as God’s son (e.g., Ps 2:7) and servant (Isa 53). It would not have been a leap for Matthew to identify the son (Jesus) with the nation (and so, Hosea) if he believed Jesus to be messiah. The tougher issue is seeing Hosea as “prophetic” — but maybe the problem is how we think of prophecy — that it has to be a verbal prediction of the future. What about typology and ANALOGY? See my follow-up post on this.

    • blop2008 says:

      Funny. Was expecting something from you Ron

      • Ron says:

        That was only my second or third post here and yet you were expecting something from me? I hope I met your expectations.

        Was reading old articles in Bibliotheca Sacra the other night on the subject of Hosea 11:1/Matthew 12:5. Never realized this particular old testament citation posed such a problem for people over the years. I guess I always just assumed Matthew was utilizing typology – and perhaps utilizing it a bit too loosely in this situation. Michael’s book opened my eyes to the fact that what we see Matthew doing here just may be a hint in to a much larger piece of the picture.

  8. blop2008 says:

    Jason Leonard, I believe, articulated this the best above.

  9. Areadymind says:

    I agree with the cyclical/filling up way at looking at prophecy. There is a reason people often quip that “history repeats itself.”

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