Christ Jesus the True Israel: Matthew 2:13-15.

Christ Jesus the True Israel: Matthew 2:13-15. When one studies the New Testament, it is very clear that Christ Jesus understood the message of Scripture to be about Himself (e.g. John 15:1; Isaiah 5:2; John 5:39; Matt. 5:17; Luke 24:27, 44). Additionally, it is apparent that Christ taught His Apostles and the writers of the New Testament to interpret the Old Testament in light of His Person and work. Accordingly, the Apostles and writers of the New Testament present the Lord Jesus as the typological fulfilment of Old Testament Israel, in that He recapitulates (or repeats) the history of Israel in His sinless humanity. Stephen Motyer states:

Jesus appears, not just as the Saviour of Israel in fulfilment of prophetic expectation, but also as an embodiment of Israel as they should be. Matthew makes this point dramatically in his opening chapters, first by applying the Exodus verse Hosea 11:1 to Jesus (Matt. 2:15), and then by telling story in a way that makes Jesus re-enact Israel’s history: the Exodus from Egypt (2:19-20), the crossing of the Red Sea (3:13-17), the temptations…in the desert (4:1-11), even the arrival at Mt. Sinai to receive the law (5:1-2). Perhaps most pointedly, it is Jesus on whom the Spirit descends (Matt. 3:16), although the prophetic expectation was of an outpouring of the Spirit upon Israel (Is. 44:2-3; Ezek. 36:25-27). Where Israel had failed the temptations in the desert, Jesus now remains faithful to God.[1]

One such passage that presents Christ as the True Israel is Matthew 2:13-15 which contains an allusion to Hosea 11:1. In its original context, Hosea 11:1 refers to Israel’s exodus from Egypt. Illumined by the Holy Spirit, Matthew sees a typological correlation between this event in Israel’s history and Christ’s life, specifically in the flight to and subsequent return from Egypt. Craig Blomberg writes:

“It is better, though, to understand Matthew’s actual use of Hosea 11:1 as a classic example of pure typology: “the recognition of a correspondence between New and Old Testament events, based on a conviction of the unchanging character of the principles of God’s working” (France 1985:40; see also Goppelt 1982)….That Israel had been delivered from Egypt, that Israel would again be exiled there but again restored, and that the child believed to be the Messiah also had to return from Egypt formed too striking a set of parallels for Matthew to attribute them to chance. God clearly was at work orchestrating the entire series of events (see Garrett 1997: 220-22; cf. Hagner 1993:36).”[2]

Matthew 2:13-15 is by no means alone in its presentation of the Lord Jesus as the True Israel, and the subsequent posts in this blog series will briefly consider other New Testament passages that do the same.


[1]Stephen Motyer, “Israel (Nation),” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. by T. Desmond Alexander, Brian S. Rosner (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 584-5.

[2]See Craig L. Blomberg, “Matthew” in Gregory K. Beale and Donald A. Carson. The Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 8.

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