Out of Egypt — Jesus’ family escapes to Egypt
“Out of Egypt I called my Son” is a prophecy written by Hosea over 700 years before Jesus. It relates to the Messiah somehow getting to Egypt early in his life. Otherwise, he couldn’t be “called out of Egypt” later.
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my Son.” (Matthew 2:13-15)
Following the visitation of the Magi, Joseph is instructed to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt to avoid Herod’s attempts to kill Jesus. Egypt was not very far away from Judaea, in comparison to other provinces with a large number of Jews such as Babylonia or Persia. There were still many Jews living in Egypt, dating back to before the Babylonian exile, so the family may have sought help from relatives or family friends.
Jesus and the Jewish Community in the Roman-Controlled Province
As Egypt was a part of the Roman Empire, it was easy for Joseph and Mary to travel there. However, Egypt was outside of Herod’s rule, so Jesus would be safe from Herod’s death squad. At the time, Egypt was an imperial province ruled by the Roman Emperor himself, Augustus.
Jews were respected in Roman Egypt, but they were also constantly clashing with the Greeks. Hellenism marked the period of Greek cultural influence throughout Europe, Africa and Asia between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire. In Egypt, this period ran through the conquest of the Ptolemaic Empire in 30 BC.
Even though the Romans conquered the region, the rather decadent Hellenistic influence continued in the arts, literature, clothing, architecture, music, language, and philosophy.
Jesus and his family likely lived among a Jewish community and enjoyed a degree of anonymity and separation from Hellenistic culture. Herod the Great died in March of 4 BC and Jesus’ family returned to Nazareth soon thereafter. This moment in history connected Jesus to the prophecy, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.”