System in Providence
Matthew 2:13-15
And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise…

It were a truism to say that there is wisdom in providence; for otherwise providence could not be Divine. In that wisdom there is what Paul describes as a manifoldness (Ephesians 3:10). And this appears in a system of developments and correspondences, evincing at the same time unity of plan. The text furnishes striking illustrations. It suggests -


1. For Hosea s allusion is historical. His words are these: "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt" (Hosea 11:1). The reference plainly is to the bringing forth of the people of Israel from Egypt by the hand of Moses and Aaron. Moreover, it is a paraphrase upon the words of God's message to Pharaoh (Exodus 4:22, 23). From the history we learn:

(1) That the suffering of God's people is no certain proof of his displeasure.

(2) That it may evince his love as that of a Father to a child who needs discipline and education.

(3) That when love's ends are served the discipline will end.

2. Hosea s words are still prophetic.

(1) That they contain a mystery is clear from the manner in which they speak of the nation as a person. This is the converse of the manner in which the same prophet makes the real Jacob or Israel stand for the nation descended from him (cf. Hosea 12:3-6).

(2) The evangelist explains the mystery as containing a prophecy of Christ. In doing this he is countenanced by prophetic analogies. Thus Jehovah, speaking evidently of Messiah, says, "Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified" (Isaiah 49:3). Again, "Behold my Servant, whom I uphold; mine Elect, in whom my soul delighteth" (Isaiah 42:1). This the LXX. construes thus: "Jacob my servant, and Israel mine elect;" while in the Chaldee it is, "My servant the Messiah." This paraphrase is clearly justified by the context.

3. So the history in the Law likewise is prophetic.

(1) Dr. Alix remarks that the author of 'Midrash Tehillim,' on Psalm 2:7, says, "The mysteries of the King Messiah are declared in the Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa. In the Law it is written (Exodus 4:22), 'Israel is my son, even my firstborn.' Rabbi Nathan, in ' Sehemath Rabba,' on those words speaks thus: 'As I made Jacob my firstborn' (Exodus 4:22), so have I made Messiah my firstborn; as it is said (Psalm 89:27), 'I will make him my Firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.'"

(2) The perils, then, in which Israel typified Christ, viz. as they are presented in the passages before us, are:

(a) His Sonship.

(b) His election.

(c) His sojourn in Egypt.

(d) His return and advancement to dignity and glory.


1. The system of providence is seen in presages.

(1) The sojourn of Israel in Egypt was presaged in the personal history of Abraham their father. For early in that history "there was a famine in the land [of Canaan]: and Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there." In that land he found not only asylum, but generous treatment, and acquired property. Afterwards "the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife;" and these plagues induced Pharaoh to send him away (Genesis 12:14-20).

(2) That in all this there was an allegory Abram might have learnt from his subsequent experience (see Genesis 15:11-16). The horror of darkness was evidently a premonition of the sufferings his seed were destined to pass through in the dark land of Egypt (see Gesenius, under חם).

2. So is it seen in their accomplishment.

(1) Joseph's dreams were prophetic sketches of what afterwards became history.

(2) The fulfilment of the dreams of Joseph was also the accomplishment of the presages of Abram. The famine in Syria. The provision of plenty in Egypt in connection with which Joseph, by the good hand of God upon him, came into power. The settlement of Israel in Egypt. His sufferings there when the services of Joseph were forgotten. The plaguing of Pharaoh. The Exodus.


1. Correspondences are seen in the agents.

(1) We note a correspondence of names. In each case we have a "Joseph," and moreover a "Joseph the son of Jacob."

(2) We have also a correspondence of character. The son of Rachel was eminently a righteous man, and so likewise was the husband of Mary. Both were alike distinguished for their unswerving loyalty and obedience to God.

(3) There is, moreover, a correspondence of dreams. God honours those who honour him.

(a) As the latter Joseph by his alliance with Christ came to converse with angels, so have all who are spiritually related to Christ intercourse with Heaven (cf. Hebrews 1:14; Hebrews 12:22).

(b) If the reason of God's communicating with men in dreams be that in sleep men's minds are disengaged from the world, the lesson is that if we would come under special heavenly influences we must call off our affections from earthly things.

2. Correspondences are seen in the accidents.

(1) "Flee into Egypt." God can make the worst places serve the best purposes (cf. Revelation 12:16).

(2) Jesus, like Israel of old, was in Egypt for asylum. "For Herod will seek the young Child to destroy him." God knows the purposes of his enemies (cf. Isaiah 37:28).

(3) Jesus was nourished there evidently by the hand of God, as Israel was in the days of the earlier Joseph. The carpenter was so poor that Mary had to offer doves instead of a lamb (cf. Leviticus 12:8 with Luke 2:24). He had no difficulty in gathering up his effects to set off for Egypt the same night in which he had his orders. "If rich people have the advantage of the poor while they possess what they have, the poor have the advantage of the rich when they are called to part with it" (Henry). But how, then, could this Joseph subsist his sacred Charge in a strange land? He who gave the years of plenty to the ancient Joseph for the nourishment of his typical son, placed the gold of the Magi in the hand of his namesake for the preservation of the Son of his love.

(4) There was in the days of Israel's sojourn in Egypt a slaughter of the male children of that people by order of Pharaoh, from which Moses, the future redeemer of the nation, was wonderfully spared. Who does not see in this a prophecy of the deliverance of Jesus from Herod's slaughter of the innocents?

(5) The retribution for this came upon Pharaoh in the death of his firstborn when the firstborn of Israel was spared, and eventually upon himself also in the destruction at the Red Sea. So Herod's death followed quickly upon his massacre of the innocents. And as the overthrow of Pharaoh was coincident with the escape of Israel, for on the other shore of the Red Sea he was out of Egypt; so the death of Herod was the signal for the calling out of Egypt of the true Son of God. The end of the wicked is death. They have everything to fear from time. The good have everything to hope from it.


1. The Church of true believers is the mystical Christ.

(1) So Paul describes the Church as the body of which Christ is the Head (Romans 12:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 10:16, 17; Ephesians 1:22, 23; Ephesians 4:15, 16; Ephesians 5:23, 30; Colossians 1:18, 24). The head and the body make up one Christ.

(2) Hence the Church is called Christ (1 Corinthians 8:12; Galatians 3:16 with ver. 29).

(3) Agreeably to this "Israel after the flesh," which we have seen to have been a type of Christ, is often made a type also of the "Israel of God," or true Christian Church.

2. What is predicated of Christ is mystically predicable of his Church.

(1) The mystical Egypt is that state of moral darkness and bondage in which we are by nature and former practice.

(2) The mystical Pharaoh, or Herod, is Satan, who is the tyrant of the moral house of bondage. So the persecuting powers of the world, which have ever been instinct with the spirit of the old serpent, are described under the figure of a dragon - a monster whose zoological type is the crocodile of the Nile (Revelation 12.); fittingly so, since the Egyptian was the first really formidable political incarnation of Satan.

(3) Deliverance through Christ from the bondage of sin and tyranny of Satan is compared to that of Israel from Egypt. ]t is also compared to the coming up of Christ from that land, as in the text.

(4) The early and brief sojourn of Jesus in Egypt was a presage of the early but too transient Christianizing of the laud of the Pharaohs. As there was a very flourishing Church in Egypt in the early Christian ages, so may there be again in the generations of the future (cf. Deuteronomy 23:7; Isaiah 19:24, 25). Providence and grace are interwoven in wisdom. Never let us murmur against, evermore let us trust, that wisdom which is manifold and profound. - J.A.M.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And when they were 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 into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

WEB: Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him."

Obedience and Divine Guidance
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