Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

30 Jan 2013

Another Puzzler: Hos 11:1 in Matt 2:15

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If you’ve ever worked your way through Matthew’s gospel, looking up the Old Testament texts he cites, then you’ve surely puzzled over what he has to say about Hosea 11:1 in Matt 2:15. Matthew claims that when Jesus returned with his parents from Egypt he fulfilled Hosea’s line: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” It’s puzzling, for starters, because Hosea doesn’t seem to be prophesying at all. Hosea, rather, appears to be describing an event in Israel’s past. Another puzzle is that Hosea isn’t talking about an individual, much less a coming messiah. The son who was called out of Egypt is the nation of Israel. All this has led many to assume that Matthew wasn’t concerned with what Hosea meant. Some are kind enough to suggest that Matthew wasn’t trying to channel Hosea’s meaning but was simply using Hosea’s language. Others are less sympathetic.

G. K. Beale responds to these problems in a recent article. He claims that Matthew correctly understands Hosea and wants his readers to see, in his citation of Hos 11:1, that Jesus has “recapitulat[ed] the history of Israel . . . [by] retrac[ing] Israel’s steps up to the point they failed and then continue[d] to obey and succeed in the mission Israel should have carried out” (710). He suggests that this sort of typology—an Exodus that anticipated another Exodus—was, in fact, already present in Hosea. Matthew, therefore, simply taps into the typology Hosea describes, not least in ch. 11: Israel was rescued from Egypt (11:1), sinned, would, therefore, be sent back into Egypt (11:5), before being delivered from Egypt once more (11:10–11). Moreover, this second Exodus, Beale notes, would be led by a davidic king (3:5; cf. 1:11). In sum: Jesus, says Matthew, recapitulates Hos 11:1, as Hos 11:10–11 expected.

Beale, of course, says quite a bit more in the article (and the two appendices that follow). So, it’s worth the read. The article, moreover, is based on a paper Beale read in 2011 for the Gheens Lectures at Southern Seminary. So, if you’d rather watch or listen to his arguments, see the link below. (For a similar post, see my earlier “A Puzzler: Hos 1:10 and 2:23 in Rom 9:25-26.”)

2 Responses

  1. Jared,

    I’m curious whether you find Beale’s arguments personally convincing, and whether you find them to be incompatible with Neal Cushman’s conclusions on New Exodus Theology in his talk at the 2012 MACP (available here).

  2. Jared Compton

    Thanks for the question, Ben. Yes, I find Beale’s arguments here generally convincing. (I’ve got to think a bit more about the links he draws between Num 23-24 and Hos 11.1 and between Hos 10.14-15 and Matt 2.13-21, e.g.) It’s a good response, esp., to the sort of conclusions addressed in my initial paragraph.

    Moreover, as far as Neal’s talk is concerned, I’d have to say that I’m not sure. I was present for the talk you linked to, but came in late–I think I was preparing for my own talk. If my memory serves, I don’t think Neal’s against the idea of a new exodus, only that he feels the motif is overplayed, esp. in Rikki Watt’s reading of Isaiah and Mark.