13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”
14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt,
15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.
17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:
18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Egypt (v.13) — There was a large Jewish population, especially in Alexandria, at this time.
death of Herod (v.15) — in 4 B.C. — placing the birth of Christ in 5-6 B.C.
Herod died of a loathsome disease in 4 B.C., a short time after the perpetration of this terrible crime. He had sought relief for a little while in the mineral baths of Callirhoe, There he attempted suicide which was prevented. A the same time, he ordered thousands of the most prominent Jews to be shut up in the circus of Jericho, to be executed at the hour of his death, that there might be no lack of lamentation in the land. But Salome to whom he entrusted the bloody order, when his death was announced set the prisoners free. — Pentecost, page 71
prophet (v.15) — Hosea 11:1 — referring historically to the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt
An examination of Hosea’s prophecy discloses that this was a reference to Israel’s historical deliverance out of Egypt under Moses and not specifically a prophecy of the return of Jesus from Egypt. How then could Matthew say that this return “fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet” (Matthew 2:14)? Matthew saw Israel’s history as a type of God’s future dealing with His people. An Old Testament type is a prophecy, and Matthew used the historical incident as a prophetic type of what God would do in returning His exiled Son the Land of Promise — Pentecost, page 70
Jeremiah (v.17) — The ruthless act, performed no doubt by soldiers who accomplished their horrible deed in the presence of the mothers, fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:15-16. This prophecy referred to the captivity in Babylon and the slaying of children in the conquest of Judea by Babylon. The parallel in Bethlehem is all too evident. Rachel represents mothers in Israel who mourn their children. In both cases, sorrow came in a time when Israel religiously was in apostasy and under the heel of the oppressor. A later Roman ruler was to order this same Jesus nailed to a cross, the ultimate rejection of Israel’s Messiah. — Walvoord, page 24.
An examination of the prophecy of Jeremiah indicates he was writing of the sorrow and suffering inflicted on Judah through the desolations brought by Nebuchadnezzar when he conquered that land; the prophet did not refer to Herod’s slaughter. However, Matthew saw this passage as a prophecy with a double reference. Nebuchadnezzar was only the first despot to spoil Jerusalem and desolate the people to bring sorrow and suffering on the nation. This would occur many times throughout Judah’s history. What Herod did on this occasion was included in the prophecy of Jeremiah, and thus Matthew called it to our attention. Matthew was noting that every incident that took place in the life of Christ was in keeping with the Old Testament prophetic Scriptures. This was true whether the incident fulfilled a direct prophecy, such as concerning the place of His birth, whether it fulfilled a prophetic type, or whether it fulfilled a prophecy according to the principle of double reference. All took place in accordance with the revealed program of God. — Pentecost, pages 70-71
Rachel (v.18) — the mother of Benjamin. She herself died near Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19). The historical reference is to mothers weeping when their sons were carried into captivity.