When they had gone, 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.”
— Matthew 2:13
The ESCAPE to EGYPT
So Joseph 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.”
When Herod realized that he had been
outwitted by the Magi, he was furious,
and he gave orders to kill all the boys in
Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old
and under, in accordance with the time he had
learned from the Magi. Then what was said
through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great
mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and
refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
— Matthew 2:13-18
Awakened from his dream with a start, Joseph roused Mary,
ordering her to grab what she could.
They were leaving and they were leaving now. Herod’s bloodthirsty soldiers were making their way from Jerusalem with murder on their minds.
“We only have the one donkey. Hurry! Yes, get Jesus and let’s get out the door. Hurry!”
The streets were deserted except for an occasional stray dog. Joseph pulled the donkey as fast as he could. It didn’t seem fast enough.
What was that sound? The soldiers may already be here. We have to move faster. Please keep Him quiet. Try to get Him back to sleep.
When they reached the outskirts of the village there was some feeling of relief. Joseph stole a look backwards. No figures moving behind them. No torches. No sounds. But he couldn’t stop or slow his pace, although his legs were crying out for a moment of rest. He stopped to fix their small bundles of clothes that had shifted from the donkey’s fast pace. Why is everything so hard when you’re in a hurry?
They felt their way through the darkness, stopping only where they had to so the donkey could be fed and watered. It is hard to be inconspicuous when you’re obviously escaping something. It kept playing on Joseph’s mind – What if they are on horses? What’s the speed of a donkey compared to a horse? Who can I trust? Dear God, help me get my family down to Egypt. We’ll be safe there. Herod can’t touch us there.
So the Holy Family pushed on to Egypt, another in a long parade of refugees that have fled before the threat of extinction. Centuries haven’t changed much. Under these circumstances, technology is of little consequence. Remaining are crowded roads, meager scraps in bundles of leftovers from that other life, push carts and crying babies. Not enough food, not enough time to rest, not enough of anything. Just constant movement forward because as miserable as these moments are, staying behind means only one thing: death.
Mighty Herod the Great. So paranoid that he destroyed anything that he thought might threaten him. He murdered his wife, two of his sons, a host of those in his court. He was so hated and so miserable a person that when he took his last breath he ordered that the Jewish leaders be rounded up and executed so people would be weeping on that day. Murdering an infant or ordering the mass murder of the baby boys in the Bethlehem area would scarcely cause him a moment’s pause.
Jesus wasn’t someone leading a rebellion. He wasn’t some traitor that was seeking to turn Herod over to his enemies. He wasn’t a spy stealing back to His homeland with information about the wicked king. He was a baby. A two–year–old caused Herod to panic.
Maybe this little Child was something more,
something that made evil tremble,
something that threatened to reorder everything.
Then again, wasn’t there something special about the Child that caused the Magi to hazard the desert, thieves and other hardships to offer their gifts? Herod had seen that star people talked about and wondered what it meant, too. Weren’t there rumors about angels announcing His arrival in that sleepy little village of Bethlehem? When Herod asked about Him, he saw the facial expressions of the religious leaders as they scurried to answer his questions. Maybe this little Child was something more, something that made evil tremble, something that threatened to reorder everything. Someone, something more…
Joseph led his little family deeper into Egypt.
“Strange. Our forefathers sought to escape this place and here I am running to it. What a difference from Palestine! The idols are everywhere. It seems like the Egyptians are totally taken up with magic. I need to find the Jewish settlements where I can protect my family from all this.”
Finding other Jewish exiles was not difficult. Many had fled Palestine over generations to find refuge in Egypt. Alexandria had a huge Jewish settlement, as did many other towns. It was not home and yet it would have to be home for a while. Among exiles, Jesus learned to play and talk and form His sentences. In coming to earth as a baby, the Son of God was already far from home. Now He was a refugee among refugees.
Later, when He was a man with memories of fleeing with His family as an exile, Jesus would say, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Rest is what the refugees found.
Rest is what the Redeemer gives.
— Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee, Editor in Chief and National Literary Secretary