Summary: When it comes to dreaming, many readers think Matthew is the dreamer by the way he uses Old Testament Scripture to back up his story. Is Matthew too anxious to justify his story that he twists Scripture to suit his purpose?
Matthew 2:19-23 Joseph’s Dreams
12/22/02 D. Marion Clark
Do you sometimes wake up tired because of vivid dreams? I imagine Joseph had that problem. Matthew records four dreams through which an angel of the Lord spoke to him. The first dream was to assure him that he could take Mary as his wife and that the child she bore was the Messiah Immanuel – God with us. The second dream warned him of Herod’s intent to destroy the child and to flee to Egypt. The third dream lets him know it is time to return to Palestine, and the fourth gives specific directions where to go. When an important decision needed to be made, Mary did not question her husband when he said, “Let me sleep on it”!
But when it comes to dreaming, many readers think Matthew is the dreamer by the way he uses Old Testament Scripture to back up his story. Joseph dreams four times; Matthew refers to prophecy five times, all of the references seeming somewhat suspect. Is Matthew too anxious to justify his story that he twists Scripture to suit his purpose? Let’s continue with the story and then we will check his references.
But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”
Dream three: “Herod is dead; you can return home.” Herod the Great is dead. The unpopular king, who ruled over Palestine for thirty-three years through his wits and unflinching will to do whatever is necessary, such as slaughtering children, is dead. God lives on and continues to carry out his purposes. As the prophets say, “Why fear man who is here today and gone tomorrow?” Man is not only mortal, but his days are numbered by the Lord.
21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee.
It is evident that Joseph intended to return to Bethlehem. Apparently Mary and he had begun to settle down in the community before their sudden journey to Egypt. He heard, however, that Archelaus is reigning over that territory.
Here is what happened. Herod had reign over all Palestine, which included both Judea (where Bethlehem was) and Galilee in the north. After his death, his realm was broken into three areas: Archelaus’ area included Judea, another brother Antipas has Galilee, and yet another brother, Philip, had other territory. The worse of the three was Archelaus and one of the reasons the realm was broken into three areas was his violent beginnings. Archelaus possessed his father’s willingness to crush rebellion, but not his judgment and craftiness. He would last ten years before being deposed by Rome, which then placed its own governors over the territory. Antipas had a long reign in Galilee and is the “Herod” we read about during John the Baptist’s ministry and Jesus’.