Wise Men HeaderNativity.

By Rev. Phil Greetham. © Copyright 1996. This Version, 2012.

4: After the wise men left.

In Matthew 2:16 it says.
When Herod realised 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. (NIV)

If the article on King Herod is read it can be seen that he was pathologically insecure. Any hint of a rival was met with extreme brutality and murder. This atrocity is therefore in keeping with our knowledge of him. The order to kill the boys of 2 years and under suggests that Jesus was born no earlier that 2 years ago. It maybe that Herod rounded up the figure. In which case Jesus was aged between 18 months and 2 years at that time. Bethlehem was a small village with a population anywhere between 300 and a 1000 people in the village and vicinity. In such a population it has been estimated that there would be approximately between 7 and 20 baby boys under the age of 2.

Luke 2:21 - 22
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived. When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. (NIV)
Some people have pointed out that in Luke's gospel the Holy family travelled to Jerusalem for Jesus' circumcision a week or so after Jesus was born. They then returned to Nazareth. This appears to contradict Matthew's gospel which demands that they stayed in Bethlehem for around 2 years. Clearly Luke was unaware of any accounts between the circumcision and the family returning to Nazareth. It is natural therefore in his narrative to say they went back after the circumcision. What else could he say in the absence of other information? Given both gospels it is clear to say that they did make the journey to Jerusalem but then returned to Bethlehem. After the visit of the Magi, they fled to Egypt and then returned to Nazareth after Herod died. There is no contradiction.

The family's flight into Egypt makes a certain amount of geographical and political sense. King Herod was already unpopular in Egypt after he had killed his brother in law. It was also a direction which would take them away from Jerusalem and would have been the quickest way out of the jurisdiction of King Herod. The amount of time spent in Egypt is unknown but taking all the evidence we have it could not have been very long; Perhaps a year or even less.
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