2The Challenge of ‘Fulfillment’ Matthew identifies three fulfillments in this passage“in order to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet” (2:15)“then what was spoken by the prophet was fulfilled” (2:17)“in this way what was spoken through the prophets was fulfilled” (2:23)Yet these are not simple fulfillments of prophecy
3The Challenge of ‘Fulfillment’ Hosea 11:1 is not a prophetic predictionIn Hosea 11:1 the prophet Hosea is referring to a past historical eventHe is not looking forward; he is looking backward
4The Challenge of ‘Fulfillment’ Jeremiah 31:15 is not a prophetic predictionJeremiah is describing contemporary eventsHe is not looking forward; he is looking around
5The Challenge of ‘Fulfillment’ The third fulfillment citation is also problematicThere is no OT text that reads “he will be called a Nazarene”
6The Challenge of ‘Fulfillment’ What is the reader to make of Matthew’s claims of fulfillment?A simplistic treatment of these as examples of fulfilled prophecy creates serious problemsIt destroys the integrity of the original context and meaning of the textIt makes Matthew vulnerable to the charge of misusing the text (proof-texting)
7The Challenge of ‘Fulfillment’ What is the reader to make of Matthew’s claims of fulfillment?A better approach is known as typologyTypology involves correspondence‘New’ persons, events or institutions correspond to ‘old’ persons, events or institutionsThe ‘old’ informs the ‘new’The ‘new’ fulfills the ‘old’
8What was Matthew doing?The key to understanding Matthew’s use of Hosea 11:1 is found in Numbers 23-24In this passage Balak (king of Moab) has commissioned Balaam to curse Israel.Balaam warns Balak that he can only speak what the LORD gives him to speak, but Balak insists that Balaam curse Israel
9In his second oracle Balaam prophesies, “The LORD their God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them. God brings them out of Egypt and is for them like the horns of the wild ox. For there is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel; now it will be said of Jacob and Israel, ‘What God has wrought’! Behold a people! As a lioness it rises up and as a lion it lifts itself; it does not lie down until it has devoured the prey and drunk the blood of the slain”. (23:21-24)
10In the third oracle Balaam prophesies, “Water shall flow from his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters; his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. God brings him out of Egypt and is for him like the horns of the wild ox, he shall eat up the nations, his adversaries… He crouched, he lay down like a lion and like a lioness, who will rouse him up?” (24:7-9)
11In his final oracle Balaam declares, “I see him but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down the sons of Sheth….And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion and destroy the survivors of cities!” (24:17-19)
12A Messianic Text and Interpretation In 2nd Temple Judaism this text was interpreted as messianic (cf.., T. Levi 18.3; CD ; various Targumim)The Messiah would take on the identity of the people (as suggested by the change in wording of the oracles)Matthew applies this to JesusGod called his ‘first’ son (Israel; Exodus 4:22) out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1)God called his beloved Son (Matthew 3:17) out of Egypt (Matthew 2:15)
13What was Matthew doing?The key to understanding Matthew’s use of Jeremiah 31:15 is the context of Jeremiah
14I [God] have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you and you will be built…. For there shall be a day when watchmen will call in the hill country of Ephraim: “Arise and let us go up to Zion, the LORD our God.” For thus says the LORD: “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘O LORD, save your people, the remnant of Israel.” Behold I will; bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here…..
15Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it to the coastlands far away; say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock. For the LORD has ransomed Jacob and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him…Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them and give them gladness for sorrow…
16Thus says the LORD: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” Thus says the LORD: “Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work,” declares the LORD, “and they shall come back to you from the land of the enemy….”
17“…Behold the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt….” Jeremiah 31:3-32
18What was Matthew doing?The statement re Rachel weeping over the lost children is embedded in a context of hope!Matthew is interpreting the life of Jesus within the larger context of the story of Israel and he understands Jesus to be the one through whom God will restore the fortunes of his people.NB he has already said ‘You will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21)
19What was Matthew doing?The events surrounding the death of innocent infants ‘fulfills’ Jeremiah’s statement re Rachel by signaling the end of the exile.The infants mourned in Jeremiah were lost in the first stage of the exile; those lost in Bethlehem were lost in the final.
20What was Matthew doing?By referring to Jeremiah’s prophecy in the context Jesus’ early life, Matthew creatively demonstrates that Jesus is the ‘fulfillment’ of Israel’s calling and mission.Jesus is Israel restored.
21What was Matthew doing? What about the third fulfillment citation? Matthew refers to prophets (plural)It seems he does not intend a reference to any particular textRather, he refers to an idea or concept found in the work of various prophets
22What was Matthew doing?Commentators have puzzled over this for centuries and there is no certain consensus.A common and plausible solution is to see this as a reference to the low opinion Jews had of NazarethSee John 1:46 where Nathanael dismissively asks, “Can any good come out of Nazareth?”Thus Jesus’ lowly birth (among the animals) and his humble background (as one raised in Nazareth) fulfill the idea expressed by the prophets that “he” would be unremarkable (e.g. Isaiah 53:3; Psalm 22:6-8, 13; Daniel 9:26).
23Two Lessons from Matthew Re historical interpretation, Matthew indicates through his account that he understands God to be the Sovereign Lord of history.Events do not merely ‘happen’ they take place for reasons.
24Two Lessons from Matthew With regard to textual interpretation, Matthew demonstrates an awareness of intertextuality and the interconnectedness of scripture.Later texts are to be read and interpreted in light of the earlier.Scripture is not merely a collection of propositional truths, although there is propositional truth in scripture.We must learn to read it literarily, not merely literally.