Two pre-exodus stories about Moses become colors on Matthew’s palette, and he uses them as he paints certain scenes in the second chapter of his Gospel.
In Exodus 2, Moses escapes the slaughter of male babies when he is placed in a basket and sent down a river (Exod 2:1-5). When Moses had grown up, he fled to Midian (2:15) but later returned according to God’s command. “So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt” (4:20a).
In Matthew 2, correspondences should be evident. Jesus escapes the slaughter of male babies in Bethlehem when he is taken by his father Joseph to Egypt (2:14-15). And after Herod died, Joseph “took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel” (2:21).
Prior to both cases of return (Moses to Egypt, Jesus to Israel), God had given divine instruction (Exod 4:19; Matt 2:20). Not only that, the divine directives are practically identical:
- “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead” (Exod 4:19)
- “. . . go the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead” (Matt 2:20)
In summary, two pre-exodus events in Moses’ life–his preservation from being killed and his return from Midian to Egypt–are embodied by Jesus, the New Moses, who is preserved from being killed and returns from Egypt to Israel.