Moments earlier, there was the blackness of midnight, the stillness of village slumber. Then, sleep was riven by light and alarm.
Joseph was no ordinary man. He was righteous and just, the man God chose as His infant Son’s provider and protector. Joseph was a man to whom God spoke in visions and dreams.
And God was speaking once again.
The first recorded dream we have for Joseph was a message of assurance, but now the angelic visitor has split the night with a warning.
“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
Then the angel was gone. Joseph’s eyes fly open in the darkness as his heart pounds in his chest. He reaches out for Mary, shakes her awake and relays the message. Quickly, they pack just what they can carry- some food, an extra cloak perhaps, the gifts from the wise men to fund their journey… There is only time for the essentials.
It is still dark when they take one last look behind them before leaving all they know to journey to a foreign land with no idea of when they will ever be able to return. In a time when people travelled in groups during the day for safety, this little family begins the long trek to Egypt at night, and alone.
The magi had received their own dream from God warning them not to return to Herod (Matthew 2:12) but Herod the Great would not be thwarted so easily.
Egypt. How ironic. The land synonymous with Israel’s slavery will now shelter her Redeemer. It seems odd at first, but at the center of God’s direction is not only the proximity of the location but also political drama, and a two of the most legendary lovers of all time- Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII.
Mark Antony was Herod the Great’s superior, and he was consumed by his passion for a certain Egyptian queen, Cleopatra VII. Cleopatra was consumed by passion as well, the passion to dominate and destroy Herod the Great and have his territory for her own. She continually pressured her lover, Mark Antony, to give her Herod’s Kingdom. In 35 BC, Mark Antony transferred large tracts of Palestine to Cleopatra.
Just five years later, however, the famous love affair burned to its fantastic conclusion with the suicides of Mark Antony and Cleopatra. At that time, Herod was able to bring his lost territories back under his control. However, the powerful legacy left behind by Cleopatra and Mark Antony still served to limit Herod’s reach, even after their deaths. He never ventured too far into Egypt which is why the land synonymous with Israel’s slavery became a refuge for the infant Redeemer.