Matthew ignores the fact that Jeremiah (31:15-17) is talking about Ramah, a place eight kilometres north of Jerusalem, not at all about Bethlehem and its immediate vicinity, which lies eight kilometres south of the capital. Also, Jeremiah is not talking about the murder of children, because in Jeremiah Rachel's sons are captured, and the prophet promises: 'Your children will return to their own land.'
Following the sojourn in Egypt, Matthew has the family continue on into Nazareth where another prophecy awaits them: 'So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: He will be called a Nazarene.' (Matthew 2:23)
This prophecy, however, has one cosmetic defect - it doesn't exist. This prophecy is not found in any of the books of the prophets in the Old Testament. No one is quite sure where Matthew got it from. Perhaps it came about from a total misunderstanding of a passage from Isaiah (11:1): 'A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse' where the word shoot originally read nezer. Matthew may have incorrectly read into nezer the city of Nazareth, and so Mary and Joseph had to move to Nazareth.
We have seen four examples of Old Testament prophecy which Matthew misapplies to the person of Jesus. Early Christian efforts to appease Jewish scepticism about the newly founded religion were no doubt at the heart of Matthew's attempts to find some justification for his view of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. The simplest way to quash such scepticism was to show how the (Christian) New Testament was nothing more than a fulfilment of the (Jewish) Old Testament. Sadly, as the examples show, Matthew's attempts were way of the mark!
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