Travels in Africa - The Escape to Egypt

Did you know that Jesus was a refugee as a baby! The King of Israel wanted him dead, so he and his family had to go on the run.

The Story in the Bible

When they [the wise men] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. '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.'

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'Out of Egypt I called my son.'

When Herod realized 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. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

'A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.'

Matthew 2:13-18

The History behind Joseph, Mary and Jesus Escaping to Egypt in the Christmas Story

The Christmas Story - Mary, Jesus and Joseph in Egypt

Although Herod was the 'King of the Jews', he wasn't actually a Jew! He was a Nabatean and was really a 'puppet king' for the Romans. Herod was hated by most Jews and he didn't like them either! So when the Magi said there was a new 'King of the Jews' - who was actually Jewish - was very angry and was scared the new King could come and take his power away.

Because Herod was unable to find out where Jesus was from the wise men, he thought the only way of making sure Jesus was killed was to kill every baby boy under two years old in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. Probably only about 20 babies would have been killed, but even that fact is really horrible. So his cruelty would had brought terror and grief to many homes. But Jesus was kept safe as Joseph took him and Mary to Egypt just in time. This was not the first time that Herod had killed people to keep them quiet - he even had killed people in his own family in the past!

The killing of the boys is mentioned in a Roman book in the 5th century, called "The Saturnalia of Macrobius" where it also claims that even one of Herod's son's was killed. It quotes the Roman Emperor Augustus as saying: "It is better to be Herod's pig than a son." It's also described in "The Infancy Gospel of James", although later scholars have cast doubt over both of these works.

However, the very respected Roman historian Josephus records many terrible acts in the life of Herod including the execution of his wife, son and brother-in-law! Josephus also records Herod's death as taking place in 4 BCE/BC, so Jesus being born about 5-7 BCE/BC makes even more sense.

Jesus becoming a refugee and going to Egypt fulfilled some very old prophecies in the Old Testament of the Bible. The family probably didn't have to spend too long in Egypt as Herod died soon after this.

The gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, which were brought by the wise men to Jesus, when he and his family were living in Bethlehem, could well have been used as 'currency' during the families' escape and life in Egypt.

Frankincense and Myrrh are resins which come from trees. They have medicinal uses and were (and still are) used in many religions. They were also (and still are!) very valuable; at the time of Jesus they were worth MUCH more than the gold!