Q&A: Sojourn in Egypt

Sojourn in Egypt

Question

Where in Luke 2:1-39 can you squeeze in Matthew's account of the sojourn in Egypt? About the only place I can find is the comma between "Lord" and "they" in verse 39.

Answer

The sojourn to Egypt probably can't fit in Luke 2:1-39 because verse 39 really seems to be talking about the events surrounding the presentation of Jesus at the temple. The things they performed "according to the Law of the Lord" in verse 39a seem to be the same things required by the "custom of the Law" in verse 27, and the return to Galilee really looks like it describes their return home after presenting Jesus at the temple. Jesus would have been about 2 months old at this point.

Luke then summarizes the next 12 years of Jesus life in Luke 2:40-41. It is during this period that the sojourn to Egypt took place (as Matt. 2:16 indicates, Herod's plan to kill Jesus probably took place long after Jesus' birth, during a different trip to Bethlehem). Also, Luke 2:41 need not be taken to mean that Joseph and Mary never missed an annual trip to Jerusalem, but only that they attended regularly. Perhaps they skipped the feasts during the sojourn in Egypt. On the other hand, Matthew 2:13ff. indicates that the reason for the sojourn was to protect Jesus, not to quarantine the whole family. Thus, Joseph may have returned to Jerusalem for the feasts during that period while keeping Jesus in Egypt (only the men were required by law to attend the feasts). Perhaps Mary stayed in Egypt while Joseph attended the feasts, or perhaps they left Jesus with trusted friends and Mary accompanied Joseph. In any event, Luke's account is only the broadest generalization of these years, and is not intended to speak categorically and without exception.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.