Matthew 2:22 is the twenty-second verse of the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. The young Jesus and the Holy Family have just left Egypt after hearing of the death of King Herod.
In the King James Version of the Bible the text reads:
But when he heard that Archelaus
did reign in Judaea in the room
of his father Herod, he was afraid
to go thither: notwithstanding,
being warned of God in a dream, he
turned aside into the parts of Galilee:
The World English Bible translates the passage as:
But when he heard that Archelaus
was reigning over Judea in the
place of his father, Herod, he
was afraid to go there. Being
warned in a dream, he withdrew
into the region of Galilee
For a collection of other versions see BibRef Matthew 2:22
Upon Herod's death his kingdom was divided in three. Judea went to his son Archelaus, who was as great a tyrant as his father. Most notably he killed some 3000 rebels soon after ascending the throne. His cruelty aroused such popular anger that in 6 AD Archelaus was deposed by the Romans in response to complaints from his subjects. As a result the Romans began directly appointing a governor for the area, with Pontius Pilate being a notable example. The concern Joseph expresses in this verse thus fits with what is known from the history of the period. The decision to go to Galilee was also a reasonable one. That region was ruled by Herod's far more even-tempered son Herod Antipas and there is evidence that the region had become a refuge to others fleeing the rule of Archelaus or the Romans.
One incongruity is that the word translated as reign, more precisely means "reign as a king." This is incorrect, unlike his father Archelaus was only an ethnarch, not a king. Most scholars, even evangelical ones, are content to accept this as the author of Matthew simply being imprecise. There have also been several attempts to explain the discrepancy. Jones notes that Augustus' decision that Archelaus would only be granted the title of ethnarch occurred six months into his reign. Jones thus thinks it possible that during these first months Archelaus did call himself king, and it would have been during this period that Joseph returned from Egypt.
Joseph is again given important information in a dream. However, this time the author of Matthew does not report on its origin. The vocabulary of the passage and the previous instances make most scholars accept this to be another message from God.
The Gospel of Luke mentions none of this. Most scholars believe this is because Luke sees Nazareth as Joseph's original home, and thus sees no reason to explain why he returns there. Much time is spent explaining why the family was in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus' birth. Matthew has the opposite view seeing Bethlehem as the family's original home, as demonstrated by them having a house in Matthew 2:11. It thus needs to go into some detail explaining why they eventually move to Nazareth. The important word is that translated as "withdrew" in the WEB. Gundry notes that the author of Matthew would have used return if Nazareth was Joseph's original home and "withdrawing" implies leaving for a new location. Schweizer sees this as unambiguous proof that Matthew has Joseph originally from Bethlehem. Evangelicals, of course, reject this view. France states that the author of Matthew does not discuss Joseph's origin in Nazareth because of his "typical avoidance of unnecessary detail."