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Do you like puzzles? In Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus, we find a puzzle. Matthew tells us Joseph stayed in Egypt until Herod died. Matthew 2:22-23 says, ‘But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”’ (NIV)
So what’s the puzzle? Nowhere in the Old Testament does the word Nazarene occur. Who is the prophet mentioned?
We can understand it this way. Sometimes a word refers to a place of origin and sometimes it refers to a characteristic. Take the word hoosier. In the Midwest, this word is used of someone who comes from the state of Indiana. But the word can also refer to an awkward, unsophisticated person, whether he or she comes from Indiana or not. This usage often shows disdain.
The word Nazarene may have had a similar usage. People from Nazareth were despised, as John 1:46 demonstrates. Isaiah 53:3 says this about the Messiah, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (NIV)
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Bumper music “Landing Place” performed by Mark July, used under license from Shutterstock.