Bethlehem to Egypt to Nazareth
December 17, 2009
[ Mrs. Rita and Mr. Paul taught this on Saturday Dec 19, 2009 at 10:00 am. We had 8 kids. Mrs. Alma joined us halfway through the lesson. Our next meeting is Saturday, January 9, 2010 at 10:00 am.]—Story of the birth of Jesus for children; lesson 3 of 3.—
Primary scripture: Matthew 2
[Text in square brackets is not intended for the children, but provides additional references or information that may or may not assist in the lesson.]
- name cards
- prayer — recite our Lord’s sample prayer together
- songs and verses (see “Songs” section below)
- teach the story/lesson
- break for snacks, etc. (shoes off)
- review activity
- give the Christmas gifts to the kids
Use this poster-board map with chess pieces while telling the story. During review, the kids can work to remember the various travels. We will use the black king for Herod, the black bishop for his son Archelaus, the white knight for the magi, and the white pawn for baby Jesus. The map isn’t large enough to use three separate pieces for Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. Key locations on the map: Nazareth (in Galilee– gold area), Jerusalem & Bethlehem (in Judea– green area), Egypt, and “the east” [off the map]. Click the image below to see full size.
If you would like to make a similar map, it is quite easy. Use Google Earth to find the area. There is a Bible cities add-on, so that you can toggle Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Nazareth. Turn on the grid, and print the map. The ratio of grid height to width was about 2.5 : 2 for me. Use pencil to draw grid lines on the poster board; now it is simple to draw the lines to proper scale and proportion.
Review / Introduction
Baby Jesus was born in an animal shelter in Bethlehem. After that, His parents Joseph and Mary took Him to Jerusalem for some time. Then they returned to Bethlehem and that is where the wise men [magi] from the East visited them. The magi worshiped baby Jesus, and presented expensive gifts of gold, incense, and spice.
[There is reason to speculate that the wise men came from Persia. Some legends (e.g., see references in Die Heiligen drei Könige in Literatur und Kunst by Hugo Kehrer, 1908) say that the mage who presented frankincense was named Caspar, which is the Persian origin of the name of our Jasper.]
Something else was going on in Jerusalem around the same time. Remember we mentioned Herod the Great, who had been appointed by Rome as king over Israel? We will talk about him later, but for now we have some review questions about the wise men who visited from the East. We will talk about these questions together.
- When the wise men were still in their country in the East, before they even began traveling, what did they see? [The rising of a star.]
- Who is in control of the stars? [Isaiah 40:26: “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” Psalm 147:4: “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.”]
- The magi knew what the star meant. What did it mean? [It proclaimed and represented the birth of “the King of the Jews.”]
- When the wise men arrived in Jerusalem, what were they asking the people there? [“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?”]
- Why did they want to see the newborn king of the Jews? [They wanted to worship Him and offer their gifts.]
- What did the star do once the wise men were in Jerusalem? [It went ahead of them, leading them to Bethlehem, the city of David, until it stopped above the house where Jesus was.]
- Was our God in heaven [Father Yahweh] jealous when the wise men got down on the ground, bowing and worshiping baby Jesus?
- Who do you say that Jesus is? [Peter answered this question correctly as recorded in Matthew 16:16: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Luke records Peter’s answer as, “the Christ of God,” and Mark writes, “You are the Christ.” This is a good time to discuss with the children that Peter was confessing that Jesus was exactly who the prophets had spoken of: recall Micah’s prophecy of a ruler and shepherd coming out of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), and Isaiah’s prophecy of a son born to a virgin who will be named Immanuel, ‘God is with us’ (Isaiah 7:14). Moses told Israel before they entered the promised land (see Deuteronomy) that a prophet like him was coming, and this prophet would speak the very words of God, and that people must listen and obey Him. Peter asserted that Jesus was this great One of whom all scripture spoke of and foreshadowed. “David’s throne will remain secure before the LORD forever.” (1 Kings 2:45)]
- What gifts did the wise men present for young Jesus? [Gold (commonly given to royalty), frankincense (incense burned for scent and offered to God), and myrrh (an expensive spice that was used to anoint a body for burial). These gifts clearly shadow things about our Lord’s life, death, deity, and kingship.]
Bethlehem to Egypt
The king over Israel a half-Jew named Herod the Great who lived in Jerusalem. [He had rebuilt the temple there.] When the wise men came into Jerusalem asking people, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?,” Herod was troubled and afraid.
Herod was not a descendant of king David. Also, he had been appointed by Rome. For these reasons, the Jews probably did not like having him as their king.
Herod was not the only one troubled about the news of this newborn king. The Bible says that all of the people in Jerusalem were troubled. This was very big news. Those who understood the Bible would be thinking about the words of the prophets. The Bible says that people were waiting for the coming Christ. [Luke 3:15]
Perhaps some people in Jerusalem were happy to hear the news; but most of the people, whether they understood the prophets or not, were upset when they heard this talk about a newborn king of the Jews.
Herod called the ruling priests and religious teachers to come and have a meeting with him. He knew that they read the Bible, so they would know the prophecies about the coming King, who is Christ.
He asked them where the Christ was to be born. He wanted to know, because he wanted to kill this newborn child before He might become ‘king.’
They had certainly read the Bible, because they gave Herod the right answer. They told him that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem. They read to him the very words of prophet Micah which we have studied: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.”
Herod secretly called for the wise men from the East [plural ‘magi’– can mean magicians, astrologers, or wise men] to meet with him. He wanted to know exactly what time they had seen the star appear. He could use this date to figure out how old the Christ child was.
Since the religious leaders told Herod that Christ would be born in Bethlehem, he told the magi to go to Bethlehem and look very carefully for this Christ child. He lied to the wise men and told them that he wanted to worship Christ. He was really just using them to find out where the baby was, so that he could kill the baby.
The wise men went to Bethlehem, as king Herod had ordered, and the star went before them, stopping over the house where Jesus was.
Here, they worshiped Jesus and presented the gifts, as we talked about last week.
But before they left Bethlehem, the magi had a dream warning them to not return to the evil king Herod. They chose a different route back to their country in the East, avoiding Herod in Jerusalem.
God would not allow king Herod to hurt baby Jesus. God decides what is going to happen, and nobody can block Him.
God also sent an angel to Joseph in a dream. The angel said to Joseph, “Get up. 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.”
Herod could not hide his plans from God. Now he could not even hide them from Joseph and Mary, the human parents who were looking after baby Jesus.
Joseph obeyed the angel of God. He got up in the night and took his wife Mary and their son Jesus to the country Egypt. [Show on map.] It has often been pointed out that Joseph and Mary would not have enough money to travel all the way to Egypt if it weren’t for the expensive gifts from the magi.
There were groups of Jews living in Egypt at the time. [Some colonies had formed during the time of exile in Babylon. See, for example, Jeremiah 43:7 where some Jews fled to Egypt against God’s command.]
Mary, Joseph, and Jesus would stay in Egypt until Herod the Great died about a year later.
Here we see that another prophecy had come true. More than 700 years earlier, a prophet named Hosea had written that God’s son would come out of Egypt. [Hosea 11:1]
Tragedy in Bethlehem
Herod knew that he had been tricked by the wise men. He was furious. God had blocked Herod’s lie by telling the wise men to stay away from Herod.
Without knowing exactly who Jesus was or exactly where He lived, and burning in rage, Herod exploded with a king-sized temper tantrum, and killed all of the boys in Bethlehem who were aged two and under. He even killed all the baby boys living in the nearby land around Bethlehem.
The prophets knew that this horrible thing was going to happen in Bethlehem. A prophet named Jeremiah had written [Jeremiah 31:15] about a time of great weeping and loud crying in Israel that was a shadow of this sad time in Bethlehem. Jeremiah said that there was no comfort for a woman weeping for her children, because her children were dead.
Herod the Great is remembered as a ruthless man with many enemies. History records that he even killed his wife and several of his own children. A Roman emperor is reported as saying that it was more safe to be Herod’s pig than to be his son.
Egypt to Nazareth
Herod the Great died a few months after he killed the baby boys in Bethlehem. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were still in Egypt.
Joseph could not read the news on cnn.com. They did not have telephones either. But God sent an angel to tell Joseph the news, as well as a commandment, in another dream.
The angel said to Joseph, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” [Just as the nation Israel had been led out of Egypt, so was our Master brought back out of Egypt.]
Once again, Joseph obeyed the angel of God and took his family back to the land of Israel.
However, there was still danger. Joseph heard that Herod’s son, named Archelaus [four syllables: are – keh – LAY’ – us], was now ruling over the area around Bethlehem. This made Joseph afraid, because Joseph knew how evil Archelaus’ father had been.
Joseph’s fear was wise: Archelaus is remembered in history as a violent murderer, just like his father Herod.
God did not leave Joseph in fear and confusion. Joseph had another dream and was warned to go into the region of Galilee instead of the region around Bethlehem.
So, Joseph took Mary and Jesus into the Galilee area, and they lived in the town of Nazareth. Do you remember when we first talked about Nazareth? Who used to live in Nazareth?
Amazingly, a former prophet had also told the Jewish people that Jesus would be raised in Nazareth. [We do not know which prophet spoke this; the Old Testament does not record it. Some scholars believe the prophecy is in Isaiah 11:1, because the Hebrew word for “branch” is similar to the word for “Nazarene.”]
As God had planned and as the prophets had spoken, the Savior of Israel, Jesus Christ our king, was born in Bethlehem, the town of David. He spent His childhood in Nazareth, and “grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him” [Luke 2:40]. His ministry did not begin until He was thirty years old. By that time, He knew three languages and had read the Bible and prayed a lot.
- Instead of questions, we will do the chess piece activity (see below) as review.
- Did Jesus come to this earth to become a mighty king over Israel, sitting on a throne in a palace like Herod the Great, or like king David? What kind of kingdom does He have? In the gospel written by apostle John (18:36), Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” David sitting as king on the throne was just another shadow of Jesus, the much greater king to come! The people in Jerusalem waiting for the Christ might have been expecting an earthly king that would rule over Israel like David did. Israel was God’s chosen people; this is a shadow of the people who God has chosen today. Even as David was king over Israel, so is Jesus Christ king over the bodies, minds, and lives of God’s chosen people. His kingdom, His throne, and His armies cannot be scratched by metal swords or nuclear bombs. It is a far greater kingdom, and nothing can resist it. The things that God has promised are for real, and they all continue to come true. God is not nervous that His plans might fail. He speaks, and it happens.
- “Silent Night” is a popular song that is well engraved in the secular world– everyone knows it– yet it is still scripturally accurate and does not blather on about Santa Claus or toys.
- Hymn 17.
- A map that has Egypt, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Nazareth; chess pieces representing Joseph/Mary/Jesus, the wise men, Herod, and Archelaus. We can talk through the general storyline (focusing on the travels), and let the kids move the pieces. Begin with Joseph/Mary at Nazareth, the wise men off the map to the east, and Herod in Jerusalem. The moves are: Joseph/Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem (Jesus joins His parents here); Joseph/Mary/Jesus from Bethlehem to Jerusalem; Joseph/Mary/Jesus from Jerusalem to Bethlehem; wise men from east (off map) to Jerusalem; wise men to Bethlehem; Joseph/Mary/Jesus to Egypt; wise men back to the east, avoiding Jerusalem; Herod to Bethlehem; Herod to Jerusalem; Herod removed (dead) and place Archelaus in the Judea region; Joseph/Mary/Jesus approaching Judea; and finally, Joseph/Mary/Jesus to Nazareth in Galilee.
- We could play the journey game again, but this time with the wise men traveling to Israel, or Joseph and his family traveling to Egypt, or back to Israel.
- coloring page (click for full size and to see credited link):
- a map that shows both Israel and Egypt
- two illustrations of Herod the Great from the C.E.F. flashcard book
- our wall map of Israel
- Genevan Psalms
- words for “Silent Night”