Which prophecy does Matthew 2:23 refer to?


By BibleAsk Team

Unlocking the Mystery of Matthew 2:23: Ancient Prophecy

In Matthew 2:23, a seemingly brief and enigmatic passage, the Gospel writer makes a profound declaration: “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene'” (NKJV). At first glance, this verse appears to lack a direct correlation with any specific prophecy mentioned in the Old Testament. However, upon closer examination, the significance of this proclamation begins to unfold, revealing layers of meaning and prophetic fulfillment deeply rooted in the Scriptures.

In order to fully comprehend the significance of Matthew 2:23, it is essential to explore the context in which this verse is situated. Matthew’s Gospel, written primarily for a Jewish audience, meticulously traces the lineage and life of Jesus Christ, presenting Him as the long-awaited Messiah foretold by the prophets of old. Throughout the narrative, Matthew frequently draws connections between Jesus’ life events and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, affirming His identity as the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan.

He Shall Be Called a Nazarene

The phrase “He shall be called a Nazarene” is not a direct quotation from any specific Old Testament prophecy, leading to some ambiguity and debate among scholars regarding its origin. Matthew is probably quoting a prophecy not found in the Old Testament but is found in another source. It is important to note that in other instances where Matthew quotes a precise prophecy, he writes of “the prophet. ” This is shown clearly in chapters 1:22; 2:5, 15, 17.

Therefore, Matthew’s use of the plural form of the word “prophets” in chapter 2:23 clearly implies reference. This is not to a specific prophetic statement, but to quite a few. These prophecies, if united, lead to the supposition that he was quoting inspired prophets whose writings were not included in the Canon.

These include the books of Nathan the prophet (1 Chronicles 29:29), the book of Jasher (Joshua 10:13, 2 Samuel 1:18), as well as Shemaiah and Iddo (2 Chronicles 12:15). Also, prophecies or visions referred in the Old Testament include those of Ahija and Iddo (2 Chronicles 9:29). In addition, the phrase “the prophets” was mentioned by Ezra in chapter 9:11. Therefore, his quotation must be from two options. Either it was taken from a non-canonical, but inspired, writer or a free quotation giving the accord of prophetic instruction on the subject.

Furthermore, the author of the book of Kings makes similar references to “the prophets” (2 Kings 17:23 also 21:10; 24:2). In these references, the purpose of writer is to represent the truth in question as one which was often mentioned by different prophets. This suggests that the fulfillment of Jesus being called a Nazarene may be found in the broader thematic scope of the Old Testament prophecies rather than in a single, isolated verse.

Nazareth and the Prophetic Narrative

The significance of Nazareth cannot be understated in understanding the fulfillment of prophecy in Matthew 2:23. Nazareth, a small and obscure town in Galilee, held little prominence or prestige in the eyes of the world. It was a place marred by skepticism and scorn, as evidenced by Nathanael’s incredulous question in John 1:46: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (NKJV). Yet, it was in this seemingly insignificant town that Jesus spent the greater part of His earthly life, growing in wisdom and stature before embarking on His public ministry.

To discern the prophetic significance of Jesus being called a Nazarene, it is necessary to examine the thematic parallels between His life and the prophetic narratives of the Old Testament. Throughout the Scriptures, numerous prophecies anticipate the humble and despised nature of the Messiah’s earthly ministry, foreshadowing His identification with the marginalized and outcast.

The Nazarite Vow

One plausible explanation for the prophetic reference to Jesus as a Nazarene lies in the symbolic connection between Nazareth and the Nazarite vow outlined in the book of Numbers (Numbers 6:1-21). The Nazarite vow was a consecrated pledge of separation and devotion to God, characterized by abstinence from wine, avoidance of defilement, and the growth of uncut hair as a sign of dedication. While Jesus did not explicitly fulfill the requirements of the Nazarite vow, His life exemplified the essence of separation and consecration to the Father’s will.

Nazareth and the Servant Songs of Isaiah

Another plausible interpretation of the prophetic reference to Nazareth is rooted in the Servant Songs of Isaiah, which depict the Messiah as a suffering servant who would be despised and rejected by men (Isaiah 53:3). The town of Nazareth, with its lowly reputation and lack of prestige, serves as a fitting backdrop for Jesus’ identification with the suffering servant motif. Just as Nazareth was scorned and disregarded, so too was Jesus despised and rejected by His own people.

Nazareth and the Branch Imagery

Furthermore, the term “Nazarene” bears phonetic resemblance to the Hebrew word “netzer,” meaning “branch.” This linguistic connection evokes imagery associated with the Branch of Jesse prophesied by the prophet Isaiah: “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isaiah 11:1 NKJV). The Branch of Jesse, a messianic title attributed to the lineage of David, signifies a promise of restoration and renewal for God’s people. In this context, Jesus being called a Nazarene embodies the prophetic anticipation of a righteous Branch who would bring salvation and healing to a broken world.

Nazareth and the Fulfillment of God’s Redemptive Plan

Ultimately, the prophetic reference to Jesus being called a Nazarene transcends linguistic nuances and historical correlations, pointing to the overarching theme of God’s redemptive plan for humanity. In His sovereignty and wisdom, God orchestrated the events of Jesus’ life, including His upbringing in the town of Nazareth, to fulfill the prophetic promises spoken by the prophets of old.

Significance for Believers Today

The fulfillment of prophecy in Matthew 2:23 holds profound significance for believers today, serving as a reminder of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling His promises. Just as Jesus embraced His identity as a Nazarene, despite its associations with scorn and rejection, so too are believers called to embrace their identity as followers of Christ, even in the face of opposition and adversity. The town of Nazareth, with its humble origins and unlikely significance, serves as a testament to God’s ability to work through the seemingly ordinary and insignificant to accomplish His extraordinary purposes.


In conclusion, Matthew 2:23 stands as a testament to the fulfillment of prophecy in the life of Jesus Christ. While the precise origin of the prophecy “He shall be called a Nazarene” remains a subject of debate among scholars, its fulfillment in Jesus’ identification with the town of Nazareth underscores the divine orchestration of His earthly ministry. Through His humble upbringing in Nazareth, Jesus embodied the essence of the suffering servant and the promise of restoration foretold by the prophets of old. As believers reflect on the significance of this prophetic fulfillment, may they be reminded of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling His promises and His ability to work through the seemingly insignificant to accomplish His redemptive purposes in the world.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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