To Egypt-- 


THOUGH Nazareth of Galilee was the home of Joseph and Mary, yet in obedience to the decree of the Roman emperor that every one should go to his native city to have his name enrolled, they went to Bethlehem; and here Jesus was born, according to the prophecy, made so many years before, that the Saviour of the world should be born in Bethlehem of Judea.

The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was then a very pleasant one; and it is easy to imagine the route that Joseph and Mary would take. In that country things are so little changed by the passing of years, that the very roads have, in most cases, remained the same as they were eighteen hundred years ago. By their way of traveling in those days, the journey must have occupied three or four days.  Passing down the little valley of Nazareth, they would cross the rich plain of Esdraelon, not then, as now, left untilled and almost unpeopled, but covered with cities and villages, full of life and activity. 

Leaving on the left the rounded heights of Mount Tabor and the villages of Nain and Endor, up among the hills, they would be likely to take the road directly south to Jezreel, which was situated on a gentle swell of the plain of Esdraelon. This had been a favorite residence of Ahab, king of Israel.

They would pass through a landscape varied by orchards, vineyards, gardens, and fields; for every available spot was cultivated, even to the very tops of the hills. The mountains of Gilboa, where Saul and Jonathan were slain, lay just east of Jezreel, as they went on; and then came Engannim (the modern Jeimi), with its remarkable fountain, on the edge of the hill-country of Samaria. Dothan, with its rich pastures, where Joseph, the son of Jacob, had found his brethren with their flocks so many ages before, would soon be seen on their right; and before long, their winding road, rising and falling among continuous hills, would bring them to Samaria itself, then just rebuilt by Herod the Great.  Sychar, in the valley of Shechem, would come next in their way, as they journeyed down this beautiful valley. Here would likely be a resting-place, perhaps by the well of their father Jacob, by which, in after years, Jesus sat and talked with the woman of Samaria, teaching to all mankind that grand lesson of human equality, and uttering those sublime words which can never grow old: "God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." 

From this place they would take the great road leading southward into Judea, by Shiloh, where Hannah came to pray before the Lord, when the tabernacle was there; and on past Gilgal, where her son sat to judge Israel. The road led on by Bethel, where, of old, Jacob had slept on his pillow of stone; and at last they would come to Jerusalem, the Holy City; and here we may imagine they would rest awhile, perhaps over night, before going on to the end of their journey. It was to Bethlehem that Joseph and Mary were coming, the town of Ruth and Boaz, and the early home of king David, from whom Joseph and Mary were descended. The village lay about six miles south of Jerusalem, a little to the east of the main road to Hebron.

As they approached the little town from Jerusalem, they would pass, during the last mile, that place sacred to Jewish memory, where the light of Jacob's life went out, when his loved Rachel died and was buried "in the way to Ephrath which is Bethlehem." It being a time when so many were coming home to Bethlehem, the inns were crowded so full that the weary travelers were obliged to put up with very humble accommodations. Just how long they staid in Bethlehem we do not know; but here Jesus passed the first two or three months of his earthly life, and here the wise men from the East visited him.

Finally, to escape the wrath of Herod, Joseph took the young child and his mother and fled into Egypt, where they were beyond the control of Herod; and there they remained until those that sought the young child's life were dead. Just how long this was, no one knows certainly. 

There are different opinions in regard to the length of time they remained in Egypt; but it is generally supposed to have been somewhere about six months perhaps longer. The kindness of Alexander the Great and the Ptolemies to the Jews had caused great numbers of them to settle in Egypt, so Joseph and Mary would be likely to find there those of their own nation, who would gladly welcome them. 

But Egypt was not the place where the child Jesus was to grow up, so when they heard that Herod was dead, Joseph and Mary returned to Nazareth. But fearing the cruel Archelaus, the son of Herod, they did not pass through Judea, but "turned aside" and went into Galilee, probably journeying along the coast, through the level country of the Philistines and across the fertile plain of Sharon. 

Here they would be stopped by the Carmel range; but near Megiddo was a pass through the mountains, the same which the good king Josiah had, at the cost of his own life, so bravely defended against Pharaohnecho, king of Egypt, who was passing through the country on his way to fight against the king of Assyria. Through this defile the travelers might pass, and go on, without farther hindrance, to their own city, Nazareth. 

E. B.