The story of Christ’s birth in Matthew contains 5 prophecies (between Matthew 1:18 and 2:23). It is easy to focus on the virgin conception as a stand-out miracle in the life of Christ (and it is), but it is also easy to overlook the miracle of multiple fulfilled prophecies surrounding the birth of Jesus.
Here are the fulfilled prophecies recorded by Matthew:
1. Isaiah 7:14
Matt. 1:22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” — which means, “God with us.”
2. Micah 5:2
Matt. 2:3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6 “‘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.’”
3. Hosea 11:1
Matt. 2:14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
4. Jeremiah 31:15
Matt. 2:16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18 “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
5. No Specific Old Testament Verse
Matt. 2:23 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.”
This 5th prophecy is unique in that it cannot be directly traced to a saying in the Old Testament. Therefore, Matthew could be referring to a general theme that was collectively understood among multiple prophets. And the saying could specifically mean that the Messiah would come from a “backwoods” kind of town (such as Nazareth, see John 1:46). In his commentary on Matthew, Craig Blomberg shows that scholars as early as Jerome (4th Cent.) believed this take on the prophecy (Blomberg, NAC: Matthew, p. 70).
Image: painting by Grigory Gagarin (1810-1893)