Early Life of Jesus
(Mid-October 5 B.C. to 9 A.D.)

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Topics covered: Mary and Joseph hide in Egypt, Herod the Great dies, Mary and Joseph return to Israel and choose to go to Nazareth, Jesus at the temple at the age of twelve years old.

Primary scriptures: Matthew 2:13 - 23, Luke 2:40 - 52

Mid-October 5 B.C.

Living in Egypt

Mary and Joseph, along with baby Jesus, flee to Egypt to avoid the wrath of Herod the Great. They will stay in the country until the angel who told Joseph to flee revisits him.

Now after they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise and take the little Child and His mother, and escape into Egypt, and remain there until I shall tell you; for Herod is about to seek the little Child to destroy Him." (Matthew 2:13).

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Mid-February to
Spring 4 B.C.

Herod Dies

Herod the Great dies in 4 B.C. during the week of February 11 to 17. At the time of his death he ruled as king over the areas of Galilee, Samaria, Judea, Idumea, Auranitis and Batanea.

Herod's death is made public and his will, read in Jericho, names his son Herod Archelaus as his successor (Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus, 17.8.2). Archelaus begins to rule as king over all the lands his father controlled even though Emperor Augustus has yet to confirm this position (Antiq. 17.8.4, 17.9.3 and 17.9.5).

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Returning to Israel

At an unknown time after Herod's death an angel is again sent to Joseph. This time the angelic messenger tells him Herod has died and that he can return to the land of Israel.

Now when Herod had died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in Egypt in a dream, saying, "Arise and take the little Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who were seeking the life of the little Child have died." (Matthew 2:19 - 20).

Mary and Joseph, along with their baby Jesus, make the long journey back to Israel with plans to return and live in the Judean city of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:22).

A Fearful Discovery

Shortly after entering Israel, likely through the city of Beersheeba, Joseph discovers that Herod Archelaus now rules Judea. This discovery stops him and his family in their tracks as they wonder what to do next.

And he arose and took the little Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of Herod his father, he was afraid to go there . . . (Matthew 2:21 - 22, HBFV).

Why was Joseph afraid of living in Judea? It was almost certainly due to learning about Archelaus' brutal suppression of "seditious" Jews during the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread in Jerusalem (Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus, 17.9.3). The troops Archelaus sent to insure a peaceful and non-seditious keeping of the Feast (April 11 to 18) ended up killing 3,000 men!


The Lord, while Joseph pondered what to do next, contacted him again to inform him that he should live in Nazareth instead of Bethlehem.

. . . and after being divinely instructed in a dream, he (Joseph) went into the parts of Galilee. And after arriving, he dwelt in a city called Nazareth . . . (Matthew 2:22 - 23).

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Spring 9 A.D.

Jesus at Twelve

Three of the four Gospel writers are silent regarding Jesus' life from the age of about six months until he turns thirty. We have Luke to thank, however, for offering us a glimpse into his early life (Luke 2:40 - 52).

Jesus is twelve years old in 9 A.D. He travels with his parents, relatives and acquaintances to Jerusalem to celebrate the spring Holy Days. Mary and Joseph, after the Feast ends (April 5), leave the city assuming Jesus is among family also departing. They are soon shocked to discover that he is nowhere to be found.

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Where Is He?

Unbeknownst to his parents, Jesus did not leave Jerusalem (like the rest of his family) after keeping the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread (Luke 2:41 - 45). He stayed behind in the temple carefully listening to what the priests said and asking questions. He also offered profound answers that amazed and astonished all those who heard him (verse 27)!

Jesus' parents, after rushing back to Jerusalem, find him at the temple engrossed in theological discussions. Mary then chides her son for the panic he caused.

Son, why have You dealt with us in this manner? Look, Your father and I have been very distressed while searching for You (Luke 2:48).

Jesus responds to the correction by questioning his parents' behavior.

Why is it that you were looking for Me? Don't you realize that I must be about My Father's business? (Luke 2:49).

Revealing Facts

The events Luke records when Christ was twelve reveal several fascinating facts. They tell us Jesus fully understood, at a young age, that God (not Joseph) was his true Father. He also was aware, certainly as a basic level, why he was born and what was his mission. He knew the purpose of his life was to fulfill God's will for him.

This peek into Jesus' early life also highlights that Mary and Joseph, even after more than a decade, had yet to fully grasp their son's true identity or their part in God's plan of salvation. Luke 2 also shows Joseph lived to Christ's twelfth birthday but died sometime before the Lord turned thirty.

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Previous    -    Next

Timeline of Jesus' Life and Ministry
Conception and Birth of Jesus
Christ's Early Life
Baptism and Temptation
The First Miracle at Cana
Jesus Reveals He Is the Messiah
The Sermon on the Mount
Confronting Religious Leaders
Preaching, Parables and Miracles
Miraculously Feeding the Masses
The Transfiguration
Training the Disciples for Evangelism
A Final Visit to Capernaum
The Last Trips Before Crucifixion
Jesus' Last Days, Death, Resurrection
Christ's Ministry after His Resurrection