Hosea 11:1 states, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” Is this verse a Messianic prophecy?
The context of this verse speaks of the relationship the Lord had with the nation of Israel. The Lord loved Israel (Exodus 4:22-23) and rescued the people from slavery under Pharaoh, bringing them into the Promised Land. The analogy is that of God as the father and Israel as the child.
Jewish readers would have clearly understood this important statement. God’s supernatural power served as the basis of the nation’s freedom from Egypt and escape to a new land. The parallelism in the verse is Israel/child/son and loved/called. In both clauses, “I” (God) is the One initiating the action.
Matthew 2:13-15 provides further insight: “Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’”
Matthew uses Hosea’s statement to show that the coming of the Messiah is an extension of the Lord’s love to His people. Matthew does not say that Hosea had Jesus in mind when Hosea 11:1 was originally written. Instead, Matthew says that the experience of Jesus matched what Hosea had written about Israel. Jesus was God’s Son, and He made a trip from Egypt to the land of Israel. Matthew was showing that Jesus completed what began with the exodus, connecting Jesus with the promise of Abraham and the leadership of Moses. The “calling” of God’s “son” (Israel) began in ages past and found its completion in the coming of Christ to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.
In summary, Hosea 11:1 is not a Messianic prophecy in the same way that prophecies such as Isaiah 9:6 are. Rather, it is a pictorial prophecy; that is, there are similarities in the Old Testament passage to a New Testament truth about Christ. This Old Testament “picture” of Christ is called a “type.” Matthew 2:15 can be seen as an analogy. Matthew is providing a connection between Jesus and God’s people of promise. As a Jew writing for primarily Jewish readers, Matthew found it important to point out many of the similarities between the nation of Israel and their Messiah, the One to fulfill the Prophets (Matthew 5:17).