Matthew makes use of ‘Dreams’ to confirm God’s will in various situations of doubt or to convey heaven-sent commands, usually tallying with his fulfillment quotes. There are 5 dreams in the Nativity account and one at the end of given to Pilate’s wife- “While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” Matthew 27:19
In the first example, Joseph Accepts Jesus as His Son(Matthew 1:18-23) Matthew begins by showing that Joseph is faithful to the Law though does not want Mary to suffer public disgrace. Only Matthew focuses upon the Joseph tradition for a theological reason: the Son of God still needed a human father because he was also truly human, exposed to threats that demanded parental care. In contrast to the other gospels, Joseph takes a very active role in Matthew’s account and helps flesh out the story of Jesus’s birth.
Based on Deut 22:21, Mary could have been stoned, but there are no records that the full extent of this law was completed in the first century. The more common option would be a public disgrace, by bringing her before the town council. But Joseph was a compassionate man who decided to send Mary away to have the child in safety and to divorce her quietly while that was happening. Betrothal was much more serious than being engaged is today, it was just like being married is today, except the couple lived apart for a year before the actual marriage occurred. Mary probably lived with her parents, (unless we take the Gnostic gospels and Quran into account, then her abode was with Zechariah and Elizabeth) Joseph in his own home until he went to claim her as his bride.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins.”( Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means the Lord saves.)
22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[g] (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:20-23
Again, that turn of phrase – “All this took place”-to introduce a fulfillment statement. This particular fulfillment statement is much fought over regarding the actual translation of the word (‘hā·‘al·māh’), young woman or virgin. Consensus has been reached that the young woman – must have been married and about to conceive their first child and therefore a virgin; her child was to be a sign to Ahaz. Isaiah 7:14
The real question is – was this a reference to Mary’s conception and therefore to Jesus or was another intended? Why would the birth of Jesus so many years into his (Ahaz’s) future be a sign to Ahaz?
My thoughts on the matter have always been that it is a sense or sign which has two references, in other words- Two prophecies, one to King Ahaz about the threat to his kingdom and one to the whole house of David about the birth of the Messiah. Craig Bluemel agrees, rather I knew I was correct from past learning but required a source witness. The first prophecy refers to Isaiah’s firstborn while the second to Joseph’s. Read Blumel. There are many who would muddy the waters for one reason or another, but their arguments are not pertinent here because we are delving into Dreams and dreamers in Matthew’s Gospel.
The first Joseph dreamt dreams resulting in his being sold into slavery, the second Joseph entered Egypt voluntarily.
2. The Escape to Egypt
13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
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.” (Hosea 11:1). 1 “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.’
3. Herod foiled.
Once again this is a Sense (Sign) with two References, the first to be called out of Egypt was Israel and the second the child Jesus. I wrote my thoughts on this event back in February 2021 in” Out of Egypt | Just me being curious
As I wrote in the first post Herod had all the children two years and under slaughtered, even though Jesus was four months old when the Magi came (and didn’t tell Herod all about it). This is supposed to fulfill a prophecy of Jeremiah…
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. Matthew 2:13-18 (Jeremiah 31:15)
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.” BUT 16 says
16 This is what the Lord says:
“Restrain your voice from weeping
and your eyes from tears,
for your work will be rewarded,”
declares the Lord.
“They will return from the land of the enemy.
Rachael’s children were Israel because her husband Jacob was called Israel by the angel of the Lord and by the Lord. Genesis 32:28 and 29 and also Genesis 35:9 and 10. Return they did at the hands of Moses.
Again, this seems to be another Sign with two references one to Rachael and the other as an offhand way to ratify Jesus’ return from Egypt as a first-born son.
Rachael’s work will be rewarded, which work since Rachael was already dead?
Exegesis From Genesis Rabbah
“Rachel Weeping for Her Children”
The Rabbis ask why Jacob buried Rachel “on the road to Ephrath,” and not in the Cave of Machpelah. They answer that Jacob saw with the spirit of divine inspiration that when the Israelites would set out to exile, they would pass through Bethlehem on the road to Ephrath, and so he buried Rachel there, so that she would pray for them. His prophecy was fulfilled, as Jer. 31:14–16 attests: “A cry is heard in Ramah—wailing, bitter weeping—Rachel weeping for her children, she refuses to be comforted for her children, who are gone. Thus said the Lord: Restrain your voice from weeping, your eyes from shedding tears; for there is a reward for your labor—declares the Lord: They shall return from the enemy’s land. And there is hope for your future—declares the Lord: Your children shall return to their country” (Gen. Rabbah 82:10).