Alice C. Linsley
“Out of Egypt have I called my Son.” Hosea 11:1
The Rabbis insist that this verse pertains to the Jews who came out of Egypt under Moses’ leadership. In their view the people called "Israel" is clearly meant as is evident from the previous line: "When Israel was a child I loved him." Here we find the parallelism typical of Hebrew poetry: Israel as a child and Israel as a "son."
Jesus' earliest disciples believed that Hosea 11:1 pertains to Jesus, who they believed to be “the Son of God” (John 3:16; Mat. 2:15). He was taken by Joseph to Egypt to escape Herod's attempt to kill the infant in Bethlehem who the sages from the East had come to worship. The Evangelist John makes numerous connections between the Horus myth and Jesus (John 3:14,15; John 12:24). Doubtless the Evangelist had in mind the story of Horus being visited by ruler-priests bearing gifts.
So we have two very different understandings of Hosea 11:1. The Jewish interpretation insists that the "son" is Israel while the Christian interpretation sees Jesus as the fulfillment of Messianic expectation going back to Abraham's Horite ancestors. Let's explore which of these arguments is the more persuasive.
Biblical precedent for calling Israel God's "son"
Israel is called God’s “son” only in Hosea 11:1. Elsewhere in the Old Testament Israel is called a flock, a nation of priests, a stiff-necked people, and a harlot. To understand the Hosea reference we must consider it in the context of the entire book. The theme of the book is the prophet’s condemnation of false worship which is likened to harlotry. Israel is said to be God’s son who has turned away from his Father. Here Israel is portrayed as God’s loved son, his beloved (ruhamah, cf Hosea 1:6-8) who God declares He will no longer love (Hosea 9:15).
The rabbis are right that Hosea 11:1 speaks of God’s love for Israel and Israel’s failure to reciprocate that love. That is the very theme of the book of Hosea.
Precedent for viewing Jesus as God's Son
Why then would Jesus’ disciples, especially John and Matthew, believe that Hosea 11:1 pertains to Jesus? They apparently concluded that Jesus fulfilled the expectation that “the Woman” would bring forth “the Seed” who would make the curse void, crush the head of the serpent, and restore Paradise (Gen. 3:15). This was the central expectation of the Horite religion of Abraham and his ancestors. John and Matthew clearly knew this and placing Hosea 11:1 alongside this belief, they concluded that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Edenic Promise.
Why would they believe this?
The most obvious answer is that Jesus told them. This is certainly the case in His preparation of his Disciples for his passion. He told them, “Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. In all truth I tell you, unless a wheat grain falls into the earth and dies, it remains only a single grain, but if it dies it yields a rich harvest.” (John 12:23, 24)
This is a direct allusion to the Nilotic myth concerning Osirus, who is said to “be one” with his son Horus. Abraham’s Horite people were devotees of Horus. They were ethnically Kushite and the oldest known centers of Horus worship have been found in ancient Kush (Sudan and the Upper Nile Valley).
The Kushites and Egyptians observed the death of Horus (Osirus) in a 5-day festival. The first 3 days were marked by solemnity (as Plutarch noted in Isis and Osiris, 69). The last 2 days were a time of feasting and rejoicing. Horus is said to have died on the 17th of Athyr. His death was commemorated by the planting of grain. On the third day, the 19th of Athyr, there was a celebration of Horus’ rising to life. It is no coincidence that Jesus alludes to the ancient Horite myth when describing his passion and resurrection. He is a direct descendant of the Horite ruler-priests lines which exclusively intermarried and he was born in Bethlehem of Judah, in the ruler-priest line of Matthew (Mattai/Mattan). This was the line of Joseph of Hari-mathea, a voting member of the Sanhedrin. He and Nicodemus, another member of the Sanhedrin, buried Jesus’ body. They knew from first-hand experience that Jesus was dead and at great personal cost, they believed that He rose from the grave and gave testimony to the Resurrection of the Son of God.
Related reading: The Bosom of Abraham; Who Were the Horites?; The Christ in Nilotic Mythology