" . . . and being warned by God in a dream, he [Joseph] departed for the regions of Galilee, and came and resided in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, 'He shall be called a Nazarene,'" (Matt. 2:22,23).
The question is, "Where is Nazareth spoken of in the Old Testament that states that Jesus would be called a Nazarene?"
There is no direct Old Testament citation that prophesies the Messiah would be called a Nazarene. In fact, Nazareth (approx 1,800 people at the time of Christ) is not mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament or in the apocrypha. But, we have two possible explanations:
First, Matthew does not say 'prophet,' singular. He says 'prophets,' plural. It could be that Matthew was referring to several Old Testament references to the despised character of Jesus (i.e., Psalm 22:6, 13, 69:10, Isaiah 49:7, 53:3, Micah 5:1). Nazareth held the Roman garrison for the northern areas of Galilee.1 Therefore, the Jews would have little to do with this place and largely despised it. Perhaps this is why it says in John 1:46, "And Nathanael said to him, 'Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?' Philip said to him, 'Come and see.'" So, it could be a reference not to an actual location, but the maligned character of the Messiah even as Nazareth was maligned for housing the Roman garrison, and Matthew was using it in reference to the implied hatred of Christ.
Second, there could be a play on words that Matthew was referring to. In Isaiah 11:1 it says, "Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit." In Hebrew, the word for "branch" is netzer, "NZR" which letters are included in NaZaReth. It seems that Matthew was referring to the branch, the Nazarene, in turn a reference to God's raising up of the Messiah. Clearly, Matthew was not exegeting Isaiah, but it seems he was referring to the Branch.2
More on Nazareth housing a Roman Garrison. This information is taken from the article found at : "is this where Jesus Bates?" "A shopkeeper running a small souvenir business in Nazareth has made a sensational discovery that could dramatically rewrite the history of Christianity. Jonathan Cook reports, dated October 21, 2003. (Also, http://www.uhl.ac/NazarethVillage/nazareth.html)
- " . . . archaeologists and biblical scholars have been poring over a network of tunnels Shama unearthed under his [Elias Shama's store in Nazareth] shop several years ago.
- "The American excavators are convinced that what Shama has exposed is an almost perfectly preserved Roman bathhouse from 2,000 years ago--the time of Christ, and in the town where he was raised."
- "The giant bath could only have been built for a Roman city or to service a significant garrison town"
- "Either way, we know that under the shop lies a huge new piece of evidence in understanding the life and times of Jesus."
- "Freund, of the Maurice Greenberg Centre for Judaic Studies at Hartford University in Connecticut, says the discovery means that historians will have to rethink the place and significance of Nazareth in the Roman empire and consequently the formative experiences of Jesus. It has been assumed that the Nazareth of 2,000 years ago was a poor Jewish village on the periphery of the empire, where local families inhabited caves on the hillside that today contains the modern Israeli-Arab city. On this view, the young Jesus would have had little contact with the Romans until he left Nazareth as an adult; his father, Joseph, one of many craftsmen in the town, may have worked on a Roman palace at nearby Sephori.
- But the huge scale of Shama's bathhouse suggests that Nazareth, rather than Sephori, was the local hub of military control from Rome. The giant bath could only have been built for a Roman city or to service a significant garrison town."