Immediately after the Wise Men left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in his sleep and said, "Arise, take the child and his mother and flee into Egypt and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child to destroy him. And Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt." Evidently they got out of bed and fled that very night, with no time to spare. It may be that the Magi left them a camel from their entourage upon which to travel, but traditionally and far more likely they used their own donkey as was customary for such travel, to carry provisions and in this case, the child.
Their haste was justified, for some thirty or forty male infants who had been called the Holy Innocents, were the first to shed blood for Jesus -- who would in turn, later shed his blood for the whole world. Many died for the One who would himself die for many.
There is an apocryphal addition to this story, whether or not true it was not mentioned in the Bible. This stated that their cousin Elizabeth also heard that the children were ordered to be killed and though they did not dwell in Bethlehem, fearing for her son John, they took him and went up into the mountains and looked around for a place to hide him, but there was no secret place to be found and she groaned within herself saying, "O mountain of the Lord, receive the mother with the child," for she could not climb up. And instantly the mountain was divided and received them and there appeared to them an angel of the Lord to preserve them.
But Herod was making search for John and sent servants to Zacharias who was ministering at the altar and said unto him, "Where have you hid your son?" Zacharias replied that he knew not where his son was, which made Herod angry and he sent his servants to Zacharias saying, "Tell us where your son is for you know your life is in my hands." Zacharias proclaimed his innocence; but he was murdered in the entrance of the temple and the altar, about the partition. This was mentioned by Jesus in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew as he reprimanded the scribes and the Pharisees in verse 35, "That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zacharias, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the alter." After this the voice from heaven said, "Zacharias is murdered and his blood shall not be wiped away until the revenger of his blood comes." And the Priests all went in and saw and heard; then the roofs of the temple howled and were rent from the top to the bottom. They could not find the body but only the blood which had been made hard like stone and all the tribes of Israel mourned and lamented him for tee days.
However, it is probable that Jesus referred to an earlier prophet by the name of Zacharias, as there were two such names mentioned in scriptures during the few centuries approaching his birth. There are several spellings for the same name. It may begin with "ze" or "za," and end with "ah" or "as."
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In the life of every Initiate upon the spiritual Way comes a time of trial or darkness which is symbolically likened to Egypt, a name which means "hidden" or place of "depression." The journey to Egypt was some 200 or 300 miles over difficult terrain, though it was a route well-traveled by camel caravan and not an unusual trip to take. We know the Lord was with them all the way, and they probably wanted for nothing. For not only had Joseph the carpenter's skill, and Mary her way with cloth, but there were those along the way who could do no less than lend a helping hand as the Presence of the Lord came nigh unto them.
While our traditional Bible records no details of the flight to Egypt, we will turn to James the Lesser, used by some of the early churches, for a condensed account of some of their adven- tures which sound like something from the tales of Scheherezade
For example, they drew near a certain city in which stood a great idol, the idol fell down, and this was a matter which brought fear to all the inhabitants of Egypt. And this was intended to foreshow the fall of paganism which would attend the coming of Christianity to the world.
There was a priest whose son was only three years old, but possessed with a multitude of devils. The boy found Joseph and Mary at the inn, after he had been forsaken and left behind by all the others who had fled at the catastrophe.
Mary had just finished washing the swaddling clothes of the baby Jesus and hung them out to dry upon a post, and the boy who was possessed with the devils, took down one of the cloths and put it upon his head. Presently the devils all left him, and from that time, the boy was healed by the power of the Lord Christ and he began to sing praises and give thanks to the Lord, who had healed him.
Mary and Joseph feared for their safety at the hands of the people, when it was found that the idol had been destroyed, lest the populace behave as Herod had in Bethlehem, by slaying the infants on their account. So they quickly left the city before any evil could befall, and went to a place where robbers had bound certain prisoners, after having taken their goods. Mary and Joseph loosened their bonds and were asked, "Where is that king, the noise of whose approach the robbers heard, and left us so that we are now come off safe?" Joseph answered, "He will come after us."
They then went into another city, and here two people were healed by picking up the child Jesus and holding him in their arms. One of them brought perfumed water to wash the Lord Jesus and when she had washed him she saved the water and poured it upon a young girl who was white with leprosy. Instantly the girl was cleansed and made whole. The people were amazed at these miracles, and Mary and Joseph felt it best to leave once more. But as they were making ready to go away, the girl, who had been healed of leprosy desired to come along with them. So they consented and she stayed with them until they came to the palace of the great king in another city, where they stayed in an inn nearby.
One day the young girl went to a place where she found the prince's wife in a sorrowful and mournful condition, and asked the reason for her tears. The prince's wife replied that she had been married to the prince and had lived long with him before they had a child, and at length when she conceived and brought forth a son, the boy was leprous, and when her husband saw this, he disowned both of them, and she lamented her sorrowful lot, for the loss of both her husband and her son. The girl replied to her that she had found a remedy and told of her own story. Then the girl took her to Jesus and Mary and she also carried perfumed water to wash the Lord Jesus, and afterwards poured the same water upon her son and her son was instantly cleansed from his leprosy. Then she sang thanks and praises unto God.
In the next town they again performed a healing and restored a young man, who then married the girl who had been traveling with Mary and Joseph. Later they encountered more robbers, and when two of these refused to take advantage of them the Lord Jesus spoke up and said to his mother, "When thirty years are expired, O Mother, the Jews will crucify me at Jerusalem, and these two thieves shall be with me at the same time upon the cross, Titus on my right hand, and Democritus on my left; and from that time Titus shall go before me into paradise," for Titus had shown him special kindness. Mary said, "God forbid that this should be thy lot, O son."
They went thence into a city where there were several idols. But as they approached them these idols turned into hills of sand, and as they paused before a sycamore tree the Lord Jesus caused a well to spring forth in which Mary washed his coat. Then from there they proceeded to Memphis where they saw the Pharaoh and abode for three years in Egypt.
Mary performed further healings by permitting those in need to touch her son or to bathe in the water in which he had bathed. Or she would place a child in his bed and cover him with Jesus' clothes, and he would become well even though he might be at a point of death. And the Lord Jesus did many miracles in Egypt which are neither to be found in the gospel of the Infancy nor in the gospel of Perfection.
At the end of three years he returned with his parents out of Egypt, and when they came near to Judea, Joseph was afraid to enter upon learning that the son of Herod was now reigning. And the angel of God appeared to him and said, "O Joseph, go into the city of Nazareth and abide there."