MATTHEW 2:23—Didn’t Matthew make a mistake by claiming a prophecy that is not found in the OT?
PROBLEM: Matthew claims that Jesus moved to Nazareth to live, in order “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matt. 2:23). However, no such prophecy is found in any OT prophet. Did Matthew make a mistake?
SOLUTION: Matthew did not say that any particular OT “prophet” (singular) stated this. He simply affirmed that the OT “prophets” (plural) predicted that Jesus would be called a Nazarene. So we should not expect to find any given verse, but simply a general truth found in many prophets to correspond to His Nazarene-like character. There are several suggestions as to how Jesus could have “fulfilled” (brought to completion) this truth.
Some point to the fact that Jesus fulfilled the righteous requirements of the OT Law (Matt. 5:17–18; Rom. 8:3–4), one part of which involved the holy commitment made in the vow of the “Nazarite.” The Nazarite took this vow “to separate himself to the Lord” (Num. 6:2), and Jesus perfectly fulfilled this. However, the word is different both in Hebrew and Greek, and Jesus never took this particular vow.
Others point to the fact that Nazareth comes from the basic word netzer (branch). And many prophets spoke of the Messiah as the “Branch” (cf. Isa. 11:1; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zech. 3:8; 6:12).
Still others note that the city of Nazareth, where Jesus lived, was a despised place “on the other side of the tracks.” This is evident in Nathaniel’s response, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46) In this sense, “Nazarene” was a term of scorn appropriate to the Messiah whom the prophets predicted would be “despised and rejected of men” (Isa. 53:3; cf. Ps. 22:6; Dan. 9:26; Zech. 12:10).
Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. (1992). When critics ask : A popular handbook on Bible difficulties (328). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.