The Catholic Defender: The Presentation 4th Joyful Mystery of the Rosary
February 2, 1 B.C. “When the days were completed for their purification (40 days) according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.” Luke 2:22-24
During this time, we forget that King Herod was still awaiting word to come back from the Wise Men who followed the star leading them to the new born King. Perhaps that is how the Holy Family was able to travel to Jerusalem in stealth mode.
The Wise men and their caravan stayed and camped around the area of Bethlehem until after the Presentation of the Lord. We know from reading Matthew 2:12, the wise men receive a message in a dream to go another route and to not see King Herod. For timing sake, I am simply adding February 2 here which marks the 40 days after the birth of Christ and his Presentation at the Temple. By this time, certainly King Herod would be waiting for the wise men to report back to him with much anxiousness.
Leviticus 12:1-2 states, "Tell the Israelites: When a woman has a child, giving birth to a boy, she shall be unclean* for seven days, with the same uncleanness as during her menstrual period. On the eighth day, the flesh of the boy’s foreskin shall be circumcised, and then she shall spend thirty-three days more in a state of blood purity; she shall not touch anything sacred nor enter the sanctuary till the days of her purification are fulfilled." On both counts the Virgin Mary followed the precepts of the law.
Luke 2:21 states, "When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb."
While in the Temple, a couple of things took place that is significant. Luke 2:25-38 tells the story:
"Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem." Luke 2:22-38
Mary's soul would be pierced by a sword, a forward about Jesus as a sign of contradiction. The Holy Spirit shown a righteous man, Simeon that he would be graced to see the Messiah and Jesus was recognized by Anna. Knowing all this, I would be thinking if I had been Joseph, we need to get out of here. Herod's Soldiers did not recognize Jesus like Simeon and Anna. That is a good thing. God was in protection mode and He certainly was depending on Joseph.
Because I am using February 2, 1 B.C. as when the wise men and the Holy Family depart from Bethlehem it only stands to reason that it was here that King Herod’s Soldiers begin the massacres the holy infants. Matthew 2:16-18
April 6 (3760 ‘Hebrew Year’, Gregorian year 1 B.C.) marks Passover for the Jews. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, by this time, King Herod was dead. The Holy Family remained in Egypt until the threat was over.
The Jewish historian Josephus
In the past, it was believed that Herod had died in 4 B.C. because there was a partial eclipse before the Passover celebration. However, this narrative does not fit the rest of the the story. The Star of Bethlehem for example, scientifically is shown to have arrived on December 25, 2 B.C. With the most recent data coming from science, it is more likely that Josephus was identifying Herod’s death taking place in 1 B.C. as his death would have fallen between the (full) Lunar eclipse (Jan 10) and the Passover (April 6).
Consider Josephus states that King Herod died 34 years after the conquest of Jerusalem in 35 B.C. Also Josephus states that Herod died between a Lunar eclipse and Passover. In 1 B.C. there are 89 days between the eclipse and Passover which is significant. In 4 B.C. there were only 29 days between the events.
The angel warns St. Joseph to take the Holy Family to safety where they go to Egypt: "When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,* and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Matthew 2:13-15
Luke 2:39-40 states, "When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him." St. Matthew has the Holy Family heading to Egypt while St. Luke has the Holy Family going to Nazareth?
It's probable that the Holy Family did indeed first escaped to Nazareth 97 miles north of Bethlehem and from there quite possibly traveled to Caesarea about 40 miles west towards the Mediterranean Sea. From there, traveled south along the Sea escaping Herod's Soldiers traveling more than 500 miles into Egypt. They probably used the gold the wise men gave for the journey.