Q: Matt. 2:23 Says: “and he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled. “He shall be called a Nazarene.” I can find no such prophecy, why would Matthew make this Up?
A: Jesus was commonly referred to as ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. Every time a person who spoke first century Aramaic or Hebrew heard that appellation, it sounded like a fulfillment of Isaiah 11:1–‘Jesus of the Branch’. The Hebrew word for ‘Branch’ in Is. 11:1 is ‘netzer’ or ‘natsar’.
Some scholars believe that the name of the town–‘Nazaret’, came from this same Hebrew root–this we cannot confirm–but nevertheless, any Jew of the first century would hear ‘Branch’ when the name was spoken. Also, what better fulfillment of Isaiah 53:2-3, than to come from ‘Nazaret’–the whole town was “as a root out of dry ground”–and the whole village was “despised and rejected by men”–just as the Messiah would be. What better appellation for Jesus to carry. As Nathaniel said–“what good can come out of Nazaret?”
Jer. 23:5, 33:15, & Zech. 3:8–also refer to the coming Messiah as ‘The Branch’ using different root words. Matthew was the gospel written to/and for the Jews–Jesus spoke and taught in Aramaic–the first century language of Judea. Matt. 2:23 would have been well understood by that audience. The whole point would be missed by a Greek or Roman reader, as it is by us today who read it in English. Therefore, Matt. 2:23 does indeed fulfill several prophecies after all.
Note: The first commentary references to Matt. 2:23 were made by Tertullian and Jerome, (early Church Fathers) who put forth the idea that Matthew was referring to Jesus as a ‘Nazarite’. Many commentaries still follow this line of thinking. This sounds possible in Greek–but when you look at the ‘Nazarite’ rules–Jesus was anything but. While a ‘Nazarite’ was consecrated to God’s service (as Jesus was), a Nazarite was to refrain from wine and grapes, never touch the dead, and watch what they ate. John the Baptist was a Nazarite and Jesus was conversely compared to him–as one who was ‘a glutton and wine bibber’–Jesus also touched a few dead and a few lepers in the course of his ministry. However, it is the lack of prophecies which rings the death knell for the ‘Nazarite’ possibility.