After a genealogy emphasizing Jesus as the seed of Abraham and David, the book of Matthew begins with a narrative of the Lord’s birth; from there on Matthew frequently shows that Jesus is the realization of the hopes and promises made to Israel by repeated use of the phrase “that it might be fulfilled” beginning at 1:22. The twelve occurrences of the Greek word translated “fulfilled” in Matthew (1:22; 2:15, 17, 23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17;13:35; 21:4; 26:54, 56; 27:9) show that while Matthew’s concept of fulfillment includes the direct fulfillment of predictive prophecy, his definition is broader than that. Matthew’s use of the word is not always merely a direct fulfillment of a particular prophecy, but, more generally, may indicate the designed end of God’s purpose. Jesus uses the word “fulfill” in 3:15 and 5:17 not to indicate direct fulfillment of prophecy, but more the idea that He is the true purpose or goal of the Old Testament.
Jesus showed the ultimate fulfillment of the servant role God had for all of Israel in His gentleness as Isaiah 42:1-4 is quoted in Matthew 12:17-21. Isaiah 9:1-2 refers to the region of Zebulun and Naphtali being freed from Assyrian exile, but is reapplied in Matthew 4:14 to the light and spiritual freedom that the ministry of Jesus brought there. The suffering servant of Isaiah 53:4 pointed ultimately to healing spiritual sickness in the cross, but Matthew 8:17 quotes it to show that Jesus also healed physical sicknesses.
Moreover, typology significantly broadens the fulfillment concept. One of the first examples of this in Matthew is the significance of the flight into Egypt by Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus (2:13-15). Matthew 2:15 claims this as fulfillment of Hosea 11:1. Yet, Hosea 11:1 is not set in prophetic terms at all, but rather looks back to God calling Israel out of Egypt to remind His people of His love; no direct reference is made to the Messiah. Matthew’s use of Hosea 11:1 is as an example of typology. The return from Egypt was an antitype of Israel departure from Egyptian bondage. Both Israel and Joseph with his family went into Egypt at the command of God; both came out of Egypt at the command of God. Israel was figuratively God’s son (Ex. 4:22), and was considered by the Jews a type of the Messiah. This is just one of multiple examples of typology in Matthew.
Matthew’s quotation of Jeremiah 31:15 at 2:17, 18 highlights a point of similarity between Rachel weeping for her children at Ramah—a waystation on their deportation to Babylon—and the weeping of the mothers of the children who were slain by Herod in his attempt to extinguish the baby Jesus. These words are understood typologically (type/antitype). Matthew 13:35 highlights the typology involved in the Lord’s use of parables by declaring it a fulfillment of Psalm 78:2. Just as a prophet of God spoke under inspiration to bring to light concepts previously hidden from those in OT times, so Jesus in His parables revealed previously hidden truths (particularly about the nature of God’s kingdom) to audiences in His day. Matthew also makes a note of fulfillment in 27:9 when highlighting the similarity between the thirty pieces of silver Judas returned being used to purchase the potter’s field and the language of Zechariah 11:12-13 and Jeremiah 19:1-13. The likely explanation that both passages combined form Matthew’s reference to “thirty pieces of silver” and the “potter” in the context of betrayal supports the suggestion that typology is the approach in this passage. The Lord’s betrayal shows how He was meagerly valued and rejected by His own people just as God was in the days of the prophets.
Of course, the Holy Spirit, who wrote the Old Testament, was behind the writing of Matthew’s gospel account. It is understandable that the Spirit should use Matthew’s vocabulary to show glimpses of God’s omniscient mind and pick up themes He earlier introduced in His word. Matthew’s demonstration of fulfillment should make us have a greater appreciation of the fact that the Bible is comprehensively about Christ.