The verse to which Matthew refers is found in the eleventh chapter of Hosea, one of the most moving passages in the entire Bible. Here God declares his undying love for Israel, his adopted son:
When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son… I taught Ephraim to walk… I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love… I stooped and fed them. Hosea 11:1, 3-4
Despite this tender care, however, Israel turned his back upon Yahweh:
They sacrificed to the Baals, And burned incense to carved images… 11:2
So, divine justice required harsh discipline, which fell time and again, until Israel was finally taken into exile in Babylon. Even then, however, Yahweh’s love is not withdrawn:
How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?... My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred. I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim. 11:8-9
Matthew’s reference to Jesus as God’s Son, who was sent down to Egypt and then brought back, tells us why. It is He who would “save His people from their sins” by dying on the Cross for their redemption. Sinless, Jesus would be stricken for the crimes of God’s people, so that the righteous anger of the Lord would not fall upon them. Or upon us.