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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Matthew 2:17

Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Bethlehem;   Children;   Egypt;   Infanticide;   Jesus, the Christ;   Miracles;   Mourning;   Prophecy;   Rulers;   Scofield Reference Index - Kingdom;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Prophecies Respecting Christ;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Fulfilled;   Herod;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Edom;   Herod;   Matthew, gospel of;   Quotations;   Rachel;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Abortion;   Scripture, Unity and Diversity of;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Hutchinsonians;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Herod the Great;   Jesus;   Rachel;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Benjamin;   Jeremiah;   Rachel;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Archaeology and Biblical Study;   Fall;   Fulfill;   Innocents, Slaughter of the;   Antiochus IV;   Jeremy;   Joseph;   Matthew, the Gospel of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Herod;   Jeremy;   Jesus Christ;   Magi;   Magic, Divination, and Sorcery;   Matthew, Gospel According to;   Mss;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Children;   Dates (2);   Foresight;   Infancy;   Innocents;   Joseph (2);   Matthew, Gospel According to;   Old Testament (I. Christ as Fulfilment of);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Bethlehem ;   Dreams;   Herod the Great;   Herod, Family of;   Jeremiah, Book of;   Jeremy ;   Matthew, Gospel by;   Quotations;   Rachel ;   19 To Accomplish, Finish, Fulfil;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Herodians;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Bethlehem;   Egypt;   Gospel;   Herod;   Jeremiah;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Her'od;   Jer'emy,;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Jeremiah (1);   Matthew, the Gospel of;   Priesthood;   Quotations, New Testament;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Accommodation;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Jesus of Nazareth;  

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

11. Herod and the Magi (Matthew 2:1-18)

It seems that after the ceremonies in Jerusalem, Joseph and Mary returned with Jesus to Bethlehem. Because most of the travellers had now gone, they were able to move into the house (see Matthew 2:11). Meanwhile, in a country to the east, men known as Magi (people who study the stars) had worked out that a new king was born in Judea and they came to Jerusalem looking for him (Matthew 2:1-2).

Herod the Great was ruler of Judea at the time, and he had no desire to see a rival Jewish king set up. From the Magi he learnt the time of the new king’s birth, and from the Jewish scholars he learnt the place of his birth. He urged the Magi to locate the child then report back to him so that he could go and pay homage (Matthew 2:3-8). The Magi found Jesus and worshipped him, but when they learnt that Herod planned to kill him, they returned home without first reporting to Herod (Matthew 2:9-12). Mary and Joseph also learnt of Herod’s planned treachery, and escaped with the child to the safety of Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15).

When, after some time, the Magi did not return, Herod saw that the only way to be certain of destroying the new king was to kill all male children under two years of age in the Bethlehem area. He fixed the age of the doomed children according to details given him by the Magi, which suggests that Jesus by this time was between one and two years old (Matthew 2:16-18). (For Herod and his family see earlier section, ‘The New Testament World’.)

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Matthew 2:17". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/matthew-2.html. 2005.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Then was fulfilled - The word “fulfilled,” here. is used evidently in the sense that the words in Jeremiah aptly express the event which Matthew was recording. Compare the notes at Matthew 1:22.

That which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet - Jeremiah. This quotation is taken from Jeremiah 31:15. The original design of the prophecy was to describe the sorrowful departure of the people of Israel into captivity after the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuzaradan. The captives were assembled at Rama, Jeremiah himself being in chains, and there the fate of those who had escaped in the destruction of the city was decided at the will of the conqueror, Jeremiah 40:1. The nobles had been slain; the sons of the king had been murdered in his presence; the eyes of the king had been put out, and the people were then gathered at Rama in chains, whence they were to start on their mournful journey, slaves to a cruel monarch, leaving behind them all that was dear in life. The sadness of such a scene is well expressed in the language of the prophet, and it no less beautifully and suitably applies to the melancholy event which the evangelist records, and there could be no impropriety in his using it as a quotation.

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These files are public domain.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 2:17". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/matthew-2.html. 1870.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Chapter Two

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king ( Matthew 2:1 ),

This is Herod the Great, that little short monster. He was a little over four feet tall, and as really short little guys probably suffered a tremendous ego problem. And thus significantly everything he did was big. I mean, he built great fortresses out of great rocks. I stood next to a rock that is along the Western Wall in Jerusalem that Herod had built as a retaining wall, to build up the temple mount to place the temple on top. Back underneath where tourists can't go, I stood by a rock that was forty-seven feet long, ten feet high, and ten feet wide. It is estimated to weigh one hundred and seventy tons. This little Herod had that rock put there.

He was a genius at building. He built, of course, the Herodian. He built Masada. He built another fortress similar to the Herodian that has not yet really been excavated, the Alexandrian. He built, of course, the great temple in Jerusalem. He built the temple mount area. He built Caesarea, and tremendous building projects by this little genius; built the pools over near Bethlehem, and the whole water system for Jerusalem. Today you can still look at many of the building projects of Herod and stand in absolute amazement at the building genius of this little fellow.

He also was horribly cruel and paranoid. He thought that his sons and his wife, Miriam, were plotting against him, so he had them all put to death. Then he began to miss Miriam, so he built a big monument to Miriam because he missed her after he had killed her. They used to say, "It's safer to be Herod's pig than to be his son," because he was always paranoid that his sons were trying to take over his throne. So he was having them killed all the time and wiped out most of his sons because of his paranoia. He was a very insecure little fellow and that is why these big fortresses that he built, and would seek refuge in the fortresses.

Now in time, he realized that as the result of his own cruelty and meanness, no one would weep when he died. And he couldn't stand the thought of no one weeping when he died, so he gave orders that when he died all of his top officials were to be killed, executed, because he wanted people to mourn when he was dead. And he knew they wouldn't mourn for him, so in order that there would be mourning when he died, he ordered all these popular officials to be put to death when he died. Fortunately, when he died, they had enough sense to realize, well, why should we obey his order; he's dead? And the other officials were not executed and thus he went unmourned.

Now in those days when

Herod was king, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, and they said, Where is he that is born the King of the Jews? ( Matthew 2:1-2 ).

Can't you imagine what that would do to this little insecure Herod? These guys are asking. I'm the King of the Jews. What do you mean, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?" He was so threatened in his position that when these men came from the east to inquire of the birth of the King of the Jews, he really got shook.

They said,

for we have seen his star in the east, and we are come to worship Him ( Matthew 2:2 ).

Now there is an awful lot that has been written about the star of Bethlehem. They have said it was a conjunction of planets, and they have come up with many different speculations as to what astronomically constituted the star of Bethlehem. In the Griffith Observatory in December, they oftentimes have as that monthly lecture, the star of Bethlehem. And of course with that in the Planetarium there, they can adjust the lights in the ceiling to represent the skies in any period of history. They can take you back through the years to the time of the birth of Christ and show you the constellations, planet alignments, and so forth. They have a very interesting lecture on the star of Bethlehem.

But just exactly what did take place that constituted this special sign in the sky is a matter of many men's speculations. But that, at the present time, as valid as it is, it is the speculation of man, and we do not know for sure. And God did not call me to speculate. So we will just let that go.

we have seen his star in the East, and we have come to worship him ( Matthew 2:2 ).

If they were in the East and saw the star, then it evidently led them westward. So it was some kind of perhaps special and supernatural sign, as I'll point out in a moment.

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all of Jerusalem with him ( Matthew 2:3 ).

Because when Herod is troubled, everybody is troubled.

And when he had gathered all the chief priests and the scribes of the people together, he demanded [not he inquired] of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, [look these fellows know their Scriptures] in Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet [the prophet Micah], And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel ( Matthew 2:4-6 ).

They didn't finish the prophecy. But you go back to Micah and you read, "whose going forth is from everlasting" ( Micah 5:2 ). And he speaks about His sitting upon the throne and reigning. So Bethlehem's pinpointed as the birthplace.

So when Herod had privately called the wise men, he inquired of them diligently when they first saw the star ( Matthew 2:7 ).

So they told him when they first saw the star and began their journey. So

And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also ( Matthew 2:8 ).

Herod had a very perverted sense of worship.

When they had heard the king [that is king Herod], they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was ( Matthew 2:9 ).

It is hard to really explain then this star by some kind of a natural phenomenon, in that they saw it in the East. It led them west, but now it is leading them back east, because Bethlehem is actually south and east of Jerusalem.

"It stood", notice, "over where the young child was." Notice it didn't stand over the manger. It didn't stand over where the baby was, but it stood over where the "young child was". Here is where our Christmas cards and our Christmas pageants throw us off, because it makes such a glorious climax to the Christmas pageantry to have the wise men coming to the manger on their camels, and laying down their gifts before the baby in the manger, while the shepherds are peering on wild-eyed. It's something typical of Christmas cards, or of the Christmas pageantry, but the wise men were latecomers. By the time that they had arrived, Joseph and Mary had moved out of the manger and had moved into a house in Bethlehem. The wise men, I am sorry, did not come to the manger, but actually arrived later on, perhaps a year or as much as two years later. When the wise men finally arrived and they found the young child, by this time Jesus was probably walking around and saying a few words.

And when they were come into the house, [not into the manger, but into the house] they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold [befitting the king], and frankincense, and myrrh ( Matthew 2:11 ).

Myrrh was a spice for burial--quite significant that it would be given to "the young child."

Now being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way ( Matthew 2:12 ).

They didn't bother to go back to Jerusalem because God warned them not to.

And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph ( Matthew 2:13 ),

Now again, Joseph is really in contact with the Lord and the Spirit.

and the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word: for Herod is going to seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And there he was until the death of Herod: [in order] that it might be fulfilled ( Matthew 2:13-15 ),

Notice how Matthew over and over is showing that these aspects of the life of Christ were in reality a fulfillment of prophecy,

which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my Son. Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked by the wise men, was exceedingly angry, he sent forth, and killed all of the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the area around, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men ( Matthew 2:15-16 ).

Remember, they said, "when did you first see the star?" So they told him when they first saw the star and that's why he killed the children two years old and under, because they had first seen the star some two years earlier, which again shows Christ was not a baby in a manger when the wise men arrived.

Then Herod when he killed all the children,

Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, of lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, as Rachel was weeping for her children ( Matthew 2:17-18 ),

Now of course, it's significant that Rachel actually died there just on the outskirts of Bethlehem and her tomb is there at Bethlehem. She died in childbirth at the birth of Benjamin. You remember she called his name Benoni, because of the grief. And so the prophecy of Rachel who had died there in Bethlehem. The people, of course, around Bethlehem revere the place of her burial, her tomb there. "Rachel weeping for her children and would not be comforted because they are not," because they have been killed.

But when Herod was dead,[he died shortly thereafter], behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life. And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and they came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there: notwithstanding, he was warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the area of Galilee ( Matthew 2:19-22 ):

He went back up into the area where he originated from, actually in Galilee where Mary had first received the word from Gabriel that she was to become the mother of the Christ child.

And they came and they dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene ( Matthew 2:23 ).

All the way through, Matthew is showing you that Christ is the fulfillment of prophecy. Matthew is a prophecy buff.

"



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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Matthew 2:17". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/matthew-2.html. 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

C. The King’s childhood ch. 2

There is nothing in chapter 2 that describes Jesus Himself. Therefore Matthew’s purpose was not simply to give the reader information about Jesus’ childhood. Rather he stressed the reception that the Messiah received having entered the world. The rulers were hostile, the Jewish religious leaders were indifferent, but the Gentiles welcomed and worshipped Him. These proved to be typical responses throughout Jesus’ ministry, as Matthew’s Gospel reveals. This literary device of presenting implication and then realization is common in the first Gospel. Also in this chapter there are several references to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies (Matthew 2:5-6; Matthew 2:15; Matthew 2:17-18; Matthew 2:23). Matthew wanted to continue to prove that Jesus was the promised Messiah who fulfilled what the prophets had predicted. In chapter 1 the emphasis is more on how Jesus’ identity fulfilled prophecy, but in chapter 2 it is more on how Jesus’ geographical connections fulfilled prophecy. To prove that Jesus was the Christ, Matthew had to show that Jesus was born where the Old Testament said Messiah would be born. Another purpose of this chapter was to show God’s providential care of His Son.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 2:17". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-2.html. 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

2. The prophecies about Egypt 2:13-18

Matthew continued to stress God’s predictions about and His protection of His Messiah to help his readers recognize Jesus as the promised King.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 2:17". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-2.html. 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Some critical scholars discounted Matthew’s account of Herod’s slaughter of the Bethlehem children because there is no extrabiblical confirmation of it. However, Bethlehem was small, and many other biblically significant events have no secular confirmation, including Jesus’ crucifixion. One writer estimated that this purge would have affected only about 20 children. [Note: France, p. 85.] He believed that the total population of Bethlehem at this time was under 1,000. Compared to some of Herod’s other atrocities this one was minor. [Note: See Edersheim, 1:127.]

"Emperor Augustus reportedly said it was better to be Herod’s sow than his son, for his sow had a better chance of surviving in a Jewish community. In the Greek language, as in English, there is only one letter difference between the words ’sow’ (hyos) and ’son’ (hyios)." [Note: Barbieri, p. 23.]

 

"The selfsame character traits Herod exhibits in chapter 2, the [religious] leaders will exhibit later in the story. To enumerate the most obvious of these, Herod shows himself to be ’spiritually blind’ (Matthew 2:3), ’fearful’ (Matthew 2:3), ’conspiratorial’ (Matthew 2:7), ’guileful’ and ’mendacious’ (Matthew 2:8), ’murderous’ (Matthew 2:13; Matthew 2:16), ’wrathful’ (Matthew 2:16; cf. Matthew 21:15), and ’apprehensive of the future’ (Matthew 2:16)." [Note: Kingsbury, p. 117.]

Matthew again claimed that another event surrounding Jesus’ birth fulfilled prophecy (Matthew 2:17). Matthew is the only New Testament writer who quoted Jeremiah (cf. Matthew 16:14; Matthew 27:9). This quotation is evidently also from the Hebrew text. Incidentally, Matthew only quoted Isaiah and Jeremiah by name of all the prophets he quoted.

"Matthew is not simply meditating on Old Testament texts, but claiming that in what has happened they find fulfillment. If the events are legendary [rather than historical], the argument is futile." [Note: R. T. France, "Herod and the Children of Bethlehem," Novum Testamentum 21 (1979):120.]

It is not clear whether Jeremiah was referring to the deportation of the northern tribes in 722 B.C. or to the Babylonian Captivity in 586 B.C. Since he dealt primarily with the second of these events in his ministry, he probably did so here too. Poetically he presented Rachel as the idealized mother of the Jews mourning from her grave because her children were going into captivity. Since Rachel’s grave was near Bethlehem, mention of her ties in nicely with the events of Jesus’ early childhood near Bethlehem.

"In the original context, Jeremiah is speaking of an event soon to come as the Babylonian Captivity begins. As the Jewish young men were being taken into captivity, they went by the town of Ramah. Not too far from Ramah is where Rachel was buried and she was the symbol of Jewish motherhood. As the young men were marched toward Babylon, the Jewish mothers of Ramah came out weeping for sons they will never see again. Jeremiah pictured the scene as Rachel weeping for her children. This is the literal meaning of Jeremiah 31:15. The New Testament cannot change or reinterpret what this verse means in that context, nor does it try to do so. In this category [of fulfilled prophecy], there is a New Testament event that has one point of similarity with the Old Testament event. The verse is quoted as an application. The one point of similarity between Ramah and Bethlehem is that once again Jewish mothers are weeping for sons they will never see again and so the Old Testament passage is applied to the New Testament event. Otherwise, everything else is different." [Note: Fruchtenbaum, p. 844. ]

Cooper called this "literal prophecy plus an application." [Note: Cooper, p. 176.] Bailey saw three points of comparison between the two situations: in both of them a Gentile king was threatening the future of Israel (cf. Matthew 2:13), children were involved, and the future restoration of Israel was nevertheless secure (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-37). [Note: Bailey, p. 8.]

Matthew evidently used Jeremiah 31:15 because it presented hope to the Israelites that Israel would return to the land even though they wept at the nation’s departure. The context of Jeremiah’s words is hope. Matthew used the Jeremiah passage to give his readers hope that despite the tears of the Bethlehem mothers Messiah had escaped from Herod and would return to reign ultimately. [Note: Robert H. Gundry, The Use of the Old Testament in St. Matthew’s Gospel, with Special Reference to the Messianic Hope, p. 210; R. V. G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary, pp. 43-44.]

"Here Jesus does not, as in Matthew 2:15, recapitulate an event from Israel’s history. The Exile sent Israel into captivity and thereby called forth tears. But here the tears are not for him who goes into ’exile’ but because of the children who stay behind and are slaughtered. Why, then, refer to the Exile at all? Help comes from observing the broader context of both Jeremiah and Matthew. Jeremiah 31:9; Jeremiah 31:20 refers to Israel = Ephraim as God’s dear son and also introduces the new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34) the Lord will make with his people. Therefore the tears associated with Exile (Jeremiah 31:15) will end. Matthew has already made the Exile a turning point in his thought (Matthew 1:11-12), for at that time the Davidic line was dethroned. The tears of the Exile are now being ’fulfilled’-i.e., the tears begun in Jeremiah’s day are climaxed and ended by the tears of the mothers of Bethlehem. The heir to David’s throne has come, the Exile is over, the true Son of God has arrived, and he will introduce the new covenant (Matthew 26:28) promised by Jeremiah." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 95.]

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 2:17". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-2.html. 2012.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Ver. 17, 18. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken,.... By the slaughter of the infants at Bethlehem was literally accomplished what had been predicted by

Jeremy the prophet, in Jeremiah 31:15.

in Rama was there a voice heard, c. That this prophecy belongs not to the Babylonish captivity, but the times of the Messiah, appears from the whole context which manifestly speaks of the miraculous conception of Christ, of the blessings of his kingdom to be enjoyed by his people, and of the new covenant to be made with them, as I have shown in another place r. Rama was not in Arabia, as Justin Martyr says s, but a town in the tribe of Benjamin,

Joshua 18:25 and very near to Bethlehem in the tribe of Juda: between these two places, and near to both of them, was the grave of Rachel,

Genesis 35:19 for which reason, and also because Rama belonged to Benjamin, a son of hers, and where, no doubt, many children were destroyed in this massacre, as well as at Bethlehem, Rachel is introduced in the prophecy representing the sorrowful mothers of those parts,

weeping for their children; whose distress and grief are signified by several words, "lamentation, weeping and great mourning", to express the excessiveness thereof, for they

would not be comforted; they refused to hear anything that might be suggested to them for their relief, because their children

were not, i.e. were dead, were not in the land of the living, and no more to be enjoyed by them in this world. I cannot forbear transcribing a remark made by a noted Jew t upon that passage in

Genesis 35:20. "And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave"; to show, says he, that Jacob saw that this thing was of the Lord, and that it would be an help to her children, as it is written, "a voice was heard in Rama", c. wherefore he set a pillar upon her and to show that the affair of her grave, that this היתה לעתיד "belonged to the time to come", he says, "that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day": he means,

יום הגאולה, "the day of redemption". And Rachel, in the passage of Jeremy, the Jews u themselves own, means the congregation of Israel.

r Prophecies of the Messiah, &c. p. 126, &c. s Dialog. cum Tryph. p. 304. t R. Abraham Seba Tzeror Hammor, fol. 47. 1. u Zohar in Exod. fol. 13. 1. & in Lev. fol. 8. 4.

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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 2:17". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-2.html. 1999.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Slaughter of the Children.


      16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.   17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying,   18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

      Here is, I. Herod's resentment of the departure of the wise men. He waited long for their return; he hopes, though they be slow, they will be sure, and he shall crush this rival at his first appearing; but he hears, upon enquiry, that they are gone off another way, which increases his jealousy, and makes him suspect they are in the interest of this new King, which made him exceedingly wroth; and he is the more desperate and outrageous for his being disappointed. Note, Inveterate corruption swells the higher for the obstructions it meets with in a sinful pursuit.

      II. His political contrivance, notwithstanding this, to take off him that is born King of the Jews. If he could not reach him by a particular execution, he doubted not but to involve him in a general stroke, which, like the sword of war, should devour one as well as another. This would be sure work; and thus those that would destroy their own iniquity must be sure to destroy all their iniquities. Herod was an Edomite, enmity to Israel was bred in the bone with him. Doeg was an Edomite, who, for David's sake, slew all the priests of the Lord. It was strange that Herod could find any so inhuman as to be employed in such a bloody and barbarous piece of work; but wicked hands never want wicked tools to work with. Little children have always been taken under the special protection, not only of human laws, but of human nature; yet these are sacrificed to the rage of this tyrant, under whom, as under Nero, innocence is the least security. Herod was, throughout his reign, a bloody man; it was not long before, that he destroyed the whole Sanhedrim, or bench of judges; but blood to the blood-thirsty is like drink to those in a dropsy; Quo plus sunt potæ, plus sitiuntur aquæ--The more they drink, the more thirsty they become. Herod was now about seventy years old, so that an infant, at this time under two years old, was not likely ever to give him any disturbance. Nor was he a man over fond of his own children, or of their preferment, having formerly slain two of his own sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, and his son Antipater after this, but five days before he himself died; so that it was purely to gratify his own brutish lusts of pride and cruelty that he did this. All is fish that comes to his net.

      Observe, What large measures he took, 1. As to time; He slew all from two years old and under. It is probable that the blessed Jesus was at this time not a year old; yet Herod took in all the infants under two years old, that he might be sure not to miss of his prey. He cares not how many heads fall, which he allows to be innocent, provided that escape not which he supposes to be guilty. 2. As to place; He kills all the male children, not only in Bethlehem, but in all the coasts thereof, in all the villages of that city. This was being overmuch wicked,Ecclesiastes 7:17. Hate, an unbridled wrath, armed with an unlawful power, often transports men to the most absurd and unreasonable instances of cruelty. It was no unrighteous thing for God to permit this; every life is forfeited to his justice as soon as it commences; that sin which entered by one man's disobedience, introduced death with it; and we are not to suppose any thing more than that common guilt, we are not to suppose that these children were sinners above all that were in Israel, because they suffered such things. God's judgments are a great deep. The diseases and deaths of little children are proofs of original sin. But we must look upon this murder of the infants under another character: it was their martyrdom. How early did persecution commence against Christ and his kingdom! Think ye that he came to send peace on the earth? No, but a sword, such a sword as this, Matthew 10:34; Matthew 10:35. A passive testimony was hereby given to the Lord Jesus. As when he was in the womb, he was witnessed to by a child's leaping in the womb for joy at his approach, so now, at two years old, he had contemporary witnesses to him of the same age. They shed their blood for him, who afterwards shed his for them. These were the infantry of the noble army of martyrs. If these infants were thus baptized with blood, though it were their own, into the church triumphant, it could not be said but that, with what they got in heaven, they were abundantly recompensed for what they lost on earth. Out of the mouths of these babes and sucklings God did perfect his praise; otherwise, it is not good to the Almighty that he should thus afflict.

      The tradition of the Greek church (and we have it in the Æthiopic missal) is, that the number of the children slain was 14,000; but that is very absurd. I believe, if the births of the male children in the weekly bills were computed, there would not be found so many under two years old, in one of the most populous cities in the world, that was not near a fortieth part of it. But it is an instance of the vanity of tradition. It is strange that Josephus does not relate this story; but he wrote long after St. Matthew, and it is probable that he therefore would not relate it, because he would not so far countenance the Christian history; for he was a zealous Jew; but, to be sure, if it had not been true and well attested, he would have contested it. Macrobius, a heathen writer, tells us, that when Augustus Cæsar heard that Herod, among the children he order to be slain under two years old, slew his own son, he passed this jest upon him, That it was better to be Herod's swine than his son. The usage of the country forbade him to kill a swine, but nothing could restrain him from killing his son. Some think that he had a young child at nurse in Bethlehem; others think that, through mistake, two events are confounded--the murder of the infants, and the murder of his son Antipater. But for the church of Rome to put the Holy Innocents, as they call them, into their calendar, and observe a day in memory of them, while they have so often, by their barbarous massacres, justified, and even out--one Herod, is but to do as their predecessors did, who built the tombs of the prophets, while they themselves filled up the same measure.

      Some observe another design of Providence in the murder of the infants. By all the prophecies of the Old Testament it appears that Bethlehem was the place, and this the time, of the Messiah's nativity; now all the children of Bethlehem, born at this time, being murdered, and Jesus only escaping, none but Jesus could pretend to be the Messiah. Herod now thought he had baffled all the Old Testament prophecies, had defeated the indications of the star, and the devotions of the wise men, by ridding the country of this new King; having burnt the hive, he concludes he had killed the master bee; but God in heaven laughs at him, and has him in derision. Whatever crafty cruel devices are in men's hearts, the counsel of the Lord shall stand.

      III. The fulfilling of scripture in this (Matthew 2:17; Matthew 2:18); Then was fulfilled that prophecy (Jeremiah 31:15), A voice was heard in Ramah. See and adore the fulness of the scripture! That prediction was accomplished in Jeremiah's time, when Nebuzaradan, after he had destroyed Jerusalem, brought all his prisoners to Ramah (Jeremiah 40:1), and there disposed of them as he pleased, for the sword, or for captivity. Then was the cry in Ramah heard to Bethlehem (for those two cities, the one in Judah's lot, and the other in Benjamin's, were not far asunder); but now the prophecy is again fulfilled in the great sorrow that was for the death of these infants. The scripture was fulfilled,

      1. In the place of this mourning. The noise of it was heard from Bethlehem to Ramah; for Herod's cruelty extended itself to all the coasts of Bethlehem, even into the lot of Benjamin, among the children of Rachel. Some think the country about Bethlehem was called Rachel, because there she died, and was buried. Rachel's sepulchre was hard by Bethlehem, Genesis 35:16; Genesis 35:19; 1 Samuel 10:2. Rachel had her heart much set upon children: the son she died in travail of she called Benoni--the son of her sorrow. These mothers were like Rachel, lived near Rachel's grave, and many of them descended from Rachel; and therefore their lamentations are elegantly represented by Rachel's weeping.

      2. In the degree of this mourning. It was lamentation and mourning, and great mourning; all little enough to express the sense they had of this aggravated calamity. There was a great cry in Egypt when the first-born were slain, and so there was here when the youngest was slain; for whom we naturally have a particular tenderness. Here was a representation of this world we live in. We hear in it lamentation, and weeping, and mourning, and see the tears of the oppressed, some upon one account, and some upon another. Our ways lie through a vale of tears. This sorrow was so great, that they would not be comforted. They hardened themselves in it, and took a pleasure in their grief. Blessed be God, there is no occasion of grief in this world, no, not that which is supplied by sin itself, that will justify us in refusing to be comforted! They would not be comforted, because they are not, that is, they are not in the land of the living, are not as they were, in their mothers' embraces. If, indeed, they were not, there might be some excuse for sorrowing as though we had no hope; but we know they are not lost, but gone before; if we forget that they are, we lose the best ground of our comfort, 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Some make this grief of the Bethlehemites to be a judgment upon them for their contempt of Christ. They that would not rejoice for the birth of the Son of God, are justly made to weep for the death of their own sons; for they only wondered at the tidings the shepherds brought them, but did not welcome them.

      The quoting of this prophecy might serve to obviate an objection which some would make against Christ, upon this sad providence. "Can the Messiah, who is to be the Consolation of Israel, be introduced with all this lamentation?" Yes, for so it was foretold, and the scripture must be accomplished. And besides, if we look further into this prophecy, we shall find that the bitter weeping in Ramah was but a prologue to the greatest joy, for it follows, Thy work shall be rewarded, and there is hope in thy end. The worse things are, the sooner they will mend. Unto them a child was born, sufficient to repair their losses.

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Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Matthew 2:17". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/matthew-2.html. 1706.