March 25, 2020

Infanticide Matthew 2:16-18

It’s surprising that Herod’s paranoia had not fuelled more efficient “intelligence gathering”, in that he sent no place with the Magi, nor did he commission any of his officials to “follow the star” to Bethlehem. He simply asked the magi to let him know once they had found the baby king. But, in his rage at being deceived by the Magi, his paranoia and cruelty kicks into gear and he orders every male child in the Bethlehem region to be killed. None of our Christmas traditions include this unspeakable tragedy. We focus on the one baby. We forget the others.

Matthew captures the sorrow and heartbreak of the mothers by quoting Jeremiah 31:15,

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Rachel, of course, was the much-loved second wife of Isaac, and the mother of Joseph and Benjamin. One of Joseph’s sons was named Ephraim, and Ramah, centuries later, was an Ephraimite town not far from Jerusalem. When Jeremiah penned these words he was probable thinking of Israel being exiled to Babylon, but Matthew sees a proper double meaning. The exalted sounds of the angelic announcement of Jesus’ birth is followed a year or so later by the wailing of the bereaved. A stark juxtaposition to say the least.