|Thus says the LORD, “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15)||slaughter of children||Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi. Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying, “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.” (Matthew 2:16-18)|
Did Herod Kill the Children in Bethlehem?
Herod the Great, the misnamed king of Judea during the time of Christ’s birth, received his title more for the force of his rule and expensive building projects than for his moral scruples. Only by the authority of Rome did he obtain a kingdom—and even then, many rebellions marked his reign. His insecurity aroused a murderous suspicion in him that touched even his own family.
Despite his reputation, however, some critics have wondered why no other historian—at least in the accounts available to us—mentions Herod’s murder of the children of Bethlehem. In fact, the only account we have comes from Matthew 2:16, which has led to claims that the slaughter is a myth.
Sadly, that this event is only recorded by Matthew attests to the cruelty Herod became known for. Other than the murder of several members of the Jewish nobility when he first captured Jerusalem, his paranoia led to the execution of his uncle, his children (along with the executions of 300 adherents to their cause), and even his wife. And this is but a small sample of the devastation left by his tyranny. Any perceived threat to his crown, real or imagined, earned brutal punishment.
When the magi appeared asking for the one born King of the Jews, Herod’s subsequent execution of all the children two and under in Bethlehem fits what we know of him. He eliminated any threat to his sovereignty. Most estimates put the number of murdered children at fewer than 20. While a horrible tragedy, the slaughter of a few children in a small, unimportant village seems unlikely to make the pages of many histories compared to Herod’s other atrocities.
One should also remember that much of our extra-biblical knowledge of Israel at the time comes from Josephus, a Jewish historian and likely a Pharisee. To include this event would require an explanation of why the children died. Given his beliefs and desire to please Rome, little wonder he should avoid references to this massacre.
Adapted from The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim (Book II, Chapter VIII).
Herod the Great – Ruthless King of the Jews
Although he ruled over the Jews in Israel in the time before Christ, Herod the Great was not completely Jewish. He was born in 73 B.C. to an Idumean man named Antipater and a woman named Cyprus, who was the daughter of an Arab sheik.
Herod the Great was a schemer who took advantage of Roman political unrest to claw his way to the top. During a civil war in the empire, Herod won the favor of Octavian, who later became the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar. Once he was king, Herod launched an ambitious building program, both in Jerusalem and the spectacular port city of Caesarea, named after the emperor. He restored the magnificent Jerusalem temple, which was later destroyed by the Romans following a rebellion in A.D. 70.
In the gospel of Matthew, the Wise Men met Herod on their way to worship Jesus. He tried to trick them into revealing the child’s location in Bethlehem on their way home, but they were warned in a dream to avoid Herod, so they returned to their countries by another route.
Jesus’ stepfather, Joseph, was also warned in a dream by an angel, who told him to take Mary and their son and flee to Egypt, to escape Herod. When Herod learned he had been outwitted by the Magi, he became furious, ordering the slaughter of all the boys who were two years old and under in Bethlehem and its vicinity.
Joseph did not return to Israel until Herod had died. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephusreported that Herod the Great died of a painful and debilitating disease that caused breathing problems, convulsions, rotting of his body, and worms. Herod reigned 37 years. His kingdom was divided by the Romans among his three sons. One of them, He rod Antipas, was one of the conspirators in the trial and execution of Jesus.
Response: The enemy’s conniving plots cannot thwart the plan of God
Thank You Lord, You are in control, yes even of our lives and the enemy cannot thwart Your plans in our lives. We rest in peace on Your Word and plans. Amen.