17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:17–18 ESV)
When we began this study of the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus, otherwise known as the Advent Season, we initially examined the many prophecies regarding the identity of the Jewish Messiah. We sought to see whether or not Jesus Christ fulfilled those prophecies. With respect to the Messiah’s incarnation, we saw the Jesus Christ indeed did fulfill those prophecies.
One prophecy which took place following Jesus’ birth, perhaps some two years after, is what is referred to as the slaughter of the innocents. This was when King Herod decided that all boys within Bethlehem, and the surrounding area, would be killed in hopes that Jesus would be included in the slaughter. Herod was known for eliminating any real, or suspected rivals or usurpers to his throne. He included Jesus in that category.
The prophecy concerning this mass killing of children is found in Jeremiah 31:15. It is the text from which Matthew quotes. Within the immediate context of the Prophet Jeremiah, the prophecy had to do with the impending Babylonian Captivity of the Jews which occurred in 586 B.C., following two others invasions occurring in 605 B.C. and 597 B.C. The wailing which occurred then prefigured the wailing which occurred some 500 years later by many mothers over their slaughtered children by the orders of King Herod.
Ramah was a city located north of Jerusalem. The possible reason why Matthew mentioned it was because it was the city in which the Jewish exiles returned from the Babylonian captivity after 70 years (Ezra 2:26; Neh. 7:30; 11:33). Additionally, Ramah was another traditional site of Rachel’s burial. Rachel, the beloved wife of the Patriarch Jacob, was considered by many to be the mother of the Nation of Israel. That is why she was seen weeping over these children’s deaths.
One commentator explains that, “Jeremiah 31:15 refers to the figurative weeping of Rachel, who was buried in Bethlehem (Gen 35:19). Jeremiah said she mourned for her descendants carried off into captivity during the Babylonian exile. Like righteous Jeremiah, Jesus was carried off to Egypt, but Rachel had cause to mourn anew at Herod’s murder of her people.”
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes that, “Matthew’s use of this prophecy appears to portray Jesus as the new Moses (the one who led Joseph’s descendants out of Egypt) who fulfills the prophecy of the second Exodus. Like Moses, Jesus escapes the slaughter as an infant. Like Moses, He is sent to rescue God’s chosen ones.”
God has a purpose in everything He sovereignly permits. This is true even when we human followers of Christ do not understand, or even like, what God chooses to do.
May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!