Journey Through the Book of Matthew
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry;
and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its
districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from
the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: 18 “A
voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her
children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.” 19 Now when Herod was dead,
behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Arise, take
the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young
Child’s life are dead.” 21 Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into
the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his
father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside
into the region of Galilee. 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be
fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Herod the great, who invested millions of dollars into the reconstruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem could not control his anger. So outraged was he as to the prospect that the Jews would have another king that he determined in his heart that he would destroy the child. This is the same Herod who had killed members of his own family out of jealousy when he was crowned King of the Jews by Roman authority.
When it became clear that the wise men had tricked him and left the area for their own homes he gave the command to kill all the male children who were 2 years old or less. In this way, he was sure to rid himself of this Newborn King.
The area that became known as Judea was part of the original 12 tribes of Israel. It was actually from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin that Judea was formed when the 10 tribes split away. Isn’t it interesting to note that King Saul was a Benjaminite and King David was from the tribe of Judah. And these tribes made up the area that was called Judea. Jew was a term used to scribe someone from Judea that was an Israelite.
Herod gives the command and all through the area around Bethlehem, Roman soldiers begin to commit the terrible crime of killing male children under the age of two. Satan was determined to kill the child and used Herod to perform this great wickedness. But as we have discovered, God protects his own.
No matter how many or how few children lost their lives, this would have been a great tragedy. Josephus in his lengthy record of the atrocities committed by Herod, makes no mention of the slaughter of the infants of Bethlehem. Yet this is a deed that well fits with the callous character of Herod and was one of the last acts of his life. It should also be pointed out, should Josephus have commented upon this event to any extent, and then himself being a Jew, he would have had to account for the claims that were made the Jesus was the Messiah. Josephus was a Jew steeped in the understanding of Jewish culture, religion and traditions, it is doubtful he would have been willing to accept that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. When Josephus wrote he wrote as an apologist of Judaism for the Romans and in particular for the emperor Vespasian so he also would have avoided mentioning anything that might have antagonized Rome.
When Herod was dead, again an angel appeared unto the Joseph in Egypt saying, “Arise take the young Child and His mother and go the land of Israel.” But when Joseph heard that Herod’s son Archelaus was reigning over Judea he prayed and was directed to move back to Nazareth that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
It was Nathaniel, the disciple of Jesus, that said “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Philip another follow of Jesus said to him, “Come and see.” John 1:46
I invite you to come and see as we begin to open up God’s word in the book of Matthew.