First Flight Into Egypt and Massacre of Innocents (series: Harmony of the Gospels)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Harmony of the Gospels

-4 BC-
Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Egypt
(13) Flight into Egypt and Massacre of Innocents
(Jeremiah 31:15) Matthew 2:13-18

History records many evil men. You would be able to compile a list of their names as easily as I can, and your list would probably have some of the same names; Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Sadam Hussein, Mussolini, Stalin and Herod, just to name a few. All of these men were mass murders. Herod as you will see was one of the worst, because children were his victims. Jeremiah the prophet spoke about Herod’s great atrocity hundreds of years before it happened, “This is what the Lord says: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.’” (Jeremiah 31:15) Matthew tells how Jesus was saved from this slaughter of innocents.

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, “Get up,” He said, “take the child and His mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” (Matthew 2:13)

After the wise men had left Bethlehem, Joseph had a dream. In the dream an angel told him that Herod wanted to kill the child and that he must take him to Egypt and not return until he was told that it was safe.

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, (Matthew 2:14)

Joseph’s response was immediate. He didn’t even wait for daylight, to leave for Egypt. Joseph was God’s man. I can’t find a thing to criticize Joseph for.

Where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I call my son. (Matthew 2:15)

It is remarkable to me how God gets things done. In this instance, He used the jealousy and hatred in Herod’s heart to bring about the fulfillment of the prophecy in Hosea 11:1, “When Israel was a child, I loved Him, and out of Egypt I called My Son.” God had to get Jesus into Egypt before He could call Him out. Notice that He called two sons out of Egypt, Israel and Jesus. Here Jesus is called out of Egypt. But when was Israel called out? He is referring to the Exodus. You know the story; The whole nation of Israel left Egypt for the Promissed Land, and in the process they crossed the Red Sea, on dry ground. A tremendous Miracle!

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. (Matthew 2:16)

Herod found out that the wise men had tricked him. They returned to their countries by another route to avoid going through Jerusalem. This infuriated Herod and he reacted like a madman. He ordered all boys in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas, that were two years old and younger, killed.

Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled. “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. (Matthew 2:17-18)

These two verses are very disturbing, because I can imagine the carnage that took place. I can see the solders ripping the babies out of their mother’s arms and thrusting them through with their swords or beating the baby’s heads against the sides of buildings. Can you feel the terror and heartbreak of the parents who were helpless to save their children?

Bethlehem was not the only target. Ramah is about as far north of Jerusalem as Bethlehem is south, about 25 miles. I imagine that Herod commanded the solders to kill all the boys that are two years old and younger. When the solders asked, “Where do you want us to begin,” Herod may have said, “Just draw a circle around Jerusalem with a radius that goes as far south as Bethlehem and as far north as Ramah.” He was a madman.

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