Matthew 2:17 MEANING

Matthew 2:17
Verses 17, 18. - Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by (διά) Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not (Jeremiah 31:15, from the Hebrew). Notice:

(1) As to details.

(a) The order in the Revised Version. A voice was heard in Ramah is more literal; the stress is on the cry rather than on the place.

(b) Lamentation and must be omitted, with the Revised Version, as a mere addition from the LXX.

(c) And would not. The Revised Version, and she would not, seems to be an attempt to express the full term, καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν κ.τ.λ.. (cf. Genesis 37:35).

(2) As to the quotation generally. St. Matthew applies Jeremiah's picture of Rachel, the mother of Joseph, i.e. of Ephraim (and also Manasseh), which was the typical part of the northern kingdom, weeping over the destruction of her children by the Assyrians, to the weeping of the mothers in Bethlehem. This application was the more easy because, as Rachel's tomb was near Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19; Genesis 48.7), she might be considered the figurative ancestress of the Bethlehe-mites as well as the physical ancestress of the Ephraimites. The fulfilment spoken of is thus not to be understood as implying that Jeremiah predicted the massacre at Bethlehem, but that in it his words received a new and deeper significance. It must, however, be added that, although Rachel's tomb is placed at Bethlehem, both by the direct statement of the present text of Genesis and by tradition, which may be traced at least as far back as A.D. , and is accepted by Jews, Christians, and Mohammedans, there are serious doubts whether 1 Samuel 10:2 does not definitely place it in the north of Benjamin, and whether Jeremiah 31:15 does not accept this latter view (cf. for this question Delitzsch, on Genesis, loc. cit.) . In any case, St. Matthew adopts the statement of Genesis.

2:13-15 Egypt had been a house of bondage to Israel, and particularly cruel to the infants of Israel; yet it is to be a place of refuge to the holy Child Jesus. God, when he pleases, can make the worst of places serve the best of purposes. This was a trial of the faith of Joseph and Mary. But their faith, being tried, was found firm. If we and our infants are at any time in trouble, let us remember the straits in which Christ was when an infant. 16-18 Herod killed all the male children, not only in Bethlehem, but in all the villages of that city. Unbridled wrath, armed with an unlawful power, often carries men to absurd cruelties. It was no unrighteous thing with God to permit this; every life is forfeited to his justice as soon as it begins. The diseases and deaths of little children are proofs of original sin. But the murder of these infants was their martyrdom. How early did persecution against Christ and his kingdom begin! Herod now thought that he had baffled the Old Testament prophecies, and the efforts of the wise men in finding Christ; but whatever crafty, cruel devices are in men's hearts, the counsel of the Lord shall stand.Then was fulfilled that which was spoken,.... By the slaughter of the infants at Bethlehem was literally accomplished what had been predicted by

Jeremy the prophet, in Jeremiah 31:15.

in Rama was there a voice heard, &c. That this prophecy belongs not to the Babylonish captivity, but the times of the Messiah, appears from the whole context; which manifestly speaks of the miraculous conception of Christ, of the blessings of his kingdom to be enjoyed by his people, and of the new covenant to be made with them, as I have shown in another place (r). Rama was not in Arabia, as Justin Martyr says (s), but a town in the tribe of Benjamin, Joshua 18:25 and very near to Bethlehem in the tribe of Juda: between these two places, and near to both of them, was the grave of Rachel, Genesis 35:19 for which reason, and also because Rama belonged to Benjamin, a son of hers, and where, no doubt, many children were destroyed in this massacre, as well as at Bethlehem, Rachel is introduced in the prophecy representing the sorrowful mothers of those parts,

weeping for their children; whose distress and grief are signified by several words, "lamentation, weeping and great mourning", to express the excessiveness thereof, for they

would not be comforted; they refused to hear anything that might be suggested to them for their relief, because their children

were not, i.e. were dead, were not in the land of the living, and no more to be enjoyed by them in this world. I cannot forbear transcribing a remark made by a noted Jew (t) upon that passage in Genesis 35:20. "And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave"; to show, says he, that Jacob saw that this thing was of the Lord, and that it would be an help to her children, as it is written, "a voice was heard in Rama", &c. wherefore he set a pillar upon her; and to show that the affair of her grave, that this "belonged to the time to come", he says, "that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day": he means, , "the day of redemption". And Rachel, in the passage of Jeremy, the Jews (u) themselves own, means the congregation of Israel.

(r) Prophecies of the Messiah, &c. p. 126, &c. (s) Dialog. cum Tryph. p. 304. (t) R. Abraham Seba Tzeror Hammor, fol. 47. 1.((u) Zohar in Exod. fol. 13. 1. & in Lev. fol. 8. 4.

Courtesy of Open Bible