Matthew 2:18 MEANING

Matthew 2:18
(18) In Rama was there a voice heard.--Here again we have an example of St. Matthew's application of a passage that had a direct bearing upon the events of the time when it was delivered to those which his narrative had brought before him. The tomb of Rachel, "in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem" (Genesis 35:19), had been, probably from the day when the "pillar" which marked it was first set up, one of the sacred places of the land. It was so in the days of Samuel (1 Samuel 10:2). The language of Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31:15, shows that it was so in his time. In his picture of the sufferings and slaughter of the captives of Judah, the image which best embodied his feelings of sorrow for his people was that of Rachel, as the great "mother in Israel," seeing, as from the "high place" of her sepulchre (this is the meaning of the name Ramah), the shame and death of her children at the other Ramah, a few miles further to the north, and weeping for her bereavement. Historically, as we find from Jeremiah 40:1, this was the place to which the prisoners were dragged, that Nebuzaradan might assign "such as were for death" to death, others to exile, and others again to remain as bondsmen in the land. That picture, St. Matthew felt, had been reproduced once again. The tomb of Rachel was as familiar to the people of Bethlehem (it stands but one mile to the north of the town) as it had been in the time of Jeremiah, and the imagery was therefore as natural in the one case as the other. The Ramah of Jeremiah 40:1. was about seven or eight miles further north, on the borders of Benjamin, but it has been thought by some geographers that the name was given to some locality nearer the tomb of Rachel.

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.

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