16 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.
There are different records on this account.
Byzantine liturgy estimated 14,000 Holy Innocents while an early Syrian list of saints stated the number at 64,000. Coptic sources raise the number to 144,000 and place the event on 29 December.
The Catholic Encyclopedia (1907–12) more soberly suggested that these numbers were inflated, and that probably only between six and twenty children were killed in the town, with a dozen or so more in the surrounding areas.
While the latter may have been the better estimate of the babies which killed one startling fact stands out.
Let me share this quote with you.
“When he [emperor Augustus] heard that among the boys in Syria under two years old whom Herod, king of the Jews, had ordered to kill, his own son was also killed, he said: it is better to be Herod’s pig, than his son.”
Yes. You heard correct. He killed his own son.
I wondered why Matthew left out this fact. Perhaps he had felt that Herod is not to be recognised as a Jew. It is acknowledged that although Herod had insisted that he was a Jew the Pharisees and Sadducees had opposed this.
Herod in fact had married a daughter of a high priest and build the Temple which Jesus declared will be destroyed in AD70.
Perhaps it was Matthew way of saying that Herod’s child was one of Rachel’s as well.
18 “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.”
I think Matthew left it out because he wanted us to focus on something else.
He was about to tell us of a story about a king that would lay down his life for his kingdom. A father who was giving up his son for the love of humanity. A spirit would grant Sonship to all who receive him.
So Herod the Great killed his son to ensure the throne was his.
Herod died terribly.
Josephus wrote that Herod’s final illness—sometimes named “Herod’s Evil”was excruciating.
Based on Josephus’s descriptions, one medical expert has diagnosed Herod’s cause of death as chronic kidney diseasecomplicated by Fournier’s gangrene.
Modern scholars agree he suffered throughout his lifetime from depression and paranoia.
Josephus stated that Herod was so concerned that no one would mourn his death, that he commanded a large group of distinguished men to come to Jericho, and he gave an order that they should be killed at the time of his death so that the displays of grief that he craved would take place.
Matthew also left this out. Perhaps he had thought this is also a distracting point. I believe he wanted us to see the death of another king.
A greater king who was silent when he was led to the slaughter.
One of the little known facts that Herod died in an eclipse. Again this fact was left out by Matthew.
Again I wonder why. Perhaps he wanted to tell us while Herod refuse to allow people to mourn at his death, there was Father who lamented of the death of His Son. Perhaps Matthew wanted to us to know about that eclipse.
Sometimes we are so distracted by issues and causes which seem so important but Matthew invites us to stay focus.
His eyes is fixed not on Herod the pretender to the throne. His eyes was fixed on the real king of the Jews.
What about us?
Today we argue on stupid issues like whether we should celebrate Christmas. We argue whether the X in X’mas is a cross or an unknown factor. We argue.
Christmas is not about that. It is an invitation to meet a 2 year old boy.
The Rock of Ages. The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, Wonderful, Counsellor. The Ancient of Days. The Most High God.
Now. A 2 year old boy.
Come and worship.