The Innocents

Scripture Reading

When the magi had departed, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,
and stay there until I tell you.
Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night
and departed for Egypt.
He stayed there until the death of Herod,
that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled,
Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi,
he became furious.
He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity
two years old and under,
in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.
Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more.
(Matthew 2:13-18)


Scripture Study

2:13 Rise, take the child: God works within the structures of the family: Joseph is instructed by the angel because he is the head of the Holy Family and the one most responsible for their well-being (cf. Eph 5:21–6:3). Egypt: A frequent place of refuge in the OT (Gen 12:10; 46:4; 1 Kings 11:40; Jer 26:21) and the location of large Jewish colonies (Alexandria and Elephantine) during NT times.

2:15 Out of Egypt: A quotation from Hos 11:1. Matthew anticipates its fulfillment in 2:21. ● Hosea 11:1 points back to the Exodus, where God’s “first-born son” (Ex 4:22), Israel, was delivered from slavery under the oppressive Pharaoh. Matthew sees this text also pointing forward, when Jesus, the eternal first-born Son (Rom 8:29), is delivered from the tyrant Herod and later brought out of Egypt (2:21) (CCC 530).

2:16 a furious rage: Extrabiblical history paints a similar portrait of Herod: he murdered his favorite wife, three of his sons, and others who threatened his throne.

2:18 A voice was heard: A citation from Jer 31:15. ● Jeremiah looks to Ramah, a city five miles north of Jerusalem, as a place of sorrow and exile. The Assyrians first devastated northern Israel in the eighth century b.c. by sweeping through the land and engulfing the city (Is 10:29; Hos 5:8); later the Babylonians conquered the southern tribes in the sixth century b.c., and Ramah became the assembly point for hauling away captives (Jer 40:1). In both cases, some Israelites were killed, and others were carried into exile. Matthew sees Bethlehem as a new city of sorrow where many are killed and the young Jesus, representing Israel, is carried away. These two sites are linked with the burial place of Rachel: one tradition puts her tomb on the outskirts of Bethlehem, where she gave birth to Benjamin in sorrow (Gen 35:17–19), while another locates it in the tribal territory of Benjamin near Ramah (1 Sam 10:2; cf. Josh 18:25).[1]

Scripture Reflection

Today’s Gospel describes Herod’s massacre of the boys of Bethlehem, his furious reaction to being deceived by the Magi. Matthew’s account of the visit of the Magi purposely juxtaposes King Herod and the mysterious magi from the east. Herod was the consummate political survivor, a canny realist who had, through threats, murder, and corruption, found his way to the top of the political ladder

While Herod was fussing around, desperately trying to maintain himself in power, figures from a distant country were blithely indifferent to politics and games of domination. They were intensely surveying the night sky, looking for signs from God. Now, as they cross the border into Herod’s country, the magi come onto Herod’s radar-screen. Who are they? Spies? And whom are they seeking? A new born king?! That is a threat. That is treason.

Under the pretense of piety, he calls the Magi to himself and inquires after the star’s first appearance, getting the time coordinate; and then he asks them to go to Bethlehem and find the exact locale. With this GPS system, he can find the king—and stamp him out.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 


[1] Curtis Mitch, “Introduction to the Gospels,” in The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: The New Testament (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 9.