The Innocents

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 angel of the Lord As in Matt 1:20, Matthew clearly identifies the messenger here. flee to Egypt Recalls the Israelites’ time in Egypt. This situation also reflects Jeroboam’s flight into Egypt when Solomon wished to kill him (1 Kgs 11:40). God promised Jeroboam kingship; when Solomon died, Jeroboam returned from Egypt and became king.

2:15 might be fulfilled The ordinary expectations of the Messiah would not have included fleeing into Egypt, but Matthew presents even this as fulfilling prophecy. He sees an analogy between Israel—the children of God (Exod 4:23)—and Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus emerged from Egypt just as Israel had during the exodus (Exod 9–14). In addition, the rulers in both narratives order the slaughter of infants (Exod 1:22; Matt 2:16). Out of Egypt I called my son Quoted from Hos 11:1, where it refers to the historic events of the exodus. Matthew uses typology in applying this this text—which originally referred to God’s corporate people, Israel—to Jesus, God’s Messiah.

2:16 he had been deceived The Greek word used here, empaizō, usually means “to mock” or “to ridicule,” indicating that the magi’s noncompliance was disgraceful to Herod. two years old and under This detail implies that the wise men (Magi) first saw the star long before they came to Jerusalem. It also suggests that Jesus was probably more than a year old at this time. Bethlehem was very small; perhaps about 20 children were killed.

2:17 was fulfilled Another fulfillment (compare Matt 1:22–23; 2:5–6, 15, 17–18). In the following quote, Jeremiah is discussing the exile. Matthew takes this also as a reference to the Christ.

2:18 A voice was heard in Ramah Matthew quotes Jer 31:15; the context of children being slaughtered and Jesus’ family being uprooted parallels the context of Jeremiah’s prophecy.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, 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 newborn 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 coordinates; 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.