The Mad Man of Christmas
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. (Matthew 2:16).
TODAY'S PICTURE: The Massacre of the Innocents, from The Life of Jesus Christ by J.J.Tissot, 1899 – In the painting, a soldier has snatched a toddler from its mother. She is lying on her back on the wall with her white clothing unfurled. Her arms are stretched up toward the soldier who has raised her child above his head ready to kill it. Note the size of the child which is old enough to walk. In the next arch are another soldier and child.
THE STORY CONTINUES....
Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by 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 (Matthew 2:17-18).
SLEW ALL THE CHILDREN. "Macrobins, a Heathen author, …reports that "when Augustus heard, that among the children under two years of age, whom Herod king of the Jews ordered to be slain, that his son was also killed., Macrobins said, it was better to be Herod's hog than his son.'' (Gill)
The point of this saying consists in this, that Herod, professing Judaism, his religion forbade his killing swine, or having anything to do with their flesh; therefore his hog would have been safe, where his son lost his life. (Clarke)
WITHOUT LAW... Herod unleashed his rage upon all the innocent male children in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas around the village. Bethlehem was never a big place. He acted unlawfully in tyranny. The wise men had told Herod the time when the star first appeared. From that, he knew about how old the new King Prince would be and gave the order to kill all the male children two years old and under.
In the end, it would be the soldiers estimating the age of the children they found, and they would live or die according to the judgment of the soldiers. The age of “two years” would have been a stretched estimate to make sure the Jesus child did not escape. Herod probably did not expect him to be quite that old. Herod rounded up the chief priests and scribes in Jerusalem and demanded what they knew about an expected Jewish Messiah. They quoted him Micah 5:2, the same as in your Bible today.
The Jewish historian Josephus does not mention this incident. Barnes suggests three reasons why Josephus may not have written about the massacre at Bethlehem.
1. Josephus, a Jewish historian and a Jew, would not be likely to record anything that would appear to confirm the truth of Christianity.
2. This act of Herod was really so small, compared with his other crimes, that the historian might not think it worthy of record. Bethlehem was a small and obscure village, and the other crimes of Herod were so great and so public, that it is not to be wondered at that the Jewish historian has passed over this.
3. The order was probably given in secret, and might not have been known to Josephus. It pertained to the Christian history; and if the evangelists had not recorded it, it might have been unknown or forgotten. Besides, no argument can be drawn from the silence of the Jewish historian. No reason can be given why Matthew should not be considered to be as fully entitled to credit as Josephus. Yet there is no improbability in the account given by Matthew.
Herod was an odious and bloody tyrant, and the facts of his reign prove that he was abundantly capable of this wickedness. The following bloody deeds will show that the slaying of the infants was in perfect accordance with his character. The account is taken from Josephus, as arranged by Dr. Lardner.
Aristobulus, brother of Herod's wife Mariamne, was murdered by Heerod's direction at eighteen years of age, because the people of Jerusalem had shown some affection for his person. In the seventh year of his reign, he put to death Hyrcanus, grandfather of Mariamne, then 80 years of age, and who had formerly saved Herod’s life; a man who had, in every revolution of fortune, shown a mild and peaceable disposition. His beloved and beautiful wife, Mariamne, had a public execution, and her mother Alexandra followed soon after - Alexander and Aristobulus, his two sons by Mariamne, were strangled in prison by his orders upon groundless suspicions, as it seems, when they were married, and had children.
During Herod’s last sickness, a little before he died, he sent orders throughout Judea requiring the presence of all the chief men of the nation at Jericho. His orders were obeyed, for they were enforced with no less penalty than that of death. When they were come to Jericho he had them all shut up in the circus, and calling for his sister Salome and her husband Alexis, he said to them,
“My life now is short, I know the Jewish people, and nothing will please them better than my death. You have them now in your custody. As soon as the breath is out of my body, and before my death can be known, do you let in the soldiers upon them and kill them. All Judea, then, and every family, will, though unwillingly, mourn at my death.”
Josephus says that with tears in his eyes he conjured them, by their love to him and their fidelity to God, not to fail of doing him this honor. What objection, after this account, can there be to the account of his murdering the infants at Bethlehem? Surely there could be no cruelty, barbarity, or horrid crime which such a man was not capable of perpetrating (Barnes)
Herod, and the slaughter of the innocent toddlers in Bethlehem are part of the Christmas story.
●This article has been edited and reprinted from Good Morning! December 25, 2007.
Read Through the Bible in a Year
DECEMBER 25, 2017 - MONDAY
A.M. Haggai 1-2 P.M. Revelation 16
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A Good Verse to Memorize:
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:13-14)
Song for Today:
O Come All Ye Faithful (3:06) (Larry Ford and Gaither Group)
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