The Holy Innocents

During Christmastide, there are several celebrations, feast days, and remembrances. Today, December 28, the liturgical church remembers the young boys murdered on Herod’s command. “The Holy Innocents” are those boys.

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. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

“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.”

Matthew 2:16-18 NIV

Matthew quotes Jeremiah, who laments the taking of the exiles to Babylon. Ramah was a few miles north of Jerusalem. Scholars tell us that the Israelite exiles were dispatched to Babylon from Ramah. The quote refers to Rachel, a beloved mother in the nation’s history – Jacob’s wife, who bore Joseph and Benjamin. She personifies the nation in mourning for the loss of its people.

In Jeremiah, we read that the Lord tells the mothers to restrain from mourning because He will eventually return their children from exile. God intervenes and allows the Israelites to return to their own land. Matthew does not use this verse as a predictive text. Instead, Matthew is saying that previously a foreign power tried to wipe out God’s people and was unsuccessful. And so it will be, was in Herod’s day – he tried to wipe out the newborn king, but God is sovereign. God protected the promised Messiah, so He would fulfill the New Covenant promised by Jeremiah!

 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals. Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the Lord.
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
    “when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
    and with the people of Judah.”
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.”

Jeremiah 31: 27, 28, 31, 33 NIV

Ultimately God will prevail
over the nation’s suffering
for its ultimate joy.
AND ours as well!


We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents Of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
(Collect, Common Book of Prayer)

Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply