The End of Exile


The End of
Matthew 2:16–18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to
be comforted, because they are
no more” (v. 18).

Approximately one
million Jews live in Egypt under Roman rule, making it an
excellent place for
Jesus’ family to hide during Herod’s reign (Matt.
2:13–15). This sanctuary is
necessary, the angel has told Joseph, because of
Herod’s desire to kill the
Christ child. He does not want to bend his knee to
the Messiah, despite what
he has said to the magi (v. 8). Unfortunately,
Matthew Henry comments, “the
greatest wickedness often conceals itself under a
mask of

Today’s passage describes Herod’s attempt to eliminate the One
who has
legitimate claim to his throne. In order to cover all of his bases
and ensure
that Jesus is eliminated, Herod orders the slaughter of every boy
ages two and
younger in Bethlehem and its surrounding region (v. 16). Herod
derives this
age span by adding the time since the star’s first appearance
(and hence,
Jesus’ birth, v. 7) and a window of a few extra

Bethlehem’s population is small, and twenty or fewer children are
killed under
Herod’s purge. This horrible act is in line with the same
cruelty and paranoia
that drove the evil king to kill a brother-in-law, wife,
and three sons when
he thought they might take his throne. Herod will also
arrange to have the
most beloved men in Palestine killed after he dies to
guarantee that someone
will mourn at the time of his death, though this order
will not be carried

As with Jesus’ flight into Egypt, Herod’s
killing of Bethlehem’s toddlers
fulfills prophecy. Matthew 2:18 quotes from
Jeremiah 31:15, a passage
describing how the mothers of Israel (personified
here in Rachel, matriarch of
the nation) mourned when their children, the
tribes of Israel, were carried
into exile. However, the rest of Jeremiah’s
chapter is hopeful, predicting a
day when God will rescue His people from
exile and inaugurate a new covenant.
In quoting this passage, Matthew tells
us two things. First, in Matthew’s day
the people are still enduring the
suffering of exile even though they are
living in their own land. Second,
this exile will end with Jesus. The tears of
Bethlehem’s mothers over their
murdered children fill up and end the suffering
of exile because the One who
will bring in the new covenant has arrived.

Coram deo: Living before the
face of God
Herod is one example
of all those who have tried to destroy the Christ and His
people. Though this
evil king did much harm, he was in the end unable to
thwart the plans of the
Father for His Son. We too can be sure that even when
the church suffers
persecution at home and abroad, God’s kingdom will never be
overcome. Pray
today for believers who are suffering for their faith that they
will remember
the Lord’s victory and stand firm for His Gospel.

For further

Exodus 1:8–22

The Bible in a year:

Genesis 36–37

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