Slaughter of the Innocents

The Massacre of the Innocents is the biblical recount of infanticide by Herod the Great, the Roman-appointed King of the Jews. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Herod ordered the execution of all young male children in the vicinity of Bethlehem, so as to avoid the loss of his throne to a newborn King of the Jews whose birth had been announced to him by the Magi.

Slaughter of the Innocents
Slaughter of the Innocents

In typical Matthean style, it is understood as the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy: “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, saying, ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.'”

Slaughter of the Innocents
Slaughter of the Innocents

The number of infants killed is not stated. The Holy Innocents, although Jewish, have been claimed as martyrs for Christianity. Since all the canonical evidence that such an event occurred is found only in the Gospel of Matthew, New Testament scholars such as Daniel J. Harrington have said that the historicity of the event is “an open question that probably can never be definitively decided.” Most recent biographers of Herod deny that the event occurred.

Slaughter of the Innocents
Slaughter of the Innocents

In Matthew’s account, Magi from the east goes to Judea in search of the newborn king of the Jews, having “seen his star in the east”. The King, Herod the Great, directs them to Bethlehem, and asks them to let him know who this king is when they find him. They find Jesus and honor him, but an angel tells them not to alert Herod, and they return home by another way.

Slaughter of the Innocents
Slaughter of the Innocents

When [the Magi] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Get up, he said, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.

Slaughter of the Innocents
Slaughter of the Innocents

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” 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 or under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

Slaughter of the Innocents
Slaughter of the Innocents

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.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

2 Comments

Please leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.