Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. … And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. 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 inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah 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 2:17-19)
A little more than a hundred years before the birth of Christ, John Hyracanus, the youngest of the Macabees, and King of Judea, defeated the nation of Edom and forcibly converted them to Judaism. Among the converts was the family of the Herods. The Family Patriarch, Antipater, raised his son Herod as a Jew. Antipater was a friend of Julius Caesar, and when a young Herod had to flee to Rome, He became friends with Octavian, who later became known as Caesar Augustus.
It was partly by the influence of his friendship with Caesar that Herod was named “King of Judea” by the Roman Senate. Herod was scrupulous about keeping kosher, but in a fit of rage and paranoia, He killed his own son, leading to Caesar’s famous quip, “It is safer to be Herod’s pig, than his Son”.
When Herod heard the news from the East, that the “King of the Jews” was born in Bethlehem, He did what any oriental despot would have done at the time, He set out to Kill the legitimate rival to the throne, as soon as possible. Thus the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, in Bethlehem, every child from two years old on down.
Herod no doubt had no idea of the many and profound ways He was fulfilling prophecies, that date all the way back to the Garden of Eden by his actions. Matthew tells us on the one level, that He fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah, about Rachel weeping for her children.
It was in Ramah, that Jewish captives were assembled at the time of the Babylonian captivity, to be marched the 400 plus miles back over the Jordan and even over the Euphrates into captivity as a judgment for the persistent and unrepentant sins of Judah.
Even further back, Jacob’s wife Rachel died in childbirth, in Ramah, on the way to Bethlehem. She was giving birth to a Son whom she named “BenAmi”- “Son of My Sorrow”, but which led to Jacob changing his name to “BenJamin”- “Son of my Right hand”. Within that story is a prophecy , that the sufferings of Christ (The true “Son of Sorrow”) would be turned to the highest exaltation and honor in Heaven, “God has exalted Him and seated Him at his own Right Hand”.
But Herod was inadvertently fulfilling other, older prophecies as well. From the very beginning, we are told that there would be a war between the “Seed of the woman” and the “seed of the Serpent”, that would characterize all of human history.
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.( Genesis 3:15)
The Devil has always sought to destroy the “Seed of the Woman”, or the people who would bear the seed of the woman, ie Abraham,Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David and his Sons. One of the themes of the Old testament, is the “war on the seed”, such as when Pharaoh took Abraham’s wife, or when Athaliah slew all of the sons of David except the one who was hidden…. .
Obviously Herod is playing the Red Dragon, who appears in an apocalyptic vision in Revelation 12,
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne.( Revelation 12:1-5)
Revelation 12 is the compliment to Genesis 3. In Genesis 3 we have a woman, a man, and a Serpent in a garden. By Revelation 12, we see that the woman is clothed, and pregnant, in labor. The Serpent is now a dragon, and has much power and many victories over mankind. The Dragon waits to pounce on the promised “seed of the woman” as soon as it is born.
The woman in labor is Israel (The Sun,Moon and stars are interpreted in the story of Joseph’s dream, as Israel). She labors in travail because she was chosen to bring into this earth, the scripture, the worship and temple, and most importantly, the Messiah. As we learn in Genesis 3, nothing of any value can come into this world now, without travail and sorrow. This is the meaning of Israel’s suffering and persecution.
Now why dost thou cry out aloud? is there no king in thee? is thy counsellor perished? for pangs have taken thee as a woman in travail. Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail: for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go even to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered; there the Lord shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies. Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. But they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor. ( Micah 4:9-12)
The Serpent has become a dragon. No longer does he have to sneak around on his belly as an outsider, he has acquired all political and worldly power, and is the “god of this age”. We need not wonder what the red dragon symbolizes, for Revelation 12 tells us plainly, that he is “The Serpent of Old, the Devil...”,
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.(Revelation 12:9)
The Dragon failed to destroy the seed of the woman, Rachel’s tears will be dried up and she will be comforted and the who world will finally be freed from the primal curse!
No wonder we reverently and worshipfully sing with trembling voice,
Silent night, holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth