The Story of the Massacre of the Innocents
They were young, frail, helpless, and innocent. They were less than 2 years old and now they are clothed with white robes at the throne of God.
Who were they?
They were the precious children that died for Jesus at the very first Christmas story.
But why you ask? Why did these children have to die? That’s not a very pleasant first Christmas.
No, it’s not but it happened because Satan is cunning and the last thing he wanted was for Jesus to survive.
What is the massacre of the innocents?
The Massacre of the Innocents happened in the New Testament and is documented in Matthew chapter 2. We all know the story of the 3 wise men who followed the star to the little town of Bethlemen awaiting to find the new king. Upon reaching the city gates, they had to speak with Herod to let him know what they were doing in his town. They told him their plans and Herod, in a threatened state, ordered that all of the baby boys aged 2 years and younger be killed. Let’s take a closer look at Matthew 2…
“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.”
How many died in the Massacre of the Innocents?
in the Massacre of the Innocents, the number of children killed in this event is not specified in the Bible.
What we do know is that it was a fulfillment of prophecy so the Bible actually states this event twice. The prophet Jeremiah made a prophetic reference to this when he described what was to come in Jeremiah 31:15 which is the scripture verse quoted in Matthew 2.
Some scholars debate that this event even happened. However, the Bible is the historically accurate book of all times so why would we doubt it at all, especially when this event was stated twice? Not only was it stated twice but the prophet foretold this even 600 years before Jesus was even born and then it actually happened!
We call this Messianic Prophecy fulfilled. My husband actually became a believer in Christ because of the Messianic Prophecy and how he clearly saw Christ fulfilling these prophecies.
In the Massacre of the Innocent, which king ordered the killing of all infants?
In the Massacre of the Innocent, King Herod of Judea ordered the killing of all male children in Bethlehem and its vicinity in an attempt to kill the newborn Jesus, whom he saw perceived as a threat to his throne. This event is referred to as the “massacre of the innocents.”
These little children are actually the very first martyrs of the Christian church because they gave their lives for our King Jesus.
Have you ever seen Jesus of Nazareth from 1977? It was a staple VHS in my home growing up. In fact, I’ll say that everyone should have this movie in their home, especially if you are raising children and want them to know the faith.
The actor who played Jesus has a very iconic face that has been used in many Jesus portraits throughout the last 50 years.
Also, that rosary of the Sorrowful Mysteries that I watch with the children on Tuesday and Friday from YouTube by the Dominican Friars uses clips from this film. It’s tasteful and very realistic. You feel as if you are really there and can meditate on the life of Christ even more.
Check out this clip from Jesus of Nazareth (1977) that I found for you. You’ll see what I mean. It will make The Massacre of the Innocent come alive in your heart and make you feel the same feelings that Rachel felt when she was weeping for her children…
What can the Church learn from the Massacre of the Holy Innocents?
The Massacre of the Innocent seems so difficult to fathom. Why would God allow thousands of little boys to be murdered right when Jesus was born? We always think of the Christmas story as a sweet, “Silent Night” kinda theme. But yet, history reveals this…
- How are we supposed to mentally and emotionally deal with this?
- Why did God allow this to happen?
When some people think of this text, they may only grab the outside issues at hand. Some people think that this can be a time to consider checks and balances when it comes to power. How in the world could the ruler of that time order a decree that killed his own people in this way!? I’m mean… what the heck!?!
Some people think this should be a time to consider defending the defenseless. We have the current issue of abortion that is very similar. While I view the abolition of abortion to be of top priority in our society, I think this story is pointing us to a deeper spiritual understanding of the text.
These are both valid points, and I’m sure there are even more implications that readers can think of. However, something bigger was going on when the Son of God, God in the Flesh, was miraculously born on this earth.
The Massacre of the Innocents waged war against our enemy
While Satan didn’t know all of God’s plan, he knew that something was going on and he wanted to stop that at all costs. He is the one who inspired Herod to snuff out the light that was brought into the world and a decree to kill all of the baby boys was not a unique plan to him.
Do you recall Exodus 1:22?
Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”
Moses was a foreshadowing of the Messiah. If you want to learn more about how the New Testament was fulfilled in the New Testament, I encourage you to get this book right here by Sailhammer.
My husband was a Biblical study major and we discovered this book through his studies. It’s amazing and a great little commentary companion with your daily Bible reading.
Anyway, back to it…. we know that the old testament is a fulfillment of the New Testament and so we know that Moses was a foreshadowing of Jesus. Just like Jesus, Moses was born to save his people from bondage. Moses and Jesus’ stories have a lot of similarities, more than I will list here. I’ll leave you to research those parallels on your own and possibly even save it for another blog post.
This is the main similarity I will focus on regarding our topic today. When Moses was born all of the baby boys were ordered to be killed. The exact same thing happens when Jesus was born and all of the baby boys are supposed to be killed. Coincidence? I think not.
The reason for this is that both Pharaoh and Herod could feel the intimidation of this new Messiah-type figure that was going to come and save the people.
Pharaoh was intimidated that this new baby boy would come and free the Jewish people that he currently was using as his slaves to build his Egyptian pyramids.
In a similar fashion, Herod was intimidated that this newborn baby “king”, according to the wise men, would come and overtake his throne. The other similarities between these two figures will amaze you. You have to go check it out for yourself. I found a great article that explains everything here…
This story also reminds me of the verse in Ephesians 6:12…
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Do you think that God being born in the flesh would go unnoticed by our enemy?? I think not.
Satan began to wage war immediately in order to win. Our first fallen heroes sadly were sweet baby boys under the age of two. But they are not forgotten! The Catholic Church honors them every single year and has for the past 2000 years of its history. Right now they are clothed in white robes standing before the throne of God in glory.
The Massacre of the Innocents Teaches Us To Trust God’s Plan
This story is also a way that we can remember to always trust God’s plan. What happened out of this tragedy? Joseph was visited in a dream for the second time and told to flee to safety and to take Mary and baby Jesus to Egypt.
They would go on to live in Egypt for the first 8 years of Jesus’ life. This is what was referenced in Matthew 2:15…
and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
The Massacre of the Innocents reveals Revelation 21
This also reminds me of the story in Revelation 21 when it talks about the woman who gave birth and how the dragon immediately wanted to devour the baby but she was swept away to safety.
12 And then a great wonder appeared in heaven: There was a woman who was clothed with the sun, and the moon was under her feet. She had a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out with pain because she was about to give birth.
3 Then another wonder appeared in heaven: There was a giant red dragon there. The dragon had seven heads with a crown on each head. It also had ten horns. 4 Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and threw them down to the earth. It stood in front of the woman who was ready to give birth to the baby. It wanted to eat the woman’s baby as soon as it was born.
5 The woman gave birth to a son, who would rule all the nations with an iron rod. And her child was taken up to God and to his throne. 6 The woman ran away into the desert to a place that God had prepared for her. There she would be taken care of for 1260 days.
7 Then there was a war in heaven. Michael[a] and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, 8 but they were not strong enough. The dragon and its angels lost their place in heaven. 9 It was thrown down out of heaven. (This giant dragon is that old snake, the one called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world into the wrong way.) The dragon and its angels were thrown to the earth.
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say, “The victory and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah have now come. These things have come, because the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown out. He is the one who accused them day and night before our God. 11 They defeated him by the blood sacrifice of the Lamb and by the message of God that they told people. They did not love their lives too much. They were not afraid of death. 12 So rejoice, you heavens and all who live there! But it will be terrible for the earth and sea, because the devil has gone down to you. He is filled with anger. He knows he doesn’t have much time.”
13 The dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth. So he chased the woman who had given birth to the child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of a great eagle. Then she could fly to the place that was prepared for her in the desert. There she would be taken care of for three and a half years. There she would be away from the dragon.[b] 15 Then the dragon poured water out of its mouth like a river. It poured the water toward the woman so that the flood would carry her away. 16 But the earth helped the woman. The earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that came from the mouth of the dragon. 17 Then the dragon was very angry with the woman. It went away to make war against all her other children. Her children are those who obey God’s commands and have the truth that Jesus taught.
Are you not absolutely amazed by what you’ve read!? Oh my goodness. I am. I could write a whole nother’ blog post just on Revelation 21.
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine this there are two things going on at all times. The first thing that you see is the physical world. But underneath this layer is always this spiritual world.
So in this circumstance, the physical world showed a very humble woman and a humble man just trying to find a place to sleep and a safe place to give birth to a new baby. It shows them finding a place to rest in a Manger with animals and giving birth having to lay her baby in a troth.
But, spiritually we see an image of that in revelation a woman giving birth to a dragon trying to devour it, and God sweeping them away to safety.
This story shows us the importance of trusting in God. We may not understand everything that happens. We may not like it. We may not agree with it but we can know just like it says in Romans 8:28…
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose.”
We can rest in this truth no matter what comes our way.
So, every year on December 28th, we celebrate the massacre of the innocents. You’ve learned this story. You’ve meditated on its truth and you’ve pleased God with your time.
Now take these truths and ponder them in your heart as Mary did and go share it with the world.
Are you Inspired?
Are you inspired by what you’ve learned today about The Massacre of Innocents? Does it make your heart ignited knowing that Jesus had to escape death even from the very beginning of His life so that he could grow into a man and die on the cross for you?
Did you know that you can join us every day as we learn about the Saint of the Day? Take a minute to sign up for my daily saint emails that I’ll send you delivered straight to your email inbox. I know people are busy so I keep it short and sweet but also very educational so you can live your life with the saints as I do.
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Well, that’s all for today.
I’ll see you back tomorrow with another Saint of the Day to inspire you!