Matthew 2:18 is the eighteenth verse of the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. Herod has ordered the Massacre of the Innocents and this verse quotes from the Book of Jeremiah to show that this event was predicted by the prophets.
In the King James Version of the Bible the text reads:
- 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.
The World English Bible translates the passage as:
- "A voice was heard in Ramah,
- lamentation, weeping and great mourning,
- Rachel weeping for her children;
- she wouldn't be comforted,
- because they are no more."
For a collection of other versions see BibRef Matthew 2:18
The verse is a quotation from Jeremiah 31:15. This is the first of three times Matthew quotes Jeremiah, the others being Matthew 16:14 and Matthew 24:9. The verse is similar to the Masoretic, but is not an exact copy implying that it could be a direct translation from the Hebrew. In Jeremiah this verse is a description of Rachel, the long dead mother of the northern tribes, mourning as her children are taken into captivity by the Assyrians. This mourning thus addresses born the Massacre of the Innocents, but the reference to a forced exile can also refer to the Holy Family's Flight into Egypt.
This has long been considered one of Matthew's more elusive Old Testament references. Scholars have pointed out a number of problems with the context and original meaning. Rachel's tomb has long been associated with Bethlehem an important link between here and the massacre taking place there. However, Brown notes that this view is likely incorrect. Genesis reports that Rachel died and was buried while travelling to Bethlehem and implies that she was still some distance away from the town. In this verse the author of Jeremiah seems to be asserting that she was buried in Ramah, a town some five miles from Bethlehem. The Hebrew word Ramah could also be translated as "on high" and some versions of Jeremiah use this wording. "A voice was heard on high" would seem to fit more logically with Matthew's narrative, but it is fairly clear that the town is being referred to.
Another difficulty is that Bethlehem is in Judah, and thus its people were regarded as the children of Leah not Rachel. The verse is also taken somewhat out of context. The passage in Jeremiah is actually one of joy ending with the information that God had saved the Israelites and the children would be unharmed. This is not true of the children of Bethlehem who find no last minute succor. However in the Catholic and Orthodox churches the Holy Innocents were proclaimed to all be saints, thus meeting Jeremiah's message of deliverance.
- Harrington, Daniel J. The Gospel of Matthew. Liturgical Press, 1991. pg. 45
- Albright, W.F. and C.S. Mann. "Matthew." The Anchor Bible Series. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1971.
- Nolland, John. The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary on the Greek text. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005 pg. 125
- France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: an Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 1985. pg. 88
- Brown, Raymond E. The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in Matthew and Luke. London: G. Chapman, 1977.
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