Growing with God: A daily devotional with Tonia Slimm.
(The Advent: Faces within the Christmas Story.)
Matthew 2:16 (NIV)
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.
Matthew 2:16 (MSG)
Herod, when he realized that the scholars had tricked him, flew into a rage. He commanded the murder of every little boy two years old and under who lived in Bethlehem and its surrounding hills. (He determined that age from information he’d gotten from the scholars.)
“Then Herod, when he realized that he had been tricked by the magi, was extremely angry, and he sent [soldiers] and put to death all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that area who were two years old and under, according to the date which he had learned from the magi.” -AMPLIFIED
Although the soldiers are not pointedly mentioned in every translation it is implied that they were involved. We need to remember that Herod was a Roman dignitary. He would have had soldiers at his disposal to do his dirty deeds. (And yes, many of the deeds that Herod the Great did were dirty, nasty, and violent.)
Scripture does not really tell us anything about these soldiers in this part of our story. Various theologians believe that these soldiers were paid for out of Herod’s own pocket. They would have been mercenaries for hire, if you will.; bands of outlaws, including even Jews, that were willing to do Herod’s bidding. Others feel that they were Roman soldiers, auxiliaries that were given to Herod’s disposal by Rome. We really do not know because there is not a lot of information available.
We do know this from Scripture though: “After a few months had passed, Herod realized he’d been tricked. The wise men were not coming back. Herod, of course, was furious. He simply ordered that all boys who lived in or near Bethlehem and were two years of age and younger be killed. He knew the baby King was this age because of what the wise men told him. This sad event had long been foretold by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice will be heard in Ramah, weeping and wailing and mourning out loud all day and night. The voice is Rachel’s, weeping for her children, her children who have been killed; she weeps, and she will not be comforted.” -Matthew 2:16-18 (VOICE)
Working for Herod involved doing a whole lot of heinous acts, but this killing of innocent babies really must be one of the worst things that these soldiers ever had to do for him. I am sure that they were quit callous and insensitive by this point of time in their service to him. They had been sent in other instances to kill in cold-blood. This time though they were going into little quiet homes and ripping little baby boys from the arms of their sobbing mother’s arms and putting them to death. One must wonder if this unspeakable act had any effect on them or if they were so callous by this point in time that it did not disturb them at all.
Let us beware; that we too do not allow ourselves to become callous. The writer of Hebrews reminds us of the need to be careful lest we let sin harden our hearts; just what these soldiers had allowed their hearts to be hardened. “Brothers and sisters, pay close attention so you won’t develop an evil and unbelieving heart that causes you to abandon the living God. Encourage each other every day—for as long as we can still say “today”—so none of you let the deceitfulness of sin harden your hearts. For we have become partners with the Anointed One—if we can just hold on to our confidence until the end.” -Hebrews 3:12-14 (VOICE)
“For God will bring every act to judgment, every hidden and secret thing, whether it is good or evil.” -Ecclesiastes 12:14 (AMP)
Father, help me to do the things that are right before you. I do not ever want to come to the place where my heart is callous, indifferent and insensitive to you. I read this account of death and destruction and wonder how anyone could allow themselves to become such a monster, but I know that anyone who allows self to sit on the throne of their heart can so easily become just like these soldiers. Father, help me to continually make the choice every moment of every day to allow you to sit on the throne of my heart. Keep my heart soft and tender toward the things of God. Thank You, Lord.