The fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah (Mt 2:17-2:18)

“Then was fulfilled

What had been spoken

Through the prophet Jeremiah.

‘A voice is heard

In Ramah.

Wailing

With loud lamentation.

Rachel is weeping

For her children.

She refuses to be consoled,

Because they are no more.’”

 

τότε ἐπληρώθη τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἰερεμίου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος

Φωνὴ ἐν Ῥαμὰ ἠκούσθη, κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὀδυρμὸς πολύς·

Ῥαχὴλ κλαίουσα τὰ τέκνα αὐτῆς, καὶ οὐκ ἤθελεν παρακληθῆναι ὅτι οὐκ εἰσίν.

 

Matthew once again has a prophetic citation, but this time explicitly from the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 31:15. He said that the prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled here (τότε ἐπληρώθη τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Ἰερεμίου τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος). In the Jeremiah prophecy, Yahweh talked about Rachel, one of the wives of Jacob and the mother of Joseph and Benjamin. At the time of Jeremiah, Rachel had been dead and buried for a long time at Ramah, about 6 miles north of Jerusalem in the former Benjamin territory. Thus, Rachel (Ῥαχὴλ) was loudly lamenting from her grave. Jeremiah said that a voice from Ramah was heard (Φωνὴ ἐν Ῥαμὰ ἠκούσθη). She was weeping bitterly and mourning (κλαυθμὸς καὶ ὀδυρμὸς πολύς) for her lost children (κλαίουσα τὰ τέκνα αὐτῆς). She refused to be comforted (οὐκ ἤθελεν παρακληθῆναι), because they were dead and gone. They were no more (ὅτι οὐκ εἰσίν). Here Matthew, used this saying to apply to the innocent male children that Herod had killed. In the follow up to the Rachel story in Jeremiah, Yahweh told her to stop weeping and dry her tears, because she was going to be rewarded with descendants. There is no indication of that here in this text.

The alarming situation in Benjamin (Hos 5:8-5:8)

“Blow the horn

In Gibeah!

Blow the trumpet

In Ramah!

Sound the alarm

At Beth-aven!

Tremble!

O Benjamin!”

Yahweh, via Hosea, wanted them to blow the horn in Gibeah, a hill about 5 miles north of Jerusalem. They were to blow the horn at Ramah, a place near Mizpah. Then they were to sound the alarm at Beth-aven, Bethel, the capital of the northern Israelite kingdom. Benjamin should also tremble, because it was between Ephraim and Judah.

Filling the large cistern pit with dead people (Jer 41:9-41:9)

“Now the cistern

Into which Ishmael

Had thrown

All the bodies

Of the men

Whom he had struck down

Was the large cistern

That King Asa

Had made for defense

Against King Baasha

Of Israel.

Ishmael,

The son of Nethaniah,

Filled that cistern

With those

Whom he had killed.”

Jeremiah explains that this big cistern was able to hold 80 bodies because this cistern was more like a pit or a trench that King Asa of Judah (911-870 BCE) had built over 300 years earlier. At that time he was having a war standoff with King Baasha of Israel (909-886 BCE) about Ramah. Thus, he built the city of Mizpah according to 1 Kings, chapter 15. This was then some kind of large trench pit rather than a simple well, so that it was able to hold all these bodies. There was no mention of the bodies of the other Judeans and Chaldeans who had been killed a couple of days earlier.

Oracle after the defeat (Jer 40:1-40:1)

“The word

That came

To Jeremiah

From Yahweh

After Nebuzaradan,

The captain of the guard,

Had let him go

From Ramah.

He had taken him

Bound in fetters

Along with all the captives

Of Jerusalem and Judah.

They were being exiled

To Babylon.”

According to this account, Jeremiah was sent in chains along with all the other captives of Jerusalem and Judah that were about to be exiled to Babylon. While there, Jeremiah had this oracle of Yahweh about leaving Ramah, which was about 6 miles north of Jerusalem in the Benjamin territory. Apparently this Ramah camp was where they made the final disposition of the various prisoners. Perhaps it was here that the captain of the guard, Nebuzaradan, made his final decision about Jeremiah. Like the preceding chapter, this is a different numbered chapter in the Greek translation of the Septuagint, chapters 47 and 48, not chapter 40 as here.

Rachel laments her children (Jer 31:15-31:17)

“Thus says Yahweh.       

‘A voice is heard in Ramah.

There is lamentation.

There is bitter weeping.

Rachel is weeping

For her children.

She refuses to be comforted

For her children.

Because they are no more.’

Thus says Yahweh.

‘Keep your voice

From weeping!

Keep your eyes

From tears!

There is a reward

For your work.’

Says Yahweh.

‘They shall come back

From the land of the enemy.

There is hope for your future.’

Says Yahweh.

‘Your children shall come back

To their own country.’”

Jeremiah seems to have a dialogue with Rachel, the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, and Yahweh. Rachel has been dead and buried for a long time at Ramah, during the time of Jacob as in Genesis, chapter 35. However, there the resting place was called Bethlehem. Here it is Ramah, someplace in Benjamin that makes more sense. The prophet Samuel may have lived in this place as in 1 Samuel, chapter 25. However, here Rachel is lamenting from her grave. She is weeping bitterly for her lost children. She refuses to be comforted because they too are dead and gone. This passage had an influence on the later Gospel of Matthew, chapter 2, where he used this saying to apply to the innocent children killed by Herod. However, Yahweh tells her to stop weeping and dry her tears, because she was going to be rewarded. The descendants of her children were going to come back to their country from the land of their enemies. Thus the northern tribes would be restored.

The villages of Benjamin (Neh 11:31-11:36)

“The people of Benjamin also lived from Geba onward, at Michmash, Aija, Bethel and its villages, Anathoth, Nob, Ananiah, Hazor, Ramah, Gittaim, Hadid, Zeboim, Neballat, Lod, and Ono, the valley of artisans. Certain divisions of the Levites in Judah were joined to Benjamin.”

This author named 15 towns in the old Benjamin territory. Geba and Michmash were on the northeast side, while Hadid, Lod and Ono were on the west side. Bethel would be on the north side. Aija, this Zeboim, and Neballat are only mentioned here. Anathoth, Nob, Ananiah, Hazor, Ramah, were all within 10 miles of Jerusalem. Some of the Levites went to these towns in Judah and Benjamin.

The list of men by towns returning (Neh 7:25-7:38)

“The men of Gibeon were ninety-five. The men of Bethlehem and Netophah were one hundred eighty-eight. The men of Anathoth were one hundred twenty-eight. The men of Beth-Azmaveth were forty-two. The men of Kiriath-jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth were seven hundred forty-three. The men of Ramah and Geba were six hundred twenty-one. The men of Michmas were one hundred twenty-two. The men of Bethel and Ai were one hundred twenty-three. The men of the other Nebo were fifty-two. The descendents of the other Elam were one thousand two hundred fifty-four. The descendents of Harim were three hundred twenty. The men of Jericho were three hundred forty-five. The men of Lod, Hadid, and Ono were seven hundred twenty-one. The men of Senaah were three thousand nine hundred thirty.”

Once again, we have a very close similarity with Ezra, chapter 2, almost word for word. This list refers to the towns that they had come from in Judah, but also a lot from the Benjamin territory. These were the leaders there that had been taken into captivity. Gibbar or the town of Gibeon had a mere 95 people, the same as Ezra. Bethlehem had 188 not 123 people. Here it is combined with Netophah, a small town near Bethlehem that only had 56 people, so that the net change is only 9 more people here. Anathoth, another small town in Benjamin, had exactly the same amount of 128 people. Beth-Azmaveth or just Azmaveth, a town near Jerusalem, had 42 people, the smallest amount, but exactly the same as in Ezra. There was a group of 3 towns near Jerusalem in the Benjamin territory of Kiriath-jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth with exactly the same amount of 743 people. Ramah and Geba were northern towns in Benjamin with exactly the same amount of 621 people. Michmas was another Benjamin town with exactly the same amount of 122 people. Bethel and Ai were 2 northern Benjaminite towns with 123 instead of 223 people as in Ezra. This Nebo was a small town near Bethel and Ai with exactly the same amount of 52 people. There was no mention here of Magbish, a small town in Benjamin with 156 people as there was in Ezra. This other Elam had 1,254 people, but that is the exact amount as mentioned in the previous paragraph and in Ezra. Harim with 320 people was exactly the same as in Ezra. Lod, Hadid, and Ono were 3 Benjaminite towns with 721 instead of 725 people. Jericho had exactly the same amount of 345 people. Senaah, a town in northern Benjamin had the largest group with 3,930 instead of 3,630 people as in Ezra. Thus there were only minor discrepancies between this account and the one in Ezra.