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.
It’s a tragic prophecy in the Bible. It comes from the Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah.
It’s quoted early in the gospel of Matthew, to show how Jesus’ birth and events associated with it have been promised from days of old. At this point in the Christmas account, Herod is killing innocent babies to attempt to destroy the child who has been born “King of the Jews”.
Rachel is one of the mothers of Israel. Rachel appears in the book of Genesis and we are told she is one of Jacob’s wives (the other being Leah). Jacob is also known as Israel.
So Rachel is one of the mothers of the Jews. She gave birth to two of the sons (or tribes) of Israel. Their names were Joseph and Benjamin.
There’s something so very powerfully maternal about the insertion of the prophecy at this point in the gospel. There’s something so gentle about the imagery created and also something so deep within the grief.
I love how Matthew pulls out this important woman in Israel and uses her to explain what is happening. There’s something in the power of the heart of a woman. Her maternal grief has a depth that couldn’t be expressed in any other way.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that all mothers care about their children. But there is a power in femininity that is expressed here that should not be ignored. These are Rachel’s children being murdered, for these are the sons of Israel.
She is spiritually their mother and her grief cannot be contained. She must weep. She must respond.
Rachel is like God, for God is emotional.
His grief cannot be contained. He must respond when we need assistance. This is why he sends his son at Christmas. He sends his son to stop our pain. And yet his son will die to set us free.
The agony of Christmas. The tragedy of salvation.
It’s not pleasant nor is it neatly wrapped boxes under the tree. Yet, it’s what Christmas is about: salvation through suffering. Perhaps we should spend a little more time looking at Rachel in grief this Christmas. It may help understand the manger better.
Yours in listening to the voice in Ramah,