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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

NT Use of OT Part 14: Matt 2:17-18/Jer 31:15 and Divine Correspondence between Israel and Jesus

With Matt 2:17-18 we come to another passage in Matthew’s gospel where an event in Israel’s history corresponds to an event in Jesus’ life. Matt 2:16 indicates that Herod was enraged and launched a massacre on all male children in Bethlehem. Matthew then links this occurrence with what Jeremiah discussed in Jer 31:15:

Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:
    "A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH,
         WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING,
         RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN;
         AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED,
         BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE."

Jeremiah 31 is a chapter of great hope for Israel. In fact, it is the chapter discussing the glorious new covenant that will be given to Israel some day (see Jer. 31:31-34). Yet sandwiched in the middle of this chapter is verse 15 which refers to the deportation of the sons of Israel during the Babylonian captivity (586 B.C.). Ramah, just north of Jerusalem, served as a place where the exiles were gathered before departing for Babylon. The women of Jerusalem who were not exiled wept over the deportation of their young men. But certain questions arise with Matthew’s use of Jer 31:15: (1) How can a first century A.D. event be a fulfillment of another event hundreds of years earlier?; (2) How can the slaughter of infants be a fulfillment of a deportation?; (3) How can an event in Ramah be a fulfillment of an event in Bethlehem?

Now certainly Matthew is not saying that Ramah is really Bethlehem or that the Babylonian deportation is the slaughter of infants in the first century. But like Matt 1:23 and 2:15, Matthew is showing a divinely intended correspondence between an event in Israel’s history and an event in Jesus’ life to show the solidarity between Jesus and Israel.

God intended for the deportation of the sons of Israel of Jeremiah’s day to correspond to the slaughter of infants in Jesus’ day and in this sense what happened in Jesus’ day heightens what Israel experienced earlier. Both events involve sorrow in lieu of a tragedy. But also, Jeremiah 31:15 is a lament in the context of future hope. Matthew may be drawing attention to the hope element found in Jeremiah in an analogous way to the hope that Jesus brings His people. Thus, we see another example of “Divine Correspondence between Israel and Jesus.”

1 comment:

  1. Good job, Mike. Are you looking for proof-reading comments, or should that take another venue?

    ReplyDelete