Monday, March 28, 2016

Rachel weeping

Do you remember some verses in the Bible that mention Rachel weeping? Let's look for them:
This is what the LORD says: "A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." (Jeremiah 31:15)
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. (Matthew 2:18)

Now, earlier in our study of Rachel, we noted that she gave birth to her second son on the road home to Jacob's family. In tears and pain, Rachel was delivering her son beside the road, with no conveniences, no comforts. As she cried, she knew that this child was the source of her weeping, and at the same time, her hope for the future. She must have realized her strength was ebbing, for she wanted to name the child Ben-oni (son of my sorrow):
They left Bethel, and when they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel went into hard labor. 17 During her difficult labor, the midwife said to her, “Don’t be afraid. You have another son.” 18 As her life faded away, just before she died, she named him Ben-oni, but his father named him Benjamin. (Genesis 35:16-18)

Jacob must have had tears streaming down his dusty cheeks as he gathered the wee babe into his arms -- the son of his beloved and lovely Rachel. Scholars tell us that they buried her near the area called Ramah. This area would figure significantly in the later history of the Hebrew people, in the time of the prophet Jeremiah. The kingdoms, Israel to the north and Judah to the south, shared an uneasy border and the town of Ramah was located on that border.

If we look at the history, Rachel was the mother of Joseph; Joseph was the father of Ephraim and of Manasseh -- they would be counted as Jacob's sons, and therefore two of the twelve tribes. Their descendants were counted in the nation of Israel. Benjamin's descendants were of Judah. So, to weep for her "children," Rachel (in the prophecy) is bitterly crying for the entire Hebrew nation.

Israel was the first to be taken into captivity by the Assyrians, and the final remnants of Judah were led into Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar's men over one hundred years later. The land was left desolate, as if the people "were not," or were dead. Ramah was the gathering point; all of the people were assembled there for the long trek into captivity. So, Rachel's weeping in Jeremiah was for the terrible suffering of her descendants. They are being led away from the very spot where she is buried, and "she refuses to be comforted." Yet again, her offspring are both the cause of her weeping and her hope for the future, as we'll see.

In Matthew's gospel, Rachel weeps again, but this time it is over the slaughter of the children in Bethlehem. There are no words of comfort for her here, as there are in Jeremiah, but the very next verse offers hope by speaking of Herod's death, and the return of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus to the land of Israel. The situation seemed bleak, but there is hope.

God's words to Rachel, and to us, are the focus of our study this week. I hope you will join us as we study!


Katie Isabella said...

This is fascinating. I would not have thought of this at all in my study. Thank you. xo

Cathy said...

So much here to think about. All I’ve ever associated that verse with was the murder of the children by Herod.

Austin Towers said...

Such a huge amount of prophetic meaning in the words of those verses! As Cathy says, there is so much to ponder. xx