The Sunday after Christmas Gospel: Matthew 2:13-23
The Slaughter of the Holy Innocent Children – This Gospel Lesson in contemporary society has implication for the practice of abortion in which another group of Innocents is slaughtered. We can recognize the wholesale slaughter of the Israelite babies by Pharaoh or the Bethlehemite infants by Herod as a murderous evil, but apparently if their own mothers had decided to kill these infants in the name of liberation it would be acceptable.
Regarding the slaughter of the Innocent Boys in Matthew 2, Dale Allison in THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT: INSPIRING THE MORAL IMMAGINATION writes:
“In chapter 2 [Matthew] Herod’s order to do away with the male infants of Bethlehem (2:16-18) is like Pharaoh’s order to do away with every male Hebrew child (Exodus 1). And if Herod orders the slaughter of Hebrew infants because he had learned of the birth of Israel’s liberator (2:2-18), in Jewish tradition Pharaoh’s slaughters the Hebrew children because he has learned of the very same thing (Josephus, Antiquities 2.205-9; Targum Ps.-Jonathaan on Exod. 1:15). Further, whereas Herod hears of the coming liberator from chief priests, scribes, and magi (2:1-12), Josephus (Antiquities 2.205 and 234) has Pharaoh learn of Israel’s deliverer from scribes, while the Jersalem Targum on Exod. 1-15 says that Pharaoh’s chief magicians were the sources of his information. The quotation of Hos. 11:1 in Matt. 2:15 further evokes thought of the exodus, for in its original context “Out of Egypt I have called my son” concerns Israel. And then there is 2:19-22, which borrows the language from Exod. 4:19-20: just as Moses, after being told to go back to Egypt because all those seeking his life have died, takes his wife and children and returns to the land of his birth, so too with Jesus; Joseph, after being told to go back to Israel because all those seeking the life of his son have dies, takes his wife and child and returns to the land of his son’s birth.”