Vicarious Sorrow
Matthew 2:18
In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children…

Rachel weeping for her children. It seems to be a most strange Divine permission that the innocent babes of Bethlehem should be slaughtered. One asks, but the question cannot be answered, "Why did not some miraculous hand preserve those innocents from Herod's shameless device?" We can only say that God's interventions are always held in the strictest limitations. They just effect their end, but interfere as little as possible with the ordinary course of human affairs, with the consequences of the passions and the sins of men. God's working is as a thread running through all the piece of human life, but it does not interfere with the making of the piece. But this hardly meets the difficulty we feel here. This calamity for the Bethlehem children comes out of the Divine providence that led to Jesus being born in Bethlehem; and so we feel as if a kind of responsibility rested on God for the safety of the Bethlehem children. To answer this we are thrown back upon the principle of vicariousness which runs through all life-associations. Everywhere men are bearing burdens for others, and it is only when the calamity is very terrible, or imperils life, that we feel or express any great surprise.

I. THE VICARIOUS SORROW OF THE ACTUAL MOTHERS. As the inhabitants of Bethlehem could not have been more than two thousand, there were not more than twenty babes slain; but that was sorrow in twenty homes and woe in twenty hearts. Vicarious parent-sorrow is effectively revealed in David's wail over the slain Absalom, "Would God I had died for thee!" This opens up a full consideration of the way in which mothers vicariously bear every pain, disability, or trouble of their children. And mothers are but the highest types of the relations which knit man to man all the world over, so that no one man can ever suffer, but all others within reach vicariously suffer with him. From this, rise to conceive of the vicarious sorrow of the heavenly Father.

II. THE VICARIOUS SYMPATHY OF THE RACE-MOTHER. Such Rachel is conceived to be. Poetically - but poetry is the deepest truth - Rachel is conceived as disturbed in her tomb near Bethlehem, by her sympathy with the stricken mothers and her sorrow for the slaughtered children. The race-mother is finely conceived as actually blending sympathetic tears with the bereaved mothers of Bethlehem, who are vicariously bereaved for Messiah's sake. - R.T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

WEB: "A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; she wouldn't be comforted, because they are no more."

The Slaughter of the Innocents
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