Slaughter of the Innocents

Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_Massacre_of_the_Innocents_-_WGA20259In chapter two, Tom manipulates Ben Rogers into whitewashing Aunt Polly’s fence for him. Twain comments that while Ben “worked and sweated in the sun, the retired artist [Tom] sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents.” MATTHEW 2:1-18 gives an account of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth as they relate to Herod the Great, who was the king of the Jews from 37 to 4 B.C. Herod was an insecure and brutal man who, feeling his rule threatened by the birth of Jesus Christ that was predicted by the prophet Micah approximately 700 years before Herod’s rule (MATTHEW 2:6 citing MICAH 6:2), ordered “put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under…” (MATTHEW 2:16). Herod’s mass murder of children in and around Bethlehem has traditionally been known as the slaughter, or massacre, of the innocents, “fulfilling what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they are no more’” (MATTHEW 2:17-18 citing JEREMIAH 31:15, written about 600 years prior to Jesus’ birth).

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