Rachel Weeping For Her Children

DEAR SIR: I would like to see an exposition and harmony of Jer. 31:15-17, with Mat. 2:17,15. I remain yours in the hope of the Kingdom of Christ Jesus.


Aurora, Kane, Illinois, Nov. 17, 1853

The passage referred to in Jeremiah reads thus-- "Thus said the Lord: A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children, refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. Thus saith the Lord: Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for there is a reward for thy work, saith the Lord; and they shall return from the land of the enemy. And there is hope for thine end, saith the Lord, and thy children shall return to their own boundary."

A voice was heard in Ramah. Ramah was one of those cities which were allotted by Joshua to the tribe of Benjamin on the frontier of this canton, and that of Ephraim. The word signifies an eminence. Sometimes it is put simply for a high place, and then signifies neither a city nor a village. In Ramah, or on the high places of Benjamin and Ephraim, was a voice to be heard--in the city of that name, and in all the region round about. This voice or cry was foretold by Isaiah as well as by Jeremiah. "Ramah," says he, "is afraid, Gibeah of Saul is fled. Lift up thy voice, O daughter of Gallim: cause it to be heard unto Laish, O poor Anathoth" (Isaiah, 10:29,30). Gallim and Anathoth, the latter the birthplace of Jeremiah, were cities of Benjamin. Referring to the same event, Hosea says, "Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, the trumpet in Ramah; cry aloud Bethaven after thee, O Benjamin. Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke: among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be. The princes of Judah were like them that remove the bound; therefore I will pour out my wrath upon them like water" (Hosea 5:8-10). Hence, the voice to be heard was lamentation and bitter weeping on account of the desolation and slaughter, of Benjamin and Ephraim, by the enemy, and their deportation into their destroyer's land. The contexts of these references show that the predictions relate to the removal of the whole twelve tribes from their land by the Assyrian power. Benjamin stands for Judah and Jerusalem as well as for its own particular canton; for the kingdom of Judah included Benjamin, and Jerusalem was one of the cities that fell by lot to it when Joshua subdued the country. Ephraim represents the rest of the tribes, or kingdom of Israel as distinguished from that of Judah, inasmuch as Samaria, the seat of government, belonged to Ephraim and Manasseh.

The prophecy of this voice of lamentation in Ramah found its initiatory accomplishment when the overthrow of the twelve tribes was consummated by Nebuchadnezzar, the Chaldean head of Assyria. Then captives of Judah's kingdom were gathered together in Ramah, and with them Jeremiah the prophet, at the disposal of Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard (Jeremiah 40:50). The voice of lamentation ascending from these prisoners, can better be conceived than described. The tender and delicate of the upper and wealthy classes of the state, whose children and relatives had been slain by the sword, and their palaces and mansions burned with fire were there assembled to be marched off by a barbarian soldiery into their enemy's land. The cry of that day was a loud, shrill, and bitter lamentation, not confined to Ramah, but extending throughout the land from Bersheba to Laish or Dan. Jeremiah, though especially protected by the favor of God and the king his servant, mingled in that lament for his country's ruin. "How doth the city sit solitary," he exclaims, "that once was full of people! As a widow is she become! She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, tributary is she become! She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies. Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the nations, she findeth no rest: all her pursuers overlook her between the straits. The ways of Zion do mourn because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh; her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness. Her adversaries are the chief, her enemies prosper; for the Lord hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are gone into captivity before the enemy" (Lamentations 1:1-5)--that is, "they are not." But, notwithstanding all that calamity, "there is hope for thine end: they shall come again from the land of the enemy--they shall return to their own border."

And they did return in part as an earnest, so to speak, of the great restoration in Israel's "latter end" (Deut. 32:29). Benjamin, the son of Rachel's sorrow, and the son of Jacob's right hand, returned with Judah, his fraternal ally, from the land of the enemy to his own border, seventy years after his deportation. This was the first and only restoration of the Hebrew commonwealth. But there was little comfort in it. Ephraim and Manasseh "were not," being still exiles beyond Bashan. These were Rachel's children as well as Benjamin, being the descendants of Joseph her first born. They have never yet returned from the land of the enemy to their own border. The time for this is not arrived; but of its certainty there can be no doubt in the mind of him who is intelligent in the faith, believing the words of Moses and the prophets.

But the voice of lamentation and bitter weeping was not stifled by Benjamin's return. There was another crisis in Hebrew affairs to be encountered, which would cause that voice to rend the air with piercing cries of lamentation and woe. Its echoes would sound from one end of the Roman world to the other, and be hushed only by a second enemy. After this the cry would be heard no more in Ramah, or on the high places of the land of Israel. "Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears." This "refrain" hath continued hitherto. Since the destruction of Benjamin's city, the metropolis of Judah's kingdom, the tribe's lament has no more been heard in Ramah; for Rachel's weeping and tears can only result from the eyes and voice of her descendants in the land.

The reason why the voice of weeping no more ascends is because there is hope for Benjamin, Ephraim, and their companions; and this hope is, that they will return from the land of the enemy to their own border. This restoration is the subject of Jeremiah's prophecy found in his thirtieth and thirty-first chapters. Let the reader peruse them in connexion. They contain the gospel of the kingdom with its mystery unexplained. The following are a few quotations from them. "The days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it." Speaking of the day of Israel's future engraftment into their own olive, he saith, "Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it. For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of armies, I will break his (Gog, the Russo-Assyrian) yoke from off thy neck, and will burst they bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him. But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David (the Beloved) their king, whom I will raise up unto them." "I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee; but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished." "Behold I will bring again the captivity of Jacob's tents, and have mercy on his dwelling-places; and the city (Jerusalem) shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof." "Their children also shall be as a foretime, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress them. And their nobles (the saints) shall be of themselves, and their Governor (Christ) shall proceed from the midst of them: and I will cause him to draw near, and He shall approach unto me"--or be High Priest. "In the latter days ye shall consider it."

(By Dr. John Thomas)