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Rachel's Consolation

One of the sad realities of the modern Church is its failure to see much of the New Covenant (NC) in light of its Old Covenant setting (OC). The Gospel narratives, Acts, and the Epistles all occur within the late stages of the OC age which not only included a fully functioning Temple with its priests and sacrifices but included a bona fide fiery OC prophet – John – who after 400 years of silence arrives on the scene screaming repentance of Israel for its offenses. For some reason, the Church tends to bifurcate the OC/NC age at the Gospel accounts but that’s not the dividing line. Consider the data Hebrews offers:

13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear (Heb 8:13).

Did you get that? The Old Covenant was “becoming obsolete”, it was “growing old” and was “ready to disappear”. In other words, at the writing of Hebrews, the OC was still active, fading (growing old), and was ready to perish – but hadn’t. Here’s another data point to consider from Hebrews:

Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary…the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship, 7 but into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance. 8 The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing… (Heb.9:1,6-8)

Again, at the time of Christ and for a few decades thereafter, the Temple, with its ministrations, is still operational. It doesn’t cease to function until AD70[1] and references to “the latter days” written in the OT should be considered as possibly being fulfilled in what we moderns consider the NT. This is neither a new nor novel approach for correctly understanding NT events. Consider Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians:

“For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. 6 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved (1Cor 10). 1 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come (1Cor11)".

Notice that the Bible was not written to us, but for us. Paul instructs that the events which occurred to Israel while in the wilderness occurred for their (the Corinthian's) instruction. Obviously, proper behavior concerns us moderns too and we too are to learn from the wilderness experience, but Paul was specifically addressing the Corinthians. Paul stresses that the Corinthians were not only to learn from Israel’s poor behavior but that they were to do so because “the ends of the ages” [2] had come upon them – the Corinthians. And why was Paul stressing this point? Because Jesus had ascended and was commencing His session rule as King of Kings and Lord of Lords which meant that He’d soon judge His Church (which occurs in Revelation chapters 2 and 3). Peter also made similar admonishments to his readers (1Peter 4:1). This sentiment of an ending era was not limited to Paul but endorsed by Peter (1Peter 4:7), John (1John 2:18), and others as well (James 5:8, Heb. 9:26).

Changing Times

I suppose the modern Church’s loss of appreciation for an OT perspective occurred because much of the Church – while mostly Jewish in its original composition – lost its Jewish moorings as it began to expand and grow beyond “Jerusalem, and…Judea and Samaria” and into the “remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). As Gentile participation increased, Jewish religious and cultural influences suffered a loss of context. For us moderns, I suspect there could be another contributing and more harmful factor stemming from an outright neglect of the OT. Many modern believers consider themselves “NT believers” failing to remember that the Scriptures for Jesus, the apostles, and the early Church was the OT. Paul rightfully reminds us that the Gospel was preached to one of the greatest, if not the greatest patriarch of the Bible - Abraham (Gal. 3:8). Sadly, even pastors neglect the OT in their preaching calendars and worse, outrightly believe that OT is not even relevant to the NT believer. [3]


Thus says the Lord,

“A voice is heard in Ramah,

Lamentation and bitter weeping.

Rachel is weeping for her children.

She refuses to be comforted for her children,

Because they are no more.” Jeremiah 31:15


Neglecting the Old Testament

Let’s examine the implication of neglecting the OT. Consider Joseph’s second dream (Gen 37:9). Joseph sees the sun, the moon, and eleven stars bowing down to him, and Jacob immediately and properly interprets the dream. His family is to be subjected to Joseph’s rule. Jacob doesn’t ponder the dream nor considers why a planetary body (the Moon), and balls of gas (the Sun and stars) would bow down to Joseph. He immediately understands the governance role assigned to the luminaries at Creation (Gen 1:14-19) relative to his governance role as head of his family and rightly interprets the dream. That correlation does not follow for most NT believers because science is the lens by which we moderns generally interpret any cosmological reference in the Bible rather than Scripture itself. So, when moderns read of a roving star showing up in Persia (Iran) – persuading magi to follow it down to Bethlehem – we immediately look to the cosmos to figure out how this ball of gas appeared, moved, disappeared, re-appeared, and ends up stationing itself over the Christ child’s stable. Despite the flurry of angelic activity centered around the birth of Christ, we can’t conclude - or even consider - an alternate perspective – that stars in the OT are often used figuratively to refer to angels (Job 38:7, Ps 147:4). Princeton theologian, Dr. Dale C. Allison Jr. notes the following:

"In antiquity, stars were widely thought to be living beings, and this is the clue to a correct understanding of Matthew’s text. A belief that the stars are alive belongs to worldwide folklore and indeed lies behind the common phenomenon of star worship. Greek myths depict divinities (Venus, for example) and heroes and heroines (such as Hercules and Andromeda) as stars. The Zoroastrian Pahlavi texts from ancient Iran equate the fravasûis (the eternal spirits of humanity) with heavenly bodies. The Egyptians identified the dead pharaoh with the Pole Star. Oceanic mythology regards the stars as children of the sun (female) and the moon (male). I could easily go on in this vein. Jewish tradition also shared this view."[4]

Why the interpretive challenge? Because the OT is not only unfamiliar and not relative to the modern Church, but the modern Church is gripped by science and empiricism. Yet, fast-forwarding to the book of Revelation, we see Jesus using the figurative understanding of stars to interpret the contents of His own hand (Rev 1:16,20). This neglect of the OT leads to gaps in understanding and in some cases, the creation of myth, or worse, heresy. Moreover, it robs believers of the cogency and richness of the Scriptures. Incidentally, about the star of Bethlehem mentioned previously, consider Matthew’s reference (Matt 2:18) to Rachel weeping for her children, but before you do, let’s get some context.

Rachel's Lament

The gospel of Matthew was written to a primarily Jewish audience to convince them of Jesus’ legitimacy as the promised Savior King – the rightful heir to David’s throne (Matt 1:1). Given this context, it is obvious that Matthew would draw from the OT (the only Scriptures of their time) to prove his case, but the justification of Jesus’ Kingship is not just apologetical but eschatological. Consider the following - why would Matthew insert Jeremiah’s reference to Rachel weeping (Jer. 31:15) at this point of the birth story? The seemingly obvious and convenient reason – most conclude – is that Jeremiah was pointing to a time in the future where a despotic King would slaughter innocent little Jewish boys out of sheer rage, but is that Matthew’s intent and, does it fit the context in Jeremiah? That conclusion may suffice for many modern NT readers but when we consider Jeremiah’s original reference to Rachel’s weeping, Jeremiah doesn’t say that Rachel weeps for the murder of little boys, but she weeps because she’s lost all hope for her people. Her children are being taken into captivity and the spiritual implications are significant given captivity is emblematic of salvation – she wept because they were losing their salvation. But why else had she lost hope? Is it because her children were once again being enslaved? In part, yes but what did Nebuchadnezzar also do? He destroyed the Temple – the source for Jewish atonement! Without a Temple, Jews could not sacrifice to atone for their sins. So, the Jews were not only losing their salvation but were losing the means for atonement – signaling no way back to a right relationship with God – a reason to indeed weep bitterly.


‘Their leader shall be one of them,

And their ruler shall come forth from their midst;

And I will bring him near and he shall approach Me;

For who would dare to risk his life to approach Me?’ declares the Lord. Jeremiah 30:21


Interestingly, God promised deliverance would arise from one of their own – one who would not only have the audacity to approach God but have the inherent righteousness to approach Him without being consumed (Jer. 30:21). Moreover, the understanding and implications of what Jeremiah was saying, and that God was doing, would not be understood until the latter days (Jer.30:24) – the end of the OT era. One interesting tidbit about the Jewish religious calendar. According to Rabbi David Fohrman of Aleph Beta Academy, [5] Rachel’s lament forms part of the Tisha B’ Av – an annual day of fasting, reflection, and mourning for all of the calamities which have historically impacted the Jewish people. Two of the five largest calamities include losing the Temple - twice on the same month and day of differing years - the 10th of Av 586 BC (Babylon) and the 10th of Av 70 AD (Rome). Coincidence? I think not. In fact, I believe the destruction of the first Temple is emblematic of the second Temple's destruction by the figurative Babylon - Rome. Moreover, I believe Peter's "Babylon" cipher (1Peter 5:13) hints to this same correlation.

Returning to Matthew’s account, when we put it all together, what do we discover? Rachel weeps because:

1. Her people – the Jews - were about to lose their salvation – (seemingly) permanently.

2. The physical Temple is about to be lost (70 AD) again – heralding the end of an era.

But there’s an even greater significance for her tears. Immediately after the magi leave Mary and Joseph, Joseph is warned in a dream to take the Christ child from Bethlehem and flee to Egypt (Matt. 2:13). Why should this have been important to Rachel? Because the Mashiach – Israel’s true salvation - was not only leaving Israel but He was being sentenced to death. Egypt, figuratively speaking, is emblematic of death. It was (and still is) characterized by its pyramids (tombs) and known for its embalming of the dead. God was signaling that their Messiah would die. Again, this was a cause for great tears as Israel was seemingly being deprived of salvation and atonement since the true Temple (John 2:19) would be destroyed. But Rachel is given a promise of hope in Jeremiah 30:21 and Jeremiah 31:16-17, 31 and she’s also given a promise of hope in Matthew’s account too for He says, “Out of Egypt I called My Son (Matt 2:15)”[6] signaling that He would call Messiah – His Son – out from death or as stated in its popular vernacular, He would be resurrected from the dead. By quoting Jeremiah and Hosea, Matthew echoes Jeremiah’s exhortation (Jer. 31:16-17), “Rachel, stop your weeping for Jesus will die, will arise, and will conquer death and hell (Rev. 1:17-18) and He’s poised to defeat the Tyrant of Tyrants to bring back your children out of captivity (Isa. 49:14-25)!”

In conclusion, providentially, the Spirit of God superintended the composition of the Scriptures to include both the OT and NT. Ignoring the OT not only cheats us of understanding of God’s character, His nature, and His ways, but it robs us of Christ who said that the OT was about Him (Luke 24:27).



[1] Supporters of a pre-AD 70 date for Hebrews argue along several lines. First is the mention of Timothy (13:23a), a prominent coworker of Paul’s in the 50s and 60s. The mention of Timothy’s release, but not Paul’s, suggests a mid-60s dating. Second are references that imply the Jewish religious rites (especially temple worship) were still ongoing at the time of writing (8:3; 9:9; 10:1–2; 13:11).

Sweeney, James P. “Hebrews, Letter to the.” Ed. John D. Barry et al. The Lexham Bible Dictionary 2016: n. page Print

[2] Ages (aiōn) a period of time of significant character; life; an era; an age: hence, a state of things marking an age or era; the present order of nature.

[3] Theologians react to Andy Stanley saying Ten Commandments don’t apply to Christians,

[4] Allison, Dale C. “What Was the Star that Guided the Magi?” Bible Review 9.6 (1993): 20–24, 63.

[5] Fohrman, D., Rachel's Tears: Exploring the Meaning of Tisha B'Av,

[6] In light of Jer. 30:21 & 24, note the eschatological nature of Matthew 2:14. Jesus’ birth was included as part of Jeremiah’s “latter days” promise; therefore, Matthew’s audience would have been the recipients of Jeremiah’s promised understanding which by Jeremiah's definition are the "latter days".


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