Threatened With Death At Birth

When evaluating the authenticity of a story, we must examine the internal evidence that is presented. In the case of the four gospels of the New Testament, the narrative of Jesus life, death, and resurrection; is our place of inspection. The accounts of Jesus birth include the name of a town, a census that was ordered, the principles who were in office at local governments, and specific details of the birth. First we look at the events, then we examine the prophecies which are alleged to have been written in advance.

Consider the difficulty of Joseph and Mary, who live in Nazareth, being required to travel to Bethlehem so that Jesus could fulfill Micah’s prophecy. God ordains a worldwide census by the Roman government, just so that He can fulfill His word. Joseph was required to go back to the place of his ancestors’ birth to register for this census. While in Bethlehem, Jesus would be born, thereby fulfilling the prophecy of Micah 5:2:

“…Yet out of you Bethlehem shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel…”

Luke records this event in chapter 2 of his gospel:

Luke 2:1-5 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

So that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, all the citizens of the Roman empire were required to obey God’s will. The Lord moved Caesar Augustus to order the census, showing His great power over all kings and governments. Throughout the Bible, we see many examples where the Lord is described as able to move people where He wants them to go and place into their hearts, a desire to do His will.[1]

In evaluating whether or not these men have told us the truth, regarding these events, we can examine history and see if such a census ever occurred. One of the criticism’s of Luke’s account of Jesus’ life is found in his description of the census that he says was ordered by Caesar Augustus.

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Luke 2:1-3

Because no previous archeological discovery had ever verified that such a census took place, Luke was regarded as having embellished this story. A later discovery regarding the taxes of the kingdom of the Roman government revealed that the tax payers were enrolled every 14 years by the use of a census. Archeology has uncovered facts which verify that Caesar Augustus did conduct the precise census described, during the period of time Luke specified—near the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.[2]

Further, an inscription discovered in Antioch; describes Quirinius in 7 B.C., who was the governor of Syria, on two occasions—7 B.C. and 6 A.D.—a fact that is confirmed by the Jewish historian Josephus.[3]

An archeological discovery in Egypt, uncovered a Papyrus which specifically describes the details of this census spoken of by Luke, under Caesar Agustus:

“Because of the approaching census it is necessary that all those residing for any cause away from their homes should at once prepare to return to their own governments in order that they may complete the family registration of the enrollment and that the tilled lands may retain those belonging to them.”[4]

We notice that both of the following prophecies were written at least 600 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, where Micah said He would come into the world. There was a threat on Jesus life when He was an infant, living in Bethlehem, just as Jeremiah had predicted.

Concerning Jesus birth, we know that the prophet Micah wrote that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem about 700 B.C.

Micah 5:2a “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”

Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

Matthew 2:1-2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

The prophet Jeremiah described a threat that would be made against the young Messiah, when He was a baby, about 600 B.C.

Jeremiah 31:15 Thus says the LORD: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.”

Matthew records the order of Herod to dispatch his soldiers to Bethlehem, to kill all of the children, two years and younger.

Matthew 2:16-18 Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled 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.”

There has been some dispute regarding whether Jeremiah was writing about the murder of innocents in Bethlehem or he was specifically writing about a near-future event; the captivity of the northern kingdom.

Matthew 2:16-18 (above) confirms the words of Jeremiah regarding the lamentation and weeping of Bethlehem when Herod dispatched soldiers to kill every infant under two years of age. The near intention of Jeremiah’s prophecy was intended for Rachel at Ramah who would weep at the loss of her future descendants in the northern tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, through Joseph, and Benjamin in the south—in 722-721 B.C. There is some discussion as to whether this prophecy may be referring to a later occurrence in 586 B. C.[5]

Matthew makes it certain that the murder of children, which occurred after the birth of Jesus, was also a direct fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy in applying it to Jesus as the Messiah.

Rachel was the wife of Joseph. Here Jeremiah describes her as weeping for the children of Israel who will be deported to Babylon in 586 B.C. Ramah was located just five miles north of Jerusalem, where all of the exiles were assembled before they were taken to Babylon. Rachel is described prophetically as weeping for her future descendants who will be taken from their homes, in fulfillment of Jeremiah’s previous prophecy of captivity for the Jews in Babylon for 70 years.[6]

This is an interesting prophecy by Jeremiah for a couple of reasons.

First, this is a near future prophetic look at an actual event that Rachel is weeping for, the captivity of the Jews who were taken to Babylon.

Second, this is a distant future prophetic look at the actual murder of many of Rachel’s children, the young boys in Bethlehem whom Herod dispatched soldiers, to execute (Matthew 2:16-18, above). Before Jesus began His ministry to save the world, satan was working through evil men to end His life.

By this example, we observe how it is possible for an Old Testament prophet to give us a word of prophecy regarding both a close fulfillment of his words, as well as future fulfillment of the same prophecy, hundreds of years later.

The plot to kill the Messiah

Unless a person has been a diligent student of the Bible, he may not be aware of the great cosmic conspiracy that has been raging for millennia. When Lucifer fell from heaven after being overcome by his own pride and desire to be God himself, he began a purposed conflict with every descendant of Adam who would lead to the coming of the promised Savior. The Messiah would arrive to “crush the head” of the serpent, from Genesis Chapter 3, and forever destroy his works upon the earth and throughout the universe.

1 John 3:8 … for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.

If we carefully follow the Old Testament, we observe that God is not dictating the complete history of the world. He does not follow every generation from Adam, but only those descendants who are in line to bring about the birth of the Messiah.

For example: We do not hear about the daughters of Adam and Eve. For this reason, skeptics have asked, “Who did Cain marry?” Of course Adam and Eve had many, many children, including several daughters to whom Cain could marry. The law of incest did not exist at the creation of Adam. The reason that brother and sister cannot marry in later generations is due to genetic problems that may result in close relatives joining together in conceiving a child.

“We all carry several harmful faulty gene copies on our chromosomes but have a working copy on the other partner chromosome to provide the information for our bodies. Usually two unrelated people will not carry the same faulty gene copy. Children of unrelated parents are at low risk of inheriting from each of their parents a copy of the same faulty gene that could result in a genetic condition. They have a risk of between 2% and 3% (2 to 3 out of every 100 births) of having a child with a birth defect or disability, many of which will be genetic. People who are blood relatives share a greater proportion of the same genes than unrelated people do because they have a common ancestor such as a grandparent from whom they inherited their genes through their parents. The closer the biological relationship is between relatives, the more likely that they will have the same faulty gene in common.”[7] —Professor Kristine Barlow-Stewart
At the original creation of Adam, the gene pool of the human race did not contain any genetic defects in the cell structure of Adam’s children. Therefore, the Lord allowed marriage between siblings until the population grew substantially. Once several generations were born, faulty DNA began to also increase, making the marriage of any close relative imprudent.

God forbidding the marriage of brother and sister does not appear to be for moral reasons but simply because of a genetic problem that will cause misery and heartache should it occur. It is not the purpose of God to prevent us from enjoying a rich and full life. His law is designed with our best interests in mind. Every law that God has made for us—if we would only follow each one carefully—we would have the most abundant lives possible. When we refuse to listen to the Lord and do things our own way, this is when our lives become filled with problems and tragedy.

Every heartache in the world today can be traced back to a failure in following God’s law. The problems that people have in every aspect of their lives is often due to their desire to do what they feel is right at the time, instead of following God’s wonderful master plan for our lives.

Jeremiah’s prophecy deals with the plan of satan to destroy the Son of God as soon as He makes His entrance into the world. The prophet Micah recorded the fact that the Son of God would be born in Bethlehem.

Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”

Jeremiah’s prophecy continues this narrative by informing us that when the Messiah is born in Bethlehem, an attempt will be made on His life by satan to kill Jesus while He is still young and defenseless.

Non-Biblical confirmation of Jesus birth

Herod was one of the most paranoid individuals of all time. He was said to be so afraid that someone would conspire to take his throne, that he had his wife and sons murdered. Confirmation of Herod’s vitriol fear of a usurper to his throne, comes from an extra-biblical source by a Roman writer, Macrobius, who described Herod’s paranoia in stating that Caesar Augustus said that it was safer to be one of Herod’s pigs than his own son.

“When he [emperor Augustus] heard that among the boys in Syria under two years old whom Herod, king of the Jews, had ordered to kill, his own son was also killed, he said: it is better to be Herod’s pig, than his son.”[8]

This comment by Macrobius also confirms the Gospel account of Matthew 2:16-18, describing the reason for this massacre of innocent children: to kill the infant Jesus. As Herod issues an order to kill all of the baby boys in Bethlehem who were two years old and under, he also orders the execution of his own son. This gives us an additional secular source for confirmation of Jesus existence as a child in Bethlehem, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Micah 5:2 for the birth of the Messiah, and Jeremiah 31:15 for the unsuccessful attempt on His life.

Four facts of history that this Roman writer, Macrobius, confirms from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke in their account of Jesus birth:

1. Caesar Augustus was Emperor (Luke 2:1).
2. Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Matthew 1:8, 2:1).
3. Herod was king of Judea (Matthew 2:3).
4. An attempt on Jesus life (Matthew 2:16-18).

This gives us further empirical evidence from secular history that the Gospel narratives of Jesus Christ are accurate and reliable. See also: Betrayed By a Friend

Herod became aware of Micah’s prophecy of a coming Messiah who would be the King of Israel. The news came that this prophesied King was about to be born in Bethlehem. When the wise men came from the east, crossing the borders of Israel where Herod ruled, he sent word to these men to return and tell him where this new king was located so that he could come and “worship Him.” Of course, Herod had no intention of worshipping any would-be-king who would usurp his cherished position of power. Herod dispatched soldiers to Bethlehem and ordered the execution of every child under the age of two. Jeremiah’s prophecy vividly records, not only the vicious acts of Herod’s soldiers; but the very words of sorrow and great grief the mothers of these precious babies felt when their infants were killed before their eyes.

Matthew 2:1-8 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen u in the East and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: (Micah 5;2) 6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ” 7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

When we consider that Jeremiah and Micah both wrote these predictions of the Messiah, from 600-700 years before Jesus was born; these are two of the most extraordinary prophecies in the Bible. The details of which, are confirmed by the secular, historical accounts of Macrobius, as occurring—precisely as the Old Testament had predicted, and the New Testament confirmed.

In this, we can see that the writers of the Bible have told the truth.

The Lord informed us of His plans to bring His Son into the world, despite a satanic agenda that worked through the mind and heart of Herod who sought the death of the Son of God.

We learn that in the midst of Herod’s evil scheme, God had a plan to spare His Son from death and bring Him to safety before the soldiers arrived.

Matthew 2:12-15 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. 13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” 14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

In completing His warning to Mary and Joseph that they should depart their own country another way, God brought to fulfillment a third Old Testament Prophecy, The Messiah will come out of Egypt, from the Book of Numbers, the next chapter in this book.

Numbers 24:8 God brings him out of Egypt.

This prophecy from the Book of Numbers was a prophecy that concerned the coming Messiah, would not be known to us unless the Lord had revealed it in Matthew’s gospel. When the angel told Joseph to take Jesus and flee to Egypt, Matthew remembered these words from Numbers 24, as the Holy Spirit brought them to his remembrance. He recorded the fulfillment of this event for us in the New Testament and provided us with this wonderful evidence in these Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.

…that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son…”

[1] Daniel 2:20-21, Daniel 4:34-35, Romans 13:1
[2] 1.John Elder, “Prophets, Idols and Diggers.” Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960. Pages 159, 160
2.Joseph Free,. “Archaeology and Bible History.” Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, 1969, Page 285
[3] Elder, John. Prophets, Idols and Diggers. Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960, Page 160
[4] 1.Elder, John. Prophets, Idols and Diggers. Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960, Pages 159, 160
2.Free, Joseph. Archaeology and Bible History. Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, 1969, page 285
[5] Jeremiah now turns back to the sad conditions of his day. He pictures Rachel at Ramah weeping disconsolately for the loss of her children. She was an ancestress of the northern tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (through Joseph), as well as of Benjamin in the south. Undoubtedly, she is lamenting the exile of her children in 722- 721 B. C. Some place the incident later at 586 B. C. The first is preferable because it relates specifically to the captivity of the northern kingdom. This, however, need not rule out her weeping for the Exile yet predicted, which occurred in 586 B. C. Ramah was a town five miles north of Jerusalem, the very place where exiles were gathered before deportation to Babylon (cf. 40:1). Rachel weeping is a poetical figure looking forward to her seeing her posterity carried off into exile. Jeremiah himself was in a camp for exiles in Ramah (cf. 40:1). She who had so longed for children (cf. Gen 30:1) is cruelly bereaved of them, but God purposes to restore them. Source: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary.
[6] Jeremiah 25:11 And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
[7] Consanguinity. Prof Kristine Barlow-Stewart and Mona Saleh, “When parents are relatives.” Produced by the Center for Genetics Education.
[8] Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius c. 395-423, Saturnalia, book II, chapter IV:11: “Cum audisset inter pueros quos in Syria Herodes rex Iudaeorum intra bimatum iussit interfici filium quoque eius occisum, ait: Melius est Herodis porcum esse quam filium,”