What about the Other Babies?

In Matthew 2:16-18, we have one of the most troubling accounts connected to the birth of Christ. Herod the Great, a paranoid king, desperate not to allow this new “King of the Jews” to survive, sends his soldiers on an errand of terror—slaughter all the baby boys in the region of Bethlehem.

The execution of these children was probably a fairly quick day’s work for Herod’s soldiers. Terrible, no doubt, but quick, since Bethlehem is a mere five miles from Jerusalem. One of the troubling aspects of this passage, though, is that God predicted that this would happen. In preserving the life of Jesus, God permitted the murder of the other baby boys in Bethlehem.

This is troubling. God predicted the murder of these children and the weeping of their mothers. The complete fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:15 means that these children were killed. Think of what this means—if you have a young son or know a young boy under the age of three, this would mean the death of that child. Imagine the name of your child being one of the boys slaughtered. We see the sovereign mercy of God in sparing Christ and rejoice. But what about the other children? Why did God not tell all the families to flee?

We can’t fully and finally settle this question for good in one blog post. But consider this: at the Fall, when Adam and Eve broke God’s law in the Garden, they introduced cosmic brokenness into the world. Only a cosmic solution can fix that brokenness. In the meantime, there are many small and great evidences that creation is broken. Whether it’s the reckless slaughter of babies in Bethlehem or the murder of unborn babies in a slaughterhouse posing as a medical clinic or the murder of people by terrorists in San Bernardino, CA, each of these stories is a reminder than we need something much greater than deliverance from individual tragedy. We need a Rescuer who can take a cosmic system of evil and set it ALL right. Jesus Christ is a king who can do that, but until he does, we deal with the evidence of living in a broken, fallen world.

So what is the purpose of all this pain and grief in the meantime? It’s at least two-fold. (1) First, pain and heartache pushes people to look for a redeemer. Brokenness moves us to repentance. Without sin and sadness, we wouldn’t need a Savior. (2) Secondly, it’s a reminder of the infinite value of Christ in comparison to every temporary pain. We ask, “Why would you let ____ happen?” We view things individually, rather than cosmically. But God’s plan has never been small, like our thoughts.

Later in Jeremiah 31, after the prophecy of weeping, the Lord promises a new covenant when the law of God will be written on the hearts of his people and he will remember their sins no more. God’s redemptive plan will set everything right to the point where Revelation 21:3-4 are fully and finally realized: 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

A God who can take the world we see around us and make it a new place with no grief at all is a God worth worshiping.


A floating axe head??? (part 3)

What difference does 2 Kings 6:1-7 make for us today?

We can learn that we should trust in God's sovereign care for His people, even at the darkest times.

God's sovereignty over all circumstances

When we are tempted to believe that God is not God, that we are God, we must remember that He is in control. So what if a candidate you don't like gets elected president? Don't get me wrong, I'm not fatalistic, and I vote for the person I believe most closely reflects what I believe. But must we wring our hands, as we America goes to hell in a hand-basket? People will go to hell, no matter how low or hight taxes are, no matter how good or bad the economy is, apart from the grace of God through Jesus Christ. God reigns supreme even in the darkest times. What if you don't have enough money to meet your current financial obligations? Will your wring your hands and despair? Or will you trust in God's provision as you labor hard, working to provide for those you love? Perhaps someone you love is rejecting you, rejecting God's Word. Will you trust that God is able to do far beyond what you can ask or think, even when that's hard to believe? Will you rest in God's control and be part of what He is doing in the world?

God's care for His people

God cares for His people, no matter how dark the hour. A sinking axe head? God is there to care and provide. No oil for cooking? God is there to care. He cares about the most ordinary matters. What if it was the student's fault that he lost his axe head? Was he careless with the axe head, causing it to be lost? We, of course, don't really know. Perhaps your question isn't, “Does God care?” or, “Can God do anything about this?” But, “Since this is my fault, would God even want to help me out of this?” When we mess up, we may not feel that we should ask God for supernatural help. But this totally forgets grace. Grace isn't a reward for laziness. But it is God's gift to needy people. No matter how mundane our concern, God is actively involved in caring for us. During the most difficult times, God gives glimpses of His goodness, of His fatherly care for us. When life is the darkest, when sin is the strongest, the small lights shine the brightest. Let your light shine so that people may see your confidence in God and glorify your Father who is in heaven. God cares for all of His people, and He also cares for you personally.

Perhaps God put this passage here to demonstrate that He doesn't care only about nations and grand problems. God cares for individuals; God cares for details. This is an impossible situation that is focused on an individual, not a situation with national implications.


A floating axe head??? (part 2)

So what does 2 Kings 6:1-7 mean?

While some have proposed that Elisha merely used a stick to reach in and dig the iron out of the water by sticking the stick into the hole in the axe head, the text clearly says that's not what happened–he threw the stick in and made the iron float. This miracle of provision parallels a series of miracles performed by the prophet: In 2 Kings 4:1-5, Elisha multiplied oil for the widow of one of the sons of the prophets; in 2 Kings 4:38-41, Elisha cured a deadly stew that would have slain the prophets; in 2 Kings 4:42-44, in a miracle that foreshadows Jesus' feeding of the 5000, Elisha provided for one hundred of these men from 20 loaves and some barley grain. In contrast to Gehazi, who served himself after Naaman was healed, the man of God, Elisha, served by providing for those under his care. These accounts demonstrate the prophetic authority of Elisha–showing that he is a true prophet of the Lord, the one who can provide for the servants of God by the power of God.In this case, Elisha used a stick to make iron float. The power in each of these miracles lies not in the implement used–oil, flour, or loaves–but in the prophet, empowered by the Spirit of God. God is the chief actor in this story, using His prophet to minister to His people. In the darkest times, God is still acting in behalf of His people, working for them, working through them. The King James sums up the result of Elisha's miracle this way: “The iron did swim.” There's something picturesque about that–iron swimming. Because God is supernatural, He can act above nature. He's not bound by the laws of gravity.


A floating axe head??? (part 1)


What are some ways that people have interpreted 2 Kings 6:1-7?

2 Kings 6:1-7 is a surprising passage on a number of levels. This passage ranks as such a surprise that many commentators mock it, pointing to it as evidence that much of the Old Testament is legend. They scoff at the idea that iron can float. But evangelical Christians also have a difficult time with the passage for a different reason–what does it mean? Why would God include it in the the record of Scripture? What are some fairly common views of this passage?

It's typically treated by allegorizing or moralizing the passage.


  • We are the axe head (sunk in sin). Elijah is God the Father. The stick is Jesus sent to raise us.
  • The stick is the cross.
  • The axe head is the Holy Spirit, which we must keep close by, sharp, and ready to use. We lose the power of the Holy Spirit, and it’s like losing your axe head.
  • The axe head is the Word of God – a two-headed axe we use to build the church.
  • The axe head = little problems in life that God cares about.
  • Note the difference between allegory and analogy (something = something vs. parallels between two things)

Moralistic teaching:

  • The passage is about Christian education (faith based education) – “school of the prophets”
  • “Keep your tools in shape and be prepared to work hard”
  • Warning against unpaid labor – “you get what you pay for”

These are all attempts to understand the significance of this passage. So how do we work through this? The good news is that we don't have to make Scripture say anything more than it says. God's Word is sufficient when we understand what it says. From this passage we will learn that we should trust in God's sovereign care for His people even in the darkest times.