Title: The Martyrdom of the Holy Innocents
Artist: Gustave Doré
Medium: Ink and gouache on paper
Size: 56.5 x 84 cm
Location: Private collection.
Matthew 2:16-18 records that when Herod realized that the Magi left and had not reported back to him as requested, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
The murder of the children of Bethlehem thus fits what is historically know of Herod's character (he was well know to ruthlessly have his own sons murdered); yet it is not surprising that other early writers do not mention this particular atrocity. Herod's reign was an era of many highly placed political assassinations, and our accounts come from well-to-do reporters focused on the royal house and national events. In such circles the execution of perhaps twenty children in a small town would warrant little attention - except from God.
Matthew does not simply report this act of injustice dispassionately; he chooses an ancient lament from one of the most sorrowful times of his people's history. Jeremiah 31:15 speaks of Rachel weeping for her children, poetically describing the favored mother of Benjamin (standing for all
Paul Gustave Doré (January 6, 1832 – January 23, 1883) French artist, the son of a civil engineer, was born at Strassburg. In 1848 he came to