Matthew 2:16 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 2:16, NIV: When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, 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.

Matthew 2:16, ESV: Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.

Matthew 2:16, KJV: Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.

Matthew 2:16, NASB: Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent men and killed all the boys who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.

Matthew 2:16, NLT: Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men's report of the star's first appearance.

Matthew 2:16, CSB: Then Herod, when he realized that he had been outwitted by the wise men, flew into a rage. He gave orders to massacre all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, in keeping with the time he had learned from the wise men.

What does Matthew 2:16 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

The wise men, or "Magi," had travelled a great distance to arrive in Jerusalem with startling news: The "king of the Jews," the long-foretold Messiah, had been born. Learning from Israel's religious leaders that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem, King Herod had sent the wise men there to find Him with one instruction: "As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him" (Matthew 2:1–8).

Herod, of course, did not wish to worship, but to kill Jesus and eliminate the threat to his own power. God warned the wise men in a dream not to go back to Herod, after all. They took another way out of Israel (Matthew 2:12). Joseph, also warned about Herod in a dream, took Jesus and Mary away to Egypt to escape Herod's wrath (Matthew 2:13).

Only then did Herod realize that he had been "tricked" or "outwitted" by the wise men leaving the country without talking to him first. By leaving without even telling him, and by taking another path, they eliminated any chance Herod would be able to trace the location of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. The fact that Herod had set out to trick them probably contributed to his anger.

Herod might have been vicious and cruel, but he wasn't stupid. Possibly as a back-up plan, Herod had already asked the wise men when they'd seen the star arise in the sky (Matthew 2:7). The wise men's answer gave him an estimate of when the baby may have been born based on when the star they were tracking first appeared in the sky. To be cautious, Herod had all the male children in and around Bethlehem, who were two years old and under, killed.

It's a sad commentary on human history that the murder of children could be a forgotten footnote in secular history. As awful as this event is, it would not have been especially noteworthy to people outside of Judea at that time. Scholars suggest this may have included two or three dozen boys, at the very most. Bethlehem was not a large town, and such acts were not unheard of. This act is reported only in the Bible, but it fits with what is known about Herod from other historical sources. The ruthless king was famous for killing his own wives and even some of his own children to protect his power. Killing all the baby boys in a small town would not have been a stretch for him. Nor would it have been something other historians would have seen as especially important, at the time.

Because of God's intervention and the obedience of the wise men and Joseph, Jesus escaped this slaughter.