Why didn’t John the Baptist get killed with the rest of the children?


Why didn't John the Baptist die, as is stated in Matthew 2:16, but lived to adulthood, baptized Jesus, and was ultimately beheaded, or is Matthew 2:16 simply wrong?


When the wise men came, Herod found out where the Messiah was to be born. "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. So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet"" (Matthew 2:4-5). He also found out when the child was born, thus knowing roughly how old he was. "Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared" (Matthew 2:7).

When the wise men did not return to tell him exactly where the Messiah was, Herod ordered the death of all male children in that region around the Messiah's age. "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" (Matthew 2:16). Note that it wasn't the entire country, only "in Bethlehem and in all its districts."

John the Baptist was six months older than Jesus and he grew up in a different region. John's parents lived in "the hill country ... a city of Judah" (Luke 1:39). Most assume it was south of Jerusalem, down near Hebron, because John grew up in the deserts (Luke 1:80). Bethlehem is just south of Jerusalem, but not in the desert regions.

The problem isn't in Matthew's records, it was in not carefully reading what actually was written.


Thanks, Jeffrey, for taking the time to answer my question, but I am still confused.

I am trying to understand God's Word, and there are so many translations out there today that I oftentimes find them both confusing and contradictory. Some say all the districts, some say all the coasts thereof, some say the boundaries of her, some say from all its borders and Bethlehem, some say in Bethlehem, some say in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, some say in and around Bethlehem, some say Bethlehem and all its neighboring regions, some say Bethlehem and throughout all the surrounding region, and there are still others that read differently. I continue to take some solace of the fact that God is not the author of confusion, as Paul so stated in I Corinthians 14:33 because it seems that men do a pretty good job of doing that themselves.

Any help or references you could provide would be most appreciated.


The word horion in Greek means a border or boundary. In this case, it means the town of Bethlehem and the region surrounding it or areas touching its border. So even though Bethlehem is only a few miles south of Jerusalem, it would not have included Jerusalem, or any other town nearby, but it would have included farms and the like in the area around Bethlehem. The old KJV uses "coasts" because the word horion can mean an area that has a distinct geographical border, like a sea coast, a river, or some other formation.


Thanks, Jeffrey,

But I am still somewhat confused. As I asked where is Ramah that is mentioned in Jeremiah 31:15 and referred to in Matthew 2:18? From what I can ascertain, Ramah was north of Jerusalem, and there were approximately 11 miles or so between Bethlehem and Ramah, with Jerusalem located between the two cities. If only Bethlehem was affected by the slaughter, then why was Rachel weeping for her children in Ramah, unless Ramah was affected as well? If Herod was intent on destroying all the male children 2 years of age and under, in order to kill the Messiah, why would he have stopped in Bethlehem, because the first thing any parent with a male child would have done in those days was to simply flee Bethlehem and save the life of their child? If there was no risk, then why in Matthew 2:13 did an angel of the Lord appear to Joseph in a dream and tell him to take Mary and Jesus and flee into Egypt, if nowhere else in Israel, other than Bethlehem, was affected by Herod's decree? Sorry for the continued questions, but I am only trying to understand Scripture.



Jeremiah's statement in Jeremiah 31:15 was about the Babylonian's destruction of Judah. "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" " (Jeremiah 31:15). The statement reflects back to Rachel's death after giving birth to Benjamin. Ramah is a city in Benjamin (Joshua 18:35). But Rachel didn't die at Ramah. "So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem)" (Genesis 35:19). She had wept for her children prior to her death, that is why she wanted to name her son Benomi (son of my sorrow). God through Jeremiah used that event to say that the mothers' of Israel also wept at the loss of their children because their sins lead to death. They shared a lot with Rachel. But notice that Rachel is not literal in this prophecy. For that matter, neither is Ramah because the destruction by Babylon wasn't limited to just one town.

Matthew uses the same statement to draw a similar parallel. The name "Ramah" means high place, so instead of using it for a literal town, Matthew says that the same prophecy that was fulfilled in Jeremiah's day also applied in Jesus' day. In this case, Ramah is no more literal than Rachel is, who dies over a thousand years prior. Wails went out from the highest places over the death of Israel's children.

The only reason Jesus escaped is that Joseph was warned by an angel in advance. This wasn't a published slaughter with 30 days' advance notice. In fact, if the slaughter covered a wide territory, people would have fled in advance of the soldiers.

If Jesus had remained in Israel, Herod would have continued to try to kill the child as rumors of his location continued to be fed back to him. Since Jesus was no longer in Herod's country, no one would be telling him where the child who had the miraculous birth was at.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email