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Herod got news, something about Christ's birth--
He was no doubt King of the Jews' held earth;
Judah's foretold Infant of God might be
Shepherd and rod, setting his fold free.
Herod became frantic that day: such frail
Power and sway, riches and fame might fail.
Panic went wild, envy and hate ran rife,
Rushing to sate lust for the child's life.
Joseph received visions at night; he took
Jesus held tight, Mary who grieved. They shook
Dust from their feet, leaving behind loved lands,
Only to find Egypt and fleet sands.
Herod in rage butchered then each young male,
All who had reached two years of age, strong, hale.
Rachel in woe wept for the ones she bore,
Cheerless at sons comforted no more.
Herod, who reaped wages for sin, soon died.
Joseph had been told in his sleep: “Rise! Guide
Mother held near, child in your arm. Go! Seek,
Safe from all harm, Nazareth's bold peak.”
Egypt was past, Israel drew Christ north;
Jesus as new Moses at last came forth . . .
Lord! in your tracks, fleeing offense, we roam
Deserts immense. Carry us back home!
Cf. Mt 2, 13–23.
Technical note: this poem has the most unconventional metric pattern and only “works” if read in strict meter.
The intended structure is as follows:
2. Held earth: that is, Jewish territory occupied by the Romans.
3. Judah's foretold Infant of God: Bethlehem lay in the land of Judah. Cf. the prophecy quoted in Mt 2, 6.
4. Rod: a symbol of kingly power and authority.
10–11. They shook dust from their feet: A biblical gesture used to separate oneself from unbelievers. Cf. Mk 6, 11; Mt 10, 14; Lk 9, 5; Acts 13, 51.
12. Fleet sands: i. e., shifting under one's feet at every step.
15. Rachel: in Jer 31, 15, Rachel, the wife of Jacob, weeps for her children taken into exile by the Assyrians in 722–721 B. C. Matthew imagines her as now mourning the death of the Holy Innocents, perhaps because the Old Testament places her burial site in Ephrath (cf. Gn 35, 19; 48, 7), which was identified with Bethlehem.
17. Cf. Rom 7, 23: The wages of sin is death.
20. Nazareth's bold peak: Nazareth was built on a hillside. Cf. Lk 4, 29.
22. Just as Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt into the Promised Land, so Jesus now comes forth out of Egypt as the new Moses to lead his people into the Kingdom of God.
[ Carry Each Other's Burdens | Rejoice in Hope | Rejoice With Those Who Rejoice | Owe No Debt To Anyone | Accept Each Other | If One Member Suffers | Earthen Vessels | Forgive As The Lord Has Forgiven You | Be An Example To Believers | Keep Yourself Pure ]
This poem is © Copyright 2002 by Stephen Wentworth Arndt, Ph.D.