Thursday, December 17, 2015

In the Picture: Herod's advisers

Slaughter of the Innocents
Duccio di Buoninsegna d. 1319

Read: Matthew 2.4-6
Calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, Herod inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
   are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
   who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’ 

Like yesterday’s picture, this one depicts the massacre of the children of Bethlehem apparently taking place right in front of Herod and his advisers. Both artists are making the point that responsibility for this brutal act lies with Herod and his supporters. In reality, they probably stayed in the comfort of the palace, while others did their dirty work, but here we see them calmly looking on, apparently indifferent to the suffering in front of them. In Matthew’s account of the story it isn’t clear whether Herod’s “wise men”, the court scribes, realised that in giving him information about the Messiah, they were going to bring down his wrath on innocent people, but they must have known what kind of man he was. He was hardly likely to want to celebrate the birth of a rival leader.
Herod’s advisers are too concerned to keep their own positions to want to ask any questions about why he wants this information. Like those who worked at administrative tasks that helped run Nazi concentration camps, they would probably have said they knew nothing and were just following orders, but in reality they are guilty of making this massacre possible. All of us, however, are capable of hurting others by the things we don’t say and do, the sins we allow to happen because it would cost us too much to challenge them.

  • Can you recall situations where you know your action (or inaction) allowed something bad to happen, even if it wasn’t directly your fault?
  • Can you do something today to help those who suffer because of our carelessness, through climate change, for instance? Does your lifestyle need to change to protect those you may never see or know?

No comments:

Post a Comment