References to the Old Testament. Matthew's typological appropriation of Jeremiah

Term Paper, 2011

12 Pages, Grade: A


Table of Contents






Contemporary relevance




Every document today has documents preceding it which is most often referred to as authority or the standard to clarify, buttress, support and emphasis points or issues. The New Testament is no exception to this. The Old Testament and its events preceded the New Testament, so the writers of the New Testament often quoted from and alluded to the Old Testament documents to support and clarify their claims and points. They also quoted and alluded to the Old Testament to explain the circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ and show the fulfillment of the prophecies about Christ.

This paper seeks to examine Matthew’s understanding and typological appropriation of Jeremiah 31:15 as he referred to the passage in his writing in Matthew 2:18. The Old Testament text which Matthew quoted from is presented through a comparative analysis of the Masoretic Text (MT) and the Septuagint (LXX). The principle which Matthew used in quoting Jeremiah 31:15 and appropriated it to Matthew 2:18 are also presented and how this principle can influence contemporary interpreters in the area of interpretation and explaining the relationship between the two testaments.


Matt 2:18 “In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.” KJV

Jesus was born in Bethlehem during the reign of King Herod. Three wise men from the east saw his star in their land and went to Jerusalem to inquire of Jesus’ birth. Herod became disturbed when he heard that a ‘king of the Jews’ was born. He gathered the priests and teachers of the law and enquires of them the place where Jesus was to be born. The priests and the teachers of the law located the place of Jesus’ birth to be Bethlehem in Judea and quoted the prophecy of prophet Micah concerning the birth of Christ to support their claim. On hearing the birth place of Jesus, he told the three wise men to go search for Jesus and report back to him that “he may go and worship him” Matt. 2:8. The star the three wise men saw in the east guided them to the place where Jesus was born. After worshipping him, they went back home through a different route as they were warned in a dream never to go back to Herod.

Meanwhile an angel of the Lord commanded Joseph to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt pending when they will be call upon to return back to Bethlehem. Herod became furious when the three wise men ‘outwitted’ him. He then gave an order for all the young boys below the age of two in the vicinity of Bethlehem to be killed. Though Matthew did not stated where the mothers of the babes killed wept for their slain children, but his appropriation of the weeping of Rachel over the captivity of her descendants shows that the mothers of the slain children really wept. To Matthew, Rachel is “figuratively represented as rising from the tomb and uttering double lament for the loss of her children-first, by a bitter captivity, and now by a bloody death.”[1]


Jeremiah 31:15-18 “Thus saith the Lord; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. KJV

The town of Ramah was five miles north of Jerusalem, and Rachel, who was pictured weeping for her children, was the second wife of Jacob and the mother of Joseph and Benjamin. Ephraim and Manasseh, who became the two major tribes in the northern kingdom of Israel,[2] were the children of Joseph. The descendants of Benjamin together with the descendants of Judah became the southern kingdom. The northern kingdom was captured by the Assyrians and the southern kingdom was captured by the Babylonians. During the deportation of the southern kingdom, all Jewish prisoners were assembled in Ramah before being taken/led to Babylon. Jeremiah figuratively pictured Rachel, the mother of Benjamin weeping bitterly because “Her labor as a mother had been in vain! (Remember, Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin).”[3] But literarily, Jeremiah was picturing the women of both the northern and southern kingdom weeping as “they watched their children being carried into exile in 722 B.C.”[4] and 586 B.C. respectively. In the context of Jeremiah 31:15, Jeremiah pictured the women of the northern kingdom weeping for their children but “could have had the 586 B.C. deportation of Judah in view…”[5]


Understanding the source(s) from which Matthew used and quoted from is vital to this work. The Masoretic text and the Septuagint are two sources I used to comparatively analyze the Matthean quotation of Jeremiah 31:15 in the New Testament.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten[6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11]

There is no substantial difference between the MT, LXX and the NT, except for the verbs pausasqai and παρακληθῆναι which constitutes a major difference between the LXX and the NT. The similarities between the NT and the MT are clear and undisputable, and the differences between the NT and the LXX are also clear. The NT text agrees more with the MT than with the LXX. The MT is the text used in translating the OT, and majority of the editors of the translated Bible referred to Jeremiah 31:15 as the passage Matthew quoted from. But the same portion of the Jeremiah passage that Matthew quoted from in the LXX is found in Jeremiah 38:15. There is actually a difference in the location of the passage from which Matthew quoted Jeremiah between the MT and the LXX. It can be said that Matthew really quoted from the MT because Matthew’s quotation “is slightly abbreviated but correct translation (independent of the LXX) of Jeremiah 31:15.”[12] The LXX has no equivalent of the NT’s poluV (an adjective modifying odurmoV) while the LXX’s qrhnou (a noun from the root qrhnoV meaning dirge also implying wailing and lament) is lacking in the NT. The MT’s equivalent of the LXX’s qrhnou is נְהִי֙ an elegy[13] from the primitive root hhn (nahah) meaning “to groan i.e. bewail, hence (through the idea of crying loud)”[14] Both the LXX’s qrhnou and the MT’s נְהִי֙ have the idea of deep and intensive weeping. Here the MT and the LXX agrees on a word that Matthew didn’t mention in his quotation of Jeremiah. The nouns in the NT are in the nominative case while all the nouns in the LXX are in the genitive case.

The simple present active participle feminine singular nominative verb, κλαίουσα (weeping) is used in the NT while the compound present middle[15] participle feminine singular nominative verb apoklaiomenh (weeping) is used in the LXX. The MT’s equivalent of weeping מְבַכָּ֣ה is a Piel participle feminine singular in the absolute state implying the intensity of the weeping. The Piel form in which מְבַכָּ֣ה is written in the MT is in the active voice showing that Rachel literally did the action of weeping. The NT and the MT used a simple verb for weeping while the LXX used a compound verb for weeping. Based on the similarity in the voice and the type of verb used for weeping, it can be said that Matthew quoted from the MT and not from the LXX.


[1] Jamieson, Robert; Fausset, A.R and Brown, David. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. all rights reserved.

[2] John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (eds), Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old And New Testament. Cook Communications Ministries, Copyright 2000. From PC Study Bible Version 5

[3] Warren w. Wiersbe. The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament.

[4] John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (eds), Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old And New Testament. Cook communications ministries, copyright 2000. From PC Study bible version 5

[5] John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (eds), Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old And New Testament. Cook communications ministries, copyright 2000. From PC Study bible version 5

[6] accessed 25/4/2011.

[7] accessed 25/4/2011.

[8] accessed 25/4/2011.

[9] accessed 25/4/2011.

[10] accessed 25/4/2011.

[11] accessed 25/4/2011.

[12] France R.T. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries-Matthew. England , Leicester, Inter-Varsity Press, 1989: 87.

[13] A mournful point or a reflective point.

[14] James Strong. (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers And Concordance With Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, Copyright 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. And International Bible Translators, Inc.)

[15] Voices in Greek “has to do with the relationship of the subject of the sentence to the action of the verb” (Lois Fuller, You can learn New Testament Greek. Bukuru, Nigeria, ACTS, 1999 :). There are three voices in Greek: the active voice, the middle voice and the passive voice. The active voice is used when the subject is doing the action. The middle voice is used when an action somehow benefits or affects the subject. The passive voice is used when the action is done on the subject, or when the subject receives the action. There is no middle voice in English, so the active voice is used here to translate apoklaiomenh of the LXX (which is in the middle voice) into English.

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References to the Old Testament. Matthew's typological appropriation of Jeremiah
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Longji Ayuba Dachal (Author), 2011, References to the Old Testament. Matthew's typological appropriation of Jeremiah, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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