Since releasing Jericho last year, many people have said that Rachel was one of their favourite tracks on the album, but the meaning was harder to grasp than the rest of the songs. As a result, I’ve written a full explanation of the song (as I see it) in the following post.
Rachel was commissioned by a friend of mine who wanted me to write a song based on a prophetic message from the Bible telling ‘Rachel’ to cease her weeping, for her children were coming home (Jeremiah 31:15-17).
I decided to base the theme of this song on three biblical references to Rachel found in Genesis, Jeremiah and the Gospel of Matthew. The Rachel in Genesis is considered to be the mother of the nation of Israel, however the song focuses on her relationship with her beloved son, Joseph (depicted in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat). When Joseph was a young man, he was sold into slavery by his brothers and taken to Egypt, where he lived and slaved for 20 years before seeing his family again. Though the musical communicated a happy ending, the reality for Rachel was that she died without knowing he still lived; believing the lie of his brothers – that wolves had killed him – and so she is pictured in the first verses of this song as forever weeping and mourning his loss.
“A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” – Jeremiah 31:15
The second Rachel, as seen in verse two of the song, is a mirror of the first. This verse from Jeremiah 31 is seen twice in the bible: once as a prophecy, and then again at its fulfilment (Matthew 2:18). The ‘Rachel’ here relates to the mothers of the infant boys massacred in Bethlehem soon after the birth of Jesus. King Herod was visited by the wise men who were following the star from the east to find the foretold Messiah, the promised King of the Jews. Herod, fearful of anyone who could be a potential threat to his throne, sent soldiers to kill all the males in the region of Bethlehem under the age of two, leaving the nursing mothers inconsolable in their grief.
Even though the music and lyrics here are steeped in motifs of tragedy, there is still a thread of hope running through the score, hinting at the remnants of hope running through the story. Following this verse from Jeremiah, the Lord says to the people of Israel:
‘”Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears…They will return from the land of the enemy. So there is a hope for your future.”‘ (Jeremiah 31:16-17)
This theme of hope and loss is intensified through the last two verses of the song through the eyes of the third Rachel: Jesus’ mother Mary.
I picture Mary in this verse remembering the prophecy she received from Simeon at the Temple when Jesus was dedicated as a baby (Luke 2:34-35). She knows that her son has come to bring salvation to many, but that salvation will come at a great price. I see her kneeling at the foot of the cross and feeling the pain of the sword of grief piercing her heart as the nails and thorns pierce her son. Even though the verse follows the crucifixion through her eyes, it also expresses the promise of his resurrection, and the glory that awaits beyond this realm. I see Mary holding onto this vision of hope as she holds her infant child in her arms, knowing that one day he will return in glory, for even death cannot hold the Son of God! His death has brought salvation to many, and has consoled the grieving mothers, for He made a way for their sons, and for all the children of God to come home.
‘To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.’ – John 1:12