“Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance.” (Mt. 2:16-17 NLT)
Herod the Great came to power in Israel when the Roman Senate proclaimed him “King of the Jews” in 40 B.C. Herod had two significant attributes: (1) absolute loyalty to Rome, and (2) political prowess, which he exercised with extraordinary brutality. He did not hesitate to execute several of his own sons when he suspected them of plotting against him. He also murdered his wife, the Hasmonean Marlamne. He was both paranoid and fearful. Herod was adroit at currying favor with his Roman masters, especially Augustus and Agrippa, the Roman governor of the eastern provinces.
Matthew Chapter 2 relates the story of the arrival of the Magi from the east. They inquired as to the birth of the newborn king of the Jews. They said, “We have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him.” (Mt. 2:2) When Herod heard this he was deeply disturbed. Since he was paranoid and suspicious by nature, Herod’s fear grew when he heard the wise men speak of a newborn king of the Jews. Wasn’t he declared “King of the Jews?” Is there another person born who would grow up and threaten to take over his throne? He could not stand to have any opposition. It is said that he had secret police that circulated among the people to report any scuttlebutt about uprisings. It was certainly within his power and a part of his devilish way of thinking to have anyone executed who stood in his way. At the moment he heard this news, he was devising a plan to get rid of any opposition. In order to execute what was in his fearful mind he tried to trick the wise men by pretending to find the newborn so he could worship him. However, nothing was further from the truth.
He called in his priests and scribes to find out where this child would be born. They consulted the Scriptures and found the answer in Micah 5:2, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.” NLT) Having heard where the newborn king of the Jews would be born, the wise men made haste to Bethlehem and found Joseph, Mary, and the child living in a house. After paying homage and presenting their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, but to travel home another way. Joseph was also warned to flee to Egypt because Herod intended to kill the boy.
When Herod learned that the wise men had outwitted him he was furious with rage. He sent soldiers with instructions to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under. (Mt. 2:16)
Christmas that year was a time of great rejoicing, but, at the same time a day of deep sadness, mourning, and remorse. As you celebrate the birth of our newborn King, remember the many Jews who have lost their lives to the many evil Herods in the world today.