This week, I’m re-posting a series of articles on the key characters of the Christmas story. If you need some devotional material for family gatherings, feel free to use these.
This first person is never found in manger scenes or in the painted depictions of peaceful Bethlehem, but his violent presence was definitely on full display in those days—the king called Herod.
Herod was 33 years old when he came into power through his friendship with the Roman Emperor, Marcus Antonius. In just 3 years, he crushed all opposition and then ruled with an iron fist for over 30. Ironically, Herod was known as, “The King of the Jews,” since the areas he ruled was the home of the Jewish people. He was wealthy, intelligent, and highly gifted in administration, architecture, and design. Now for the dark side …
He was an egomaniacal dictator who often had fits of rage and paranoia, to the point of killing his wife, two sons, and other close family members who he suspected of disloyalty. If a relative didn’t stand a chance, what shot would a “friend” have?
Herod resented the Jews (is any of this sounding at all familiar yet?) and in his reign had literally hundreds of Jewish leaders executed when he perceived them as a threat. He taxed the Jewish people into poverty and kept them there. Jesus was born in the final months of Herod’s reign, just before a surviving son took over the throne.
Herod found out about the Messiah from the Magi—or the three astronomers—who journeyed from afar to worship the Christ child. After this report, Herod’s only goal was to destroy Him, who he perceived to threaten his throne. From the time the Magi first saw the star until the time he ordered the Bethlehem murders, Herod calculated—just to be safe—all male children 2 years old and under must die.
Satan knew all the Scriptures, saw the star, heard all the buzz, but didn’t know The Plan, so he made sure he had a pawn in the palm of his hand to try and stop God from saving us.
This mass killing of Israel’s baby boys was a foreshadowing of the One Baby, who would not have his life taken by a cruel ruler, but rather would give His life for a loving King.
We can look at Herod and shake our heads over the ego, pride, paranoia, and the depths of depravity to which he sunk. But the bottom line is the reason Jesus came at all is because we are all Herod’s. We have Herod motives, Herod moments, and make Herod moves to keep our own kingdom strong to hide the weaknesses.
So as we rush from place to place to celebrate this week, take a moment to reflect on the fact that the Baby born in the City of David provides us with His presence and power to overcome all evil. There is no Herod that Jesus cannot defeat!
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. —Matthew 2:19-20