The Story of Herod
Alex Enabnit – Research Editor
Continuing toward Christmas, this week we explored the villain of the entire Christmas story – Herod the Great.
Herod was an intense guy. Rising to power and eventually becoming king of Judea, Herod had an insatiable thirst for power and did anything he could to keep a tight grip on it. He swiftly ordered executions or devised schemes to kill off any who threatened his power, including (but certainly not limited to) three of his own sons. But beyond that, Herod was incredibly political and balanced the tightrope of serving Rome while governing the Jews – a difficult feat. On top of all this, historians record Herod as a master builder. Some of his structures still stand to this day! For example, he built several fortresses and expanded the temple mount, which you can see if you go to Jerusalem.
Herod the Great also had a huge impact on all of the Gospels and Acts. Although he is only seen in the beginning of Luke and Matthew, his family and descendants play a big part in the life of Jesus as well as the spread of the Church. Below is a very simplified family tree just to give you an idea of the reach of Herod the Great’s influence:
When this power-hungry tyrant is visited by foreign Magi near the end of his life, Herod isn’t in good spirits. He’s suffering from many physical ailments and rapidly losing his mind, becoming increasingly paranoid about any threat to his power. So when the Magi ask where the “King of the Jews” is who was just born, Herod is agitated. They just used his title but referred to someone else! Herod ultimately orders the execution of all the baby boys under age two because of his love for power and fear of losing it. Herod belonged in this story and could have even welcomed Jesus, but he vehemently opposed it.
Contrast that with the Magi: these are foreign astrologers and dream interpreters who don’t seem like they’re supposed to be in the story, yet here they are! They come from a far off place because of a star that announced the birth of the King. Even though it feels like they’re out of place, God invites them into the story because God always invites outsiders to become insiders. The Magi accept God’s invitation and get to take part in this amazing story, while Herod does all he can to fight against it and completely misses it.
God wants you to be a part of His story. It doesn’t matter if you started in a different faith or you feel like you’ve messed up too much, God is inviting you in! Will you look for ways to join in His story?
Verses and quotes from the message:
Matthew 2:1-12; Daniel 2:27-28, 48; Daniel 6:28; Matthew 2:19-20
“Herod the Great—master builder. Despite his crimes and excesses, no one can doubt his prowess as a builder.” Leen Ritmeyer, archaeological architect
“[Herod] was a man of great barbarity toward all men equally, and a slave to his passion.” The Historian Josephus
Love is Born Tonight – Central Music
Hark the Herald Angels Sing – Lincoln Brewster
Joy to the World – Central Music
O Come Let Us Adore Him – Central Music