“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.” ~ Matthew 2:1-4
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For example, when I was a little girl, I waited for the day each week when Mom would prepare green beans as our side dish for dinner. I love green beans. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered this was quite a sacrifice for Mom because she hated green beans. The same green beans that I craved she deemed deplorable!
When you look at the life of King Herod the Great, the Herod in power at the time Jesus was born in Bethlehem, you will see two very different perspectives. Each perspective presents a different theme of Herod’s life and personality. The world viewed Herod the Great as a powerful and genius soldier, orator, master planner, and shrewd politician. His reign was marked with peace, prosperity, and great military defeats. His creative developments served as the backdrop for many events in the New Testament. He built programs whose ruins can still be seen today, such as the famous port at Caesarea by the sea, the Herodium, the Masada fortress, and the restoration and rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. In short, Herod could be seen as a prodigy.
But when you look at Herod from the perspective of God and His plan for His kingdom, you see something very different. He received a governorship when he was 25, where he took on positions of great power and influence. Very quickly, he became known as a paranoid tyrant, always fearful that he would lose the throne that was never really his. Herod did not descend from the line of Jacob but from Esau. This means that he was Edomite, or Idumaean, not from the Judean line promised by God. This gives us a unique perspective on the passage for today. When the magi came to King Herod and asked where they could find the one “born King of the Jews,” they used language that indicated the actual bloodline birth; the throne didn’t belong to Herod.
Up to this point in his reign, Herod had killed anyone whom he felt threatened by, like in-laws, wives, sons, and appointed leaders, so it was no surprise that he would have the babies in Bethlehem killed without a second thought if he felt his position and power were threatened. Instead of rejoicing greatly as a self-proclaimed Jew upon hearing of the Messiah’s birth, Herod responded with terror, agitation, and desperation. In short, King Herod was paranoid.
Why would God include this paranoid prodigy in the holiest of biblical accounts? Because in this world, there has always been, and will always be, a battle between good and evil, godly and worldly, and God and Satan. In the biblical account, Herod is Satan’s representative. He reacts as Satan would with crafty, cunning, and murderous ways to seek out and destroy God’s plan for man’s redemption. But he was not successful. God saw what the world saw as attributes of strength and power as evil attempts to thwart His plan. And nothing against God’s plan will prevail. This is why it is so important to always look at our circumstances through the eyes of God. It is easier to trust what we see than what God wants to show us. Though man’s perspective is the opposite, the only right perspective is that of God. We must have faith in Him.
Questions for Thought
- How did God use Herod the Great to set the scene for the birth of Jesus Christ?
- Why is understanding Herod’s role in the Christmas story relevant today?
As we go through this Christmas season, let’s focus on God’s perspective on His kingdom plan through the birth of Jesus Christ, the true Messiah, and not the world’s perspective on what seems best for us today.
Director of Women's Ministry
Pam is passionate about representing the women of the church and equipping them for ministry to one another, encouraging them in their own discipleship to expand for the kingdom of God. She and her husband, David, have two children, Ben and Natalie, and four grandsons.