Daily Thought for: 10th September


Matthew 2. 1-9, 16-20

Herod the Great was called ‘King of the Jews’, but he had no entitlement either to the title or to the throne. He was an Edomite, a puppet king who had been given the kingdom by Rome. He never felt secure, ever afraid of a revolt against him and suspicious of all around him. His hands were stained with much blood. He murdered family and friends. Before his introduction to us in our New Testament he had murdered many of the Hasmonaean family, descendants of the Maccabees, whom he feared greatly. These victims eventually included his own wife Mariamne. His two sons by Mariamne were also executed, as well as his eldest son Antipater, and an uncle. 

Herod was probably called ‘The Great’ because of his diligence as a builder. To this day there remains evidence of his building skills. He rebuilt Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast. He rebuilt Samaria, and renamed it Sebaste. He built the fortress Antonia which still remains on the north-west corner of the temple mount in Jerusalem, and he reconstructed the temple itself, as well as a palace for himself on the city wall. The Jews however, never trusted him, nor did he trust them. The slaying of the Hasmonaeans was unforgivable and he felt constantly threatened. 

With all this in mind it is easy to understand Herod’s reaction when the Magi, the wise men, came with their question, ‘Where is he that is born King of the Jews?’ Herod was troubled, and when Herod was troubled, somehow all Jerusalem was troubled too. 

Herod at once summoned the chief priests and scribes to ask the predicted birthplace of the Messiah. They directed him to the prophecy of Micah. The Christ was to be born in Bethlehem of Judaea, and so he sent the wise men there to search for the Child. In wicked deceit Herod instructs the wise men to bring him word when they have found the Child. His intention is, of course, to slay Him as he had slain so many others. 

By divine direction the wise men do not return to Herod and it is this that gives occasion for that indescribable ‘slaughter of the innocents’, the slaying of all the children under two years old in the Bethlehem area. That is the greatest and most horrific memorial to Herod the Great. In it all, heaven overrules. 


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