Picture this – a fierce leader, who has complete control over the citizens of his country. He also holds many foreign nations under his thumb and in captivity. He is murderous, deceitful, vindictive, suspicious, conniving and any other negative term you might want to add. This man thinks nothing of killing some family members, because they don’t agree with him or he thinks they’re plotting against him. He has no value for life. When he hears that a new leader has just been born, he creates mayhem and despair by killing all the babies in the area, younger than two years old. They called it the Massacre of the Innocents.
We think we have problems with our leaders. This guy was about as low as they go, but a typical politician trying to impress Rome and still make his subjects think he was on their side. Yet they called him great – Herod, the Great. Why?
Part of his claim to fame had to do with the many building projects he completed in Judaea. He expanded the second temple at Jerusalem. He built a fortress city at Masada. He may have been great in creating impressive buildings, but his true nature was revealed in his ability to rule using scare tactics, subversion, and devious means. Sounds almost like organized crime, doesn’t it?
This is the man who ruled during the time of Jesus’ birth. The one who directed the Magi to seek out this king and let him know where he was, so he could also go and worship him. Another underhanded trick to get his mitts on this child and dispose of him before he became a threat to his tyrannical regime. This is when the order was sent to kill the babies.
Herod, the Great died in 4 BC at the age of 69, leaving his three sons to carry on his legacy.
Throughout Jesus’ life, the Herods continued to rule in Israel. Herod Antipas was tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4BC to 39AD. He’s the Herod who married his brother’s wife, Herodias. Herodias’ daughter danced for Herod and he enjoyed it so much he promised her anything her heart desired. Under her mother’s urging, Salome requested the head of John the Baptist. He is also the Herod referred to in the arrest and trial of Jesus and His eventual crucifixion – one of the co-conspirators in Jesus’ death. During His ministry, Jesus referred to Antipas as “the Fox,” because of his nefarious dealings. He knew what kind of man this Herod was. He knew all about him.
These were the kinds of people who were governing during Jesus’ life. Though Jews were allowed to worship as they wished, they were still under the scrutiny of the government. This constant watchfulness, put the Jews on edge and they felt like prisoners in their own homes. They were also being over taxed for all the building improvements being made to impress Rome.
This political climate surged through the land during the time of Jesus’ life. The fact that Mary and Joseph fled Bethlehem and hid in Egypt was because of the fear of Herod’s edict to kill every male child under age two. This tyrannical regime carried on during the remainder of his life.
Our governments can have a huge bearing on the way we think and live as we grow into adulthood. Our Jesus always would’ve been respectful of the governing rulers, because it was a command from God, His Father. He would be caught in the middle of many arguments and discussions with others regarding their leadership. As is today, we talk politics with other. We state our feelings, because we live in a democracy, but we are still part of God’s kingdom as royal brothers and sisters of our Savior Jesus.
In our dealings today, with those who lead us, we still must respect them and honor their choices, because God instituted government as He did everything else. We can still voice our opinions though and I’m not too sure they were able to do that in Jesus’ day without some repercussions.