19th Day of Advent
13Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Herod, known to history as Herod the Great, would reign as King of Judea for 33 years. His kingdom eventually spanned an area comparable to the realm of Solomon. Like Solomon he was a great builder. At times Herod also demonstrated something of Solomon’s brilliance and political shrewdness. But at his worst he was a ruthless, bloody and paranoid tyrant described by Josephus as, “a man of great barbarity towards all equally and a slave to his passions.”
By the time the magi visited Jerusalem, Herod had only a few months to live. But even as death reached out for him, he tenaciously clung to power and brutally crushed any perceived threat to his throne.
“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” The magi’s question sounded alarm bells for Herod. His reign was born in blood. It was consolidated and expanded in blood. At the price of blood it had long been defended. But even in his final days it would seem that Herod would know no peace or security of position. He had ruthlessly exterminated both real and imagined rivals over the years. Now he faced a rival proclaimed by the very heavens. It’s ironic that despite the shallowness of his religious convictions, Herod never doubted that the heralded birth was that of the Messiah. What is even more remarkable is his response. The utterly pagan magi believed that the Messiah had come and sought Jesus out to worship him. The nominally Jewish Herod believed the Messiah had come and sought him out as well—to kill him.
It’s amazing to see how such evil and corruption surrounded the time of Christ’s entrance into the world, yet God’s ultimate will prevailed!
Questions to Ponder
- How can you take comfort knowing that even in the midst of Herod’s evil scheming, God’s hand of protection was on Mary, Joseph and Jesus?
- Herod the Great was a cruel, but brilliant, leader. He abused his power and clung to it at any expense. Contrast that with King Jesus humbly laying down his power (Phil. 2). How do you leverage your influence in your home, community, and workplace?