When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. Matthew 2:3
Who was King Herod? He was one of the greatest figures of antiquity, “great” because he did big and far-reaching things. His family came to power thanks to their relationship with Julius Caesar, and Herod devoted his life to consolidating that power. He greatly expanded the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem so that it became THE focal point of Jewish worship. He ruthlessly held the occupied Levant together under local rule while still being a vassal, subservient to Rome. Named “King of Judea” by the Roman Senate, Herod the Great was second in power only to Caesar Augustus in Rome.
When Herod was happy, his kingdom rejoiced. When he wasn’t, you know the score.
If someone was perceived to be a threat to that power, that someone was in mortal danger. That someone was the newborn Savior, Jesus in Bethlehem. When Herod heard that prominent visitors from the east had traveled to Judea to worship the newborn King, he was troubled. More appropriately, he felt threatened; intimidated, disturbed, cornered. Herod didn’t feel what he did simply because he was a power-hungry tyrant. Herod was disturbed because Satan was at work in his heart. All our fears go back to Satan.
Along with Herod, the political and religious leaders in Jerusalem were troubled when Herod felt threatened. He had already executed people in his own family, including one of his wives, who he perceived to be threats. The powers-that-be understood that there would be bloodshed if the king felt anyone was a threat to his hold on power. In a few verses, we’ll learn what happened when Herod lost his temper over what the Magi had done.
I think of King Herod in the same way I think of Stalin. Or Xi of China. Or maybe some narco cartel leader. Thugs with access to money and power, and the lust to preserve both. Satan works greatly through such people in our own time. Why would God send His Son to be born in a place controlled by such a horrible person? Why would He take such a risk. Perhaps it’s so that God’s glory might shine all the brighter. Perhaps it’s some other reason. Don’t ask me: ask the Lord.
Whatever the reason, King Herod of Judea, who understood the Old Testament messianic prophecies, sensed that those prophecies were coming true in his own time. You could say that Herod was one of the first who believed that Jesus was the true Messiah because Herod understood that the Messiah could be a threat to his power. Herod the Great wasn’t a man to be trifled with, as both the Magi, then the mothers in Ramah, would soon come to understand. Herod was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
For more reading: Matthew 2:4
Lord, help me to learn and understand the place of Herod the Great in Your perfect story of Christmas