This week’s studies will all concern the events surrounding the visit of the wise men from the east.
There are several references to the name Herod in the Bible. In fact, it is really not a name so much as a title in a dynasty of kings. Unlike the kings listed in the Old Testament, the line of the Herods was appointed by the Roman Empire. He was given the title “King of the Jews” by the emperor and senate in Rome.
This “king” was Herod the Great who ruled in Judea from 37 BC to 4 BC. He was a “Judaized Edomite” which meant he was from Edom but he was educated in the Jews’ religion. This does not mean he was a proselyte or a believer of any kind. From the record of his actions, we will see that Herod only did things to benefit himself.
Herod acted like a mad man most of his adult life. He was constantly in fear of losing his rule. He killed family members as well as sons before this event in Matthew 2. This behavior explains his instantly violent reaction when he hears that a “king of the Jews” has recently been born.
It is not very difficult to see that Herod had no interest in worshipping Jesus. He sent away the scribes so that he could gather information in order to kill the child. It is also interesting that he did not send any Jews or representatives of his court with the wise men. After all, it was only five or six miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. God confirms the danger of his evil intent by sending the wise men back to Persia via a different route.
Given the violent history of Herod, it is also no wonder the people in Jerusalem were worried at the news of a new king. Every time Herod gets mad, people die!
Further, those who do not have a proper understanding that Jesus is God, Savior, and Redeemer put too much trust in civil government. Just the possibility of unrest or tumult frightened the Jews of that day because they had ceased to be looking for the Biblical definition of the Messiah.
If our trust is in the wrong place, we will have fear because we have trusted in earthly things rather than God.