What Was Herod’s Problem?

By Marcy Barthelette
Then Herod called for a private meeting with the Wise Men, and he learned from them the time when the first star appeared.
Matthew 2:7

King Herod ruled over Judea at the time of Jesus’ birth. During his forty-one-year reign, he established himself as a builder. That is not to say that he wielded a hammer but he ordered the construction and restoration of large churches and other public buildings including the second temple in Jerusalem. He also acquired another reputation along the way, that of a ruthless barbarian. He is known to have killed his own sons because he learned of a plot to overthrow him. He killed anyone who stood in his way of getting or keeping what he thought should be his.

Every story has to have a villain, even the birth of Jesus, and King Herod fits that description to a tee. The man is mean, hate-filled, vengeful, the nasty adjectives could go on and on. Any way you look at it, Herod was one bad dude. So when he called the Wise Men to meet with him, he wasn’t totally honest with them. He was old and sick and desperate to assure that he didn’t lose his position of importance.

Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him too.” Matthew 2:8

He could have accompanied them, but then he would have had to look Jesus in the face and pretend to worship him. No, it was a better plan to send the Wise Men ahead to do his dirty work for him. And, of course, they went and followed the star which led them to the home where Jesus’ family was living at that time. When they had worshipped Him and presented their gifts, they followed a warning delivered in a dream and traveled a different route back to their homeland because there was a danger in returning to Herod.

Upon hearing this news, Herod was mightily angered and he did what he always did. He ordered not just Jesus killed, but every male child under the age of two, based upon the calculation of when the star had first appeared. He ordered a massacre of innocent children to save his own comfortable position. He feared a toddler!

What would cause him to do that? Well, you see, Herod was not a stupid man and he was surrounded by scribes who were able to define and translate documents of the time and they had warned of the predictions of one who would come to save the world, a Messiah who was called King of the Jews. That was Herod’s title and he wasn’t taking any chances that some upstart would overthrow him.

I see him, but not here and now, I perceive him, but far in the distant future. A star will rise from Jacob; a scepter will emerge from Israel….a ruler will rise in Jacob…Numbers:24:17,19 (paraphrased)

God took measures to be sure his Son would survive the wrath of Herod. As was his style, he used angels to deliver his messages, in person and in dreams, to the characters in his drama. He’s always moving people and things around the universe so that His plan can come to fruition. And like a chess match, it sometimes takes lots of strategic moves for everything to fall perfectly into place before “checkmate” becomes a reality.

Many little boys were sacrificed to his tirade and fear, but one would not die. And that was because he had to live in order to die another day. This, too, was a fulfillment of earlier prophecies.   

It is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish. John 11:50

These words are from Caiaphas and were uttered as Jesus went about his adult ministry and, at the same time, leading government officials were plotting to kill him. Everything happens for a reason and only God knows those reasons. What was Herod’s problem? The simple answer is Jesus. Herod wanted nothing and no one to detract from his sovereign rule. Jesus was a problem that he thought he could overcome, but God had other plans. He had tried to get Herod’s attention with messages from the Torah and visitors from the east. Herod wasn’t listening and because he chose himself over Jesus, he died a lonely and lost old man. We have a choice as well.

Because of Bethlehem, I have a Savior in heaven. Christmas begins what Easter celebrates. The child in the cradle became the King on the cross. And because he did, there are no marks on my record. Just grace. His offer has no fine print. He didn’t tell me, “Clean up before you come in.” He offered, “Come in and I’ll clean you up.”

 It’s not my grip on him that matters but his grip on me. And his grip is sure.

Max Lucado from Because of Bethlehem

We think of Jesus as entering our world unnoticed but for the shepherds. It is said that kings and rulers were unaware of his presence, but Herod was very aware. And though Jesus was only a tiny, helpless baby, the forces of evil were already at work to destroy him. They still are today. But He can’t be destroyed. He’ll always be among us, waiting for us to recognize Him. Hold Him in your heart, not just on Christmas, but every day.

Heavenly Father, make my heart a manger where the Christ child can be born today. (And every day)

Ray Pritchard, Faces Around the Mange


One Response to “What Was Herod’s Problem?”

  1. Jill Moran says:


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