Matthew 2:1-3: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.’ When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.”
He was alarmed when the Magi came looking for the king of the Jews because although he had been installed king in Jerusalem by the Romans he was not a Jew. He was raised as a Jew but his father was an Edomite a descendant of Esau, who was Jacob’s ( whose name God changed to Israel) twin brother. The Edomites were converts to Judaism.
Although he was raised as a Jew, his religious commitment was questioned by some elements of Jewish society. While Herod publicly identified himself as a Jew and was considered as such by some,this religious identification was undermined by the decadent lifestyle of the Herodians, which would have earned them the antipathy of observant Jews. - Wikipedia
He was an army general who made friends in Rome. He rose to power as a tetrarch, a petty king because of delivering land and taxes to Rome.
Herod hobnobbed with the rich and famous. In a civil war between Caesar and Pompey, he chose the right side. The right side was with Mark Anthony against Brutus and Cassius—Fortress of Antonio ruins—where Pilate interviewed Jesus. The wrong side with Mark Anthony and Cleopatra versus Octavian—Caesar Augustus.
Herod killed his own sons in a plot to give power to Augustus: “I would rather be Herod’s hus (pig) than his huis (son).” There is no doubt what he intends to do with a rival.
Matthew 2:4-6: “When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written: But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'"
Matthew 2:7-9: “Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’ After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.”
Matthew 2:10-12: “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”
Matthew 2:16: “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.”
Jesus, at this time, was not in the manger—note the previous verse, now living in a house. Perhaps a year or two after the birth—that is why Herod said to kill all babies 2 years or younger. It is time to be celebrating the baby—and Herod is killing babies.
King Herod missed the peace, love, and joy of Christmas.
He was known as Herod the Great. He built monumental building projects to make people love him: Herod’s Temple in Jesus’ time was glorious. But he lived as a terrified man. Herod was instructed and told about Messiah—but he missed it all. He was afraid of the Savior—he had no idea what it was all about. Herod died a miserable man with a miserable death—His symptoms recorded for posterity. Herod had misplaced hope: politics, materialism, sensual things, building projects—all hopeless endeavors.
Don’t place your hope for a successful Christmas with money and presents. How quickly the toys grow old! You want something that will last.
Luke 2:13-14: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men.
Why is Christmas so important?
Because the world did not become a place of peace, love, and joy at His first coming.
The four candles of Advent represent:
We live too much in a world of war—not peace. We live too much in a world of misery—not joy. We see devastation, mass murders, and starvation. We live too much in a world of hatred—not love.
However in the heart of all men and women is something better. We long for a better world. While the promises of the First Coming will be fulfilled at the Second Coming, deep down inside we long for our world to be a better one right now.
Editor’s Note: Some content from Why Did Herod Miss Christmas? By Dr. Roger Barrier