The Wise Men and Herod
The Nativity by Matthew – Part 4
Looking for the King of the Jews in Jerusalem would seem to be a wise move, but it turned out to be the least wise thing the wise men could do. It seems to be a wise move because in Jerusalem there was a royal palace, the home of the King of the Jews.
Herod had the title King of the Jews. He could not have been King of Judea, as that was a Roman province, and the Jewish authorities would not stand for that. Herod was already hated by the Jews despite building them a temple in Jerusalem he also built a pagan temple for the Romans in Cesarea.
The Wise men’s choice of destination was unwise because of Herod, a despot who was famously unstable. I’ll illustrate this from two sources, archaeology and history.
As well as temples and palaces, Herod was responsible for other structures, one of which was the hill fort of Herodium. If there was a coup, Herod could retreat to Herodium and hold out there. The problem with forts is that if someone else gets control of it, then they have a base from which to stage a coup. Another problem is that Herodium is near to and visible from Bethlehem. If a coup was to be set up to get a new King of the Jews Bethlehem would be an ideal base.
History shows Heros to have been an unstable despot. When he heard a rumour, only a rumour, that one of his wives was wanting to set up her son, his son, as a new King of the Jews, he had them both executed. This despite he was appointed by Rome, and any new King would need the approval of the Romans. No coup had a chance of being successful.
Herod was only appointed and not born King of the Jews. There is only one King of the Jews worth following. Jesus.
The story is here for those who wish to check it out.
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘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 shepherd my people Israel.’[b]”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Matthew 2:3-8, 12 NIV