|Massacre of the Infants - Rubens|
Herod (the Great) was more than a little interested when he heard what had brought these esteemed men all the way to his kingdom. Appointed by the Roman Senate as king of Judea, Herod was popularly known as “King of the Jews,” though he was a non-practicing convert. As King of the Jews Herod naturally viewed any baby considered to be an heir to his throne as an eventual threat. Herod called some of the same Jewish scholars with whom the Magi consulted, and learned that the baby king had been prophesied to be born in the little town of Bethlehem, a suburb of Jerusalem. Pretending that he too wanted to worship this baby in Bethlehem, Herod told the Magi to let him know when and if they found him.
We know the rest of the story, don’t we? The story of Herod’s absolute, iron-fisted sovereign power over Judea takes one through a maze of plots, lies, treacheries, corruption, backroom deals, political chicanery and executions. Herod’s willingness to do whatever was necessary to serve his own interests makes modern day, ruthless gangsters like the fictional Godfather seem almost charming by comparison. Herod was a first century despot every bit the equal of 21st century madmen, intent on violently obliterating any and all potential threats to their selfish desires.