The 12 Gifts of Christmas, #4- Herod the Great
Herod was called “the Great” for a reason. He got his job as “King of the Jews” because of his very close political ties with the Roman Senate, Cleopatra and Marc Antony, and later, Octavian. He led an expansion of the temple in Jerusalem and even made sure that Old Testament law was followed very closely during the construction. He provided for a new water supply in Jerusalem and was extremely active in building new cities and promoting trade throughout his region. Herod financially supported the Olympic games and many historians believe they would have completely failed without his aid. And then there’s the biblical account of him killing all the babies…that will hurt your reputation a little.
It wasn’t just Christmas that Herod hated, it was life in general. To be more specific, it was other people’s lives that he hated; he rather fancied his own. Here are a few of the unbelievable acts of cruelty that Herod did while he was the Roman minister to the Jews from 47 B.C. to 4 B.C.:
- Herod strangled two of his own sons because he heard rumor that they were trying to take over his position.
- Herod appointed his 17 year old brother-in-law, Aristobulus III, as the high priest because he was fearful that the Jews would want him to be their king. One year later he drowned Aristobulus.
- He had his wife, Doris, and their three year old son banished when it became politically advantageous for him to marry a Roman leader’s teenage niece.
- He had his second wife, Mariamne, executed after her mother falsely testified against her in a trial for adultery.
- After the execution of Mariamne, her mother declared Herod mentally unfit to rule and she was murdered.
- After the execution of one more son (the one he had banished as a three year old) he made sure his kingdom would be split into three parts upon his death so that none of his sons would be considered as great as he.
- Herod died a horrific death. From the historical records many modern medical experts believe he had chronic kidney disease, gangrene, and scabies. Herod was fearful that no one would mourn his death so he hatched one final plot that would prove just how twisted he really was. He commanded many noble men to come be with him in Jericho on his dying day. He ordered his guards to kill them all when he died so that there would be weeping on the day of his death. Fortunately, his sister heard of the plan and put an end to it.
His role in the Christmas story seems to fit very nicely with the rest of his reputation. It is important to note that Bethlehem had an extremely small population at this time so Herod’s killing of a few dozen babies probably wouldn’t have been very significant news. This is probably why the account is recorded in so few non-scriptural historical accounts. At the time a few more killings in a remote area probably didn’t surprise anyone.
So why am I giving a gift to Herod? Well, I’m not really. I just want to point out the irony of his life: The baby Herod wanted to kill was the only one who could have offered him what he was really after–immortality. Herod wanted to be known as the greatest and he wanted his legacy to live on forever. Jesus offers that and Herod was so blinded by his lust for power that he saw it as a threat.
Today, I have no gift for Herod because he turned down the gift he really needed.
*Not the twelve days of Christmas, we’ve been over this already.
**In reality no gifts will be given. This is a hypothetical sort of thing designed to increase traffic on this website.
***Contest open to legal residents of planet earth and 18 or older to win unless I decide to give a gift to a minor or extraterrestrial. No purchase necessary, although purchases will definitely increase chances of winning. Some restrictions apply, like the fact that there is not an actual prize.
****Oprah Winfrey does not necessarily endorse this blog or the contents therein although I’m sure she would enjoy it. Oprah, if you’re reading, an endorsement would be appreciated…and a new car.