Herod the tyrant – Unwrapped #24

Herod the tyrant – Unwrapped #24


(gentle music) – In Matthew’s account
of the birth of Jesus, he records how a group of
astrologers came to Jerusalem looking for the new born king. – Herod the king sent these
wise men off to Bethlehem, and told them to come
back and let him know when they had found the child. Warned by God, they
didn’t go back to Herod. They went home by a different route. – When King Herod
realized that the wise men weren’t coming back, and
that he wouldn’t be able to identify this particular
child who was a threat to his throne, he sent his
soldiers to kill all the boys in Bethlehem who were
two years old or less. – There isn’t any record of this atrocity outside Matthew’s Gospel. But it fits completely with what we know about King Herod from other sources. – Herod the Great had
been made king of Judea by the Romans in 40 B.C. He was rich, a cunning politician, and an excellent organizer. But he was also a vicious tyrant, paranoid and completely ruthless
about defending his throne. – He executed huge numbers of people. He killed his own wife, Mariamne,
and several of his sons, whom he saw as threats to his throne. He gave orders that when he
died, 2,000 Jewish leaders were to be killed, to make
sure that people would mourn. The Jewish historian Josephus calls Herod a pitiless monster. – So although we don’t
know about the killing of the toddlers in Bethlehem from anywhere other than Matthew’s Gospel,
it’s completely in character with what we do know about
Herod from other sources. – In the traditional picture, thousands of children were killed. But it wasn’t really like that. Bethlehem was a village,
with a total population of less than a thousand,
so only a few toddlers would have been killed, maybe 10 or 20. – It was still an atrocity,
but in the bigger picture of Herod’s paranoia and
violence, it was a small incident that was easily forgotten. – If you’d like to look more
closely at the birth of Jesus, why not read Matthew’s account
of the visit of the wise men and its consequences? There’s a link in the
text with this video. (gentle music)

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