Guest / Limited Access /

After a tumultuous election season, re-reading the Gospels gave me a needed reminder of the relative importance of politics—any politics—in the grand scheme of eternity.

In appointing rulers over Palestine, Rome practiced the "one man, one vote" principle in its purest form: Whoever the emperor chose, reigned. Herod the Great, king of Judea, gained imperial favor by consolidating territory and ruthlessly quelling opposition. He oversaw major building projects, including a magnificent temple in Jerusalem that even outshone Solomon's. He also murdered his wife and three sons, among many others.

Herod was sickly and approaching 70 when he heard rumors of a new king born in Bethlehem. Thanks to Herod's cruel response, the young Jesus became a refugee in Africa, one of many to be displaced in that tear-stained continent. The angels' stirring chorus of "Peace on earth" was soon drowned out by cries of grief from the families of slain infants.

Dying, Herod the Great divided his kingdom, and his son Archelaus so frightened Joseph that upon return from Egypt, Joseph settled in Nazareth of Galilee rather than in Judea, where one might expect to raise a child of such promise. Unwittingly, Archelaus helped consign Jesus to the ranks of an outsider. ("Can anything good come from Nazareth?")

History remembers Archelaus's brother, Herod Antipas, mainly because of his interaction with the scraggly prophet John the Baptist. John loudly condemned Antipas's immoral behavior: He had, after all, stolen his brother's wife, who also happened to be his niece. Antipas kept John in chains, unable to kill him yet unable to put him out of his mind. According to the Book of Mark, "When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedMeet the Non-Christians Who Take the Bible Literally, Word for Word
Meet the Non-Christians Who Take the Bible Literally, Word for Word
Only half of non-Christians think the Bible is a book of fables. So who are the ones who think every word of it is directly from God?
TrendingReligious Freedom vs. LGBT Rights? It's More Complicated
Religious Freedom vs. LGBT Rights? It's More Complicated
The legal context for what's happening at Gordon College, and how Christians can respond despite intense cultural backlash.
Editor's PickWhat We Talk About When We Talk About 'Birth Control'
What We Talk About When We Talk About 'Birth Control'
Meaningful debate requires us to define the terms of discussion.
Leave a Comment

Use your Christianity Today login to leave a comment on this article. Not part of the community? Subscribe now, or register for a free account.

Christianity Today
A Tale of Five Herods
hide thisJanuary January

In the Magazine

January 2007

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.