8: Herod's Hatred
Wise men from the east were in Jerusalem asking, "Where is the king of the Jews who was just born? We saw his star and have come to worship him."
Soon the news reached the palace, and King Herod heard it. It frightened him, and he trembled. A quiet fear that had tormented him as long as he had been king now flared up in his heart. King of the Jews? Herod was king of the Jews, and as long as he was around, no one else would be permitted to claim that title!
Herod had ascended David's throne through deceit. He had reason to tremble at the thought that someone might want to force him from the throne. Herod had murdered his own wife because he believed he couldn't trust her. He had also killed three of his sons. He had wiped out half of his own family. Many Jews had also fallen victim to his wrath.
All his life Herod had suffered a deep unrest. He had endured a long, bitter struggle to remain king over this people. Now, when he was old and sick and not far from the grave, was his throne in danger again?
The Messiah has come, the rumors whispered. Herod could clearly see how excited his servants were. He knew perfectly well that they hoped the rumors were true. They hated Herod, that foreigner, that cruel Edomite. All the Jews hated him. To win their favor, he had allowed them to rebuild their temple. It had done him no good. They still longed for the Messiah, the leader who would be a descendant of David. The Messiah could claim the throne occupied by Herod.
Herod hated the Messiah; he cursed Him. If the Messiah really had been born, Herod was not about to step aside for him.
This time, too, Herod would win; he already had a plan prepared. He called the chief priests and scribes, the men who knew the books of Moses and the prophets. He asked them if they knew where the Christ was to be born.
That was not a difficult question for these learned men. They thought back to a clear prophecy in Micah, "And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah—you are by no means the least among the leaders of Judah, for from you shall come forth a leader who will pasture My people Israel."
The priests and scribes laughed scornfully as they left the palace. They were the ones who knew all about the Messiah. They were not about to let a foolish rumor about the Messiah shake them from their rest. How could anyone believe that the Messiah might come without the priests and scribes knowing about it?
Herod summoned the wise men in secret and spoke to them in a friendly manner. He asked them when they had seen the star for the first time. What he really wanted to know was how old the child might be. He told them that they were looking for Bethlehem and gave them directions.
"Go there and search diligently for the young king," he said. "When you have found him, come back and let me know. I want to go there too and pay him my respects."
"I want to pay him my respects," the old king had said. Yet there was hatred staring at the wise men from those false eyes that tried to look friendly.