Herod The Not So Great

By Dr. David Sylvester, Executive Pastor of Operations


Let’s face it – Christmas is hard on the guys, especially when we want to brag about our own creativity and raw talent by showcasing our sensitive masculinity and go it alone on the gifts.


One year, I resisted feminine skill and chose to wrap that special gift without assistance only to discover later, at the appointed time, that I had dug much too deep into the hidden recesses of the closet and retrieved some really sturdy paper – but alas, it was the forgotten remains of a bathroom wallpaper job from days gone by - but it worked great! Never until the end of the ages will I live that one down!


Herod the Bad

The Herod story rings fresh in our day and is a character we all love to hate. Both historians and the scriptures tell us that Herod the Great was really not so great. At the ripe age of 25, he was given a territory to rule, and Mark Antony of Shakespearean fame gave him greater duties leading to his ascension to the throne as the ruler over the Jews, or so he thought. His ratings were worse than Congress, and to remedy his public disapproval, he promised to rebuild the Jewish Temple yet apparently had a sinister desire to acquire the genealogies of the Jews in an attempt to discover the Christ child to be born. Bad to the bone, indeed.


Wicked does not begin to describe this nasty politician. We read that he was so sinister, devious, and jealous that five days before his death, Herod ordered the murder of his son Antiper, and put to death one of his estimated ten wives, Mariamne. One writer revealed that Herod refused to eat pork to placate the Jews but had no hesitation in killing his own family. The Roman ruler Augustus quipped that it was better to be Herod’s pig than his son! Compared to Herod, Osama bin Laden was a Boy Scout.


His desire for legacy and loyalty was so intense he built various magnificent architectural structures, bathhouses, luscious environments, theaters, and the Hippodrome and promoted Greek and Roman games, all for the applause of others. And was a monster.


Character Counts

Herod’s dark character was on full display. He was blind with rage, jealousy, and a competitive spirit. In the right vein and void of evil intent, competition has its benefits, yet the dangers for us lurk nearby. The risks are these; a tendency never to know contentment or a fulfilled life, a gut desire to believe that the domination of others is all there is, and to experience no real purpose for living due to the blinding lights of insecurity. A sad existence, indeed.


In a sneaky ruse, Herod once gave a hefty tax refund to the people during an economic crisis, and during a famine, melted his own gold so the people could purchase corn. He was the master politician but couldn’t buy love. Men who love themselves have little competition.


And Joseph

Herod heard of Joseph, the unknown teenager said to be the father of the promised Christ child. Joseph panicked for a few moments at the public embarrassment over the potential scandal involving Mary, who was pregnant yet unmarried. God sent an angel to reassure Joseph that all was well and told him to take Mary as his wife, God’s plan all along. Joseph stepped up. Herod would have done the opposite and more than likely realized his own sad state of affairs as he stared into the mirror, shocked at what he had become.


As Herod neared death, he ordered the most popular of the entire Jewish nation be rounded up in the Hippodrome and killed so that there would be crying and sadness at the time of his death. Thankfully, the order was never followed.


Learning from Herod

Bad teacher and example indeed, all of us can learn a thing or two from this evil character. First, God’s man or woman should be controlled by personal calling, not ambition. Second, being fruitful is more important than being successful. Last, runaway egos are tamed by character.  


And as you wrap your gifts, especially for men to note, use the sturdy leftover bathroom wallpaper if you will – at least your heart will be pure, and it works quite well!