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I Am Herod the Great

I ruled Judea for Rome. Within a year of my appointment, civil war broke out. I escaped to Rome where the emperor granted me the title “King of Judea” and gave me an army. I proved worthy by quenching revolts. I kept order by secret police informing of betrayers. Two thousand soldiers from distinguished veterans and young men from influential Jewish families became my bodyguards.

Although raised a Jew, I was not accepted by the religious leaders. My decadent lifestyle was not acceptable to them. Nor did they like the golden eagle that I put at the entrance of my temple. They cried against its idolatry. They said that I disregarded their demands for the Temple’s construction. They weren’t too happy when I replaced the Sadducees of their priestly responsibilities, with high priests from Babylonia and Alexandria. It stirred them against Roman Rule, instigating unrest. Jews are so hard to please, nor would they understand. I could not live their strict laws and still keep my throne.

I made Israel into a center for commerce and trade.

I was known as the ‘greatest builder in Jewish history.’ I built aqueducts, theatres, grand temples, even creating new cities that would be a legacy to me. I contributed to the Olympics. I restored the Jewish Temple, now called Herod’s Temple.

Of course, the building came at great cost. Taxes weighed heavily on the people of Judea. Leaders cried against paying for my lavish spending, elaborate entertainment, and expensive gifts. They would not understand my need to insure my position.

They did see the value—better waterways for Jerusalem, grander Temples for their worship. Construction brought jobs for the people. Kept them busy so they wouldn’t think of revolts.

I not only guarded my throne from outside sources, but also from within. I banished one wife and her child when I married my teenage niece to gain Jewish favor and secure my rule. I appointed my 17-year-old brother-in-law as high priest, fearing he would dethrone me. One year later, during my party, I commanded his drowning. I executed one wife on charges of adultery, trumped by my sister. I executed two sons for high treason. Others sons were killed who threatened my throne.

My throne was established.

I lounged, wondering what other constructions to leave my legacy.

A messenger entered. He bowed to the ground seven times as he approached my feet. “Men, astrologers from the East, seek your wise counsel.”

I drank from my wine vessel. No one sought my counsel, unless they wanted my throne. I swallowed. “I will see them in my throne room.” I prepared for their visit. I studied their caravan from my window. They were men of great wealth. It would be wise to see what they wanted.

Checking my robe for crumbs and putting on my crown, I sat on my throne and allowed them entrance.

They bowed and presented me with presents.

Their caravan showed wealth. These presents were just a token of what they carried. I licked my lips. Perhaps they waited for my wisdom before they gave me more.

“Where is He Who is born King of the Jews?”

I paced. They question my right as king? I was the only King appointed for the Jews.

“We saw His star and come to worship Him.”

I paused in my pacing, a star? They asked me, as if I should be expecting this king.

I shut my mouth to what threats I wished to speak. My face flushed, as I attempted to hide my anger. Another king while I am on my throne? “We will find this King who demands that a star shine for Him.”

The chief of their men nodded. “Don’t you have counselors who could find where the Child is born?”

I sat pulling on my beard. “Why haven’t I been told of this King?”

When the men left, I commanded my leader of my body guards. I paced before him. “Where is this King that these men seek?”

The chief guard bowed low. “No one threatens your throne that we do not tell you. Your throne is secure from any who threaten your life.”

I waved my arms. “Men from other countries know of this King. And you know nothing?”

My advisor stepped forward and whispered. “Perhaps by consulting the chief priests and scribes of the Jews, they may know of the One these men seek.”

The Jewish priests were brought before me, their scrolls piled on tables as they sought what king should come from their people. One stepped forward, “The prophet Micah foretold, ‘For out of Bethlehem shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

“In Bethlehem?” I billowed. “What king could come from so small a town?”

My advisor leaned toward me so only I could hear. “Tell the men to look in Bethlehem. When they find the king, have them return to tell you. Then you will know.”

I rubbed my hands together. The plan would work. I called for the wise men.

Again they bowed low.

I asked for all they knew. I walked them to the doorway. “Find the Child. Report to me, so that I, too, may worship Him.”

The men agreed and left.

I planned. I would worship no one but me. I could allow no one my throne. I waited. I paced. I should have sent my army to escort the men to Bethlehem, then I would have known sooner. I could do nothing until He was found.

After three weeks, I confronted my advisor. “Why have they not returned? Who is this King?”

The advisor kept his distant from me. “Send footmen to see if they find see the wise men…”

I shook my head. “I should have sent someone with them, to insure their return. Why didn’t you suggest that to me? They do not return.”

I could feel my face flush. My head throbbed. I stalked to the window to look over Jerusalem. “I know what I’ll do.”

I glanced at my advisor. He looked pale.

I laughed. “No king would dethrone me. Bring my General of the Army.”

The advisor looked all too willing to leave. When my general entered, I was calm. I tapped my fingers on the window sill. This would take care of the problem.

He bowed at the door but did not enter all the way.

“Take my army to Bethlehem and the surrounding area.” I gained momentum as I spoke my plan. “Kill all the male children two years and under.”

The General fingered his sword and nodded. He backed from the room before I could think of anything else.

I clasped my hands in satisfaction. Then I lost my smile. “General!”

I could hear him walking down the hall. He stopped and returned. “Yes, Sire?”

“Prepare my chariot. I will go and make sure this deed is done.”

He nodded. “As you wish, Sire.”

I remember that day, when I entered Bethlehem with my army. The people did not expect us. I smiled. I would remove this King. The army barged into each house and inspected every room for any infant or child. None were left alive.

Women begged for mercy.

I had no mercy for kings that would dethrone me, even a star-bearing King. I laughed. No wise men from the East would deceive me and keep their secret. I had won.

When I returned home, I took to my bed, not feeling well. I couldn’t breathe. My body wouldn’t cooperate with what my mind told it to do. It would shake and convulse without my will. As the days progressed, my pain was so great, I tried to take my life, but my cousin hindered me before I could stab my heart. I remained in bed, pain hindering coherent thoughts.

My death would be mourned. I would guarantee it. I decreed that a large group of distinguished men should come to Jericho. They would be killed at the time of my death. The grief that I craved would then be guaranteed.

Herod the Great died…lonely…out of favor with Rome…with his mourning wish not granted. Nor did he acknowledge the One Who could have saved him.

One medical expert diagnosed Herod’s cause of death as chronic kidney disease complicated by Fournier’s gangrene.

He did not worship the true King of the Jews. He did not even know that his plot to kill Him had failed.

Sources
"Herod the Great." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. n.d. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herod_the_Great (accessed October 7, 20215).
Perowne, Stewart Henry. "Herod: King of Judea." Encyclopaedia Britannica. n.d. http://www.britannica.com/biography/Herod-king-of-Judaea (accessed October 6, 2015).
Zavada, Jack. "Herod the Great—Ruthless King of the Jews." about Christianity. n.d. http://christianity.about.com/od/newtestamentpeople/a/JZ-Herod-The-Great.htm (accessed October 6, 20215).



Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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