One of the things that struck me about Mat 2 today was how many times in one chapter, Matthew brings out, “Thus it was fulfilled that was written in the Prophets …”. Matthew was writing to a Hebrew audience, and the purpose of his gospel was to show that Yeshua (the Hebrew form of the anglicized Greek name Jesus) was the son of Abraham, the Promised Seed, whose coming fulfilled all that had been written in the Prophets concerning the coming of the Promised Seed, the Messiah. Matthew’s was probably the first gospel written. Each gospel writer wrote their gospel to witness to a slightly different point, as we will see as we go through the New Testament.
The History of King Herod
The two tribes of Israel, Judah and Benjamin (along with some Levites, and remnants of the other tribes) were taken captive by the Babylonians in 586 bc and deported to Babylon. When they returned, they were known as Jews (“of Judah”). By this time the Babylonians had been overthrown by the Persians. During Persian rule, the Jews enjoyed some autonomy and dignity, and were largely left to govern themselves under their own laws, only promising loyalty and tribute to the Persian empire.
But the Greeks under Alexander the Great overthrew the Persian empire, and soon Greek kings were ruling over Judea. The cultural influence of the Greeks greatly divided Judean society, into those ethnic Jews who wished to live like pagan Greeks, and those ethnic Jews who remained Torah observant.
When a Greek king made the worship of YHVH illegal, a family of observant Jews led a revolt against the Greeks and won indepedence for their nation. This family, the Maccabeans, were the ones who cleansed the Temple during the miracle of the holy oil lighting the lamps for eight days when it should have only lasted one day – the miracle which Hanukkah commemorates.
Now the Maccabeans took over the neighboring province of Edom, and forced the Edomites to convert to Judaism or leave the country. Herod’s father was an Edomite and a high ranking official in the Maccabean king’s government. The Maccabean’s came under Rome’s disfavor because they supported Mark Antony in his failed bid to overthrow Julius Caesar. So when Herod’s father wanted to overthrow the Maccabeans as rulers of Judea, he had Rome’s support. This is how a dynasty of Edomites, who were nominal Jews, and culturally like Greeks, indebted to Rome, came to be rulers of Judea.
Herod the Great was a cruel man, an expert politician who knew how to navigate the Jewish chief priests and elders, as well as Rome. He murdered his family once he came to the throne to solidify his power, and as we saw from today’s reading, was not above murdering every baby boy in an entire district in order to eliminate a possible rival to the throne, even if that rival was the long prophesied Messiah of Israel.
But as we also saw in today’s reading, God is on His throne, and His will and His plans and purposes will come to pass, regardless of who sits on the world’s throne, how corrupt they are or how powerful they are. No man can thwart God in bringing about His kingdom in this earth.
I remind myself of that when I read the news. 🙂