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Read Matthew 2:8

King Herod Augustus, or as he preferred to be called Herod the Great, was appointed King of Judea by the Roman government. This was an insult to the Jews because Herod was not a Jew, and regardless of what he did to mediate between the Jews and the Romans, including rebuilding the Temple, he always failed.

Herod was paranoid. Jewish historian Josephus said Herod murdered his wife, her brother, and father, along with his own friends, and hundreds of military leaders. He even killed three of his sons; accusing them of treason.

Herod did not want a new king to take his place. So, he went to the Jewish religious leaders who knew the Old Testament prophecies regarding the coming Messiah to find out what the prophets had said about where this new King would be born, and they told him Bethlehem.

Then he asked the wise men when they first saw the star so he could calculate how old the child would be by then. King Herod was planning the massacre of children so he could remain as king. Do you wonder why this part of the Christmas story is rarely mentioned?

In this historical record, we can see several different groups of people, their actions, and reactions to the news about the birth of the long-awaited Messiah.

  • When they saw the star in the East, the wise men from a very pagan nation left their homes and families and set out on a very long and dangerous journey of 800-900 miles, hoping they would have the opportunity to worship this new King of Israel. Think of the various preparations that would have been necessary even if there were only three men. This trip could have taken them as long as two years.
  • On the other hand, Herod became angry at even the thought of someone taking over his position of power. He knew if these wise men had traveled that far to see this child, there was something about that child that struck fear in his heart, and he deceived the Magi into helping him at least develop his evil plan.
  • But the religious leaders and the common people who lived in Jerusalem at that time should trouble most.
    Either they were unaware of what was happening in Bethlehem, because they had not learned the truth about biblical prophecy, or over the years they had become apathetic towards the promise of God. These were the very “children of Abraham,” the very people to whom God had made His great promises. They were supposed to be watching and waiting for the coming of the Messiah. However, according to Matthew 2:3, everyone in Jerusalem was troubled.
  • Isn’t it interesting that we find the same attitude among God’s people today regarding the Lord’s second coming? Which group are you in today?