Julius Caesar was on Herod’s Christmas Card List

Every Christmas in church I hear about a guy who gets super grumpy that a baby was born. The baby was Jesus and the grump was a king named Herod. 

Understanding a little bit more about this cantankerous king can be good for our understanding of scripture. You see, Herod was the ‘king’, but he shouldn’t have been king because he wasn’t in the ‘line of David’. In fact, his reign came because of a guy named Julius Caesar. Here’s how it came to be…

  • Herod was born in Southern Palestine
  • Herod’s dad, Antipater, was an Edomite (a Semitic people who historians believe to be arab that converted to Judaism in the 2nd century)
  • Herod was of Arab origin and a practicing Jew
  • Herod’s dad was rich and supported Pompey’s invasion of Palestine which brought many political connections to the family (63BCE)
  • Herod becomes life long friends with Mark Antony
  • Julius Caesar befriends Antipater and his son Herod. (That’s right! Julius Caesar was on Herod’s family’s Christmas card list!)
  • Julius Caesar makes Antipater procurator or Judaea in 47BCE and makes him a Roman citizen (an honor that gets passed to his kids. So, Herod becomes a Roman)
  • That same year, Antipater appoints his son Herod as governor of Galilee
  • Six years later, Mark Antony made him tetrarch of Galilee
  • In 40BC a civil war broke out and Herod was forced to flee to Rome (Herod was seen as unable to control his region and had to run to Rome for support.)
  • The Senate in Rome nominated him king of Judaea, equipped him with an army and sent him back to regain order and rule in 37BC (Herod goes back with an entire army… cocked, locked and ready to rock. He wasn’t going to let anything threaten his leadership again.)

We pick up the story around 4BC when Herod had now held on to this position by military force for over 30 years.  A position that was given to him by people. First his dad, then his friend, then the senate. Humans had made him the king of Judaea, and he held it tight through military  force and had done so for the last three decades until he heard the words…

“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.” Matthew 2:2

Do you see the difference here?

There was one who had attained a position through favors and people and relationships and military force, but now there was one who was born into this position. And, not just a King over a small province of land, but a King over a people which is beyond boundaries or limits. 

I think of Herod’s reaction here and it tells a lot about where he is at:

“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled…” Matthew 2:3a

The word means “stirred up, troubled or in despair”

You see, in that moment there was a plan far greater than Herod’s plans and he was in a position where his initial reaction was to stop this threat completely. He was ready to do anything to stop the will of God because God’s will would threaten his own will for his life. 

You know, we can be the same way today.

We don’t take it to the same level as Herod of issuing death contracts on babies (Mt. 2:16), but we can find ourselves kicking and screaming and fighting for ‘our plans’ coming to pass. But, God has a bigger plan for your life than you do. His plan is better and our job is to humbly submit to the will of God in our lives. 

God’s will is going to be done. He is in control of this whole thing. But, I wonder how much more peaceful and enjoyable life could be for us if we simply learned to trust Him in the process of life. I wonder how our lives would change if we would reflect the prayer of Jesus, “Not my will be done, but yours Father”. (Luke 22:42)

Does that sound good? Why not begin to live like that?

The next time things don’t go exactly as you had planned, try this simple prayer…

“God, I humbly submit to your plans for my life. I ask that Your will is done today and every day IN me and THROUGH me. Teach me through these circumstances and situations to live a life of surrender every single day. Amen.”

I hope this post helps. Live a life of surrender, it’s the best way to live.


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