Herod had just beheaded John the Baptist and he desired to see Jesus. Isn’t that amazing? If I had done such a vile deed, Jesus would be the last person I would have wanted to see! But that’s what we read in Luke 9:7-9. Let’s look at Herod and his family and try to understand why he thought and acted and spoke the way he did. In this article, we shall study 1. the history of the Herods; 2. a common characteristic of this family of kings and finally we will consider 3. our own response to Jesus.
THE HISTORY OF THE EDOMITES
The Herods were an Edomite dynasty of kings who ruled Palestine for about 150 years from about 50 BC to about 100 AD. Emperor Caesar Augustus ruled the Roman Empire in the early years of Herod’s reign over Palestine.
The Edomites were descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother. You may remember the story of these twin boys who struggled for dominance and for their father’s blessing. You can read the full story in Genesis 25:19-34 27:1-46. Note in Genesis 25:30 that Esau became the father of the Edomites.
Time passed and Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel in an experience described in Genesis 32, eventually had a large family of twelve sons. These sons ended up in Egypt and became slaves of Pharaoh for four hundred years. God raised up Moses to lead them out of Egypt to become the nation of Israel, God’s special people, whom God had promised to their ancestor, Abraham, and to his son, Isaac and to his grandson, Jacob. By now there were over 600,000 men. With women and children there were no doubt over 2,000,000.
As Israel journeyed to the Promised Land of Canaan, they came up against the borders of Edom. The best way to Canaan would have been to pass through Edom. They asked permission and the Edomites refused. The Edomites hated Israel, just as Esau hated Jacob. Read about that refusal for permission in Number 20:14-21. In Deuteronomy 23:7 God commanded Israel to love the Edomites, in spite of their hateful treatment, because they were brothers.
Because of their hatred of Israel, God promised judgment on the Edomites. Some key passages that speak of this judgment are found in Isaiah 63:1-6, Jeremiah 49:7-8, 13-17; and the Minor Prophet, Obadiah. That judgment has been carried out. The Edomites no longer exist.
THE HISTORY OF THE HERODS
Antipater, an Edomite, was the father of Herod the Great. Four generations of Herods are mentioned in the New Testament.
Herod the Great ruled Palestine from 37 BC until his death shortly after Jesus was born. You may remember that when Jesus was born, the wisemen from the East followed the star to Bethlehem. Herod called for them and commanded them to let him know when they found the baby so he could come and worship Him also. Of course, his plan was to kill Jesus. He is known for his hatred of Jesus and his diabolical decree to kill all the babies up to the age of two in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas. With this decree he hoped to kill Jesus. God led Joseph and Mary to take the infant Jesus with them into Egypt where they stayed for a short time until Herod died. In this way, God spared Israel‘s baby Jesus from the hatred of the Edomite, Herod the Great.
Herod the Great had four sons who took over parts of his Kingdom. These four sons, Archelaus, Antipas, Philip and Trachonitis, were the second generation of Herods.
Archelaus was given Judea and Idumaea or Edom to rule. He was ruling when Joseph and Mary returned from Egypt with the child Jesus Matthew 2:22
Philip was given Ituraea to rule.
Antipas was given Galilee and Peraea to rule. Antipas, a despicable character, is perhaps the best known of the Herods. Jesus called him “a fox” Luke 13:32. Herod Antipas took his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias, and lived with her. John the Baptist confronted this couple with God’s Law, letting them know that their arrangement was sinful. Herodias became furious and convinced Herod Antipas to have John beheaded.. This is the Herod that I wrote of at the beginning of this article who desired to see Jesus. Three years later this same Herod Antipas was involved in Jesus’ crucifixion when Pilate sent the condemned Jesus to him. Herod tried to get Jesus to perform some miracles to amuse him. Jesus answered him nothing and so Herod in disgust and hatred mocked Jesus and sent Him back to Pilate to be crucified.
Trachonitis is the fourth son of Herod the Great. Nothing is said of him in the Bible. History tells us that he ruled in the Northeast section of Palestine.
Herod Agrippa I is the third generation of Herods. His story is told in Acts 12. He killed the Apostle James and then imprisoned the Apostle Peter, expecting to kill him also the next day, but an angel helped him escape from prison during the night. This king died a horrible death eaten of worms when he accepted glory that belonged to God alone.
Herod Agrippa II is the fourth and final king in the dynasty of Herod. His story is told in Acts 25 and 26. There we have the account of the Apostle Paul appearing before him. He is the king who heard Paul preach the Gospel and was “almost persuaded to become a Christian.”
THE COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF THESE HERODS
As Esau hated his twin brother Jacob, so the Edomites hated the Israelites and the Herods hated Jesus and His followers. If Esau had been able to look from the grave, he would have been very pleased to see his descendants, the Herods, ruling over Jacob’s descendants, Israel, under the rule of the Herods.
Though Herod the Great told the wisemen to bring him word when they found Jesus so that he could come and worship Him, that was all a pious front. Herod had no intention of worshipping Jesus, but planned to kill Him.
Though Herod Antipas, after beheading John the Baptist, said he desired to see Jesus; it was not a desire to love Jesus and learn from Him. It was simply idle curiosity.
Though Herod Agrippa II said to Paul that he was almost persuaded to become a Christian, he did not trust Christ. He went away lost. How sad that this man almost came to Christ, but did not. How sad that this man almost went to Heaven, but instead he is in hell today.
YOUR RESPONSE TO JESUS
You’ve seen the desire of the Herods to see Jesus. What is your response? Is your response to Jesus like that of Herod the Great; just hypocritical talk of worshipping Jesus?
Is your response to Jesus like Herod Antipas; just idle curiosity with no sense of sinfulness and need of Christ? Or is it your desire, like his desire to see Jesus at His trial; just a desire to be entertained?
Or are you as Herod Agrippa II; almost ready to trust Christ and become a Christian? Today is the day of salvation. You have no promise of tomorrow. You have no promise that tomorrow you will even want to be saved. If the Spirit of God is speaking to your heart, I urge you to trust Christ right now and settle this matter now for eternity. Go to my link on Salvation, read it and receive the Saviour now. Hell will be filled with people who almost became Christians.
If you are a Christian, your desire is to live in Christ’s presence daily. Like the Psalmist in Psalm 27:4 Jesus is your life. He is everything to you: your Saviour, your Lord, your King, your Life and your purpose and goal for living. Like Paul you can say, “For me to live is Christ.” With the Apostle John in I John 3:2 you can say, “Beloved, now are we the Sons of God, and it doeth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.”
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