So, under Herod the Great, we’ve already seen how ‘The Slaughter of the Innocents” affected the mothers (and presumably fathers), so let’s have a look inside Herod’s head!
Placed against the harrowing story of Rachel and her ‘grief to the bowels’, it’s quite a shock to come to the end of this chapter from Herod, and realise that he killed all the first sons under 2 years old for expediency, to ensure that he wouldn’t miss out killing Jesus, the threat that the Magi and the prophets had alerted him to (although as I understand it, he didn’t live to see Jesus’ ministry anyway). Herod believed that his power was threatened, that he had such a tenuous hold on power, that any threats needed to be stamped on quickly and comprehensively.
Herod was power-crazy, power-hungry, a megalomaniac, yes? A term that’s still applied to those in politics and other forms of power today. As Herod indicates, it’s a lonely place to be, and you take the responsibility for the decisions that you make when you don’t include others. When he welcomed the Magi, feasted them – Herod believed that he was using drink/food to loosen their tongues, but if we believe the prophets, this was how it was all meant to be (still an uncomfortable thought if leads to the slaughter), and the Magi, warned once they left, didn’t return to pass on further information. Herod’s problem here, was that he felt that he’d shown up publicly, in front of his people “made to look stupid, made to look weak”, and that “one painful cull and the problem solved”. There were fears about what the prophets had foretold, but ultimately, Herod believed that all these people were gullible, and therefore it was better to deal with “the problem” at the beginning (although clearly believing that it was a real enough problem that such drastic measures were needed).