The King and I - A Reflection on Matthew 2:1-12
King Herod was a powerful man who ruled for about 40 years. He had many things in common with powerful men in the world today. One was a preoccupation with power. He sought absolute control, demanding unconditional obedience from his subjects. He catapulted into power by virtue of three qualities that he possessed: clarity of vision, a cunningness, and an extremely cruel disposition. Herod knew what he wanted and was prepared to do whatever it took to achieve it.
When he was only 25 years old he became governor of Galilee using a combination of influence and political maneuvering, and then rapidly rose to become king. A master manipulator, he used situations and people to achieve what he wanted. As an example he had ten marriages and seven of them were to women who could influence decisions. And he didn’t hesitate to use lethal force against those who stood against him. His rise to power came about by the total annihilation of the guerrillas that threatened him.
Second was a desire for possessions. He constructed seven luxurious palaces for himself and filled them with every object of desire that one could think of. These included some very beautiful women. Third was a desire for prestige. He wanted to be recognized as somebody great, which is why he was known as ‘King Herod the Great’, a title he probably gave himself. He did many things for the people but only with the objective of being praised; he didn’t really care for his subjects.
And the fourth thing that characterized him was a deep sense of paranoia. His father was poisoned and ever since that happened he thought that everyone in the kingdom was out to get him (and presumably quite a few people were), which is why he lived his life in terror. He made sure he had people taste his food before it touched his lips, had spies all over the country, and regularly put those he thought were his enemies to death.
And, quite naturally therefore, when he heard about the birth of someone who was born “king of the Jews” he was terrified that he would face a challenger for the title. Contrast Jesus, a born king, with Herod. How did he deal with these four things that obsess the kings of the world: power, possessions, prestige and paranoia? And here’s the reflection for us today: which king are we more like?
That’s the king we follow.