Herod and the Cosmic Battle to Be the Ultimate Ruler

“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”

Matthew 2:3

When the Magi pulled into Jerusalem and asked questions about the newborn King of the Jews, Herod called his religious advisory committee in for a meeting. He took a deep breath, trying to conceal his rising panic, “Um…guys, where is the Christ supposed to be born again?”  

Herod understood the significance of the wise men’s presence in Jerusalem. They didn’t show up just anywhere. They were on a mission to crown the real King of the Jews, and this was going to be a big problem for Herod. 

Caesar Augustus had given Herod the title “King of the Jews” as a return favor to his father Antipater. Herod wasn’t Jewish, he was Idumean, but that was of little consequence to him. Regardless of how he received the title, he believed he was the rightful King of the Jews, and anyone else who claimed that title was a direct threat to his throne.

Herod the Great?

Herod the Great, was the first in a line of several Herods in the New Testament record. His reign is still polarizing among historians because he is such a study of extremes. Many ruins of his impressive building projects still stand today, but so do the stories of his savage tyrannical rule. 

Herod was a builder, without equal. His list of colossal projects started with his own beautiful palace which rivaled those of kings and emperors in other parts of the world. He also built theaters, a hippodrome, and aqueducts, and transformed sleepy coastal towns into bustling port cities. 

But his largest and most significant building project was the reconstruction of the Jewish Temple. No expense was spared in its reconstruction, and even the rabbis, who were not Herod’s biggest fans, often remarked on its unsurpassed beauty.

Herod the Maniac

But whatever good Herod did, was vastly overshadowed by his off-the-charts paranoia and cruelty. Anyone within his orbit suspected of treason was not safe, not even his family. When he feared a young priest’s growing popularity might lead to an uprising, he ordered that he be “accidentally” drowned. Then he pretended to mourn his death at his funeral. 

Herod’s home life was just as volatile as his public life. He had ten wives and twelve children. When he suspected his favorite wife, Mariamne and their twin sons wanted to usurp his throne, he had them all killed. Caesar Augustus once remarked, “It’s safer to be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son.” 

Even on his deathbed, he ordered that hundreds of the most prominent Jewish leaders be imprisoned, and immediately executed upon his death. He wanted Israel to weep when he died, even if it was for someone else. (Mercifully, this order was not carried out.)

Secret Meetings & Sinister Motives

So when Herod heard the news that another King of the Jews had been born, he called a secret meeting with the Magi. They told him of the star’s appearance in the sky that led them to Jerusalem. In the most genuine tone he could muster, he told the wise men. “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word that I too may come and worship him” (Matthew 1:8). 

After some time passed, Herod realized they weren’t going to return, and he was furious. Now his plan to eliminate any and all competition to his throne went from Defcon 1 to the nuclear option. If he couldn’t kill just one male baby, he’d kill all of them in Bethlehem from two years old and under. 

Schemes of Man & the Powers of Hell Behind Them

At first glance, this massacre is yet another heinous crime carried out by a ruthless man willing to go to any length to retain his power. But it was more than that. It was a Satanic attempt to thwart the plan of God, and stop the serpent-crushing rule and reign of Jesus (Genesis 3:15). Of course, no scheme of man can thwart God’s will. In the middle of the night, God divinely warned Joseph to take his young family and flee into Egypt.

Ever since the Garden of Eden, Satan had been trying to prevent the birth of Jesus. Over and over in the Old Testament, he tried to eradicate the Jewish people, so that the King of the Jews would not be born. 

  • Starting with the first family, he tried to wipe out the chances of a Redeemer when Cain killed Abel, but God provided another son Seth, from whom the Deliverer would one day come. 
  • He corrupted mankind so much that God destroyed the whole earth with a flood. But God spared eight people in the ark, and the Messiah would be born from the line of Shem. 
  • In Esther’s day, he tried to wipe out the whole race of Israelites by royal edict, but the plan was thwarted and they were all divinely spared.
  • And by the hand of Herod, Satan tried to slaughter all the male babies in Bethlehem.

No scheme of man, no powers of hell could stop God’s word from coming true. 

The Cosmic Battle at Play

There’s always been a cosmic power struggle happening in seen and unseen realms. Herod operated in the seen world to get rid of all competition to his throne. Satan, likewise, was operating in an unseen realm trying to undo the Word of God, and avoid the head-crushing work of the Savior, which was barreling towards him at full speed.

At the root of both cases, was the desire for pre-eminence and the right to rule. Isn’t this still the most important issue of our day?

Who is the Ultimate Ruler of Your Life?

Like Herod, we might be busy builders, hard at work developing careers, planning for a family, crafting resumés, and racking up follower counts. These things promise to make us happy, and they may for a time, but they won’t last. They too will fall into ruins, just like what remains of Herod’s legacy. 

If Christ were not truly King of kings and Lord of lords, would he remain such a threat to the kingdoms of this world and of our hearts? The fact that 2,000 years later, the world still cannot ignore the King of the Jews born in Jerusalem further proves he is indeed KING.

Unclench the keys to the throne room of your heart, and hand them over to Jesus. Give him the pre-eminence he deserves, and let him be your Lord, Savior, and King. There your soul will find its truest joy and deepest fulfillment, and it won’t be because of you. It will be found in the King who sits upon the throne. Let’s bow down and worship him. His kingdom is forever!

Jesus is King,


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