Some Herodian Lessons on Anger and the Recording of History

I had been out of my normal daily bible reading the last few days, but fortunately felt both a strong need and desire to get back in it this morning at the airport. Recently I have been trying to carefully study the Christmas accounts in Luke and Matthew. Since Christmas is officially over now, I found it apropos to look at what happened after the Magi left.

In Matthew 2, Herod got wicked angry and gave orders to kill all the children under two years of age in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas.

Two things to note regarding this event:

1.) Anger problems can sometimes be avoided by proper understanding of God’s Providence.

God spoke through a dream, warning the Magi not to return to Herod. It was God’s will that they did not return to Herod. Did Herod know that God had spoken to them through a dream? No, but it was clear to Herod that they would not be coming back to him-that shows God’s will clearly enough.

I was reminded this morning that I often become angry when things don’t correspond to my desire and expectations. Or when people don’t do things I expect them to do.
But looking at this passage, I need to be reminded that they have acted exactly according to the ‘script.’ Hopefully I can relax more and not get so angry. I have no intention of killing a bunch of toddlers, but my anger shows up in other ways.

2.) Even when things aren’t recorded for us in history books, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t happen the way the bible says they did

There is no mention of Herod’s killing these Bethlehem babies in secular writings. Two explanations shall come forth. First of all, Herod did a ton of killing (his wife, mother-in-law, kids, enemies-which he considered to be everyone) that to record every act of murder would be impossible!

Next, Bethlehem was a small town. Scholars think that the town had only 1000 folks (if not half that), and so the number of babies might not have exceded 20. Just a scholastic conjecture, but it is certainly interesting. Jocephus and other historians might not have even known about a tragedy in a small town, or even bothered to record it. Things that happen in big towns always get more publicity.

Sometimes historical documents reinforce what we read in the bible, sometimes they don’t. But it shouldn’t bother us. After all, Jocephus was a turncoat Jew writing for the Romans. In his writings, he tries to justify his turning. He was even more biased than the bible writers. And they weren’t getting paid like he would have been! Just some food for thought for the skeptic (or skeptic in us).

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