A central figure in Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew) is King Herod. Which is confusing, since there were a bunch of local kings with Herod in their name, four (or more) of whom show up in different parts of the New Testament. So which Herod is this one?
The original, Herod the Great. As a non-Jew who was appointed king of the Jews by Rome, Herod made a show of publicly adopting Jewish practices and rebuilt the Temple. The Temple Jesus taught in (the ruins we see today) is Herod’s Temple.
Herod also liked to kill people he saw as rivals, including his wife and two of his sons. This was so well known that even the Emperor joked it was better to be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son (since Herod wouldn’t be killing pigs if he was following Jewish practices). Okay, but why bring this up?
Because this is the backstory to the Gospel, this is the King Herod the magi are talking to. Herod’s way of handling rivals explains why Jerusalem was “troubled” when the magi showed up looking for a newborn king of the Jews.
More on this tomorrow.