Herod the Great is likely one of the Bible's worst characters. Aside from his impressive architectural works for which he is justly famous, he is remembered as a self-seeking despot. His reign began with acts of great care and generosity to his subjects but was increasingly marked by cruelty, family intrigue, and murder. His secret agents spied on the conversations of private citizens; punishing those who dared to slander him. On his deathbed, he ordered his son Aristobulus executed for an attempt to gain power.
When foreign sages arrived in his court seeking a newborn "King of the Jews," Herod committed the ultimate outrage against humanity. He ordered the slaughter of all male infants under two years of age. As if this wasn't horrible enough, history records that one of Herod's own sons was slain in this massacre. Caesar Augustus, upon hearing of this unusual situation, is reported to have said, "It was better to be Herod's sow than his son", because his son suffered at his father's hand.
What would cause a man to hold the lives of children, including his own, in such low esteem? What would provoke a man to suspiciously monitor the conversations of humble peasants? What would incite a man in his dying agonies to order a son's execution because that son wanted his father's vacant throne? Power a simple word; a simple concept; but one, which has been the cause of copious hate, strife, wars, and murders. Herod the Great, and his surviving sons after him, desperately sought and protected their power and the prestige gained by that power. In their wake, however, they left a profusion of hate, intrigue, and bloodshed. And their sons suffered at their father's hands.
Who would ever consider that such horrors could occur in society today? We shudder at the thought of a ruler killing his baby son to prevent a challenge to the throne foretold by the Jewish prophets and confirmed by the Jewish religious scholars. We wonder why a dying man cared so much about the successor to his throne. Perhaps we forget that in the United States alone, almost one and a half million unborn children die each year (roughly equal to the average number of Jews killed each year in the Holocaust of the 1940's) because they will infringe on their parent's lifestyle. Perhaps we forget that over half of the marriages in the United States end in divorce, devastating the lives of many children. Perhaps we forget that the behavior, or lack thereof, in today's youth is largely due to the lack of discipline and interest on the part of their parents who are more interested in themselves than their children. Thus, our society's sons suffer at their father's hands.
The "sows" of today are fat and healthy. Although we may not take better care of a pig than our children, what about our earthly pursuits? Businesses thrive. People work long hours for the financial boost of overtime pay. Integrity is easily discarded when the pursuit of wealth or pleasure is hindered. Society today seeks wealth, power, thrills, and pleasures; and it matters little how illicit, harmful, or costly the pursuit may be. And their sons continue to suffer at their father's hand.
The church is not as immune to this outrage as you may think. How many young people lose out in their Christian walk because the truck keeps daddy running all day long? Perhaps dad is trapped in the office from dawn until dusk managing and directing the business to reap more profit. We extol the virtues of raising a family on a farm, but do the cows, the chickens, or the fields keep papa from nurturing his children as they ought to be nurtured? What is your priority? The earthly things in our life are to be subject to us, rather than controlling us. We must keep the earthly aspects of daily life in their proper places while seeking the spiritual good of others and ourselves. Or else our sons will suffer at their father's hand.
Christians have no time to build an empire on earth whether political, intellectual, or economical. We do, however, have the command to build the heavenly empire of our Father. In Matthew 28 Christ commanded, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." The Psalmist put our children's importance in perspective in Psalm 127. "As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate." Let us seek first the Kingdom of God rather than seek the kingdom of this world. And then, our sons will flourish under their father's caring hand.
- Lebanon, PA