Lesson 21 | Sabbath, 26 May 2018
“The Commander of heaven was assailed by the tempter…. From the time that He was a helpless babe in Bethlehem, when the agencies of hell sought to destroy Him in His infancy through the jealousy of Herod, until He came to Calvary’s cross, He was continually assailed by the evil one…. Satan knew that he must either conquer or himself be conquered. Success or failure involved too much for him to leave the work with any one of his agents of evil. The prince of evil himself must personally conduct the warfare….” –God’s Amazing Grace, p. 162.
The king and his reactions
1. Who was ruling in Judea at the time of Jesus’ birth? What amazing news did wise men from the east bring to Jerusalem?
Matthew 2:1, 2 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
“These men were not Jews; but they had been waiting for the predicted Messiah. They had studied prophecy, and knew the time was at hand when Christ would come; and they were anxiously watching for some sign of this great event, that they might be among the first to welcome the infant heavenly King, and worship Him.” –Lift Him Up, p. 30.
2. What effect did this good news have on King Herod? What did these thoughts reveal about him?
Matthew 2:3, 7, 8 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him…. 7Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
“The arrival of the magi was quickly noised throughout Jerusalem. Their strange errand created an excitement among the people, which penetrated to the palace of King Herod….
“The wily Edomite was aroused at the intimation of a possible rival. Countless murders had stained his pathway to the throne. Being of alien blood, he was hated by the people over whom he ruled. His only security was the favor of Rome. But this new Prince had a higher claim. He was born to the kingdom….
“Herod now invited the magi to a private interview. A tempest of wrath and fear was raging in his heart, but he preserved a calm exterior, and received the strangers courteously. He inquired at what time the star had appeared, and professed to hail with joy the intimation of the birth of Christ. He bade his visitors, ‘Search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found Him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship Him also.’ So saying, he dismissed them to go on their way to Bethlehem.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 61, 62.
3. What guidance did the Lord provide for these special visitors, including after they left Jerusalem to go to Bethlehem? How did they feel about that guidance? What great reverence did they manifest when they saw the newborn “King of the Jews”?
Matthew 2:9-11 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
“The Wise Men are surprised to see no unusual interest upon the subject of the coming of the Messiah…. The Wise Men plainly stated their errand. They were in search of Jesus, the King of the Jews, for they had seen His star in the east and had come to worship Him….” –Lift Him Up, p. 30.
“Angels of God, in the appearance of a star, conducted the Wise Men on their mission in search of Jesus. They came with gifts and costly offerings of frankincense and myrrh, to pay their oblation to the infant King foretold in prophecy. They followed the brilliant messengers with assurance and great joy.” –Reflecting Christ, p. 373.
“The wise men departed alone from Jerusalem. The shadows of night were falling as they left the gates, but to their great joy they again saw the star, and were directed to Bethlehem. They had received no such intimation of the lowly estate of Jesus as was given to the shepherds. After the long journey they had been disappointed by the indifference of the Jewish leaders, and had left Jerusalem less confident than when they entered the city.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 63.
4. Instead of going back to tell Herod about finding the Child, what warning did the wise men receive and heed? What type of people were these men?
Matthew 2:12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
“These Wise Men were philosophers, and had studied the works of God in nature. In the wonders of the heavens, in the glories of the sun, moon, and stars, they traced the finger of God. They were not idolaters. They lived up to the dim light which shone upon them…. These Wise Men had seen the heavens illuminated with light, which enshrouded the heavenly host who heralded the advent of Christ to the humble shepherds. And after the angels returned to heaven, a luminous star appeared, and lingered in the heavens.” –Lift Him Up, p. 30.
A cruel king with cruel methods
5. What horrible plan did King Herod devise after he heard that the Messiah had been born in Bethlehem? What instructions did the Lord give Joseph to save the Child’s life? What enormous difference in attitude can be seen between the pagan wise men and King Herod?
Matthew 2:13, 14 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt.
“In like manner Joseph received warning to flee into Egypt with Mary and the child. And the angel said, ‘Be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy Him.’ Joseph obeyed without delay, setting out on the journey by night for greater security.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 64.
“But against his plans, Satan sees a higher power at work. Angels of God protected the life of the infant Redeemer. Joseph was warned in a dream to flee into Egypt, that in a heathen land he might find an asylum for the world’s Redeemer. Satan followed Him from infancy to childhood and from childhood to manhood, inventing means and ways to allure Him from His allegiance to God, and overcome Him with his subtle temptations. The unsullied purity of the childhood, youth, and manhood of Christ, which Satan could not taint, annoyed him exceedingly. All his darts and arrows of temptation fell harmless before the Son of God. And when he found that all his temptations prevailed nothing in moving Christ from the steadfast integrity, or in marring the spotless purity of the youthful Galilean, he was perplexed and enraged. He looked upon this youth as an enemy that he must dread and fear.” –Confrontation, p. 28.
A huge difference in attitude can be seen between the wise men and King Herod. The Gentiles brought gifts to the infant Saviour and worshipped Him (Matthew 2:11), while Herod, who should have been His protector, hated Him and attempted to kill Him!
6. What cruel act did the king carry out when he realized that the wise men had departed without informing him where the Child was?
Matthew 2:16-18 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
Jeremiah 31:15 Thus saith the Lord; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.
“Herod in Jerusalem impatiently awaited the return of the wise men. As time passed, and they did not appear, his suspicions were roused…. He was maddened at the thought. Craft had failed, but there was left the resort to force. He would make an example of this child-king. Those haughty Jews should see what they might expect in their attempts to place a monarch on the throne.
“Soldiers were at once sent to Bethlehem, with orders to put to death all the children of two years and under. The quiet homes of the city of David witnessed those scenes of horror that, six hundred years before, had been opened to the prophet: ‘In Ramah was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.’ ” –The Desire of Ages, p. 65.
Parental care and protection
7. How long did Joseph, Mary, and Jesus remain in Egypt? What prophecy alludes to a connection between Israel and Egypt?
Matthew 2:15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
Hosea 11:1 When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
“Egypt had been a house of bondage to Israel, and particularly cruel to the infants of Israel; yet it is to be a place of refuge to the holy Child Jesus. God, when He pleases, can make the worst of places serve the best of purposes. This was a trial of the faith of Joseph and Mary. But their faith, being tried, was found firm. If we and our infants are at any time in trouble, let us remember the straits in which Christ was when an infant…. How early did persecution against Christ and His kingdom begin! Herod now thought that he had baffled the Old Testament prophecies, and the efforts of the wise men in finding Christ; but whatever crafty, cruel devices are in men’s hearts, the counsel of the Lord shall stand.” –Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, Comments on Matthew 2:13-15.
8. What judgment fell upon the cruel King Herod not long after the slaughter of the innocents? What did an angel tell Joseph to do after that? What spiritual lessons can we learn from these experiences?
Matthew 2:19-21 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child’s life. 21And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
“This act of cruelty was one of the last that darkened the reign of Herod. Soon after the slaughter of the innocents, he was himself compelled to yield to that doom which none can turn aside. He died a fearful death.
“Joseph, who was still in Egypt, was now bidden by an angel of God to return to the land of Israel. Regarding Jesus as the heir of David’s throne, Joseph desired to make his home in Bethlehem; but learning that Archelaus reigned in Judea in his father’s stead, he feared that the father’s designs against Christ might be carried out by the son. Of all the sons of Herod, Archelaus most resembled him in character. Already his succession to the government had been marked by a tumult in Jerusalem, and the slaughter of thousands of Jews by the Roman guards.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 66.
For additional study
“From the moment that Christ entered the world, the whole confederacy of Satanic agencies was set at work to deceive and overthrow Him as Adam had been deceived and overthrown….” –God’s Amazing Grace, p. 162.
Outlining some aspects of Herod’s life, the Encyclopaedia Britannica reports: “Despite his affection for [his wife] Mariamne, he was prone to violent attacks of jealousy; his sister Salome (not to be confused with her grand niece, Herodias’ daughter Salome) made good use of his natural suspicions and poisoned his mind against his wife in order to wreck the union. In the end Herod murdered Mariamne, her two sons, her brother, her grandfather, and her mother….
“He altered his will three times and finally disinherited and killed his firstborn, Antipater. The slaying, shortly before his death, of the infants of Bethlehem was wholly consistent with the disarray into which he had fallen. After an unsuccessful attempt at suicide, Herod died.” –Encyclopaedia Britannica, Online Edition, article “Herod, King of Judaea.”
According to Flavius Josephus, King Herod suffered burning fever, ulcerated colon, foul discharges, convulsions, and stench.