How did the people of Israel feel about Herod's orders?
This is a part of the Christmas story that isn't depicted in children's church programs due to its graphic nature. However, it's still a part of it nonetheless. Yes, I'm talking about the time in Israel's history when King Herod ordered the death of every male child 2 and under.
"Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:
18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”
There's no need to question why the paranoid king made this decision. Obviously he felt that threatened to keep his throne. What I would like to propose to you is this question: How did the Israelites feel about it?
This thought occurred to me in a Bible study where we were thinking about how people reacted to the events that were unfolding. Soldiers were brought up, but I noticed there's nothing written in the text about soldiers. It's clearly implied, but I couldn't help but think what went through the people's minds.
What if the horrific act of killing these infants wasn't as forced as we all assume? I know, it's an awful thing to consider, but think about it for a minute.
First of all, murdering children was just as horrible back then as it is now, things haven't really changed in that area. Yet, there are dozens of accounts where the people of Israel murdered their children by sacrificing them to molech.
Second of all, Israel was expecting their Messiah, but didn't know exactly what to expect. Some had given up entirely, believing God had abandoned them. I mean, 400 years of prophetic silence is a long time. Plus, there was a Messianic prophecy regarding Judah.
"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people."
So, when Herod, who was not a Jew, took the throne over Judea, a lot of people probably believed that David's family line had disappeared and Messiah wasn't coming anymore.
Others re-interpreted what it actually may have meant. There were groups of Jews who followed Herod, they probably saw him as this amazing ruler. Even the Jews who didn't like Herod appreciated the fact that he gave them a super fancy new temple. Yes, Herod was a TERRIBLE king, but Israel didn't seem to mind him that much.
So, with all of those things in mind, with much grief I believe that there wasn't as much resistance as we all may think. I'm sure the slaughter would have included many parents as well if there was a lot of resistance. I certainly would have been among the first to be cut down to protect my child if I were there.
We can't view Israel only in the light of them all being perfectly innocent people. There's a reason we need a Savior to come in the first place. That Savior was killed by the very people who were waiting for Him. Tragically, we have to consider that people were probably pretty terrible back then. Thus the need for our Savior.
I apologize that this isn't a feel-good Christmas-y message full of sleigh bells and shepherds, but how awesome is God to send Jesus to us to die for our sins? What a great gift indeed!