The Magi Series – VII.  The Magi – Herod’s Fear

Between 333 and 323 BC, Alexander the Great of Greece had conquered all of Asia Minor over to India and down into Egypt.  Then he died at 33 years of age and his empire was split among his generals.  General Seleucus governed Babylon and Persia and later added Syria and Asia Minor.  In the midst of this, Persia retained its identity rather than be absorbed into the Greek culture that Alexander had brought with him.

As time went on, they grew again to be a force to be reckoned with.  Among its military strengths was the Cataphracti – not a chariot cavalry, but a highly mobile mounted cavalry, the finest in the world – which decimated the Roman armies it encountered.

55 BC – The Roman Crassus took three legions against the Persians at Carrhae; the legions did make it back – in tatters, minus their commander and 30,000 troops.

Persia responded by invading Armenia, Syria and Palestine.

Rome reasserted itself and placed Antipater, Herod’s father, in charge of Palestine.

40 BC – Rome, and Antipater, had to run from another Persian invasion.

37 BC – Mark Antony repeated Crassus’ folly with similar results, although Mark Anthony survived

Persia swept Rome out of Palestine, reestablishing Jewish sovereignty, placing a Jewish garrison in charge of Jerusalem, and chasing Herod into the arms of the Roman Senate (who then appointed him as “King of the Jews”).

34 BC – Herod, with Rome’s help, after 3+ years of war finally sat on the throne in Jerusalem.  The city had now been conquered seven times between 55 and 34 BC.

So now came the Magi.  These high officials in the Persian government, crossing robber-infested desert and then plunging deep into enemy territory, required an elite escort of the Cataphracti.  Herod and his father had both fled for their lives in previous invasions, now the enemy was literally already on his doorstep and all Herod had in Jerusalem was a small garrison.  The larger Roman force was stationed too far away by the Mediterranean Sea, and besides they were away fighting an uprising.

Despite all that they were taught by Daniel there was one important prophecy the Magi apparently did not have: Micah 5:2,  “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”  So disregarding Rome’s title for Herod, they wanted to know where the *real King by birth* was to be found.

Herod was an Idumaean – the offspring of Esau (nicknamed Edom), Jacob’s brother – and God had said that the throne belonged only to the line of David.  This puppet king of heathen Rome had murdered even those in his own household in his paranoid desire to hold on to his power.  In fact, Caesar Augustus reportedly quipped that it would be safer being Herod’s pig (Greek hus) than his son (Greek huios) – the pig, an unclean animal, would never be slaughtered, whereas a number of Herod’s sons were “disposed of.”

Yes, Herod was agitated.  If Persia was on the march, he was in grim danger.  Jerusalem wasn’t too keen on all this either because they were staring at yet another possible siege, or that Herod might go on another purge – who will die next?  Their concern was legitimate, because when Herod was later on his deathbed, he ordered all the Jewish clan heads to Jerusalem, whom he then locked up in the hippodrome with the command to kill them when he died, so that his death would have mourning, even if not for him.  The deaths were never carried out.

The priests and scribes provided the missing prophecy and Herod, feigning enthusiasm, sent the Magi on to Bethlehem, happy to see that their attention was less on him and more on the birth of his Rival – a Rival Whom he would dispose of when he could.  What is surprising was that not one priest nor scribe were even curious enough to follow along to see this Baby Who had caused such a commotion!

Many things in this story catch our interest.  The faith, understanding, humility, and boldness of the Magi were quite obvious.  How humbling for these powerful Magi to be found in a backwater village, going house to house like beggars, seeking information about a Baby of Whom nobody had paid much attention, and about Whom the Magi had no clue.  These great king-makers of Persia had not merely sent an embassy but came in person, bearing their own gifts, to pay homage to a Baby Who had nothing to do with their own empire.

Their gifts are a bit startling as well and demonstrated their familiarity of the prophesies taught to them by Daniel: the gold was no surprise, since it was the symbol of kings.  But frankincense was an incense; in religious terms, its smoke symbolized prayer.  And myrrh was often a spice used in preparing a body for burial – a burial item at a birthing party for a new-born King?

It is of use with women with vaginismus, women who experience the same. Today, quite a large number of male personalities experience tadalafil overnight shipping erectile dysfunction at some points of life. Next, you can block web sites and email addresses one by one. It is just wonderful how males are now able tadalafil 20mg canada to eliminate premature ejaculation. So why didn’t Persia conquer Palestine a final time?

Despite all their earlier involvement for the sake of Israel, the Persians never seemed interested in occupying the conquered territory and enlarging their empire.  Yes, military and political reasons may be advanced as to why not, but  most importantly it was not God’s plan that Persia should own Palestine.  If they had, then the spread of Christianity would have become much more difficult.

The Roman empire provided many assets for those sent to bring the Good News [Gospel] to the world: there was a common language, the slang Greek called Koine, capable of handling spiritual and philosophical ideas; there was the unique period of few major wars called the Pax Romanum (the “Peace of Rome”); the empire covered a huge territory in Europe, Britain, north Africa and Asia Minor with the freedom to travel throughout; there was an excellent main road system under the protection of the Roman legions; the Mediterranean Sea was virtually clear of pirates; the empire had a common basic legal structure; it provided a common monetary system; they had a Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint; and even the privilege of Roman citizenship which Paul could invoke.

Apostles and missionaries who entered Persian territory likewise found ease of travel and access because of the favorable attitude toward the Jews to be found there, as mentioned at the beginning of this post.  The early missionaries could use: an interstate road system with a “pony express” mail service; a water link around the empire from the Indus River to the Red Sea; here was where the Synagogues were first established; and they already had a translation of the Old Testament into Aramaic.  Even more so, according to Acts 2:9, at Pentecost there were Persians, Parthians and Medes present, some of whom would return home bringing the Good News with them.

But if Persia ended up occupying Palestine, the difference would have been dramatic.  Yes, the Persian empire would have been wide open to the missionaries all the same.  However, crossing into a hostile Roman empire would have been severely difficult for a Church headquartered in an enemy land.  Perhaps even St Paul’s Roman citizenship rights might have been nullified.

But Persia never attempted to occupy Palestine, and the early Christians had full freedom to travel and preach in both empires.  The reality was that even with Palestine under the control of the Romans, there had been no hesitation for the Magi to come, humbly worshiping and paying tribute to “the One born King of the Jews.”

Although history could be viewed as merely happenstance and twists of opportunities, there was a greater plan at work along with the hand of God shaping the conditions for the sake of the early Church, so that everything was just right in preparation for the greatest of all events, and for the spread of the greatest Good News that this world (much less this universe) has ever seen.

Next: Epilogue


Who were the Magi?  Why did they come to see Jesus?  What caused them to start their journey?  These are the topics which will be discussed throughout this series, based on research I had done for my book *Creation’s Ballet for Jesus*.  The attempt here was to keep each topic short, however that was not always possible, and Topic V, although not specifically dealing with the Magi, was added to include the missing major festival of Passover into the consideration.  The topics will be posted daily here in the following order for eight days, and also will be included on my Blog, ** (the specific blog address for each topic is listed with each day’s post).

I. The Magi – Who were they?  [p=1257 – same address as below, simply insert this location instead]
II. The Magi – Zoroaster meets Yahweh  [p=1260]
III.  The Magi – Astrology/Astronomy and a Living Prophet  [p=1268]
IV.  The Magi – Astrology/Astronomy meets the Jewish Festival Year – Crowning the King Part 1    [p=1271]
V.  The Magi – Astrology/Astronomy meets the Jewish Festival Year – Crowning the King Part 2   [p=1275]
VI.  The Magi – Creation Mourns the Death of Its Creator and the Nation of Israel is Ended  [p=1278]
VII.  The Magi – Herod’s Fear

The Magi Series – VII.  The Magi – Herod’s Fear

VIII. The Magi – Epilogue


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